The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The last post of the summer

Meteorological summer ends in just a few hours here in Chicago. Pity; it's been a decent one (for us; not so much for the Western US). I have a couple of things to read this afternoon while waiting for endless test sessions to complete on my work laptop:

And via Bruce Schneier, a group of local Chicago high schoolers will never give you up and never let you down.

Short rant about student loans

I posted this last night on Facebook:

It's so interesting to me that we're having a (manufactured) political argument about canceling $10k in student debt while all the countries we compete with are horrified that people even have to pay $10k to go to university. Even privatization-happy Brits flipped some constituencies to Labour in the last general election because the Tories raised university fees to £9,250 ($10,900) per year. The outrage isn't that we forgave a token amount of Federally-held debt. The outrage is that the richest country in the history of the world doesn't ensure its entire population gets the same education as the average teenager in Belgium.

One of my more rabid Republican friends did not like that, but I'll spare you his response. Instead, I'll note Paul Krugman's take on the topic:

The right is inveighing against debt relief on moral grounds. “If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period,” tweeted the House Judiciary G.O.P. On which planet? America has had regularized bankruptcy procedures, which take debt off the books, since the 19th century; the idea has been to give individuals and businesses with crippling debts a second chance.

But, you may argue, student borrowers weren’t struggling to cope with a pandemic. True. But many student borrowers were suckered in by the misleading marketing of for-profit colleges; millions ran up debts but never received a degree. Millions more went into debt only to graduate into a labor market devastated by the global financial crisis, a market that took many years to recover.

So don’t think of this as a random giveaway. Many though not all of those who will benefit from debt forgiveness are, in fact, victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Of course, that's an argument based on facts and evidence, so it won't sway anyone on the far right. I just wish they'd find something else to do than get outraged over every single thing the administration does.

The extremism of libertarians

The town of Croydon, N.H., had a serious problem with its libertarians earlier this year, when extremists took advantage of low voter turnout to cut the school budget in half:

On a snowy Saturday this past March, the 2022 meeting began in the two-century-old town hall, where the walls are adorned with an 1876 American flag made by the “women of Croydon” and instructions to reset the furnace to 53 degrees before leaving.

Residents approved the town budget in the morning. Then they turned in the afternoon to the proposed $1.7 million school budget, which covers the colonial-era schoolhouse (kindergarten to fourth grade) and the cost of sending older students to nearby schools of their choice, public or private.

This is when Mr. Underwood, 60, stood up and threw a sucker punch to the body politic.

Calling the proposed budget a “ransom,” he moved to cut it by more than half — to $800,000. He argued that taxes for education had climbed while student achievement had not, and that based in part on the much lower tuition for some local private schools, about $10,000 for each of the town’s 80 or so students was sufficient — though well short of, say, the nearly $18,000 that public schools in nearby Newport charged for pupils from Croydon.

The town rallied and managed to reverse the budget cuts at a special meeting in May. But wow, this is just like the libertarians up the way who tried (and failed) to co-exist with bears rather than pay for a wildlife warden.

Another detail: as the Times points out, Underwood—the guy who argued school activities aren't necessary—"starred on the tennis team, ran track, played intramural sports and joined extracurricular activities in math, creative writing, radio and student government." So libertarianism works really well if you get a leg up on everyone else before kicking the ladder away.

Student debt relief won't go to the rich

But instead I'm reading this note (sub.req.) by Paul Krugman, pointing out that college degrees no longer have anything to do with wealth or income:

[M]uch of the backlash to proposals for student debt relief is based on a false premise: the belief that Americans who have gone to college are, in general, members of the economic elite.

The falsity of this proposition is obvious for those who were exploited by predatory for-profit institutions that encouraged them to go into debt to get more or less worthless credentials. The same applies to those who took on educational debt but never managed to get a degree — not a small group. In fact, around 40 percent of student loan borrowers never finish their education.

What is widely understood is that America has become a far more unequal society over the past 40 years or so. The nature of rising inequality, however, isn’t as broadly known. I keep encountering seemingly well-informed people who believe that we’re mainly looking at a widening gap between the college-educated and everyone else.

