The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two Brothers Roundhouse, Aurora

Welcome to stop #35 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway, Aurora
Train line: BNSF, Aurora
Time from Chicago: 81 minutes (Zone H)
Distance from station: At the station

In 1856, the nascent Chicago & Aurora Railroad built the first roundhouse in Illinois in the small city of Aurora. It served as a locomotive shop and storage facility until 1974, then abandoned, even as it won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Flash forward to 2011 when local brewery Two Brothers Brewing opened a restaurant and small brewing facility on the site.

On Saturday, with crisp, clear skies above me, I trekked all the way out there to have lunch and try the beers. Lunch was perfectly fine, as were the beers.

My server brought the flight out with the beers in alphabetical order, which also turned out to be the right tasting order. I started with the Atom Smasher Oktoberfest (7%), a malty, well-balanced, good Oktoberfest-style lager, well-made but sweeter than my palate prefers. The Citra United IPA (7%) hit me with hops on the nose and tongue, finished cleanly, and have me less citrus and bitter notes than I expected. (I wound up ordering a full pint after lunch.) The Wizard Staff IPA (5%) had a bright, light, maltiness to it, with a clean finish and light orange notes. The Wobble IPA (6.3%) had a slight astringent note with high hops and less depth than the others.

I also got a sip of their bourbon whiskey, distilled on site. It had a sweet nose with nice oak notes, and I found it a solid whisky if a bit young. The 75/25 corn/rye mash bill gave it some pepper that would work in a Manhattan well.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? One inside, none outside
Serves food? Yes, full pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

200,000

The official death toll in the US for Covid-19 has passed a milestone Deborah Birx predicted back in March:

In the predawn hours of March 30, Dr. Deborah Birx stepped in front of the camera on the White House lawn and made an alarming prediction about the coronavirus, which had, by then, killed fewer than 3,000 people in the United States.

"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told Savannah Guthrie of NBC News' "Today" show.

On Saturday, Birx's prediction came true, as the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000.

Meanwhile, though they have consistently done almost nothing right in the six months when 200,000 ordinary Americans have died, the Republican Party has put the pedal to the metal mobilizing after one Associate Justice died. It's all about power, nothing about the people.

Actions must have consequences

Yesterday evening I wrote that the only appropriate response to the Republican Senate putting another Federalist Society pretty boy on the Supreme Court (or, really, anyone other than Merrick Garland) would be to revisit 28 USC §1i.e., passing a simple statute to increase the size of the court and thereby dilute its right-wing majority. This was also Josh Marshall's first thought:

We are here because of the Republican party’s increasing unwillingness to accept limits on political action. To up the ante on that tendency, to meet it, is itself a grave threat to democratic governance. But an even graver threat is to remove any mechanism of consequences or accountability. Then there is truly no limit or disincentive to corruption, law breaking and bad action. That reality is precisely the one in which we currently find ourselves.

In war or in sports or really any kind of contest you never let the other side hold all the initiative. You can say that McConnell and Trump shouldn’t take this step, that the American people should get to decide. Because the reality is they can take this step. So what will you do when they do that? The answer is you take the clearest and most economical step to undo the corrupt act. Adding new Justices is the way to do that.

Make this new corruption a centerpiece of the campaign, hold it over the heads of embattled Republican senators, try in every way to get a just result, which is to put this in the hands of the next President and Congress. But make clear that if it happens Democrats will undo it next year if the people give them to power to do so.

The Washington Post's Jill Filipovic makes the same points:

Democrats have only one play here: If Trump and McConnell jam an appointee through, it is not enough for Democrats to raise hell about the hypocrisy, the duplicity and the Republican refusal to play by McConnell’s own rules. It is not enough to target every Republican senator who goes along. It is not enough to have voters bombard their Republican senator’s office with phone calls and protests. Because those things have been happening for four years, and none of them have persuaded the GOP to put the stability of the country or the obligations of office ahead of that party’s thirst for power.

So Democrats should threaten to pack the court. And, if McConnell pushes through a new justice and then Joe Biden wins, they should follow through.

