The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The forecast didn't lie

At the moment, the 10 hottest places in the world are all in the Pacific Coast states and British Columbia. The Dalles, Ore., hit 48°C at 4pm Pacific; Portland hit 46°C, the same as Palm Springs, Calif.; and even Lytton, B.C., reports 46°C right now—the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada. All of those figures exceed yesterday's forecast and broke all-time records set just yesterday.

It's bonkers. And it won't be the last time this happens.

Here in Chicago we have a perfectly reasonable 26°C. I'll keep it.

Record heat in the Pacific Northwest

Portland, Ore., hit an all-time high temperature of 43°C yesterday, with a forecast of 45°C today:

The National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for much of Oregon and Washington with historic highs -- and historic lows -- forecast across the region. Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the warning took effect as a massive ridge of high pressure encompasses the Pacific Northwest, leading to triple digits all weekend and through Monday.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, the temperature at the Portland International Airport reached 103 degrees, according to the NWS. This not only broke the previous high-temperature record for this day (which was set at 102 degrees back in 2006), but also broke the record for the month of June.

An hour later, Portland hit 107 degrees, tying the all-time record high that has only been felt three times in recorded history from 1965 to 1981.

But the heat didn't stop there. Notching up one more degree, Portland set a new record for the hottest day.

During this heatwave, the Portland metro area and the Willamette Valley can expect to see anywhere from 105 to 110 degrees, with the hottest day likely being Sunday, where the afternoon high in Portland is 110.

Seattle also had ludicrous heat. And the excessive drought covering 26% of the Western states doesn't help, as it has encouraged a persistent high-pressure area over the region that keeps it hot and dry.

But nope, no climate change! Move along!

Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive

Committees, man. The same process that gave us the platypus has now given us a mouthful of a street name in Chicago:

Two years after a South Side alderman introduced an ordinance to rebrand the landmark Chicago Lake Shore Drive to honor DuSable because he was upset he didn’t hear the Black founder of Chicago mentioned during a river boat tour, the City Council on Friday ended months of racially charged debate by adopting a compromise to make it so.

The vote was 33-15, with “no” votes coming from 12 white and three Latino aldermen.

The ordinance calls for the renaming to happen immediately, but a city spokesman did not respond to questions about how long it will take to change the signs.

I can't wait to hear the remake of Aliotta Haynes & Jeremiah's song:

Why did this take so long?

A group of Chicagoans has initiated a class-action lawsuit against the company that has the lease on our parking meters:

Three Chicago drivers are suing Chicago Parking Meters, alleging the private company’s exclusive contract to operate street parking represents a “75-year monopoly” granted by the city.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Chicago federal court, seeks class-action status on behalf of drivers who have fed the ubiquitous ParkChicago machines lining city streets, alleging the 75-year agreement has led to higher parking rates, too many meters and restrictions on alternative transportation such as bicycles and ride-sharing.

“The city of Chicago granted CPM, a private party, monopoly control over the city’s parking meter system for an astonishing 75-year-long period, without regard for the changes in technology and innovations in transportation taking place now and for the rest of the century,” the lawsuit alleges.

By the end of 2019, Chicago Parking Meters had already earned $500 million more than the $1.16 billion it paid the city 10 years earlier through increased parking rates, the lawsuit alleges.

As a member of the class, and a long-time critic of the deal, I would like them to succeed.

How to screw up both time *and* money

Credit-card processing company Worldpay mixed up two fields in a batch on Tuesday (that they mixed up with a batch from April 18th), resulting in hilarious (in retrospect) errors processing charges from the Brighton Palace Pier in southern England. How do we know the error involved April 18th, you ask? Try to guess:

One woman who had visited the attraction in April told of her surprise on the morning of 24 June when a text message from her bank informed her that her account was overdrawn. She discovered that £2,104.18 had been taken on Wednesday by Brighton Palace Pier in what was described as a “deferred payment.”

Ah, haha, ha. I did spend about four minutes pondering how the process failed, as Worldpay claims the error actually occurred Tuesday of this week, but I have my own code to fix before I start debugging someone else's today.

Brexit, five years on

Not everything I predicted about the idiotic Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 has come true, but the UK still remains as divided as then:

Five years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the aftershocks are still being registered. But few parts of the country have felt its impact more than this corner of England close to its Channel ports and the white cliffs of Dover, where a majority voted for Brexit.

When Britain was inside the E.U., the trucks that flowed ceaselessly to and from France did so with few checks. But Brexit has brought a blizzard of red tape, requiring the government to build the checkpoint nicknamed the “Farage garage,” a reference to the pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage.

