The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It's 5pm somewhere

Actually, it's 5pm here. And I have a few stories queued up:

Finally, author John Scalzi puts Rogue One in third place on his ranked list of Star Wars films, with some good reasons.

Spring, at least in some places

Canada has put the Prairie Provinces on a winter storm warning as "the worst blizzard in decades" descends upon Saskatchewan and Manitoba:

A winter storm watch is in effect for southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, with snowfall accumulations of 30 to 50 centimetres expected mid-week, along with northerly wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour, said Environment Canada on Monday.

“Do not plan to travel — this storm has the potential to be the worst blizzard in decades,” the agency warns.

The storm is expected to start Tuesday night, as a Colorado low pressure system moving toward Minnesota will bring a “heavy swath of snow” from southeastern Saskatchewan through most of southern Manitoba.

Snow will start to fall early in the evening near the U.S. border and move north overnight. Blowing snow and high winds will cause zero visibility and whiteout conditions, making driving treacherous.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

And finally, prosecutors in Texas have declined to pursue charges against a 26-year-old woman arrested last week for infanticide after self-inducing an abortion. Welcome to the new 19th Century, at least in the religious South.

Let's make some noise

US Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) excoriated Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) on the floor of the Senate this week. Greg Sargent follows Josh Marshall in exhorting more Democrats to get messages like this out more often:

Grandstanding and disingenuousness are endemic to politics. The tension between sordid political theatrics and the higher ideals they serve goes back to the ancients. But at a certain point, the pileup of absurdities becomes so comically ludicrous, so obviously unmoored from even the most basic standards of conduct, that it needs to be called out.

Yet we don’t hear enough from Democrats putting down hard emotional markers indicating that at moments like these, something is deeply amiss, and something unusually absurd and depraved is happening.

Just this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) practically snickered as he refused to say that a GOP-controlled Senate will give a hearing to a future Biden nominee to the Supreme Court.

We’re constantly told the American people hate Washington dysfunction. Yet McConnell knows he can cheerfully threaten something this obscenely destructive without fearing any political downside. But why does McConnell know this?

McConnell perhaps instinctively knows little noise from Democrats will break through to their voters, or alert the middle that something this unusual happened at all. Meanwhile, the vast right-wing media apparatus will keep up the drumbeat of wildly inflated hysteria about the threat of radical Democratic rule...

Marshall has made this point repeatedly, mostly behind paywalls. So have others. Hey, pop quiz, who's the most badass ex-military US Senator? Mine, actually. And which US Senator actually owns and works on his own farm? A Democrat. Which US Senator's latest election win was the largest swing from his state's presidential vote? A Democrat (despite it all). Who's the only person in the US Senate to have commanded multiple space missions? A Democrat.

We need to remind people who we are and what we do. And to mercilessly ridicule useless grandstanders like Hawley until they get tossed out of office.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

The US Senate did something pretty cool yesterday:

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to be elevated to the pinnacle of the judicial branch in what her supporters hailed as a needed step toward bringing new diversity and life experience to the court.

Overcoming a concerted effort by Republicans to sully her record and derail her nomination, Judge Jackson was confirmed on a 53-to-47 vote, with three Republicans joining all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in backing her.

Not everyone shared in the joy of the day. As applause echoed from the marbled walls, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, turned his back and slowly walked out, as did most of the few Republicans remaining on the floor, leaving half of the chamber empty as the other half celebrated in a stark reflection of the partisan divide.

“When it came to one of the most consequential decisions a president can make, a lifetime appointment to our highest court, the Biden administration let the radicals run the show,” Mr. McConnell had said earlier, making one last argument against Judge Jackson, whose nomination he framed as an example of extremists taking control of the Democratic Party. “The far left got the reckless inflationary spending they wanted. The far left has gotten the insecure border they wanted. And today, the far left will get the Supreme Court justice they wanted.”

Senator McConnell is full of shit, of course, and he knows it. Jackson would have made any Republican Senator's heart sing only five years ago. But, hey, thanks to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), we may have gotten the last bipartisan confirmation in our lifetimes.

On July 1st, Justice Jackson will become only the 7th person to sit on the Court who wasn't a white guy.

Somebody call lunch!

I've gotten two solid nights of sleep in a row, and I've got a clean desk for the first time in weeks. I hope that this becomes the norm, at least until November, when I'll have a packed musical schedule for six weeks as the Apollo Chorus rehearses or performs about 30 times. But that's seven months off.

That gives me plenty of time to listen to or read these:

And finally, in compiling geographic source data for Weather Now, I discovered that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) assigned an official designator the location where the Ingenuity helicopter landed on Mars: JZRO, for Jezero Crater.

Early afternoon roundup

Now that I've got a few weeks without travel, performances*, or work conferences, I can go back to not having enough time to read all the news that interests me. Like these stories:

Finally, Michelin has handed out its 2022 stars for Chicago. Nothing surprising on the list, but I now have four more restaurants to try.

* Except that I volunteered to help a church choir do five Messiah choruses on Easter Sunday, so I've got two extra rehearsals and a service in the next 12 days.

