The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

In case you're having trouble keeping up

The Washington Post has a quick guide to who's being investigated for what:

Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign

This is where it all started. James B. Comey, who led the law enforcement investigation until he was fired as FBI director May 9, testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he has no doubt that Russia attempted to influence the presidential race by hacking the Democratic National Committee and launching cyberattacks on state election systems, among other tactics.

Possible attempts to obstruct justice

Comey testified last week that while he was still head of the FBI, he told Trump on three occasions that the agency was not investigating him, individually. “Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing,” The Post reported Wednesday.

Possible financial crimes

We know less about this prong than the other two. The Post reported last month that “in addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking broadly into possible financial crimes — but the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly, did not specify who or what was being examined.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions personally asked congress to prosecute medical-marijuana clinics, so that we can spend millions of Federal law-enforcement dollars hurting sick people. Gotta love the Republican Party.

But is Chicago really a rib town?

I forgot to mention this article in today's Tribune:

Short of ripping raw flesh from a freshly killed beast in the wild, meat eating doesn't get much more primal than ribs. Sure, chicken wings also have bones, but they are miniature little things one can pick up with two fingers. You can find them on the appetizer section of the menu. A full slab of ribs lands on the table with a thud, like a declaration of true gluttony. They also function as a fair warning to nearby persons to avoid eye contact as things are about to get messy.

Mention ribs, and most people know exactly what you're talking about: a wide hunk of pork interspersed with long bones. Even without considering how they are cooked (smoked, baked or boiled), you know what they look like. But just as there are different cuts of steak, there are numerous kinds of ribs. Four show up the most in Chicago — baby back ribs, spareribs, St. Louis ribs and rib tips. Baby back ribs come from high on the pig's rib cage near the loin, resulting in lean and tender meat. Spareribs are cut from lower down the rib and are meatier and fattier, with one side featuring a host of bones and cartilage. Trim away that gnarly side from the spare rib, and you have St. Louis ribs. The piece you trimmed away is called the rib tip.

One rule of thumb for Chicago ribs? The more comfortable you are, the less likely it is that you're eating real barbecue.

I now have a new list of places to try this summer. Yum.

Ribfest 2017

I've been a bit busy, so I just got a chance to pull Saturday's Ribfest photos off my phone.

I have to say, this year's fest was a little underwhelming. Some of my previous favorites, like Piggery, didn't present this year. So instead of 10 local restaurants, there were actually only five locals, three catering companies, and two itinerants. Not only, but the suggested donation jumped from $5 to $10 just to get in there. And three-bone samplers now cost $8.

So I only sampled four places this year, and none of them was as good as last year's Piggery bones.

  • Mrs. Murphy's. I mean, I love the sauce, but this year they glooped so much of it onto less-than-perfect meat that I was a little put off. Only 2½ stars this time.
  • Pork Chop. Holy crumpets, the ribs were meaty, with some smoky-spicy sauce that I really liked. 3½ stars.
  • Citizen's American Eatery. First, I don't think they exist; I think it's a temporary brand for a catering company, only I don't know which one. That said, they had really good tug-off-the-bone ribs with a sweet-spicy sauce that they didn't slather on the meat. 3½ stars.
  • River Forest Catering. They had the best meat I had but not the best sauce. And they're a catering company. 3 stars.

I really missed the greats this year: Smoke Daddy, Smoque, and Fat Willy's. I wonder why.

Republican congressional incentives force irrational actions

Jennifer Rubin attempts to explain "what stops Republicans from behaving rationally:"

First, unlike Senate and House Republicans during Watergate, there are few genuine leaders of principle whose sense of propriety is offended by Trump. The moral and intellectual quality of the current crew of Republicans pales in comparison to the type of Republicans who finally told Richard Nixon the jig was up. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), House Minority Leader John Rhodes (R-Ariz.) and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-Pa.), who went to the White House, have few if any equals in today’s House and Senate.

Second, elected Republicans by and large cower in the shadow of Fox Non-News hosts, talk-radio opportunists and right-wing interest groups. They fear noticeable distancing from Trump will prompt the vultures of the right to swoop down up them, leaving only bones behind. So long as the characters who populate the right stick with Trump, elected Republicans, sadly, won’t lead.

Krugman, channeling Nate Silver, sees lopsided election wins in Republican districts and epistemic closure as the root causes:

But mightn’t even Republican voters turn on you if you seem too slavish to an obviously corrupt leadership? Well, where would those voters get such an idea? For all practical purposes, Republican primary voters get their news from wholly partisan media, which quite simply present a picture of the world that bears no resemblance to what independent sources are saying. Even though most Republicans in DC probably know better, their self-­interest says to pretend to believe the official line.

