The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

A bit of perspective

Time for another reminder. If you see something on social media that:

  • seems to confirm something you already believed about the "other side,"
  • comes from someone claiming to have inside knowledge, and
  • makes you angry

...then it's almost certainly fake*.

The Economist prominently featured a story on the onslaught of conspiracy theories today, as did NPR. Will those stories help? Probably not. After all, "men willingly believe what they want," as Julius Caesar once (may have) said. But let's review anyway.

The FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police aren't going to leak information about Saturday's shooting on Facebook. They're going to make sure they have it right, then hold a press conference, where journalists from real news organizations will ask them questions and report what they said. I can't believe people have trouble understanding this. "Officer Krupke" was posting bullshit to TikTok from an industrial park outside Minsk on Sunday morning, not hearing the latest secrets about the investigation from his higher-ups at the incident response center outside Pittsburgh. And you almost certainly know that, but you reposted the meme anyway.

What we do know about Saturday makes the event no less horrible but a lot less surprising. All of the public evidence points to a pathetic post-teen white incel with too-easy access to near-military-grade weapons deciding to become famous in the worst possible way. It was similar to almost every other time someone has shot at a US president throughout history. This pathetic boy will be remembered in the long list of similar nutters that includes Hinckley, Fromme, Schrank, Oswald, Guiteau, Booth, Czolgosz, Zangara, and the dozens who never got the chance because the USSS or their local cops got to them in time.

The worst part about Saturday isn't its effect on the election or that the convicted-felon XPOTUS got nicked in the ear; it's that two people died, and absent the immediate actions of the best-equipped, best-trained armed guards in the history of the world, many more would have. Two more Americans are dead because a trade group has convinced a huge swath of the country—and an overwhelming percentage of those at Saturday's rally—that buying their member-organizations' products is a God-given right.

Because of those policies, promoted by the Republican Party and enshrined in Pennsylvania law, this postpubescent hobgoblin obtained a military-style rifle, loaded it, and got it to within 150 meters of the presumptive Republican nominee for president, all completely legally. Until he pointed the rifle at the XPOTUS, he hadn't committed a crime.

In fact, as Josh Marshall laments, this wasn't much different than a school shooting. He makes good points, including that it doesn't really matter what flavor of mass shooting it was. He also notices that Republicans office-holders were the first to politicize the event. Well, of course they were, because otherwise someone might connect their rhetoric and their policies with the increased frequency of shootings.

I don't think this event will move the needle on the election, not one little bit. We're too entrenched in our candidates. That said, I fully expect the next four days in Milwaukee to showcase exactly how deranged the rapist XPOTUS is—but no one will change his mind because of it. Tonight, in fact, we get to find out who he's picked to be his panegyrist running mate, and we can all feel a little sorry for that person when he or she gets kicked to the curb in a year or two. (Update: it's US Senator JD Vance (R-OH), one of the only people in US politics who is possibly less genuine than the XPOTUS.)

The next 113 days will suck. Probably the two months after that will suck, too. And there's a real possibility that the XPOTUS could win, making the next few years after suck as well, at least until 78 years of Big Macs and rapidly-advancing frontotemporal dementia catch up to him.

But enough with the misinformation. Seriously.

* Unless it's the New York Times telling you that a corrupt Federal judge dismissed a criminal case against an unrepentant felon on a theory so batshit crazy that not even Sam Alito signed on to it when he had the chance. That actually happened this morning.

Finally get to breathe

But only for a moment. I've spent most of today trying to fix things, or at least trying to figure out what problems need fixing. One of the problems has generated a comment thread on a vendor website, now at 44 comments, and I think after all that work I found the problem in an interaction between my code and Microsoft Azure Functions. If I'm right, the confirmation will come around 3pm.

Naturally, I haven't had time to read any of these:

I wrote the intro to this post around 2:45 and had to pause for a while. It's now 3:25, and I appear to have solved the problem. I will now document the solution and apologize to the vendor. Fun times, fun times.

The rise of Global Tetrahedron

The satirical newspaper The Onion just got bought by a newly-formed LLC called, yes, Global Tetrahedron. Longtime Onion readers will probably recognize the name; I had to remind myself.

Other events in the past day or so:

Time to fetch Cassie from school.

