The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Reading list for this week

As I'm trying to decide which books to take with me to Germany, my regular news sources have also given me a few things to put in my reading list:

Finally, the North Atlantic has near-record jet streams again this week, approaching 360 km/h, and shaving 45 minutes off the DC–London route. I would love that to happen Wednesday.

$350 million in fines

New York Justice Arthur Engoron just handed the XPOTUS a $350 million fine and barred him and his two failsons from running a business in New York for years:

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Of course he'll appeal, but New York doesn't give him many grounds to do so. And given the scale of the fraud he perpetrated on the State, even this eye-watering sum will probably survive scrutiny from the appellate court.

In other news this afternoon:

Finally, the Tribune has a long retrospective on WGN-TV weather reporter Tom Skilling, who will retire after the 10pm newscast on the 28th.

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."

Ravinia Brewing vs Ravinia Festival

I first visited Ravinia Brewing early in the Brews & Choos Project, and liked it. In fact I have gone back several times, most recently a week ago Friday. I haven't yet visited their Logan Square taproom though, and because of the way trademarks and contracts work in the US, I may never:

In October, Ravinia Festival, the Highland Park outdoor concert venue known for its summer music series, sued the craft brewery for trademark infringement, court records show.

The brewery was born out of the Ravinia District of Highland Park in 2017 and opened its original location there in 2018.

In 2018, the brewery signed an agreement that allowed both parties to use the name, as long as the brewery complied with guidelines to ensure consumers understood there was no relationship between the two organizations.

The lawsuit alleges the brewery violated that agreement.

Brewery co-owners Jeff Hoobler and Kris Walker have called the lawsuit unjust and said the business is rapidly losing money because of legal expenses. They warned the business could close if the company keeps bleeding financially.

I've just read RBC's answer to RF's complaint, which includes the allegations in the complaint as per local rules. As with any lawsuit, we don't know the full story, and as this will probably never go to trial, we probably never will. It looks like the brewery and the Festival have some bad blood between them, for sure. But if the brewery's answer is accurate, this has all the feeling of trying to crack a walnut with a sledgehammer.

I hope the Festival and the brewery can come to a compromise here. I like them both.

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.

You'll get there in a few millennia

An Ottawa judge told the Crown Prosecution Service to return a suspect's mobile phones after prosecutors failed to unlock them after trying 175 million passwords:

The police seized the phones in October 2022 with a warrant obtained based on information about a Google account user uploading images of child pornography. The contents of the three phones were all protected by complex, alpha-numeric passcodes.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Carter heard that police investigators tried about 175 million passcodes in an effort to break into the phones during the past year.

The problem, the judge was told, is that more than 44 nonillion potential passcodes exist for each phone.

To be more precise, the judge said, there are 44,012,666,865,176,569,775,543,212,890,625 potential alpha-numeric passcodes for each phone.

In his ruling, Carter said the court had to balance the property rights of an individual against the state’s legitimate interest in preserving evidence in an investigation. The phones, he said, have no evidentiary value unless the police succeed in finding the right passcodes.

The article helpfully describes how dictionary attacks work, but doesn't attempt to figure out how long it would take to brute-force them. (I'm not going to attempt that, either, but I expect it's a while.)

Still chilly, but not like 1985

My socials today have a lot of chatter about the weather, understandably as we're now in our fourth day below -15°C. And yet I have vivid memories of 20 January 1985 when we hit the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago, -32°C. The fact that winters have gotten noticeably milder since the 1970s doesn't really matter during our annual Arctic blast. Sure, we had the coldest winter ever just 10 years ago, but the 3rd and 5th coldest were 1977-78 and 1978-79, respectively. I remember the snow coming up to my chin those years, and the never-ending below-freezing temperatures (like the 43 days from 28 December 1976 to 8 February 1977).

That said, I completely support the Chicago Public Schools closing today and tomorrow. And that they smoothed out all the streets since I was younger, so kids don't have to walk uphill both ways in the snow. But given the wind-chill advisory in effect until tomorrow morning, none of us wanted to go into the office either.

So instead of commuting, I'll have some time to read these as I shiver in my home office:

Finally, should I get an induction burner? I've been using my electric teakettle to pre-boil water for pasta, which saves a ton of time. The Post looked into the benefits of induction vs natural gas, principally around air quality. Looks like it's worth $120 to reduce my gas use. Of course, since I have gas furnaces, it might not do a lot for me this week.

And now for some actual lawyering, ICJ edition

Julia Ioffe interviews David Scheffer, a lawyer and professor who served as Bill Clinton's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, to provide some clarity around South Africa's suit against Israel in the International Court of Justice:

South Africa is alleging the entire corpus of the Genocide Convention and its application, namely that Israel has failed to prevent genocide against Gaza and that it is committing genocide against Gaza. It is a very fulsome application. South Africa is not asking the I.C.J. to make a finding of a failure to prevent, or a commission of, genocide. They are asking the I.C.J. to direct Israel through what are called provisional measures to do what is necessary to prevent and not commit genocide in Gaza, to take those measures while the I.C.J., over a much longer period of time, considers the merits of South Africa’s allegations. For a commission of genocide, one needs to establish that both the genocidal act has occurred and that it has occurred with the specific intent to destroy all or part of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group. The dolus specialis, we call it—the specific intent to do that. That’s why, particularly on a merits stage, it takes time to put those two together: the genocidal acts, and the mens rea of the specific intent.

