Even though Parker has consumed my thoughts since the election, there are a few other things going on in the world:
And as I sit in my home office trying to write software, it's 17°C and sunny outside. I may have to go for a walk.
On this day 4 years ago, the Cubs won the World Series. Just six days later, we experienced one of the worst things ever to happen in US presidential politics.
It turns out, today is the anniversary of other horrible things that happened to the Presidency:
- In 1795, James K Polk was born.
- In 1865, Warren G Harding was born.
- In 1948, Dewey defeated Truman defeated Dewey. (At least this one turned out OK.)
I'm going into tomorrow a great deal more optimistic than I've felt in years. Tonight I'll have a run-down of the races I plan to watch tomorrow, though we may not know for days what the final results will be. For example, because we need to know the total number of votes cast to determine whether Illinois' Fair Tax Amendment passes, we can't know the final outcome until the 17th.
As of this morning, The Economist has lowered Biden's chances of winning from 96% to 95%, and 538 has Biden at 90%. The president can still win. I just don't think he will.
By the way, I was not wrong about the outcome of the last election.
Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:
And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.
– He lollygags around the Rose Garden. He lollygags on his way to the Hill. He lollygags in and out of the Oval. Do you know what that makes him? Larry?
– A lollygagger!
– A lollygagger. What's his record, Larry?
– Won in '16!
– Won in '16. How'd he ever win one?
– It's a miracle!
– It's a miracle. This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it? Now we have got a global pandemic raging for months. Hearing's at 8 in the morning.
– Ball, catch, throw, elephant, TV!
– Donnie, this is the toughest job a country has. But...the electorate wants to make a change...
Major League Baseball will start a short (60-game) season tomorrow, with weird rules (including universal DH and starting extra innings with a runner on second). The games will have piped-in audience sounds because they won't actually have audiences:
MLB is also launching an interactive website feature called "Cheer at the Ballpark" that will allow fans to cheer, clap or boo virtually, from home. The idea is that audio engineers at the ballparks can then adjust the recorded crowd sounds to reflect the fans' reactions.
So how exactly do they do it? We got a glimpse behind the scenes courtesy of Adam Peri, sound supervisor with the broadcaster Sky UK, who has his fingers on the pulse of Premier League matches.
During the broadcast, Peri sits alone in a tiny booth at Sky studios in London. He's the one responsible for punching crowd sounds into the feed.
In front of him he has a technicolor console loaded with a smorgasbord of audio clips for each team: dozens of chants — scrubbed of any offensive language-- cheers, boos, whistles and more, in varying levels of intensity.
Next to that is Peri's mixing board, with faders labeled "goal," "miss," "anticipation" and "angry."
The trick, Peri says, is that you've got to think ahead, put yourself on that field, and imagine what could happen before it does, so you can react in a flash as a fan would.
The bars in Wrigleyville will no doubt spread tons of Covid-19 tomorrow and Friday before the city-mandated closing happens Friday evening. I will stay away.
But the best news? This will be the first time since 1918 that the Cubs lose fewer than 60 games—but that season only had 131 games. You have to go back 110 years to find a season with 154 games when they lost fewer than 60.
Who could forget?
Rolling Stone explains:
Forty [one] years ago this evening, a doubleheader at Chicago’s Comiskey Park devolved into a fiery riot when crazed fans stormed the field as part of anti-disco promotional event dubbed Disco Demolition Night. The whole thing was the brainchild of disc jockey Steve Dahl, who dressed up like the general of an anti-disco army and called his followers “The Insane Coho Lips.”
Dahl thought the demonstration would consist of simply blowing up some disco records on the field between games. It was a scheme cooked up between the radio personality and White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who was desperate to increase attendance at the ballpark in the middle of a lackluster season.
The game sold out, but thousands of additional ticketless fans showed up to voice their hatred of an entire genre. Many stormed the gates and filled the ballpark way beyond capacity, setting up a dangerous situation when Dahl blew up the disco records. Fans threw firecrackers and bottles onto the field, eventually storming onto it, starting fires and battling with police. The second game was eventually called off amidst the madness.
[F]or minority groups, the incident had highly disturbing undertones given many of the perpetrators were white men and the genre was incredibly popular amongst homosexuals, blacks and women. “It felt to us like Nazi book-burning,” Chic’s Nile Rodgers once said. “This is America, the home of jazz and rock and people were now afraid even to say the word ‘disco.'”
Not Chicago's finest hour, despite the White Sox forfeiting a game because of their own bad management.
