The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two stunners from the Economist

First, if you know anything about Chicago, you'll understand why I nearly passed out to see this week's Economist in my mailbox this week. Since I moved into this neighborhood I think I've gotten it once on Saturday, and the rest of the time on Monday or Tuesday. So, wow.

Second, even more stunning if you know anything about the the Economist: they've endorsed Obama for President:

The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.

Third, not a stunner at all, I had a good flight this morning, from which I'll post a Google Earth track tomorrow morning.

Finally, friend-of-a-friend Jerry Fields has a new website as "a truth oasis in these truth-thirsty political times."

Polls open in 3 days, 8 hours, and 12 minutes...

Pumpkins for Change

Via Evanston Now:

Evanston real estate broker Alan May says he's put a new twist on an old family tradition this year.

With help from an online site called, he's turned the annual carving of the family jack-o-lantern into the creation of a Barack O'Lantern -- suitable for display on many a liberal-leaning Evanston front porch this year.

Diaz murder suspect caught; extradition soon

The Chicago Sun-Times reported late yesterday that New Mexico authorities have arrested William Bahena, chief suspect in Tuesday's murder of Elva Diaz, and will extradite him back to Illinois next week:

Almost a year after he was arrested for violating an order of protection involving his girlfriend, a 31-year-old Near West Side man is accused of killing her, authorities said Friday.

On Sept. 10, 2007, Diaz obtained an emergency order of protection against Bahena.

On Christmas Day, he was arrested for allegedly violating the order of protection, but she declined to bring charges against him, court records show.

Elva's funeral is tomorrow; there is a visitation today at St. Gall's on the Southwest Side.

I need to mention another thing about this. A couple of Elva's friends have told me she died intestate, meaning she did not have a will. They specifically asked me to blog about the difficulty this is causing her kids, and I'm happy to do.

As an unmarried person with children (ages 12, 11, and 6), the distribution of her assets is straightforward, but her children have no access to those assets until the court can appoint an administrator. Five days after her death this hasn't yet happened. It could take weeks. Meanwhile, though her children are safe, they still need food and clothes, and it will take some time before the court can determine their permanent custody arrangements.

This isn't an appeal for grocery-store gift certificates (which, nonetheless, would help). Rather, I urge anyone with children to write a will.

As a law student, I drafted several wills for attorneys, and I can tell you they can be very, very simple documents. At the very least a will should dispose of all your property, nominate an executor to manage the dispostions, and recommend who should have custody of your children. Now, I don't know Illinois child-welfare law at all, so it's possible that had Elva died any other way than at the hand of her children's father, he would be the presumptive nominee for custody. (I think the order of protection against him might have overcome that presumption, and certainly murdering his children's mother would; but this is why you need an attorney, because it can get knotty. I also have to remind people that no one has been convicted of any crime relating to Elva's murder yet. I am merely discussing the possible legal ramifications of a scenario of unknown likelihood.)

But still, if the Public Guardian has a document saying "I nominate Aunt Mildred custodian of my children" then he has an idea of who's best for the kids. Further, if the will nominates a qualified executor, then the executor can make this happen as well--by representing the estate against the Public Guardian, if necessary.

Elva's death has affected a lot of people, including me, but most especially her children. Writing a minimal will takes half an hour, and a neighborhood attorney can do it inexpensively and efficiently. It can really help your kids at their worst hour should something happen to you.

Another endorsement, but less surprising

After the Chicago Tribune's endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in history, the New York Times following suit surprises no one, but it's still welcome:

As tough as the times are, the selection of a new president is easy. After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States.


Mr. Obama has withstood some of the toughest campaign attacks ever mounted against a candidate. He’s been called un-American and accused of hiding a secret Islamic faith. The Republicans have linked him to domestic terrorists and questioned his wife’s love of her country. Ms. Palin has also questioned millions of Americans’ patriotism, calling Republican-leaning states “pro-America.”

This politics of fear, division and character assassination helped Mr. Bush drive Mr. McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries and defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004. It has been the dominant theme of his failed presidency.

The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing “robo-calls” and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.

Polls open in a little more than 8 days and 15 hours.

First place, again

The Tribune reports this morning that Chicago pulled ahead of New York and Los Angeles for the most murders so far this year:

Chicago, whose population is dwarfed by those cities, posted 426 killings through Tuesday, compared with 417 in New York and 302 in L.A.

At the end of 1998, Chicago made international headlines as the U.S. "murder capital" after surpassing New York's homicide totals for the first time ever. Chicago shed that dubious distinction when murders plummeted over the last decade.