“For people living nearby it’s an absolute catastrophe with the night sky completely lit up. Honestly, it’s like Heathrow Airport,” said Geoffrey Fletcher, chairman of the parish council at Mersham (pronounced “Merzam”).

Consultation on the 24-hour truck park had been minimal and suggestions on how to limit problems ignored, he said. Yet, so polarized is the debate over an issue that divided the country, that Mr. Fletcher thinks few minds have changed on Brexit.

“I have not met anybody who has said they would vote differently,” said Mr. Fletcher, a Brexit voter, over coffee in the garden of his former farmhouse, part of which dates from the 15th century.

The Guardian calls it a straight-up calamity:

Few have changed their mind: though polls put remain (or return) ahead by a nose, no one wants to be put through that hell again. Brexit is done for the foreseeable future, though a government thriving on national disunity strives to keep it alive with infantile culture wars and “anti-woke” phoney patriotism.

Yet barely a day goes by without further proofs of Brexit’s damage, some of it now forcing its way into the Tory press. This week, pigeon fanciers are barred from having their birds participate in cross-Channel races by new rules. Less niche is the alarming 17% rise in food prices: Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, tells me Brexit costs and obstructions have sent commodity prices soaring, and those are now working their way on to the shelves. The unexpected £2bn fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU in just the first quarter of this year is, Wright tells me, “no teething problem, but very real and sustained. Smaller firms have stopped exporting”, overwhelmed by the new obstacles. The government may turn a permanent blind eye to import checks starting next week: “But that soon gets dangerous. When no one checks, who knows if imported food is what it says on the tin, and not, say, horse meat?”

Wherever you look, expect the same story. The assault on the arts, music and broadcasting is lethal for a sector where Britain excels. This week, the music industry has been begging for an end to the deadlock over EU touring, vital for its viability. Another thunderbolt struck this week with a report showing the EU is likely to enforce its rules limiting non-EU content in its broadcasting: nothing new here, the EU is always strict on cultural protection against the US. That strips millions from financing for drama and other programmes, on top of BBC cuts and the possible privatisation of Channel 4.

I suppose Brexit hasn't been as awful as it could have been. But then, neither was First Bull Run.

Full house today

One of my neighbors is having his floors redone today, so I'm dogsitting. Cassie is nonplussed:

Cassie and Sophie know each other pretty well already, so no worries there. But Sophie is a quiet, middle-aged dog, and Cassie is the equivalent of a recent college grad on a bender in Lincoln Park. Sophie just wants to take a nap. Cassie just wants to play. Sophie is now on her third sleeping surface, hoping Cassie stops doing this:

I feel you, Sophe. Cassie's a lot before 9am.

At some point I'm going to have to walk both of them together. That should be...fun?

Canadians pretending to be American

We know our neighbor to the north has its own contingent of crazy. But usually they just behave in Canadian-crazy ways. Apparently now, a group of anti-vaxxers has blockaded the Trans-Canada Highway at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border near Aurac, N.B.:

The main border crossing between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has been closed for more than 18 hours, blocked by dozens of protesters demonstrating against restrictions that require most travellers from New Brunswick to self-isolate upon arrival in Nova Scotia.

The protesters include a number with anti-vaccine views. At one point, some briefly tried to stop a tractor-trailer they believed had COVID-19 vaccine, but which RCMP officers at the scene said contained blood products, from being escorted by police across the border into Nova Scotia. 

The truck eventually passed through, as did some nurses and doctors trying to get to work at the hospital in Amherst, N.S.

The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday afternoon that most travellers from New Brunswick will continue to have to self-isolate upon arrival, a decision that came less than 24 hours before Nova Scotia opened its borders with P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador without isolation or testing requirements.

Nova Scotia has for months required most travellers to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the province after applying for entry online. People have had to present documentation at the border showing they've been approved for entry.

Note that the quarantine rules generally don't apply to people who have gotten vaccinated against Covid-19. So only the boneheads who refuse to get the jab would have to self-isolate. And note the irony of blocking a road to protest a restriction on free travel between the provinces.

This sort of thing happens in the US, because Americans produce more batshit than any other nation on the planet. It makes me sad to see it seeping into Canada, though. Especially in the Maritimes, which I always thought had more sense than that. Ontario? Alberta? Quebec? Sure. But New Brunswick?

