The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

But her emails!

The Washington Post Fact Checker digs deep into the allegations of mishandling classified material against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and finds, nah, she good:

The Justice Department investigation of classified documents found at former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club has brought inevitable comparisons to the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email server that she used while secretary of state. The FBI investigation into her emails arguably tipped the close 2016 presidential election to Trump.

During the contest between Trump and Clinton, we wrote 16 fact checks on the email issue, frequently awarding Pinocchios to Clinton for legalistic parsing. But in light of the Trump investigation, Clinton is trying to draw a distinction between Trump’s current travails and the probe that targeted her.

As shown in an FBI photo of some of the documents seized from Trump, many have clear markings indicating they contained highly sensitive classified information. Clinton, in her tweet, suggests none of her emails were marked classified. That’s technically correct. Whether those emails contained classified information was a major focus of the investigation, but a review of the recent investigations, including new information obtained by the Fact Checker, shows Clinton has good reason for making a distinction with Trump.

In other words, [two] State Department probes under Trump knocked Clinton for maintaining a private server for State Department communications — but did not hold her responsible for mishandling classified information.

Of course, all the Benghazi and email server hearings that Clinton had to endure had nothing at all to do with their subject matters, because the current Republican Party doesn't care at all about substance. Everything they do is performance, for political points. And they've been at that so long, in fact, that many Republicans can't fathom that the probe of the XPOTUS's mishandling of classified material has nothing to do with political points and everything to do with the damage that he did to national security.

Writing to alderman and newspaper gets results

Every time I commute to work from the Ravenswood Metra station, I get annoyed. Metra has yet to finish the inbound platform after almost 10 years of delays. So I emailed the alderman to ask why, and CC:d Block Club Chicago, the local news outlet. Reporter Alex Hernandez called me the next morning, and ran this story today:

The Ravenswood Metra station overhaul that began more than a decade ago is hitting yet another bump. 

The $30 million project to renovate 11 bridges along Metra’s Union Pacific North line was announced in 2010. Construction of the western side of the Ravenswood station, 4800 N. Ravenswood Ave., was completed in 2015 — but the rest of the project is ongoing.

Previous delays to the project were caused in part by a polar vortex in 2014 and cuts in funding to Metra in 2010. The work was fully funded in 2020, and officials planned to begin the final phase of the eastern portion of the station in the spring.

But now it’s supply chain issues that are delaying work, Metra spokesperson Meg Reile said. 

“It’s still up in the air because of supply chain issues,” Reile said. “That’s what’s holding up the end of this project.” 

Reile did not provide specifics about what items crews are waiting for, but she said the goal is to complete the eastern side of the Ravenswood station by the end of the year.

Good to know. My conversations with Hernandez Wednesday and yesterday were enlightening to both of us. And today, I actually saw someone in a hard hat and vest working on the platform, though I have no idea what he was doing.

Will the platform open by year's end? Will the Cubs lose 95 games this season? Will any former presidents get indicted this fall? No one can yet know the answer to any of those questions.

God save our gracious King

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the British National Anthem has changed back to "God Save the King" for the third time in 185 years. In other news:

By the way, the UK has a vacancy for the post of Prince of Wales, in case anyone would care to apply. I think we can bet on nepotism, though.

Long live King Charles III

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96:

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has died.

Prince Charles, heir to the throne since the age of three, is now king, and will be officially proclaimed at St James’s Palace in London as soon as practicably possible.

Flags on landmark buildings in Britain and across the Commonwealth were being lowered to half mast as a period of official mourning was announced.

As Queen of the UK and 15 other realms, and head of the 54-nation Commonwealth, Elizabeth II was easily the world’s most recognisable head of state during an extraordinarily long reign.

What a week in the UK.

Is it Monday?

I took Friday off, so it felt like Saturday. Then Saturday felt like Sunday, Sunday felt like another Saturday, and yesterday was definitely another Sunday. Today does not feel like Tuesday.

