The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What else I'm reading today at lunch

Fun times, fun times.

More follow-up from Tuesday

Aside: how the hell is it already February?

Moving on. Two more articles popped up about Tuesday night's State of the Union speech. First, via Deeply Trivial, Andrea Jones-Rooy at 538 points out that very little of what presidents propose in the SOTU actually gets enacted:

From Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama, according to [Donna Hoffman and Alison Howard], presidents made an average of 34 proposals in each State of the Union or initial address to a joint session of Congress. The most requests a president made during this period were Bill Clinton’s 87 in 2000. The fewest were just nine by Jimmy Carter in 1980.1

About 25 percent of policy announcements were ultimately successful, according to Hoffman and Howard’s definition of success, which is a complete enactment of the president’s recommended policy within a year of the address.2 They grade 14 percent more as partial successes — times when the president got a portion of the policy he asked for. The average policy agenda success rate increased to 32.7 percent when a president’s party controlled both houses of Congress, which Trump’s does.3

Altogether, an average of 60.6 percent of policy proposals mentioned in the State of the Union never materialized, suggesting that any one request from Trump is more likely not to be turned into legislation. The least successful — or, if you prefer, most ambitious — president since Johnson was Gerald Ford, with a 71.4 percent failure rate over his time in office. Johnson was the most successful — or, if you prefer, most realistic — with a 47.1 percent failure rate.

Given a hostile minority and a comical lack of bipartisanship, I don't expect much of the president's program to survive until the election.

Meanwhile, James Fallows—who has written parts of SOTUs in his life—annotates this one.

I will need alcohol after this exercise

I'm finally reading last night's State of the Union address, and...well...oy, gevalt.

The speech doesn't really have a lot of coherence, but SOTU speeches rarely do. Still, there's something about reading it that makes me wonder who Steve Miller actually thought would deliver it.

For example, these two passages:

All Americans deserve accountability and respect—and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers—and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.

In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.

First, that's a single excerpt, one clip, of the speech. There are three thoughts here, and I kind of see how they hang together. But eliminating regulations doesn't to me have much to do with accountability. In fact, the specific regulations they're eliminating will, in fact, make industry less accountable to the people, and we should start seeing unintended consequences (like death and destruction) pretty soon.

But look what he's asking for: an end to civil service protections and the politicization of the Federal bureaucracy. That's pretty consistent with authoritarian rulers the world over. It must not happen here.

Later:

America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation's wealth.

The era of economic surrender is over.

From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal.

We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones.

And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules.

So...we're scrapping multilateral trade deals in favor of making lots of bilateral deals, all while removing regulations from industry? How will that work, exactly? Won't having ten or a hundred bilateral treaties cause a hundredfold increase in regulations? I know the President doesn't know how this works, but surely someone in the administration must, right?

And then this:

So tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties—Democrats and Republicans—to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.

You know what? F you too, Donnie. "Let's work together, we all want the same thing, and you know what? You're all ugly." (This is where some Democrats booed him.)

I could go on to his bald-face lies about how visas work, to his claiming a number of President Obama's achievements as his own, to his touting a tax "reform" that swindles the middle class out of being middle class...but no, I'll let the professionals chime in for the rest:

I can't wait till the next one, and hope he gives it to a Democratic majority.

Amazon as Tom Sawyer (with billions in cash)

Amazon's bidding process for its second headquarters (HQ2) has given the company a bonanza of information about what 238 cities are willing to give up in order to get a piece of the action, and thus what levers Amazon can pull to get public money for its private gain. Not to mention, the applications gave the company millions of dollars worth of marketing data:

Amazon asked every city and state applying for its second headquarters for details about local resources, like available talent and transit options. Local officials were also prodded for tips on local education programs and tax incentives.

The answers — most of which have not been released publicly — essentially do Amazon’s homework for it, providing valuable information that the company otherwise would have needed to dig up on its own or obtain through one-on-one negotiations.

