The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Tories throw it in

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Cons., Richmond-Yorks) has gone to His Majesty and requested to dissolve Parliament, calling for an election on July 4th:

Rishi Sunak has called a surprise general election for 4 July in a high stakes gamble that will see Keir Starmer try to win power for Labour after 14 years of Conservative-led government.

Addressing the nation outside Downing Street, Sunak said it was “the moment for Britain to choose its future” as he claimed the Tories could be trusted to lead the country during a time of global instability.

The rain-soaked prime minister was almost drowned out by the New Labour anthem, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, blasted out by the anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, as the surprise early election was called.

Sunak’s words were met with alarm by senior Tories who are concerned that their party, trailing 20 percentage points behind Labour in the polls, could face electoral wipeout, with some MPs even considering submitting letters of no confidence.

It will be the first July election since 1945, when Labour leader Clement Attlee won a majority of 145. The campaign will also be fought during the Euro 2024 football tournament, with polling day falling just before the quarter finals.

Two things. First, it's about fucking time, as the Tories have driven the UK into the ground, giving the country two of the worst PMs in history and certainly the worst Home Secretary in my lifetime.

Second, what bliss only to have a six-week public campaign period! But then again, the UK government does get things done even when the ruling party has such low polling numbers.

I remember the big vote the UK took in June 2016 and what that said about our own politics. I will watch the July 4th election intently for clues about our own future.

When is bad butt not bad butt?

Cassie got a bad result from the lab yesterday: a mild giardia infection. It's a good-news, bad-news thing: The bad news, obviously, is that she can't go to day camp (meaning I can't spend a full day in my downtown office) for at least a week. The good news is that she's mostly asymptomatic, unlike the last guy. So we just went to the vet again, got another $110 bill for dewormer.

But at least she wasn't crated for three hours with her own diarrhea. Poor Parker.

In other good news, bad news stories today:

Actually, they're all bad-news stories. Apologies.

Democracy may be up for debate

The XPOTUS has agreed to "debate" President Biden twice before the election:

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed Wednesday to participate in general election debates on June 27 and Sept. 10.

A press release from CNN said the first, on June 27, would start at 9 p.m. ET and will be held in the news organization's studios in Atlanta.

“I’ve also received and accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by ABC on Tuesday, September 10th," Biden said on X. "Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

One of my friends doesn't think the President should have agreed to debate the XPOTUS, arguing that someone who attempted a coup "does not get a debate." He worries it "will be judged on who talks the loudest, who is the rudest, etc. It'll be closer to professional wrestling than a political debate."

I disagree. I think the XPOTUS will show people who don't seek him out (read: swing voters) exactly how demented he has become. James Fallows likens him to "[t]he kind of person you’d assume to be drunk if you didn’t know he teetotaled, or you’d think was in other ways disturbed." Commenting on the XPOTUS's Atlantic City rally over the weekend, Fallows says, "We’ve all heard things like this. In bars. In public parks. In institutional care. We move away from people talking this way."

Even before we get there, we have to wonder how a good hunk of the population seem to have forgotten how shambolic the guy's administration actually was, especially doing the one thing in his job description:

There was no breathing room — no calm in the eye of the storm. From beginning to end — from the “American carnage” inaugural on Jan. 20, 2017, to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — it felt as though the country was in constant flux, each week a decade. We lurched from dysfunction to chaos and back again, eventually crashing on the shores of the nation’s worst domestic crisis since the Great Depression.

Trump presided over a recession worsened by his total failure to manage the coronavirus. As Covid deaths mounted, Trump spread misinformation and left states scrambling for needed supplies. It was not until after the March stock market crash that the White House issued its plan to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. And the most generous provisions found in the CARES Act, including a vast expansion of unemployment benefits, were negotiated into the bill by Democratic lawmakers.

No other president has gotten this kind of excused absence for mismanaging a crisis that happened on his watch. We don’t bracket the secession crisis from our assessment of James Buchanan or the Great Depression from our judgment of Herbert Hoover or the hostage crisis in Iran from our assessment of Jimmy Carter. And for good reason: The presidency was designed for crisis. It was structured with the power and autonomy needed for handling the acute challenges of national life.

With 174 days until the election, one feels like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis...

