The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Three out of 300 is a start

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) forced through a vote on the top three general officer promotions that junior Senator Tommy "Coach" Tuberville (R-AL) has blocked for over six months, meaning we will have a Joint Chiefs Chair, a Commandant of the Marine Corps, and an Army Chief of Staff in the next couple of days. That leaves just over 300 admirals and general officers waiting for confirmation. No biggie.

Meanwhile:

Finally, Bob Ballard's company recently did a 40-hour underwater survey of three WWII aircraft carriers sunk at the Battle of Midway. 

But for me, it was Tuesday

Another Tuesday, another collection of head-shaking news stories one might expect in the waning days of an empire:

Closer to home, the old candy-making laboratory on the 13th floor of the historic Marshal Field building has come back to life, 24 years after the the last Frango mint was produced there. (Note to readers who speak Portuguese: no one checked a Portuguese dictionary before naming the candy.)

The other 9/11

Fifty years ago today, Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically-elected government of Chile:

U.S. officials were especially concerned about Salvador Allende, a self-proclaimed Marxist and a member of Chile's Socialist Party who ran for president multiple times and was a leading contender in the 1964 election. He had pledged to nationalize the mostly U.S.-owned copper companies, a large industry in Chile.

The U.S. spent massively on anti-communist propaganda and support for Allende's opponent in 1964. The influence proved effective: Allende lost.

But Allende ran again in 1970. Richard Nixon was now the U.S. president and Henry Kissinger his assistant for national security affairs. They perceived Allende as a threat to U.S. interests and as a friend of the Soviet Union. (Allende's campaign did receive $350,000 from Cuba, according to CIA estimates, and at least $400,000 from Moscow, according to one book on the history of the KGB's foreign operations.) Kissinger was especially concerned about the example it would set for Western European countries to have a socialist freely elected.

It's important to note that Chile was politically polarized. Allende took office having only won just over a third of votes. The Congress was deadlocked.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 1973, the military launched a coup and took control of the country. Military jets bombed the presidential palace. Allende killed himself after giving a final defiant address to the country.

Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the army chief once thought to be loyal to Chile's constitution, soon emerged as the country's new leader. The military junta began a ruthless campaign against communists and socialists.

"There's a state of siege declared. Political parties are outlawed. Universities are shut down. And a process of widespread arrest of political opponents begins to take place," Siavelis says.

People are tortured and killed in detention centers across Chile, including Estadio Nacional, the national stadium. Victims included the popular folk singer Victor Jara.

Ariel Dorfman, a cultural adviser in Allende's cabinet, remembers watching his democracy die, and worries about ours:

Not only did General Pinochet end our dreams; he ushered in an era of brutal human rights violations. During his military rule, from 1973 to 1990, more than 40,000 people were subjected to physical and psychological torture. Hundreds of thousands of Chileans — political opponents, independent critics or innocent civilians suspected of having links to them — were jailed, murdered, persecuted or exiled. More than a thousand men and women are still among the desaparecidos, the disappeared, with no funerals and no graves.

Today, when around 70 percent of the population had not even been born at the time of the military takeover, it is critical for people both in Chile and the rest of the world to remember the dire consequences of resorting to violence to resolve our dilemmas and indulging in division rather than striving for solidarity, dialogue and compassion.

Perhaps many young Chileans will shrug and think of this as just another political feud that has little impact on the long list of troubles they face today: crime and migration into the country; an economic and climate crisis; inadequate health care, education and pensions; a revolt by Indigenous communities in the south of the country. But we need to find a way to forge a shared understanding of our past so we can start creating a shared vision of Chile for the many tomorrows that await us.

Meanwhile, here in the US, the Wisconsin Republican Party appears intent on making that state a "laboratory for autocracy" immune to the majority will of Wisconsin voters. Democracy really is the worst form of government—except for all the others. We're in danger of understanding that a lot better than we really want to in the US.