Like most Mondays, I had a lot of catching up at the office, including mandatory biennial sexual harassment training (prevention and reporting, I hasten to point out). So despite a 7pm meeting with an Australian client tonight, I hope I find time to read these articles:

Finally, the Hugo Awards were announced in Chicago over the weekend, and now I have a ton more books to buy.

Truss elected PM with 0.0012% of UK vote

The UK Conservative Party has elected Liz Truss its new leader, making her the new Prime Minister. Just over 81,000 of the 67.22 million citizens of the UK voted for her, giving her even less of a mandate than the last two PMs had:

The foreign secretary, who won 81,326 votes (57.4%) of Tory members to the former chancellor’s 60,399 (42.6%), takes over from Boris Johnson, who was ousted by his own MPs earlier this summer.

Britain’s fourth Tory prime minister in six years declared “we will deliver, we will deliver and we will deliver” on the many challenges facing her government, including the state of the NHS.

Significantly, Truss appeared to rule out a snap general election, telling the audience in central London that she would “deliver a great victory for the Conservative party in 2024”.

The Economist wonders how long she'll last:

Her free-market instincts are at odds with the need to intervene to navigate an immediate cost-of-living crisis. Household gas and electricity bills will jump by 80% in October; businesses are seeing even bigger spikes. By January 2025 she must contest a general election in which she will face the judgment of a deeply dissatisfied public. She inherits a country in dismal spirits: 69% of Britons, including 60% of Conservative voters, agree that the country is “in decline”, according to polling by Ipsos for The Economist. And the party she now leads has grown insurrectionary: it has deposed her two immediate predecessors and is unenthused by her. She will bash at the walls like a wasp in a bell jar.

Ms Truss’s remedy for Britain’s economic ills is a Reaganite mixture of deficit-financed tax cuts and regulatory reform. She proposes low-tax zones with relaxed planning laws, and wants to keep the headline corporation-tax rate at 19% to pull in foreign investment.

To her critics, Ms Truss offers only a mimicry of Thatcherism: all the aesthetics, little of the insight. She may have the furs and the aphorisms, they say, but she abandoned her support for planning deregulation, the single most-obvious supply-side reform, as soon as it became clear that Tory activists wouldn’t wear it. Her pledge to scrap all unnecessary eu laws by the end of 2023 may sound reassuringly radical, but it is divorced from the fine-grained work of effective regulation.

Ms Truss is the fourth roll of the dice for a party squinting hard, searching for a simulacrum of the woman who turned Britain around before. The country she now leads may well be looking for something else entirely.

It is interesting, though, that Truss is the third woman to have her finger on Britain's nuclear button, while 39 of the 40* people elected President of the US have been white men. How's that working out for us?

* John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and Gerald Ford were never elected president.

Q&A with a gun owner

Earlier this year I asked a friend if he would answer a couple of questions about his experience with firearms. Rich P. is a competitive pistol shooter living in Connecticut. He and I have agreed about some things and disagreed about others since we were first-years at university. I thought he'd have a reasonable presentation of firearms regulation that differs from mine, and he did not disappoint.

I have edited his responses only for Daily Parker site style and by adding links for context. Otherwise I have copied his responses in full.

How long have you been in competitive shooting? How did you get into it? How much safety training did you get? Do the ranges or competitions where you shoot have specific training or safety requirements?

I have been shooting competitively for 16 years. I compete in both Bullseye and USPSA-style matches. Bullseye is very much what you see at the Olympics: slow fire at targets generally 50 feet away. USPSA matches are more like simulated combat where you are shooting and reloading all on the move, while navigating through a structure and around barricades all the while engaging numerous targets.

I got into competitive shooting with the intent to use it as a training aid. Putting yourself on the clock adds just that little bit of extra stress which aids in helping you learn how to function under pressure.

