The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Feeling a little better, weather a lot better

A cool front came through last night and I no longer want to take a shower every 45 minutes:

The dewpoint also dropped, from a sticky 26°C yesterday afternoon to a comfortable 13°C right now. Cassie and I will take advantage of this delightful development in about half an hour. I'm hoping we get a good 10-12 km in over two hours or so.

Speaking of weather, the WGN Weather Blog reminded me this morning of the twin derechos that tore through Northern Illinois 10 years ago today. And Facebook reminded me that I got drenched in the first one. Parts of Chicago got 100 mm of rain in as many minutes, while a poor town in Iowa got 207 mm in the storm. That's a lot of rain.

Sticky weather + cooped up with Covid = 2pm shower

Cassie and I have gone on two walks today, the first for 3.2 km and the second for 4.25 km, despite the really uncomfortable 26°C dewpoint. I mean, it's really gross out there. Fortunately because of the way dogs get rid of excess heat, it didn't bother her as much as it bothered me—the air is only 28°C, after all. But we both felt a lot better when we got back to my air-conditioned house. (Fun fact: my thermostat is set for 25°C, but the dewpoint inside is closer to 15°C which makes all the difference.)

Another person who values comfort over just about everything else is Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter, who on Thursday took a "legislative tour" of the transit system he ostensibly runs, prompting Chicago Tribune reporter Alice Yin to arch an eyebrow:

[T]he sight of many Chicago-based politicians partaking in the tour with Carter — who himself has drawn heat for not using CTA buses and trains more — raised the question why do they need a guide to familiarize them with their own city’s public transit agency?

[Chicago mayor Brandon] Johnson’s office did push the effort via a flyer from his intergovernmental affairs office that reads: “Legislative Tour featuring CTA, Chicago Park District, Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus and Chicago’s Urban Historian Sherman ‘Dilla’ Thomas.” His IGA head, Sydney Holman, also gave remarks, the CTA statement noted.

The description says the four-hour tour began at CTA’s headquarters in the West Loop before stopping at three locations “while experiencing transit as everyday Chicagoans on a quick Green Line ride on Chicago’s West Side.” Barreto’s post, meanwhile, said 10 state representatives, two state senators and seven aldermen joined Wednesday.

The flyer also notes: “Limited paid street parking available and one public lot at 180 N Jefferson $16.50 for 6 hours.”

I have a friend who works at Amtrak's head office because he loves trains. He and his wife took a 7-day vacation earlier this year, starting on the 46-hour Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle. Would it kill Patrick to maybe take the Red Line once in a while? Or maybe get a job doing something where he doesn't have to get a tour of the place where his customers spend all their time after having the job for several years?

Historical parallels, anyone?

We've had stories of people clinging to power long past their ability to wield it for as long as we've had stories. Today, though, I want to take note of three people who held on so long, they wound up undoing much of what they'd accomplished in their lifetimes: Paul von Hindenburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now possibly Joe Biden.

Germans largely loved and respected Hindenburg, in part because he came very close to winning the First World War as supreme commander of the Central Powers. The loss of that war, plus the humiliating terms of the November 1919 armistice, led bit by bit to Hindenburg's disastrous second term as President of Germany. After a tumultuous first term, and by this time 84 years old, he won re-election in 1932. It turned out that Hindenburg didn't have all his youthful mojo, so within a year he had handed the keys to Germany to a pathologically narcissistic convicted criminal from Austria. We all know how that went.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote some of the most progressive opinions in her time on the US Supreme Court, and fought her whole life for women's rights, abortion rights, and basically everything that progressives hold dear. She got her first diagnosis with colon cancer in 1999, with pancreatic cancer in 2009, and with heart disease severe enough to require a stent in late 2014. When John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, she became the oldest person on the Court. By this point progressives, including President Obama, really wanted her to retire to ensure that another like-minded judge took her place. She didn't; and when she died in September 2020, just two months before we finally got the not-yet-convicted felon out of the Oval Office, the Republican-controlled Senate fast-tracked the anti-Ginsburg, militant Christianist Amy Comey Barrett (R) into her seat. Since Ginsburg's death, the Republican supermajority on the Court has whittled away at everything she accomplished, up to and including reversing Roe v Wade. Fitting that the last two days have seen some of the most reactionary rulings from the Court since Plessy v Ferguson. (I expect a ruling as egregious as Dred Scott to hit next June.)