“This is not just about HQ2,” said Richard Florida, an authority on urban development and a professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s about a broader locational strategy. HQ2 is the carrot. That’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Meanwhile, CityLab has put together a guide to the "HQ2 Hunger Games" with detailed breakdowns of the 20 finalists. And they second the Times' assessment on Amazon's ulterior motives: "As CityLab has previously reported, the economic incentives being offered to lure Amazon’s 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment were historic in proportion even before the company announced the finalists."

No, that is not Scotch

Diageo, the international beverage behemoth that owns about a quarter of Scotland's distilleries (including Caol Ila and Talisker) is investigating how to produce horrible shite that isn't at all Scotch under its existing brands:

First, Diageo is considering creating “scotch whisky infusions,” low-alcohol and/or flavored alcoholic beverages sold under the same name as existing single malt or blended whisky brands. Secondly, Diageo has sought permission from the [Scotch Whisky Association trade group] to finish some of its single malts in Don Julio tequila barrels, a move that the association did not approve.

“Scotch infusions” as described in the article would fail to meet two criteria for Scotch whisky. First, scotch must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV—so anything lower than that would disqualify it as whisky. Secondly, nothing can be added to scotch other than water and caramel coloring.

But there’s another issue at stake here: the use of existing Scotch whisky brand names on non-scotch products. An infusion made with scotch as a base and then bottled under a new name likely would not be an issue, but using the name of an existing single malt or blended scotch brand could lead to confusion among drinkers who think that what they’re buying legally qualifies as whisky. In the U.S., bourbon, straight rye, and other straight whiskeys can’t have anything added either. Yet brands like Jim Beam offer flavored whiskeys under the same brand name as their straight products, using language like “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused With Natural Flavors” (Jim Beam Red Stag).

That move doesn’t fly in Scotland, where the regulations seem to prohibit producers from using their existing brands on drinks that don’t legally qualify as scotch. Section 6 (2) reads: “A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any drink in any other way that creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to whether the drink is Scotch Whisky.”

The second issue at stake with Diageo’s plans—whether or not scotch can be finished in Don Julio tequila barrels—is a less clear-cut example of violating the rules.

One clue is that Diageo requested to use Don Julio tequila barrels specifically. Diageo owns Don Julio, and if the company wanted to use the Don Julio brand name on its whisky labels, then it’s no surprise the request was turned down. The SWA is notably more wary of listing a distillery than a wine region on a label....

Diageo is a big company, and it wants to make a lot of money for its owners. But it's also a cautionary tale about how scaling up craft products doesn't work for consumers. Sure, people will probably buy "Johnnie Walker Don Julio-finished Honey Chipotle Scotch Infusion" and claim to like it (especially if they put a lot of sugar in it), but that won't be Scotch.

I just hope they continue leaving Talisker alone. That's from the island of my forebears, Skye. In fact it's about the only thing produced on Skye that anyone's heard of (other than loads of wool).

Extreme weather still a danger in warmer climate

Even though Chicago's winters have gotten milder overall in the last 50 years, extreme temperatures like we had between Christmas and January 7th still kill people:

Unlike other more dramatic types of weather, such as hurricanes, floods or tornadoes, the threat of extreme cold or heat tends to be overlooked, said Laurence Kalkstein, a University of Miami public health sciences professor who studies the effects of climate on human health.

“People don’t think of it as much of a threat mainly because there are no physical signs that a calamity has taken place,” Kalkstein said. “Clearly, it is underestimated as a danger.”

Cold weather has claimed the lives of hundreds of Illinois residents during the past decade. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports 593 people died from exposure to excessive natural cold or hypothermia between 2008 and 2016. The highest yearly total was 110 in 2014, when the polar vortex hit in January.

[T]he overall mortality rate in the winter is about 10 to 12 percent higher than in the summer because of all the indirect ways cold, snow and ice contribute to deaths, including car crashes, falls and heart attacks. There are also a higher number of infectious-disease deaths because influenza thrives when people remain inside because of cold weather....

We had March-like temperatures this weekend, but this morning, it's January again. At least we've got noticeably more daylight, and only 31 more days of meteorological winter.

Friday afternoon link round-up

Where to start?

And now, a stand-up meeting.