The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What the fuuuuuu?

Someday, soon I hope, we'll look back on this administration.

When we do, I expect this will come up:

Reporters thought this video was North Korea propaganda. It came from the White House.

But then the video looped, playing this time in English. And then Trump walked onto the stage and confirmed what some had already realized.

The film was not North Korean propaganda. It had been made in America, by or on the orders of his White House, for the benefit of Kim.

“I hope you liked it,” Trump told the reporters. “I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting enough to show. ... And I think he loved it.”

The crowd sounded skeptical. Some wondered if Trump had not, in fact, just provided U.S.-sanctioned propaganda to one of the country's oldest adversaries.

And then, in his usual style, Trump was thinking out loud about the “great condos” that might one day be built on the “great beaches” of North Korea.

“I explained it,” he said. “You could have the best hotels in the world. Think of it from the real estate perspective.”

As the screens above Trump emphasized, he certainly had.

I get it now. North Korea, a country so poor that it's nearly invisible from space at night, ruled by what may be the most repressive regime in modern history, is one big real-estate opportunity for the Trump family.

It's all about money. Lives, history, nuclear weapons pointed at Tokyo, handing an adversary we are still technically at war with one of the biggest propaganda coups they could dream of: none of that matters as long as Trump can make a buck.

(The frequency of posts today came from running some lengthy automated tests that I have to monitor.)

Standing up to our adversaries

Dana Milbank highlights President Trump's latest triumphs:

Finally, the United States has a president with the brains and the guts to stand up to the menace of the north. This weekend President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “meek,” “very dishonest & weak” for protesting U.S. tariffs. Trump’s trade adviser said “there’s a special place in hell” for Trudeau, and Trump’s economic adviser said Trudeau “stabbed us in the back” and is guilty of “betrayal” and “double-crossing.”

Trudeau earned his place in the underworld for some truly appalling rhetoric, saying “we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” Offensive! He also found it “kind of insulting” that the Trump administration said it was imposing tariffs on Canadian goods “for a national security reason” given that Canadians “stood shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers in far off lands in conflicts from the First World War onward.”

Trump bravely punished Canada by withdrawing the United States from the communique of the weekend’s Group of Seven meeting, which was hosted by Trudeau. The communique Trump rejected is loaded with objectionable provisions such as “a clean environment,” “a healthy, prosperous, sustainable and fair future for all,” “quality work environments,” “a more peaceful and secure world” and “ending violence against girls and women.” In other words, it was like all the other bad, terrible, crazily made, one-sided, miserable deals that make us the laughingstock of the world — such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the ­Trans-Pacific Partnership, NATO, the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

He goes on to list the "more sympathetic world leaders" our only president has cozied up to.

New Chicago gang map released

The Associated Press has obtained the latest edition of the Chicago Crime Commission's "Gang Book." It shows the turfs claimed by 59 gangs, including many small areas formed as groups split off from other groups after top leaders go to jail. The book also highlights how social media make gang disputes worse:

Gangs put a premium on retaliation for perceived disrespect. In the past, insults rarely spread beyond the block. Now, they’re broadcast via social media to thousands in an instant.

“If you’re disrespected on that level, you feel you have to act,” said [Rodney] Phillips, employed with Target Area, a nonprofit group that seeks to defuse gang conflicts.

Police say there was a gang connection to most of the 650 homicides in Chicago recorded in 2017 — more than in Los Angeles and New York City combined. Homicides so far in 2018 are down around 20 percent. Police partly credit better intelligence and the deployment of officers to neighborhoods on the anniversaries of gang killings.

So integral is social media to gang dynamics that when Englewood-area pastor Corey Brooks brokered a truce between factions of the Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples in 2016, he insisted they agree to refrain from posting taunts. The gang truce lasted longer than most — 18 months.

Some gangs provoke enemy gangs by streaming live video showing them walking through rival turf. Others face off using a split-screen function on Facebook Live and hurl abuse at each other.

I kind of want to see that map. And I kind of don't. Chicago Public Media has an online, interactive map that doesn't reflect the 2018 changes.

