The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Jonathan Swan interviews the president

Yesterday, Axios and HBO ran a 45-minute interview between Axios' Jonathn Swan and the President of the United States filmed last Tuesday. I haven't seen it, and I'm not sure I can stomach the whole thing after watching some excerpts. Fortunately, other people watched it for me.

Greg Sargent cites it as an example of "how to interview a serial liar and narcissist who is unfit to be president:"

Again and again, Swan practically pleaded with Trump to demonstrate a shred of basic humanity about the mounting toll under his presidency, and to display a glimmer of recognition of responsibility for it. Again and again, Trump failed this most basic test.

Even during the very occasional moments in which Trump did show a glimmer of awareness of the human toll, he immediately marred it with absurd blame-shifting to governors, who were screaming about the dangers for weeks early on while Trump dithered.

Trump simply doesn’t view the coronavirus as something to be defeated. Making this more destructive, Trump and his propagandists are working to keep the actual real-world failures of his response cosseted away in a place where they cannot be subjected to outside criticism — or corrected.

I would only add that Trump’s true position here, laid bare, is that this is the best we can do. Whether this is due to narcissism and the inability to hear criticism and self-correct, or whether it’s due to naked malevolence, that may be the biggest revelation here of all.

Inae Oh highlights "the 3 worst moments from Trump's newest Axios interview:"

In a heated back and forth, Trump and Swan sparred over the best statistics to assess the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump falsely asserted that US deaths from the virus are “lower” than anywhere in the world, rifling through a disorganized stack of printed charts to somehow back the absurd claim. “Lower than the world? In what?” Swan asked.

Glancing at the charts Trump was referencing, Swan said, “You’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of the population.”

“You can’t do that,” an outraged Trump replied.

After a brief explanation of the statistical importance of comparing coronavirus numbers in proportion to a country’s population, Trump then pivoted and suggested that South Korea has been falsely reporting its numbers in order to give the appearance of a more effective response. “You don’t know that,” Trump said when Swan mentioned South Korea’s low number of deaths from coronavirus. “You think they’re faking their statistics, South Korea?”

“Uh, I won’t get into that because I have a very good relationship with the country but you don’t know that.”

About accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, he said "I wish her well," and don't even get Maggie Haberman started on what he said about John Lewis:

“I never met John Lewis, actually,” Mr. Trump said. “He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches, and that’s OK. That’s his right.”

When asked to reflect on Mr. Lewis’s contributions to the civil rights movement, Mr. Trump instead talked up his own record.

“Again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have,” he said. “He should have come. I think he made a big mistake.”

Mr. Trump declined to say whether he found Mr. Lewis’s life story “impressive.” He seemed indifferent to renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., after the congressman.

Does he even know who John Lewis was? Does he know anything at all?

As the pipeline builds...

I'm waiting for a build to finish so I can sign off work for the day, so I've queued up a few things to read later:

Looks like the build is done, and all the tests passed. (I love green pipelines.)

Criminal conspiracy to disrupt the election

That's what Josh Marshall calls the president's ongoing disinformation campaign:

Often we think about his chatter as though it’s annoying and distracting but as long as he finally respects the results and doesn’t take steps to prevent people from voting that it will all have been words. No harm, no foul. But of course that isn’t remotely the case. Think about it this way. How much time are you thinking about who will win the election in the ordinary sense: i.e., who will get the most electoral college votes in a more or less free public vote. And how much are you thinking about whether the President will use his executive powers to disrupt the election or remain in power despite losing? I venture to say you’re probably spending quite a bit of time in that second mental space.

Much of the current push against vote by mail appears to be an effort to set up a situation in which the President is in the lead with election night results (not at all improbable) and then goes to court to prevent the mail-in vote being counted, using the premise that mail-in votes are somehow inherently tainted. Can he get away with that? Probably not. But with enough toady judges he might be able to drag things out past January.

