The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Margaret Sullivan retires

In her last column, the Washington Post veteran warns that journalists still have a long way to go to properly deal with the anti-democratic party to the right:

Here’s the good news: The media has come a long, long way in figuring out how to cover the democracy-threatening ways of Donald Trump and his allies, including his stalwart helpers in right-wing media. It is now common to see headlines and stories that plainly refer to some politicians as “election deniers,” and journalists are far less hesitant to use the blunt and clarifying word “lie” to describe Trump’s false statements. That includes, of course, the former president’s near-constant campaign to claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged to prevent him from keeping the White House.

And yet, I worry that it’s not nearly enough. I don’t mean to suggest that journalists can address the threats to democracy all by themselves — but they must do more.

The deeper question is whether news organizations can break free of their hidebound practices the love of political conflict, the addiction to elections as a horse race — to address those concerns effectively.

For the sake of democracy, they must.

Journalists certainly shouldn’t shill for Trump’s 2024 rivals — whoever they may be — but they have to be willing to show their readers, viewers and listeners that electing him again would be dangerous. That’s a tricky tightrope to walk.

James Fallows has said a lot of the same things. Maybe mainstream journalists will listen?

Baby's first Ribfest

If Cassie could (a) speak English and (b) understand the concept of "future" she would be quivering with anticipation about going to Ribfest tonight after school. Since she can't anticipate it, I'll do double-duty and drool on her behalf. It helps that the weather today looks perfect: sunny, not too hot, with a strong chance of delicious pork ribs.

Meanwhile, I have a few things to read on my commute that I didn't get to yesterday:

Finally, as I ride on the UP-N commuter line in an hour or so, I can imagine what it will be like when the train gets a battery-powered locomotive in a few years.

Friday afternoon reading

Yesterday I had a full work day plus a three-hour rehearsal for our performance of Stacy Garrop's Terra Nostra on Monday night. (Tickets still available!) Also, yesterday, the House began its public hearings about the failed insurrection on 6 January 2021. Also, yesterday was Thursday, and I could never get the hang of Thursdays.

Finally, Wired takes a look at the law of war, and how Ukrainian civilians may cross the line into belligerents by using apps to report military intelligence to the Ukrainian army.

Who took a leak on the Supreme Court?

South Texas College of Law Houston Law Professor Josh Blackman sketches out a timeline pointing to a right-wing Justice's clerk as the likely source of the Dobbs leak:

First, where did the leak come from? Most people are presuming this leak came from someone with access to the opinion, such as a Justice or a clerk. That presumption is probably correct, but it is also possible there was some illegal exfiltration of the document. ... People who are fanatical about abortion may go to great lengths to support their cause.

Fourth, Politico got the scoop. Not the Washington Post or New York Times or WSJ or NPR. Or, perhaps other outlets had a copy of the opinion, but only Politico was willing to run it. I still think WSJ had the opinion last week, in light of their editorial. The Supreme Court is in worse shape than I could have imagined.

Josh Marshall draws lines between Blackman's dots:

[T]he rapid-fire follow-up reporting on John Roberts’ position on the Mississippi case, just hours after the Politico exclusive, made me think at the time that the leaked draft opinion wasn’t a one off thing. It seemed part of a larger breakdown of secrecy or on-going leaks tied to the Mississippi abortion case. You don’t come up with details about the Chief Justice’s position and arguments from internal deliberations on one of the biggest cases in decades in an hour and a half if you’re beginning from a cold start. Then this morning I found out about this Wall Street Journal opinion page editorial from April 26th in which they fairly transparently write about current Court deliberations in the Mississippi case, specifically that John Roberts was trying to pull an unnamed conservative Justice back from fully overturning Roe.

[W]hy the column in late April? And why the specifics? It certainly reads like the authors had an inside read on on-going deliberations and fears that Roberts might be in the process of sneaking a defeat from the jaws of victory.

It reads even more like that when you read the piece in the context of the subsequent leak.

