The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

One bit of good news

About an hour ago, President Biden signed the first significant gun safety law we've passed in 30 years:

The bill provides grants to states for “red flag” laws, enhances background checks to include juvenile records, and closes the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns away from unmarried dating partners convicted of abuse. It will also require enhanced background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and funding for youth mental health services.

The bipartisan gun legislation sped through Congress in the month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Democrats unanimously voted in favor of the bill along with more than two dozen Republicans in the House and the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"When it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential," Biden said. "If we can reach a compromise on guns, we ought to be able to reach a compromise on other critical issues, from veterans health care to cutting-edge American innovation to so much more."

I don't think the President is quite correct in that conclusion. And while the law doesn't do some things we desperately need to do, like ban military-grade weapons for most civilians (including civilian police forces), it's a start. If you recall how long it took to get car safety rules passed, even incremental steps will help.

Monday afternoon stories

Just a few:

Finally, James Fallows rolls his eyes at the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner, but praises Trevor Noah's closing statement.

Other reactions

What the professionals had to say about last night's State of the Union address:

  • Aaron Blake: "While Russia’s invasion has fueled some bipartisanship, there remain some divides on precisely what to do or what should have been done — particularly about our energy supply and related sanctions on things like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But Biden opted not to dwell on the specifics and instead focused on our sudden and rare unity of cause."
  • The Economist: "Although never regarded as a gifted orator, Mr Biden was in especially poor form, stumbling through both his scripted lines and ad libs. He spoke of the “Iranian people” when he meant Ukrainians and confused the word “vaccine” for “virus”. After the perfunctory closing line “May God protect our troops”, the president felt compelled to add a mystifying postscript: “Go get him!” (or perhaps, as some transcribed it, “Go get ’em!”), he shouted into the microphone."
  • Michael D Shear: "There were few subjects that did not get a mention in Mr. Biden’s speech. But some of the Democratic Party’s biggest agenda items — like climate change, immigration, gun control and abortion rights — received only cursory treatment."

And Greg Sargent takes the GOP to task for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' response: "In her speech, she reached for all kinds of absurd ways to blame Russian aggression on Biden’s alleged weakness, while declaring solidarity with Ukraine. But in the real world, while Biden has drawn a line against sending in troops, he has led an international response that has been far more robust than most observers expected."

Meanwhile, The Economist has a series of guest essays about Russia's invasion of Ukraine that you should read, especially from Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonyte ("Russia's invasion was predictable") and Russian scholar Alexander Gabuev ("why Putin and his entourage want war").

President Biden's first State of the Union

As I did in 2020, this year I live-posted SOTU on Facebook. Here are my posts, in the order I made them:

OK, here we go with the SOTU. Last time (2020) I needed two martinis and watched with the sound off. This time, I see no need for alcohol and I'm happy to listen. What changed, I wonder?

Ukrainian ambassador gets an extended standing ovation from the entire government of the United States. She might prefer fighter jets and ammunition, but it was a nice gesture

We're putting troops along the Russian border...whoo boy

Yes! End "trickle-down" policies which only concentrate wealth at the top

Infrastructure decade. Yes.

It's so nice to hear a coherent, positive speech from a man who cares about the job he has

I was already a little concerned about the "make it in America" rhetoric, and then cue the GOP chanting "USA, USA!"

Dignity! Yes, this is where Biden excels. Nice.

The wise grandfather is such a welcome contrast to the ugly uncle

I did not predict a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud. Very good.

"The only president ever to cut the deficit by $1 trillion in one year." Partially disingenuous, but still true

Anti-virals on the spot at no cost if you test positive at a pharmacy. Wow

Bipartisan standing O on "our kids need to be in school."

"Let's see each other as...fellow Americans." Most of the GOP clapped too. Good.

Strong statement against "defund the police." And yes! Repeal the liability shield protecting guns!

Awww. Justice Breyer looks so cute

Wow, Katanji Brown to "strong borders" in one sentence? Grandpa missed a paragraph break

Did the speechwriters run out of time? It seems like we're in the "and another thing" section. The recap in sonata-allegro form, I suppose

Wow, connecting military burn pits to his son's cancer

ARPAH [Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health]. We can do this.

The state of the Union is strong because you, the American people, are strong.

Of course the outburst was from Boebert.

Wow, what a contrast from last time. No martinis required, but I believe I will have a wee Lagavulin.
Meanwhile, Cassie has graduated to loud snoring:

And yes, I did have a wee Lagavulin:

Here's the unedited thread:

Productive first day of spring

I finished a sprint at my day job while finding time to take Cassie to the dog park and make a stir-fry for lunch. While the unit tests continue to spin on my work computer, I have some time to read about all the things that went wrong in the world today:

I'm heading out tonight to watch President Biden's first State of the Union Address with friends. Robert Reich will also tune in.

Cold again

Today's temperatures have hovered around -9°C, with a forecast of bottoming out around -18°C tomorrow morning. But hey, at least the sun is out, right?

