The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

A tale of two press conferences

I woke up this morning, as I usually do, to Chicago's NPR affiliate WBEZ. Yet for the first time in about four years, I didn't dread the top stories. Something seems to have changed.

Well, let's take a look at two White House events, side by side. Both were the first press briefings of the incoming administration on their respective Inauguration Days:

Yeah, I can't quite put my finger on it...

The 59th time in a row

President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris started their terms at noon Eastern today. It's the 59th time that the United States has transferred executive authority according to law. Let's hope for at least 59 more times.

Evening roundup

With only 18 hours to go in the worst presidency in American history—no, really this time—I have a few articles to read, only two of which (directly) concern the STBXPOTUS.

Finally, after seven weeks of back-and-forth with Microsoft engineers, I've helped them clarify some code and documentation that will enable me to release a .NET 5.0 version of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™—the IDEA™—by this time tomorrow.

It keeps getting worse

As the capital braces for violence at President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week, Andrew Sullivan points out the obvious:

We could have...the beginning of an ongoing, armed insurgency, denying the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of the United States, backed by a hefty chunk of one of the two major parties.

Josh Marshall points out that the GOP has hobbled our resistance to this disease for 30 years or longer:

Go back to April 1995 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. This sparked the first widespread interest in the militia movement which had begun to take root in the country in the 1980s. But Republicans, who had just taken control of Congress in January of that year, quickly shifted gears to defending militias as conservatives being smeared the association with McVeigh and his accomplices. Indeed, in June of 1995 the Senate held a hearing aimed at humanizing members of the militia movement as little more than very motivated conservative activists. As Ken Adams of one Michigan militia group told Senators at the hearing: “What is the militia?. We are doctors, lawyers, people getting involved in their government.”

[W]e’ve seen four or four cycles of this drama over the last twenty-five to thirty years: the US government is prevented from taking even basic steps to combat violent right wing extremism because the Republican party either forbids it (when Republicans are in power) or makes the political costs prohibitively high (when Democrats are).

Every time it’s the same. And the coddling of right wing extremists and terrorists by the institutional GOP has led us to a place where a government that spends approaching a trillion dollars a year on military and intelligence capacities had its seat of government stormed by an insurrectionist crowd acting at the behest of a renegade President.

As I said to a London-based colleague this morning, things will be strange over here for a few years, at least.

Sure Happy It's Thursday, March 319th...

Lunchtime roundup:

Finally, the authors of The Impostor's Guide, a free ebook aimed at self-taught programmers, has a new series of videos about general computer-science topics that people like me didn't learn programming for fun while getting our history degrees.

The Economist's Bartleby column examines how Covid-19 lockdowns have "caused both good and bad changes of routine."

More on Republican posturing about "unity"

Granted, I get most of my news and information from only one part of the media: the part based on evidence and reason. So I may not intuit correctly how Republicans calling for "unity" right now makes any sense at all, as I said on Sunday. I may, instead, think about how this reminds me of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.

It turns out, I'm not the only one drawing these parallels. Jamelle Bouie makes the connection more eloquently than I do:

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, also said that impeaching the president “will only divide our country more.”

“As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people,” McCarthy said in a statement given two days after he also voted not to accept the results of a free and fair election in which his favored candidate lost.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas helped lead the Senate attempt to object to Joe Biden’s victory. “My view is Congress should fulfill our responsibility under the Constitution to consider serious claims of voter fraud,” he said last Monday. Now, he too wants unity. “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” he said in the aftermath of the violence, as calls to impeach the president grew louder and louder. “We must come together and put this anger and division behind us.”

I’m reminded, here, of one particular passage from Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 address ;at Cooper Union in Manhattan, in which he criticized the political brinkmanship of Southern elites who blamed their Northern opponents for their own threats to break the union over slavery.

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

These cries of divisiveness aren’t just the crocodile tears of bad-faith actors. They serve a purpose, which is to pre-emptively blame Democrats for the Republican partisan rancor that will follow after Joe Biden is inaugurated next week. It is another way of saying that they, meaning Democrats, shot first, so we, meaning Republicans, are absolved of any responsibility for our actions. If Democrats want some semblance of normalcy — if they want to be able to govern — then the price for Republicans is impunity for Trump.

Accountability is divisive. That’s the point. If there is a faction of the Republican Party that sees democracy itself as a threat to its power and influence, then it has to be cut off from the body politic.

Exactly. I, and a whole lot of other Democrats and moderates from both parties, have had it up to here with the lack of good faith coming from the Republican Party. They've banged away with this crap for 50 years now. Only now, after an armed incursion into the US Capitol, does it seem like my party leaders have had enough.