So if you’re Representative Bomfog from a red state, your entire career depends on being an apparatchik willing to do and say anything the regime demands. Suggestions that the president’s men, and maybe the man himself, is in collusion with a foreign power? Fake news! Firing the FBI director in an obvious obstruction of justice? Let’s make excuses! Analyses suggesting that your bill will cause mass suffering? Never mind. Party loyalty is all — even if it demands humiliating displays of obsequious deference.

The one thing that might cause Rs to turn on Trump would be the more or less certain prospect of a wave election so massive that even very safe seats get lost. And at the rate things are going, that could happen. But if it does, it will be nothing like a normal political process; it will be more like a revolution within the GOP, a regime change that would shatter the party establishment.

Meanwhile, Kevin Baker has a good argument that Trump isn't Nixon, he's Jackson, but without the skill or strategy.

Chief of Staff Reince Bohica

Bend over, here it comes again. Welcome to the kakocracy:

As Trump went around the large table, one by one, most [cabinet secretaries] praised the president, while others gave brief updates on their departments' work.

When it was his turn, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said it was "an honor to be on team," telling Trump that "my hat is off to you" for pulling the United States out of Paris climate agreement.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley proclaimed "a new day at the U.N.," where she said Trump has provided "a very strong voice."

"People know what the United States is for," Haley said. "They know what we're against. They see us leading across the board."

And the tributes kept coming:

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: "Mr. President, what an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this time under your leadership."
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: "As your [Navy] SEAL on your staff, it's an honor to be your steward of your public lands."
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: "Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to fix the trade deficit."
  • Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue: "I wanted to congratulate you on the men and women you place around this table. ... I want to thank you for that. These are great team members."

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went even further, telling Trump: "We thank you for opportunity and blessing you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people."

I...I just...

I mean, if this were any other English-speaking country, the Dear Leader would have heard this as scathing sarcasm and understood his days in office to be numbered in single digits. I'm talking Chamberlain after Dunkirk or Ford after pardoning Nixon. On the other hand, in any other English-speaking country, the ministers would have intended scathing sarcasm, not the unprecedented sycophancy that the chief administrators of the United States displayed today.

But this is Donald Trump, who has no shame, no irony, no perspective, and no humility. And this is the modern Republican Party, who have no shame, no irony, no perspective, and no sense.

But thank you, people of New York, for the Senate Minority Leader:

Kansas abandons an "experiment"

The Kansas legislature overrode governor Sam Brownback's veto of their roll-back of his 2012 tax increase package, because even Republicans in Kansas have a limit to ideological myopia:

Lawmakers voted to override Brownback’s veto of a tax plan estimated to bring the state more than $1.2 billion over a two-year span.

Lawmakers marshaled together a coalition of moderate Republicans, conservatives and Democrats to overcome the governor’s opposition to seeing his landmark tax cuts, which have in large part come to define his tenure in Topeka, fundamentally come to an end.

A handful of other conservative Republicans in the statehouse continued to decry the new spending being pushed by lawmakers and said the House and Senate are doing the opposite of what the people of Kansas want them to do. They also said the tax increase is the largest in state history.

“What we’re doing is fleecing our constituents,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican.

Paul Krugman cheers (a little) and points out how this shows the current Republican platform to be completely cynical:

For there was an idea, a theory, behind the Kansas tax cuts: the claim that cutting taxes on the wealthy would produce explosive economic growth. It was a foolish theory, belied by decades of experience: remember the economic collapse that was supposed to follow the Clinton tax hikes, or the boom that was supposed to follow the Bush tax cuts? And it was a theory that always survived mainly because of the Upton Sinclair principle that it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

But still, it was a theory, and eventually the theory’s failure was too much even for Republican legislators.

Now consider the AHCA, aka Trumpcare. What’s the theory of the case behind this legislation?

You might have expected some kind of appeal to the magic of the market, some claim that radical deregulation will produce wonderful results. It would have been silly, but at least would have shown some respect for the basic idea of analyzing policies and evaluating them by results.

But what we’re getting instead is a raw exercise of political power: the GOP is trying to take away health care from millions and hand the savings to the wealthy simply because it can, without even a fig leaf of intellectual justification.

The point is that what we’re seeing now is so bad, so cynical, that it makes the Kansas experiment looks like a model of idealism and honesty by comparison.

