The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy Mason-Dixon Day

On this day in 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed their survey of the disputed Maryland-Pennsylvania border, which became even more contentious in 1780 when Pennsylvania aboolished slavery. A group of surveyors started re-surveying the border in 2019; I can't find out whether they finished.

Meanwhile, 255 years later, politics is still mostly local:

Finally, Chicago has perfectly clear skies for only the third time this month after yesterday and the 4th, getting only 39% of possible sunshine for almost the past three weeks.

The Battle of Bamber Bridge

In June 1943, a group of white American MPs attacked a company of Black American soldiers in the town of Bamber Bridge, England (near Blackpool). The English took the side of the Black soldiers:

During the war, American soldiers accounted for the vast majority of black people in Britain. Britain’s population was overwhelmingly white, most of the country almost entirely so. Black Britons numbered around eight thousand in total, and were clustered in London, Liverpool and a few other ports. For the residents of most towns and villages near US bases, the proximity of black people was wholly novel.

Given that most Britons had seen black people only in films or books, you might have expected them to distrust or fear the new arrivals. Instead, as the historian David Olusoga remarks, the natives were “extraordinarily welcoming” to their black visitors. In fact, black GIs were offered a warmer reception than their white counterparts. In the letters and diaries of British inhabitants, White GIs are portrayed as arrogant, flashy, and unruly, while Black GIs, by contrast, are described as courteous, self-disciplined, and charming.

For black GIs, the warm and respectful treatment they received in Britain’s shops, pubs, and church halls threw their relationship with fellow countrymen into sharp relief. At home, black Americans from Southern states were strictly segregated from whites and systematically oppressed. Jim Crow laws ensured that they were politically disenfranchised and economically marginalised, eighty years after the abolition of slavery. The oppression was cultural too: black Americans were routinely  and openly treated as contemptible by their white counterparts.

For many black soldiers, the experience of Britain renewed and sharpened a sense of injustice over how they were treated in the United States. As one put it, “we are treated better in England than we are in a country that is supposed to be our home.” Naturally enough, it led some of them to question why they were fighting. Another GI wrote: “I am an American negro, doing my part for the American government to make the world safe for a democracy I have never known.”

I recently watched the Channel 4 miniseries Traitors, in which American race relations right after World War II in London mattered a great deal to the plot. Learning about Bamber Bridge added more depth to my understanding of the show.

Busy day, time to read the news

Oh boy:

Cassie has bugged me for the last hour, even though we went out two hours ago. I assume she wants dinner. I will take care of that presently.

Dying for the cause

Former Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president Dean Angelo died yesterday of Covid-19. And yet the current FOP president, John Catanzara, has promised to sue the City over the requirement that police officers either show proof of vaccination by Friday or go on a twice-a-week testing regimen if they want to keep getting paid:

"It literally has been like everything else with this mayor the last two and a half years," said FOP President John Catanzara. "Do it or else because I said so."

In a social media post Tuesday, Catanzara urged his members to not comply with the vaccine mandate.

"We're notifying the city the demand for expedited arbitration along with filing unfair labor practice with the labor board," he said Tuesday. "Tomorrow we'll be filing court paperwork for a temporary restraining order."

The dispute comes as a new report from the National Law Enforcement Museum reveals that a full 62% of all line-of-duty law enforcement deaths across the country last year were from COVID-19.

(Emphasis mine.)

In related news, I'm about a quarter through Ruth Ben-Ghiat's Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, in which she details the patterns of authoritarians throughout the last century. In almost every case, the authoritarian leader demands his followers show loyalty by embracing lies, even when those lies kill them.

Ben-Ghiat's book, like the story today of Angelo's death, frustrate the hell out of me. We make the same mistakes over and over and over. Ultimately, though, we haven't had enough time away from the savannahs of Africa to stop acting like frightened apes half the time.

A hot time in the old town tonight

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for two days and left 100,000 people homeless. But only for a short time; by 1874, when the city had a second big fire, our population had already grown by about that number.

Flash forward to now:

Finally, last night I attended an actual live theater performance for the first time in 19 months, and it was amazeballs. If you live in Chicago, right now you need to go to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website and buy tickets to As You Like It, which plays through November 21st.