Perfect early-autumn weather

Inner Drive Technology WHQ cooled down to 14°C overnight and has started to climb up into the low-20s this morning, with a low dewpoint and mostly-clear skies. Perfect sleeping weather, and almost-perfect walking weather! In a few minutes I'm going to take Cassie out for a good, long walk, but first I want to queue up some stuff to read when it's pissing with rain tomorrow:

Finally, my indoor Netatmo base station has picked up a funny mid-September thing: cicadas. The annual dog-day cicadas have only a few more days to get the next generation planted in the ground, so the remaining singletons have come out this morning instead of waiting for dusk. As you can see, the ones in the tree right outside the window closest to the Netatmo have been going at it since dawn:

The predominant species in my yard right now are neotibicen pruinosus, or "scissor-grinder" cicadas. But we also have our share of other species in Northern Illinois. And, of course, next May: Brood XIII comes out. That'll be fun (especially for Cassie)!

Last hot weekend of 2023, I hope

The temperature has crept up towards 34°C all day after staying at a comfortable 28°C yesterday and 25°C Friday. It's officially 33°C at O'Hare but just a scoshe above 31°C at IDTWHQ. Also, I still feel...uncomfortable in certain places closely associated with walking. All of which explains why I'm jotting down a bunch of news stories to read instead of walking Cassie.

  • First, if you have tomorrow off for Labor Day, you can thank Chicago workers. (Of course, if you have May 1st off for Labor Day, you can also thank us on the actual day that they intended.)
  • A new study suggests 84% of the general population want to experience an orchestral concert, though it didn't get into how much they want to pay for such a thing. (You can hear Händel's complete Messiah on December 9th at Holy Name Cathedral or December 10th at Millar Chapel for just $50!)
  • An FBI whistleblower claims Russian intelligence co-opted Rudy Giuliani in the run-up to the 2020 election—not as a Russian agent, mind you, just as a "useful idiot."
  • Rapper Eminem has told Republican presidential (*cough*) candidate Vivek Ramaswamy—who Michelle Goldberg calls "very annoying"—to stop using his music in his political campaign.
  • The government of Chile has promised to investigate the 3000 or so disappearances that happened under dictator Agosto Pinochet, though they acknowledge that it might be hard to find the ones thrown out of helicopters into the sea, or dropped down mine shafts. And with most of the murderers already dead of old age, it's about time.
  • Julia Ioffe wonders when the next putsch attempt will get close to Moscow, now that Prigozhin seems to be dead.
  • About 70,000 people continue to squelch through ankle-deep mud at Black Rock City after torrential rains at Burning Man this weekend. (I can't wait to see the moop map...)
  • University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley had a cogent explanation of why pharmaceutical companies don't want to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. (Hint: record profits.)
  • Switching Chicago's pre-World War II bungalows from gas to electric heating could cut the city's GHG emissions by 14%.
  • Molly White's weekly newsletter starts off with some truly clueless and entitled behavior from Sam Bankman-Fried and gets weirder.
  • Zoning laws, plus the inability of the Portland, Ore., government to allow variances in any useful fashion, has condemned an entire high school to send its kids an hour away by bus while the building gets repaired, rather than just across the street to the community college many of them attend in the evenings. (Guess what skin color the kids have. Go on, guess.)
  • A group of hackers compromised a Portuguese-language "stalkerware" company and deleted all the data the company's spyware had downloaded, as well as the keys to the compromised phones it came from, then posted the company's customer data online. "Because fuck stalkerware," they said.
  • Traffic engineers, please don't confuse people by turning their small-town streets into stroads. It causes accidents. Which you, not they, have caused.
  • Illinois had a mild and dry summer, ending just before our ferociously hot Labor Day weekend.
  • James Fallows talks about college rankings, "which are marginally more encouraging than the current chaos of College Football."

Finally, I'll just leave this Tweet from former labor secretary Robert Reich as its own little monument to the New Gilded Age we now inhabit:

Should I retire to the Netherlands?

