The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy Monday!

Today is the last day of meteorological summer, and by my math we really have had the warmest summer ever in Chicago. (More on that tomorrow, when it's official.) So I, for one, am happy to see it go.

And yet, so many things of note happened just in the last 24 hours:

Finally, Josh Marshall reminds everyone that Democrats are nervous about the upcoming election because we're Democrats. It's kind of in our blood.

While Garmin tries to fix its Cloudflare setup...

I'm glad I took a long walk yesterday and not today, because of this:

In other news:

  • State health officials warn that suburban Cook County (the immediate suburbs surrounding Chicago) has experienced a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, and placed it and 29 other counties on warning that social restrictions could resume next week.
  • Moreover, Covid-19 leads in a massive wave of excess deaths reported by the Cook County Medical Examiner this week. Suicides, homicides, and overdoses are also at near-record levels.
  • Jonathan Russo, writing in TPM Cafe, lays out the case that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin got what he wanted with his meddling in the 2016 US elections, and stands to gain even more if the president wins (or somehow achieves) re-election.
  • The nationalist, right-wing disease has started to infect Canada as well, as their new Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole has adopted a "Canada First" platform.
  • Graceland Cemetery, which doubles as an arboretum, will be closed for the longest period in its 160-year history because of damage from the August 10th derecho.
  • Mother Jones obtained video from a 10 December 2015 deposition showing Donald Trump boasting about his lack of ethics and ignorance of the law.

Finally, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has called for an end to Daylight Saving Time—not just the twice-annual time changes associated with the practice.

Incompetent Peronistas

All autocratic regimes suffer from endemic incompetence. It's easy to see why: if you can't contradict the autocrat, the government is only as competent as he is. When the autocrat is a pathological narcissist, you get another level of stupid on top. People work in governments like this for one reason only: to get rich. And they get rich by stealing from the public. Competence only gets in the way of the grift.

So here we find ourselves 65 days from an election in which the incumbent claims to have the ability to put out a fire that he started, who leads a party that has given up any pretense of governing in favor of supporting this circus clown no matter what he says.

And the president is a clown, a kind of malicious Zaphod Beeblebrox, whose only role as president of the galaxy was to distract from the people who really ran things.

I'm venting some frustration given two things that have come up in the last 24 hours. First, from the New York Times, an admission (of sorts) from the administration that demeaning the office of President of the United States by having a gauche campaign event on the lawn of the White House was all about owning the libs:

[The president's] aides said he enjoyed the frustration and anger he caused by holding a political event on the South Lawn of the White House, shattering conventional norms and raising questions about ethics law violations. He relished the fact that no one could do anything to stop him, said the aides, who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.

Of course he did. The show is all that matters. Which, presumably, why he plans to visit Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday (the second thing) so he can personally add gasoline to the fire burning there—a fire he started:

White House spokesman Judd Deere told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday that Trump will be meeting with law enforcement officers and “surveying” some of the damage from recent protests that turned destructive.

Joe Biden, and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have accused Trump of rooting for violence amid unrest in Wisconsin.

“He views this as a political benefit,” Biden said in an interview on MSNBC. “He’s rooting for more violence, not less. And it’s clear about that.”

Of course he is. The show is all that matters. All of this destruction and death is fun to a man like the president.

Meanwhile, 183,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 and another 1,000 die every day, while Europe gets to enjoy a normal autumn, because our incompetent, nihilistic, narcissistic president cares about nothing other than enriching himself by any means available.

Out for a walk

Today is not only a Saturday, it's also the first day all week under 32°C. So I took a little 26 km walk around the neighborhood. It felt good, and I maintained a Chicago Marathon-qualifying pace throughout. I also underestimated my water needs by half, so I've drunk about two liters since I got home.

And now, I must go to the store. Yay.

How long is this going to take?

I'm sitting at my desk waiting for my work laptop to finish updating, a process now in its 24th minute, with "Working on updates 25%" on the screen for the past 5. Very frustrating; I have things to do today; and if I'd known how long it would take (I'm looking at you, help desk), I would have started the update when I left this evening.

So, all right, I'll read a few things:

My laptop has rebooted three times now and appears to have gotten up to 83% complete. I may in fact get something done today.

Record looking shaky...

As of Saturday, it looked like we might break the record for hottest summer ever (average daily temperature 24.7°C) in Chicago, set way back in 1955. If the today's forecast holds, however, we will merely tie the record.

This is actually a good-news, bad-news thing. The good news is: (a) we came just a bit short of breaking the record (36.7°C) for August 26th, and (b) a cold front will push through tomorrow evening, dropping temperatures into the high 20s for the weekend.

You know? I'm OK with not breaking the record. It's 33°C at O'Hare and 32°C at my house right now, and that ignores the 21°C dewpoint that makes even light clothes cleve after walking just a few steps outside. And my electric company sent me an email this morning warning I'm about to have a higher-than-expected electric bill.

Roll on October.

Afternoon round-up

There's a lot going on today, what with the Republican National Convention celebrating the apocalypse they desperately want, but a few things outside of that also happened:

Finally, only a few blocks from my house my neighbors have set up a Wee Free Library...of sticks...for dogs.

I didn't realize they were doing it on purpose

Conductors on the heavy-rail line I take downtown twice a week haven't asked me for my ticket all summer. Apparently they're pissed at Metra, the agency that runs our commuter trains:

Metra, which is struggling financially during the pandemic, said Union Pacific’s refusal to send conductors into the train cars is costing the commuter rail system $1 million a month in lost ticket revenue.