Busy day in the news

So many things this morning, including a report not yet up on WBEZ's website about the last Sears store in Chicago. (I'll find it tomorrow.)

  • Jennifer Rubin advises XPOTUS "critics and democracy lovers" to leave the Republican Party.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) completely caved against a unified Democratic Party and will vote to extend the (probably-unconstitutional) debt limit another three months.
  • An abolitionist's house from 1869 may get landmark approval today from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. (It's already in the National Register of Historic Places).
  • Could interurban trains come back?
  • Arts critic Jo Livingstone has a mixed review of No Time to Die, but I still plan to see it this weekend.
  • 18 retired NBA players face wire-fraud and insurance-fraud charges for allegedly scamming the NBA's Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of $4 million.
  • Even though we've had early-September temperatures the past week, we've also had only 19% of possible sunlight, and only 8% in the past six days. We have not seen the sun since Monday, in fact, making the steady 19°C temperature feel really depressing.
  • Two new Black-owned breweries will go on the Brews and Choos list soon.
  • Condé Nast has named Chicago the best big city in the US for the fifth year running.

Finally, President Biden is in Chicago today, promoting vaccine mandates. But because of the aforementioned clouds, I have no practical way of watching Air Force One flying around the city.

Update, 12:38 CDT: The sun is out!

Update, 12:39 CDT: Well, we had a minute of it, anyway.

Burned property records still haunt Chicago

The Great Chicago Fire started 150 years ago this coming Thursday. It not only destroyed almost every building in the city, but also it burned up official property records. Even today the consequences linger:

Official property deeds stored in the Cook County Courthouse were destroyed when the building went up in flames in October 1871, as were many private records kept at home.

Stored on microfilm in filing cabinets at the Cook County Court Archives and in boxes at the archives’ warehouse is a set of documents, some dating back nearly 150 years and often handwritten, called the “burnt records.” These are records of some of the attempts to reestablish property ownership after the Great Chicago Fire.

The archives estimate there were at least 1,767 burnt records cases in the decades after the fire. But details about the documents are scarce, and the exact number of cases is unknown. Many may be missing entirely.

Other property owners turned to private records. Decades before the fire, firms had begun keeping their own indexes and abstracts of land transactions. These records were saved from the fire — often dramatically, according to legends passed down through generations of abstract and title companies — and they were given legal status in Illinois courts when state legislators passed the Burnt Records Act.

The story also explains why a single grave sticks out of an industrial site on the south side.

Shoot the f**ing hostage already

I don't usually agree with Josh Marshall's panics. He cries "wolf" every time he passes the zoo. But you have to remember, every time he points to a wolf, there's a wolf. And based on his reporting for the last couple of days, I agree that if Senators Manchin (D?-WV) and Sinema (D?-AZ) don't get behind their own President's agenda, then maybe the President needs to paint them with their own sabotage:

Sen. Manchin just put out a statement, scorching in its appraisal of the proposed reconciliation bill and making me think for the first time that this entire thing – both bills – may go down in flames. It’s a lot of the same stuff: debt, inflation, mean taxations, means-testing. But the volume is turned … well, up to 11. It’s not remotely the statement of someone who is on the verge of finding common ground with the rest of the caucus.

Through this whole saga Manchin has been riffing, saying what comes into his head on a given day. There’s no real strategy or logic to it. That’s why there’s little consistency. But the riffing, the saying what comes into your head each given day is particularly perilous at a moment like this. Because you’re navigating with emotion. You’re navigating with the consensus of establishment Washington which has been dour at best on President Biden since mid-summer.

There was a deal, an agreed upon framework. The Manchin-Sinema-Gottheimer troika got their bill. And as soon as they did they backed out of the deal. That is how we got here. We knew it would be hard to come to an agreement, a lot of tense moments and standoffs. What we’ve actually seen is rather different. They’re not having a hard time coming to an agreement. The troika is refusing to negotiate.

Obviously, the problem with the Democratic Party is that we try to negotiate in good faith, and we get all ferklempt when the other guys fuck us. So maybe we should just continue to negotiate in good faith and not act surprised when the other guys fuck us, especially when the guys doing the fucking claim to be members of our party. Like, you can offer a good-faith negotiation and still have a baseball bat in your left hand. Don't start the fight, but FFS, end it.