The application disgorges an enormous amount of publicly available information about what has happened in Gaza. We all know that it’s a humanitarian catastrophe of some dimension in Gaza right now. I don’t want to diminish the importance of that. But nowhere in South Africa’s application is there any recognition that there is a war taking place. This is not a genocide like Rwanda or of the Rohingya or the Yazidis in recent times, where these were just authoritarian regimes that went after populations that were not attacking them.

But this is a war. There is an act of self-defense by Israel. Now, that does not mean that Israel has clean hands on absolutely everything it’s done, absolutely not.

I think genocide is a very powerful word. You get everyone’s attention. South Africa could just as easily say, “We clearly think atrocity crimes are occurring now in Gaza. We’re not prepared yet to say whether it’s genocide or not.” But they did make a determination: They want to call it genocide. And they’re free to do so. I don’t blame them. 

But in the court of law as well as in the court of public opinion, I think it’s very important that we not embrace that word in this particular conflict until there’s a better understanding of what is occurring in terms of warfare and of the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people. 

At the same time, as I have pointed out, Hamas could stop it all tomorrow by surrendering. Hamas has the power to prevent genocide. It has had the power to prevent genocide even after it, itself, probably committed genocide on October 7th. It had the power, after October 7th, to subject none of the Palestinian population to what South Africa describes as genocide. Hamas had the power and it did not use that power. Hamas has no right to fight on. It has no right of self-defense. And furthermore, by virtue of the fact that it continues to fight, it brings an enormous amount of suffering and destruction upon the Palestinian people, all of which it could stop by simply surrendering.

The last paragraph I quoted is particularly important. For all the online outrage I see about Israel's military campaign against Hamas, I don't see many Palestine supporters recognizing that Hamas started this, and Hamas can end it.

Because really, October 7th and what happened afterwards comes down to Hamas wanting to destroy Israel. People seem to forget that.

Netanyahu has to go, soon, along with all the right-wing crazies propping up his government. But so does Hamas.

Annals of brilliant lawyering

When you don't pay your attorneys, and then you don't pay the attorneys you had to hire because the first set of attorneys sued you for payment, you start to look like an absolute ganif to the legal community. Maybe that's why the XPOTUS could only find the kind of attorney who would advance a legal theory that surprised just about everyone in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday:

In a hearing before the D.C. Circuit Court, the former president’s lawyers argued that he should be immune from criminal prosecution for his role in the attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election. This argument has an obvious flaw: It implies that the president is above the law. Such a blunt rejection of the Constitution and the basic concept of American democracy is too much even for Trump to assert—publicly, at least—so his lawyers have proposed a theory. They say that he can’t be criminally prosecuted unless he is first impeached and convicted by Congress.

This argument is no less dangerous, as a hypothetical asked in court demonstrated in chilling terms. Judge Florence Pan asked Trump’s attorney, D. John Sauer, if “a president who ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival” could be criminally prosecuted. Sauer tried to hem and haw his way through an answer but ultimately stated that such a president couldn’t be prosecuted unless he was first impeached, convicted, and removed by Congress.

In effect, Trump has realized that, just as none of his voters would desert him over murdering a man on Fifth Avenue, nothing he could do would be so bad that congressional Republicans would abandon him. He doesn’t need a majority, either. Under the argument his lawyers made in court today, all Trump needs is 34 Republicans who will vote not to convict, and that’s sufficient to guarantee he can act with impunity.

Yes, but what about that little logical flaw, the one that Judge Florence Pan saw immediately? Doesn't the argument admit something at odds with the XPOTUS's claim of absolute immunity? Well, yes, actually:

[Pan] pointed out that this would mean presidents can be criminally prosecuted under certain circumstances. In other words, Trump does not have absolute immunity.

“Doesn’t that narrow the issues before us to…‘can a president be prosecuted without first being impeached and convicted?’” Pan said. “All of your other arguments seem to fall away.”

“Once you concede that there’s not this absolute immunity, that the judiciary can hear criminal prosecutions under any circumstances—you’re saying there’s one specific circumstance—then that means that there isn’t this absolute immunity that you claim.”

Pan also noted that Trump appeared to be trying to have it both ways. During his second impeachment trial, Trump and some of his Republican allies argued that the Senate shouldn’t convict him because he would face criminal prosecution later. But now, he claims he shouldn’t have to face prosecution, either.

I guess you don't have to represent yourself in court to have a fool for a lawyer. (He was going to do that, too, before the judge told him he'd go to jail for contempt if he speechified.) Then again, John Sauer has a fool for a client, so...

Saturday morning miscellaneous reads

I don't usually do link round-ups on Saturday mornings, but I got stuff to do today:

  • Josh Marshall is enjoying the "comical rake-stomp opera" of Nikki Haley's (R-SC) primary campaign.
  • The Economist pokes around the "city" of Rosemont, Ill., a family-owned fiefdom less than 10 km from Inner Drive Technology World HQ.
  • The New York Times highlights the most informative charts they published in 2023.
  • The Chicago Tribune lists some of the new Illinois laws taking effect on Monday. My favorite: Illinois will no longer bar marriage licenses for out-of-state same-sex couples whose home jurisdiction prohibits same-sex marriages.
  • The CTA plans to build out 10 blocks (2 km) of "community space" under the new Red/Purple Line trestle under construction in Uptown and Edgewater.

Finally, two restaurants in Chicago—well, one restaurant and one infamous hot-dog stand—have joined forces to create the Chicago Croissant, which "features a char-dog rolled into a pastry lined with mustard, relish and onions. Definitely no ketchup. It’s topped with poppy seeds and celery salt and garnished with a tomato, pepper and pickle." This, they claim, is a breakfast food.