Busy news day

It's a gorgeous Friday afternoon in Chicago. So why am I inside? Right. Work. I'll eventually take Cassie out again today, and I may even have a chance to read all of these:

Finally, a milestone of sorts. The retail vacancy rate in downtown Chicago continues to climb as a longtime institution on North Wells finally closed. That's right, Wells Books, the last adult-entertainment store in the Loop, has closed.

Uri Berliner resigns from NPR News

First, to get it out of the way, I'm a Leadership Circle member of my local NPR affiliate, WBEZ. I listen to Morning Edition every weekday, and Weekend Edition every weekend day. I have high confidence in the NPR News team. And though I do chuckle sometimes at their editorial choices, I think the network's only "skew" simply follows Krugman's Law: "Facts have a well-known liberal bias."

Apparently Senior Business Editor Uri Berliner, who resigned from the network yesterday, feels differently:

It’s true NPR has always had a liberal bent, but during most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding.

In recent years, however, that has changed. Today, those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population.

Back in 2011, although NPR’s audience tilted a bit to the left, it still bore a resemblance to America at large. Twenty-six percent of listeners described themselves as conservative, 23 percent as middle of the road, and 37 percent as liberal.

By 2023, the picture was completely different: only 11 percent described themselves as very or somewhat conservative, 21 percent as middle of the road, and 67 percent of listeners said they were very or somewhat liberal. We weren’t just losing conservatives; we were also losing moderates and traditional liberals.

An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don’t have an audience that reflects America.

Yeah... I think NPR may have drifted a few millimeters to the left in the last 15 years while a large segment of America drifted off the right-wing precipice. But that rightward shift does create the perception, in some people, that moderate-left opinions have shifted left. They haven't.

Berliner's essay did what I'm absolutely certain he intended: it made him a pariah in the newsroom, and "proved" that his colleagues wanted to squash conservative voices, because what other reason would they have for getting pissed off at him? Other than, you know, doing unto NPR what he claimed NPR was doing unto him, as Steve Inskeep explained:

If Uri wanted to start a discussion about journalism at NPR, he succeeded, though maybe not in the way he intended. His colleagues have had a rich dialogue about his mistakes. The errors do make NPR look bad, because it’s embarrassing that an NPR journalist would make so many.

This article needed a better editor. I don’t know who, if anyone, edited Uri’s story, but they let him publish an article that discredited itself.

I discussed one example on stage in San Antonio. The article made headlines for Uri’s claim that he “looked at voter registration for our newsroom” in Washington, D.C., and found his “editorial” colleagues were unanimously registered Democrats—87 Democrats, 0 Republicans.

I am a prominent member of the newsroom in Washington. If Uri told the truth, then I could only be a registered Democrat. I held up a screenshot of my voter registration showing I am registered with “no party.” Some in the crowd gasped. Uri had misled them.

Is there a “larger point” that too many elite journalists share similar backgrounds, and think the same way in assigning and shaping stories? Yes, I think so, but it’s a subtle issue that has more to do with people’s educations, experiences and associations than with partisan registration. There’s less of a headline in that. And it’s an issue that NPR has tried to address with some of the people it has promoted, and by leaning more heavily on reports from our local stations across America.

The Post added further context, establishing links between Berliner and trolls like Chris Rufo, who spends a lot of time trying to get prominent women fired from their jobs:

On its face, [Berliner's essay] seemed to confirm the worst suspicions held by NPR’s critics on the right: that the legendary media organization had an ideological, progressive agenda that dictates its journalism. The Free Press is an online publication started by journalist Bari Weiss, whose own resignation from the New York Times in 2020 was used by conservative politicians as evidence that the Times stifled certain ideas and ideologies; Weiss accused the Times of catering to a rigid, politically left-leaning worldview and of refusing to defend her against online “bullies” when she expressed views to the contrary. Berliner’s essay was accompanied by several glossy portraits and a nearly hour-long podcast interview with Weiss. He also went on NewsNation, where the host Chris Cuomo — who had been cast out from CNN for crossing ethical lines to help his governor-brother — called Berliner a “whistleblower.”

NPR is known to have a very collegial culture, and the manner in which Berliner aired his criticism — perhaps even more than the substance of it — is what upset so many of his co-workers, according to one staffer.

