The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Boring Company will bore Chicago

Elon Musk's Boring Co. has gotten approval to start work on a high-speed underground connection between O'Hare and downtown Chicago:

The promised project: A closed-loop pair of tunnels from Block 37 in the central Loop to the airport that would whisk passengers to their flights in 12 minutes, using autonomous pod-like vehicles, or electric skates, that would depart as frequently as every 30 seconds and carry up to 16 passengers and their luggage.

If all goes as it should, [Deputy Mayor Robert] Rivkin said, construction work could begin next year with actual service in operation around 2022.

The Chicago project generally would use already existing "electric skate" technology, though it would link them together in a form and length that is unique to this country. The direct connection via a dedicated tunnel would allow those vehicles to accelerate to over 100 miles per hour, according to the city and Boring, slashing the time on the 27 km O'Hare run. And the project would-use the long mothballed CTA "superstation" under Block 37 as a terminal, with the end point located near the CTA's Blue Line terminus close to O'Hare terminals but outside of the airport's security perimeter.

I really, really hope the project succeeds. It will be nice to get from O'Hare to downtown that quickly, though I doubt the $25 fare will last long. For comparison to other under-20-minute express trains, the Heathrow Express costs $29 while the Schiphol Fyra (to Amsterdam) only costs $6.25. If you want to take an hour, the El costs $5 and the Tube $4.10 (off-peak).

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.

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.

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.

Lunchtime reading

Stuff that landed in my inbox today:

Also, while we're on the subject of the C-word, I love Minnie Driver's response: "That was the wrong word for Samantha Bee to have used. But mostly because (to paraphrase the French) Ivanka has neither the warmth nor the depth."

You can't con a con man? Pull the other one

New Republic's Matt Ford points to Rod Blagojevich's cynical attempts at getting President Trump to pardon him as evidence that Trump is "the world's most powerful rube:"

All of this makes Trump essentially the perfect mark: a man who’s easily flattered, short-tempered, quick to blame others, intellectually incurious, brimming with self-assurance, and unwilling to reflect on his own misjudgments.

That’s an extraordinary stroke of luck for Blagojevich, since any other president would probably have seen right through the ex-governor’s plea for mercy.

Blagojevich’s description makes it sound like he was somehow convicted of bribery even though no bribes or explicit promises for bribes were exchanged. That would indeed be odd. In reality, he was convicted of attempted extortion, attempted bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes, among other charges. 

That Blagojevich failed to successfully exchange his honest services as Illinois’s governor for cash and favors doesn’t make his behavior less corrupt. John Chase and Bob Secter, who covered the trials for The Chicago Tribune, noted last week that most of the evidence that felled him came from Blagojevich’s own comments in wiretapped conversations. “The portrait that emerged from that up-close observation was of a leader sublimely self-righteous, comically vain, untrustworthy, uninterested in the process of governing, unsophisticated in the arts of policy and deal making and not particularly discriminating in whose counsel he sought,” they wrote.

Aiding Blagojevich’s campaign is a sympathetic conservative media that’s defending Trump against Mueller’s investigation. If those overzealous prosecutors in the Justice Department would topple a Democratic governor of Illinois on dubious grounds, the logic goes, why wouldn’t they do the same thing to a Republican president?

In reality, Blagojevich and Trump are cut from similar cloth. It doesn't surprise me that Blagojevich is trying this strategy.

Hottest May in Illinois history

Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel has a report:

Based on preliminary data, the statewide average temperature for May in Illinois was 21.4°C, 4.4°C above normal and the warmest May on record. The old record was 20.8°C set back in 1962. A brief examination of daily records indicates that Springfield, Champaign, Quincy, and Carbondale all had daily mean temperatures at or above normal for each day of the month. On the other hand, Chicago, Rockford, and Peoria had a few dips into the below-normal territory but overall finished above-normal for the month.

In Chicago, we also had the warmest last week of May ever. Fun times. And today, it's 14°C by the Lake.

Today's batch

I've had a lot of things going on at work the past couple of weeks, and not many free evenings, leading to these link round-up posts that add nothing to the conversation.

But there should be a conversation, and here are some topics:

Finally, on Monday Parker will have his final check-out by his surgeon, which should clear him to go back to day camp on Tuesday. The poor fuzzy dude has spent way too much time home alone since his injury. I'm looking forward to him getting back into his pack.

Lunchtime reading

Not all of this is as depressing as yesterday's batch:

I'm sure there will be more later.

Not my favorite weather

This past weekend's performances went better than I expected, even with last night's temperature hovering around 32°C on the Pritzker stage.

Our entire Memorial Day weekend has been hot. Yesterday's official temperature at O'Hare (36°C) hit an all-time record for May 27th and was the warmest day in Chicago since 23 July 2012, almost 6 years ago.

So let me tell you how great it felt to be outside, wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and black jeans, singing, for an hour.

The forecast calls for record heat today (35°C) and then some modest cooling by Wednesday.

For the record, that means spring lasted about 24 hours last week.