And now we come to President Biden, whose performance last night brought both Hindenburg and Ginsburg to mind immediately. Never mind that the convicted-felon XPOTUS couldn't utter three consecutive syllables without lying, it was excruciating to watch. Great time to have Covid; I really would have liked a stiff drink when it ended. (I'm especially sad that I couldn't commiserate with a dear friend who died on the 11th. He would have brought the bourbon.)

Let's review the reviews, shall we?

James Fallows: Thirty minutes in, he Tweeted: "Trump is lying nonstop but has been at the high end of his 'sounding coherent' range. Biden has too much info and has been at the low end of his 'revving up for big events' range." "So that is why his labored, halting, raspy, fact-clogged, uneasy sounding first set of answers was so startling. Without consciously realizing it, I had gotten used to the idea that in a crunch he could sound younger than he looks. This time he sounded very old. That’s what I meant by the bottom of his range."

Dana Milbank: "The first and probably last meeting between Donald Trump and President Biden wasn’t a debate. It was a 90-minute disinfomercial promoting the former president, who uttered one egregious fabrication after the other, with barely a pause for breath between his inventions. The truth never had a chance. The truth needed a standard-bearer on that stage in Atlanta on Thursday night. Biden plainly was not up to the job. If the country is 'failing,' it’s because it is experiencing a relentless, disciplined and coordinated attack on everything that is true — and because the one person the reality-based community was counting on to save us has just shown himself to be unequal to the task."

David Corn: President Biden "tumbled through 90 minutes, muffing answers, often looking uncertain, speaking in a low, gravelly voice that did not convey strength. This was not only a missed chance. It was a disaster. Bill Clinton used to say that strong-and-wrong beats weak-and-right. With his performance on Thursday night, Biden created a perfect test case for that proposition."

Alex Shephard: "Again and again, with no prompting, he made his opponent’s case for him. He was often incoherent, frequently appeared to forget the question he was responding to, and consistently failed to make the very easy and simple case for his reelection. He allowed Donald Trump—a man who was terrible in every Republican primary debate in 2016 and who decisively lost every presidential debate in 2016 and 2020—not only to appear competent in comparison, but to seem normal."

Andrew Sullivan: "For god's sake, withdraw. [L]ast night’s debate performance by Joe Biden is the end of his campaign. It’s over. Done. No sane person can possibly believe that this man is capable of being president now, let alone for another four years."

David Graham: "Watching the president at the first debate was at times almost physically uncomfortable. If the purpose of debates such as this one is to show voters something new about the candidates, then it didn’t work. And how could it? Both men are very well known, and very little liked, by the entire American public. Nor was there much to learn about policy: Trump doesn’t care about it, and Biden kept getting mixed up in details about it."

Peter Hamby: "What’s striking is the level of anger coming from normal Democrats, not professional Democrats, people who just want to vote against Trump and get this over with, even if they’re not in love with Biden, who are texting me their anger. It’s because so much feels at stake. Biden, by the way, never said, “I will be a transitional president.” He hinted at it. A lot of people took that to heart, and after the midterms he could have walked away like Michael Jordan after hitting that shot against the Jazz and been a hero forever to Democrats. After the midterms, Jill and Valerie Biden, and Ron Klain and Mike Donilon and Ted Kaufman should have been like, Hey man, you did your duty. You’re a historic figure. Time to pass the torch."

And those are the people on our side!

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.

When, years from now, historians try to make sense of how the United States collapsed in the late 21st century, they may clock last night as one of the nails in its coffin. Forget modern infrastructure and universal health care; we'll be lucky to have civil liberties in 20 years.

The XPOTUS and his Supreme Court appointees don't care about you

Yes, President Biden is old, but he doesn't want to recreate the world of Victor Hugo. The Republican Party does, and this morning, they showed how they'll do it.

