The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Leapin' lizards

Stories for the last day of winter, this year on the quadrennial day when your Facebook Memories have the fewest entries and, apparently, you can't pay for gas in New Zealand:

Finally, Economist editor Steve Coll got access to hundreds of hours of Saddam Hussein's taped strategy meetings. He concluded that both the CIA and Hussein had no understanding at all about what the other was thinking.

Also, the temperature at IDTWHQ bottomed out at -5.3°C just after 7am and has kept climbing since then. The first day of spring should get it up into the high teens, with 20°C possible on Sunday. Weird, but quite enjoyable.

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.

Reading list for this week

As I'm trying to decide which books to take with me to Germany, my regular news sources have also given me a few things to put in my reading list:

Finally, the North Atlantic has near-record jet streams again this week, approaching 360 km/h, and shaving 45 minutes off the DC–London route. I would love that to happen Wednesday.

$350 million in fines

New York Justice Arthur Engoron just handed the XPOTUS a $350 million fine and barred him and his two failsons from running a business in New York for years:

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Of course he'll appeal, but New York doesn't give him many grounds to do so. And given the scale of the fraud he perpetrated on the State, even this eye-watering sum will probably survive scrutiny from the appellate court.

In other news this afternoon:

Finally, the Tribune has a long retrospective on WGN-TV weather reporter Tom Skilling, who will retire after the 10pm newscast on the 28th.

Fun international work meeting

I learned this morning that I have a meeting at 6am Wednesday, because the participants will be in four time zones across four continents. Since I'm traveling to Munich later that day, I'll just comfort myself by remembering it's 1pm Central Europe time.

I'm already queuing up some things to read on the flights. I'll probably finish all of these later today, though:

  • Jennifer Rubin highlights four ways in which the XPOTUS has demonstrated his electoral weakness in the past few weeks.
  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz agrees, warning the MAGA Republican extremists to stop screwing around lest the party suffer an historic ass-kicking in November. (For my part, I don't think they will stop, and the ass-kicking is long overdue.)
  • Sean Wilentz warns that the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to evaluate the XPOTUS in light of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause will lead to worse problems later on.
  • James Fallows chastises the Times in particular for creating the controversy about President Biden's age they claimed simply to report on.
  • Ian Bogost moans about the ever-deepening problems of carrying baggage onto planes. (I will be checking my bag through to Munich, for what it's worth, but I may carry it on for the return flight to avoid customs delays changing planes at Charlotte.)

Finally, John Scalzi erupts at the 2023 Hugo Awards administrators for outright fraud and unforgivable cowardice following a report on Chinese political interference in the awards selection process last summer.

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.

Waiting for the build before walking two dogs

Another sprint has ended. My hope for a boring release has hit two snags: first, it looks like one of the test artifacts in the production environment that our build pipeline depends on has disappeared (easily fixed); and second, my doctor's treatment for this icky bronchitis I've had the past two weeks works great at the (temporary) expense of normal cognition. (Probably the cough syrup.)

Plus, Cassie and I have a houseguest:

But like my head, the rest of the world keeps spinning:

And now, my production test pipeline has concluded successfully, so I will indeed have a boring release.

Republicans care more about their religion than your rape

Between the Dobbs decision allowing states to enforce or enact medieval restrictions on women's rights, an estimated 59,000 pregnancies resulted from rapes in states where women could no longer terminate them:

A new study estimates that more than 64,000 pregnancies resulted from rape between July 1, 2022, and January 1, 2024, in states where abortion has been banned throughout pregnancy in all or most cases. Of these, just more than 5,500 are estimated to have occurred in states with rape exceptions—and nearly 59,000 are estimated for states without exceptions. The authors calculate that more than 26,000 rape-caused pregnancies may have taken place in Texas alone. The findings were published on Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Highly stigmatized life events are hard to measure. And many survivors of sexual violence do not want to disclose that they went through this incredibly stigmatizing traumatic life event,” says Samuel Dickman, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of Montana, who led the study. “We will never know the true number of survivors of rape and sexual assault in the U.S.”

The researchers obtained their findings by combining data from multiple sources. Because state-level data weren’t available, the team analyzed national data from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey on intimate partner sexual violence from 2016 to 2017. The researchers also used a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey on criminal victimization. Putting these together, they determined the number of completed vaginal rapes among girls and women of reproductive age—defined as between the ages of 15 and 45 (although some even younger girls and older women are also capable of pregnancy).

The XPOTUS put the deciding votes on the Supreme Court. George W Bush elevated John Roberts—no moderate, he, despite his PR—to the center seat. When you vote for Republicans, this is what you get.

And I guess Texas governor Greg Abbott needs to work a little harder to "eliminate rape" in his state. How surprising that he never really came through with that promise.

Over-zealous PEAs

A few months ago a Chicago Parking Enforcement Agent (PEA) tried to give me a ticket while I was paying for the parking spot online. I kept calm and polite, but I firmly explained that writing a ticket before I'd even finished entering the parking zone in the payment app might not survive the appeal.

Yesterday I got another parking ticket at 9:02pm in a spot that has free parking from 9pm to 9am. The ticket actually said "parking expired and driver not walking back from meter." Note that the parking app won't let you pay for parking beyond 9pm in that spot. Because, again, it's free after 9pm. That didn't stop the PEA, so now I actually will appeal, and I'll win. But it's a real pain.

Again, I thank Mayor Daley for jamming through the worst public financial deal in the history of the United States.

Meanwhile, I didn't have time to read all of these at lunch today:

  • Almost as shocking as the realization that privatizing parking meters games the system in favor of private interests against the general public, it turns out so do traffic impact studies.
  • The Illinois Board of Elections voted unanimously to reject an effort to keep the XPOTUS off the Republican Party primary ballot, citing an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that excludes the Board from constitutional questions.
  • Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (R) won't win the Republican nomination for president this year, but she will make the XPOTUS froth at the mouth.
  • Of course, she and others in her party persist in trying to make their own voters froth at the mouth, mostly by lying to them about the state of the economy, cities, and other things that have gone pretty well since 2021.
  • Of course, perhaps the Republican Party lies so much to cover their demonstrable incompetence at governing?
  • Christopher Elmensdorf warns that the clean energy bill winding through the Democratic offices on Capitol Hill will lead to endless NIMBYism—not to mention bad-faith blockage by fossil-fuel companies.
  • For only $120,000 a year, this consultant will get your kid into Harvard.
  • Helmut Jahn's new building at 1000 S. Michigan Ave. looks super cool.

I will now go back to work. Tonight, I will schedule my parking appeal. Updates as conditions warrant.

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.