Blackman is a big advocate for overturning Roe. But that’s mostly neither here nor there for our present purposes. What’s interesting is that he’s written extensively about previous cases when Roberts nudged the Court toward less right-wing decisions and cases where there were leaks and pressure campaigns trying to prevent him from doing so. So Blackman is something of an expert on this on-going pattern and history. He seemed to spot it from his first read of the Journal editorial. Indeed, if I’m reading his piece correctly he seems to think the Journal may well have had a copy of the Alito opinion too.

(Emphasis in original.)

So, some clerk in Justice Alito's (R) or Thomas's (R) office gave photocopies of Alito's first draft to a number of right-leaning outlets, and Politico published first. All of this to push the Court towards a more extreme position than Chief Justice Roberts (I) can agree with.

Great moments in copy editing

This headline made me laugh so loudly I scared Cassie:

The article explains:

The building at 2222 N. Halsted St. went up in 1808 and is considered “orange-rated” in the Sheffield Historic District, meaning it possesses some qualities that contribute to the historical nature of the area.

Um. No. There was not a 3-flat sticking up out of the prairie 5 kilometers from the nearest European settlement in the middle of Potawatomi land four years before the Fort Dearborn Massacre. Chicago looked like this in 1812:

Here's a map of Chicago from 1820 from the Library of Congress; notice that the northern border of the city was Kinzie Street, still about 5 kilometers from 2222 N. Halsted:

The area around Halsted and Webster was built up in the 1880s. My hypothesis, which I hope Block Club Chicago chases down, is that the building actually dates from 1888, as it looks like a typical 3-flat from that era, and it makes sense that somewhere along the line someone read the second 8 as a 0.

I reached out to the reporter, who replied:

I've triple-checked the recording of the meeting, and the attorneys definitely said 1808, but you're totally right. We're tweaking the story until we have clarification from them on when the building was constructed.

OK, sure, except the date of 1808 doesn't pass the laugh test if you know anything at all about Chicago history. I can understand a reporter transcribing a meeting and triple-checking what someone at the meeting said. But the reporter's job requires him in this case to do the 15 minutes of work to confirm the assertion. And the editor's job is to push back on the reporter before publishing a ridiculous headline.

I'm taking them to task for this because this error really shakes my confidence in the Block Club editorial staff. If you publish something this laughably wrong, can I trust what you report about the city council? About political organizations that want more publicity for their own points of view? About people with long records of lying their asses off?

I replied to the reporter that I'll bet a $50 donation to Block Club that it's really 1888. I hope the bet motivates him to do his damn job and get a relevant fact corrected sometime today.

Update: The reporter checked with the Cook County Assessor's Office, and yes, they say it's from 1886. The new copy reads as follows:

The building at 2222 N. Halsted St. is considered “orange-rated” in the Sheffield Historic District, meaning it possesses some qualities that contribute to the historical nature of the area. The Cook County Assessor’s Office lists the building as 135 years old.

That makes a lot more sense.

Europe's 9/11

Julia Ioffe remains one of the clearest voices about Russia in the Western press, not surprising as she was born in the USSR and lived the first few years of her life in Moscow. Her analysis of the first week of the Ukrainian invasion is a must-read:

For America, World War II was Pearl Harbor, island hopping in the Pacific, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge. As bloody and horrific as those events were, they pale in comparison to what Europe experienced. In six years of war, the continent was leveled. Tens of millions of people were killed in the most novel and horrific ways. Many countries endured the brutality of military occupation. The trauma of that war is still present today in Europe in a way that is foreign to the United States. It is passed down from generation to generation. (The same thing is true of Ukraine and Russia. The Soviet Union lost 27 million people—15 percent of its population—in just four years. Every family lost many, many loved ones, and the trauma of that war is alive and well, thanks in part to Putin’s propaganda machine.) If you could make the images coming out of Ukraine black and white, it might be hard to tell the difference between September 1939 or June 1941. The fact that there is a land war happening again, in Europe, less than a century since the last one, and using a lot of the same language, has been extremely triggering for Europeans (as well as for Russians and Ukrainians). For Europeans, as some of the continent’s officials have told people in the Biden administration, “this is our 9/11.”