My home town's village board caught sleeping

After rejecting several proposals for what to do with a 51-hectare golf course that closed in 2018, the Village Trustees in Northbrook, Ill., woke up this week to discover that the DuPage County Water Commission bought it for $80 million. The western suburban county plans to build a water treatment plant on the land, which seems somewhat less pleasant than the housing development and senior living facility that the Village rejected earlier. Oops.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • President Biden raised about $2 million in downtown Chicago yesterday. I'm a little bummed I missed him, but not bummed that, because I take public transit, his motorcade didn't disrupt my commute at all.
  • Gonzo right-wing spoiler candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., disclosed that doctors years ago found a dead tapeworm in his brain. It's still there, taking up space. (The poor thing must have starved.) Oh, he also mentioned the mercury poisoning for which he's currently undergoing chelation therapy. I have no idea which ailment affects cognition and judgment more, but I do know they both affect cognition and judgment a lot.
  • The usually-sleepy House Rules Committee has become the latest battleground in the Republican Party's civil war. As usually, the country suffers.
  • Soon-to-be former US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (WTF?-AZ) warns that the Senate filibuster will probably disappear when the next Congress convenes in January, conveniently forgetting that a minority of Americans already controls the Senate, and anyway the minority party right now wants to burn it all down. But sure, it's the Democrats, not the vandals on the other side, who wrecked the Senate. You can sit down now, Senator.
  • Police in Washington, D.C., have started going after porch pirates with Apple Airtags and some cooperation from local residents. They've got nothing on this guy, though.

Finally, a church near my house will host its last Mass on the 19th as members of the community have banded together to buy the building from the Archdiocese. The church has an amazing history, including a painstaking move and 90-degree rotation from its original location across Ashland Ave. in 1929.

Also: watch for some new Brews & Choos reviews early next week. This chorus season really did a number on my free time. I'm starting to get moving again.

The chorus season is mostly over

After a week of rehearsals capped by two performances of some really challenging works by French and Swiss composers, I finally got a full 8½ hours of sleep last night. What a difference. Not just the needed rest, but also having a much smaller inbox (just one task for the chorus left until next week) and less to worry about.

Until I open a newspaper, of course:

  • The head of the political arm of Hamas, the terrorist group and de jure governing party in Gaza which has called for the annihilation of all Jews, claims to have accepted cease-fire terms that would avoid an Israeli invasion of Rafah, but Israel disputes this.
  • Six months out from the election, Walter Shapiro looks at President Biden's approval ratings and concludes they probably don't matter.
  • UMass Amherst professor Ethan Zuckerman has sued Facebook over a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC 230) that could allow people to use third-party tools to block their social media. Zuckerman explains the suit in layman's terms in the Times.

Finally, a new bar claiming to be Chicago's first with an indoor dog park got a special-use permit, enabling them to open sometime this fall. B-A-R (as in, "who wants to go to the B-A-R?") still needs a liquor license, and will charge $25 per day or $50 per month per dog. I just passed by the site on Saturday, so I will note that it's directly across the street from some of Chicago's best thin-crust pizza. But $25 just to visit? Hm. The do know they're only a kilometer from a dog park, right?

Sadly, yes

Angry Staffer, one of the last remaining informative Twitter accounts, had this yesterday:

Sigh.

Chait gets it right on protests

Jonathan Chait notes that the XPOTUS, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), and Hamas all seem to want the Gaza war to continue—at least until November—as well as all the protests calling for the elimination of Israel:

“This encampment escalation divides the Left, alienates influential supporters, and creates a sense of chaos that will move people against it,” writes conservative activist Chris Rufo in his newsletter. “The correct response from the Right is to create the conditions for these protests to flourish in blue cities and campuses, while preventing them in red cities and campuses.”

There are several reasons for this unusual right-left alliance. The most obvious is that Israel is an issue that bitterly divides the Democratic Party while uniting the GOP. Any news coverage raising the salience of this issue detracts from coverage of issues like abortion, Donald Trump’s various crimes, health care, or other subjects that divide Republicans while uniting Democrats.

A second reason is that the campus protests, with their ragged encampments and radical chants, enhance the image of chaos that Donald Trump claims has overtaken the country.

But perhaps the biggest reason is that extremists thrive on an atmosphere of crisis. The Middle East has been teetering on crisis for decades, which is why advocates of peaceful partition and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians have never had an easy time of it. The more fevered the atmosphere, the easier it is for Trumpian conservatives, along with radicals on the left, to argue that the conflict pits good against evil and that compromise is unthinkable.

