The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How have I never seen this before?

John Cleese did a political advert in 1987 for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, a moderate coalition of small UK parties that, as one would expect, got annihilated in the election that year, and ultimately became the Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP went on to get the shit kicked out of them in every election until the Tories found them useful for a hot second in 2010, whereupon they got kicked to the curb as soon as the Tories had an outright majority, before everyone forgot about them in 2015.

Anyway, his rant about extremism still has a lot of resonance today:

Finally get to breathe

But only for a moment. I've spent most of today trying to fix things, or at least trying to figure out what problems need fixing. One of the problems has generated a comment thread on a vendor website, now at 44 comments, and I think after all that work I found the problem in an interaction between my code and Microsoft Azure Functions. If I'm right, the confirmation will come around 3pm.

Naturally, I haven't had time to read any of these:

I wrote the intro to this post around 2:45 and had to pause for a while. It's now 3:25, and I appear to have solved the problem. I will now document the solution and apologize to the vendor. Fun times, fun times.

Tories throw it in

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Cons., Richmond-Yorks) has gone to His Majesty and requested to dissolve Parliament, calling for an election on July 4th:

Rishi Sunak has called a surprise general election for 4 July in a high stakes gamble that will see Keir Starmer try to win power for Labour after 14 years of Conservative-led government.

Addressing the nation outside Downing Street, Sunak said it was “the moment for Britain to choose its future” as he claimed the Tories could be trusted to lead the country during a time of global instability.

The rain-soaked prime minister was almost drowned out by the New Labour anthem, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, blasted out by the anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, as the surprise early election was called.

Sunak’s words were met with alarm by senior Tories who are concerned that their party, trailing 20 percentage points behind Labour in the polls, could face electoral wipeout, with some MPs even considering submitting letters of no confidence.

It will be the first July election since 1945, when Labour leader Clement Attlee won a majority of 145. The campaign will also be fought during the Euro 2024 football tournament, with polling day falling just before the quarter finals.

Two things. First, it's about fucking time, as the Tories have driven the UK into the ground, giving the country two of the worst PMs in history and certainly the worst Home Secretary in my lifetime.

Second, what bliss only to have a six-week public campaign period! But then again, the UK government does get things done even when the ruling party has such low polling numbers.

I remember the big vote the UK took in June 2016 and what that said about our own politics. I will watch the July 4th election intently for clues about our own future.

When is bad butt not bad butt?

Cassie got a bad result from the lab yesterday: a mild giardia infection. It's a good-news, bad-news thing: The bad news, obviously, is that she can't go to day camp (meaning I can't spend a full day in my downtown office) for at least a week. The good news is that she's mostly asymptomatic, unlike the last guy. So we just went to the vet again, got another $110 bill for dewormer.

But at least she wasn't crated for three hours with her own diarrhea. Poor Parker.

In other good news, bad news stories today:

Actually, they're all bad-news stories. Apologies.

Smelly criminals appeal to SCOTUS

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in Johnson v Grants Pass, Ore., the result of a 2018 lawsuit against the rural Southern Oregon town (pop. 39,000) for imposing fines of up to $1250 for the heinous crime of sleeping in public. Naturally, the usual suspects seem to think that's just fine:

Kelsi Brown Corkran, representing the challengers, argued that because Grants Pass defines a “campsite” as anywhere a homeless person is, within the city, with a blanket, it is “physically impossible for a homeless person to live in Grants Pass” without facing the prospect of fines and jail time. The order barring the city from enforcing its ordinances, she insisted, still leaves the city with an “abundance of tools” to address homelessness.”

At the oral argument on Monday, the court’s liberal justices largely seemed to agree. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the city’s ordinances only apply to homeless people who sleep in public. Police officers in Grants Pass, she suggested, don’t arrest others who fall asleep in public with blankets – for example, babies with blankets or people who are stargazing.

By contrast, Justice Clarence Thomas emphasized that the law at issue in Robinson barred both the use of drugs and being addicted to drugs. Do the city’s ordinances, Thomas asked, make it a crime to be homeless?

The justices also debated whether they needed to address the Eighth Amendment question at all, or whether the challengers’ contention that they cannot be punished because they have nowhere else to go would be better addressed through a “necessity defense.” Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of the justices to broach this prospect, suggesting that it would apply to bar fines or prosecutions for actions like eating or camping in public.

