The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Historical precedents for periodic self-destruction

London-based historian Tobias Stone sees the same parallels I see to periodic bouts of self-destruction. Le sigh:

[W]e humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another.

At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America. Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening.

What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves. We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear. Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.

Perhaps it's time to figure out where I can go into exile, if this is in fact inevitable. Is the UK (read, post-Brexit: Scotland) going to work? Is Canada safe as it has been for the past few centuries? Maybe New Zealand, which, as far as I know, has never been attacked by a foreign power?

Also when: do I go immediately if Trump gets elected, or should I wait until the purge begins?

Fun times, fun times.

The unhinged campaign

Brian Beutler argues that Hillary Clinton needs to put the "lock her up" crap to rest:

It’s a problem to have this stench lingering in the air, but just as difficult to address without playing into the hands of her opponents, who’d love nothing more than to turn “lock her up” into a matter of partisan debate. (“Should Clinton be jailed? Some say yes, some say no!”) But a deft communicator could discredit “lock her up” not by protesting too much on Clinton’s behalf, but by treating it as the unhinged chant of a pitchfork-wielding mob that would claim power by imprisoning political enemies. They couldn’t beat Obama, so they questioned his eligibility for office; they’re losing to Clinton, so they want her dead or in jail. These are authoritarian instincts that must be opposed.

Predicting the political fallout of an event like the RNC or of a new ubiquitous talking point like “lock her up” is pure guesswork, and it might be the case that the air of vigilantism around the whole thing will make non-Republicans more sympathetic to Clinton. But on top of all the troubling democratic implications of a major political party believing the opposition party’s leader belongs in prison, Republicans may have successfully damaged Clinton with a false but powerful narrative. And if that’s the case, she will need to be prepared to deal with it.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall (and others) are finding more connections between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump:

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump's direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin's policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He's the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out 'what's going on' as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That's simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

This is the scariest election of my lifetime.

Sunday morning reading

Ah, I can finally take a few minutes to read through my backlog of articles, which have a common theme coming off this past week's events:

That, plus a tour of the Laguintas Brewery this afternoon (the one here, not the one in Petaluma), ought to keep me busy.

Odd lake cold front interface

A high-pressure dome of hot, humid air is parked over the middle of the U.S. right now, driving temperatures up and heat indices up higher. But here in downtown Chicago, something weird happened this afternoon.

Around 1pm, a line of thunderstorms came down Lake Michigan from the north. Just before then, it was 33°C at O'Hare with a heat index close to 38°C. Then, within fifteen minutes, this happened:

Note the green lin snaking from Gary, Ind., in the southeast around to Crystal Lake, Ill., in the northwest. That's an interface between cool air coming off the lake and the hot, muggy air surrounding it. And it's still raining there; here's the radar image from 3:50:

So right now, it's 25°C in Gary, 24°C in Lansing, Ill. (near Gary), and 33°C in Joliet (near the + sign on the radar images).

Weird. And welcome, at least in the Loop. But the temperature is climbing again as the thunderstorms make their way deeper into Indiana. And tomorrow's forecast predicts more humid heat. Bleah.

Fryin' Ted

Last night at the Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz took a huge risk when he essentially told people not to vote for the nominee:

The Republican convention erupted into tumult on Wednesday night as the bitter primary battle between Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz reignited unexpectedly, crushing hopes that the party could project unity.

In the most electric moment of the convention, boos and jeers broke out as it became clear that Mr. Cruz — in a prime-time address from center stage — was not going to endorse Mr. Trump. It was a pointed snub on the eve of Mr. Trump’s formal acceptance speech.

As hundreds of delegates chanted “Vote for Trump!” and “Say it!” Mr. Cruz tried to dismiss the outburst as “enthusiasm of the New York delegation” — only to have Mr. Trump himself suddenly appear in the back of the convention hall. Virtually every head in the room seemed to turn from Mr. Cruz to Mr. Trump, who was stone-faced and clearly angry as he egged on delegates by pumping his fist.

Mr. Cruz was all but drowned out as he asked for God’s blessing on the country and left the stage, while security personnel escorted his wife, Heidi, out of the hall. One delegate yelled “Goldman Sachs!” at her — a reference to the company that has employed her, a job that Mr. Trump attacked during the primaries.

Pundits are split about how this happened and what it means. Josh Marshall pulls out "Trump's Razor:"

"Ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts."

I tried, as events unfolded tonight, to piece together in the two posts below just what happened tonight and how. At first I was certain that Ted Cruz had executed an excruciating double cross of Donald Trump, a thoroughly disreputable and dangerous man, who had also humiliated Cruz, defamed his father and denigrated his wife. We now have two contending theories. The first: by whatever means, the Trump camp allowed Cruz, under their very noses, to blow up their convention through a feat of staggering, almost incomprehensible incompetence. Somehow, with so much at stake, they didn't even read the speech. The second: the Trump campaign knowingly allowed Cruz to light his bomb and then egged the conventioneers on to an outraged chorus of boos imagining that Cruz would be humiliated and that laying bare the GOP's protracted civil war before millions would in fact 'unify the party.'

Either scenario, both defying any conventional credibility, could plausibly emerge from that toxic soup.

Indeed, while this conflagration was erupting in Cleveland another bomb, which Trump himself had lit earlier in the day, was going off on the pages of The New York Times. One can debate whether it is wise or sensible for the United States to guarantee the independence of small states on the periphery of Russia which had for centuries been either within the Russian domain or inside its sphere of influence. But we have. In his comments to the Times, Trump treated the matter like a real estate goon shaking down a distressed landlord to make an easy buck.

