The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The best Attorney General we have

Bill Barr's beliefs about executive power have engendered a bit of pushback. Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer says Barr should resign:

[P]erhaps the most outrageous and alarming ideas that Barr advances come in his attacks on the judiciary, which occupy fully a third of his speech. In his mind, it seems, the courts are the principal culprit in constraining the extraordinarily broad powers that the president is constitutionally entitled to exercise. His discussion ignores a pillar of our legal system since almost the very beginning—Chief Justice John Marshall’s magisterial pronouncement in the early days of our republic that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

Barr yearns for a day when the president can bully everyone else in government, and leave them no ability to seek relief in court.

The benefit of the doubt that many were ready to extend to Barr a year ago—as among the best of a bad lot of nominees who had previously served in high office without disgrace—has now run out. He has told us in great detail who he is, what he believes, and where he would like to take us. For whatever twisted reasons, he believes that the president should be above the law, and he has as his foil in pursuit of that goal a president who, uniquely in our history, actually aspires to that status. And Barr has acted repeatedly on those beliefs in ways that are more damaging at every turn. Presently he is moving forward with active misuse of the criminal sanction, as one more tool of the president’s personal interests.

Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.

And while Barr may represent the curdled cream of the kakistocracy now running the executive branch, Max Boot worries that no one cares enough:

I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.

A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

On the other hand, we have an election in 260 days. I think the public had enough long ago, and contra Boot, want to turf these guys out through the ballot. If Trump wins re-election, however, let's see about those boots in the street.

Twenty Years of Punz

Punzun Ltd.™, an Illinois corporation doing business as Inner Drive Technology™, turned 20 years old today. I actually dreamed up the name in my high-school algebra class on 20 March 1985, so the concept is almost (gulp!) 35 years old.

It's kind of cool having a corporation that could be in its second year of college if it were human.

(If you don't understand the name, say it out loud. Note that "Ltd." is an abbreviation for "Limited.")

28 Mile Vodka, Highwood

Welcome to stop #5 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: 28 Mile Vodka, 454 Sheridan Rd., Highwood, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Highwood station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 52 minutes, zone E
Distance from station: 300 m

Chicago has far more breweries than distilleries, even though the foundation of all spirits is beer. Also, Chicago's distilleries often congregate in far-out industrial parks away from train lines.

Fortunately, 28 Mile Vodka is exactly what it says on the sign, and only a 3-minute walk from the Highwood station (mile post 28).

Highwood has a colorful history, to say the least. It abuts formerly-dry Highland Park to the south and Fort Sheridan to the north, so for decades the wealthy elite from HP rubbed shoulders with the soldiers from the army base. Now that Fort Sheridan has scaled back to a few Army and government offices, and Highland Park allows booze, Highwood has gotten a better reputation.

Enter a brand-new distillery that produces really good spirits. I had 1-ounce pours of their flagship vodka and their new gin. They also have white whiskey, which I'm happy to pass on until it becomes Bourbon in a couple of years. The vodka had a lovely sweetness and smoothness that would make it great on the rocks or as a top-shelf mixer. The gin had floral and citrus notes and a clean finish, which I wouldn't want to sully with tonic but I would put a drop of dry Vermouth in and take it up with a twist.

I'd like to see the place on a weekend night. I'd bet it's fun.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Small bites, including caviar
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Welcome to the new normal

Yesterday in Chicago the temperature bottomed out at -19°C after dumping 50 mm of snow on us. Today the temperature just went above freezing, where it's expected to hover for a while.

So, mild winter indeed, with more ridiculousness to come.

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.

Lake Bluff Brewing Co., Lake Bluff

Welcome to stop #4 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Lake Bluff Brewing Co., 16 E. Scranton St., Lake Bluff, Ill.
Train line: Metra Union Pacific North, Lake Bluff station.
Time from Chicago (Ogilvie): 61 minutes, zone G
Distance from station: 100 m

I liked this taproom a lot. I only had 35 minutes between trains, but that was enough time to enjoy the chill atmosphere and to try a beer.

The pint of Inspiration IPA (6.2%, 66 IBU) went down cleanly and easily. It's a straightforward IPA that doesn't have as much bitterness as you'd expect from its IBU rating. The bartender also gave me a sip of the Velvet Hammer Imperial Vanilla Porter (9.4%, 26 IBU) that would have started the afternoon a little on the wobbly side had I gotten a full tulip glass. But wow, it was yummy.

