The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Leapin' lizards

Stories for the last day of winter, this year on the quadrennial day when your Facebook Memories have the fewest entries and, apparently, you can't pay for gas in New Zealand:

Finally, Economist editor Steve Coll got access to hundreds of hours of Saddam Hussein's taped strategy meetings. He concluded that both the CIA and Hussein had no understanding at all about what the other was thinking.

Also, the temperature at IDTWHQ bottomed out at -5.3°C just after 7am and has kept climbing since then. The first day of spring should get it up into the high teens, with 20°C possible on Sunday. Weird, but quite enjoyable.

Corruption is the whole point

Throughout history, right-wing politicians have promised order in exchange for power. Every time, this has been a lie.

The National Rifle Association has kept to that model for decades: "We'll fight for the most unhinged interpretation of the Second Amendment possible, so our members can make billions selling guns to the people most likely to use them." You just have to remember that the NRA's members are the gun manufacturers, not the gun owners, for it all to make sense.

Except, the US courts sometimes work correctly, shutting down bullshit in favor of plain language. Even better when a jury has had enough:

Wayne LaPierre diverted millions of dollars away from the National Rifle Association to live luxuriously, while the gun rights group failed to properly manage its finances, a jury found Friday.

The case against the NRA was brought on by a lawsuit filed in 2020 by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused LaPierre and other current and former executives of flouting state laws and internal policies to enrich themselves.

They said LaPierre caused $5.4 million in monetary harm to the NRA but that he has already repaid at least $1 million of that. The 74-year-old appeared stoic as the verdict was read.

How surprising, if you know anything about humans: the head of an organization dedicated to shooting everyone in America turns out to have used his position for personal enrichment. It's so strange how organizations dedicated to changing the world turn out to be less corrupt than organizations dedicated to keeping everything the same, innit?

The US is at a turning point. We can throw all our power to private interests, in exchange for a completely unfounded belief that "those people" won't do whatever it is you're afraid of, or we can say "fuck all this" and start building for the future.

I have a suspicion that the latter is actually happening. At least in Illinois. Maybe someday this will be the norm.

Meanwhile, I'm in Germany, where people find the entire discussion horrifying. It turns out that getting shot for no reason is a bad thing, according to everyone in the world except for the NRA. If only there were a way to send a message to the right-wing nutters that we're all done with their bullshit...

I hope we're well shot of him

Facing a criminal trial for corruption that he will probably lose, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre resigned earlier today:

Mr. LaPierre, 74, has led the organization for more than three decades. But his resignation came as he faced his gravest challenge yet, a corruption trial in Manhattan amid a legal showdown with New York’s attorney general, Letitia James. Jury selection has already begun and opening arguments were scheduled for early next week.

The announcement took place during a board meeting in Irving, Texas. The N.R.A. said Mr. LaPierre had “cited health reasons” as being behind his decision.

The development will change the shape of the Manhattan trial, since Ms. James was seeking to oust Mr. LaPierre from his position. She is also seeking financial penalties from Mr. LaPierre and three other defendants.

Mr. LaPierre played a leading role in transforming gun culture in America, but the last half decade of his tenure at the N.R.A. was marred by scandals and internal upheaval.

"Transforming gun culture" is a polite way of saying that LaPierre advocates giving every first-grader an Uzi. Instead of just leading a trade organization of firearms manufacturers, he claimed that the NRA was on a holy quest to interpret the US Constitution's second amendment—but only its second clause, not the first—instead of trying to enrich his member corporations.

That LaPierre succeeded in both is easy to see in both US gun-murder statistics during his tenure (almost doubled since 1999) and manufacturer sales (more than doubled since 1999). PBS has some helpful charts (from 2022) explaining how we made so many gun manufacturers rich at the cost of a few dozen hundred thousand children.

LaPierre is evil. I hope a jury sees at least enough of that to convict him of stealing from the NRA. But we can all imagine a more poetic end to the person who has done so much to hurt so many.

Long day

I have tickets to a late concert downtown, which means a few things, principally that I'm still at the office. But I'm killing it on this sprint, so it works out.