Union Pacific, which operates the UP North, Northwest and West lines, is not allowing conductors back into the aisles to punch tickets, citing coronavirus safety concerns. That has created a “no fare” policy, Metra said, essentially giving passengers on those lines a free ride for the foreseeable future.

“Because UP conductors are neither selling tickets nor validating fares, most riders on their trains have been riding for free, which is hurting the system financially and is not fair to riders on the other lines who are being asked to show their fares,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said Tuesday.

Metra and Union Pacific have been in negotiations since last fall to either extend their service agreement or create a new one. One option on the table would be for Metra to take over operations of the commuter trains using its own employees, Gillis said.

For what it's worth, I've "burned" an electronic ticket most times I've ridden on the train. It seems like the right thing to do. But it also seems like the conductors need to do their jobs.

Also, I want to know why, after five years, we still don't have a new inbound station at my stop. They've built all the bridges, and only a couple weeks ago they started laying new track, but at an incredibly slow pace. One morning I see a few dozen ties (sleepers); later in the week, a few more. Then the following week, they plop a single rail down on a few of them. It's maddening, especially as we're going to have yet another winter without shelter on the inbound side.

Above target, not in a good way

Chicago's key Covid-19 metric, the 7-day rolling average positivity rate, ticked above 5% yesterday, as it's been near the 5% threshold for a couple of weeks. It rose from 4% to 5% between July 19th and 30th, suggesting that relaxed discipline has led to more infections.

Today Governor JB Pritzker announced stricter policies requiring masks to protect restaurant workers:

[The] new statewide restaurant and bar policy requiring all patrons to wear a mask while interacting with waitstaff and other employees, when food and beverages are brought to the table and when picking up carryout orders.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike admonished people to “stop wearing your face covering incorrectly. You’re literally contributing to infection transmission by doing so.”

Meanwhile, public health officials warn that this year's flu season could make the Covid-19 pandemic worse, and have asked everyone who's able to get a flu shot.

Meanwhile, speakers at the Republican National Convention said everything's all right, so don't worry about the virus.

The vacuity of the modern Republican Party

Politico's Tim Alberta describes what happens "when a party gives up on ideas:"

It can now safely be said, as his first term in the White House draws toward closure, that Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality. It stands for no special ideal. It possesses no organizing principle. It represents no detailed vision for governing. Filling the vacuum is a lazy, identity-based populism that draws from that lowest common denominator Sanford alluded to. If it agitates the base, if it lights up a Fox News chyron, if it serves to alienate sturdy real Americans from delicate coastal elites, then it’s got a place in the Grand Old Party.

“Owning the libs and pissing off the media,” shrugs Brendan Buck, a longtime senior congressional aide and imperturbable party veteran if ever there was one. “That’s what we believe in now. There’s really not much more to it.”

The party is now defined primarily by its appetite for conflict, even when that conflict serves no obvious policy goal.

The result is political anarchy. Traditionally, the run-up to a convention sees a party attempting to tame rival factions and unite around a dynamic vision for the future. Instead, Republicans have spent the summer in a self-immolating downward spiral.

And only this morning I had an online altercation with a friend-of-a-friend who lives in rural Upstate New York. It went like this:

Original poster: Register to Vote! Wear a mask! Make sure you vote! Fight systemic racism! Orange man bad! Resist Fascism! (OK, you can stop ORDERING me about what to do in our FREE COUNTRY! - that last "order" isn't TOO ironic)

Me: Thank you for laying it out so plainly: "I'm not going to do anything anyone tells me to do no matter how many lives it saves."

OP: "I will do whatever anyone tells me in order to save 'just one life' (including wear a seat belt in the back of a limousine) but will allow babies to be killed even after the moment of birth" because it's a women's right.

Me: "I'm not going to respond to your point because it's correct, so look over here at something irrelevant to what you said."

Me, thinking twice:

But let me take up your misdirection as if it were a serious point: abortion rights is an actual policy difference between us. We may never agree, but we can have an actual discussion about it as adults. Both sides have good points. Both sides have blind spots. And that's why we have a compromise that both sides hate (which is a good sign that it's a good compromise, at least from a policy perspective). You want to support pro-life or pro-choice candidates, that's your choice.

If you don't want to register to vote, you will get no argument from me. In fact, why don't you just rip up your registration card right now and let the rest of New York go about its business without you? You want to vote, or not vote; that's your choice.

If you don't want to fight systemic racism, you'll get a big argument from me, but not because of policy; because of morality. You don't have to go to a protest, but if you won't even entertain the possibility that we as white people may have to do more than just be nice to the people of color we personally know, then I'm going to question your prejudices. Can or should the state make you fight racism? Absolutely not. Go ahead and be a racist, or fight racism, or anything in between; that's your choice.

If you don't want to resist fascism, I will simply question your sanity. But hey, again, that's your choice.

But if you don't want to wear a mask in public, then yes, I will support fining your ass if you refuse, because this isn't [just] a policy dispute or a moral question. It's about everyone else's right to avoid dying from something preventable trumping your right to avoid a little discomfort when you're at a supermarket. The virus doesn't care about public policy. Wearing a mask works; we can see that in literally every other country that has mandated it. The only policy difference here is that some people don't want to be "told" what to do, in the same way they didn't like to be "told" to go to bed when they were 6. It's not a choice; it's the easiest way to end the pandemic, and the state is right to use its public health authority to make you.

Of course, as my old grand-pappy never said, "The thing about mud-wrasslin' with a pig is, you both get covered in shit, but the pig likes it."