Not Just Bikes celebrates 5 years living in the Netherlands by raving about how the Netherlands' anti-car development patterns make just about every city in the country nicer to live than just about anywhere in North America:

I'm about 3/4 the way through Nicholas Dagen Bloom's The Great American Transit Disaster, having just finished the chapter on how Detroit's combination of racism, suburban/urban hostility, lack of vision, and massive subsidies for car infrastructure while starving public transit gave us the hollowed-out hellscape the city has become. This, after reading the chapter on how Atlanta's combination of racism, suburban/urban hostility, lack of vision, and massive subsidies for car infrastructure while starving public transit gave us the depressing echo of its former glory the city has become. And the chapter on how Chicago's combination of racism, suburban/urban hostility, and massive subsidies for car infrastructure almost—but not quite—overcame the city's history as the country's largest railroad hub with rail-driven suburban development along the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad lines.

Sigh.

I'm nowhere near retiring. And even though I work for an international company,  reporting up to the London office, my team are 100% Chicago-based for the time being. But when I'm old and decrepit 40 years from now, I imagine getting around a country that cares about its public transit might be easier than even one of the most transit-friendly cities in North America.

Wait, it's *how* old?

Risky Business came out 40 years ago this month:

“Risky Business,” then and now, is an indictment of privilege, and of somehow keeping the uglier world at bay long enough to buy your way into a kind of imperviousness. Except — and here’s what I think I responded to — it’s funny and confident and cool and all of its points about the spoils of capitalism get disguised inside a dream of opulence. It appears to affirm the early Reagan years as ripe for opportunity while, with a much deeper subtlety, undercuts places like the North Shore as chilly incubators of inequality.

Not that everyone saw this criticism of the Reagan Years in Year 2 of the Reagan Years. David Denby wrote in a New York Magazine review that “Risky Business” played as “openly corrupt.” Dave Kehr, closer to the truth as the film critic of the Chicago Reader (then later the Chicago Tribune), would likely have agreed with Denby, for different reasons: He wrote that the movie was “one of the finest film explorations of the end of innocence,” ending with a “complete corruption” of Cruise’s character and “one of the most bitter and plangent sequences allowed to pass in an American movie.” And that’s about the ending that played in theaters; Brickman’s original ending gets far darker.

My guess, if you haven’t seen “Risky Business” in years, little of this sounds right.

Now I gotta watch it tonight...

A "close call" in aviation isn't what you think

The Times posted an article Monday morning, complete with animated 3D graphics, guarantee to alarm most of the flying public. In short, when a non-pilot passenger hears "close call" they imagine the airplanes passing wingtip-to-nose at impossible speeds. When a pilot hears "close call" they mean the planes got within 2 km of each other—and sometimes 10 km qualifies. But the Times decided to go with the wingtip-to-nose meaning:

The incidents — highlighted in preliminary F.A.A. safety reports but not publicly disclosed — were among a flurry of at least 46 close calls involving commercial airlines last month alone.

They were part of an alarming pattern of safety lapses and near misses in the skies and on the runways of the United States, a Times investigation found. While there have been no major U.S. plane crashes in more than a decade, potentially dangerous incidents are occurring far more frequently than almost anyone realizes — a sign of what many insiders describe as a safety net under mounting stress.

So far this year, close calls involving commercial airlines have been happening, on average, multiple times a week, according to a Times analysis of internal F.A.A. records, as well as thousands of pages of federal safety reports and interviews with more than 50 current and former pilots, air traffic controllers and federal officials.

The FAA issued a fact sheet later that day:

Multiple layers of safety protect the traveling public, including: Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems on commercial aircraft, surface safety technology at the country's biggest airports, and robust procedures. Air traffic controllers and pilots all play critical roles.

The FAA maintains extremely conservative standards for keeping aircraft safely separated. Safety experts follow up on all events — even those in which no collision was imminent or even possible — and evaluate them for safety risks. The agency publishes this information on our website, updating it as new information becomes available.

In addition, the agency has hired 1,500 controllers for FY2023. This is in addition to the more than 2,600 controllers that are at various levels of training at air traffic facilities across the country.

We welcome scrutiny and look forward to the recommendations from the FAA’s independent Safety Review Team this fall.

