The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Riches of embarrassment

Just a couple of eye-roll-worthy lunchtime links today:

What fun.

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...

Weekend reading

As the last workday in October draws to a close, in all its rainy gloominess, I have once again spent all day working on actually coding stuff and not reading these articles:

Finally, a 97-year-old billionaire has given $240 million to UC Santa Barbara on the condition they build a 4500-room dormitory so awful (think Geidi Prime) the school's consulting architect resigned.

Union Pacific gets court permission to stop operating Metra trains

The Union Pacific Railroad, which currently operates about 35% of all Chicago commuter trains, has won a major ruling from a Federal judge that clears the way for it to stop operating those trains:

UP wants out of the commuter business, saying it wants to focus on its its freight service. It has noted that almost all other Metra service now is operated by the commuter rail agency itself, sometimes on tracks it owns itself and at other times on track leased from freight railroads. 

Metra’s position is that in the absence of a discontinuance agreement, UP had to continue to run the trains and ancillary services, such as ticket collection, under “common carrier” provisions that governed railroads nationally for more than a century.

Both sides asked Judge Jorge Alonso for summary judgement. Last week he ruled against Metra.

Effectively, Alonso held, common-carrier rules were substantially eased after the creation of Amtrak, the national passenger carrier, and other deregulation actions by Congress in recent decades. Any remaining common-carrier question that requires federal approval would under the law cover only freight, not passenger, service, he added, but UP is moving to stop only commuter service, not freight.

In a statement, Metra said only that “We are reviewing the ruling and our options.”

UP in its own statement promised not to do anything abrupt that would interfere with service.

Well, that's fun. In 2019, the three Metra lines UP operates had about 27 million of the entire network's 74 million passenger trips, including (I estimate) about 300 of mine, so there is no way the lines will simply shut down. Metra will almost certainly take over operations and pay UP for track and signal use, just like they do on other lines. We'll see how this plays out.

It's only a threat if we're afraid of it

Jonathan Chait points out that the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions might want to reconsider their threats to resign en masse if the cities enforce mask and vaccine mandates on them:

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has mandated vaccination for all city employees, and Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara is not taking it well. “This has literally lit a bomb underneath the membership,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re in America, goddamn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi fucking Germany.”

Making vaccination a condition of municipal employment was not in fact one of the tenets of National Socialism. (Nor, for that matter, is it “literally” a bomb.) What is at least slightly reminiscent of Nazi Germany, however, is detaining people at an off-the-books warehouse and denying them legal counsel, which was both a real practice of Chicago police and one of the first steps taken by the Nazis after Adolf Hitler took power.

It’s usually easy for police to scare a mayor by threatening to leave the streets undefended. But in this instance, vaccine mandates present a rare opportunity for a double win. Cities can simultaneously defend an important anti-pandemic measure, and induce at least some of the most dangerous police officers to leave their jobs.

The public-health benefits of a vaccine mandate are obvious enough. The subtler, but longer-lasting, effect of the mandate would be to push out police officers who refuse vaccines.

I'm all for it. Most Chicago police officers are decent, hard-working people who really want to keep the people of the city safe. Yet they elected this guy their union chief—though I should point out, in Chicago, retired (i.e., older, whiter, more conservative) police officers can vote on union matters.

Catanarza, I should point out, got suspended for misconduct after he supported the January 6th insurrection. His supporters are welcome to leave the police force any time they wish.

Summertime daftness everywhere

A few examples of idiocy, bad intent, or general ineptness crossed my desk this morning:

Finally, in an effort not to complain about politics or the Olympics, Gail Collins takes on robocalls.

How much Bruce Rauner cost Illinois

In another implicit rebuke to the lump of clay that occupied the Governor's Mansion for four years, Illinois finally got a bump in its credit rating after Governor Pritzker started paying our bills again:

In upgrading Illinois’ credit by one step — to two notches above junk bond status instead of one — Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service noted that the $42 billion spending plan for the year starting July 1 “increases pension contributions, repays emergency Federal Reserve borrowings and keeps a backlog of bills in check with only constrained use of federal aid” from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.

Even after the upgrade, Illinois remains the lowest-rated state on Moody’s scale, two notches below the next-lowest: New Jersey. Generally, states with higher credit ratings are able to borrow money at lower interest rates, ultimately saving taxpayers money.

While the upgrade from Moody’s is welcome news, it only returns the state’s rating to where it was before the last of three downgrades during the tumultuous tenure of Pritzker’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It still baffles me why Rauner screwed Illinois so hard and without lube. He may have qualified as a "moderate" Republican by today's standards, but he still moved to kill unions, kill the state budget, and kill working people in Illinois.

Rauner now lives in exile in—where else?—Florida.

So, nu, how's by you?

After taking Cassie on a 45-minute walk before the heat hits us, I've spent the morning debugging, watching these news stories pile up for lunchtime reading:

Finally, Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has revealed conceptual drawings for a moon base.

Wednesday afternoon

I spent the morning unsuccessfully trying to get a .NET 5 Blazor WebAssembly app to behave with an Azure App Registration, and part of the afternoon doing a friend's taxes. Yes, I preferred doing the taxes, because I got my friend a pile of good news without having to read sixty contradictory pages of documentation.

I also became aware of the following:

Tomorrow morning, I promise to make my WebAssembly app talk to our Azure Active Directory. Right now, I think someone needs a walk.

The world still spins

As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:

Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.