The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Getting warmer?

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World HQ bottomed out this morning, hitting -4.8°C at 10:41 am, and it may even end the day above freezing. So this mercifully-short cold snap won't keep us out of the record books, just as predicted. It's still the warmest winter in Chicago history. (Let's hope we don't set the same record for spring or summer.)

Meanwhile, the record continues to clog up with all kinds of fun stories elsewhere:

  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led his party in the Senate since the Cretaceous, announced he will step down from leadership in November, handing some other schmuck clean-up duties after the electoral disaster likely to befall the party on the 5th of that month.
  • After the unhinged ruling on embryo "personhood" the Alabama Supreme Court handed down last week, Republicans across the country have fallen over themselves saying they want to protect IVF treatment while they vote against protecting IVF treatment. Jamelle Bouie runs down some of the dumbass things Republicans have said on the ruling, with a cameo from the dumb-as-rocks junior US Senator from Alabama, who sounded more like Nigel Tufnel than usual.
  • Aaron Blake pointedly contradicts the usual "bad for Biden" story line by putting President Biden's Michigan-primary win last night in perspective.
  • Bruce Schneier looks at the difficulties insuring against cyber crime, one of the problems we're also solving at my day job.
  • New York prosecutors said the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited "willful blindness" in 1966 when it acquired art looted by the Nazis, an accusation the museum denies.
  • Harry Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, lost his case against the UK Home Office, in which he sued to keep his publicly-funded security detail the same size as it was when he actually did his job as the Royal Spare. The high court (the rough equivalent of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in this case) ruled that the relevant agency had made a perfectly rational decision as the Duke now lives in California, doesn't do bugger-all for the UK, and is a whiny prat to boot.

Finally, Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter took a—gasp!—CTA train to a city council hearing, at which he promised the CTA could be the best transit system in the world if only the State of Illinois would give it more funding. The very last thing I did in Munich on Sunday was to take the S-Bahn to the airport at 7am, so I can assure you money isn't the CTA's only impediment to achieving that lofty goal.

(Also, I just realized that This Is Spinal Tap turns 40 on Saturday. Wow.)

Three seasons in one day

It's official: with two days left, this is the warmest winter in Chicago history, with the average temperature since December 1st fully 3.5°C (6.3°F) above normal. We've had only 10 days this winter when the temperature stayed below freezing, 8 of them in one week in February. This should remain the case when spring officially begins on Friday, even though today's near-record 23°C (so far) is forecast to fall to -6°C by 6am. And that's not even to discuss the raging thunderstorms and possible tornadoes we might get as an energetic cold front slices through tonight. By "energetic," I mean that the NWS predicts a drop by as much as 16°C (30°F) in one hour around 10pm.

Not to worry: it'll be 17°C by Sunday. (The normal high temperatures are 4.7°C for February 27th and 5.4°C for March 3rd; the records are 23.9°C and 26.7°C, respectively.)

Meanwhile, I don't have time to read all of these before I pack up my laptop tonight:

And now, back to getting ready for the Sprint 103 release. That's a lot of sprints.

Ukrainian engineering

With the news this morning that Ukraine has disabled yet another Russian ship, incapacitating fully one-third of the Russian Black Sea fleet, it has become apparent that Ukraine is better at making Russian submarines than the Murmansk shipyards. Russia could, of course, stop their own massive military losses—so far they've lost 90% of their army as well—simply by pulling back to the pre-2014 border, but we all know they won't do that.

In other news of small-minded people continuing to do wastefully stupid things:

Finally, a reader who knows my perennial frustration at ever-lengthening copyright durations sent me a story from last March about who benefits from composer Maurice Ravel's estate. Ravel died in 1937, so his music will remain under copyright protection until 1 January 2034, providing royalties to his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter. Please think of her the next time you hear "Bolero."

But her emails!, 2024 edition

I really have a hard time understanding why so many news organizations have trouble covering the substance of politics rather than the game of it. The general reporting on Special Counsel Robert Hur's (R) exoneration of President Biden shows what I mean. I mentioned in passing Saturday that James Fallows called Hur's report "tendentious," but he had more to say:

After Biden finished his remarks last night, White House reporters bayed and yelled at him, more aggressively than I can ever recall. They exceeded the baseline I wrote about nearly 30 years ago in the book Breaking the News, about the macho-style code of the press room that equated being ill-mannered with being intellectually tough.

After this yelling session, most of the leading press ran stories like this one in the NYT, saying that the one word—Mexico—had "placed Mr. Biden’s advanced age, the singularly uncomfortable subject looming over his re-election bid, back at the center of America’s political conversation."

Note the agent-free verb “placed.” It’s actually the journalists who are placing it there—as they placed Hillary Clinton’s emails eight years ago, and as they have not placed Donald Trump’s Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley.

Greg Sargent goes further:

Indeed, that New York Times analysis claims those details were “quickly seized on by Republicans,” and could “set the stage” for “a fresh round of political attacks” on Biden.

But in this case, those findings in the report are both being manipulated dishonestly by Republicans and are largely tangential to the report’s most important finding. Republicans are claiming the special counsel opted against charges for Biden because of his “age related dementia,” with many jumping on that idea to declare that this showed him to be unfit for office.

