The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How to explain this to future generations?

Twenty years ago today, former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) showed enthusiasm for his 3rd-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in a way he came to regret:

Conventional wisdom says that this scream tanked (see what I did there?*) his campaign, but really, Dean never had the momentum or following needed to win the nomination. Plus, President Bush had taken us to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan and with common sense in Iraq, so war hero John Kerry looked like the best person to challenge him.

I can't remember exactly, but I think I voted for Kerry, mainly because the nomination was sewn up by then. More importantly, though, I voted for Illinois State Senator Barack Obama (D-13th) in the primary to fill the US Senate seat of retiring US Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R). My guy won that election (if you recall), and I got to go to the victory party on primary night. Fun!

* See, e.g., this clip from 1988.

Still chilly, but not like 1985

My socials today have a lot of chatter about the weather, understandably as we're now in our fourth day below -15°C. And yet I have vivid memories of 20 January 1985 when we hit the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago, -32°C. The fact that winters have gotten noticeably milder since the 1970s doesn't really matter during our annual Arctic blast. Sure, we had the coldest winter ever just 10 years ago, but the 3rd and 5th coldest were 1977-78 and 1978-79, respectively. I remember the snow coming up to my chin those years, and the never-ending below-freezing temperatures (like the 43 days from 28 December 1976 to 8 February 1977).

That said, I completely support the Chicago Public Schools closing today and tomorrow. And that they smoothed out all the streets since I was younger, so kids don't have to walk uphill both ways in the snow. But given the wind-chill advisory in effect until tomorrow morning, none of us wanted to go into the office either.

So instead of commuting, I'll have some time to read these as I shiver in my home office:

Finally, should I get an induction burner? I've been using my electric teakettle to pre-boil water for pasta, which saves a ton of time. The Post looked into the benefits of induction vs natural gas, principally around air quality. Looks like it's worth $120 to reduce my gas use. Of course, since I have gas furnaces, it might not do a lot for me this week.

And now for some actual lawyering, ICJ edition

Julia Ioffe interviews David Scheffer, a lawyer and professor who served as Bill Clinton's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, to provide some clarity around South Africa's suit against Israel in the International Court of Justice:

South Africa is alleging the entire corpus of the Genocide Convention and its application, namely that Israel has failed to prevent genocide against Gaza and that it is committing genocide against Gaza. It is a very fulsome application. South Africa is not asking the I.C.J. to make a finding of a failure to prevent, or a commission of, genocide. They are asking the I.C.J. to direct Israel through what are called provisional measures to do what is necessary to prevent and not commit genocide in Gaza, to take those measures while the I.C.J., over a much longer period of time, considers the merits of South Africa’s allegations. For a commission of genocide, one needs to establish that both the genocidal act has occurred and that it has occurred with the specific intent to destroy all or part of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group. The dolus specialis, we call it—the specific intent to do that. That’s why, particularly on a merits stage, it takes time to put those two together: the genocidal acts, and the mens rea of the specific intent.

The application disgorges an enormous amount of publicly available information about what has happened in Gaza. We all know that it’s a humanitarian catastrophe of some dimension in Gaza right now. I don’t want to diminish the importance of that. But nowhere in South Africa’s application is there any recognition that there is a war taking place. This is not a genocide like Rwanda or of the Rohingya or the Yazidis in recent times, where these were just authoritarian regimes that went after populations that were not attacking them.

But this is a war. There is an act of self-defense by Israel. Now, that does not mean that Israel has clean hands on absolutely everything it’s done, absolutely not.

I think genocide is a very powerful word. You get everyone’s attention. South Africa could just as easily say, “We clearly think atrocity crimes are occurring now in Gaza. We’re not prepared yet to say whether it’s genocide or not.” But they did make a determination: They want to call it genocide. And they’re free to do so. I don’t blame them. 

But in the court of law as well as in the court of public opinion, I think it’s very important that we not embrace that word in this particular conflict until there’s a better understanding of what is occurring in terms of warfare and of the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people. 