It actually doesn’t matter what his plan is or even whether he has one: the uncertainty is a feature rather than a bug. The President is already saying the winner has to be known on election night, something that almost certainly won’t happen unless there’s a blowout result. Again, more doubt. More uncertainty. Will the election even matter? Will he use his power to stay in office?

He'll lose, most likely. And I'm confident we'll have a new president on January 20th, because that's what our Constitution requires. It just might be Nancy Pelosi.

157,000 deaths

I am trying to put that number into perspective.

  • Assuming 112.5 passengers per flight (4.378 billion passengers carried in 2018 divided by 38.9 million flights[1]), that's the equivalent of 1,395 air-transport crashes this year.
  • It's approximately the number of deaths from nuclear weapons, ever[2].
  • More Americans have died from Covid-19 in the US than died in World War I and the Vietnam War, combined[3].
  • It is more than the total number of people who died in New York State in 2017 from all causes[4].
  • More Americans have died of Covid-19 than Asians and Africans combined, and we have equaled the number of deaths in the entirety of Continental Europe.[5]

And the president and the Republican Party have let it continue through incompetence, malice, and negligence.

[1] Source: Statista, IATA.
[2] From 6 August to 31 December 1945, the US Army estimated 90,000-120,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 60,000-90,000 deaths in Nagasaki due to the atomic bombings. Source: UCLA.
[3] Source: Wikipedia.
[4] Source: NYS Dept of Health.
[5] Source: Worldometers

The Republicans in Congress really don't care about 2020

Given Gerrymandering, the Senate's design favoring rural states, and a host of other factors, most Republicans in Congress will keep their jobs in January. Even though the best likely outcome of November's election is just two more years of gridlock before Democrats re-take the Senate, the vast majority simply don't care:

It seems relevant, for instance, that while President Trump and a few Republican incumbents seem to be in genuine trouble, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are certain to keep their jobs. In the Senate, most Republicans aren’t up for reelection, and most of those who are aren’t facing particularly competitive races. As of last week, The Cook Political Report has rated nine Republican seats as either Lean Democratic, Lean Republican, or Tossups for November—that’s only about a sixth of the Senate Republican caucus. Cook also estimates that there are 90 competitive races in the House, representing only about a fifth of that chamber’s seats. That includes races facing 32 incumbent Republicans, which account for just a sixth of the House Republican caucus. During the 2018 midterms, 91% of House members and 84% of Senators up for reelection were reelected; in 2016, those figures were 97% and 93% respectively.

One might object that even safe Republicans presumably want the party as a whole to keep the Senate and the White House and prevent Democrats from taking power. But the notion that most Republicans care about the party’s fortunes as much or more than their own careers seems dubious—if this was the case, they probably wouldn’t be backing ideas that might cross-pressure and endanger their vulnerable colleagues to begin with. And the most Republicans can realistically hope for are at least two more years of legislative stalemate anyway—it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be able to take back the House. In a Wednesday piece chastising moderate Republicans who plan on voting against the party in November, National Review editor Rich Lowry couldn’t come up with a single policy item Republicans should look forward to enacting in another Trump term.

It should be well understood by now that even if Republicans lose the White House and the Senate—and of course, neither victory is assured—the Democrats’ ability to pass Joe Biden’s agenda will be limited by the Senate filibuster. Although Biden has suggested in recent weeks that he’s open to ditching it to overcome Republican obstruction, the decision is ultimately up to Democratic senators themselves, and pivotal moderates still oppose the move. The filibuster aside, the conservative structural advantage in the chamber will probably be in good shape for some time. Adding Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states would help Democrats somewhat if the party were actually invested in making it happenā —another very large “if”—but analyst David Shor has estimated that a slight bias toward Republicans would remain in the Senate even if Democrats added six states, including the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. If Biden attempts to circumvent Republicans through executive action as Obama did, Republicans can take solace in the fact that much of what he might try could be undone by another administration or, again, gummed up in court.

Even though American law has a well-documented liberal bias (as does reality), the founders of our country designed a system of government intended to thwart popular will. And right now, the populace really want a change. Tant pis.