In just one more example of the president slipping his leash, thanks to the Republican trolls in the Senate giving him permission to do so, the Justice Department said it found prosecutors recommendations for Roger Stone's sentence "shocking." Three Assistant US Attorneys immediately quit the case:
Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors, wrote in a court filing he had resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney, leaving government entirely. Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, said he was quitting his special assignment to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute Stone, though a spokeswoman said he will remain an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.
Adam Jed, also a former member of Mueller’s team, asked a judge’s permission to leave the case like the others, though gave no indication of resigning his job.
None provided a reason for their decisions.
Uh huh. Thanks, WaPo. ("Three people left their office in haste this afternoon after their work area became engulfed in flames. None provided a reason for their decisions.")
Greg Sargent says the president's strategy is "designed to get you to surrender:"
In the end, many of President Trump’s ugliest degradations — the nonstop lying, the constant efforts to undermine faith in our political system, the relentless delegitimization of the opposition — often seem to converge in some sense on a single, overarching goal:
To get you to give up.
To give up on what, exactly? On the prospects for accountability for Trump, via mediating institutions such as the media, or via other branches of government, or even via the next election, and more broadly, on the very notion that our political system is capable of rendering outcomes that have not been thoroughly corrupted to their core.
Fun times. Fun times. At least we can take some comfort in Japanese railway station psychology.
I had a non-stop weekend, including this:
I have now seen a home game for every team in Major League Baseball. The Cubs destroyed the Cardinals, 8-2. (Yes, the Cubs won a baseball game!)
So, for now anyway, that wraps up the 30-Park Geas. And it only took 12 seasons.
"You'll never guess where I am," he said archly.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'm here to see the last team on my list play a home game. More on that tomorrow, as I probably won't blog about it after the game tonight.
I'm killing time and not wandering the streets of a city I don't really like in 33°C heat. Downtown St Louis has very little life that I can see. As I walked from the train to the hotel, I kept thinking it was Saturday afternoon, explaining why no one was around. Nope; no one was around because the city ripped itself apart after World War II and flung all its people into the suburbs.
On the train from Chicago I read all but the last two pages of Michael Lewis's most recent book, The Fifth Risk. The book examines what happens when the people in charge of the largest organization in the world have no idea how it works, starting with the 2016 election and going through last summer. To do that, Lewis explains what that organization actually does, from predicting the weather to making sure we don't all die of smallpox.
From the lack of any transition planning to an all-out effort to obscure the missions of vital government departments for profit, Lewis describes details of the Trump Administration's fleecing of American taxpayers that have probably eluded most people. By putting AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers in control of the National Weather Service, for example, Trump gave the keys to petabytes of data collected at taxpayer expense and available for free to everyone on earth to the guy who wants you to pay for it. Along the way, Lewis introduces us to people like DJ Patil, the United States' first Chief Data Scientist and the guy who found and put online for everyone those petabytes of weather data:
"The NOAA webpage used to have a link to weather forecasts," [Patil] said. "It was highly, highly popular. I saw it had been buried. And I asked: Now, why would they bury that?" Then he realized: the man Trump nominated to run NOAA thought that people who wanted a weather forecast should pay him for it. There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government. It wasn't between Democrats and Republicans. It was between the people who were in it for the mission, and the people who were in it for the money. (190-191)
I recommend this book almost as much as I recommend not coming to St Louis when it's this hot. Go buy it.
Not only is today the anniversary of Abbey Road, it's also the anniversary of two other culturally-significant events.
Also 50 years ago this month, the Cubs entered September 1969 with a solid first-place 83-52-1 record and before dropping 17 games (including a two-week 2-14 streak) to end the month out of contention at 91-69-1.
I mention this because tomorrow I head to St Louis to see the Cubs play at Busch Stadium. Two weeks ago, the first-place Cardinals were only 4 games ahead of the second-place Cubs, who had the third-best record in the league. Yesterday, the Cubs got eliminated, having fallen to 7.5 games back on an 8-game losing streak. This seems eerily familiar in light of the 1969 season.
Tomorrow's game will be important, as the Cardinals need to hang on to first place against the Brewers, and also because it will complete the 30-Park Geas. It would be nice if the Cubs won for both reasons.
The other anniversary of note is the debut of The West Wing 20 years ago. The Atlantic's Megan Garber argues that Allison Janney's character CJ Cregg "was the heart of the Aaron Sorkin drama." This weekend might be a good time to re-watch a few classic episodes.