Of course this means a link dump:

I promise to write something substantial tomorrow or Saturday. Promise.

Seasonal, sunny, and breezy

We have unusual wind and sunshine for mid-November today, with a bog-standard 10C temperature. It doesn't feel cold, though. Good weather for flying kites, if you have strong arms.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • The right wing of the US Supreme Court has finally found a firearms restriction that they can't wave away with their nonsense "originalism" doctrine.
  • Speaking of the loony right-wing asses on the bench, the Post has a handy guide to all of the people and organizations Justice Clarence Thomas (R) and his wife claim have no influence on them, despite millions in gifts and perks.
  • NBC summarizes the dumpster fire that was the XPOTUS and his family lying testifying in the former's fraud sentencing hearings.
  • Alexandra Petri jokes that "having rights is still bewilderingly popular:" "Tuesday’s election results suggest that the Republican legislative strategy of 'taking people’s rights away for no clear reason' was not an overwhelming success at the ballot box."
  • Earth had the warmest October on record, setting us up for the warmest year in about 120,000 years.
  • Could the waste heat from parking garages actually heat homes?
  • John Scalzi has a new film review column for Uncanny Magazine, with his first entry praising the storytelling of the Wachowski's 2008 Speed Racer adaptation.

Finally, Citylab lays out the history of San Francisco's Ferry Terminal Building, which opened 125 years ago. I always try to stop there when I visit the city, as I plan to do early next month.

Temperature 26, dewpoint 22

I just got back from walking Cassie for about half an hour, and I'm a bit sticky. The dog days of summer in Chicago tend to have high dewpoints hanging out for weeks on end, making today pretty typical.

Our sprint ends Tuesday and I still have 3 points left on the board, so I may not have time to give these more than a cursory read:

Finally, Andrew Sullivan adapts a column he wrote in August 2001 asking, "why can't Americans take a vacation?" One reason, I believe: all the time and money we spend in and on our cars.

More guns, because freedom!

Michael Tomasky has no patience for the "leave it to God" crap the Republican Party spewed after our 199th mass shooting of the year:

We’re on pace for close to 600 shootings, and perhaps 60,000 willful, malicious, or accidental deaths (there’ve been 20,200 so far this year, according to the GVA, in the first four months and one week of 2023). That 60,000 is roughly equal to the number of Americans who died in Vietnam in nearly a decade. We’ll witness the same amount of carnage in one year. Shopping zones are war zones.

But it would seem that little girl getting her face blown off as if she lived in Stalingrad in 1943 is just God’s will. This was the verdict of the congressman who represents Allen, Republican Keith Self, who went on CNN after the shooting. He offered his prayers. The anchor interjected that some people think “prayers aren’t cutting it.” Self responded: “Well, those are people that don’t believe in an almighty God who is absolutely in control of our lives. I’m a Christian. I believe that He is.”

Governor Greg Abbott, meanwhile, offered the usual pointless bromides: “unspeakable tragedy,” “our hearts are with” the people of Allen. Well, at least, as of Sunday afternoon, he hadn’t gone out of his way to discuss anyone’s immigration status, as he did the previous week after the Cleveland, Texas, shooting, when he took pains to note the status of both the shooter and the victims.

He called this “freedom.” I wonder what that little girl’s parents think of this definition of freedom.

There’s only one logical conclusion to be drawn from all this. This is what the America gun manufacturers, the NRA, and right-wing politicians want: a country where we know that any trip to the mall involves a certain rolling of the dice. After all, that’s freedom.

Religion poisons everything, especially our debates on violent crime. And part of the Republican Party's religion is a worship of guns.

Lunchtime links

Once again, I have too much to read:

Finally, it was 20 years ago tonight that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley had city workers vandalize Meigs Field so that he could sell the land to his pals. The Tribune has a photo history.

Too much to read today

I've had a bunch of tasks and a mid-afternoon meeting, so I didn't get a chance to read all of these yet:

Finally, close to me, after the lovely Grafton Pub closed last August, the Old Town School of Folk Music stepped in to buy the space. But that plan has hit a snag after a higher bidder emerged.

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?