If Kansas Republicans can look at three years of evidence and admit they were wrong, maybe so can national Republicans? Maybe. But probably not before November 2018.

Welcome to summer

Chicago temperatures stayed below 32°C for almost nine months: September 7th all the way until last Sunday, June 4th. Then we had absolutely gorgeous weather during the last work week, which all ended on Saturday when the temperature hit 32°C for the first of (so far) three times. Our forecast calls for continued hot and shitty weather through at least Thursday.

Hey, it happens every year. And our cool weather was pretty good while it lasted.

The bad part is that the temperature killed my Fitbit numbers this weekend. I had the worst day since December 23rd, and that poor performance was because I spent 8 hours on an airplane. Fingers crossed that yesterday's 7,044 steps remains the worst of the year.

Labour wins...Kensington?

A few minutes ago, the Central London constituency of Kensington was declared for Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad, who defeated incumbent MP Lady Victoria Borwick by 20 votes.

Imagine Bernie Sanders winning Kenilworth, Ill., or Beverly Hills, Calif., and you have a good idea how weird this is. Citylab explains:

[T]he richest cluster of neighborhoods in Europe has just for the first time in its history voted in an MP from the center-left Labour Party.

It may be understandably hard for an American reader to understand how seismic this shift is. The U.K.’s Labour Party, which first rose to prominence as an explicitly socialist party in the 1920s, has never had much of a foothold with the old guard that Kensington is associated with. It’s historically been to the left of U.S. Democrats, a position it has returned to under current leader Jeremy Corbyn, who's stood on a platform of nationalizing railways and postal services and abolishing university fees. This isn’t like citizens of the Upper East Side or Bel Air cheerleading for Hillary. It’s like raising the red flag over Downton Abbey.

That’s because, despite its wealth, Kensington is one of the most drastically unequal areas in all of Britain.

The residents behind the doors of Kensington’s rows of lavish Victorians may not have voted Conservative because they are not eligible to vote in Britain or are too disconnected from British politics by wealth and habit to care overly about who represents a place they merely breeze through. That means that Kensington’s electoral decisions are increasingly being made by those who remain in the district full-time, who might as well be living on a completely different planet.

In the area’s northern reaches, it’s a different story. A place where pretty Victorian streets give way densely populated public housing (including Brutalist icon the Trellick Tower) this area doesn’t look at all bad, and is even somewhat chi-chi in patches. Much of it is still populated by an ethnically diverse range of residents who, in austerity-hit Britain, are having a very tough time indeed. Their homes may be located within 15 minutes walk of some of the world’s wealthiest citizens, but poorer residents’ access to good jobs and (beyond public housing tenancies guarded like Fabergé eggs) affordable housing is limited and getting worse.

The political storm that flipped Kensington is happening on a wider scale across the U.K.

Last night was such an embarrassment for Teresa May it's just hard to wrap my head around it. She's made a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to form a coalition, so she'll hang on to her job. But the DUP's 10 seats plus the Tories' 318 give her a two-vote majority in the 650-seat House of Commons—not exactly a mandate. So when's the next election? On an over-under, I'd bet on before the end of 2018.

Mrs May's own goal

Well. What a difference a few weeks can make. Last night, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who called a snap election in April to shore up her majority in Parliament, discovered that she no longer had a majority in Parliament:

 

We are heading for a hung parliament. The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system means hung parliaments rarely happen in Britain, but it was the case following the 1974 election and most recently in 2010.

In the case of a hung parliament, the leader of the party with the most seats is given the opportunity to try to form a government. This can take two forms: one option is a formal coalition with other parties, in which the coalition partners share ministerial jobs and push through a shared agenda.

The other possibility is a more informal arrangement, known as “confidence and supply”, in which the smaller parties agree to support the main legislation, such as a budget and Queen’s speech put forward by the largest party but do formally take part in government.

May or her successor as Conservative leader will have the chance to try to form a government. She could attempt to scramble together a formal coalition of other parties, possibly including the DUP, that would take her over the threshold needed to obtain a House of Commons majority. Alternatively she may try to lead a minority government if she can convince other parties to back her in a vote of confidence.

If the Tories fail to form an alliance, Jeremy Corbyn could attempt to strike a deal with the SNP, the Lib Dems, the nationalist parties from Northern Ireland and the Greens. But this is an unlikely scenario.

Other reactions to the UK's election surprise:

And one other item of interest, especially as I'm visiting the Ancestral Homeland in August: Sterling dropped 2% against the dollar overnight, and is now, at $1.27 to the pound, near it's 10-year low of $1.20.