The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Hoping not to get rained on this afternoon

A whole knot of miserable weather is sneaking across the Mississippi River right now, on its way to Chicago. It looks like, maybe, just maybe, it'll get here after 6pm. So if I take the 4:32 instead of the 5:32, maybe I'll beat it home and not have a wet dog next to me on the couch later.

To that end I'm punting most of these stories until this evening:

Finally, if you have an extra $500 lying around and want to buy a nice steak with it, Crain's has options ranging from 170 grams of Chateau Uenae rib-eye steak (and a glass of water) at RPM on down to a happy hour of rib-eye steak frites for eight at El Che. The txuleton at Asador Bastian for $83 seems like a good deal to me, even without three other people or a bottle of wine to bring the bill up to $500. But the Wagyu? Maybe if I get a bonus next year. A guy can dream.

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?

Joe Lieberman dead at 82

Former US Senator Joe Lieberman (D, maybe?–CT) and Al Gore's running mate in 2000 has died:

Joseph I. Lieberman, the doggedly independent four-term U.S. senator from Connecticut who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, becoming the first Jewish candidate on the national ticket of a major party, died March 27 in New York City. He was 82.

The cause was complications from a fall, his family said in a statement.

Mr. Lieberman viewed himself as a centrist Democrat, solidly in his party’s mainstream with his support of abortion rights, environmental protection, gay rights and gun control. But he was also unafraid to stray from Democratic orthodoxy, most notably in his consistently hawkish stands on foreign policy.

His full-throated support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the increasingly unpopular war that followed doomed Mr. Lieberman’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and led to his rejection by Connecticut Democrats when he sought his fourth Senate term in 2006. He kept his seat by running that November as an independent candidate and attracting substantial support from Republican and unaffiliated voters.

His transition from Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 on the Democratic ticket to high-profile cheerleader for Republican presidential candidate John McCain eight years later was a turnaround unmatched in recent American politics.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • Stanford University sophomore Theo Baker expresses alarm at his classmates' growing anti-rational beliefs.
  • Slate's David Zipper analyzes what the Baltimore bridge collapse will do to the city's traffic.
  • The Economist reviews the lasting influence (or surprising lack thereof) of Steven Levitt's Freakonomics books.
  • The Chicago Dept of Transportation announced major construction on Division Street that will include new protected bike lanes and replacement of two bridges.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the crash of a one-third scale B-29 in Kokomo, Indiana, last year.

Finally, the Atlantic's Faith Hill wonders, why do we date the same person over and over again?

Israel's growing isolation

The UN Security Council, with the US abstaining, voted to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza for the month of Ramadan just a few minutes ago:

The breakthrough resolution, which is legally binding and was put forth by the 10 nonpermanent members of the Council, was being negotiated intensely until the last minute.

The U.S. asked for a change in the text that removed “permanent cease-fire” and replaced it with a “lasting cease-fire,” according to diplomats, and called for both sides to create conditions where the halt in fighting could be sustained.

The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the adopted resolution fell in line with diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt to broker a cease-fire in exchange for hostage release. She said the U.S. abstained because it did not agree with everything in the resolution, including a decision not to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks to the text.

The Economist says Israel's mission to destroy the terrorist Hamas organization has largely failed:

A temporary ceasefire and hostage release could cause a change of Israel’s government; the rump of Hamas fighters in south Gaza could be contained or fade away; and from the rubble, talks on a two-state solution could begin, underwritten by America and its Gulf allies. It is just as likely, however, that ceasefire talks will fail. That could leave Israel locked in the bleakest trajectory of its 75-year existence, featuring endless occupation, hard-right politics and isolation. Today many Israelis are in denial about this, but a political reckoning will come eventually. It will determine not only the fate of Palestinians, but also whether Israel thrives in the next 75 years.

If you are a friend of Israel this is a deeply uncomfortable moment. In October it launched a justified war of self-defence against Hamas, whose terrorists had committed atrocities that threaten the idea of Israel as a land where Jews are safe. Today Israel has destroyed perhaps half of Hamas’s forces. But in important ways its mission has failed.

It is a bleak picture that is not always acknowledged in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Mr Netanyahu talks of invading Rafah, Hamas’s last redoubt, while the hard right fantasises about resettling Gaza. Many mainstream Israelis are deluding themselves, too. They believe the unique threats to Israel justify its ruthlessness and that the war has helped restore deterrence. Gaza shows that if you murder Israelis, destruction beckons. Many see no partner for peace—the pa is rotten and polls say 93% of Palestinians deny Hamas’s atrocities even took place. Occupation is the least-bad option, they conclude. Israelis would prefer to be popular abroad, but condemnation and antisemitism are a small price to pay for security. As for America, it has been angry before. The relationship is not about to rupture. If Donald Trump returns he may once again give Israel a free pass.

This seductive story is a manifesto for disaster.

Having studied the war and Israel's security situation, David Brooks similarly concludes that Israel has no good options at this point:

[I]n this war, Hamas is often underground, the Israelis are often aboveground, and Hamas seeks to position civilians directly between them. As Barry Posen, a professor at the security studies program at M.I.T., has written, Hamas’s strategy could be “described as ‘human camouflage’ and more ruthlessly as ‘human ammunition.’” Hamas’s goal is to maximize the number of Palestinians who die and in that way build international pressure until Israel is forced to end the war before Hamas is wiped out. Hamas’s survival depends on support in the court of international opinion and on making this war as bloody as possible for civilians, until Israel relents.