Bonus update: the fog this morning made St Boniface Cemetery especially spooky-looking when Cassie and I went out for her morning walk:

Contradictory transit incentives

Two stories this morning seemed oddly juxtaposed. In good news, the City of Chicago announced plans to spend $15 million on 77 km of new bike and pedestrian trails over the next couple of years:

Several of the projects, including plans to convert an old railroad into a trail in Englewood, are still in the planning and design phases. Others, like Sterling Bay’s planned extension of the 606 Bloomingdale Trail into Lincoln Yards, are set to come to fruition through private partnerships. 

The news release lists 12 projects, including several that had been previously announced, that are set to be funded with a $15 million “commitment to jumpstart” the “key projects citywide.” The $15 million comes from a combination of “federal, state and local sources, including general obligation bonds, Tax Increment Financing, and Open Space Impact Fees,” according to a spokesperson for the city’s planning department.

The City also plans to give away 5,000 bicycles to encourage people to get out of their cars. But at the same time, the City announced it would give away 50,000 gas cards to encourage people not to get out of their cars:

The plan, which comes weeks after possible 2023 mayoral candidate Willie Wilson spearheaded several rounds of free gas giveaways, includes gas cards worth $150 each for as many as 50,000 drivers, and transit cards worth $50 each for as many as 100,000 riders. Wilson on Thursday blasted the mayor’s plan and called it a “political stunt.”

Three-quarters of the transit cards would be prioritized for residents in low-income neighborhoods who use the CTA often. The remainder would be distributed throughout the city.

“It will benefit CTA riders across the city, but especially on the South and West sides,” CTA President Dorval Carter said. “Areas that saw the lowest ridership declines during the pandemic, areas where public transit is the best and sometimes the only option.”

Let's pause for just a moment to give political-stunt-incarnate Willie Wilson a golf clap for calling anything a "political stunt."

I get fretting about gasoline prices if you do what you can to save gas and need your car to survive. But on my trip last week, I got passed by idiots in two-ton SUVs who no doubt complain it costs them $100 to fill their tank.

My little Prius got to and from Kentucky on less than $80 of gas, and even with that trip I've still gotten an average of 2.2 liters per 100 km (156 MPG) so far this year. In fact, the second-worst economy I've ever gotten for a tank of gas in this car was on the return trip from Berea, when I got 5.5 L/100 km (43 MPG) over 610 km (400 miles). Of course, since I got back I've averaged 2 L/100 km (140 MPG).

So maybe if people didn't burn as much gasoline, the city wouldn't feel like giving away gasoline was an option? Just a thought.

Sabotaging open-source code

Via Bruce Schneier, a developer who maintains one of the most important NPM packages in the world got pissed off at Russia recently, without perhaps thinking through the long-term consequences:

A developer has been caught adding malicious code to a popular open-source package that wiped files on computers located in Russia and Belarus as part of a protest that has enraged many users and raised concerns about the safety of free and open source software.

The application, node-ipc, adds remote interprocess communication and neural networking capabilities to other open source code libraries. As a dependency, node-ipc is automatically downloaded and incorporated into other libraries, including ones like Vue.js CLI, which has more than 1 million weekly downloads.

“At this point, a very clear abuse and a critical supply chain security incident will occur for any system on which this npm package will be called upon, if that matches a geolocation of either Russia or Belarus,” wrote Liran Tal, a researcher at Snyk, a security company that tracked the changes and published its findings on Wednesday.

“Snyk stands with Ukraine, and we’ve proactively acted to support the Ukrainian people during the ongoing crisis with donations and free service to developers worldwide, as well as taking action to cease business in Russia and Belarus,” Tal wrote. “That said, intentional abuse such as this undermines the global open source community and requires us to flag impacted versions of node-ipc as security vulnerabilities.”

Yeah, kids, don't do this. The good guys have to stay the good guys because it's hard to go back from being a bad guy.

Last post on clock changes (until November, probably)

Josh Barro and Saray Fay get to the heart of the time-change issue:

The first thing I want to note is something I’m amazed many participants in this debate don’t seem to know: We have tried this policy before. In January 1974, the US entered what was supposed to be a two-year “experiment” with permanent daylight saving time. Unfortunately, daylight saving time does not add daylight to the day, it only shifts the daylight into the afternoon from the morning. And once people realized that — that daylight saving time in January means doing everything in the dark in the morning — they hated it.

There are a number of large and mid-size metropolitan areas where the sun would not rise until around 9am for weeks on end in the winter.

On average, a person who tells a pollster they want permanent daylight saving time is really just saying they would like the sun to shine more. Well, so would I. But the government only controls the clocks, not the axial tilt of the earth. If you actually enact permanent daylight saving time, it will exit the realm of daydreaming about how the sun is nice and turn into actually forcing Americans to drag themselves and their children out of bed in the dark for much more of the winter. Once you have inflicted this upon them, they will think deeply about the issue. They’ll hate it (and possibly hate you) and they’ll demand a reversal, as I will remind you they sought and promptly received the last time we tried this.

Perhaps the best solution would be to harmonize clock changes with Europe, switching to Daylight Saving Time on the last Sunday in March, and returning to Standard Time on the last Sunday in October. But then it'll get dark earlier on Hallowe'en, so...think of the children!

Update: The House has decided to proceed with all deliberate speed on this issue, ensuring the bill a quiet death sometime this summer.