The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Slow news day yesterday, not so much today

Lunchtime link roundup:

Finally, People for Bikes has consistently rated Chicago the worst major US city for biking, principally because of our 50 km/h speed limit. If only we'd lower it to 40 km/h, they say, Chicago would immediately jump in the ratings to something approaching its peers.

Israel's growing isolation

The UN Security Council, with the US abstaining, voted to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza for the month of Ramadan just a few minutes ago:

The breakthrough resolution, which is legally binding and was put forth by the 10 nonpermanent members of the Council, was being negotiated intensely until the last minute.

The U.S. asked for a change in the text that removed “permanent cease-fire” and replaced it with a “lasting cease-fire,” according to diplomats, and called for both sides to create conditions where the halt in fighting could be sustained.

The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the adopted resolution fell in line with diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt to broker a cease-fire in exchange for hostage release. She said the U.S. abstained because it did not agree with everything in the resolution, including a decision not to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks to the text.

The Economist says Israel's mission to destroy the terrorist Hamas organization has largely failed:

A temporary ceasefire and hostage release could cause a change of Israel’s government; the rump of Hamas fighters in south Gaza could be contained or fade away; and from the rubble, talks on a two-state solution could begin, underwritten by America and its Gulf allies. It is just as likely, however, that ceasefire talks will fail. That could leave Israel locked in the bleakest trajectory of its 75-year existence, featuring endless occupation, hard-right politics and isolation. Today many Israelis are in denial about this, but a political reckoning will come eventually. It will determine not only the fate of Palestinians, but also whether Israel thrives in the next 75 years.

If you are a friend of Israel this is a deeply uncomfortable moment. In October it launched a justified war of self-defence against Hamas, whose terrorists had committed atrocities that threaten the idea of Israel as a land where Jews are safe. Today Israel has destroyed perhaps half of Hamas’s forces. But in important ways its mission has failed.

It is a bleak picture that is not always acknowledged in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Mr Netanyahu talks of invading Rafah, Hamas’s last redoubt, while the hard right fantasises about resettling Gaza. Many mainstream Israelis are deluding themselves, too. They believe the unique threats to Israel justify its ruthlessness and that the war has helped restore deterrence. Gaza shows that if you murder Israelis, destruction beckons. Many see no partner for peace—the pa is rotten and polls say 93% of Palestinians deny Hamas’s atrocities even took place. Occupation is the least-bad option, they conclude. Israelis would prefer to be popular abroad, but condemnation and antisemitism are a small price to pay for security. As for America, it has been angry before. The relationship is not about to rupture. If Donald Trump returns he may once again give Israel a free pass.

This seductive story is a manifesto for disaster.

Having studied the war and Israel's security situation, David Brooks similarly concludes that Israel has no good options at this point:

[I]n this war, Hamas is often underground, the Israelis are often aboveground, and Hamas seeks to position civilians directly between them. As Barry Posen, a professor at the security studies program at M.I.T., has written, Hamas’s strategy could be “described as ‘human camouflage’ and more ruthlessly as ‘human ammunition.’” Hamas’s goal is to maximize the number of Palestinians who die and in that way build international pressure until Israel is forced to end the war before Hamas is wiped out. Hamas’s survival depends on support in the court of international opinion and on making this war as bloody as possible for civilians, until Israel relents.

Israel has done far more to protect civilians than the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has sent out millions of pamphlets, texts and recorded calls warning civilians of coming operations. It has conducted four-hour daily pauses to allow civilians to leave combat areas. It has dropped speakers that blast out instructions about when to leave and where to go. These measures...have telegraphed where the I.D.F. is going to move next.

Hamas’s strategy is pure evil, but it is based on an understanding of how the events on the ground will play out in the political world. The key weakness of the Israeli strategy has always been that it is aimed at defeating Hamas militarily without addressing Palestinian grievances and without paying enough attention to the wider consequences. As the leaders of Hamas watch Washington grow more critical of Jerusalem, they must know their strategy is working.

Remember, Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map, at any cost. Israel mostly wants its neighbors, like Hamas, to stop attacking it, but their political leadership and internal myopia, helped along by nearly-unlimited resources from the US, have blinded Israelis to the larger strategy of its enemies.

Hamas timed its attack on October 7th perfectly, striking a weak and craven Israeli prime minister whose political survival depends on listening to the most deranged people in his coalition. Of course Israel was going to over-react; that was part of the Hamas strategy. But maybe with the US and the UN putting pressure on both sides, we can pause for a moment and figure out how to end the war.

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."

In other crimes...