At the same time, as I have pointed out, Hamas could stop it all tomorrow by surrendering. Hamas has the power to prevent genocide. It has had the power to prevent genocide even after it, itself, probably committed genocide on October 7th. It had the power, after October 7th, to subject none of the Palestinian population to what South Africa describes as genocide. Hamas had the power and it did not use that power. Hamas has no right to fight on. It has no right of self-defense. And furthermore, by virtue of the fact that it continues to fight, it brings an enormous amount of suffering and destruction upon the Palestinian people, all of which it could stop by simply surrendering.

The last paragraph I quoted is particularly important. For all the online outrage I see about Israel's military campaign against Hamas, I don't see many Palestine supporters recognizing that Hamas started this, and Hamas can end it.

Because really, October 7th and what happened afterwards comes down to Hamas wanting to destroy Israel. People seem to forget that.

Netanyahu has to go, soon, along with all the right-wing crazies propping up his government. But so does Hamas.

Non-political news stories of the day

A small collection:

Finally, in her column on December 31st, Jennifer Rubin suggested people get some perspective on history to understand that the past was much worse than today.

Update: A friend sent this security-cam photo of the first Yellow Line pulling into the Dempster station after service resumed:

Party like it's 1948

It was a busy day, so I didn't have a lot of time to write a substantial post. I did want to highlight Nate Cohn's comparison of President Biden's situation going into the 2024 election and another guy who did a pretty good job in his first term:

Harry Truman was the only president besides Joe Biden to oversee an economy with inflation over 7 percent while unemployment stayed under 4 percent and G.D.P. growth kept climbing. Voters weren’t overjoyed then, either. Instead, they saw Mr. Truman as incompetent, feared another depression and doubted their economic future, even though they were at the dawn of postwar economic prosperity.

The source of postwar inflation was fundamentally similar to post-pandemic inflation. The end of wartime rationing unleashed years of pent-up consumer demand in an economy that hadn’t fully transitioned back to producing butter instead of guns. A year after the war, wartime price controls ended and inflation skyrocketed. A great housing crisis gripped the nation’s cities as millions of troops returned from overseas after 15 years of limited housing construction. Labor unrest roiled the nation and exacerbated production shortages. The most severe inflation of the last 100 years wasn’t in the 1970s, but in 1947, reaching around 20 percent.

n the end, Mr. Truman won in perhaps the most celebrated comeback in American electoral history, including the iconic “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline and photograph. He had barnstormed the country with an economically populist campaign that argued Democrats were on the side of working people while reminding voters of the Great Depression. You might well remember from your U.S. history classes that he blamed the famous “Do Nothing Congress” for not enacting his agenda.

I'm glad Cohn got there with data, because I'd already gotten there with inference. This will be a long 11 months, but I think we might just pull this one out.

The real cause of the Civil War

Paul Krugman succinctly puts to bed any obfuscation of Southern aggression:

But it may be worth delving a bit deeper into the background here. Why did slavery exist in the first place? Why was it confined to only part of the United States? And why were slaveholders willing to start a war to defend the institution, even though abolitionism was still a fairly small movement and they faced no imminent risk of losing their chattels?

Let me start with an assertion that may be controversial: The American system of chattel slavery wasn’t motivated primarily by racism, but by greed. Slaveholders were racists, and they used racism both to justify their behavior and to make the enslavement of millions more sustainable, but it was the money and the inhumane greed that drove the racist system.

Labor was scarce in pre-Civil War America, so free workers earned high wages by European standards.

Landowners, of course, didn’t want to pay high wages. In the early days of colonial settlement, many Europeans came as indentured servants — in effect, temporary serfs. But landowners quickly turned to African slaves, who offered two advantages to their exploiters: Because they looked different from white settlers, they found it hard to escape, and they received less sympathy from poor whites who might otherwise have realized that they had many interests in common. Of course, white southerners also saw slaves as property, not people, and so the value of slaves factored into the balance sheet of this greed-driven system.