The debate last night did not fill me with joy, as it showed my guy looking like the 82-year-old great-grandfather he is, and showed the convicted-felon other guy looking like the 78-year-old con artist he is. I may come back to this train wreck for democracy later today, but for now, I'd rather focus on why the President's geriatric performance matters less than what the convicted-felon XPOTUS gleefully took credit for.

And who better to demonstrate why a second convicted-felon XPOTUS term would set the country back two generations than the US Supreme Court, which just a few minutes ago handed down its third major decision this week demonstrating how the court's Republican majority does not think the government should prevent easily-preventable harm to innocent people.

In City of Grant Pass v Johnson, Justice Gorsuch (R) wrote the opinion for the usual suspects—Chief Justice Roberts (R) and Justices Alito (R), Kavanaugh (R), Thomas (R), and Barrett (R)—that allows cities to criminalize being homeless.

Yesterday, the same bunch limited the ability of the government to go after people who commit securities fraud (SEC v Jarkesky) and to keep our air clean (Ohio v EPA, also a Gorsuch opinion). Wednesday they said that you can tip public officials for good service (Snyder v US, by Kavanaugh).

And just now, it appears that the radical right has overturned its 1984 Chevron decision. In Loper Bright Enterprises v Raimondo, the Chief Justice says that Federal agencies, who are staffed by experts and people who know what they're doing, can't fill in the gaps that Congress (who generally don't know what they're doing) leaves in legislation. I will have a lot more to say about this development after I read the opinion.

These opinions are huge wins for people who want to cheat, steal, pollute, and punish others they see as inferior. The country this week lurched back into the mid-20th century, with the loony radical fringe salivating that they can bring us back to the mid-18th if the convicted-felon XPOTUS wins in November.

Because for the Justices that the convicted-felon XPOTUS appointed, plus of course the corrupt, Christianist radicals Alito and Thomas, if you lose your house and have to sleep rough after you invested in a fraudulent stock while choking on the air pollution from the unregulated chemical plant just across the state line from you, it's obviously your own fault, you dirty criminal.

So yes, I'm sorry, the President is an old man. But the convicted-felon XPOTUS and his Grand Old Party has caused an enormous amount of damage to the country, and will do so much more damage if put back into power next year.

The circus coming to town tonight

The President and the convicted-felon XPOTUS will perform for the voting public this evening in what CNN optimistically calls a "debate." One of them currently managing the Federal government competently and without drama as an impressive cap to his 50 years in public service, while the other is a convicted fraudster who has raped, stolen, and lied his way through 50 years of narcissistic fury. But sure, let's have them discuss matters of national concern.

Hillary Clinton, who has actually debated both men before, knows "it is nearly impossible to focus on substance when Mr. Trump is involved:"

It is a waste of time to try to refute Mr. Trump’s arguments like in a normal debate. It’s nearly impossible to identify what his arguments even are. He starts with nonsense and then digresses into blather. This has gotten only worse in the years since we debated.

Mr. Trump may rant and rave in part because he wants to avoid giving straight answers about his unpopular positions, like restrictions on abortion, giving tax breaks to billionaires and selling out our planet to big oil companies in return for campaign donations. He interrupts and bullies — he even stalked me around the stage at one point — because he wants to appear dominant and throw his opponent off balance.

Josh Marshall thinks "we actually know going in mostly what will happen:"

We’ve seen Joe Biden in presidential debates, even with Donald Trump. We’ve seen him in successive State of the Unions, as recently as three months ago. He doesn’t knock your socks off but he’s basically fine. And it amounts to a bit more than fine given the ridiculously low expectations Republicans have themselves largely created.

We know Donald Trump. He’ll be a freak: lying, interrupting, making up wild claims or dares he’ll mostly not get called on.

[M]uch of this debate will be a battle of Trump with himself. He’ll be a swaggering predatory freak. Most people don’t see that a lot, especially people who don’t follow politics very closely and whose votes will be the deciding factor in the election. So, do his antics remind people of what a freak he is? Or does he manage to use his disruptive powers to create some shiny object or embarrassing moment that somehow helps him or hurts Biden despite acting like a predatory freak?