Yet Hur also reached that conclusion for another reason. He explicitly declares that a jury would be unlikely to convict “in the absence of other, more direct evidence” that Biden willfully and improperly hoarded that classified information. Hur says investigators “searched” for such evidence, but “found it wanting,” adding that “no witness, photo, email, text message, or any other evidence” was discovered. That’s why a jury would be unlikely to convict.

Jennifer Rubin sums up the problem:

Special counsel Robert K. Hur had a single task: Determine if President Biden illegally retained sensitive documents after his vice presidency. The answer should not have taken nearly 13 months or a more than 300-page report.

The Biden-Harris campaign decried the media’s obsession with Biden’s age while virtually ignoring another rambling, incoherent Trump speech in which he insisted Pennsylvania would be renamed if he lost. (In South Carolina on Saturday, he was at it again, inviting Russia to invade NATO countries and insulting Nikki Haley’s deployed husband.) By habitually and artificially leveling the playing field, much of the media enables MAGA propaganda and neglects Trump’s obvious mental and emotional infirmities.

Still, facts matter. Biden acted responsibly and committed no crime. Trump faces multiple felony counts, including intentionally withholding top-secret documents and obstructing an investigation. Three years separate Biden and Trump in age, but the distance between their mental and emotional fitness remains incalculable — as is the chasm between the media we have and the media democracy requires.

We've got just under 9 months until the election. Someday, I hope the country can have an election based on policy. Clearly, this is not that day.

He's a damn good president, actually

In light of the report from special counsel Robert Hur that James Fallows calls "tendentious," Republican pollster and Lincoln Project member Stuart Stephens wonders why Democrats don't crow more loudly about all that President Biden has actually accomplished:

A plea to my Democratic friends: It’s time to start calling Joe Biden a great president. Not a good one. Not a better choice than Donald Trump. Joe Biden is a historically great president. Say it with passion backed by the conviction that it’s true.

Joe Biden should remain president because of his historic level of achievement here at home while standing on the side of freedom versus tyranny in the largest land war in Europe since World War II, a role no American president has played since the Roosevelt-Truman era. Be bold. Walk into this campaign with swagger and confidence and pride.

The stock market is hitting record highs. Unemployment is at a record low, with 14 million new jobs. Talk to small-business owners, and the biggest problem they are facing is finding workers. A child born in the first Republican “infrastructure week” would have been entering grade school by the time President Biden passed the largest public spending initiative in American history. As a Republican media consultant, I made hundreds of ads about the high cost of prescription drugs. But it took President Biden to give Medicare the power to directly negotiate with Big Pharma to lower prices and cap the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries at $35. For all the bitching about gas prices, the United States is now producing more oil than any country in history. Yes, more than Russia or Saudi Arabia, and that’s one of the reasons gas prices are now lower in inflation-adjusted prices than in 1974. Yeah, I know, fossil fuels suck, and the world should run on solar power. But the Biden administration also launched a $7 billion solar power investment project.

What is most amazing is that Biden got this done in a world in which the majority of Republicans believe he is not a legal president. Ponder that for a minute. You are a White House staffer working to help pass Biden initiatives, and you are dealing with members of Congress and senators who don’t just disagree with your boss—they think he’s an illegitimate president.

I could go on citing the achievements of a president who actually cares about governing. All of these actions and numbers are important, but none matter as much as what Joe Biden has done to restore stability and decency to the presidency. One of the greatest gifts of a democratic civil society is the freedom not to think about government, to wake up and not worry about the mood of a leader. Joe Biden has made governing boring and predictable, both fundamental rights of the people in a healthy democracy.

I agree with Stuart: 2024 looks a lot more like 1944 or 1948 than it does other, more troubling election years (like 1856 or 1908). But Biden's our Truman. Is he showing his age? Well, he looks better at 80 than either Johnson did at 67 or FDR did at 64, doesn't he?

You don't need sunscreen in Chicago in January

A weather pattern has set up shop near Chicago that threatens to occlude the sun for the next week, in exchange for temperatures approaching 15°C the first weekend of February. We've already had 43 days with above-normal temperatures this winter, and just 12 below normal during the cold snap from January 13th through the 22nd. By February 2nd, 84% of our days will have had above-normal temperatures since December 1st.

Thank you, El Niño. Though I'm not sure the gloominess is a fair exchange for it.

Elsewhere:

Finally, Minnesota-based wildlife photographer Benjamin Olson discovered that a mouse had moved into his car. So naturally, he set up a photo trap. And naturally, it's totes adorbs.

Gross weather day

Looking out my 30th-floor office window this afternoon doesn't cheer me. It's gray and snowy, but too warm for accumulation, so it just felt like rain when I sprinted across the street to get my burrito bowl for lunch.

I do have a boring deployment coming up in about an hour, requiring only that I show the business what we've built and then click "Run pipeline" twice. As a reward for getting ahead on development, I have time to read some of these absolutely horrifying news stories:

Finally, Cranky Flier examines American Airlines' European operations and singles out its heavy dependence on Heathrow as a key reason why its fares trans-Atlantic are lower than other US carriers. Since I am using one of those really low fares to visit Germany next month, I'm OK with American keeping their fares low.

