The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Things that I can't read until I have a few drinks

Just, I dunno, man.

Sleep is overrated.

They can't be that stupid, can they?

I'll get to Eddie Lampert's interview with the Chicago Tribune later today. But first, let's take a moment to realize that as we shake our heads at the amateur hour over at the White House, we knew damn well they were going to cause a Constitutional crisis at some point.

And that point arrived last night:

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.

But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.

The White House staff, apparently caught off-guard about their boss's unprecedented, earth-shaking action, rushed into full Keystone Kops mode:

After [White House Press Secretary Sean] Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We'll take care of this. ... Can you just turn that light off?”

Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him. For 10 minutes, he responded to a flurry of questions, vacillating between light-hearted asides and clear frustration with getting the same questions over and over again.

The first question: Did the president direct Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to conduct a probe of FBI Director James B. Comey?

As Spicer tells it, Rosenstein was confirmed about two weeks ago and independently took on this issue so the president was not aware of the probe until he received a memo from Rosenstein on Tuesday, along with a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending that Comey be fired.

Nobody believes that last bit. Not even a little. In fact, CNN reported that President Trump asked Rosenstein to come up with a rationale for firing Comey last week, so the thought that Rosenstein did this sua sponte is preposterous. Josh Marshall:

There is only one reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to fire Comey: that there is grave wrongdoing at the center of the Russia scandal and that it implicates the President. As I write this, I have a difficult time believing that last sentence myself. But sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It’s speaking clearly: the only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein.

Yes. Under any other administration, this would be an unbelievable development. But under this administration, it's not only believable, it seems inevitable. And we're 603 days away from a new Congress taking their seats, which seems the earliest that anyone will have the political will to start impeachment proceedings.

Fitbit helping to solve crimes?

Via security expert Bruce Schneier, the AP reports that police in central Connecticut obtained an arrest warrant partially on the timing of a murder victim's Fitbit step data:

Connecticut State Police allege [Richard] Dabate killed 39-year-old Connie Dabate at their Ellington home two days before Christmas in 2015, while their two young sons were in school.

Dabate told investigators a masked man shot his wife and tied him up before he burned the intruder with a torch. Authorities responded to a burglary alarm at the home and found Richard Dabate with superficial knife wounds, with one arm and one leg zip-tied to a folding chair.

But police said evidence contradicted Dabate's story and timeline of events, including information from Connie Dabate's Fitbit that showed she was still moving around the house an hour after Richard Dabate said she was shot.

Dabate pleaded not guilty to the crime. Also, the Fitibit data, while helpful to the police, may have had less impact than the allegation that "Dabate also told his pregnant girlfriend before the slaying that he was going to divorce his wife, state police said in an arrest warrant affidavit."

NBC has more.

Organizing stuff is hard

This weekend, a "luxury" festival on a remote island in the Bahamas failed to live up to expectations, in the same way bricks fail to hover:

The organizers of the Fyre Festival promised “two transformative weekends” on a “remote and private” island in the Bahamas that was “once owned by Pablo Escobar.” Kendall Jenner promoted it on Instagram. Ja Rule was one of the organizers. Festival-goers paid thousands of dollars for what they believed was going to be a luxury experience. Anyone who could afford the ticket would arrive in paradise on a private jet with their friends, for a taste of the lifestyle that only seems to exist on the Instagram feeds of models.

None of that happened.

The first wave of paying guests arrived on Thursday, only to find themselves staring at a chaotic festival site that appeared to be weeks away from being able to host anyone. Blink-182, one of the bands headlining the festival, had canceled at the last minute. The tents that were set up for guests to sleep in looked like “FEMA tents,” one person said. Not exactly the luxury accommodations they’d paid for. Meanwhile some tents were still in their boxes.

The disorder at Fyre Festival appears to have caught a lot of the attendees off guard. But there were signs that all was not what it seemed. In early April, the Wall Street Journal reported that festival organizers had missed a series of deadlines, including those for paying artists.

Whew, the next time I have the opportunity to pay $250,000 for a trip to a desert island, I'll jump on it.

The festival organizers have posted an explanation.

Historic parking lot to be redevloped

The Archdiocese of Chicago is in negotiations to sell a parking lot at the southwest corner of Chicago and State to a real-estate developer:

A venture led by Jim Letchinger, president of JDL Development, has emerged as the winning bidder for the property at the southwest corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue, currently a parking lot for Holy Name Cathedral, according to people familiar with the property. He's agreed to pay more than $110 million for the property but is still negotiating a purchase contract with the Archdiocese.

