The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy Friday

I'm about to take Cassie on her noon peregrination, which will be shorter than usual as we're heading over to North Center Ribfest tonight in perfect weather. Last year's Ribfest disappointed me (but not Cassie). I hope this year's is better than last year's. (Hard to believe I took Parker to our first Ribfest over 15 years ago...)

Chicago street festivals are having trouble raising money, however. When a festival takes over a public street, they're not allowed to charge an entry fee, though they can ask for donations. I'll be sure to make my $10 donation this evening.

While I wipe the drool off my keyboard thinking about ribs, I'll be reading these:

  • The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm watch for Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial Counties in California, plus Catalina Island, as Hurricane Hilary drifts towards being the first tropical storm to hit SoCal since the 1930s.
  • US Senator Joe Manchin's (RD-WV) strategy of bollixing up the President's agenda seems to have backfired.
  • Credit-card issuer Discover swears up and down it didn't fire its CEO last week over regulatory matters. Nope, he's accused of compliance problems.
  • The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning may recommend that Chicago-area transit agencies merge their fare systems to encourage more people to take trains and buses. (I've been mulling a long post about the problems with transit in the US in general.)
  • What's with all the kids selling candy on the streets of New York (and Chicago)?
  • Getting a "technical brush-off" when asking your city to make a change to a roadway? Strong Towns has a strategy for you.

Finally, National Geographic describes the reconstruction of a murder victim in Sweden—from 700 years ago. Crime tip: Don't try to hide a dead body in a peat bog. Someone will find it eventually.

The 2023 Canadian Smoke-Out continues

As the smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to spread through the American Midwest, I want to mention that the effective use of government regulation of industry has made this week's air quality that much more surprising. Just take a look at Evanston, Ill., yesterday around 7pm:

The fact that this looks really weird says a lot about what the government can do when people are behind it.

No, really: the air-quality alerts from Minnesota to West Virginia look bizarre right now because we hardly ever see AQIs above 150 these days. In my lifetime, even 35 years ago, Chicago looked like this all the time.

The Chicago Tribune reported on this incredible change in 2015:

As early as 1874, as the city rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871, the Tribune warned that the huge increase in factories and hotels, and the new skyscrapers with their steam-powered elevators, was a serious problem. "So dense is this volume of smoke that, unless there is a brisk, stirring breeze, the whole of it settles down in the central part of the city and leaves its dirty imprint," the editorial said.

Civic leaders, including the editors of the Tribune, crusaded tirelessly against the "smoke horror."

It is hard to know how often the sun lost its battle to shine — though it happened regularly into the 1950s — because the Tribune wrote stories only when it was unusually bad. On Jan. 18, 1925, the newspaper reported the pall that turned day into night was "the densest, thickest and darkest smoke screen which has been thrown over the city this season." The "plague of darkness" on Dec. 7, 1929, was caused by low-hanging clouds, fog and "the customary smoke screen."

And the power needed to light the day meant Commonwealth Edison had to burn even more coal.

By the late 1960s people had had enough. So finally, in 1970, Congress unanimously (except for one demon from the 3rd Circle of Hell) passed the Clean Air Act, starting a decades-long process of cutting emissions and switching from dirty power sources that continues today.

In 1980, ten years after the Clean Air Act passed, Los Angeles had only 6 days with AQIs below 50 but 206 above 150. (I know, because I was there for many of them.) In 2021, LA had 41 days below 50 and only 27 above 150.

This week we have unhealthy air due to natural pollution from an unusual combination of record wildfires in Canada and a weather system blowing the smoke south. Air quality should return to normal (or even healthy) by the weekend. But absent bipartisan regulation 53 years ago, it would look like this (or worse) more than half the year.

So when I say I want a real opposition party and not the whackadoodle nihilists currently destroying their constituents' faith in government, this is why.

Senator Feinstein must retire

She won't, though, despite worrying facts about her 3-month absence that have started to come out:

Ms. Feinstein’s frail appearance was a result of several complications after she was hospitalized for shingles in February, some of which she has not publicly disclosed. The shingles spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance impairments and facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. The virus also brought on a previously unreported case of encephalitis, a rare but potentially debilitating complication of shingles that a spokesman confirmed on Thursday after The New York Times first revealed it, saying that the condition had “resolved itself” in March.

The grim tableau of her re-emergence on Capitol Hill laid bare a bleak reality known to virtually everyone who has come into contact with her in recent days: She was far from ready to return to work when she did, and she is now struggling to function in a job that demands long days, near-constant engagement on an array of crucial policy issues and high-stakes decision-making.

People close to her joke privately that perhaps when Ms. Feinstein is dead, she will start to consider resigning. Over the years, she and many Democrats have bristled at the calls for her to relinquish her post, noting that such questions were rarely raised about aging male senators who remained in office through physical and cognitive struggles, even after they were plainly unable to function on their own.

Alexandra Petri doesn't hold back:

Worried about finding a reliable senior community for your loved ones — or even yourself? A place where you can focus on things you love, discover new hobbies, make friends and keep leading a vibrant life in your golden years? Do you long for a beautiful facility where trusted staff will take you from activity to activity yet you can retain your independence — even sporting a little “I” after your name to let everyone know just how independent you are?

Consider ... retiring to the United States Senate.

[I]n the Senate, there is no such thing as too old! Strom Thurmond stayed nearly until he died, at age 100. You, too, can stay that long — or even longer.

