The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Productive first day of spring

I finished a sprint at my day job while finding time to take Cassie to the dog park and make a stir-fry for lunch. While the unit tests continue to spin on my work computer, I have some time to read about all the things that went wrong in the world today:

I'm heading out tonight to watch President Biden's first State of the Union Address with friends. Robert Reich will also tune in.

Goodbye, winter

The temperature already hit 11°C at O'Hare today, melting the last bits of snow covering roads and sidewalks, and letting me wear regular shoes and a lighter coat for the first time in a couple of weeks. Spring officially starts tomorrow, and I'm ready for it.

I don't know the temperature in Kyiv, though, because they stopped sending weather reports after 5pm Saturday. I do know that the city still has water and electricity, because my friend keeps posting to Facebook. And I know from Julia Ioffe's reporting that Putin is losing, badly:

What’s key is that, for the third day in a row, the Russian army hasn’t been able to take a single regional capital or a single city. The Russians thought they would be greeted as liberators, but no one is greeting them. And the most important thing is that we all understand that they don’t have a chance. There is a clear understanding that they’ll never be able to capture the cities. They just won’t get in, because every brick and every piece of asphalt will fight them. There are 25,000 weapons in Kyiv alone and all these people will defend their city, they will all repel the invader. Because the Russians don’t have a chance. They haven’t been able to secure any territory. It’s incredible. The biggest army on the continent that has such power, and yet they haven’t taken a single city.

in the last three days, something very important happened. First of all, no one is scared anymore. At first, everyone was very scared. But then we all understood that there was no way out. We’re on our own land, we have to fight and we will fight. Now, people are still scared but there’s a sense that something shifted. I can’t imagine people laying down their arms. It’s impossible. People won’t lay down their arms. 

That’s why we’re seeing Putin start to break. The image of this great leader, he can do anything he wants in Moscow, he can get his way by breaking anyone over his leg like a twig—but not here. Here, you can go take a hike, bro. It’s not going to happen here. Everyone is telling you to fuck off. It’s become cool here. Our streets are now covered with billboards that say, “Russian ship, go fuck yourself.” Our railroad company wrote to the Russians, “Russian train, go fuck yourself.” Now everyone has told him to fuck off: all the countries of the European Union, who have closed their air space to him. Now we know that the Putin that we all thought was omnipotent, this image that he created and that his government media propagated, no longer exists. Now we all see that he’s a pathetic person who, despite having a massive army, couldn’t conquer anything.

There is no Putin. He made himself up and imposed himself on a huge nation that is now in total shock that this midget turned out to be a midget, rather than a king.

Yes, but the Russian Army still controls a lot of Ukraine. Stay tuned.

Scared man with a gun

If the world ends this week, Vladimir Putin will have ended it:

  • President Vladimir Putin says he has ordered the Russian military to put its nuclear forces on "special alert" in response to what he described as Nato “aggression”
  • The move - which does not mean Russia intends to use the weapons - has been widely condemned, with the US calling it “totally unacceptable”, and Nato’s chief describing it as “dangerous” and “irresponsible”

Josh Marshall says that Russian's Ukrainian invasion going poorly is the only thing worse for Europe than it going well:

There had been a lot of talk that the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States were insufficient to deter the Russians. But the scale of those sanctions has escalated dramatically over the last 48 hours. I’ve seen many knowledgable observers say we should expect the Russian stock market and currency to go into free fall tomorrow. If I’m understanding the news reports correctly the US and EU have now frozen a substantial amount of the assets of Russia’s central bank.

By any reasonable measure these are acts of war, even if they’re in a sense only complicated banking transactions and regulations. They are merited given what’s transpired in recent days. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves about the spectacularly dangerous nature of the international crisis we’re witnessing. In many ways, the only thing more dangerous than this adventure going well for Vladimir Putin is it going badly for him. And it’s going really badly.

Putin is a malignant narcissist, the role model for our own former President. These people don't accept any kind of loss. But that doesn't mean we should back down; a world where malignant narcissists have freedom to spread their bullshit everywhere is a crapsack world to be avoided at almost any cost.

We're now at the point where the Russian people need to decide whether they want this insanity on their hands.

To anyone who supports this invasion, I have something to say to you:

Still the top news story

My friend in Kyiv posted on Facebook an hour ago about how many parking spaces are available in her neighborhood. She also couldn't figure out for a few seconds why there was a pillow in her bathtub this morning. So things could be better over there.

How much better could it be?

Meanwhile...

Maybe in my lifetime we'll have peace in Eastern Europe and a transit system in Chicago as good as any in Europe 20 years ago. I'm not sure which is more likely.

War in Europe

Some things to remember:

  • "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."—Isaac Asimov
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin lost the argument. This is his tantrum. But like a 15-year-old with a rifle, he's still a threat to everyone else.
  • The argument is that liberal democracy produces better outcomes for everyone than lawless autocracy. Notice that Russian kleptocrats keep their money in the US and UK, countries with strong institutions and rule of law.
  • Russia's economy, which is based on resource extraction, is the 11th largest in the world, after Italy, Canada, and South Korea. It's smaller than New York State's and just a little bigger than Illinois' and Florida's. California's GDP is more than double Russia's. So is the UK's.
  • Wars never stay confined to their initial theater. How badly this spills out should keep us awake at night.

A friend in Kyiv sent these photos earlier today. People leaving Kyiv:

Explosions in the city:

Photos by Татьяна Мисиюк

Here's what the professionals have to say:

I'll be monitoring this situation closely.