Journalist and private pilot James Fallows also posted that maybe the Times needed to turn down the volume a bit, but yes, Ronald Reagan's legacy still haunts North American aviation:

My guess about the story is that the team members producing it have dealt with aviation mainly as passengers. That is, not as pilots, air traffic controllers, former staffers of any companies or agencies involved, “hangar rats” at small airports, or other roles with first-hand exposure to the strengths and weaknesses of the system.

This is not a criticism. As reporters we spend most of our time asking other people to explain things we haven’t seen or done ourselves, so that we in turn can explain them to the reader. That is what makes the job so absorbing and fascinating.

But in this case I notice a few points in the story that I think would get different emphasis from many aviators. I mention them for your consideration in reading this story and others that are sure to follow on the air-safety theme. I’ll mention three.

At several points the Times story warns about “loss of separation” dangers when planes are “in the skies and on the runways,” as in the passage I quoted above. Obviously a collision in either realm is disastrous. But the latter danger is so much more pressing than the former that it should be discussed and thought of on its own.

There is all the difference in the world between a “close call” that happens on a runway, versus one in the open skies. A runway is a relatively tiny strip of pavement onto which planes that are taking off and landing must converge. A plane sitting on the runway can’t quickly move out of another plane’s way.

By comparison, the sky is enormous. And even in the few places where it seems crowded, namely the approach lanes to major airports, there is vastly more room for a plane to maneuver quickly and avoid another plane’s path, and more robust systems to help them do so.

What the Times got right, though, is that the Ronald Reagan fired the entire air traffic controller union and the system has never fully recovered. The section of the Times article on controller scheduling should alarm people—but more for its effects on workers than its effects of aviation. Keep in mind, in the last 21 years and 10 months, the United States has had only two air transport fatalities out of over 18 billion passenger departures—and neither person died because of a collision with another airplane.

One more thing: the "not publicly disclosed" incidents in "a NASA database" refers to the Aviation Safety Reporting System, which is fully public and searchable. (You can even sign up for a free monthly newsletter!) The entire point of the ASRS is to make aviation safer by allowing pilots (and anyone else, for that matter) to report aviation safety problems without worrying about getting dinged. In fact, if a pilot reports his or her own error to ASRS before the FAA starts an enforcement action, the pilot is immune from fines and penalties from that enforcement, though she can still lose her certificate if the violation is egregious. The Times breathlessly reporting on a "secret database the FAA doesn't want you to know about!" just seems stupidly ignorant to a pilot, and misleading to anyone who understands journalism.

Anyway, the last time a transport airplane hit another aircraft flying over the United States was in 1987 (10 dead). The last one involving a jet airplane happened in 1978. And those accidents led to improvements in air safety that we continue to enjoy.

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.

It's XPOTUS indictment day...again...

An Atlanta grand jury charged the failed fascist and 18 of his mooks with another 41 counts, including orchestrating a "criminal enterprise," following his attempts to steal the election in Georgia:

The 41-count indictment, an unprecedented challenge of presidential misconduct by a local prosecutor, brings charges against some of Mr. Trump’s most prominent advisers, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, his former personal lawyer, and Mark Meadows, who served as White House chief of staff at the time of the election.

Mr. Trump, who is running again for president in the 2024 election and is the early favorite to win the Republican nomination, has now been indicted in four separate criminal investigations since April, including a federal indictment earlier this month over his attempts to cling to power after losing the 2020 race.

Although that case covers some of the same ground as the one in Georgia, there are crucial differences between state and federal charges: Even if Mr. Trump were to regain the presidency, the prosecutors in Georgia would not report to him, nor would he have the power to attempt to pardon himself if convicted.

The 13 counts against the XPOTUS bring his total charge sheet to 84 items, most of them felonies, and most of them with the potential of jail time.

The defendants include Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Ken Chesebro, Jeffrey Clark, and Sidney Powell.

I thank the editors of Politico for keeping track of all of the XPOTUS's criminal cases. We have only 448 days until the 2024 election. We are unlikely to see any of these cases resolved by then. That said, I agree with Josh Marshall: in these dominance contests between the XPOTUS and the People of The United States, the People of Georgia, and the People of New York, the People must win.