Good ol' Indiana spirit

Chances are, that bourbon you're drinking came from an industrial distillery in southern Indiana:

In just the last 10 years, the number of craft distilleries in this country has ballooned from around 100 to more than 1,400. That growth is a product of consumer demand, but it’s also due to the easing of state distillation laws and the availability of sourced whiskey from suppliers like MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Templeton Rye — marketed as Al Capone’s favorite whiskey and proud product of Templeton, Iowa — is also distilled by MGP. Tincup Whiskey, a self-described “mountain whiskey” replete with commercials conjuring a frontiersman image and Rocky Mountain ethos, is mostly MGP, too.

Those brands aren’t alone in their Indiana provenance. Even super-premium brands like High West and Whistle Pig have sourced from MGP at some point in their respective histories. And the list goes on.

MGP isn’t a household name in bourbon, but it’s well known among industry insiders and connoisseurs. With distilling operations headquartered in the old Seagram’s Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, MGP is one of the largest whiskey sourcers in the industry.

So why do so few people know MGP’s name?

For one, it maintains strict confidentiality agreements with all of its customers; the purchasing brand only has to reveal MGP as its source if it wants to — an option many decline.

In addition, labeling regulations only require that the bottler list in which state the liquid was distilled — easily done in tiny print on the back of the bottle.

This is why I've got Trader Joe's $15 "Kentucky Bourbon" at home instead of $60 Whistle Pig. It's the same whiskey.

Single-malt Scotch, on the other hand, is by UK law exactly what it says on the bottle.

Elections matter

Every time the Supreme Court votes 5-4 in favor of a conservative policy initiative, remember that Merrick Garland would almost certainly have voted the other way, and that the Republican Party essentially stole a Supreme Court seat. They got away with it because 48% of the country voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Take voter rights, for example. The Court this morning ruled, 5-4, that Ohio's method of purging its voter rolls does not violate Federal law:

Beyond the prohibition on removing voters because they failed to vote, the law calls on states to keep accurate rolls and allows removal when a person fails to respond to a request to confirm registration and then fails to vote in two federal elections.

Ohio sends a notice after a voter skips a single federal election cycle. If they fail to respond and do not vote in the next four years, their names are removed from the rolls.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the court’s job was not to decide whether Ohio has adopted the “ideal method” for keeping rolls up to date, but only whether it complies with federal law.

Meanwhile, a Fox News presenter made a Freudian slip over the weekend when she referred to President Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un "the two dictators."

We can take back Congress in 148 days.

Quiet day

It's gloomy, foggy, rainy, and not all that warm today, so I'm doing very little of value. I'll probably do something of value tomorrow, though.

Ribfest 2018

Ah, Ribfest. The bane of my diet.

This year I went back to a couple of old favorites and tried a couple of new ones:

  • Chicago BBQ: Smoky, a little tug off the bone, tangy sauce. 3½ stars.
  • Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro: Like last year, they glooped on a lot of (delicious) sauce. But the meat tasted better this year, and I got a bit of a lagniappe. 3 stars.
  • Old Crow Smokehouse: I haven't tried them before. They were decent. Good smoke taste, but a little fatty and not a lot of sauce. 3 stars.
  • Fireside Restaurant: The best sauce of the day, tangy and a little citrus. Good meat, smoke, and char.

I may go tomorrow. If I can digest today's bones.

The totality of the circumstances

Way back in my first day of law school, Prof. Neil Williams exclaimed that the basis of contract law was "the totality of the circumstances!" Meaning, when evaluating a contract (from whether it exists to whether it's enforceable), you have to look at the context, the facts, the intentions of the parties—everything.

Take, for example, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice's description of the following circumstances:

If Mr. Putin were calling the shots, he would ensure that America’s reliability is doubted, its commitments broken, its values debased and its image tarnished. He would advise the new president to take a series of steps to advance those aims:

First, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership....

Second, criticize NATO and cast doubt on America’s willingness to defend its allies....

Third, for the coup de grâce: start a trade war with our closest allies.

There is no evidence that Mr. Putin is dictating American policy. But it’s hard to imagine how he could do much better, even if he were.

