The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Rot from the head

Both New Republic and the Post come to the same conclusion on the latest from both the Republican and Democratic sides. First, TNR looks at the president's "clemency binge:"

Those rewards send a powerful signal to Trump’s allies who are still caught up in the criminal justice system. There’s ample evidence that the president has dangled his clemency powers as a means to keep associates from testifying against him. Trump publicly floated the idea of pardoning Paul Manafort in 2018 while his former campaign chairman was under pressure to testify in the Russia investigation. One of Trump’s lawyers reportedly discussed a pardon for former national security adviser Michael Flynn with Flynn’s lawyers two years ago. The president even personally raised the possibility of pardoning Roger Stone, who is set to be sentenced for lying to Congress on Thursday, to his advisers in recent weeks. Tuesday’s pardons and commutations help normalize what is surely coming to his long-suffering loyalists after the 2020 election, if not sooner.

Trump himself will also personally benefit from the clemency spree. With the stroke of his pen, he all but negated thousands of man-hours spent by the Justice Department over the past three decades to convict defendants who stood accused of serious offenses: bribery and corruption, fraud and tax evasion, lying to investigators and deceiving the public, and more. Trump can’t reverse the financial and personal toll that those cases imposed on their targets. But he can delegitimize the federal government’s anti-corruption efforts and undermine the notion that it can hold the wealthiest and most powerful Americans accountable for their actions.

And Greg Sargent, on Elizabeth Warren ripping Michael Bloomberg a new one at last night's Democratic debate:

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” Warren said, right at the outset. “No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop-and-frisk,” Warren continued, adding: “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

That, of course, is an indictment not just of Bloomberg (who has his own history of demeaning women) but also of Trump: The president is a disgusting misogynist and a racist in his own right, and he’s engaged in nonstop corrupt self-dealing, facilitated by concealed tax returns — and a corrupted system.

Because both things are true: Trump and Bloomberg represent the system protecting its own. And that has to stop.

Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., Evanston

Welcome to stop #7 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Smylie Bros. Brewing Co., 1615 Oak Ave., Evanston, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Evanston–Davis St. (Also CTA Purple Line, Davis)
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 23 minutes, zone C
Distance from station: 200 m (400 m from CTA)

First, as much as I'd like to link to their website, it appears they've lost control of their domain name to a fraudulent, virus-infected host. Good luck with that, guys.

Smylie Bros. opened a couple of years ago in the ever-expanding zone of downtown Evanston. It's a former garage, I believe, and they've kept the high ceilings and acoustically alive space. (That means it's loud.)

My first note on entering: "This is what some corporate dude thinks a taproom should be like." That was my impression on leaving, too.

I had a flight of small pours comprising their Pale Ale (6%), EEE-PA (6%), Wolcott IPA (6%), and Appleseed Porter (8%). The Pale was competent, the EEE-PA was fruity, the Wolcott was juicy, and the Appleseed was the best of the lot.

Judging by the mix of families, sports fans, and Northwestern students, I don't think I'm the right demographic for this one.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Many, but avoidable
Serves food? Yes, full kitchen
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No

So much corruption! We're going to do corruption like you've never seen it

President Trump's list of felons to whom he granted clemency yesterday seems to have a common element. First, Rod Blagojevich, possibly the most corrupt governor Illinois has ever had, which is saying something in a state that sent 4 of its last 8 to prison, and who seems less than contrite about his crimes:

“I had a unique opportunity to represent Congress and be (Illinois’) governor for six years and fight for things I truly believe is good for people,” he said, adding “the fight” now was against the “people that did this to me” and to regain the public’s trust.

“That if I were to give in to the pressure and give in to the shakedown that was done to me, that I would be violating my oath of office to fight for the Constitution and fight for the rule of law and keep my promises to (the public),” he said. “ ’Cause I didn’t do the things they said I did. And they lied on me.”

And the president also pardoned Michael Milken, who has his own glorious history of malfeasance:

Lest history be entirely rewritten, it’s worth considering what Judge Kimba M. Wood told Mr. Milken at his sentencing on Nov. 21, 1990, on charges including conspiracy and fraud:

“When a man of your power in the financial world, at the head of the most important department of one of the most important investment banking houses in this country, repeatedly conspires to violate, and violates, securities and tax laws in order to achieve more power and wealth for himself and his wealthy clients, and commits financial crimes that are particularly hard to detect, a significant prison term is required in order to deter others.”

[I]t’s not hard to fathom why Mr. Milken’s saga would resonate with Mr. Trump.

Like the president, Mr. Milken studied business at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania but was largely shunned by New York’s elite.

Mr. Milken’s early clients were corporate raiders who, like Mr. Trump, were disdained by establishment firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Mr. Milken and his junk-bond-fueled takeovers were seen as disruptive forces, threats to a complacent status quo on Wall Street and in corporate America, just as Mr. Trump has upended Washington.

And of course Mr. Milken underwent years of distracting investigations and related bad publicity.

NPR interviewed NYU law professor Rachel Barkow this morning, who summed it up nicely. (I'll edit this post later today to add her comments when the transcript comes out.)

I really hope whoever gets the Democratic nomination hammers the president on this stuff. The corruption! Such corruption! It's the one thing Donald Trump does best.

