The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cue the weekend

The temperature dropped 17.7°C between 2:30 pm yesterday and 7:45 this morning, from 6.5°C to -10.2°C, as measured at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters. So far it's recovered to -5.5°C, almost warm enough to take my lazy dog on a hike. She got a talking-to from HR about not pulling her weight in the office, so this morning she worked away at a bone for a good stretch:

Alas, the sun came out, a beam hit her head, and she decided the bone could wait:

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

  • Julia Ioffe interviews Russian diplomat Dr Andrey Sushentsov about Russia's views of the Ukraine crisis. tl;dr: the US and Russia don't even have a common set of facts to discuss, let alone a common interpretation of them.
  • In Beijing, former Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon blasts the Russian team for once again crapping on their own performance with yet another doping scandal.
  • The government of Ontario secured a court order last night allowing the Windsor Police and OPP to start clearing the Ambassador Bridge. So far, they have managed to do so without violence, but a few extremists haven't yet budged.
  • James Fallows updates his earlier post on how framing outrageous actions as "that's just Trump" is an abrogation of the press's responsibility to its consumers. "For perspective here: the late Sandy Berger, who had been Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, was investigated, charged, fined $50,000, and sentenced to two years of probation for stuffing copies of a classified document into his socks, and sneaking them out from the National Archives. The story of his downfall was a major news feature back in the mid-2000s."
  • The UK now allows fully-vaccinated travelers from most countries to arrive and depart without getting a swab stuck up their nose.
  • Comedian Bob Saget died of blunt head trauma, consistent with a slip and fall, according to an autopsy. It also found his heart had a 95% blockage, which might have killed him even without the fall.

Finally, in 2018 Rebecca Mead returned to London after living in New York for 30 years. Her 15-year-old son now speaks with a unique accent Mead says has become the new standard "Multicultural London English."

More about the dangerous situation in Ottawa

Via Josh Marshall, Canadian journalist Matt Gurney raises the alarm about the other group of truckers camping in Ottawa:

You may have heard reports of a secondary encampment that is well removed from the main protest sites around Parliament Hill. I certainly had. It has been described in different reports as either a logistics area or some kind of staging ground for protesters.

This site, for lack of a better term, has been fortified. There are many trucks parked in the parking lot, but some of them have been arranged to form outer walls. These walls have been augmented with wooden sawhorses and what looked to me to be stacked pallets of some kind.

[T]he police are very much aware of the site, and they are very worried about the presence of a hard-right-wing, organized faction that isn't there to protest mandates and vaccine passports, but to directly create conflict with the government. This hard-right element probably includes some non-Canadians, here for the party. The broader complaints of the protesters are a cover for the group seeking open conflict.

My government and security sources do not agree. What’s happening in Ottawa, they were clear, is two separate events happening in tandem: there is a broadly non-violent (to date) group of Canadians with assorted COVID-related gripes, ranging from the somewhat justified to totally frickin’ insane. But that larger group, which has knocked Ottawa and too many of our leaders into what my colleague Jen Gerson so perfectly described as “stun-fucked stasis,” is now providing a kind of (mostly) unwitting cover to a cadre of seasoned street brawlers whose primary goal is to further erode the legitimacy of the state — not just the city of Ottawa, or Ontario or Canada, but of democracies generally.

Andrew Sullivan also takes a look, and sees it as part of a larger reaction against what he calls the "successor ideology:"

To be honest, I didn’t quite see the Canadian truckers coming. I’ve watched a lot of Canada coverage over the years (mainly via South Park, I concede) and the whole anti-vaxxer, campfire-burning, horn-tooting, macho revolt among our gentle neighbors to the north nonetheless took me by surprise.

Rob Ford was a harbinger, I guess. It’s as if the ancient, manly, lumberjacky Canadian id was finally roused from its cultural slumber by a soy-boy prime minister, forcing truckers to take a jab or forfeit their livelihood. And some reports suggest that the vaccine issue seems just the proximate trigger for the rage, and not the real source — a rage which has been steadily building for some time, especially in the pandemic, in the most progressive-left country on the planet.

And there’s something very blue-collar male about this populist anger.

The rise of the angry macho right is easily explained by its progressive foes. It’s a fevered backlash to white patriarchal privilege finally being dismantled — so enjoy the white male tears. And this contains, as many woke insights do, a kernel of truth. It is a good thing that the default identity in America is no longer white, straight and male. It’s a great thing that women’s talents and abilities are no longer so constrained. The workplace-harassment bill that just passed with wide bipartisan support, for example, seems a positive development. It’s wonderful that gay and trans people who are sometimes seen as foils to this “cis-hetero-patriarchy” are so much more visible than before, most recently with Amy Schneider, the brilliant and charismatic Jeopardy champ.