Americans at the 95th percentile don’t consider themselves rich, because they aren’t, surely as compared with C.E.O.s, hedge funders and so on. Nonetheless, they have seen substantial gains. On the other hand, the typical college graduate — who is, remember, someone who made it through and received an accredited degree — hasn’t.

So here’s how I see it: Much of the student debt weighing down millions of Americans can be attributed to false promises.

Some of these promises were scams pure and simple; think Trump University. Even those who weren’t outright cheated, however, were pulled in by elite messaging assuring them that a college degree was a ticket to financial success. Too many didn’t realize that their life circumstances might make it impossible to finish their education — it’s hard for comfortable, upper-middle-class Americans to realize how difficult staying in school can be for young people from poorer families with unstable incomes. Many of those who did manage to finish found that the financial rewards were far smaller than they expected.

And all too many of those who fell victim to these false promises ended up saddled with large debts.

Canceling large swaths of educational debt will do more to help the bottom 95% than most of the legislation proposed this session. The rich don't need it; in fact, many wealthy people have no college debt at all. They're the ones who hold the notes, when you get down to it. So here's hoping President Biden moves forward on the proposal.

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

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.

Quick links

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters bottomed out at -16.5°C around 8am today, colder than any time since February 15th. It's up to -8.6°C now, with a forecast for continued wild gyrations over the next week (2°C tomorrow, -17°C on Monday, 3°C on Wednesday). Pity Cassie, who hasn't gotten nearly enough walks because of the cold, and won't next week as her day care shut down for the weekend due to sick staff.

Speaking of sick staff, New Republic asks a pointed question about the Chicago Public Schools: why should their teachers be responsible for making life normal again?

The Washinigton Post asks, what will people do with the millions of dogs they adopted when they (the people, not the dogs) go back to work?

The lawyers for Cyber Ninjas ask, who's going to pay their fees after the grift-based organization shut down abruptly?

And North Michigan Avenue asks, will any more pieces of the Hancock Center fall off the building?

And I ask, will Cassie ever let me sleep past 7am?

School's still out

The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union keep butting heads, resulting in CPS closing the schools for another day tomorrow:

Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union have filed unfair labor charges against one another, with each side asking state officials to end the current dispute over in-person learning in their favor.

The latest escalation in the conflict over adequate COVID-19 safety measures in schools comes as CPS saw a new record number of coronavirus cases Tuesday — the last day of classes before the lack of agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union shut down schools districtwide for two days.

As CPS and the union continued their fight Thursday, Illinois reported another record-shattering day for new COVID-19 infections, with 44,089 new confirmed and probable cases reported statewide, with a record 7,098 people hospitalized with the virus overnight Wednesday.

The Mayor and CTU have been at loggerheads for most of her term. Naturally, the parents wish a pox on both their houses:

It’s not clear how long the impasse could last. The city filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union, and officials are considering litigation to force teachers back to their classrooms if negotiations continue to stall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.

Parents said they’re desperate for a resolution — and a stable learning environment for their kids.

Numerous parents said they scrambled to find last-minute child care Wednesday. The union did not announce its vote to go remote and CPS didn’t officially inform families there wouldn’t be classes until about 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Jennifer Jones, whose two teenagers attend large Northwest Side high schools, said she fully supports the union’s vote to go remote and she was disappointed CPS canceled classes. Jones said her sons are prepared to learn remotely and feel safer learning from home with cases spiking citywide and inconsistent mask-wearing at school.

“Given the ongoing pandemic, CPS should have been prepared for a switch to remote learning,” Jones said.

Josh Marshall sees similar fights brewing in other cities, and concludes that the people making decisions about schools aren't the ones affected:

There’s a deep conventional wisdom out there which has it that liberal Twitter and the broader Blue State commentariat is a hotbed of demands for school closures. The reality is almost diametrically opposed to this. From mid-2020 the country’s most esteemed and prestigious liberal/cosmopolitan publications, electronic broadcasts and university programs have been dominated by voices of highly educated, affluent and mostly white people demanding schools never close, even for brief periods, and almost always in the name of students from minority and/or marginalized communities.

But there is an upside down character to the image these demands create. In fact, during the pre-vaccine period, when significant sections of the country remained in remote leaning, it was precisely these communities which were most resistant to going back to in-person education. The blunt reality is that the staunchest voices against school closures of any sort for any duration are people with PhDs working from home.