Anyone who believes or pretends to believe that the Civil War was about states’ rights should read Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs, which point out that the truth was almost the opposite. In his conclusion, Grant noted that maintaining slavery was difficult when much of the nation consisted of free states, so the slave states in effect demanded control over free-state policies. “Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution,” he wrote.

And the war happened because the increasingly empowered people of the North, as Grant wrote, “were not willing to play the role of police for the South” in protecting slavery.

So yes, the Civil War was about slavery — an institution that existed solely to enrich some men by depriving others of their freedom. And there’s no excuse for anyone who pretends that there was anything noble or even defensible about the South’s cause: The Civil War was fought to defend an utterly vile institution.

Historians have known this for 160 years, but the Southern landowning class has successfully confused the issue for generations, as far as most people understand it. It's always money. Just like the Republican Party's craziness today.

Mid-week mid-day

Though my "to-be-read" bookshelf has over 100 volumes on it, at least two of which I've meant to read since the 1980s, the first book I started in 2024 turned out to be Cory Doctorow's The Lost Cause, which I bought because of the author's post on John Scalzi's blog back in November.

That is not what I'm reading today at lunch, though. No, I'm reading a selection of things the mainstream media published in the last day:

Finally, for $1.7 million you can live inside a literal brick oven. The fifth-floor penthouse in the former Uneeda Biscuit building on Chicago's Near West Side includes several rooms with brick ceilings that were, decades ago, the ovens that cooked the biscuits. Cool. (Or, you know, hot.)

Any news? No, not one single new

Wouldn't that be nice? Alas, people keep making them:

Speaking of excoriation, David Mamet has a new memoir about his 40 years in the LA film industry, Everywhere an Oink Oink. (Expect to find that on next year's media roundup.) And I still have to read Linda Obst's Hello, He Lied, which I keep forgetting to liberate from my dad's bookshelf.

Statistics: 2023

Last year continued the trend of getting back to normal after 2020, and with one nice exception came a lot closer to long-term bog standard normal than 2022.

  • I posted 500 times on The Daily Parker, 13 more than in 2022 and only 6 below the long-term median. January, May, and August had the most posts (45) and February, as usual, the least (37). The mean of 41.67 was actually slightly higher than the long-term mean (41.23), with a standard deviation of 2.54, which may be the lowest (i.e., most consistent posting schedule) since I started the blog in 1998.
  • Flights went up slightly, to 12 segments and 20,541 flight miles (up from 10 and 16,138), the most of either since 2018:
  • I visited 5 countries (the UK, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, and Germany) and 5 US states (California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan). Total time traveling: 156 hours (up from 107).
  • Cassie had more fun last year than 2022 as my team went from 2 to 3 days in-office (meaning more time at day camp). She got 372 hours of walks (up from 369) and at least that many hours of couch time.
  • Total steps for 2023: 4,619,407 steps and 3,948 km (average: 12,655 per day), up from 4.54m steps and 3,693 km in 2022. I hit my step goal 341 times (327 in 2022), which wasn't bad at all. I also did my longest walk ever on September 1st, 44.45 km.
  • Driving? I did several trips to Michigan in the summer, but still only drove 5,009 km (down from 5,925) on 87 L of gasoline (down from 144), averaging 1.7 L/100 km (136 MPG). That's the best fuel economy I've ever gotten with any car for a full year. I last filled up July 30th, and could conceivably go through January on what I've got left in the tank, but it's always best to keep your tank full in super-cold weather.
  • Total time at work: 1,905 hours at my real job (up from 1,894) and 73 hours on consulting and side projects, including 640 hours in the office (up from 580), but not including the 91 hours I spent commuting (down from 103). How did I add 60 hours in the office while cutting 12 hours off my commute, I hear you ask? Simple: I live closer to the Metra than I used to, and the 6-10 minutes a day adds up.
  • The Apollo Chorus consumed 247 hours in 2023, with 166 hours rehearsing and performing (cf. 220 hours just on the music in 2022). We had fewer performances and an easier fall season, which made a huge difference.
  • As for media consumption, I'll leave that to its own post tomorrow.