May your solstice be more luminous than these stories would have it:

  • Chicago politician Ed Burke, who ruled the city's Finance Committee from his 14th-Ward office for 50 years, got convicted of bribery and corruption this afternoon. This has to do with all the bribes he accepted and the corruption he embodied from 1969 through May of this year.
  • New Republic's Tori Otten agrees with me that US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is the dumbest schmuck in the Senate. (She didn't use the word "schmuck," but it fits.)
  • Texas has started flying migrants to Chicago, illegally, in an ongoing effort to troll Democratic jurisdictions over immigration. This came shortly after they passed a manifestly unconstitutional immigration law of their own.
  • Millennial journalist Max Read, a kid who took over the Internet that my generation (X) built from the ground up, whinges about "the kids today" who have taken it over from his generation. (He thinks a gopher is just a rodent, I'd bet.)
  • Hard to believe, speaking of millennials, that today is the 35th anniversary of Libya blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Finally, a court in California has ordered one "Demeterious Polychron" to destroy all extant copies of what I can imagine to be a horrific example of JRR Tolkien fanfic that the court found infringes on the Tolkien estate's copyrights. Note that Polychron (a) put his self-published fanfic for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, (b) after sending it to them with a letter call it "the obvious pitch-perfect sequel" to The Lord of the Rings, and then (c) suing them when they allowed Amazon to produce its own prequel, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. Note to budding novelists: if you're writing fanfic, don't sue the underlying material's copyright owner for infringement.

Lyin' liars gonna lie

In a few related stories from the last day or so, it appears the Republican Party just can't help themselves with their dishonesty:

  • Tom Nichols points out the disingenuousness of Republicans holding up Ukrainian aid, which "might count as one of the most devastatingly efficient and effective defense expenditures of American treasure in the history of the republic," until Ukraine presents an "exit plan:" "For Ukraine, the only exit strategy is survival, just as it was for Britain in 1940 or Israel in 1973. The Ukrainians will keep fighting, because the alternative is the enslavement and butchery of the Ukrainian people, and the end of Ukraine as a nation."
  • Earlier today, the House passed the Senate's $886 billion defense reauthorization bill shorn of all its cultural hot button issues, despite all the bullshit Republicans and Fox News have fed their constituents about "the woke military."
  • Meanwhile, House Republicans also passed a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden's non-existent corruption, despite knowing he hasn't got any and they won't find any in the inquiry.

Of course, as Charles Blow points out, Republicans are lying about these things because they see the hastening arrival of authoritarianism in the US and want jobs as gauliters:

Confidence in many of our major institutions — including schools, big business, the news media — is at or near its lowest point in the past half-century, in part because of the Donald Trump-led right-wing project to depress it. Indeed, according to a July Gallup report, Republicans’ confidence in 10 of the 16 institutions measured was lower than Democrats’. Three institutions in which Republicans’ confidence exceeded Democrats’ were the Supreme Court, organized religion and the police.

And as people lose faith in these institutions — many being central to maintaining the social contract that democracies offer — they can lose faith in democracy itself. People then lose their fear of a candidate like Trump — who tried to overturn the previous presidential election and recently said that if he’s elected next time, he won’t be a dictator, “except for Day 1” — when they believe democracy is already broken.

As I and others have said before, the Republican Party needs to change its policies or accept losing elections. But they don't believe that, so they're willing to torch our democracy to keep our lot from changing it for the better.

Tuberville finally sits down and shuts up

US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), top contender for Dumbest Person in Congress since taking office earlier this year, finally released his hold on over 400 general and flag officer promotions he's held up for almost a year:

The hold, which Tuberville began in February, applied to all senior military promotions, and hundreds of officers were caught up in its net. As officers increasingly complained of the toll on military readiness and morale, and as a war raged in the Middle East, Tuberville faced increasing pressure from his fellow Republicans to drop the hold.

He has now narrowed his hold to the 10 or so promotions at the four-star rank. Tuberville said he relinquished the hold because he wanted to keep Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) from bringing up a vote to get around his maneuver. He did not receive any concessions he previously demanded, such as a change to the military funding bill to address the abortion policy.

Tuberville’s hold led to a remarkably public confrontation with some of his GOP colleagues, who staged a late-night attempt to promote the officers he had blocked, forcing him to personally object to each one. Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Todd C. Young (Ind.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), all veterans, implored Tuberville on the Senate floor to lift his hold for the sake of national security.

As of Tuesday, there had been 451 senior military officers nominated for a total of 455 jobs, he said.

Assuming the Senate confirms them all tonight or tomorrow, a lot of senior officers will have a lot of work. Families have to move, for starters, and not just the families of the 451 new admirals and generals. Each of those officers will pick a new staff, meaning a lot of captains and colonels get to pack their bags right before Christmas. And while all this happens, many of the new admirals and generals will spend tens of hours signing all the papers that no one could sign because their predecessors had to retire before they could start.

I wish I had a transcript of the conversation Mitch McConnell had with Tuberville to convince him to get out of the way. What a stupid asshole, causing this much disruption for so little gain.

I come to bury Henry, not to praise him

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died. Of course every news outlet has an obituary, but Spencer Ackerman's in Rolling Stone pretty much nails it—"it" being a nail in Kissinger's coffin:

Measuring purely by confirmed kills, the worst mass murderer ever executed by the United States was the white-supremacist terrorist Timothy McVeigh. On April 19, 1995, McVeigh detonated a massive bomb at the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children.