Busy couple of days

I've had a lot to do at work the last couple of days, leading to an absolute pile-up of unread press:

Finally, on this day in 1940, Woody Guthrie released "This Land is Your Land," a song even more misunderstood than Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Some questions about Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin asserted yesterday that Ukraine doesn't exist, reasoning that Russia created the territory sometime in the past and therefore it remains part of Russia today. This raises some questions:

  1. If that were the case, how can Russia now recognize two "independent republics" with governments legally authorized to request Russian "peacekeepers?"
  2. Should New York send troops into its breakaway region in Vermont, and Massachusetts take back its former territory of Maine?
  3. How unpopular must Putin be at home that he needs to do something this dramatic to distract the world?

Let's also not forget that the Ukrainian fracas has taken the world's attention away from the South China Sea, where the next real war will probably happen. Fun times, fun times.

Missing the point of the sport

I don't understand why Russian figure-skating coaches have such a bad reputation:

One of the joys of watching the Olympics is seeing moments like this, dreams realized. I have indelible memories of such celebrations. In 1998, Tara Lipinski leapt into the air and released a series of ear-splitting shrieks when she found out she won, embracing her coaches in pure joy. In 2002, Sarah Hughes fell to the ground in shock backstage, laughing and smiling in disbelief, her coach grabbing her face and exclaiming, “You won the gold medal at the Olympics!”

At the 2022 Beijing Olympics, there was no such moment of joy. The scene that I witnessed instead made me feel hollow and heartbroken, like I was somehow complicit in the mental anguish of these young women by even watching. When it was announced that 17-year-old Anna Shcherbakova was the gold medalist, the camera didn’t even cut to her for several minutes. Instead, we watched 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, the girl at the center of the Olympic doping scandal, the skater seen as near certain to capture the gold medal, crumple into a ball of tears upon learning she had ended up in fourth place after a disastrous free skate. Valieva received only perfunctory support from her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, who had berated her as soon as she stepped off the ice: “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me, why? You let it go after that axel. Why?”

As Valieva exited the kiss and cry, she passed silver medalist Alexandra Trusova, also crying, throwing what can only be described as a temper tantrum. When someone offered Trusova an arm of support, she jumped away and shouted in Russian: “I can’t see this! I won’t see this!” One might have imagined these remarks were in sympathy for her training mate Valieva, but later comments made it clear it was bitterness over receiving silver. Trusova is quoted as exclaiming, “I hate it! … I don’t want to do anything in figure skating ever in my life! … Everyone has a gold medal, and I don’t!” One can forgive a teenage girl for having an emotional response to disappointment in a high-stakes situation, but Trusova’s reaction was an ugly display of poor sportsmanship, happening mere feet from a devastated Valieva. Trusova would later have to be coaxed into even coming back onto the ice to accept her second place finish.

After reading Schleicher's account of last Wednesday's awfulness, and a few others that crossed my desk over the week, I have two questions: first, why are Russians competing at all this year, when clearly their suspension for doping did nothing to stop them from doping? And second, why do people want to watch children destroying their lives for figure skating? It's past time to kick the Russian teams out of international competitions until they stop cheating, and past time to raise the age of participation in all Olympic sports to 18.

What happened to Tuesday?

And wasn't it just Tuesday?

I got an email from HR this morning reminding me that I'm approaching the upper limit for paid time off in my bank. I thought, what with taking half a day here and there over the past year, I might not already have almost a month of vacation to use. Cue searching on VRBO for places Cassie and I might like.

Meanwhile, back in the present:

But back to vacation: how cute is this place?

Cue the weekend

The temperature dropped 17.7°C between 2:30 pm yesterday and 7:45 this morning, from 6.5°C to -10.2°C, as measured at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters. So far it's recovered to -5.5°C, almost warm enough to take my lazy dog on a hike. She got a talking-to from HR about not pulling her weight in the office, so this morning she worked away at a bone for a good stretch:

Alas, the sun came out, a beam hit her head, and she decided the bone could wait:

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

  • Julia Ioffe interviews Russian diplomat Dr Andrey Sushentsov about Russia's views of the Ukraine crisis. tl;dr: the US and Russia don't even have a common set of facts to discuss, let alone a common interpretation of them.
  • In Beijing, former Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon blasts the Russian team for once again crapping on their own performance with yet another doping scandal.
  • The government of Ontario secured a court order last night allowing the Windsor Police and OPP to start clearing the Ambassador Bridge. So far, they have managed to do so without violence, but a few extremists haven't yet budged.
  • James Fallows updates his earlier post on how framing outrageous actions as "that's just Trump" is an abrogation of the press's responsibility to its consumers. "For perspective here: the late Sandy Berger, who had been Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, was investigated, charged, fined $50,000, and sentenced to two years of probation for stuffing copies of a classified document into his socks, and sneaking them out from the National Archives. The story of his downfall was a major news feature back in the mid-2000s."
  • The UK now allows fully-vaccinated travelers from most countries to arrive and depart without getting a swab stuck up their nose.
  • Comedian Bob Saget died of blunt head trauma, consistent with a slip and fall, according to an autopsy. It also found his heart had a 95% blockage, which might have killed him even without the fall.

Finally, in 2018 Rebecca Mead returned to London after living in New York for 30 years. Her 15-year-old son now speaks with a unique accent Mead says has become the new standard "Multicultural London English."