The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Gobbling up your free time

I mean, come on Google. No fair:

Starting now until April 4, you can chomp fruit, avoid ghosts, and collect PAC-Dots along city streets in Google Maps worldwide—all as Ms. PAC-Maps. Just tap on the Ms. PAC-Maps icon on iOS and Android, or click the Ms. PAC-Maps button at the bottom left on desktop, to enter the maze and start chompin’. Sign in to save your top score on the leaderboard and share with friends.

Here's Downtown Chicago:

That's the Civic Opera Building on the upper left and LaSalle and Jackson on the lower right.

Or try this possibly-recognizable board:

Any guesses where that is?

Sears Death Watch

Sears Holdings Corp. now admits its totally foreseeable and totally preventable death may happen soon:

Sears Holdings Corp. acknowledged "substantial doubt" about its ability to keep operating, raising fresh concerns about a company that has lost more than $10 billion in recent years.

The retailer added so-called going-concern language to its latest annual report filing, suggesting that weak earnings have cast a pall on its future as a business.

How did this happen? Eddie Lampert killed it, possibly for sport.

Evidence of things unseen

Some stories from today:

And, hey! It's Friday afternoon already.

Dump Trump rump

Three stories today:

Share and enjoy.

Take a walk

Yesterday, Major League Baseball agreed with its players union to ditch the four-pitch intentional walk:

Major League Baseball and its Players Association agreed to replace it with an automatic walk triggered by a signal from the dugout. The curious part was its cause of death: It was sacrificed in the name of shorter games.

That is curious, to say the least, because the intentional walk had neither the frequency of use nor the potential time-savings to make it an obvious target of league officials, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who want to speed up the pace of play. Last year, intentional walks occurred at a rate of one every 2.6 games. Their elimination would save perhaps a minute with each instance — a statistically insignificant improvement for a sport that averaged a record-high 3 hours 6 minutes per game in 2016.

Even something as seemingly innocuous and frivolous as the intentional walk has a long history, full of occasional mishaps (pitchers lobbing the ball to the backstop), sneaky swings (as when a batter reaches across the plate and pokes a wide pitch into the outfield for a hit) and even the famous fake intentional walk in the 1972 World Series, when Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers struck out Cincinnati's Johnny Bench with a pitch over the plate after the A's feigned walking him intentionally.

In many of those instances, the intentional walk was the most exciting and memorable thing that happened in that particular game. Sure, those zany plays were infrequent, and in the vast majority of instances, the intentional walk was simply a banal, goofy and sometimes counterintuitive exercise in run-prevention.

But will the no-pitch walk still be scored IBB?

Open tabs at lunchtime

Sigh:

I hope to read these articles sometime this year.

 

American authoritarianism

I grew up in Chicago, so I have some recollection of how things were before Harold Washington's mayoral administration. Particularly under the first Mayor Daley, large sections of the city lived under authoritarian rule. It wasn't pretty.

New Republic's Graham Vyse explains what this might look like nationally. It won't be The Hunger Games—and that's part of the problem:

Tom Pepinsky, a government professor at Cornell University, recently argued that Americans conceive of authoritarianism in a “fantastical and cartoonish” way, and that popular media—especially film—is to blame.

“This vision of authoritarian rule,” he wrote, “has jackbooted thugs, all-powerful elites acting with impunity, poverty and desperate hardship for everyone else, strict controls on political expression and mobilization, and a dictator who spends his time ordering the murder or disappearance of his opponents using an effective and wholly compliant security apparatus.”

“If you think of authoritarianism as only being The Hunger Games and Star Wars, you’re likely to focus on the wrong types of threats to democracy,” he said in an interview. “You’re out there looking for something unlikely to happen and you’re missing the things much more likely to happen.” Such as legal gerrymandering, he said. “One way to not lose elections that’s very common and essential to Malaysia is the construction of so many safe legislative seats that the party doesn’t need to get most of the voters to get most of the seats.”

In other words, it's already happening in places where Republican governments rule with minority popular votes, such as in North Carolina and (starting Friday) at the Federal level.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall lays out pretty clearly how Trump and Putin are trying to destroy the EU and NATO, which average Americans might not care about until they're gone.

The next few years are going to suck.

Mandate? What mandate?

Since records began with Eisenhower's inauguration in 1953, no incoming president has had an approval rating below 50% at the start of his administration. Reagan and George HW Bush came in at 51%, and both managed to improve (to 68% and 56%, respectively) in the first 100 days. Even George W Bush, despite the taint surrounding his election, came in at 57% and inched up to 62% by April 2001.

And along comes Trump. A Quinnipac poll released today has him at 37%, and falling. As Josh Marshall puts it, "Trump, his agenda and his party are deeply unpopular. Indeed, Trump's gotten steadily more unpopular over the last four weeks. All of this tells us that political gravity still exists. Indeed, it is already shaping events on Capitol Hill."

For comparison, shortly before he left office under a pall of sex scandals and rampant corruption, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi polled between 33-35%. And immediately before the watershed UK election in 2010, the Labour Party under Gordon Brown polled around 30%. And in 2015, just before losing to Justin Trudeau, Canada's Stephen Harper polled around 33%.

In other words, Trump is coming into office approximately as popular as discredited and failing leaders of other modern democracies right before their defenestrations.

It'll be interesting to see if he notices.

Killing Sears and selling the parts for scrap

Now that Eddie Lampert has killed Sears almost with his bare hands, he's selling the best bits off. The Craftsman brand of tools is probably the most respected piece of the formerly-august company, so naturally it's the first to go:

Sears Holdings agreed to sell its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker for about $900 million, marking CEO Edward Lampert's third move in the past two weeks to prop up the beleaguered retailer with fresh sources of funding.

Under terms of the deal, Stanley will pay $525 million at closing and $250 million after three years, the companies said in a statement today. The buyer also will make annual payments on new Craftsman sales for 15 years. Separately, Sears announced plans to shutter 150 unprofitable stores in a bid to streamline the chain.

Craftsman has been part of Sears since 1927, when the retailer acquired the brand for $500. The tools debuted in the iconic Sears catalog two years later. By the 1940s, the brand benefited from a surge in power-tool sales. In 1981, President Jimmy Carter was given a Craftsman woodworking set as his farewell gift when he left the White House.

I really don't understand this guy. He's loaned Sears $500m of his own money. Is it ego? Incompetence? Or part of a master plan to make money by destroying Sears? We might never know.

 

Not entirely surprising real estate news

The first brick-and-mortar Sears store, which closed this past fall, will become apartments and a giant liquor store by next year:

Chicago developer Springbank Capital Advisors has purchased the old Sears store in Ravenswood and plans to turn it into a $30 million apartment and retail complex, said David Trandel, chairman and chief executive of Springbank.

The building at 1900 W. Lawrence Avenue was closed last summer by Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings as the retail firm shuttered dozens of Sears and Kmart stores. The 40,434-square-foot store had been operated as a Sears store since November 1928.

The full development of apartments and retail will be 105,000 square feet. The $30 million in financing is provided by UC Funds of Boston, Trandel said. The developer plans to start removing asbestos this month, and begin construction in May with a summer 2018 completion.

Still, Eddie Lampert's murder of the Sears brand is criminal.