It turns out, "through Tuesday" includes a person I knew, the receptionist at one of my clients' offices:

An altercation occurred between Elva Diaz, 30, and a 31-year-old man on the 700 block of South Oakley Boulevard about 7:10 p.m. {Tuesday], when the man got a weapon and stabbed her, police News Affairs Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti said.

Police said the man is believed to be her boyfriend who sometimes lived at the residence with her. He allegedly used a kitchen knife to stab her multiple times in the torso and neck in the front hallway where her body was found.

The woman's three children—two girls and a boy ages 12, 11 and 9—were inside the home but unharmed. It was not known whether they witnessed the incident, police said.

I debated including that information in this Blog, but it turns out, this is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, of which I was already aware before I got an email yesterday to disable Elva's Windows account.

My deepest sympathies to Elva's family, friends, and co-workers.

You could be in trouble when...

...the FDIC moves into your neighborhood (via Calculated Risk):

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. plans soon to sign a major lease of office space in Orange County, probably in Irvine, where as many as 600 people would liquidate the assets of troubled banks and thrifts based in California and other Western states.

The agency needs 200,000 square feet of space and has looked at locations across Southern California, FDIC spokesman David Barr said.

"It's a temporary office—three to five years is what we're looking at," Barr said Tuesday. "We hope to find the space within the next few weeks."

Three to five years. "Short term." Heavens.

Zo zad

MillerCoors has decided to discontinue Zima:

Chief Marketing Officer Andy England says the decision was due to weakness in the "malternative" segment and declining consumer interest.

He says distributors can get remaining Zima inventories most likely through December.

I guess that means it won't ever be sold in the Babylon 5 Zocalo...

First time in Chicago history

The Chicago Tribune today endorsed the Democratic candidate for President, for the first time in its 160-year history:

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause--the Republican Party. The Tribune's first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

With that in mind, in 1872 we endorsed Horace Greeley, who ran as an independent against the corrupt administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant. (Greeley was later endorsed by the Democrats.) In 1912 we endorsed Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as the Progressive Party candidate against Republican President William Howard Taft.

The Tribune's decisions then were driven by outrage at inept and corrupt business and political leaders.

We see parallels today.

Possibly some of this has to do with Sam Zell, but possibly it has to do with the 45-year slide of the Republican Party into, well, whatever it's become today.

Fossil adds more evidence that fish walked on land

Another gap in the fossil record has gotten filled:

In a new study of a fossil fish that lived 375 million years ago, scientists are finding striking evidence of the intermediate steps by which some marine vertebrates evolved into animals that walked on land.

The scientists said in a report being published Thursday in the journal Nature that the research exposed delicate details of the creature's head and neck, confirming and elaborating on its evolutionary position as "an important stage in the origin of terrestrial vertebrates."

There seem to be two possibilities here, depending on whether you're voting for Barack Obama or that other one. In the reality-based world, one would say that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; this fossil, being entirely consistent with the prevailing explanation of how life evolved on earth, just adds one more bit in favor of it.

Senator McCain's running mate, on the other hand, would say either the scientists made it up, or God did, leaving unanswered the obvious question: why bother? I've never understood that.

Slo-mo debate blogging

OK, I'm a little behind here, being overcome by Hofstra Pride, being from the class of...uh...a while ago. (I've actually been poking other HU alumni on Facebook.)

20:10 CT: McCain sounds a little like Rain Man tonight. Seriously, is he repeating himself? Repeating? Himself? A lot?

20:17: McCain remembers the Depression-era program first-hand, no doubt.

20:19: Enough about the damn planetarium!

20:23: "If I've mistaken your polices for George Bush's because you're proposing eight more years of the same thing."

20:26: "Look each other in the face..." Yeah, that was coming.

20:33: John, some, not too many, but some, of the people at your rallies are scary. Deal with it. That's what Obama is saying.

20:39: This isn't about McCain winning the election. It's about him setting up the loss. McCain's goal seems to be trying to take a future President Obama's legs out from under him, so the 2012 campaign can be about how the 2008 election "got stoled from us."

20:42: Palin is a role model to women? Like, "Be careful or you'll end up like her?"

20:48: I hate to say, we're going to import oil for more than 10 years, and we won't have any control over its origin.

20:52: Obama "has never traveled south of our border?" Isn't Indonesia pretty far south? Or did he mean our border with Antarctica?

21:16: Did McCain just make air-quotes?

21:27: McCain looks hurt and angry.