Josh Marshall ups the volume on the same issue, and points out whether there was active collusion doesn't really matter:

If candidate Trump and President Putin had made a corrupt bargain which obligated President Trump to destabilize all US security and trade alliances (especially NATO, which has been Russia’s primary strategic goal for 70 years) and advance the strategic interests of Russia, there’s really nothing more remotely realistic he could have done to accomplish that than what he has in fact done.

We have a President who clearly got a great deal of assistance from Russia in getting elected. We can argue about how important it was to his victory. But the reality of the help is not in any real dispute. His campaign at a minimum had numerous highly suspicious contacts with people either in the Russian government or acting on behalf of the Russian government while that was happening. That is a very generous interpretation. He’s doing all the stuff he’d have been asked to do if such a corrupt bargain had been made. At a certain point – and I’d say we’re clearly at or past that point – it really doesn’t matter whether we can prove such a bargain was made. I’m not even sure it matters whether it was explicit or even happened. The bank robber helped the teller get the job and now the teller just won’t seem to lock the safe or even turn on the alarm. We can debate forever whether the teller is just absent-minded or has some odd philosophical aversion toward locks. The debate may be unresolvable. It truly doesn’t matter.

No, it really doesn't, though I expect historians will spend centuries debating why Trump has so thoroughly trashed our country to the benefit of Russia. What matters, right now, is that we at the very least install a Democratic Congress this fall, so that we can at the very least put the brakes on.

How the last ice age shaped New York City

Total Daily Parker bait:

At the start of the last ice age, 2.6 million years ago, a sheet of frozen water formed atop North America that kept expanding and thickening until it reached a maximum depth of roughly two miles.

At its southern edge, the vast body deposited tons of rocky debris — from sand and pebbles to boulders the size of school buses. Then, some 18,000 years ago, the planet began to warm and the gargantuan sheet of ice began to melt and retreat.

Today, the southernmost edge of that frozen expanse is marked by a line of rubble that extends across the northern United States for thousands of miles. The largest deposits form what geologists call a terminal moraine.

The intermittent ridge runs from Puget Sound to the Missouri River to Montauk Point on Long Island, forming the prominence that supports its old lighthouse. The ancient sheet of ice also left its mark on a very modern phenomenon: New York City.

It's a clear explanation of how the terminal moraine formed the New York metro area, and where in the area you can see direct evidence of glaciation.

Illinois' population decline isn't actually a problem

Tim Jones, writing in Crain's for the Better Government Association, says the experiences of Minnesota and Kansas put the lie to claims that people are leaving Illinois because of taxes:

The scapegoat nominees include not just high taxes but House Speaker Michael Madigan, Gov. Bruce Rauner, government regulations, financial chaos and uncertainty from a two-year budget stalemate, not to mention old standbys greed and corruption.

That's where Minnesota looms as a spoiler of the tax-cutting political narrative embraced by many Midwestern states. Minnesota is a high-tax state, rated the sixth-highest in the nation in state and local individual income tax collections per capita and eighth in the combined state and local tax burden, according to the most recent rankings of the Washington-based Tax Foundation.

Minnesota has a graduated income tax, with rates ranging from 5.35 percent for those of modest incomes to 9.85 percent for individuals with annual incomes above $156,000.

The Tax Foundation ranked Minnesota's overall business tax climate among the nation's worst. Even so, the state was among Midwestern leaders in population growth, with a 5.1 percent gain since 2010 and a 13.3 percent jump since 2000. The state also has the highest median household income and the lowest poverty rate.

Focusing on taxation produces a distorted picture, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

“Clearly in Minnesota there are other things going on. Taxes are one component but also jobs, wages, quality of life, the education system,” Jacobs said.

The flip side of the taxation narrative, put into action by Kansas six years ago, is that cutting taxes will give a jolt to economic development and drive population growth. But it did neither, and Republicans who control the legislature had to backtrack on the tax cuts last year when revenue loss became untenable.

See, taxes pay for things that people want and need, like transport, schools, and police. Cutting taxes, as Kansas demonstrated, means you can't pay for those things anymore. Then people don't want to live there. QED. I'm not wild about higher taxes in general, but I understand we all need to pay them to get better living conditions. I hope that J.B. Pritzker makes that point as he runs for governor this fall.