What if we just ejected Sinema and Manchin from the party and painted them with the failure of Congress to pass legislation that an overwhelming majority of Americans want passed? What if we just started acting like we won every election since 2006?

Someday, good historians will figure out what actually happened in the mid-21st Century. I may even live long enough to read those histories. And I hope against reason that those well-researched histories find strong evidence that people like Manchin and Sinema voted against the will of most Americans because they believed strongly and correctly in their positions at the time. But the evidence I see right now, right in front of me, says that Sinema and Manchin have no such integrity.

Manchin, maybe he gets a pass. He has a tough gig right now as an out Democrat in West Virginia, though given the behavior of the Republican Party there for the past 10 years I can't think why. (By that I mean, I cannot think of any organization more hostile to the interests of ordinary West Virginia workers than the Republican party.) And yet, West Virginia workers keep voting for the people who keep them in poverty. Manchin may believe that he can help his constituents by holding up a bill that could pay for their child care, but I'm having trouble following his logic.

Sinema, though.

Hey, Senator Durbin? I've voted for you a bunch of times, could you please do your job and whip Sinema into line like the Majority Whip is supposed to do? She's polling in the 40s in her home state. There's some whippin' to do.

Here's the thing. The Democratic Party believes we Americans are better than this, and the Republican Party keeps trying to get people to believe we aren't. That's why the Republicans have only won one national election since 1988. Because we are better than this.

We're more ready for a true left-of-center party than we've been since TR. If Sinema and Manchin blow up this administration, it's time for a new party.

I love it when people point to Lyndon Johnson's presidency and how he controlled the agenda without acknowledging that the Democratic Party had 68 Senate seats and a similar majority in the House. Oh, and many of those guys were white supremacists who promptly left the party after Johnson forced them to vote for the Civil Rights Act. Also, Johnson had a progressive Supreme Court and not a lot of pushback from the communities of color who were just trying not to get their heads bashed in whenever they protested the injustices they faced daily.

Yes, I'm saying that the Civil Rights Act was easier to pass in an unjust era, for the same reason the 13th Amendment passed before Appomattox. When you're losing, you prioritize the things you're giving away to hold on to what you can.

The Republican Party is doing exactly that. Let me repeat myself: when you're losing, you prioritize the things you're giving away to hold on to what you can. The behavior of the Republican Party over the last 20 years is exactly that. They can't win on policy, so they've stopped telling people why they want power, because the "why" would lose votes. They just keep grabbing power, any way they can, because they know they won't get their agenda through otherwise.

A healthy democracy requires a healthy debate. We don't have that right now. I'm worried we've lost it permanently, but hopeful we haven't. Regardless, "healthy debate" means the Republican Party needs to explain what they want, as does the Democratic Party, and let the people decide. And if the people overwhelmingly reject your point of view, you sit down and reformulate your argument. This, I submit, is why the Republican Party refuses to state its position: because most people disagree.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. What does it tell you that the Republican Party keeps trying it?

Sure Happy It's Tuesday

Actually, I'm ecstatic that a cold front blew in off the lake yesterday afternoon, dropping the temperature from 30°C to 20°C in about two hours. We went from teh warmest September 27th in 34 years to...autumn. Finally, some decent sleepin' weather!

Meanwhile:

And though the article could use an editor, Whisky Advocate has a short bit on Aaron Sorkin's love of whisky in his movies.

End of day links

While I wait for a continuous-integration pipeline to finish (with success, I hasten to add), working a bit later into the evening than usual, I have these articles to read later:

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Lib-Papineau) called a snap election to boost his party, but pissed off enough people that almost nothing at all changed.
  • Margaret Talbot calls out the State of Mississippi on the "errors of fact and judgment" in its brief to the Supreme Court about its draconian abortion law.
  • Julia Ioffe expresses no surprise that the press and the progressives have come to grief with each other over President Biden.
  • Josh Marshal examines the "crumbling firmament" signified by France's indignation at our deal to supply nuclear submarines to the Australian Navy.
  • New regulations allowing hunters to kill wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain states may have the unintended result of putting the animals back on the endangered-species list.

And I am sad to report, Cassie will not get to the dog beach tomorrow, what with the 4-meter waves and all.