But the successor ideology will not stay there. It never rests. It insists that masculinity itself is entirely socially constructed and can and should therefore be entirely deconstructed; it regards the construction of masculinity as inherently oppressive; it regards men as problematic and privileged; it affirms that the “future is female”; and it treats the straight white male on campus as an unfortunate burden at best.

I eagerly await an email about this from my friend in Montreal.

Slow-ish afternoon

I've sent some test results off to a partner in Sydney, so I have to wait until Monday morning before I officially mark that feature as "done." I'm also writing a presentation I'll give on March 16th. So while the larger part of my brain noodles on Microsoft Azure CosmosDB NoSQL databases (the subject of my presentation), the lesser part has this to read:

Finally, software developer Ben Tupper has created a Myst-like game surrounding the mysterious door at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. I walked past that door every day for almost two years, and even got a peek inside once. It's not really a townhouse, after all.

Mid-afternoon roundup

Before heading into three Zoom meetings that will round out my day, I have a minute to flip through these:

  • US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a bold grab for the Dumbest Person in Congress award yesterday when she warned OAN viewers about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "gazpacho police." Let the memes begin.
  • The Economist has an update to the Democratic Freedoms Map, and things do not look good—unless you live in Norway.
  • Along similar lines, WBEZ reports on the Urban Institute's findings that Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago, has some extraordinary wealth gaps.
  • 99% Invisible explains how the "future" office historically looks a lot like the past.
  • Arthur C Brooks advises singles to look for complementary, rather than similar, characteristics in potential mates.
  • The Pullman House Project here in Chicago will soon offer tours of the Thomas Dunbar House in the Pullman National Historic Site.

Finally, Tesla has some impressive software in its cars, but it still has a few (very frightening) bugs.

Goo goo g'joob

A Dutch prankster has started a Facebook group that has so far attracted 13,000 people who want to throw rotten eggs at Jeff Bezos' new superyacht:

"Calling all Rotterdammers, take a box of rotten eggs with you and let's throw them en masse at Jeff's superyacht when it sails through the Hef in Rotterdam," wrote organizer Pablo Strörmann.

It all started last week when Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond reported that the city appeared willing to grant a request to dismantle the centuries-old steel bridge so that Bezos' yacht could pass through.

De Hef was built in 1927 as a railway bridge, with a midsection that can be lifted to allow ship traffic to pass underneath, according to The Washington Post. It was replaced by a tunnel and decommissioned in 1994, but was saved from demolition by public protests and later declared a national monument.

The ship's three masts are apparently too high for the bridge's roughly [40-meter] clearance.

Bezos' boat will be the largest superyacht ever built in the Netherlands. At 126 meters, it will be about as long as the Perry-class frigate that appeared in The Hunt for Red October.

As for the feasibility of hitting Bezos' boat with rotten eggs, Curbed looked into it. Yes, they said, it's totally possible. I hope someone posts video.

Did someone call lunch?

Eighty years ago today, the US imposed daylight saving time as a wartime energy-saving measure. It took until April 1966 for Congress to enact a permanent regime of changing the clock twice a year. But that's all ancient history.

More recent history:

Finally, Chicago brewery Hop Butcher to the World will delay opening up its new space in the old Half Acre property in North Center. The Brews & Choos Project will stop by as soon as it opens.

Earth to Warren...come in, Warren...

One hundred years ago today, President Warren Harding installed a "Radio Phone" in his White House office. As the Tribune reported, "Navy radio experts commenced work to-day installing the latest scientific means of communication."

Flash forward to now:

  • Margaret Talbot argues that Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom nobody ever elected to public office, is playing a long game to bring her right-wing Catholic ideology into the mainstream—or, at least, to enshrine it in the law.
  • Times columnist Margaret Renkl, writing from Nashville, argues that Tennessee has bigger problems than just one school board banning Maus.
  • Ultra-low-cost airlines Spirit and Frontier have merged, after years of dating and several previous feints toward the altar.
  • The oldest pub in the United Kingdom will close because of lost revenue during the pandemic, according to its current proprietor. The landlord hopes the pub, first opened in 793 CE, reopens soon.

And finally, Max Boot asks, why does anyone care what Ben, Jerry, Whoopi, or Joe have to say? In my conversation just now with the reader who sent me the link, I pointed out that people have had about the same reaction to every new communications technology back to the printing press. (Probably back to the stone tablet, if you really think about it.)