I really hope we've finally answered the question "what do the Republicans have to do before we finally hold them to account?"

Meanwhile, in the last 5 weeks, we have had 15 days where more Americans died of Covid-19 than died on 9/11.

What the hell happened yesterday?

Where to begin.

Yesterday, and for the first time in the history of the country, an armed mob attacked the US Capitol building, disrupting the ceremonial counting of Electoral Votes and, oh by the way, threatening the safety of the first four people in the presidential line of succession.

I'm still thinking about all of this. Mainly I'm angry and disgusted. And I'm relieved things didn't wind up worse. But wow.

Here are just some of the reactions to yesterday's events:

Meanwhile, amid the violence and the insanity, the United States set a new record for Covid-19 deaths in one day.

Oh, and also, now that you mention it, both Democratic candidates for US Senate in Georgia won their races.

Marching through Georgia

As millions of voters in Georgia today decide which party will control the US Senate, author Ruth Ben-Ghiat looks back on other world leaders who have had a hard time letting go:

Trump has followed an authoritarian, rather than a democratic, playbook as president. It is fitting that he would end up like some of history's best-known autocrats: hunkered down in his safe space, surrounded by his latest crop of unhinged loyalists, trying pathetically to escape the reality of his defeat.

The "inner sanctums" of authoritarians take on special importance when things are going badly and their power is threatened. Composed of flatterers and family members, they function to shield the head of state from any information that conflicts with his delusion that he is always right and will stay in power indefinitely. "For God's sake, don't upset the Führer — which means do not tell him bad news — do not mention things which are not as he conceives them to be," the exiled German journalist Karl H. von Wiegand wrote of Hitler in 1939, summarizing a situation familiar to those who have worked for Italy's Benito Mussolini, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the current American president.

It is rare in history that a process of authoritarian capture is interrupted, but that's what happened when Americans voted Trump out. Many members of the GOP, still loyal to Trump, are likely to wage war on the Biden administration. The dangers to our republic from illiberal forces are far from over. Yet a new vigilance and activism have gained ground. We will need them, and a robust free media, to protect our democracy in the turbulent years to come.

Meanwhile, while waiting for the malignant narcissistic STBXPOTUS to leave office, we've passed 350,000 dead from Covid-19, and three states have higher rates of infection than anywhere else in the world.

Statistics: 2020

What a bizarre year. Just looking at last year's numbers, it almost doesn't make sense to compare, but what the hell:

  • Last year I flew the fewest air-miles in 20 years; this year, I flew the fewest since the first time I got on a commercial airplane, which was during the Nixon Administration. In January I flew to Raleigh-Durham and back, and didn't even go to the airport for the rest of the year. That's 1,292 air miles, fewer than the very first flight I took (Chicago to Los Angeles, 1,745 air miles). I did, however, make an overnight trip to Wisconsin in November, easily breaking the record for my longest travel drought but making it shorter than never. 
  • This is my 609th post on the Daily Parker in 2020—an average of more than 50 per month. This new record blows away the one I set just last year by 10.5%. (Imagine how much I'd have written had anything newsworthy actually happened in 2020.)
  • The pandemic let me spend Parker's last eight months with him nearly every day. Despite his age and discomfort, we managed to go for almost 241 hours of walks (274 annualized), a whopping 29% (46% annualized) more than in 2019.
  • Including today, I got 4,848,171 steps, averaging 13,246 per day. This is 5.7% fewer than last year. I missed 10,000 steps on seven occasions—five this month. Without a daily commute or a dog, not to mention the cold weather, I have struggled since Thanksgiving to get motivated enough to get longer walks in. That said, I hit a new record of 312 consecutive days over 10,000 steps, a record I don't anticipate ever breaking. I also got 56,562 steps on September 4th—another record I don't expect to break soon.
  • I once again read more than the year before, with 39 books started and 37 completed. (I'm still working on The Power Broker, which I started 18 months ago...) On the other hand, I watched 59 movies and 79 TV series, compared with 56 and 38 respectively in 2019. Of course, almost all of that was streaming on my home computer while programming on my work computer, but it's a lot.

I can't even predict what will happen in 2021. I expect fewer steps, more books, and actually to start traveling again. Here's hoping for a speedy vaccination.

Last lunchtime roundup of the year?

We're so close to ending 2020 that I can almost taste it. (I hope to be tasting tacos in a few minutes, however.) True to form, 2020 has apparently decided not to leave quietly:

Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald reports that Bloom asked 28 historians to determine whether 2020 was the worst year ever. It wasn't even close.