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, if you're looking to get away from it all, you might have to pass on the Isle of Rum off the coast of Scotland. Its population has almost doubled in the past couple of years, to 40.

Professional vs amateur

John Scalzi is a professional writer, and I am not. That's why he can encapsulate the past year in one paragraph better than I could do in three:

Biden’s not perfect by any stretch, and clearly his current approval ratings are, uhhhhh, not great. That said, he is performing pretty much to my expectations, and as well as he can, considering the 50 Democratic senators he has for his majority are actually 48 Democratic senators, one clearly-a-Republican-but-pretending-to-be-a-Democrat-for-lulz, and one chaos agent, considering the opposing political party has lost its mind and would rather burn the country to the ground than do anything useful, and considering that, like every other Democratic president in recent memory, Biden’s first job out of the gate was dealing with all the disasters and time bombs the previous administration left behind. One works with what one has, and Biden’s doing all right with that. Even if he wasn’t, he’s still better than what we had. Thanks for letting me not think about you, President Biden. I surely appreciate it.

Yes. I am glad I don't have to think about the White House every day. That was exhausting. And I'm certain, on the flimsiest of contemporary evidence but troves of historical data, that the President's approval ratings will go up next year. A lot.

Short-term license agreements

Today is the 50th anniversary of DB Cooper jumping out of a hijacked airplane into the wilds of Washington State. It's also the day I will try to get a Covid-19 booster shot, since I have nothing scheduled for tomorrow that I'd have to cancel if I wind up sleeping all day while my immune system tries to beat the crap out of some spike proteins in my arm.

Meanwhile, for reasons passing understanding (at least if you have a good grasp of economics), President Biden's approval ratings have declined even though last week had fewer new unemployment claims than any week in my lifetime. (He's still more popular than the last guy, though.)

In other news:

Any moment now, my third DevOps build in the last hour will complete. I've had to run all three builds with full tests because I don't always write perfect code the first time. But this is exactly why I have a DevOps build pipeline with lots of tests.

Something new, something old

A nearly-all-white Kenosha, Wis., jury acquitted Killer Smurf Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges today, which will have the immediate effect of turning Kenosha into a war zone, and the long-term effect of escalating violence at what would otherwise be peaceful protests nationwide. I haven't followed the case closely, though I do trust the sources I've read who say an acquittal would make sense under Wisconsin law. But I doubt that most people who haven't gone to law school will see it that way, or even care.

Also this morning, in a more positive vein: President Biden availed himself of the 25th Amendment while undergoing a routine colonoscopy, temporarily making Kamala Harris the first woman ever to hold the power of the presidency in this country. I don't know of another member or former member of the British Commonwealth that hasn't yet done this, and in all of those other countries, the women in question held permanent authority, not just power for an hour or two. In fact, the first one held absolute power from 1558 to 1603, without missing a beat. Still, it's a milestone.

On the road again

I'm leaving the country today, for the first time in almost exactly two years, and I couldn't be happier. I miss my Ancestral Homeland. And the list of Covid-related travel requirements, while annoying, make sense to me. In fact, because I return Sunday, I timed my (£39 FFS!) UK 2-day test to double as my US 3-day test.

Before I take off, and consign poor Cassie to 103 hours of desperate loneliness (albeit with her entire daycare pack), I want to comment on two news stories.

First, the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society has temporarily waived adoption fees because adoptions have declined 33% in the past three months. "The rescue organization is housing and caring for more than 420 animals and has 140 animals in foster care," Block Club Chicago reports. I foresaw this at the beginning of the pandemic: people feeling lonely and isolated adopting pets that they wouldn't want when the pandemic started to wane. It really pisses me off, but after all, we live in a selfish, consumerist society that views dogs and cats as disposable.

Second, the New York Times reported Monday on how President Biden's infrastructure bill will help Chicago's West Side—but thanks to conservatives in the party scything away hunks of it, it won't help enough:

[T]he protracted negotiations over both spending packages have forced Democrats to cut several initiatives partly or entirely: tuition-free community college, a clean energy standard to combat climate change, billions of dollars for affordable housing assistance and measures to lower the price of prescription drugs.

Places like the West Side may still receive record amounts of federal assistance. But the tug of war leading up to Friday’s passage of the infrastructure bill — and still looming as Congress awaits a vote on the $1.85 trillion social-safety-net package — has delayed the party from what may be an even bigger challenge: selling the investments to voters.

Another issue being closely watched by Chicago community groups, an initiative to replace lead service lines that can cause toxic drinking water, will receive $15 billion in the infrastructure bill and could get another $10 billion in the social-safety-net package, according to environmental groups that have negotiated with lawmakers. That is well short of the $60 billion sought by industry experts and the $45 billion Mr. Biden originally proposed.

I get that legislation takes time, and when your party has a majority of exactly one—and that one is the Vice President—you won't get everything you want. But if Republicans would remember that they represent Americans and not just other Republicans, maybe we could have done better.

All right. Off to the longest doggie day care Cassie has ever experienced...