The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Productive first day of spring

I finished a sprint at my day job while finding time to take Cassie to the dog park and make a stir-fry for lunch. While the unit tests continue to spin on my work computer, I have some time to read about all the things that went wrong in the world today:

I'm heading out tonight to watch President Biden's first State of the Union Address with friends. Robert Reich will also tune in.

Goodbye, winter

The temperature already hit 11°C at O'Hare today, melting the last bits of snow covering roads and sidewalks, and letting me wear regular shoes and a lighter coat for the first time in a couple of weeks. Spring officially starts tomorrow, and I'm ready for it.

I don't know the temperature in Kyiv, though, because they stopped sending weather reports after 5pm Saturday. I do know that the city still has water and electricity, because my friend keeps posting to Facebook. And I know from Julia Ioffe's reporting that Putin is losing, badly:

What’s key is that, for the third day in a row, the Russian army hasn’t been able to take a single regional capital or a single city. The Russians thought they would be greeted as liberators, but no one is greeting them. And the most important thing is that we all understand that they don’t have a chance. There is a clear understanding that they’ll never be able to capture the cities. They just won’t get in, because every brick and every piece of asphalt will fight them. There are 25,000 weapons in Kyiv alone and all these people will defend their city, they will all repel the invader. Because the Russians don’t have a chance. They haven’t been able to secure any territory. It’s incredible. The biggest army on the continent that has such power, and yet they haven’t taken a single city.

in the last three days, something very important happened. First of all, no one is scared anymore. At first, everyone was very scared. But then we all understood that there was no way out. We’re on our own land, we have to fight and we will fight. Now, people are still scared but there’s a sense that something shifted. I can’t imagine people laying down their arms. It’s impossible. People won’t lay down their arms. 

That’s why we’re seeing Putin start to break. The image of this great leader, he can do anything he wants in Moscow, he can get his way by breaking anyone over his leg like a twig—but not here. Here, you can go take a hike, bro. It’s not going to happen here. Everyone is telling you to fuck off. It’s become cool here. Our streets are now covered with billboards that say, “Russian ship, go fuck yourself.” Our railroad company wrote to the Russians, “Russian train, go fuck yourself.” Now everyone has told him to fuck off: all the countries of the European Union, who have closed their air space to him. Now we know that the Putin that we all thought was omnipotent, this image that he created and that his government media propagated, no longer exists. Now we all see that he’s a pathetic person who, despite having a massive army, couldn’t conquer anything.

There is no Putin. He made himself up and imposed himself on a huge nation that is now in total shock that this midget turned out to be a midget, rather than a king.

Yes, but the Russian Army still controls a lot of Ukraine. Stay tuned.

Scared man with a gun

If the world ends this week, Vladimir Putin will have ended it:

  • President Vladimir Putin says he has ordered the Russian military to put its nuclear forces on "special alert" in response to what he described as Nato “aggression”
  • The move - which does not mean Russia intends to use the weapons - has been widely condemned, with the US calling it “totally unacceptable”, and Nato’s chief describing it as “dangerous” and “irresponsible”

Josh Marshall says that Russian's Ukrainian invasion going poorly is the only thing worse for Europe than it going well:

There had been a lot of talk that the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States were insufficient to deter the Russians. But the scale of those sanctions has escalated dramatically over the last 48 hours. I’ve seen many knowledgable observers say we should expect the Russian stock market and currency to go into free fall tomorrow. If I’m understanding the news reports correctly the US and EU have now frozen a substantial amount of the assets of Russia’s central bank.

By any reasonable measure these are acts of war, even if they’re in a sense only complicated banking transactions and regulations. They are merited given what’s transpired in recent days. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves about the spectacularly dangerous nature of the international crisis we’re witnessing. In many ways, the only thing more dangerous than this adventure going well for Vladimir Putin is it going badly for him. And it’s going really badly.

Putin is a malignant narcissist, the role model for our own former President. These people don't accept any kind of loss. But that doesn't mean we should back down; a world where malignant narcissists have freedom to spread their bullshit everywhere is a crapsack world to be avoided at almost any cost.

We're now at the point where the Russian people need to decide whether they want this insanity on their hands.

To anyone who supports this invasion, I have something to say to you:

Still the top news story

My friend in Kyiv posted on Facebook an hour ago about how many parking spaces are available in her neighborhood. She also couldn't figure out for a few seconds why there was a pillow in her bathtub this morning. So things could be better over there.

How much better could it be?

Meanwhile...

Maybe in my lifetime we'll have peace in Eastern Europe and a transit system in Chicago as good as any in Europe 20 years ago. I'm not sure which is more likely.

War in Europe

Some things to remember:

  • "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."—Isaac Asimov
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin lost the argument. This is his tantrum. But like a 15-year-old with a rifle, he's still a threat to everyone else.
  • The argument is that liberal democracy produces better outcomes for everyone than lawless autocracy. Notice that Russian kleptocrats keep their money in the US and UK, countries with strong institutions and rule of law.
  • Russia's economy, which is based on resource extraction, is the 11th largest in the world, after Italy, Canada, and South Korea. It's smaller than New York State's and just a little bigger than Illinois' and Florida's. California's GDP is more than double Russia's. So is the UK's.
  • Wars never stay confined to their initial theater. How badly this spills out should keep us awake at night.