Safety is paramount on any range I’ve ever been. To become a member of my club you first have to attend a mandatory four-hour safety meeting where all applicants are taught our club safety rules. We then take the applicants to the range and have them shoot a bullseye match with a senior club member standing behind them to help and instruct. After that applicants are required to attend three business meetings and three activity nights. At the business meetings applicants are constantly evaluated by senior members. Basically we’re looking to see if the applicant can work within club rules and they don’t have a screw loose, so to speak.

My club offers different styles of gun matches. Once the applicant chooses his style of match he is then taught all the ins and outs of that style. Monday nights are the most difficult and demanding. This is the USPSA match I mentioned earlier. The applicant will be taught how to properly load and unload his weapon, muzzle discipline, drawing from the holster and most importantly how to do all of the above without putting holes in his feet.

Every match I have ever shot has had some kind of safety briefing.

We’ve had our differences over gun control in the past. For example, you expressed frustration once that taking your guns from Connecticut into New York was a problem because the two states have different rules on magazine sizes. Do you encounter regulation differences between states today, after Heller?

Other then securing my individual right to own a weapon, Heller has had very little effect in a pro-gun sense. In Heller, Scalia wrote that weapons in common use are protected under the Second Amendment. There are over 7 million AR-15s in private hands. I would say that is the very definition of in common use but numerous states still maintain an Assault Weapons ban in defiance of Heller.

Does your state require firearms or owners to be licensed? If so, how difficult is it to get one? Should it be harder or easier? How would you change the licensing requirements?

Connecticut has two levels of gun licensing. To just own a gun and go plinking on weekends a Connecticut resident has to have a gun license and a second license to purchase ammo. To get the gun license there is a written test and a fee. To get the ammo license requires a fee and a current license. I went to the next level, which is a concealed carry license. To obtain that requires close to $300 in fees and mandatory 8 hour class. The upside is Concealed Carry License (CCL) holders do not have to obtain the ammo permit. The license is good for 5 years and can be renewed for a fee of $75. The whole process to obtain a CCL is about 4 months. During that time I had to photographed, fingerprinted, and take the course I explained earlier. I found the process thorough but not to much of a burden. That said with the amount of info I had to turn over if I ever broke bad it would take the cops about 5 minutes to pick me up because the state knows everything about me. There would be nowhere to hide. I don’t think there is anything I would change to the existing licensing schemes.

It’s hard to define “assault weapon” but let’s call it a large-capacity, lightweight, semi-automatic rifle designed primarily as an antipersonnel weapon. For example, the AR-15’s designer intended it to replace the M-14 for American infantry units, and said he couldn’t imagine any civilian needing one. Should we regulate or even prohibit these kinds of weapons?

I don’t believe AR-15s should be banned. Semi-automatic rifles we’re available to the civilian market close to 40 years before being adopted by the military. A lot of people think it was the other way around. I’ve spoken with many anti-gun people and they all operate on this simplistic thinking that if you get rid of the weapons there will be a reduction in crime. What they don’t realize is if they change the law only the law abiding will follow. The criminals will keep theirs and the result will be a disarmed populous in even more danger from a now even more aggressive criminal class.

On top of that anti-gunners are not going to stop with just banning the AR. I have had anti-gunners say straight up banning the AR is a good start but in the end they want everything gone. For seventy years, from the 1934 Taylor Law [I think he meant the National Firearms Act of 1934—TDP], to the 1968 Gun Control Act, to the 1986 [Firearm Owners Protection Act], to finally the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, government has been trying to solve the problem through infringement on rights and property and obviously that is not working. Time for something else.

What infuriates me the most is the lying of the current administration. Saying the 2nd isn’t an absolute is pure bullshit. The 2nd is there as a check on overreaching Federal power. It has absolutely nothing to do with hunting. If I hear one more stupid joke about a deer wearing Kevlar I’m going to lose my mind. At the time of The Revolution private citizens could own warships, get themselves a contract with the colonial Congress and then go privateering hitting British ships at sea. Also spreading fear and telling people that a 9mm round will blow a lung out of the body is offensive to people who know what they’re talking about. Now would I want to be hit with a 9mm round, oh hell no. That said putting that level of disinformation into the world is helping no one.