Our party has to hold the line here. Another ultra-right-wing Associate Justice will cement the power of the right wing for another 30 years, prevent us—the clear majority—from passing any meaningful legislation when we do re-take power in January, and contribute to the loss of faith in the institutions of government. All three of these outcomes are exactly what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has worked his whole career to accomplish. Even if Amy McGrath takes his seat, he will have won.

Except for this one little thing: Article 1 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the Supreme Court's size and jurisdiction. We can counter all these things with simple legislation requiring only a majority in Congress.

The Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader need to get out in front, now, and rhetorically pump that shotgun. Sure, go ahead and put one of Brett Kavanaugh's frat bros on the Court. President Biden will have Merrick Garland and three other liberals in the four new seats Congress will create before the end of March.

I've sent notes to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) making these points.

(Note: I have contributed money to both Joe Biden's and Amy McGrath's campaigns.)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

The Notorious RBG died at her home earlier today:

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.

[President] Clinton, making his first nomination to the court, conducted an almost painfully public search among judges and political figures, with contenders including Mario Cuomo, then the governor of New York, who turned him down, and Bruce Babbitt, the incumbent secretary of the interior.

As the search wound down, it appeared the president had chosen Stephen G. Breyer, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, who had come to Washington at the president’s invitation for an interview. Judge Breyer was in pain from broken ribs suffered in a recent bicycle accident, and the interview did not go well. Martin Ginsburg, meanwhile, had been urging New York’s senior senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to press his wife’s case with the president. Mr. Clinton was at first reluctant, grumbling to Mr. Moynihan that “the women are against her.” But after a 90-minute private meeting with Judge Ginsburg on Sunday, June 13, the president made up his mind. He called her at 11:33 that night to tell her that she was his choice.

Surprising absolutely no one, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in repudiating the "McConnell Rule" against nominating a new justice during an election year:

There’s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a Supreme Court vacancy from being filled, regardless of how close to an election it opens up.

Precedent in such a situation is different. Until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked President Obama’s 2016 pick nine months before the election, this hadn’t been done very often, says Russell Wheeler, an expert on Supreme Court history with the Brookings Institution.

McConnell can’t say he is flip-flopping on his 2016 position about election-year court vacancies because doing so benefits him politically now. So he has offered some logic that does little to disguise its political convenience: This time is different because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which wasn’t the case when there was a vacancy in the last year of Obama’s presidency.

And in 2016, McConnell actually argued against the Senate considering a lame-duck president’s nomination. “President Obama has every right to nominate someone on his way out the door,” McConnell said at the time. “The Senate has every right to hold its consent.”

It’s a lot to consider. But McConnell has the chance to thrust the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction for perhaps generations. It’s a remarkable legacy for McConnell that he doesn’t seem to want to pass up, no matter the risk for him or the Senate majority.

To that I would remind the gentleman from Kentucky that 28 USC §1 is just a statute, which the next Congress could easily change.

Location spotting

Watching Amazon's 2017 anthology series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, I particularly enjoyed how many episodes they filmed right here in Chicago.

"Real Life" filmed mainly around Lake St and the river. "The Father Thing" takes place mainly in The Villa, a niche hidden away in Irving Park. And it took me all of 5 minutes to locate a shooting location by the Damen El stop in "Safe and Sound."

Of course, as most of the stories take place 20 minutes into the future, some of the locations have digital additions (like the diner in "Real Life"). But they made no effort to conceal Chicago. It's fun.

Panic-moving to the suburbs

As Covid-19 cases rose in large cities, people started moving to the suburbs in larger numbers. Crain's reports that the combination of fear, downtown office closures, and low interest rates caused home sales nearly to double in 14 Chicago-area suburbs. Barrington, a wealthy village of horse barns and huge houses, saw the largest number of home sales last month, with Lake Forest (a similar place) close behind.

Amanda Mull, writing in The Atlantic, sees this as a big gamble:

When we talk about people leaving America’s biggest cities right now, people largely means the rich. In The New York Times’ analysis of cellphone location data, 420,000 people fled New York City for some period of time from March 1 to May 1. Those who left were heavily concentrated in the city’s wealthiest zip codes, especially those in Manhattan. A similar phenomenon was found in the city’s trash-collection patterns, in which the amount of garbage dropped most sharply where rich people had vanished.

