The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Heading for another boring deployment

Today my real job wraps up Sprint 109, an unexciting milestone that I hope has an unexciting deployment. I think in 109 sprints we've only had 3 or 4 exciting deployments, not counting the first production deployment, which always terrifies the dev team and always reminds them of what they left out of the Runbook.

The staging pipelines have already started churning, and if they uncover anything, the Dev pipelines might also run, so I've lined up a collection of stories from the last 24 hours to keep me calm (ah, ha ha, ha):

  • James Fallows, himself a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, digs into President Biden's commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College, saying: "It showed care in craftsmanship and construction. Its phrasing matched Biden’s own style and diction. It navigated the political difficulties of the moment. And it represented Biden’s attempt to place those difficulties in a larger perspective."
  • Economist Paul Krugman explains the insignificance (to most people's lives) of the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 40,000 last week, and how the news nicely illustrates "he gap between what we know about the actual state of our economy and the way [the XPOTUS] and his allies describe it."
  • Speaking of the stock market, Ivan Boesky, one of the greediest people ever to walk the earth, died last week at the age of 87.
  • Speaking of economics, Bill McBride takes us through the history of paying off the national debt, or increasing it as tends to happen under Republican presidents. He lists 8 events from 2000 to 2021 that significantly increased it, only two of which Democratic administrations oversaw.
  • Speaking of debt, Crain's scoops up the Oberweis Dairy bankruptcy case, and how it appears that a failson (actually a failgrandson in this case) killed it, as sometimes happens with inherited wealth.
  • Speaking of things falling abruptly, a Singapore Airlines B777-312ER encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea near Bangkok yesterday, and a 73-year-old British passenger died of what appears to be heart failure. Other passengers and crew suffered head injuries. This is why you need to keep your seatbelt on at all times in an airplane.

Finally, Block Club Chicago readers have sent in cicada photos from the south and west sides of the area. Still none in my neighborhood, though a colleague in Wilmette said she saw a couple yesterday. I want to see the bugs!

Hillbilly insincerity

Washington Post columnist Matt Bai has no patience for the "new breed of Republican charlatan" represented most clearly by US Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH):

My office shelves are full of these “books that miraculously explain our political moment” from over the years —“Don’t Think of an Elephant!,” “God’s Politics,” “The Radical Center” — and I’ve come to understand that their success is never an accident. Show me a book that captures the post-election zeitgeist of a worried intelligentsia, and I’ll show you a shrewd, ambitious author who sensed an opening and steered right into it. If the Pentagon could engineer a fame-seeking missile, it would look a lot like “Hillbilly Elegy.”

So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when Vance’s argument turned out to be mostly pretext and his convictions nonexistent. Almost immediately, Vance started entertaining a career in Republican politics. By 2022, when he ran for the open seat left by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, Vance had gone from Never Trump to Long Live the King; his conversion included a spirited embrace of Trump’s stolen-election nonsense.

Look, there’s nothing new about cynical opportunism at the highest level of our politics. Richard M. Nixon shredded reputations to make himself the ultimate Cold Warrior, then repositioned himself as a moderate in the Goldwater years. Bill Clinton used conservative talking points to deflect attention from his antiwar protesting days.

But there were basic lines of duplicity that neither Nixon nor Clinton nor any other American politician of the last century would cross — in part because they had some genuine convictions about the value of public service, and in part because a robust and reasonably trusted news media would never have let them get away with it.

History tells us that repressive movements enabled by cowards and hucksters are just as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the legitimately hateful. You can wreck a country with cosplaying careerists just as easily as you can with bloodthirsty revolutionaries.

We've always had these people, and we always will. But we can stop elevating them to public office.

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.

Democracy may be up for debate

The XPOTUS has agreed to "debate" President Biden twice before the election:

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed Wednesday to participate in general election debates on June 27 and Sept. 10.

A press release from CNN said the first, on June 27, would start at 9 p.m. ET and will be held in the news organization's studios in Atlanta.

“I’ve also received and accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by ABC on Tuesday, September 10th," Biden said on X. "Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

One of my friends doesn't think the President should have agreed to debate the XPOTUS, arguing that someone who attempted a coup "does not get a debate." He worries it "will be judged on who talks the loudest, who is the rudest, etc. It'll be closer to professional wrestling than a political debate."