Anti-gunners also talk about the success of Australia and their gun buy back program. First off how can the government buy back something that wasn’t theirs in the first place? Also they call it a buy back but what it really was a voluntary gun confiscation. If an Australian citizen choose not to sell his guns to the gov’t then he was thrown in jail. Twenty years on we find the Australian gov’t moving people into camps against their will because of a disease that is 99% survivable. Politicians get all kinds of strange ideas once gov’t has a monopoly on force.

Do you identify with a political party? Did you support one of the candidates in the 2020 election?

To your last question I am currently a registered Republican. I was a Democrat until my mid thirties. I voted for Clinton twice and Al Gore in 2000. Having to go through the recession in the early 90’s caused by Bush 41 there was no way in hell I was going to vote for his idiot son Bush 43. Hell I even voted for Hillary Clinton when see ran for the Senate. What I found later was I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.

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I'll follow up with Rich soon, and I'll have some things to say about a few of his specific points. I'm grateful for his participation.

Our Congressional footprint just grew 104%

Yesterday, Democrat Mary Peltola beat former half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin in the special election to fill deceased Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) seat:

Peltola finished fourth in a crowded nonpartisan primary in June, when 48 candidates battled to secure one of the four spots on the Aug. 16 special election ballot. But heading into Wednesday’s final tabulation, Peltola was leading the pack.

The special election was the state's first test of ranked-choice voting, which was implemented after a 2020 ballot measure. The same system will be used in November.

With 93% of votes counted in the ranked-choice results Wednesday night, Peltola had 51.5% of the vote to Palin's 48.5%.

Voters cast their ballots more than two weeks ago to determine who will serve out the final four months of Rep. Don Young's term after he died in March at age 88. The longtime GOP lawmaker represented Alaska for almost 50 years in Congress.

Even more fun, the same four candidates will have at it again in November. But we can take two things from this: first, even hard-core conservative Alaska really can't stand Palin, and second, a majority of the United States' land area now has Democratic Party representation.

The last post of the summer

Meteorological summer ends in just a few hours here in Chicago. Pity; it's been a decent one (for us; not so much for the Western US). I have a couple of things to read this afternoon while waiting for endless test sessions to complete on my work laptop:

And via Bruce Schneier, a group of local Chicago high schoolers will never give you up and never let you down.

Short rant about student loans

I posted this last night on Facebook:

It's so interesting to me that we're having a (manufactured) political argument about canceling $10k in student debt while all the countries we compete with are horrified that people even have to pay $10k to go to university. Even privatization-happy Brits flipped some constituencies to Labour in the last general election because the Tories raised university fees to £9,250 ($10,900) per year. The outrage isn't that we forgave a token amount of Federally-held debt. The outrage is that the richest country in the history of the world doesn't ensure its entire population gets the same education as the average teenager in Belgium.

One of my more rabid Republican friends did not like that, but I'll spare you his response. Instead, I'll note Paul Krugman's take on the topic:

The right is inveighing against debt relief on moral grounds. “If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period,” tweeted the House Judiciary G.O.P. On which planet? America has had regularized bankruptcy procedures, which take debt off the books, since the 19th century; the idea has been to give individuals and businesses with crippling debts a second chance.

But, you may argue, student borrowers weren’t struggling to cope with a pandemic. True. But many student borrowers were suckered in by the misleading marketing of for-profit colleges; millions ran up debts but never received a degree. Millions more went into debt only to graduate into a labor market devastated by the global financial crisis, a market that took many years to recover.

So don’t think of this as a random giveaway. Many though not all of those who will benefit from debt forgiveness are, in fact, victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Of course, that's an argument based on facts and evidence, so it won't sway anyone on the far right. I just wish they'd find something else to do than get outraged over every single thing the administration does.