McVeigh, who in his own psychotic way thought he was saving America, never remotely killed on the scale of Kissinger, the most revered American grand strategist of the second half of the 20th century.

The Yale University historian Greg Grandin, author of the biography Kissinger’s Shadow, estimates that Kissinger’s actions from 1969 through 1976, a period of eight brief years when Kissinger made Richard Nixon’s and then Gerald Ford’s foreign policy as national security adviser and secretary of state, meant the end of between three and four million people. That includes “crimes of commission,” he explained, as in Cambodia and Chile, and omission, like greenlighting Indonesia’s bloodshed in East Timor; Pakistan’s bloodshed in Bangladesh; and the inauguration of an American tradition of using and then abandoning the Kurds.

“The Cubans say there is no evil that lasts a hundred years, and Kissinger is making a run to prove them wrong,” Grandin told Rolling Stone not long before Kissinger died. “There is no doubt he’ll be hailed as a geopolitical grand strategist, even though he bungled most crises, leading to escalation. He’ll get credit for opening China, but that was De Gaulle’s original idea and initiative. He’ll be praised for detente, and that was a success, but he undermined his own legacy by aligning with the neocons. And of course, he’ll get off scot free from Watergate, even though his obsession with Daniel Ellsberg really drove the crime.”

Not once in the half-century that followed Kissinger’s departure from power did the millions the United States killed matter for his reputation, except to confirm a ruthlessness that pundits occasionally find thrilling. America, like every empire, champions its state murderers. The only time I was ever in the same room as Henry Kissinger was at a 2015 national security conference at West Point. He was surrounded by fawning Army officers and ex-officials basking in the presence of a statesman.

I'm listening to the BBC's coverage of Kissinger's death as I write this, and it's a bit more balanced than American coverage. The Economist got a bit more fawning, The Guardian's news reporting tried for balance, but editorially (e.g., Simon Tisdall) they align more with Ackerman. Former National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes pulls no punches either.

Labour chancellor Alistair Darling also died, but he didn't kill millions, so we'll just let him rest in peace.

Flying out tomorrow

Tomorrow I have a quick trip to the Bay Area to see family. I expect I will not only continue posting normally, but I will also research at least two Brews & Choos Special Stops while there. Exciting stuff.

And because we live in exciting times:

Finally, if you're in Chicago tonight around 6pm, tune into WFMT 98.7 FM. They're putting the Apollo Chorus performance at Holy Name Cathedral in their holiday preview. Cool! (And tickets are still available.)

Not the long post I hope to write soon

I'm still thinking about propaganda in the Gaza war, but I'm not done thinking yet. Or, at least, not at a stopping point where a Daily Parker post would make sense. That said, Julia Ioffe sent this in the introduction to her semi-weekly column; unfortunately I can't link to it:

The absolutely poisonous discourse around this war, though, has taken all of that to a whole other level. The rage, the screaming, and the disinformation, ahistoricity, the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the propaganda—all of it has felt overwhelming at times. The way that reasonable people I otherwise respect have shown themselves to be hard-hearted zealots—clinging to what they want to believe, starting not with the facts but rather their ideology and working backwards from there—has led me to stop talking to people on both sides of the divide. The facts of what’s happening in Israel and Gaza are hard enough to absorb as it is.

As usual, Ioffe wrote what I was thinking. Again, I'll have more, but that's a very good take.

  • The column Ioffe introduced in that email, an interview with international lawyer David Scheffer, is a must-read.
  • A jury found the National Association of Realtors liable for restraint of trade and anti-competitive practices, awarding the plaintiffs $1.87 billion in damages. (Where's my refund from my last house purchase?)
  • Strong Towns points out that contrary to the wishes of many on the left, rent control works as an anti-displacement policy, but not as an affordability policy.
  • Chicago Tribune sports writer Paul Sullivan laments that this year's World Series, between the 5th and 6th seeds, for which three 100-win teams lost in the playoffs, has the smallest audience of any World Series in television history. Can't think why.
  • It turns out, AI image generation can only be as good as the images it learns on, which means AIs have even more bias than humans do.
  • Somehow I wrote a 20-page paper for 11th grade on Mark Twain and never read the account of him meeting Winston Churchill in 1900.

Finally, Michelin just announced its Bib Gourmand list for Chicago, with its US stars all coming out next Tuesday. The Bib list has five new restaurants that I must now visit. We'll see who gets new stars in a few days.

Cough, cough, cough

I could have worked from home today, and probably should have, but I felt well enough to come in (wearing an N95 mask, of course). It turned that I had a very helpful meeting, which would not have worked as well remotely, but given tomorrow's forecast and the likelihood I'll still have this cold, Cassie will just have to miss a day of school.

I have to jam on a presentation for the next three hours, so I'll come back to these later:

Finally, no sooner did it open than the new Guinness brewery in Chicago is for sale. It will stay a Guinness brewery, just under different ownership. The Brews and Choos Project will get there soon.