Brian Beutler (and others) think Cruz brilliantly stomped on Trump:

Cruz seemed determined to use his moment in the spotlight to maximize the size of Trump’s defeat. If it pays off, Cruz will cement his status as the one Republican 2016 candidate who practices politics with an eye toward the horizon, and the Republican in politics most willing to elevate personal ambition above party interest–a useful if not heroic trait at a time when Republican interests and Trump’s are converging. He will spend the ensuing years as the presumptive frontrunner in the 2020 primary. But it will only work if Democrats humiliate Trump this fall.

He told 20 million voters, disproportionately Republican, they don’t need to vote for Trump if they don’t want to; he stabbed Donald Trump in the front. And in the final analysis, he probably made the safe bet, too.

Jeet Heer thinks Cruz made a huge mistake:

In terms of preserving his honor, Cruz did the right thing. Trump, after all, was the man who created the slur “Lyin’ Ted,” who insulted the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, and who slyly suggested that Cruz’s father was involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination. How could anyone keep their honor and endorse someone who had done all that?

But in terms of his long-term political ambitions, Cruz made a grievous mistake. Political parties are built on loyalty. You’re supposed to stick with your party-mates whether you disagree with them or not. ...

Cruz’s cool rejection of Trump calls to mind the crisis that engulfed the Republican Party in 1964, when Barry Goldwater’s nomination polarized the party. Some of Goldwater’s rivals kept a distance, notably Nelson Rockefeller who was roundly booed during the 1964 convention not just for his reluctance to fall in line, but for his criticism of groups like the John Birch Society.

Nixon took a different tack than Rockefeller. Privately, he thought that Goldwater was a disaster for the party. But in public, Nixon was a good soldier. He endorsed Goldwater, and diligently campaigned all over the country, trying to shore of down-ballot candidates threatened by the electoral tidal wave that crushed the Republican Party that year.

Nixon’s loyalty wasn’t forgotten; party members remembered his service.

James Fallows points out that, if Trump can't manage the speaking order at a convention where he's the star, he's unlikely to manage the country:

Again the theme of recent posts has been: conventions and national campaigns don’t “matter” in any profound sense (although they can make a difference in whether you get elected). But if you can’t manage a four-day convention, let alone a four-month national campaign, you’re facing steep odds in managing a very complex national government for four or eight years.

And — except for the effective Mike Pence speech, which began near the end of the 10pm-11pm EDT prime time bloc — this was another chaotically managed convention night. The Skyped-in-looking 90-second video by Marco Rubio was the minor indication. The cold, outright subversion by Ted Cruz — the man whose wife’s looks Trump had mocked, the man whose father Trump had accused of involvement in the JFK killing — was unlike anything on a national campaign stage in modern times.

We'll see what more hits the fan tonight when Trump formally accepts the Republican nomination. What times we live in.

Here comes the heat

Much of the central U.S. is bracing for the worst heat wave since 2013:

Temperatures [in Chicago] Thursday are expected to reach 34°C and 37°C on Friday, with humidity levels creating a heat index that feels more like 38-42°C, according to Kevin Donofrio, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The heat wave will continue through the weekend, with temperatures only a few digits lower during the day Saturday and Sunday and remaining around 25°C and even 28-29°C overnight, Donofrio said. Temperatures are expected to drop early next week.

It's already starting. I'm heading to Wrigley Field in a couple of hours, and the temperature has already hit 30°C at O'Hare with a heat index of 31.6°C.

WGN has an informative graphic explaining why this is happening.

Number 1, mister Speaker

This morning, Theresa May had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and in addition to her duties in the House, will have further such meetings this afternoon:

I'm not necessarily a Theresa May supporter, but this was her first PMQs. I also love that the House of Commons now publishes PMQs within a couple of hours, so I never have to miss them.

Can anyone imagine what question time would be like with Donald Trump at the dispatch box? I can. It would not be like this.

History

Forty-seven years, almost to the day, after we put a man on the moon, a major political party nominated Donald Trump for the office of President.

Two small illustrations of the choice we face November 8th: the Clinton campaign yesterday posted a comparison of Trump's resume and Clinton's. ("1997: Trump ponders Miss Universe swimsuit sizes. Hillary gets health insurance for 8 million kids.") And Clinton staffers posted a video in which they listed all 5,500 lawsuits in which Trump is a party—which took almost four hours.

In related news, New Zealand is still offering Skilled Migrant Visas...

So much to read after work today

From AVWeb: one of the world's two remaining B-29 Superfortresses flew for the first time this weekend after being grounded for more than 60 years.

From CityLab: Nice's surveillance network is extensive—possibly too extensive to do any good.

From New Republic:

Over in the Atlantic, James Fallows just adds it to the list of things historians will probably wonder about (at #44) and why it matters (#45).

Cranky Flier reports on a different batch of corruption after United Airlines released documents showing how its bid in Newark, N.J., for a new hangar went south. Literally.

At New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan live-blogged day 1 of the Republican National Convention.

At The New Yorker, Jane Mayer talked with Tony Schwartz, the man who wrote Trump's Art of the Deal.

And here at home, from Crain's Chicago Business, how former governor Jim Edgar has gone from coaching current governor Bruce Rauner gently to calling him out in public.