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.
The Brews & Choos Project officially kicked off two years ago today, with a stop at Macushla Brewing in Glenview. I expected it to take a lot less than two years. But the list now has 135 breweries and distilleries on it, up from the 98 I identified at the start of the project. With 69 reviews on the blog, and a little arithmetic, that stretches the project out to...almost exactly 4 years.
So what's next? Well, it's February, so I'm prioritizing less walking and places without outdoor seating. Depending on the weather Friday, I might stick close to the office (Adams Street Brewing, Crushed by Giants), or perhaps pop up to Logan Square (Bixi Beer, Middle Brow). Or Pilot Project if the weather really sucks, as they have 5 breweries on site.
I hope to accelerate my research when the weather gets warmer. Some trips I've planned include hour-long walks between train lines, both for exercise and because the schedules don't otherwise work, and lots of places have beer gardens that look comfortable.
Will I finish before the end of 2022? Almost certainly not, with 66 places left to review, a couple more opening over time, and train schedules that make it hard to visit more than three in one afternoon. But maybe I'll get there by the end of summer in 2023, just in time to start revisiting the ones I really liked.
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.
On the walk home from the Empirical Taproom last night, Cassie managed to lose all four of her boots, at roughly 500-meter intervals. It got to the point where I started compulsively checking her paws to see if any remaining boot(s) remained attached, and still, they just vanished.
Well, winter is almost over, I suppose...
Last night I went to the "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" taping at Harris Theater in Chicago, and afterwards my friend and I talked about how gloomy the weather and darkness of winter are. I pointed out to her that tomorrow, February 5th, the sun rises at 7:00 for the first time since November 15th, and we've got 55 minutes more daylight than we had at the solstice six weeks ago. In other words, yes, it still gets dark early and we get up most weekdays before dawn, but things have already improved since the darkest days of December. And we get another hour of daylight only three weeks from now, on February 27th.
Same with the weather. Temperatures in Chicago lag the seasons by about a month, which gives us our hottest days at the end of July and our coldest at the end of January. But despite all the snow on the ground and the likelihood of below-freezing temperatures until Tuesday, the worst part of winter really is behind us. February is, on average, noticeably warmer than January. March warmer still. Spring starts 23 days from now no matter what today's weather looks like.
And, of course, same with Covid-19. While we still have Covid jerks like former half-term Alaska governor Sarah "Rogue" Palin, along with masking recommendations that seem to change more frequently than people can follow (but, really, don't change much at all), the numbers have plummeted recently.
Things get better before you notice them getting better. Happy thought for Friday.
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.
What does it mean to say that Covid-19 has become endemic? The Atlantic argues, not much:
Endemicity says nothing about the total number of infected people in a population at a given time. It says nothing about how bad those infections might get—how much death or disability a microbe might cause. Endemic diseases can be innocuous or severe; endemic diseases can be common or vanishingly rare.
Endemicity, then, just identifies a pathogen that’s fixed itself in our population so stubbornly that we cease to be seriously perturbed by it. We tolerate it. Even catastrophically prevalent and deadly diseases can be endemic, as long as the crisis they cause feels constant and acceptable to whoever’s thinking to ask.
Endemic diseases, then, are the shades of suffering we’ve accepted as inevitable, no longer worth haggling down. The term is a resignation to the burden we’re left with. It can reflect unspoken values about whom that disease is affecting, and where, and the value we place on certain people’s well-being. Diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, which concentrate in less wealthy parts of the world, carry pandemic-caliber disease and death rates. And yet, they are commonly called endemic.
Well, we get a flu shot every year. I guess we'll need a Covid shot too.
We only got about 50 mm of snow overnight, but the second wave came in the morning and hasn't stopped. And yet, not everyone cares about the natural disaster unfolding around us:
She followed up on her romp this morning by eating my earmuffs. Sigh.
While we wait for the snow to start falling, the World Meteorological Organisation announced today that a lightning flash on 29 April 2020 extended for 768 km across three states and lasted for 10 seconds:
The new record for the longest detected megaflash distance is 60 kilometres more than the previous record, with a distance of 709 ± 8 km (440.6 ± 5 mi) across parts of southern Brazil on 31 October 2018. Both the previous and new record used the same maximum great circle distance methodology to measure flash extent.
The new record strikes occurred in hotspots for Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) thunderstorms, whose dynamics permit extraordinary megaflashes to occur – namely, the Great Plains in North America, and the La Plata basin in South America.
The Post has more.
Meanwhile, the temperature at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters seems to have peaked at 7.6°C, and it has started to rain. Cassie and I got in from our walk before it got really gross out.
We seem to get our worst snowstorms during the first week of February. A big one has formed southeast of here, and though forecasters know it will hit the Chicago area tonight, they don't know exactly where:
The majority of the snow is expected to fall beginning around 6 p.m. Tuesday and continuing through most of the day Wednesday, according to meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Romeoville. As much as 8 inches to 1 foot of snow could fall in the Chicago area and points south.
Forecasters said the storm will come with a sharp gradient, meaning areas nearby could get drastically different amounts of snow. Residents of the northwest suburbs may not get any snow accumulation, meteorologists said.
At the moment we have hazy but sunny skies and 5.5°C, the warmest we've had since the 18th, when it got up to 5.9°C. One forecast says we'll get 7°C by noon, another says we'll get rain by 3...who knows? But by this time tomorrow, either we'll have a ton more snow on the ground or we won't.
Update: National Weather Service Chicago published this graphic earlier:
The next forecast should come out in about an hour or so.