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.
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.)
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.
Throughout history, right-wing politicians have promised order in exchange for power. Every time, this has been a lie.
The National Rifle Association has kept to that model for decades: "We'll fight for the most unhinged interpretation of the Second Amendment possible, so our members can make billions selling guns to the people most likely to use them." You just have to remember that the NRA's members are the gun manufacturers, not the gun owners, for it all to make sense.
Except, the US courts sometimes work correctly, shutting down bullshit in favor of plain language. Even better when a jury has had enough:
Wayne LaPierre diverted millions of dollars away from the National Rifle Association to live luxuriously, while the gun rights group failed to properly manage its finances, a jury found Friday.
The case against the NRA was brought on by a lawsuit filed in 2020 by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused LaPierre and other current and former executives of flouting state laws and internal policies to enrich themselves.
They said LaPierre caused $5.4 million in monetary harm to the NRA but that he has already repaid at least $1 million of that. The 74-year-old appeared stoic as the verdict was read.
How surprising, if you know anything about humans: the head of an organization dedicated to shooting everyone in America turns out to have used his position for personal enrichment. It's so strange how organizations dedicated to changing the world turn out to be less corrupt than organizations dedicated to keeping everything the same, innit?
The US is at a turning point. We can throw all our power to private interests, in exchange for a completely unfounded belief that "those people" won't do whatever it is you're afraid of, or we can say "fuck all this" and start building for the future.
I have a suspicion that the latter is actually happening. At least in Illinois. Maybe someday this will be the norm.
Meanwhile, I'm in Germany, where people find the entire discussion horrifying. It turns out that getting shot for no reason is a bad thing, according to everyone in the world except for the NRA. If only there were a way to send a message to the right-wing nutters that we're all done with their bullshit...
Just noting these things to read later, as I have just a few minutes before boarding:
Finally, The Cut's financial-advice columnist Charlotte Cowles describes how she fell for a financial scam.
I forgot that one of the perks of flying in international first class—even if it's a miles ticket—is access to American's Flagship Lounge. I have to say, I see the appeal.
But like so much in the United States, the top-tier lounge in Chicago has roughly the same amenities and food as the regular lounges in Europe and Asia.
I'm heading to Munich, as mentioned earlier, in part to enjoy modern technology, now that my own country has drifted to the back of the pack amongst its peer countries. It's very frustrating, to put it mildly, that the Most Powerful Nation in the History of the Planet™ can't figure out how to build a high-speed train, for example.
The same thing happened to Rome, of course. By the 1st century CE, Rome had the largest empire and most powerful military the world had ever seen till then, but Constantinople had already started to pull ahead in technology. By 500 CE, Rome had become a provincial outpost with ruined monuments, and Constantinople was beyond anything the Romans could imagine.
The weather forecast for Munich doesn't look horrible, but doesn't look all that great either, at least until Saturday. So I'll probably do more indoorsy things Thursday and Friday, though I have tentatively decided to visit Dachau on Thursday, rain or not. You know, to start my trip in such a way that nothing else could possibly be worse.
Meanwhile, I've added these to yesterday's crop of stories to read at the airport:
Finally, don't skip your dog's walks. They're very important to her health.
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.
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.
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.