Israel has done far more to protect civilians than the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has sent out millions of pamphlets, texts and recorded calls warning civilians of coming operations. It has conducted four-hour daily pauses to allow civilians to leave combat areas. It has dropped speakers that blast out instructions about when to leave and where to go. These measures...have telegraphed where the I.D.F. is going to move next.

Hamas’s strategy is pure evil, but it is based on an understanding of how the events on the ground will play out in the political world. The key weakness of the Israeli strategy has always been that it is aimed at defeating Hamas militarily without addressing Palestinian grievances and without paying enough attention to the wider consequences. As the leaders of Hamas watch Washington grow more critical of Jerusalem, they must know their strategy is working.

Remember, Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map, at any cost. Israel mostly wants its neighbors, like Hamas, to stop attacking it, but their political leadership and internal myopia, helped along by nearly-unlimited resources from the US, have blinded Israelis to the larger strategy of its enemies.

Hamas timed its attack on October 7th perfectly, striking a weak and craven Israeli prime minister whose political survival depends on listening to the most deranged people in his coalition. Of course Israel was going to over-react; that was part of the Hamas strategy. But maybe with the US and the UN putting pressure on both sides, we can pause for a moment and figure out how to end the war.

Another busy day

Getting ready for a work trip on Monday plus (probably) having to do a demo while on the work trip means I spent most of the day getting ready for the demo. In a bit of geography fun, because the participants in the demo will be in six different time zones from UTC-7 (me) to UTC+10 (the client), I got the short straw, and will (probably) attend the demo at 3:30 am PDT.

I say "probably" because the partners on the call may take mercy on me and let me brief them instead of monitoring the technology in the actual meeting. Probably not, though.

So in this afternoon's roundup of news and features, I'll start with:

  • Teresa Carr's report in Undark explaining how people in "eccentric time localities" (i.e., on the western edges of time zones) experience negative effects that people east of them don't.
  • President Biden's budget proposal includes a $350 million grant to extend the CTA Red Line.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the country's most-senior Jewish official, gave a scathing speech in the Senate this morning calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) to resign and hold elections. Josh Marshall puts this in context. (tl;dr: it's a big deal, and Schumer is really the only one in Congress with the heft and history with Israel to make this speech.)
  • US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who faces 18 felony counts in Federal court, may run for re-election as an independent so that he can use his campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Why anyone would give him money to do this I cannot determine.
  • Chevrolet and other car manufacturers routinely hand over data about how you drive to a company that then hands that data to your auto insurer, because the US does not yet have anything like the GDPR.
  • Julia Ioffe outlines how Ukraine can (sort of) win against Russia if it can hold out until 2025.
  • Hopewell Brewing and other Illinois craft brewers have started selling THC-infused beer, taking advantage of a loophole in both the state's brewing and cannabis laws.

I will now check the weather radar to see how wet I'm going to get on the way home...

Long day and long week

For Reasons, we have the dress rehearsal for our Saturday performance on Saturday. That means poor Cassie will likely go ten hours crossing her paws between the time I have to leave and when I'm likely to get back. Fortunately, she should be exhausted by then. Tonight's dress rehearsal for our Sunday performance won't put her out as much, thanks to Dog Delivery from my doggy day care. Still, I'd rather have a quiet evening at home than a 3-hour rehearsal and an hour-long car trip home...

Meanwhile, in the world of things that appear to matter more but actually will matter less in a year...

Finally, perhaps the reason the Chicago Transit Authority has so many problems is that its governing board has only one member who actually understands public transit? (Welcome to Chicago: where the head of the CTA has a chauffeured car, and the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union sends her kids to private school.)

Leapin' lizards

Stories for the last day of winter, this year on the quadrennial day when your Facebook Memories have the fewest entries and, apparently, you can't pay for gas in New Zealand:

Finally, Economist editor Steve Coll got access to hundreds of hours of Saddam Hussein's taped strategy meetings. He concluded that both the CIA and Hussein had no understanding at all about what the other was thinking.

Also, the temperature at IDTWHQ bottomed out at -5.3°C just after 7am and has kept climbing since then. The first day of spring should get it up into the high teens, with 20°C possible on Sunday. Weird, but quite enjoyable.

The OTHER lounge

I forgot that one of the perks of flying in international first class—even if it's a miles ticket—is access to American's Flagship Lounge. I have to say, I see the appeal.

But like so much in the United States, the top-tier lounge in Chicago has roughly the same amenities and food as the regular lounges in Europe and Asia.

I'm heading to Munich, as mentioned earlier, in part to enjoy modern technology, now that my own country has drifted to the back of the pack amongst its peer countries. It's very frustrating, to put it mildly, that the Most Powerful Nation in the History of the Planet™ can't figure out how to build a high-speed train, for example.

The same thing happened to Rome, of course. By the 1st century CE, Rome had the largest empire and most powerful military the world had ever seen till then, but Constantinople had already started to pull ahead in technology. By 500 CE, Rome had become a provincial outpost with ruined monuments, and Constantinople was beyond anything the Romans could imagine.

$350 million in fines

New York Justice Arthur Engoron just handed the XPOTUS a $350 million fine and barred him and his two failsons from running a business in New York for years:

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Of course he'll appeal, but New York doesn't give him many grounds to do so. And given the scale of the fraud he perpetrated on the State, even this eye-watering sum will probably survive scrutiny from the appellate court.

In other news this afternoon:

Finally, the Tribune has a long retrospective on WGN-TV weather reporter Tom Skilling, who will retire after the 10pm newscast on the 28th.