The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Good thing there's an El

My commute to work Friday might get a little longer, as Metra has announced that 9 out of its 11 lines (including mine) would likely not operate if railroad engineers and conductors go on strike Friday. Amtrak has already started cancelling trains so they won't get stranded mid-route should the strike happen.

In other news:

  • Cook County tax bills won't come out until late autumn, according to the County President, meaning no one knows how much cash they have to escrow when they sell real estate.
  • The Post has an interactive map showing everywhere in the US that hit a record high temperature this summer.
  • US Rep. Marjorie Taylor "Still Smarter than Lauren Boebert" Greene (R-GA) has come up with a climate-change theory so dumb it actually seems smart.
  • US Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), another intellectual giant of the 117th Congress, proposed a Federal abortion ban, demonstrating a keen command of how most people in the United States view the issue.
  • Robert Wright explores "why we're so clueless about Putin."
  • Block Club Chicago explains why my neighborhood and a few others experienced massive geysers coming out of storm drains during Sunday's flooding rains.

Finally, right-wing lawyer Kenneth Starr died at age 76. No reaction yet from Monica Lewinsky.

A suggestion to reduce gun violence that can pass the current Court

To absolutely no one's surprise, the little shit arrested for murdering six people in Highland Park, Ill., yesterday turned out to be a 22-year-old white kid with a violent social media history. And of course he bought the gun legally.

Every society has its psychopaths and angry young men. But most societies acknowledge this, and make it really hard for those assholes to buy guns. Here, we make it easier to buy a gun than to buy a car. That's just insane, but politically hard to change.

Right now, with the current right-wing Supreme Court and Senate, we can't pass meaningful gun safety laws. But I have an idea. Let's make it harder to get military-grade weapons through taxation.

What if Illinois added use taxes for ammunition and magazines? Any ammunition of magazines purchased in or brought into Illinois must have a tax stamp. Failure to show the proper stamp multiplies the tax by 10. Tax rifle ammunition at $1 per round, pistol ammunition at 25¢ per round, and shotgun ammunition at 10¢ per round, reflecting the social costs (externalities) of each. And tax magazines at $10 per round for the first 10 rounds and then $100 per round after.

So if you really want that Glock 9mm pistol with the 17-round magazine, filling it will cost you $800 in magazine tax and $4.25 in ammunition tax. But if you simply must have that AR-15 with its 20-round mag, then it's $1,100 for the magazine and $20 for the ammo.

This tax won't really bother legitimate hunters as hunting rifles tend to have 5-round magazines ($50 + $5), and a good hunter won't waste rounds on a deer. And, of course, there would be exemptions for law enforcement and Federal agencies. (Illinois has a huge Navy presence, for example, and the state can't tax them.)

Is this nibbling at the edges? Of course; obviously we need to ban these weapons entirely. But I think it would pass the current Court. And if it adds enough friction to purchasing military-style rifles to deter just one mass shooting a year, it will have saved lives.

Thoughts?

Head (and kittens) exploding!

Leading off today's afternoon roundup, The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) announced today that Netflix has a series in production based on his game Exploding Kittens. The premise: God and Satan come to Earth—in the bodies of cats. And freakin' Tom Ellis is one of the voices, because he's already played one of those parts.

Meanwhile, in reality:

  • A consumers group filed suit against Green Thumb Industries and three other Illinois-based cannabis companies under the Clayton Act, alleging collusion that has driven retail pot prices above $8,800 per kilo. For comparison, the group alleges that retail prices in California are just $660 per kilo. (Disclosure: The Daily Parker is a GTI shareholder.)
  • Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D), one of the indirect defendants in the pot suit, signed a $46 billion budget for the state that includes $1.8 billion in temporary tax relief. Apparently, I'll get a $50 check from the State that I can apply to the $600 increase in property taxes Cook County imposed this year, which is nice, but I think the state could have aimed a bit lower on the income cap for that rebate and given more help to other people.
  • Shortly after US District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle (a 35-year-old who never tried a case and who graduated summa cum mediocrae laude from the legal powerhouse University of Florida just 8 years ago and earned a rare "not qualified" rating from the ABA upon her appointment in 2020 by the STBXPOTUS) ruled against the CDC in a case brought by an anti-masker, the DOT dropped mask mandates for public transport and air travel in the US. In related news, the Judge also said it's OK to piss in other people's swimming pools and up to the other swimmers not to drink the water.
  • While the Chicago Piping Plovers organization waits for Monty and Rose to return to Montrose Beach, another one of the endangered birds has landed at Rainbow Beach on the South Side. He appears more inclined to rent than buy, but local ornithologists report the bird has a new profile on the Plōvr dating site.
  • NBC breaks down the three biggest factors driving inflation right now, and yes, one of them is president of Russia. None, however, is president of the US.
  • Along those lines, (sane) Republican writer Sarah Longwell, who publishes The Bulwark, found that 68% of Republicans believe the Big Lie that the XPOTUS won the 2020 election, but "the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose." Makes me proud to be an American!

And finally, via Bruce Schneier, two interesting bits. First, a new paper explains how a bad actor can introduce a backdoor into a machine learning training session to force specific outcomes (explained in plain English by Cory Doctorow). Second, an attacker used a "flash loan" to take over the Beanstalk crypto currency voting system and stole $182 million from it. Because Crypto Is The Future™.

Readings over lunch

I mean...

  • Josh Marshall takes another look at the astonishing bribe Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler paid to Jared Kushner and concludes it's not just a one-off favor; it's an ongoing relationship.
  • Joan Williams argues that Democrats need to look at the class and economic aspects of the Right's economic populism, and maybe perhaps argue (correctly) that blaming people of color just takes the spotlight off the super-rich who are stealing from the middle?
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) makes essentially the same argument, with a reminder that the mid-term election is only 202 days away.
  • A homeless-rights organization in Chicago argues that increasing the transfer tax on property sales over $1 million could fund real homelessness relief for real people.

Finally, a quirk in US copyright law has created a bonanza for litigators, along with the original creators of such diverse works as The Thing and Hoosiers.

Stupid person says stupid thing to get back into the news

The XPOTUS promised yet another thing that would hurt the people he claims to want to help, in part because he (and obviously they) deeply misunderstand how the laws work in this country:

Former president Donald Trump suggested Saturday night he will pardon the rioters charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol if he is elected president in 2024.

Trump, who has teased but not confirmed another run for president, has repeatedly criticized the prosecution of individuals who violently stormed the Capitol to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president. But his comments at a Texas rally on Saturday marked the first time he dangled pardons, an escalation of his broader effort to downplay the deadly events of Jan. 6.

Some of those involved in the riot held out hope for a Trump pardon before he left office 14 days later, but none were granted.

This really plays the rioters for suckers in two ways. First, not all of the charges against them derive from Federal law; presumably, by accepting pardons from the President they would be admitting to violations of DC law, and could go to jail anyway. Second, he already promised them that and had the power to try granting pardons to them while still in office. How does the saying go? "Fool me once, shame on...shame on you...fool me, you can't get fooled again."

The Republican Party also recently screwed several million people for political gain by refusing to renew the Child Tax Credit monthly distribution, which families had come to rely on during the pandemic. Now, to a person, the Republicans who prevented the bill passing the Senate make enough money that they can wait until they get the child tax credit through their annual tax refunds. The parents who need it the most can't wait a whole year for it.

I kind of just want all those Republican Senators to end their lives forgotten and in poverty, you know? That would be Karmic.

Thanks again, Bruce!

Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R, of course) famously stopped almost all discretionary spending in the state during his term in office by continually vetoing state budgets passed by the Democratically-controlled legislature. His term overlapped with a project to rebuild 11 railroad bridges on the North Side of Chicago, and which included a companion project, partially necessitated by the track reconfigurations required to replace the bridges, to rebuild the Ravenswood Metra station serving Uptown and Lincoln Square.

That's my Metra station.

The project started in 2013 when the railroad opened two temporary platforms north of Lawrence Ave. and removed the inadequate but semi-permanent platforms south of the street. The old platforms had a couple of small shelters; the "temporary" platforms did not.

Nevertheless, the outbound (West-side) platform opened in late 2016, more or less on time. They couldn't open it until the west-side bridges were up, and the outbound track rebuilt, so we all completely understood the delay. The inbound (east-side) platform had the same issue, so when the bridge project finished in 2017, we could all imagine a day just a few months later when we'd have a shiny new platform with end-to-end shelters, a heated waiting area, and other amenities that most other Metra riders get for free.

But because Rauner stopped paying Illinois' portion of the station rebuild, work stopped on the inbound platform until 2020, and when it resumed, it didn't exactly go at full speed. We are now nine years into the project. This morning, I had to wait for fifteen minutes in blowing snow, all because Bruce Rauner (a billionaire) didn't want to release state funds for a project to which the Federal government contributed 75% of its costs:

Rauner now lives in Florida. I guess he got tired of his neighbors—yes, even his rich Winnetka neighbors—telling him to do his fucking job.

If I ever encounter a Djinn, I might wish for all the anti-tax billionaire politicians to spend a year with the consequences of their decisions. In Rauner's case, that would look like having to take underfunded public transit everywhere, with occasional videos of European transit systems to see what it could be.

Slouching towards fascism

The software release yesterday that I thought might be exciting turned out to be fairly boring, which was a relief. Today I'm looking through an ancient data set of emails sent to and from some white-collar criminals, which is annoying only because there are millions and I have to write some parsing tools for them.

So while I'm decompressing the data set, I'll amuse myself with these articles, from least to most frightening:

Whee! WinZip has finished decompressing all 517,000 files. Now to write a parser...

How is it 9pm already?

Quick hit list of stuff I didn't find time to read:

Finally, Alexandra Petri guesses about the books that Republican candidate for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin might put on your kid's AP curriculum.

First Monday of October

The United States Supreme Court began their term earlier today, in person for the first time since March 2020. Justice Brett Kavanagh (R) did not attend owing to his positive Covid-19 test last week.

In other news:

So how did facebook.com disappear from root DNS, the day after 60 Minutes aired a segment on Haugen?

Why Biden's plan matters

Forget the amount (especially because the headlines completely mis-state the value), the "human infrastructure" bill winding through Congress right now matters in all the places it needs to:

Over the past few decades there has been a redistribution of dignity — upward. From Reagan through Romney, the Republicans valorized entrepreneurs, C.E.O.s and Wall Street. The Democratic Party became dominated by the creative class, who attended competitive colleges, moved to affluent metro areas, married each other and ladled advantages onto their kids so they could leap even further ahead.

There was a bipartisan embrace of a culture of individualism, which opens up a lot of space for people with resources and social support, but means loneliness and abandonment for people without. Four years of college became the definition of the good life, which left roughly two-thirds of the country out.

And so came the crisis that Biden was elected to address — the poisonous combination of elite insularity and vicious populist resentment.

The Democratic spending bills are economic packages that serve moral and cultural purposes. They should be measured by their cultural impact, not merely by some wonky analysis. In real, tangible ways, they would redistribute dignity back downward. They would support hundreds of thousands of jobs for home health care workers, child care workers, construction workers, metal workers, supply chain workers. They would ease the indignity millions of parents face having to raise their children in poverty.

The Republican Party have no similar policies. In fact, their policies would accelerate the "distribution of dignity" upward, even while they blamed the results on the Democrats. The reconciliation bill will help millions of Americans. And, oh yeah, it might even win us a couple of elections.