[T]he work-from-home “revolution” is already off to an uneven start, with many people returning to offices at the behest of their employers in states that have more fully reopened. There’s reason to believe that will continue.

People whose employers are amenable to fully remote work might still see consequences if they stay out of the office. Some employers could use remote work as an opportunity to tighten budgets beyond just their office leases, especially if the economy stays in a recession for a while. Facebook, among the first big companies to make working from home a permanent option, has already made clear that it will cut workers’ pay if they relocate from the Bay Area to less expensive places—a cost-cutting tactic common among employers whose workers retain their jobs when they move to less expensive areas.

There’s not much evidence that the pandemic has changed the tastes of otherwise enthusiastic city dwellers. And even if moving seems like an effective strategy to stay safe, it’s not exactly clear that it will look that way in hindsight. No one really knows how the pandemic will progress over the next year, in big cities or elsewhere. New York City’s outbreak now seems to be under far better control than those in many popular migratory destinations in the Sun Belt, which could change the calculus for panic-movers.

Those of us who love cities still love them. Of course I understand the allure of suburbs; getting out of Chicago for a few hours was one of the motivations for the Brews & Choos project. But I just don't like the costs of living in the suburbs, like having to drive everywhere, and "everywhere" means a chain restaurant or box store. The only suburbs I could imagine wanting to live in are Evanston and Oak Park, not coincidentally two of the densest in the area and both with multiple rail lines to downtown Chicago. There are millions of people who agree.

Bingey

Working from home with a gigabit Internet connection has at least one major perk: TV on in the background. I've gone through a lot of it in the last six months. The ExpanseTales from the LoopWyonna EarpWarrior NunUpload, and The Umbrella Academy were all worth watching. Some of them even have new seasons coming out soon.

On the "return to the office full-time" front, we probably have another six months to wait. The New York Times has a rundown of the 92 Covid-19 vaccines currently under development. But despite the president's lies, none of them will be available before the election. And getting 7 (or 14) billion doses manufactured and distributed will take time as well.

So, we work from home, wash our hands, wear our masks outside, and have lots of TV on in the background. Yay us.

Better Know a Ballot

Talk-show host Stephen Colbert has set up a website called Better Know a Ballot where you can check on the voting requirements for your state. He's producing videos for each state (starting with North Carolina) to explain the rules.

That's the bright spot of joy for you today. Here are other...spots...of something:

OK, one more bit of good news: The Economist reported this week that the southern hemisphere had almost no flu cases this winter, because pandemic response measures work on influenza just as they work on Covid-19.

The Reagan Test

Author John Scalzi asks the question Reagan asked 40 years ago, and concludes he's worse off than he was in 2016:

In 1980, which is now — Jesus — 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan asked a question of the American people: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Reagan asked this question because he was running for president against Jimmy Carter, and it was in his interest to make the election a referendum on the incumbent. And while it would be inaccurate to say the question won Reagan the White House, it is accurate to say the question was a particularly useful framing device for Reagan: It took the election campaign and set it on personal terms for every voter, in a way they could easily quantify and apply to their own lives.

Now it’s 2020, and Donald Trump is president and running for re-election, and aside from any over-arching political issues with, or my own personal opinion of, the man, I think it will be interesting and useful to apply Reagan’s question to my own personal life: am I, in fact, better off today than I was four years ago?

My income has been stable for the last four years, thanks mainly to contracts signed more than four years ago. Like the economy at large (until the coronavirus struck, at least), my generally robust economic condition was a continuation of Obama-era practices and strategies, rather than new conditions.

Four years ago, I could leave my house without wearing a mask (I mean, I guess I could leave the house without one, if I was an asshole who didn’t care about the health and safety of others as well as myself, but I’m not, so I wear a mask).

Four years ago I could go to a restaurant or see a movie or go to a party or get on a plane without worrying about possibly contracting a disease that could put me on a respirator, kill me or give me serious, chronic, long-term health issues.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my access to the services and function of the federal government, in an emergency or at all other times, would be contingent upon whether the president had decided someone in my state state was his friend or his foe, or had flattered him enough that he felt inclined to do the job that he was in fact required to do, by law and by the Constitution.

If one of the most successful writers in America is worse off today, how are you doing?