Fifth month in a row over 50

This is my 55th post this month, and the fifth month in a row in which I've posted over 50 times. That brings my 12-month total to 581, the third record in a row and the fifth record this year. I guess Covid-19 has been good for something.

Here's what I'm reading today:

I'm excited to add a notch on the Brews and Choos project in a few hours. Check back tomorrow.

Spiraling out of control

First, this chart:

And yet, there are so many other things going on today:

The one bit of good news? Evanston-based Sketchbook Brewing, who make delicious beers and whose taproom inspired the Brews and Choos project, will open a huge new taproom in Skokie tomorrow evening. And guess what? It's only 4 blocks from an El stop.

The virus doesn't care about your beliefs

Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and notoriously uninformed candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, has died of Covid-19:

Cain, 74, was hospitalized earlier this month, and his Twitter account said earlier this week he was being treated with oxygen in his lungs. It is unknown where Cain contracted the virus.

As a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, Cain was one of the surrogates at President Donald Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma—which saw at least eight Trump advance team staffers in attendance test positive for coronavirus. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh has told CNN that Cain did not meet with Trump at the Tulsa rally.

NPR is reporting that he contracted the virus at the Trump rally; but given our inadequate testing in the US, who knows for sure?

As Cain was a Black man completely uninterested in civil rights (or much of anything outside of himself), there is no small irony in his death on the eve of the funeral of John Lewis in Atlanta, which three former presidents (and zero current ones) are attending at this hour.

Meanwhile, this morning, the current president Tweeted absolute nonsense about the upcoming election, clearly trolling the media to distract from the single-worst economic downturn in the history of the United States.

The Know-Nothings irritated me because it was always obvious that their anti-science and anti-intelligence belief system would someday cause great harm to a great number. Now I'm close to enraged that they are actually doing it. Cain was one of the dumbest of the Know-Nothings. He did not need to die; his own aggressive ignorance killed him.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Herman.

We really can't take much more of this

The president and his eldest son both promoted a video, since taken down by all the major platforms, that featured what they seem to believe passes for medical expertise:

After social media companies removed a viral video showing doctors spreading unsubstantiated information about the novel coronavirus, a phrase inspired by one doctor’s past claims began trending on Twitter: demon sperm. It turns out Stella Immanuel has a history of making particularly outlandish statements — including that the uterine disorder endometriosis is caused by sex with demons that takes place in dreams.

The video showed a group that has dubbed itself America’s Frontline Doctors, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court and claiming that neither masks nor shutdowns are necessary to fight the pandemic, despite a plethora of expertise to the contrary. It was live-streamed by the conservative media outlet Breitbart and viewed more than 14 million times — fueled by a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. and multiple retweets by President Trump, which have since been deleted.

In the viral video, Immanuel made the unsubstantiated claim that hydroxychloroquine is a “cure for covid,” the disease caused by the coronavirus. As a previous Post story put it: “There is no known cure for the novel coronavirus or the disease it causes," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

As the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer first noted, Immanuel has asserted that many gynecological issues are the result of having sex with witches and demons (“succubi” and “incubi”) in dreams, a myth that dates back at least to the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a Sumerian poem written more than 4,000 years ago. She falsely claims that issues such as endometriosis, infertility, miscarriages and STIs are “evil deposits from the spirit husband.”

Furthermore, Sommer reported that in “a 2015 sermon that laid out a supposed Illuminati plan hatched by ‘a witch’ to destroy the world using abortion, gay marriage, and children’s toys, among other things, Immanuel claimed that DNA from space aliens is currently being used in medicine.” She also offered prayers through her website to remove generational curses transmitted through placenta.

Josh Marshall cites this as evidence that we're "trapped with the abuser:"

Much as abuse victims don’t fully grasp the extent of their victimization before escaping their abusers, there are aspects of this dark era we’ll only see clearly in retrospect.

It is commonplace that victims of abuse and predation only fully grasp the degree of their victimization once they’ve exited from it.