I actually LOL'd when I saw this news alert

The President was busy this morning:

President Trump has commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, the Democrat who was convicted of trying to essentially sell President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat for personal gain, as well as the financier, Michael R. Milken and Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, the president announced on Tuesday.

The president’s decision came the same day that he pardoned Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt and eventually surrendered control of his team.

Mr. DeBartolo, the scion of a prominent real estate development family who created one of the National Football League’s greatest dynasties, was prosecuted after agreeing to pay $400,000 in brand-new $100 bills to Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, to secure a riverboat gambling license for his gambling consortium.

Like attracts like, I suppose. I wonder, will he now turn his attention to freeing the immigrants he's detained at our borders? Or the millions of low-level drug offenders clogging our prisons?

Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., Highwood

Welcome to stop #6 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., 523 Banks Ln., Highwood, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Highwood station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes, zone E
Distance from station: 300 m

A Brit and an Aussie walked into a bar and decided to open a brewery. Then a couple of years later they acquired a distressed but well-respected brand, which they will soon add to their lineup.

And what a cool place they opened, with really tasty beers.

I got three tastes: Queenie, an American IPA (5.5%, 56 IBUs); King's Bitch, another American IPA (6.8%, 70 IBUs); and Vanilla Rum Old Nosey Russian Imperial Stout (8%, 57 IBUs). What good beers! The Queenie had a fruity nose with grapefruit notes throughout but finished clean. A sixpack of King's Bitch will go into my fridge as soon as I find some. And the Old Nosey? Wow. Complex, deep malt flavors, vanilla, chocolate, coffee...best drunk sparingly.

And I liked the vibe. A couple of foursomes played Golf Simulator (real balls and clubs, projected courses) in the next room, but in the main taproom, you couldn't hear them, nor did the TV bother me. I would up staying longer than planned, so I didn't walk to the next pub on my itinerary. That was probably for the best.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? 1, avoidable
Serves food? No
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

The best Attorney General we have

Bill Barr's beliefs about executive power have engendered a bit of pushback. Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer says Barr should resign:

[P]erhaps the most outrageous and alarming ideas that Barr advances come in his attacks on the judiciary, which occupy fully a third of his speech. In his mind, it seems, the courts are the principal culprit in constraining the extraordinarily broad powers that the president is constitutionally entitled to exercise. His discussion ignores a pillar of our legal system since almost the very beginning—Chief Justice John Marshall’s magisterial pronouncement in the early days of our republic that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

Barr yearns for a day when the president can bully everyone else in government, and leave them no ability to seek relief in court.

The benefit of the doubt that many were ready to extend to Barr a year ago—as among the best of a bad lot of nominees who had previously served in high office without disgrace—has now run out. He has told us in great detail who he is, what he believes, and where he would like to take us. For whatever twisted reasons, he believes that the president should be above the law, and he has as his foil in pursuit of that goal a president who, uniquely in our history, actually aspires to that status. And Barr has acted repeatedly on those beliefs in ways that are more damaging at every turn. Presently he is moving forward with active misuse of the criminal sanction, as one more tool of the president’s personal interests.

Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.

And while Barr may represent the curdled cream of the kakistocracy now running the executive branch, Max Boot worries that no one cares enough:

I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.

A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

On the other hand, we have an election in 260 days. I think the public had enough long ago, and contra Boot, want to turf these guys out through the ballot. If Trump wins re-election, however, let's see about those boots in the street.

Twenty Years of Punz

Punzun Ltd.™, an Illinois corporation doing business as Inner Drive Technology™, turned 20 years old today. I actually dreamed up the name in my high-school algebra class on 20 March 1985, so the concept is almost (gulp!) 35 years old.

It's kind of cool having a corporation that could be in its second year of college if it were human.

(If you don't understand the name, say it out loud. Note that "Ltd." is an abbreviation for "Limited.")

28 Mile Vodka, Highwood

Welcome to stop #5 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: 28 Mile Vodka, 454 Sheridan Rd., Highwood, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Highwood station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes, zone E
Distance from station: 300 m

Chicago has far more breweries than distilleries, even though the foundation of all spirits is beer. Also, Chicago's distilleries often congregate in far-out industrial parks away from train lines.

Fortunately, 28 Mile Vodka is exactly what it says on the sign, and only a 3-minute walk from the Highwood station (mile post 28).

Highwood has a colorful history, to say the least. It abuts formerly-dry Highland Park to the south and Fort Sheridan to the north, so for decades the wealthy elite from HP rubbed shoulders with the soldiers from the army base. Now that Fort Sheridan has scaled back to a few Army and government offices, and Highland Park allows booze, Highwood has gotten a better reputation.

Enter a brand-new distillery that produces really good spirits. I had 1-ounce pours of their flagship vodka and their new gin. They also have white whiskey, which I'm happy to pass on until it becomes Bourbon in a couple of years. The vodka had a lovely sweetness and smoothness that would make it great on the rocks or as a top-shelf mixer. The gin had floral and citrus notes and a clean finish, which I wouldn't want to sully with tonic but I would put a drop of dry Vermouth in and take it up with a twist.

I'd like to see the place on a weekend night. I'd bet it's fun.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Small bites, including caviar
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Welcome to the new normal

Yesterday in Chicago the temperature bottomed out at -19°C after dumping 50 mm of snow on us. Today the temperature just went above freezing, where it's expected to hover for a while.

So, mild winter indeed, with more ridiculousness to come.

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.