But the parking lot has an interesting history. Ninety years ago, there was a flower shop there owned by Dean O'Banion, the gangster who controlled Chicago's north side. And on 10 November 1924, he was gunned down by the Jenna mob on orders from Al Capone's boss, Johnny Torrio, right on that spot.

It's unclear when the shops were torn down.

Maybe the problem is too many guns, huh?

A 2015 theft of a gun shipment from a railroad yard in Chicago continues to plague the city:

The guns had been en route from New Hampshire weapon maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. to Spokane, Washington. Instead, the .45-caliber Ruger revolvers and other firearms spread quickly into surrounding high-crime neighborhoods. Along with two other major gun thefts within three years, the robbery helped fuel a wave of violence on Chicago's streets.

The 2015 heist of the 111 guns, as well as one in 2014 and another last September from the same 63rd Street Rail Yard highlight a tragic confluence. Chicago's biggest rail yards are on the gang- and homicide-plagued South and West sides where most of the city's 762 killings happened last year.

Chicago's leaders regularly blame lax gun laws in Illinois and nearby states that enable a flow of illegal weapons to the city's gangs and criminals. But community leaders and security experts say no one seems to be taking responsibility for train-yard gun thefts.

But the number of guns produced in this country has nothing at all to do with crime, according to the NRA. Right.

Thanks, Obama!

Two big Obama stories today.

First, the president has commuted Chelsea Manning's sentence. She'll be freed in May:

In recent days, the White House had signaled that Mr. Obama was seriously considering granting Ms. Manning’s commutation application, in contrast to a pardon application submitted on behalf of the other large-scale leaker of the era, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who disclosed archives of top secret surveillance files and is living as a fugitive in Russia.

Asked about the two clemency applications on Friday, the White House spokesman, Joshua Earnest, discussed the “pretty stark difference” between Ms. Manning’s case for mercy with Mr. Snowden’s. While their offenses were similar, he said, there were “some important differences.”

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

(Brian Beutler notes that Snowden's future is pretty uncertain now, too.)

Second, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, should Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, it could lead to 18 million people losing health insurance right away and another 12 million in 20 years:

The bill that the budget office analyzed would have eliminated tax penalties for people who go without insurance. It would also have eliminated spending for the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies that help lower-income people buy private insurance. But the bill preserved requirements for insurers to provide coverage, at standard rates, to any applicant, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

“Eliminating the mandate penalties and the subsidies while retaining the market reforms would destabilize the nongroup market, and the effect would worsen over time,” the budget office said.

The office said the estimated increase of 32 million people without coverage in 2026 resulted from three changes: about 23 million fewer people would have coverage in the individual insurance market, roughly 19 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage, and there would be an increase in the number of people with employment-based insurance that would partially offset those losses.

Republicans complained that they will pass an alternative plan, but no one is taking this seriously. Because they're not.

 

Meetings all day

All of these articles look interesting, and I hope I get to read them:

Oh, fun! Another meeting!

The rise and fall of Wrigleyville

Rolling Stone describes how Wrigleyville became Douchebag Central:

Chicagoans have strong feelings about Wrigleyville. While a local might have more nuanced thoughts on neighborhoods like Logan Square (gentrified, filled with hipsters, great places to eat) or Wicker Park (gentrified, filled with yuppies, great places to eat), say you're going to hang out near Wrigley Field, and you'll probably get a blank stare. You really go out of your way to visit there for two reasons: Cubs games and shows at the Metro, the area's long-running venue that has played host to everybody from Metallica in 1983 to Nirvana in 1989 and nearly every important Chicago band or artist from Ministry at the dawn of the city's burgeoning industrial music scene to Chance the Rapper in 2016. Joe Shanahan, who opened the venue in 1982, remembers a time when he needed to be escorted by security to his car after a late-night. Not so much because of the fans, but because it was a neighborhood in a big city in the 1980s. "It was scary," he says of his early days turning the former Swedish Community Center built in 1927. "But it was inexpensive."

But things change.

You know the story: people living on the fringe make the area seem attractive to people with money, the people with money move in and, soon to follow are the bars with 20 televisions all showing sports. Wrigleyville, already a strange neighborhood because of its cozy little ballpark and the cursed team that plays there, somehow seemed like a decent fit for a bunch of outcasts. It was normal to end up at the McDonald's across the street from the ballpark and see kids from whatever show let out ordering Big Macs alongside sloshed baseball fans. It was awkward, but both groups were strange in their own way: kids with the funky hairstyles and clothes, and the baseball fans that would cheer for a team that they know will only disappoint.

I'm not sure it's the most insightful view of how Wrigleyville has changed, but it's somewhat accurate.

Home sick

Here are some things that are occupying me while I figure out who delivers matzoh ball soup:

I also have a book or 50 somewhere. And I need a nap.