And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's re-election chances took another hit today when former CPS CEO and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan made some noises about running against her.

Winter, CPS, CTU, and THC

Every so often in the winter, a cold front pushes in overnight, giving us the warmest temperature of the day at midnight. Welcome to my morning:

The sun actually came out a few minutes ago—right around the time the temperature started dropping faster.

The forecast says temperatures will continue falling to about -12°C by 3pm, rise ever so slightly overnight and tomorrow, then slide on down to -17° from 3pm tomorrow to 6am Friday. And, because it's Chicago, and because the circumpolar jet stream looks like Charlie Brown's shirt right now, between 6am Friday and 9pm Saturday the temperature will steadily rise more than 20°C (that's 36°F to the luddites out there), peaking at 3°C around 9pm Saturday.

Before the cold front hit last night, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to halt in-person teaching, citing alarming Covid numbers. The Chicago Public Schools promptly locked them out of virtual teaching, giving about 100,000 nothing to do and nowhere to go. (Some CPS staff have at least opened the school buildings so kids can get lunches and stay warm, but the SEIU won't cross what it sees as a picket line, so...)

Since most of the area's colleges and universities have moved back to virtual instruction for the next two weeks, I have trouble understanding the CPS position here, or why CPS locked the teachers out. Sure, the teachers may lose a day's pay, but the kids will suffer more harm than either organization.

Chicago's public health officials say the schools are safe, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot complaining that "There’s no reason to shut down the entire system, particularly given the catastrophic consequences that will flow." But the CTU didn't call a work stoppage; they called for virtual classes, something CPS has done for almost two years. That leaves me with the impression that Lightfoot and CPS want to stand up to the CTU more than they want to find a solution.

Frankly, both sides look bad here. And again: the kids get the worst of it.

Hard to imagine why Illinois recreational marijuana sales doubled to $1.38 billion in 2021.

Egregiously bad parenting

Police arrested Jennifer and James Crumbley at a commercial building in Detroit today after a day-long manhunt. They're the parents of the kid who killed four of his high school classmates last week, and wow, are they in trouble:

Prosecutors allege that the parents bought the gun for their son, and that Jennifer Crumbley boasted on social media about taking her son to a shooting range to try it out. Authorities also say 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley’s parents left the gun unlocked and neglected to act on concerns expressed by school officials that he might act violently.

Hours after announcing that the pair was being charged — an extraordinarily rare move to hold parents accountable when a minor uses a weapon in a school shooting — police officials said that the couple had gone missing. They were located overnight in a commercial building after an extensive search involving police dogs, local law enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service, authorities said.

The details of how these idiots enabled their kid to shoot a dozen people boggle the mind:

According to the criminal complaint described by McDonald at a press conference, the Sig Sauer 9mm pistol that Ethan used to kill fellow students was purchased by James Crumbley at a local gun store with his son present on November 26, four days before the rampage.  

“Just got my new beauty today,” Ethan posted on social media that same day, according to the complaint, along with photos of the Sig Sauer weapon.

“Mom and son day, testing out his new Christmas present,” Jennifer allegedly posted on social media the following day.

In the days leading up to the attack, an Oxford High teacher had “observed Ethan searching ammunition on his cellphone during class,” according to McDonald—a common warning behavior in school shooting cases. That prompted attempts by worried school officials to contact his parents via phone and email; the school got no response from the Crumbleys, said McDonald. Shortly after that outreach, Jennifer exchanged text messages with her son, according to McDonald.

“LOL, I’m not mad at you,” she allegedly texted to Ethan. “You have to learn not to get caught.”

By the morning of the shooting, graphically violent images Ethan had drawn in class prompted school officials to convene an urgent meeting with the Crumbleys and their son at the school. In his backpack, Ethan had the Sig Sauer and dozens of rounds of ammunition, according to prosecutors. Whether the parents may have suspected or been aware of that is unknown, but according to McDonald they did not ask about the whereabouts of the newly purchased weapon or inspect Ethan’s backpack. They left the high school, refusing a recommendation to take Ethan with them, according to McDonald. “He was returned to the classroom,” she said. Investigators further determined that the gun had been stored in an unlocked drawer in the Crumbley’s home.

The utter depravity.

The couple have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. I hope they do.