No worries, either, about overstaying your welcome. Jane Mayer of the New Yorker wrote that, “Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, and Robert Byrd, of West Virginia, were widely known by the end of their careers to be non-compos mentis.” Your constituents might mind, but the Senate will gladly accommodate you.

Some fine print: Yes, you are technically representing a state full of people and making policy decisions for the country as a whole. The ramifications of these policy decisions will last for years, maybe generations. If you enter with strong principles and a clear sense of mission, it is still possible that simply by remaining in the Senate you can jeopardize everything you’ve worked so hard to build.

But don’t let these details stand in the way of a wonderful Senate retirement. Be like Strom Thurmond! That’s a sentence everybody loves to hear.

Diane Feinstein spent 40 years as a formidable political force, representing the people of San Francisco and then the entire state of California. Yet she's spent the last 5 years undermining everything she ever worked for by holding on to her seat well past time. She needs to go.

Knowing when to go

James Fallows contrasts the behavior of octogenarians US Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and President Joe Biden:

It boils down to this:

—Sometimes what helps an individual hurts a larger cause. Things have come to that point for Senator Dianne Feinstein.

—Sometimes it works the other way, and an individual’s interests are aligned with a cause. I believe that applies to Joe Biden’s announcement that he is running for a second term.

Feinstein staying on, at age 89, increases problems for her party. Biden staying on, at age 80, reduces them. Here’s why.

Roger Federer stepped away, because of injury, at a point when our mental images are still of his grace. We are fortunate that Joan Baez and Paul McCartney are performing into their 80s, that Bonnie Raitt is sweeping the Grammys in her 70s, that Robert Caro is at work on his LBJ saga as he nears age 90.

The key difference between most of the people listed above, and these two senior Democratic leaders, is being in someone else’s way. Joan Baez can keep singing, and that doesn’t hurt Billie Eilish. The next novel by Joyce Carol Oates, in her 80s, will not stop writers in their 20s or 30s from making their mark.

But political figures like Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein are unavoidably in other people’s way.

Fallows has an upcoming post on the US Supreme Court, where reports about the corruption of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (R-$$) just keeps getting worse.

In other news

Stuff read while waiting for code to compile:

Finally, Chicago Tribune food critic Louisa Chu says I should take a 45-minute drive down to Bridgeview to try some Halal fried chicken—just, maybe, after Ramadan ends.

Ten days to After Hours

The Apollo Chorus annual fundraiser/cabaret is on April 1st, and tickets are still available. If you can't make it, you can still donate.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

And finally, screenings of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, the new slasher pic featuring Winnie and Piglet as serial killers, will not be shown in Hong Kong and Macau, because Chinese dictator Xi Jinping thinks it's a jab at him. Seriously.

Dreary Monday afternoon

The rain has stopped, and might even abate long enough for me to collect Cassie from day camp without getting soaked on my way home. I've completed a couple of cool sub-features for our sprint review tomorrow, so I have a few minutes to read the day's stories:

Finally, Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse hope to tap into National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act funds to turn their organization's namesake into a museum. That would be cool.

Why doesn't the AP want me to give them money?

I spent way more time than I should have this morning trying to set up an API key for the Associated Press data tools. Their online form to sign up created a general customer-service ticket, which promptly got closed with an instruction to...go to the online sign-up form. They also had a phone number, which turned out to have nothing to do with sales. And I've now sent two emails a week apart to their "digital sales" office, with crickets in response.

The New York Times had an online setup that took about five minutes, and I'm already getting stuff using Postman. Nice.

Meanwhile:

Finally, I've got a note on my calendar to check out the Karen's Diner pop-up in Wrigleyville next month. Because who doesn't want to be abused by servers?

Big sprint release, code tidy imminent

I released 13 stories to production this afternoon, all of them around the app's security and customer onboarding, so all of them things that the non-technical members of the team (read: upper management) can see and understand. That leaves me free to tidy up some of the bits we don't need anymore, which I also enjoy doing.

While I'm running multiple rounds of unit and integration tests, I've got all of this to keep me company:

Finally, you may not want to know what the CBP beagle squad has found in baggage at O'Hare.

Shooting in Half Moon Bay

Longtime readers will know that I have spent a lot of time in Half Moon Bay, Calif., over the past 15 years. So yesterday's events shocked me:

Seven people are dead following two linked shootings in the Northern California city of Half Moon Bay, officials said.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office tweeted at 3:48 p.m. Monday that they were responding to a shooting “with multiple victims in the area of HWY 92 and the HMB City limits.” The office tweeted roughly an hour later that a suspect was in custody and there "is no ongoing threat to the community at this time."

San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus confirmed at a press conference Monday evening that seven people were killed in two related shootings. She said four victims were found dead from gunshot wounds at a location in the 12700 block of San Mateo Road, also known as Highway 92, around 2:30 p.m. A fifth victim was discovered with "life-threatening injuries" and transported to Stanford Medical Center. They remain there in critical condition.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) learned of the shooting while at the hospital with victims of Sunday's mass shooting in Los Angeles.

Neither the National Rifle Association nor the right-wingers suing Illinois over its latest attempt to regulate military weapons commented, though we can all expect them to say it's "too soon" to talk about why we're still the only country in the OECD where this happens. Perhaps they'll talk to the San Mateo County farm families mourning their loved ones today?