The place felt comfortable and the patrons seemed laid back listening to vinyl and chatting quietly. But at 2pm on a Saturday, why wouldn't they be? The bar also had events that, if I lived all the way up there, I might attend, such as monthly trivia nights hosted by the Lake Bluff Public Library.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? 2, avoidable
Serves food? Supplied from pub next door
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Two-tiered justice in the US

Veteran crime and justice reporter Rodney Balko outlines the pernicious effects of reducing Roger Stone's sentence while continuing to throw the book at ordinary people:

So we get righteous fury over the FBI’s mistakes in obtaining wiretaps for former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, even as Republicans vote to reauthorize the law that allowed those taps and reject proposed reforms. We get President Trump bashing the federal law enforcement apparatus even as he praises countries whose governments execute people accused of selling drugs. We get angry denunciations of the “jackboots” who arrested Roger Stone and raided Michael Cohen’s office and residence (though they were both treated far better than, say, your average suspected pot dealer), while Trump encourages police brutality against everyday suspects and Attorney General William P. Barr declares that people who criticize law enforcement for brutality against black people aren’t worthy of police protection. And now we have Stone, and Barr’s decision to rescind the seven-to-nine-year sentencing recommendation filed by the federal prosecutors working on the case.

There’s no better example of the Trump administration’s embrace of tiered justice than the one pointed out by Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly. On the very day that Barr intervened to rescind the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for Stone, he also gave a speech to a conference of county sheriffs in which he attacked progressive, reform-minded district attorneys for their refusal to prosecute certain types of crimes. He argued that those decisions jeopardize investigations of more serious crimes that “depend heavily on obtaining information from members of the community.”

Barr was accusing progressive DAs of undermining criminal investigations by enabling witness intimidation. One of the crimes for which Stone was convicted: undermining a criminal investigation by threatening a witness.

Meanwhile, the president continues raging against the people who still have the power to thwart his whims, even as Congress passes a war-powers resolution that has no chance of curbing the president's adventures in Iran.

Shaking my head, for the next 265 days

Some headlines this morning:

Happy Wednesday!

Old Irving Brewing Co., Chicago

Welcome to stop #3 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Old Irving Brewing Co., 4419 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago
Train line: Metra Milwaukee District North, Mayfair station. (Also CTA Blue Line, Montrose station)
Time from Chicago (Union Station): 20 minutes, zone B
Distance from station: 600 m (300 m from CTA)

I think I should have come during the day and not on a Friday night. Old Irving, which opened in 2016 to good press, wants to be a neighborhood bar that brews beer. I think it succeeds on that front. But when I visited, it seemed the entire neighborhood had come out for dinner.

I wound up having a 300 mL pour of their Double Beezer double dry hopped double IPA (8.5%, 52 IBUs). Not bad. I'd have it again. But they didn't have a regular IPA or APA on the menu, so I felt a bit hopped out when I left. 

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Everywhere
Serves food? Full kitchen
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

Boy, he sure learned his lesson

In just one more example of the president slipping his leash, thanks to the Republican trolls in the Senate giving him permission to do so, the Justice Department said it found prosecutors recommendations for Roger Stone's sentence "shocking." Three Assistant US Attorneys immediately quit the case:

Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors, wrote in a court filing he had resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney, leaving government entirely. Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, said he was quitting his special assignment to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute Stone, though a spokeswoman said he will remain an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.

Adam Jed, also a former member of Mueller’s team, asked a judge’s permission to leave the case like the others, though gave no indication of resigning his job.

None provided a reason for their decisions.

Uh huh. Thanks, WaPo. ("Three people left their office in haste this afternoon after their work area became engulfed in flames. None provided a reason for their decisions.")

Greg Sargent says the president's strategy is "designed to get you to surrender:"

In the end, many of President Trump’s ugliest degradations — the nonstop lying, the constant efforts to undermine faith in our political system, the relentless delegitimization of the opposition — often seem to converge in some sense on a single, overarching goal:

To get you to give up.

To give up on what, exactly? On the prospects for accountability for Trump, via mediating institutions such as the media, or via other branches of government, or even via the next election, and more broadly, on the very notion that our political system is capable of rendering outcomes that have not been thoroughly corrupted to their core.

Meanwhile:

Fun times. Fun times. At least we can take some comfort in Japanese railway station psychology.