Nobody knows nothin', 2022 redistricting edition

With state legislatures finalizing district maps throughout the country to prepare for the 2022 elections just 10 months from now, no one knows who has the advantage. The Times angsts that it looks bad for everyone:

It’s not yet clear which party will ultimately benefit more from this year’s bumper crop of safe seats, or whether President Biden’s sagging approval ratings might endanger Democrats whose districts haven’t been considered competitive. Republicans control the mapmaking for more than twice as many districts as Democrats, leaving many in the G.O.P. to believe that the party can take back the House majority after four years of Democratic control largely by drawing favorable seats.

the far greater number of districts drawn to be overwhelmingly safe for one party is likely to limit how many seats will flip — even in a so-called wave election.

“The parties are contributing to more and more single-party districts and taking the voters out of the equation,” said former Representative Tom Davis, who led the House Republicans’ campaign arm during the 2001 redistricting cycle. “November becomes a constitutional formality.”

In the 29 states where maps have been completed and not thrown out by courts, there are just 22 districts that either Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump won by five percentage points or less, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.

Josh Marshall thinks the Democrats may actually come out ahead in 2024 and beyond:

far from the doomsaying, it looks like Democrats will basically hold their own and end up with a national map that is slightly more favorable to them than the current one. This is no fluke of course. It’s the product of an incredible amount of hard work across the country by the people who were saying how bad it might end up. It doesn’t mean the doomsaying was wrong. Kate Riga explained the various factors that went into this outcome in this post from late December. State and federal courts have been a bit less generous with Republican gerrymanders than expected – including racial gerrymanders. Republican states that had opted for commissions or other reforms held to the spirit of those reforms a bit more than expected. Democrats meanwhile pushed their advantage in the few states where they were able. New York is the key example here.

Another key overarching trend is that in a number of states Republicans just didn’t quite go for it in the way that some observers expected. They didn’t push for every last advantage. But as Kate notes in that article one key reason is that in purple-trending states those advantages got harder to manage. It became harder to figure out where to put growing numbers of voters of color or white voters who were trending more liberal. This means, if you looked closely, Republicans were using the gerrymandering opportunity less to seek new advantage and more to shore up existing seats. That has led to a new national map which is both better for Democrats and also less competitive overall.

Of course, given the technology available to both parties, and the belief stoked by Republicans but now more and more felt by Democrats that every election could be the last, neither party has an incentive to lay down arms and find a more fair system.

We have to fix this, though. I believe something will shift after 2024, especially if the XPOTUS gets back into the race. I just don't know whether the shift will benefit the country or not.

Lazy Sunday

Other than making a hearty beef stew, I have done almost nothing of value today. I mean, I did some administrative work, and some chorus work, and some condo board work. But I still haven't read a lick of the books I've got lined up, nor did I add the next feature to the Weather Now 5 app.

I did read these, though:

  • An Illinois state judge has enjoined the entire state from imposing mask mandates on schools, just as NBC reports that anti-vaxxer "influencers" are making bank off their anti-social followers.
  • Across the border, Canadians, generally a less sociopathic lot than American conservatives, have run out of patience with their own anti-vax protestors.
  • The Washington Post demonstrates how the worst gerrymanders in the US work—like the one here in Illinois.
  • Local bicyclists have had enough of winter, blaming the city for filling bike lanes with slush. But...the city didn't make it snow, right?

OK, back to doing nothing. Cassie, at least, is getting a lot of attention.

The IOC has to go

Jennifer Rubin says what I've been thinking:

I have never been a fan of the Olympics. Or, I should say, I have never been a fan of the International Olympic Committee.

An organization that rewards dictatorial regimes (Russia in 2014, and now China for the second time) with events that attract billions of eyeballs and sappy worldwide coverage — all while punishing athletes who stand up for human rights — is not apolitical or “promoting the Olympic spirit.” It’s making money off and providing cover for brutal regimes that use the Games to burnish their image.

To stage the Games in the midst of China’s genocide of Uyghurs and ongoing repression of Tibet and Hong Kong is an atrocity. To herald the spirit of sports in a police state that is clearly holding tennis star Peng Shuai captive — and worse, staged obvious PR stunts to clear China’s name — is simply grotesque.

The IOC exists to serve the IOC, using people's emotions about the Olympic Games to drive billions in revenue. The IOC's demands of host countries for this cycle shocked Norway into dropping out, "leaving Almaty, Kasakhstan and Beijing as the only remaining cities to host the event." And after the games this month, what will happen to the Olympic Village? Well, Sochi is a ruin; Rio's facilities have been stripped by looters; other recent host countries got half-billion dollar disasters instead of perpetual improvements.

I remember when Chicago put together a bid for the 2016 Games, but voters like me made it painfully clear to the City that we didn't want them here.

The IOC needs to go away, or at least reform significantly. I like the proposal to have the games in Greece permanently, but the IOC, accustomed to working with authoritarian regimes to get the perks of royalty for its management, will never accept that until people stop watching.