I'm reminded of two videos I've seen recently. The first, from British comedian Jonathan Pie, could have been about Grants Pass but actually came out of a new UK law that does approximately the same thing:

The other, from 2020, explains the thinking behind "since we can't solve homelessness in one go, what's the point of trying?" Essentially, conservatives think in binaries: either we have homelessness, or we don't. Here's Ian Danskin:

But I do find it interesting that the Tories and the Republicans came up with the same inhumane idea. Hm.

Busy news day

It's a gorgeous Friday afternoon in Chicago. So why am I inside? Right. Work. I'll eventually take Cassie out again today, and I may even have a chance to read all of these:

Finally, a milestone of sorts. The retail vacancy rate in downtown Chicago continues to climb as a longtime institution on North Wells finally closed. That's right, Wells Books, the last adult-entertainment store in the Loop, has closed.

One news story eclipsed all the others

Ah, ha ha. Ha.

Anyway, here are a couple other stories from the last couple of days:

Finally, Ohio State wildlife and ecology professor Stanley Gehrt has written a book I will have to stop myself (for now) from adding to my ever-expanding shelf of books I need to read. Gehrt spent decades studying Chicago's coyote population and how well they co-exist with us, tagging more than 1,400 coyotes and collaring another 700.

My only complaint about the animals is they don't eat enough rabbits. I live near several suspected dens, the closest only about 400 meters from my front door. I can't wait to read the book.

As for the risks coyotes pose to humans, he lets us know who the real enemy is: “If you were to ask me, ‘What’s the most dangerous animal out there [for urban dwellers]?’, it’s white-tailed deer,” Gehrt said.

Lovely March weather we're having

We have a truly delightful mix of light rain and snow flurries right now that convinced me to shorten Cassie's lunchtime walk from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to just 9 minutes each time I came to a street corner. I don't even think I'll make 10,000 steps today, because neither of us really wants to go outside in this crap.

I'm also working on a feature improvement that requires fixing some code I've never liked, which I haven't ever fixed because it's very tricky. I know why I made those choices, but they were always the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, the cancellation of the UK's HS-2 project north of Birmingham has left more than 50 homes empty for two years. Can't think why the affected constituencies have flipped from Tory to Labour, can you?

Monday afternoon with no rehearsal

We always take a week off after our Choral Classics concert, which saves everyone's sanity. I in fact do have a chorus obligation today, but it's easy and relatively fun: I'm walking through the space where we'll have our annual Benefit Cabaret, Apollo After Hours, and presumably having dinner with the benefit committee. I'll be home early enough to have couch time with Cassie and get a full night's sleep.

Meanwhile:

  • Former presidential speechwriter James Fallows annotates President Biden's State of the Union Address.
  • Today's TPM Morning Memo blows up US Senator Katie Bush's (R-AL) response to the SOTU, but really I think Scarlett Johansen did it best:
  • Jennifer Rubin throws cold water on the belief that the United States is "polarized," given that one party wants to, you know, govern, while the other party wants to prevent that from happening so they can take power and therefore preserve the status quo ante from the 1850s: "America is divided not by some free-floating condition of “polarization” but by one party going off the deep end. And that’s a threat to all of us."
  • Greg Sargent points out the fundamental and ugly scam right-wingers like the XPOTUS perpetrate when they blather on about "border security:" it has a lot more to do with demographics (see, e.g., "great replacement theory") than crime.
  • Charles Marohn warns that blaming drivers for buying bigger cars shifts the blame from planning departments to individuals, where your state's DOT would prefer people put it.
  • Kensington Palace has apologized for sending out an obviously-edited photo of Princess Catherine with her children, causing the family some embarrassment, and distracting for a moment from any questions about why the people of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland continue to pay for Kensington Palace.
  • Seattle police impounded the oldest newsstand in the city after the landlord complained, repeatedly, over the course of three years.
  • If you have a couple of extra bucks lying around and you want a cool place to live, Block Club Chicago has a list of seven historical buildings you can live in, from a $318,000 condo in Marina City on up to the $3 million Edwin J Mosser House in Buena Park.

Finally, Crain's slices into the six best thin-crust pizzas in Chicago, a list that includes three I've personally tried (Bungalow by Middle Brow, Michael's, and Jimmy's), and three that I now need to try soon. (I have some Michael's in my freezer, in fact, which I'm planning to eat for dinner tomorrow.) I would add Barnaby's in Northbrook and Flapjack Brewery in Berwyn, by the way.