Alex Shephard concurs:

Trump does whatever Trump wants to do—he doesn’t change. He doesn’t calibrate. He will be vile and extreme and racist. He is incompetent and chaotic and weird. He will remind voters, again and again, of the many qualities they dislike about him.

It’s clear that the people around Trump are more disciplined than they have been in previous campaigns. But Trump is not only still Trump, he’s arguably much worse.

Joe Biden may perform well, and he might not. He will likely be, as he has been for much of his presidency, somewhere in the middle. But Donald Trump will show up to the debate and do Donald Trump things. His performance in the debate will be many voters’ first major reminder of what his presidency was like. That may very well be enough for Biden, even if he cannot answer questions about his age.

I will watch, and only owing to me needing the coronavirus in my nose to die as quickly as possible will I not play any drinking games with my friends. (Plus, a drinking game with this match-up could kill a healthy adult.)

And I have to say, about President Biden's age, it doesn't really matter. If somehow the convicted-felon XPOTUS gets back into office and sees out the entire term, then he'll be just as old as Biden, but with a lot more dementia and a lot fewer IQ points.

Gadammit

Yesterday's productivity apparently included my nose producing a few billion coronaviruses:

This comes almost exactly two years after my last bout with the disease (that I know of). That one took about 5 days to resolve, so I figure I'll be fine by Tuesday. I've had a couple of colds since June 2022 but tested negative for SARS-Cov-2, though before 2020 I rarely got colds of any kind.

I'll get my next Covid booster in September when flu shots come out, but I think going forward, I'll get one every six months instead of annually. This virus really won't go away soon enough.

Long but productive day

I'm trying to get home a little earlier than usual, so this will be a lazy post. Stuff to read:

  • Hillary Clinton, who has debated both President Biden and the convicted-felon XPOTUS, has thoughts on tomorrow night's event.
  • Dana Milbank doesn't mourn Rep. Jamaal Bowman's (D-NY) loss last night, and neither do I.
  • If you hate corporations, you might want to support President Biden's increase to the corporate income tax as well as to his proposed increase in the share-buyback tax.
  • The village of Wheaton, Ill., would rather have 165 car crashes and multiple pedestrian fatalities on a stretch of stroad by a school and retirement community than spend $865,000 on a traffic light. (I mean, better that they didn't build the stroad in the first place, of course.)
  • A new report says that cancelling New York City's congestion tax will kill 100,000 jobs.

Finally, today is the 50th anniversary of the very first time a UPC got scanned in a grocery store. Happy shopping.

Slow news day yesterday, not so much today

Lunchtime link roundup:

Finally, People for Bikes has consistently rated Chicago the worst major US city for biking, principally because of our 50 km/h speed limit. If only we'd lower it to 40 km/h, they say, Chicago would immediately jump in the ratings to something approaching its peers.

Really lucky timing this morning

I woke up at my usual time this morning, noticed how dark it was, checked radar, and got Cassie out the door less than 10 minutes later. Because by the time I had her to day camp and got myself to the Metra platform, it looked like this:

Waiting for the train, I got this:

But what luck, it let up just as the train arrived. The photo doesn't do it justice: those are horizontal rain bands, and I was standing behind a window.

By the time I got down to Ogilvie, we had this:

Again, just a bit of light rain as I walked the 300 meters from OTC to my office.

I would like to point out that Governor JB Pritzker (D) made my morning commute possible today, by restoring funding to the Ravenswood Metra station construction that took 12 years to complete because of his Republican predecessor's ideological cruelty. I really hope that Bruce Rauner goes to hell, and has to stand on the temporary, unsheltered platform for every minute that every commuter had to over the years we waited for the project to resume.

Now we're just waiting for the new Alstom train sets to arrive (probably 3 years from now) and for the electrification of the remaining diesel-powered Metra lines (probably 40 years from now). Apparently, though, adding a third track to the UP-N mainline between Rogers Park and Clybourn might happen before 2035. We'll see.