I disagree. I think the XPOTUS will show people who don't seek him out (read: swing voters) exactly how demented he has become. James Fallows likens him to "[t]he kind of person you’d assume to be drunk if you didn’t know he teetotaled, or you’d think was in other ways disturbed." Commenting on the XPOTUS's Atlantic City rally over the weekend, Fallows says, "We’ve all heard things like this. In bars. In public parks. In institutional care. We move away from people talking this way."

Even before we get there, we have to wonder how a good hunk of the population seem to have forgotten how shambolic the guy's administration actually was, especially doing the one thing in his job description:

There was no breathing room — no calm in the eye of the storm. From beginning to end — from the “American carnage” inaugural on Jan. 20, 2017, to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — it felt as though the country was in constant flux, each week a decade. We lurched from dysfunction to chaos and back again, eventually crashing on the shores of the nation’s worst domestic crisis since the Great Depression.

Trump presided over a recession worsened by his total failure to manage the coronavirus. As Covid deaths mounted, Trump spread misinformation and left states scrambling for needed supplies. It was not until after the March stock market crash that the White House issued its plan to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. And the most generous provisions found in the CARES Act, including a vast expansion of unemployment benefits, were negotiated into the bill by Democratic lawmakers.

No other president has gotten this kind of excused absence for mismanaging a crisis that happened on his watch. We don’t bracket the secession crisis from our assessment of James Buchanan or the Great Depression from our judgment of Herbert Hoover or the hostage crisis in Iran from our assessment of Jimmy Carter. And for good reason: The presidency was designed for crisis. It was structured with the power and autonomy needed for handling the acute challenges of national life.

With 174 days until the election, one feels like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis...

Friedman on campus protests

Columnist Thomas Friedman, who identifies himself as "a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, [and] cares about people on all sides," finds American campus protests troubling because they're missing the larger context and workable goals:

In short: I find the whole thing very troubling, because the dominant messages from the loudest voices and many placards reject important truths about how this latest Gaza war started and what will be required to bring it to a fair and sustainable conclusion.

My problem is not that the protests in general are “antisemitic” — I would not use that word to describe them, and indeed, I am deeply uncomfortable as a Jew with how the charge of antisemitism is thrown about on the Israel-Palestine issue. My problem is that I am a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, cares about people on all sides and knows one thing above all from my decades in the region: The only just and workable solution to this issue is two nation-states for two indigenous peoples.

If you are for that, whatever your religion, nationality or politics, you’re part of the solution. If you are not for that, you’re part of the problem.

I am intensely both anti-Hamas and anti-Netanyahu. And if you oppose just one and not also the other, you should reflect a little more on what you are shouting at your protest or your anti-protest. Because no one has done more to harm the prospects of a two-state solution than the codependent Hamas and Netanyahu factions.

The whole column encapsulates a lot of my own struggles with this particular moment.

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

The chorus season is mostly over

After a week of rehearsals capped by two performances of some really challenging works by French and Swiss composers, I finally got a full 8½ hours of sleep last night. What a difference. Not just the needed rest, but also having a much smaller inbox (just one task for the chorus left until next week) and less to worry about.

Until I open a newspaper, of course:

  • The head of the political arm of Hamas, the terrorist group and de jure governing party in Gaza which has called for the annihilation of all Jews, claims to have accepted cease-fire terms that would avoid an Israeli invasion of Rafah, but Israel disputes this.
  • Six months out from the election, Walter Shapiro looks at President Biden's approval ratings and concludes they probably don't matter.
  • UMass Amherst professor Ethan Zuckerman has sued Facebook over a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC 230) that could allow people to use third-party tools to block their social media. Zuckerman explains the suit in layman's terms in the Times.

Finally, a new bar claiming to be Chicago's first with an indoor dog park got a special-use permit, enabling them to open sometime this fall. B-A-R (as in, "who wants to go to the B-A-R?") still needs a liquor license, and will charge $25 per day or $50 per month per dog. I just passed by the site on Saturday, so I will note that it's directly across the street from some of Chicago's best thin-crust pizza. But $25 just to visit? Hm. The do know they're only a kilometer from a dog park, right?