"F*** school, f*** softball, f*** cheer, f*** everything" wins with SCOTUS

Brandi Levy, a 19-year-old student from Pennsylvania, won her appeal to the US Supreme Court after being suspended from cheerleading for a year after Snapchatting the above sentiment:

She sent the message on a Saturday from the Cocoa Hut, a convenience store popular with teenagers.

Though Snapchat messages are meant to vanish not long after they are sent, another student took a screenshot and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended Ms. Levy from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”

Ms. Levy sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory from a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds, relying on a precedent from a different era.

Everyone except Justice Thomas joined Justice Breyer's opinion, which held:

While public schools may have a special interest in regulating some off-campus student speech, the special interests offered by the school are not sufficient to overcome B. L.’s interest in free expression in this case.

[T]hree features of off-campus speech often, even if not always, distinguish schools’ efforts to regulate off-campus speech. First, a school will rarely stand in loco parentis when a student speaks off campus. Second, from the student speaker’s perspective, regulations of off-campus speech, when coupled with regulations of on-campus speech, include all the speech a student utters during the full 24-hour day. That means courts must be more skeptical of a school’s efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student cannot engage in that kind of speech at all. Third, the school itself has an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression, especially when the expression takes place off campus, because America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy. Taken together, these three features of much off-campus speech mean that the leeway the First Amendment grants to schools in light of their special characteristics is diminished.

Justice Thomas, with predictable disdain for the modern world and rational thought in general, would have applied his originalist philosophy even to Snapchat:

I would begin the assessment of the scope of free-speech rights incorporated against the States by looking to “what ‘ordinary citizens’ at the time of [the Fourteenth Amendment’s] ratification would have understood” the right to encompass. McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 813 (2010) (THOMAS, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). Cases and treatises from that era reveal that public schools retained substantial authority to discipline students. As I have previously explained, that authority was near plenary while students were at school. See Morse v. Frederick, 551 U. S. 393, 419 (2007) (concurring opinion). Authority also extended to when students were traveling to or from school. See, e.g., Lander v. Seaver, 32 Vt. 114, 120 (1859). And, although schools had less authority after a student returned home, it was well settled that they still could discipline students for off-campus speech or conduct that had a proximate tendency to harm the school environment.

Perhaps the most familiar example applying this rule is a case where a student, after returning home from school, used “disrespectful language” against a teacher—he called the teacher “old”—“in presence of the [teacher] and of some of his fellow pupils.” Id., at 115 (emphasis deleted). The Vermont Supreme Court held that the teacher could discipline a student for this speech because the speech had “a direct and immediate tendency to injure the school, to subvert the master’s authority, and to beget disorder and insubordination.”

I left the citations in because seeing Thomas at his epistemologically-sealed best really drives home how frighteningly out of touch he is. First, he cited his own concurrences, which (a) have no force of law and (b) he wrote. Then he cited and quoted a Vermont case from 1859 that sure, I guess, has precedential value in the state of Vermont, but probably doesn't even reflect current Vermont law.

In the rest of his dissent, Thomas cites his own concurrences a couple more times, a Missouri case from 1885, an Iowa case from 1971, and another Missouri case from 1877. He really does live in the 19th Century.

So, good on Levy, and on the First Amendment, who won a clear victory with this case. But what the hell, Clarence? How much more of this originalist crap do we have to endure before you finally retire and we can appoint someone from the 21st Century to Thurgood Marshall's seat?

Hotels on Rails from Paris in 2024

French start-up Midnight Trains plans a set of overnight train routes of 800-1,500 km in length, from Paris to Edinburgh, Madrid, Copenhagen, and Rome:

The founders say the aim is not to match the famous – and expensive – luxury of the Orient Express but offer an alternative to the basic, state-run SNCF sleepers and short-haul flights.

Key to the service will be “hotel-style” rooms offering privacy and security, and an onboard restaurant and bar.

Midnight Trains is the latest arrival in what is becoming a crowded market. Across Europe, state-run railways are facing new competition from private operators looking to introduce night trains. Fans of rail travel have waited some time for new night train routes to come along … only to find, a bit like buses, several turning up at the same time.

Since 2016, Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has introduced six new overnight routes under the Nightjet brand that was already operating nine night routes. Private operators in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Belgium have announced new overnight services.

In December last year, ÖBB, the German rail company Deutsche Bahn, SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) announced the signing of an agreement to launch new night train services in Europe. This is the first step in developing the Trans-Europe Express (TEE) 2.0 network, proposed by the German presidency of the Council of the European Union. This partnership plans to launch four new services to 13 of Europe’s largest cities in the coming years.

Sign me up!