In all, not a bad year. I hope the trends continue for 2024, though I do expect a few more blog posts this autumn...

It was always about slavery

The "Lost Cause" mythology of certain good ol' boys in the Republican Party deliberately obfuscates the real causes of the US Civil War, as Brynn Tannehill describes in a well-written Twitter thread:

When Haley refused to say that the root cause of the Civil War, it pulled back the curtain a bit on an ugly truth: the American south has successfully waged a campaign to obfuscate history for over 100 years, to the point where they use their own supply.

Facts up front: The US Civil War started when Lincoln got elected and the south absolutely freaked out over it because he believed slavery should be phased out over time. It was an aspiration with no definitive date. He wasn't willing to split the union over the issue.

Slavery was the top issue in the 1860 election. Lincoln ran on a promise not to induct more slave states and to allow it to remain legal where it already was. He believed that it would become non-viable (eventually) and was content to let it ride out the clock for decades.

[T]he South absolutely lost their **** when he won, because they believed that his election would lead to the end of slavery... some day. They wanted it guaranteed forever. Seven of the 11 states that seceded did so before Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861.

The South Carolina secession ordinance was also pretty explicit. So was the infamous "Cornerstone Speech" at the secession conference by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.

So, where did this nonsense about "States' rights" and "individual freedoms" come from? Basically, it comes from the south wanting to look less awful after the war when basically everyone was expected to agree that slavery was wrong. It's also key to the "Lost Cause" myth.

This reframing started as early as 1866, and is really well documented, so I shan't re-hash all of it here. But, the number one tenet of the lost cause mythology is that the civil war wasn't about slavery.

Look, I get it: accepting that you fought for something horrific is a bitter pill to swallow. No one likes to do it, and almost no one has particularly owned it (maybe the Germans after about 1967-ish? Debatable though).

Regardless, rehabilitating the South's image was a massive project. The Daughters of the Confederacy put up statues everywhere. They paid for stained glass windows of Jackson and Lee in the National Cathedral in DC.

School textbooks (that I used as a kid!) taught about "states rights", "economic anxiety" (huh, where did we hear that one before as an excuse?), and movies (Like "Birth of a Nation", "Gettysburg", and "Gods and Generals") lionized the South.

In particular, the movies told stories from a southern perspective that left out WHAT they were fighting for, and made their cause seem both noble and doomed (which is basically the Lost Cause in a nutshell). They were neo-confederate propaganda.

Which brings us to yesterday, and Nikki Haley. I don't think she believes it, but because her audience has been spoon fed the Lost Cause mythology from birth, saying the truth would get her crucified by the Republican base (which is centered on white southerners).

It's also been largely accepted by whites outside the south (geez, I hated living in Ohio). The Lost Cause has become part of the party's tribal epistemology. So, Haley resorted to euphemisms. But they still mean slavery.

States' Rights = States have the right to keep slavery legal Individual Freedoms = The "freedom" to own other people in chattel slavery.

When Trump tells his audience "I am your retribution," he's tapping into the Lost Cause Mythology. He's telling much of the audience "The south will rise again, and I will make it happen."

For more on this topic, I cannot recommend @HC_Richardson's book "How the South Won the Civil War" highly enough. It came out to late for me to incorporate into American Fascism, but I wish I had.

I've been saying as much since I first read about the Civil War in school. But about the South, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, "we taught them a lesson in 1865 and they've hardly bothered us since then." Only, they never went away.

It baffles me that 150 years after we fought the deadliest war in US history over the subjugation of one people by another, the very same people want to re-litigate it. Maybe we should have let them leave? Probably not. But I'm just so tired of these assholes.

(I included most of Tannehill's thread as I believe Twitter won't exist much longer.)