The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

An iconic Chicago brand comes home

I'm not sure how I feel about CH Distillery buying the Malort wormwood liqueur brand:

Since the 1970s, Malort has been distilled in Florida, though its primary market has remained Chicago. Many Malort enthusiasts would agree that the liquor’s powerful aftertaste assaults the taste buds, a phenomenon that’s ironically helped grow the brand’s popularity on social media and in Chicago bars.

Why would Tremaine Atkinson, founder of CH Distillery, want to purchase Malort?

“Oh my gosh, why not? … I love everything about it. I hate everything about it. It’s such a great iconic Chicago thing,” Atkinson said Thursday. “It fits at the psychic level, the business level and the cultural level.”

Atkinson, 54, said he first tried Malort when a friend bought him a shot after moving to Chicago some 20 years ago. His reaction was not atypical.

“I drank it and said, ‘Why did you do that to me?’” Atkinson said.

Atkinson compared the flavor to taking a bite out of a grapefruit and then drinking a shot of gasoline, then acknowledged that’s actually a fairly tame description compared to some found on the internet.

That sounds about right. I've had precisely one shot of Malort in my life, which is approximately the correct number. I say "approximately" because the correct number is, in fact, zero.

But like the Cubs choking in October, it's very much a Chicago thing. And now it's coming home.

The New Jersey Plan on full display

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, it will be only the second time in U.S. history that an Associate Justice nominated by a president who lost the popular vote will be confirmed by senators representing less than a majority of the country's population:

Let’s walk through it.

Obviously, Trump got almost 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Clinton got about 48 percent of the votes cast for president. Trump got about 46 percent.

Kavanaugh will join the Supreme Court despite opposition from senators representing more than half the country, despite more than half the country opposing his nomination, despite being viewed unfavorably by nearly half the country and thanks to a president who is viewed with disapproval by more than half the country and who lost the popular vote.

Kavanaugh is the second nominated and confirmed by a minority, opposed by the majority. Who was the other? Neil Gorsuch:

And consider this further point. Two more current members of the dominant conservative bloc, while nominated by presidents who did win the popular vote, were confirmed by senators who collectively won fewer popular votes than the senators who voted against them.

They are Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991 by 52 senators who won just 48 percent of the popular vote, and Samuel Alito, confirmed in 2006 by 58 senators who garnered, again, 48 percent of the vote.

But I implore you to take a moment to be angry about all this, too. This is a severe legitimacy crisis for the Supreme Court.

The court, as Professor McMahon notes, was intended never to stray far from the mainstream of American political life. The fact that justices represented that mainstream and were normally confirmed by lopsided votes gave the court’s decisions their legitimacy. It’s also why past chief justices worked to avoid 5-4 decisions on controversial matters: They wanted Americans to see that the court was unified when it laid down a major new precedent.

But now, in an age of 5-4 partisan decisions, we’re on the verge of having a five-member majority who figure to radically rewrite our nation’s laws. And four of them will have been narrowly approved by senators representing minority will.

Remember, the Republican Party doesn't care about institutions, or what's good for the country as a whole. They care about power. And they are not giving it up without a fight.

Housework

This weekend will involve packing, painting, and waiting for deliveries. Which is why blogging is a little slow right now.

Parker is having a worse day than I am

This doesn't happen often. Parker has a pretty good life, even when it consists solely of sleeping.

Today, however, the poor pup will have his teeth cleaned and a small fatty cyst removed from his eyelid, so he's now at the vet, hungry, anxious, and kenneled. Surgery is this afternoon. Then the groggy doggy will (most probably) suffer the indignity of a Cone of Shame for a few days.

Bad day for Lagunitas Brewing

The Petaluma*, Calif., based company, which has a major production facility here in Chicago, laid off 12% of its workforce:

The workforce reduction will affect every department in the company, which operates a production plant in Chicago and a taproom in Seattle, CEO Maria Stipp said in a prepared statement. Lagunitas employs about 900 people at its Petaluma headquarters, which will take the brunt of the more than 100 layoffs.

The decision to downsize comes 17 months after Dutch brewing giant Heineken International acquired full ownership of the homegrown brewery company, which has long been a supporter of local nonprofits through beer donations and fundraisers at its Petaluma taproom.

The layoffs were not wholly unexpected given cutbacks at other craft brewers with growth slowing in the estimated $26 billion-a-year U.S. craft sector. The sector had incredible growth in recent years, with production rising as much as 20 percent annually as recently as 2014. But in recent years the increases have been in the low single digits.

Who could have predicted that Heineken would want profits more than protecting its workers?

*Petaluma is a million times better than its sister city, Megaluma.

Taking every opportunity to choke

The Cubs tied with the Brewers this season for the best record in the National League, with 94 wins each. Unfortunately they're in the same division, so they had to play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday to determine who actually won the division.

You will be shocked to learn it was Milwaukee.

Now, normally, the 4th-place team in the league gets the Wild Card, but this year the West Division also had a tie, between the Colorado Rockies and L.A. Dodgers. Which meant that last night, the loser of that game (the Rockies) and the loser of Monday's game (ahem) played to break the Wild Card tie.

You will be shocked to learn that it was Colorado.

Note, if you will, that had the Cubs won exactly one more game at any point in the season, they would have won the Central Division and would play the Dodgers in the NLDS tomorrow night.

Nope. They choked. They couldn't do it, not even in 13 innings, losing 2-1 well after midnight.