We are all in a similar situation writ large. In but one comparatively trivial example the President has spent much of the last 48 hours arguing over his support for a hydroxychloroquine pushing conspiracy kook who claims that medicines are created with ground up alien DNA and that many basic gynecological conditions are caused by women having sex with demons.

That’s actually happening.

During a pandemic.

This is of course a comparatively minor example of the insanity and predation.

We won’t come back from this quickly. Indeed, Trump losing an election won’t even end it.

English writer John Cassidy agrees in principle:

To most of the world, the [1969 moon] landing symbolized American leadership and power. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that most of the people I grew up with loved the United States, or even openly admired it. But beneath the British condescension, there was also a respect for America: its technological know-how, its organizational efficiency, its democratic traditions, and its sheer heft. When my dad was away, working in Scotland, he saw the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy sail up the Firth of Forth. The vast aircraft carrier was almost a quarter of a mile long, he reported back to us in wonderment.

A half century later, the rest of the world is looking on in horror as this country lurches from one disaster to another. Trapped in a leadership vacuum created by the narcissistic reality-TV star who occupies the Oval Office, the United States seems powerless to arrest the spread of a pandemic that most industrialized countries contained months ago. As the cumulative number of infections surpasses four million, an economic rebound that began when many states prematurely reopened their economies appears to be stalling. And, with an election just three and a half months away, that same President, in a desperate effort to save his political skin, seems intent on creating violent clashes in some of America’s biggest conurbations.

From the Roman Republic to Weimar Germany, and to Russia and Turkey in this century, history shows that democratic decay is a gradual process, and authoritarian leaders rarely, if ever, achieve unchecked power without the acquiescence of some elements of the political establishment. America isn’t there , and hopefully it never will be. At this moment, though, its claim to be a model for other countries is looking horribly tattered. The election can’t come soon enough.

No, it bloody well can't.

Two stark comparisons

First: the difference between how Garmin handled a global outage that lasted 5 days, and how SendGrid managed one that lasted 5 hours. SendGrid handles billions of emails per day, including for Microsoft and other massive companies. So SendGrid going down didn't inconvenience a few athletes and pilots; it crippled Fortune-500 companies' marketing departments. (And it delayed a scheduled release on my own team.)

Within about an hour of their outage, SendGrid created an incident response page to which they posted updates every half-hour. They clearly stated what was going on and how they were trying to fix it, even as they were discovering for themselves what had happened:

Contrast that with Garmin, who still haven't really explained what happened or why it took so long to resolve the outage. (They finally declared their remediation "complete" yesterday, almost 6 days after the outage started.)

Second: the difference between how Germany (and other rich countries) have handled Covid-19 and how we have. Josh Marshall looked into the numbers:

The head of Germany’s equivalent of the CDC told reporters today that he’s “very concerned” about the rising case numbers in the country and accuses Germans of becoming “negligent” in their adherence to mitigation measures. He has good reason to be concerned.

Today Germany reported 638 new cases of COVID. That comes out to .76 cases per 100,000 residents. Let’s round that up to 1 new case per 100,000 for good measure. (The need for round numbers will become clear.)

Today New York State had 3 cases per 100,000. So Germany is concerned by 1/3 the number of cases as we have in New York state, a state which is probably controlling the disease as well as any other state in the country.

Florida today had 43 cases per 100,000. Florida’s outbreak is more than forty-three times the size relative to population.

To state the point baldly, Germany is very concerned about a rise in cases that would still be dramatically better than any other part of the United States. They’re ramping up border restrictions to get things back under control and chiding the population to redouble its collective efforts.

[S]eeing this as, "well, look, everyone’s having problems." Or "we’re not the only ones having new outbreaks" or "we can’t go back to shutdowns…" ... only captures how Americans are having a hard time grappling with just how many universes away we are from what is happening in other countries which are comparably affluent, industrialized and able to mount an effective response.

We’re failing that badly.

Anthony Fauci was on BBC just now, struggling not to call the president out on his criminal negligence. Only 98 days until we can vote the bastard out.