This week conservative activist Christopher Rufo — who rose to fame for targeting “critical race theory,” and whose scrutiny of Harvard President Claudine Gay preceded her resignation — set his sights on Maher, surfacing old social media posts she wrote before she joined the news organization. In one 2020 tweet, she referred to Trump as a “deranged racist.” Others posts show her wearing a Biden hat, or wistfully daydreaming about hanging out with Kamala D. Harris. Rufo has called for Maher’s resignation.

What a schmendrick. I don't know what burr got into Berliner's boxers for him to air his grievances with his employer like this. It would have helped had he actually committed journalism in his essay instead.

My brain is full

Almost always, during the last few days before a performance, a huge chunk of my working memory contains the music I'm about to perform. I have two concerts this weekend, so right now, my brain has a lot of Bruckner in it. I feel completely prepared, in fact.

Unfortunately, I still have a day job, and I need a large chunk of my brain to work on re-architecting a section of our app. Instead of loading data from Microsoft Excel files, which the app needs to read entirely into memory because of the way Excel stores the contents of cells, I need to allow the app to use comma-separated values (CSV) files that it can read and throw away. So instead of reading the entire Excel file into memory and keeping it there while it generates an in-memory model of the file, the app will simply read each row of a CSV file and then throw that row away while building its model. I believe that will allow the app to ingest at least 5x more data for any given memory size.

I'm finding that the "In Te, Domine speravi" fugue from Bruckner's Te Deum keeps getting in the way of thinking about the re-architecture.

And oh, the irony, that I don't have enough working memory to think about how to get more working memory for our app.

Meanwhile...

  • James Fallows shakes his head at a pair of New York Times headlines that tell exactly the opposite stories as the articles under them. Salon's Lucian K Truscott IV elaborates.
  • The Mary Sue does not hold back on dismissing retiring US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (?-AZ), a "useless corporate Senate shill who accomplished nothing." "The only thing Sinema accomplished was outing herself as a toxic narcissist who deceived her supporters to make herself wealthy."
  • Monica Hesse has a similar, but more restrained, take on Sinema: "The interesting thing actually wasn’t her clothes. The interesting thing was that we wanted her clothes to mean something."
  • Nicholas Kristof pounds his desk about how the bullshit anti-Woke school battles coming out of places like Florida distract from the real problem: Johnny can't read.
  • A Santa Fe, N.M., jury convicted Hannah Gutierrez Reed of involuntary manslaughter for putting a live round in a prop firearm on the set of the movie Rust in 2021.
  • Cornell professor Sara Bronin leads the effort to create a National Zoning Atlas, which hopes to show what places in the US have the most onerous housing restrictions.
  • Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has launched a new exhibit on "the science of James Bond."

Finally, prosecutors agreed to dismiss (without prejudice, I believe, though the Post left out that detail) the criminal case revolving around Don Henley's handwritten notes outlining the Eagles album Hotel California when Henley's lawyers got caught withholding evidence from the defense team. In civil cases, this is bad, but in criminal cases it's much, much worse. Like, reversible error at best and dismissal with prejudice at worst. It appears that Henley himself blew up the case by changing his mind about waiving attorney-client privilege after his attorneys had already testified. Perhaps he thought he could score points against the defense that way, but like most victims of the Dunning-Krueger Effect, he didn't understand that "gotcha" moves are generally not allowed in US courts. We'll see if the prosecutors move for a new trial or just take the loss. (It looks like the latter.)

Fun international work meeting

I learned this morning that I have a meeting at 6am Wednesday, because the participants will be in four time zones across four continents. Since I'm traveling to Munich later that day, I'll just comfort myself by remembering it's 1pm Central Europe time.

I'm already queuing up some things to read on the flights. I'll probably finish all of these later today, though:

  • Jennifer Rubin highlights four ways in which the XPOTUS has demonstrated his electoral weakness in the past few weeks.
  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz agrees, warning the MAGA Republican extremists to stop screwing around lest the party suffer an historic ass-kicking in November. (For my part, I don't think they will stop, and the ass-kicking is long overdue.)
  • Sean Wilentz warns that the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to evaluate the XPOTUS in light of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause will lead to worse problems later on.
  • James Fallows chastises the Times in particular for creating the controversy about President Biden's age they claimed simply to report on.
  • Ian Bogost moans about the ever-deepening problems of carrying baggage onto planes. (I will be checking my bag through to Munich, for what it's worth, but I may carry it on for the return flight to avoid customs delays changing planes at Charlotte.)