This is why I stopped caring years ago.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and it rains more than ever

This year, Major League Baseball had more weather-related postponements than ever before recorded:

In the 2018 season, 53 games have been postponed because of weather, tied for the second most since Major League Baseball began keeping track in 1986. It wasn't just rain-outs that disrupted the schedule but a lingering April cold snap in the Midwest and Northeast that resulted in 28 games postponed that month — an all-time high.

Although the baseball season got off to its earliest start ever to give players more off days during the 162-game regular season, rest has been elusive for clubs that have had to make up multiple games, including the Cubs, who have had a league-leading nine games scratched for bad weather (tied with the Yankees), the most in more than a decade.

While MLB’s collective bargaining agreement states teams cannot play more than 20 dates without a scheduled day off, the Cubs endured a punishing 30-day stretch of scheduled games in August and September. The make-up games also forced a rigorous travel schedule that, at one point, flung them to three cities, in three time zones, in six days, including scrambling to the East Coast as Hurricane Florence approached.

Scientists have pointed to climate change as a contributing factor to the warming of the atmosphere, carrying the chance for more rain in some areas since warmer air can hold more moisture. According to state climatologist Jim Angel, northern and central Illinois are experiencing warmer, wetter springs. But some scientists believe the rapid warming of the Arctic is causing fluctuations in the polar jet stream that can bring unusual bouts of cold like the region saw in April, Angel said.

Just one more unintended consequence of anthropogenic climate change, and possibly the reason the Cubs are playing a second tie-breaker game today for the right to take their league-topping 94 wins to the playoffs.

Fear of loss

Paul Krugman highlights how the politics of the Republican party are mainly about privileged white men feeling like they're losing their privilege:

There have been many studies of the forces driving Trump support, and in particular the rage that is so pervasive a feature of the MAGA movement. What Thursday’s hearing drove home, however, was that white male rage isn’t restricted to blue-collar guys in diners. It’s also present among people who’ve done very well in life’s lottery, whom you would normally consider very much part of the elite.

In other words, hatred can go along with high income, and all too often does.

At this point there’s overwhelming evidence against the “economic anxiety” hypothesis — the notion that people voted for Donald Trump because they had been hurt by globalization. In fact, people who were doing well financially were just as likely to support Trump as people who were doing badly.

I very much ran with the nerds during my own time at Yale, but I did encounter people like Kavanaugh — hard-partying sons of privilege who counted on their connections to insulate them from any consequences from their actions, up to and including abusive behavior toward women. And that kind of elite privilege still exists.

But it’s privilege under siege. An increasingly diverse society no longer accepts the God-given right of white males from the right families to run things, and a society with many empowered, educated women is finally rejecting the droit de seigneur once granted to powerful men.

And nothing makes a man accustomed to privilege angrier than the prospect of losing some of that privilege, especially if it comes with the suggestion that people like him are subject to the same rules as the rest of us.

This basic dynamic explains almost every revolution in history, including the American one in the 1770s. This time it's white men, but it could be any elite group who start losing power. The Post makes a similar point:

Jennifer Palmieri, a Democratic strategist and author of “Dear Madam President,” a book about reimagining women in leadership roles, said the nation’s fast-changing culture can be unsettling and indeed frightening to men in power.

“A lot of white men don’t know what it’s like to feel threatened, powerless and frustrated,” said Palmieri, former communications director for Clinton’s campaign. “As we go through the reckoning of this lopsided power balance, there’s going to be a lot more of this.”

The Republican Party has long identified with more traditional white males, such as former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But strategists say it is now turning more toward combative male candidates in the mold of Trump, with allegations of misconduct interpreted by many within the party not as liabilities but as unfair political attacks.

“We’re a party of angry, older white men at a time when our country is going through tremendous demographic change,” Republican strategist John Weaver said, predicting that the GOP would suffer the consequences in future elections.

So when white voters tell pollsters and reporters that they fear a tide of "those people" coming over the border, they feel afraid of losing their birthright. Not the traditions and culture, necessarily, but the parts of those things that put them on top because of the accident of birth.

Sears death watch

After Eddie Lampert refused to advance any more cash to his failing retail chain, Crain's editorial board concluded Sears may be about to file for bankruptcy protection:

Tracking the slow-motion collapse of what used to be Sears Roebuck has been sort of like watching a glacier melt: You know it's happening, but it's tough to detect it with the naked eye. That is, until a Delaware-size chunk breaks off, which is what happened when the once-giant retailer recently unveiled a "liability management" plan crafted by Sears Holdings' CEO and largest shareholder, hedge fund tycoon Edward Lampert.

Of course, Crain's has lovingly maintained a decades-long tradition of predicting Sears' demise, and there's no telling if or when the company might ever seek bankruptcy protection. But bankruptcies, like avalanches, tend to happen quickly once they're triggered, and it's difficult to see how Sears can maintain its current course—shredding roughly $1.5 billion in cash each year to fund its business operations—without something big giving way, and suddenly.

We shall see. Whatever happens, it's almost a crime. But I've been saying that for years.

Efficiency vs. Why?

In the last few hours I've packed 38 boxes full of books and other things. I've got 16 days to pack the rest, which is actually a lot. Also, my new place is just 10 minutes' walk from here.

I think we're not even a decade from people setting up house moves on the basis of labor being so inexpensive that no other labor can price it anywhere near; and yet. And yet. And yet we can't let labor manage itself. This is a longer conversation, if for no other reason than...well, than...let's come back here.

What I mean is, if labor ever gets so cheap, there's a problem. And I'll address this soon.

Meanwhile, I'll continue filling bankers' boxes with books. and looking forward to the move.