Party like it's 1948

It was a busy day, so I didn't have a lot of time to write a substantial post. I did want to highlight Nate Cohn's comparison of President Biden's situation going into the 2024 election and another guy who did a pretty good job in his first term:

Harry Truman was the only president besides Joe Biden to oversee an economy with inflation over 7 percent while unemployment stayed under 4 percent and G.D.P. growth kept climbing. Voters weren’t overjoyed then, either. Instead, they saw Mr. Truman as incompetent, feared another depression and doubted their economic future, even though they were at the dawn of postwar economic prosperity.

The source of postwar inflation was fundamentally similar to post-pandemic inflation. The end of wartime rationing unleashed years of pent-up consumer demand in an economy that hadn’t fully transitioned back to producing butter instead of guns. A year after the war, wartime price controls ended and inflation skyrocketed. A great housing crisis gripped the nation’s cities as millions of troops returned from overseas after 15 years of limited housing construction. Labor unrest roiled the nation and exacerbated production shortages. The most severe inflation of the last 100 years wasn’t in the 1970s, but in 1947, reaching around 20 percent.

n the end, Mr. Truman won in perhaps the most celebrated comeback in American electoral history, including the iconic “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline and photograph. He had barnstormed the country with an economically populist campaign that argued Democrats were on the side of working people while reminding voters of the Great Depression. You might well remember from your U.S. history classes that he blamed the famous “Do Nothing Congress” for not enacting his agenda.

I'm glad Cohn got there with data, because I'd already gotten there with inference. This will be a long 11 months, but I think we might just pull this one out.

Posting in the future

I'm setting this to post overnight so I can read these things tomorrow morning:

  • President Biden published an op-ed in Saturday's Washington Post, laying out the necessary steps for ending the Gaza war, with the nuance, sensitivity, and command of the facts we should expect from any President.
  • Robert Wright lays out the history of Hamas, with particular emphasis on how American and Israeli meddling shaped it into the awful group of people it has become.
  • Josh Marshall points out that "the day after" the Gaza war looks pretty bleak, because (a) Netanyahu has no reason to plan for something he doesn't want in the first place; (b) none of the Palestinians' "allies" want to get involved in Gaza; (c) the US and the UK, which could potentially occupy the strip until it can stand on its own, really can't for lots of obvious reasons; and (d) Hamas has every reason to prolong the war as long as it can.
  • Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died at 99. James Fallows, who worked for her husband in the White House, has a remembrance.
  • Bloomberg City Lab explains the design and social history of London's Mansion Block apartment buildings.

Finally, if you come across a mostly-empty parking lot this coming Friday, post a photo of it with the tag #BlackFridayParking to raise awareness that we have way too much parking in the US. Maybe it can nudge policymakers towards necessary zoning and parking minimums changes to help us get out of the urban planning disaster of the 20th Century?

When Tuesday feels like Monday

We've switched around our RTO/WFH schedule recently, so I'm now in the office Tuesday through Thursday. That's exactly the opposite of my preferred schedule, it turns out. So now Tuesdays feel like Mondays. And I still can't get the hang of Thursdays.

We did get our bi-weekly build out today, which was boring, as it should be. Alas, the rest of the world wasn't:

  • The XPOTUS has vowed revenge on everyone who has wronged him, pledging to use the US government to smite his enemies, as if we needed any more confirmation that he should never get elected to any public office ever again.
  • Meanwhile, the XPOTUS looked positively deranged in his fraud trial yesterday, as the judge continued to question him about things that cut right to his fraudulent self-image.
  • Walter Shapiro thinks comparing President Biden to Jimmy Carter miss the mark; Harry Truman might be a better analogy.
  • Lawyers for former Chicago Alderperson Ed Burke have asked that a display in the Dirksen Federal Building celebrating the US Attorney's successes securing public-corruption convictions be covered during Burke's public-corruption trial.
  • Adams County, Illinois, judge Robert Adrian faces discipline from the state Judicial Inquiry Board after reversing the conviction of a man who sexually assaulted his girlfriend because the teenaged assailant's 148 days in jail was "plenty of punishment."
  • In a move that surprised no one, WeWork filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday, after failing to "elevate the world's consciousness" through "the energy of We."
  • Josh Marshall relays some of his thoughts about the Gaza War, with one in particular I want to call out: "Nothing that has happened in the last month constitutes genocide, either in actual actions or the intent behind those actions. Not a single thing." Worth repeating. But also: "there is a media and propaganda war about this conflict on TikTok and it is one Israel is losing."
  • Kevin Dugan relishes the exposure of Sam Bankman-Fried as a common criminal, and not a very original one at that.
  • Via Schneier, eminence gris Gene Spafford reflects on the Morris Worm, which chewed its way through most of the 100,000 machines connected to the Internet 35 years ago last week.

Finally, let's all tip our hats to George Hollywood, a parakeet who lived off the land in my part of Chicago for the better part of summer. He didn't exactly blend in with the pigeons, but as the photos in the news story show, he sure tried.