A friend in Kyiv sent these photos earlier today. People leaving Kyiv:

Explosions in the city:

Photos by Татьяна Мисиюк

Here's what the professionals have to say:

I'll be monitoring this situation closely.

Busy couple of days

I've had a lot to do at work the last couple of days, leading to an absolute pile-up of unread press:

Finally, on this day in 1940, Woody Guthrie released "This Land is Your Land," a song even more misunderstood than Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Some questions about Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin asserted yesterday that Ukraine doesn't exist, reasoning that Russia created the territory sometime in the past and therefore it remains part of Russia today. This raises some questions:

  1. If that were the case, how can Russia now recognize two "independent republics" with governments legally authorized to request Russian "peacekeepers?"
  2. Should New York send troops into its breakaway region in Vermont, and Massachusetts take back its former territory of Maine?
  3. How unpopular must Putin be at home that he needs to do something this dramatic to distract the world?

Let's also not forget that the Ukrainian fracas has taken the world's attention away from the South China Sea, where the next real war will probably happen. Fun times, fun times.

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

More about the insanity of crypto

A couple more resources about "web3" (cryptocurrencies, NFTs, DAOs, etc) crossed my inbox this week. Even before going through these stories and essays, the only way I can understand the persistence of the fantastic thinking that drives all this stuff is that the people most engaged with it turn out to be the same people who believe all kinds of other fantasies and wish-fulfillment stories.

Case in point: the extreme right-wing protestors up in Canada have received almost all of their funding from American right-wingnuts. Remember: the protestors believe, counter to all evidence, that vaccines cause more harm than good, and that they have a right to remain part of a common society without the responsibility of protecting others in that society from easily-avoided harm.

Because Canada really wants them to go away, and even more than that does not want foreigners funding domestic terrorists, the Canadian government blocked the cross-border financial transfers to the Maple Morons through the regular banking system. It took about 36 seconds for the Americans to try again using cryptocurrencies, and about 14 seconds longer for scammers to piggyback on the effort:

Canada Unity 2022, the group of anti-vaccine protestors who have snarled traffic in Ottawa and earned accolades in the right-wing media, wants to talk to you about Bitcoin.

A handful of the group’s organizers held a press conference on Facebook Live Wednesday that quickly devolved into a presentation on the popular form of cryptocurrency, confusing many of their supporters who were watching online.

“Are we at a press conference for Freedom Convoy 2022 or having some guy shove Bitcoin down our throats?” one commenter griped. “Very disappointed! I came to see updates about progress made by our Truckers.”

In some respects, the convergence of the anti-vaxx protests and Bitcoin was probably inevitable. Last month, the protests drew support from one of the biggest proponents of Bitcoin in the world, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted “Canadian truckers rule.” Former President Donald Trump has voiced support, and right-wing figures from Tucker Carlson to Ben Shapiro to Michael Flynn have seized on the trucker protests.

Even better, the way organizers have decided to distribute the Bitcoin meant for the rationality- and education-challenged protestors might not exactly show the benefits of cryptocurrencies in the best light:

Instead of giving the truckers the money in a cash format they can actually use, the "professional orange-piller" in charge of the Bitcoin distribution has explained a multi-step plan to give truckers pieces of paper with seed phrases printed on them. The seed phrases will be placed into sealed envelopes along with instructions on how to create a Bitcoin wallet, which are then "numbered and squiggly random lines should be drawn on the envelope to help with later identification". The volunteers then plan to physically destroy the printer with shears and screwdrivers, to try to prevent attackers from pulling the seed phrases out of the device memory. Of course once the trucker has their seed phrase, they have to go through the multi-step process of gaining access to the Bitcoin wallet on their smartphone, and then figure out how on earth to actually use their newfound Bitcoins to, say, pay for fuel.

That comment comes from software engineer Molly White, who has a delightful and detailed series of essays on blockchain in general. If you have any questions about web3 or blockchain and don't want a sales pitch from someone trying to keep the value his holdings inflated until he can dump them on you, start with White.

In a world where people devalue the study of history and economics in favor of shouting to the world about their magical beliefs, the rise of crypto doesn't surprise me. I don't know what will happen when it all collapses, but I have a pretty good idea who'll get hurt. I wonder who the right-wingnuts will blame when they lose everything? Probably not themselves.

What happened to Tuesday?

And wasn't it just Tuesday?

I got an email from HR this morning reminding me that I'm approaching the upper limit for paid time off in my bank. I thought, what with taking half a day here and there over the past year, I might not already have almost a month of vacation to use. Cue searching on VRBO for places Cassie and I might like.

Meanwhile, back in the present:

But back to vacation: how cute is this place?