Putin is determined to see this matter through—all the way through. There is no way he stops now, and the more the Ukrainian people stand up to him, the more they mock him, the more determined he will be to crush them. He will not be humiliated by “Little Russians,” by residents of a country he doesn’t believe is real. He will not be vanquished by a Ukraine he thinks is a puppet of his mortal enemy, the United States. And because he has more troops and more firepower, he can have his way, even if it won’t be as easy as he initially thought. It’s why absolutely no one should discount the possibility that Putin might make good on his threat to use a nuclear weapon. He is that angry, and he wants it badly enough. It is existential for him now. As Russian TV host Dmitry Kiselev threatened on his Sunday night show, Russia is fully willing to fire 500 nuclear warheads at NATO countries. He explained why Russia would do this. “The principle is: why do we need the world if Russia won’t be in it?”

Earlier this week, I was on Morning Joe, and one of the other guests, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, said that he believes that, in the end, Ukraine will triumph. Good will conquer evil. For a moment, I was dumbstruck. Everything he had said on the show until then was so rational and honest, so deeply grounded in grim reality. And yet, somehow, he managed to shoehorn this cloying little bromide in there: Ukraine is vastly outgunned, a no-fly zone is not possible, Russia will eventually get the upper hand—but Ukraine will win, eventually, because good conquers evil

What a perfectly American sentiment, I thought, born of the privilege of having never been invaded or occupied, of joining world wars long after the opening shots have been fired and then claiming the victors’ podium, of wearing nice little blinders that allow you to believe that progress is inevitable, linear, and irreversible. How nice it must be, as a white man in America, to never have to experience the consequences of the moral arc of the universe collapsing under the weight of the universe’s capacity for injustice, of evil getting away with absolutely everything. 

By the way, Ioffe named her blog "Tomorrow will be Worse." Yeah.\

For more fun reading, Craig Unger provides a timeline of the XPOTUS's career as a Russian asset.

What happened to Tuesday?

And wasn't it just Tuesday?

I got an email from HR this morning reminding me that I'm approaching the upper limit for paid time off in my bank. I thought, what with taking half a day here and there over the past year, I might not already have almost a month of vacation to use. Cue searching on VRBO for places Cassie and I might like.

Meanwhile, back in the present:

But back to vacation: how cute is this place?

Cue the weekend

The temperature dropped 17.7°C between 2:30 pm yesterday and 7:45 this morning, from 6.5°C to -10.2°C, as measured at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters. So far it's recovered to -5.5°C, almost warm enough to take my lazy dog on a hike. She got a talking-to from HR about not pulling her weight in the office, so this morning she worked away at a bone for a good stretch:

Alas, the sun came out, a beam hit her head, and she decided the bone could wait:

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

  • Julia Ioffe interviews Russian diplomat Dr Andrey Sushentsov about Russia's views of the Ukraine crisis. tl;dr: the US and Russia don't even have a common set of facts to discuss, let alone a common interpretation of them.
  • In Beijing, former Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon blasts the Russian team for once again crapping on their own performance with yet another doping scandal.
  • The government of Ontario secured a court order last night allowing the Windsor Police and OPP to start clearing the Ambassador Bridge. So far, they have managed to do so without violence, but a few extremists haven't yet budged.
  • James Fallows updates his earlier post on how framing outrageous actions as "that's just Trump" is an abrogation of the press's responsibility to its consumers. "For perspective here: the late Sandy Berger, who had been Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, was investigated, charged, fined $50,000, and sentenced to two years of probation for stuffing copies of a classified document into his socks, and sneaking them out from the National Archives. The story of his downfall was a major news feature back in the mid-2000s."
  • The UK now allows fully-vaccinated travelers from most countries to arrive and depart without getting a swab stuck up their nose.
  • Comedian Bob Saget died of blunt head trauma, consistent with a slip and fall, according to an autopsy. It also found his heart had a 95% blockage, which might have killed him even without the fall.