Finally, John Scalzi erupts at the 2023 Hugo Awards administrators for outright fraud and unforgivable cowardice following a report on Chinese political interference in the awards selection process last summer.

Ukrainian engineering

With the news this morning that Ukraine has disabled yet another Russian ship, incapacitating fully one-third of the Russian Black Sea fleet, it has become apparent that Ukraine is better at making Russian submarines than the Murmansk shipyards. Russia could, of course, stop their own massive military losses—so far they've lost 90% of their army as well—simply by pulling back to the pre-2014 border, but we all know they won't do that.

In other news of small-minded people continuing to do wastefully stupid things:

Finally, a reader who knows my perennial frustration at ever-lengthening copyright durations sent me a story from last March about who benefits from composer Maurice Ravel's estate. Ravel died in 1937, so his music will remain under copyright protection until 1 January 2034, providing royalties to his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter. Please think of her the next time you hear "Bolero."

But her emails!, 2024 edition

I really have a hard time understanding why so many news organizations have trouble covering the substance of politics rather than the game of it. The general reporting on Special Counsel Robert Hur's (R) exoneration of President Biden shows what I mean. I mentioned in passing Saturday that James Fallows called Hur's report "tendentious," but he had more to say:

After Biden finished his remarks last night, White House reporters bayed and yelled at him, more aggressively than I can ever recall. They exceeded the baseline I wrote about nearly 30 years ago in the book Breaking the News, about the macho-style code of the press room that equated being ill-mannered with being intellectually tough.

After this yelling session, most of the leading press ran stories like this one in the NYT, saying that the one word—Mexico—had "placed Mr. Biden’s advanced age, the singularly uncomfortable subject looming over his re-election bid, back at the center of America’s political conversation."

Note the agent-free verb “placed.” It’s actually the journalists who are placing it there—as they placed Hillary Clinton’s emails eight years ago, and as they have not placed Donald Trump’s Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley.

Greg Sargent goes further:

Indeed, that New York Times analysis claims those details were “quickly seized on by Republicans,” and could “set the stage” for “a fresh round of political attacks” on Biden.

But in this case, those findings in the report are both being manipulated dishonestly by Republicans and are largely tangential to the report’s most important finding. Republicans are claiming the special counsel opted against charges for Biden because of his “age related dementia,” with many jumping on that idea to declare that this showed him to be unfit for office.

Yet Hur also reached that conclusion for another reason. He explicitly declares that a jury would be unlikely to convict “in the absence of other, more direct evidence” that Biden willfully and improperly hoarded that classified information. Hur says investigators “searched” for such evidence, but “found it wanting,” adding that “no witness, photo, email, text message, or any other evidence” was discovered. That’s why a jury would be unlikely to convict.

Jennifer Rubin sums up the problem:

Special counsel Robert K. Hur had a single task: Determine if President Biden illegally retained sensitive documents after his vice presidency. The answer should not have taken nearly 13 months or a more than 300-page report.

The Biden-Harris campaign decried the media’s obsession with Biden’s age while virtually ignoring another rambling, incoherent Trump speech in which he insisted Pennsylvania would be renamed if he lost. (In South Carolina on Saturday, he was at it again, inviting Russia to invade NATO countries and insulting Nikki Haley’s deployed husband.) By habitually and artificially leveling the playing field, much of the media enables MAGA propaganda and neglects Trump’s obvious mental and emotional infirmities.

Still, facts matter. Biden acted responsibly and committed no crime. Trump faces multiple felony counts, including intentionally withholding top-secret documents and obstructing an investigation. Three years separate Biden and Trump in age, but the distance between their mental and emotional fitness remains incalculable — as is the chasm between the media we have and the media democracy requires.

We've got just under 9 months until the election. Someday, I hope the country can have an election based on policy. Clearly, this is not that day.

Busy weekend

I grabbed a friend for a couple of Brews & Choos visits yesterday, and through judicious moderation (8-10 oz of beer per person at each stop), we managed to get the entire West Fulton Corridor cluster done in six hours. So in a few minutes I'll start writing four B&C reviews, which will come out over the next three days.

Before I start, though, I'm going to read all these stories that have piled up since Friday:

Finally, the Roscoe Rat (really a squirrel) Hole got its own NPR story this morning. And in my social media I saw a photo of someone proposing to her boyfriend at the rat hole. Color me bemused.