This summer I hear the drumming

I'm mostly exhausted from this week of performing and rehearsing, and I still have another concert tomorrow afternoon. Plus, a certain gray fuzzball and I have a deep need to take advantage of the 22°C sunny afternoon to visit a certain dog park. (I also want to have a certain pizza slice near the certain dog park, but that's not certain.)

Joking aside, today is the 54th anniversary of the Ohio National Guard killing 4 innocent kids at Kent State University. As one of the projects on my way to getting a history degree, I studied the aftermath of the murders, with emphasis on how my own university reacted. (It was an archives project, teaching us history puppies how to do primary research, so that necessarily limited the scope of the project.)

That study has informed my attitudes towards the protests on elite university campuses today. I'm close to some conclusions, but not there yet, which has more to do with all the Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Bizet, Honneger, and Poulenc currently stuffing my brain than anything else. I will just say I found the contrast between Andrew Sullivan and Josh Barro this week a bit jarring. I think they're both a little right and a little wrong, but again, until probably Tuesday or Wednesday, I won't have the cognitive space to express how.

in short: children generally don't have the experience or cognitive development required to accept ambiguity in moral matters. The Gaza war is one of the messiest moral miasmas in my lifetime. The simple, black-and-white answers that some of the loudest voices offer makes the discomfort go away. And if no one has ever set real limits on your self-image, it's easy to believe that your own opinion—"guided" as it may be by people who seem to have the answers—must be the only valid one.

Like I said, I need to think more. A 10-kilometer dog walk with pizza as a reward, plus possibly some time sitting outside with a book and a beer, might help.

Sadly, yes

Angry Staffer, one of the last remaining informative Twitter accounts, had this yesterday:

Sigh.

Chait gets it right on protests

Jonathan Chait notes that the XPOTUS, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), and Hamas all seem to want the Gaza war to continue—at least until November—as well as all the protests calling for the elimination of Israel:

“This encampment escalation divides the Left, alienates influential supporters, and creates a sense of chaos that will move people against it,” writes conservative activist Chris Rufo in his newsletter. “The correct response from the Right is to create the conditions for these protests to flourish in blue cities and campuses, while preventing them in red cities and campuses.”

There are several reasons for this unusual right-left alliance. The most obvious is that Israel is an issue that bitterly divides the Democratic Party while uniting the GOP. Any news coverage raising the salience of this issue detracts from coverage of issues like abortion, Donald Trump’s various crimes, health care, or other subjects that divide Republicans while uniting Democrats.

A second reason is that the campus protests, with their ragged encampments and radical chants, enhance the image of chaos that Donald Trump claims has overtaken the country.

But perhaps the biggest reason is that extremists thrive on an atmosphere of crisis. The Middle East has been teetering on crisis for decades, which is why advocates of peaceful partition and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians have never had an easy time of it. The more fevered the atmosphere, the easier it is for Trumpian conservatives, along with radicals on the left, to argue that the conflict pits good against evil and that compromise is unthinkable.

[T]he best way to understand the beliefs of protests is usually to read the published statements of the groups organizing them. That is especially true when the protests are well organized by an established network. In this case, the protests have been organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that’s existed for decades, alongside other left-wing protest groups. And their position is totally explicit: They believe in the total destruction of Israel as a state by any means, including violence.

This is catnip not only for American conservatives, but also for the Israeli right. The central argument advanced by Israeli reactionaries since even before the founding of Israel has held that peacefully partitioning the land into Jewish and Arab states is hopelessly naïve. The two sides are engaged in a zero-sum struggle for control of the land, and only one can prevail.

And perhaps not incidentally, the protests increase the chance Trump wins, a prospect Netanyahu no doubt would relish.

Chait doesn't explicitly say that Hamas also wants the war and the protests to continue; Hamas does. At least, by surrounding their leadership with human shields while refusing every concession Israel offers, they seem uninterested in ending the suffering of the people they claim to represent.

Finally, Julia Ioffe brought up a good point in her weekly email today: how come we have massive protests about the Palestinians, but not about the Uighurs? Or the Rohinga? Or the Yemeni? Or...you get the point. I don't know either, but I have a hypothesis.