Finally, in 2018 Rebecca Mead returned to London after living in New York for 30 years. Her 15-year-old son now speaks with a unique accent Mead says has become the new standard "Multicultural London English."

Really good Russia analysis

Russian-American journalist Julia Ioffe recently interviewed Russia expert Fiona Hill for Puck. It's worth a read:

Do you think Putin’s going to invade Ukraine? And if so, what form would it take?

I do. I think it’s really the form that it’s going to take. There is still a chance that he won’t, right? And we have to really keep on going with diplomacy. But Putin has run a risk now. He said he’s going to do all of these things. He said he’s not going to invade Ukraine, but so what? They’ve said that the last time and the last time and the time before that. So we don’t buy that one. But he can’t be caught out as bluffing. If we call his bluff, he has to do something, because otherwise none of his threats are credible. He has to do something, and they’ve said “military-technical response.” They’ve been shooting down satellites. There was this cyberattack. They’re showing that they could do an awful lot more. 

The thing is, he’s got no one to stop him at home. He’s got no press resistance at all, no opposition. He’s got everybody running around with their heads cut off abroad. So unless there is a unified pushback, he can do things in the manner of his choosing. I know there’s a lot of East Europeans and a lot of Ukrainians saying, Oh, this is just a bluff, he keeps doing this. But you know, the more they say that also, the more likely it is he’ll do something to teach them a lesson.

People I talk to in Moscow, as well as some in the U.S. government, say that some of this is a product of Putin’s COVID isolation for the last two years; that he barely sees anyone because to see him, you have to quarantine for two weeks; that he’s not getting good information. Do you think that’s plausible?

I think it could be, honestly. I really do think that there’s something strange going on there. He seems more emotional, more focused. Maybe he’s been sitting there, stewing the whole time about this. There’s a good case to be made for that because it’s very strange. There are many people, myself and others, who have followed Putin for his entire time in the presidency and we’re all sort of wondering whether there’s something else going on. Is something wrong? Has this made him confront his mortality? There are other changes around him. Lots of people did get sick around him. Does that make him feel that time might be ticking, in ways we would never have credited?

Those two have more expertise about Russia than exists in Foggy Bottom right now. The whole interview is worth reading.

Finance stabs another media outlet

Private equity only knows and only cares about money. Starting from that uncontroversial statement, it takes even less imagination and storytelling skills than private-equity-driven G/O Media possesses to predict the ultimate fate of A.V. Club:

Top editorial staff at the Chicago-based A.V. Club, a sister publication to The Onion, are exiting the entertainment website en masse after refusing a mandatory relocation to new offices in Los Angeles.

The seven employees, including the managing editor, TV editor and film editor, all gave the West Coast move the thumbs-down by a Jan. 15 deadline imposed by the A.V. Club’s owner, New York-based G/O Media.

G/O Media, which is owned by Boston-based private equity firm Great Hill Partners, acquired The Onion, A.V. Club and other digital sites from Spanish language broadcaster Univision for an undisclosed price in 2019. Since then, the company has locked horns several times with the Writers Guild of America, East, the union representing editorial staffers at its portfolio of websites.

In October 2019, Deadspin, the irreverent sports website, was all but shut down by a mass exodus of more than 20 New York-based writers and editors who resigned in protest over the editorial direction under its new owners, G/O Media. After a monthslong standoff with the union, G/O Media announced it was relocating Deadspin to Chicago, where it relaunched in March 2020 under the same roof as The Onion.

Well, why would G/O Media care about the current editorial staff? From the perspective of G/O's vacant-eyed suits, A.V. Club is just a series of cash flows, not a group of writers with a 30-year history and a unique perspective on popular culture. G/O cares less about A.V. Club's content than an earthworm cares about Shakespeare. To increase cash flows, reduce costs.

You can't force people to have consciences or empathy, or to care about art or journalism. But you don't have to reward them for apathy.