[T]he best way to understand the beliefs of protests is usually to read the published statements of the groups organizing them. That is especially true when the protests are well organized by an established network. In this case, the protests have been organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that’s existed for decades, alongside other left-wing protest groups. And their position is totally explicit: They believe in the total destruction of Israel as a state by any means, including violence.

This is catnip not only for American conservatives, but also for the Israeli right. The central argument advanced by Israeli reactionaries since even before the founding of Israel has held that peacefully partitioning the land into Jewish and Arab states is hopelessly naïve. The two sides are engaged in a zero-sum struggle for control of the land, and only one can prevail.

And perhaps not incidentally, the protests increase the chance Trump wins, a prospect Netanyahu no doubt would relish.

Chait doesn't explicitly say that Hamas also wants the war and the protests to continue; Hamas does. At least, by surrounding their leadership with human shields while refusing every concession Israel offers, they seem uninterested in ending the suffering of the people they claim to represent.

Finally, Julia Ioffe brought up a good point in her weekly email today: how come we have massive protests about the Palestinians, but not about the Uighurs? Or the Rohinga? Or the Yemeni? Or...you get the point. I don't know either, but I have a hypothesis.

When opponents become cartoon villains

If South Dakota governor and unapologetic puppy-killer Kristi Noem (R, obviously) becomes the XPOTUS's running mate this year, the GOP will have outdone its own Doctor Evil mindset. And yet, that is not the worst thing happening in the world today:

  • A California judge has ruled a recent state law requiring municipalities to undo discriminatory zoning laws unconstitutional, though it's not clear how long that ruling will stand.
  • Do you own a GM car made in this decade? It may be spying on you, and sharing your driving history with your insurance company without your consent.
  • After a non-profit group suggested merging the CTA, Metra, and Pace, the Illinois House has started the legislative process to do just that.
  • Ezra Klein takes us through the history of the infamous Noe Valley public toilet in San Francisco, which took years to get through the planning process, increasing its cost at every step.
  • Remember: public policy led to the proliferation of trucks masquerading as cars that endanger pedestrians, pollute neighborhoods, and generally look ugly.

Finally, Josh Marshall points out that while he (and I) support the basic aim of student protests against the Gaza war—Israel must stop killing people in Gaza—we do not support the groups organizing those protests at Columbia and other universities, almost all of which call for the destruction of the Jewish state. I'm also somewhat anxious about the normal propensity of young people to demand easy answers to complex questions becoming a democracy-ending problem later this year. I mean, if you think students are always on the right side of history, I need to direct your attention to China in 1966 and one or two other examples. Children don't do nuance.

The Roscoe Squirrel Memorial is gone

The Chicago Dept of Transportation this morning removed and (they claim) preserved the "Chicago Rat Hole" on the 1900 West block of Roscoe St. in the North Center neighborhood. I admit, I never saw the Rat Hole in the flesh (so to speak), but I feel its absence all the same.

Moving on:

  • Three Republican Arizona state representatives voted with all 29 Democrats to repeal the state's 1864 abortion ban; the repeal now goes to the Arizona Senate.
  • Monica Hesse reminds people who say it's sexist to advocate for US Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire before the end of President Biden's current term that advocates for former Justice Stephen Breyer to resign made much more noise.
  • Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter cautions student protestors that blaming Jews for the actions of the Israeli government is crossing a line. Bret Stephens concurs, describing attacks on Jewish students that belie the "peaceful" label of the pro-Palestinian protests.
  • NPR stops by historical markers at the side of the road, in all their raucous inaccuracy and frivolity. Like the 600 or so planted by the Daughters of the Confederacy, which offer even less accuracy and frivolity than most.
  • Meanwhile, the New York Times tunes into the "crisis" at NPR, which has lost nearly a third of its audience since 2020.
  • Four people and a horse needed medical treatment and several vehicles needed repairs in London this morning after five of the King's Household Cavalry mounts panicked and ran from a training exercise, making it from near Buckingham Palace all the way to St Paul's before the Met could corral them.

Finally, are you an extrovert, and introvert, and ambivert, an omnivert, or some other kind of green French thing? National Geographic explains the first four.

Windy spring day

A cold front passed this morning right after I got to the office, sparing me the 60 km/h winds and pouring rain that made the 9am arrivals miserable. The rain has passed, but the temperature has slowly descended to 17°C after hanging out around 19°C all night. I might have to close my windows tonight.

I also completed a mini-project for work a few minutes ago, so I now have time to read a couple of stories:

And now, back to the next phase of the mini-project...