The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What a lovely day to end Spring

Despite a high, thin broken cloud layer, it's 23°C with a light breeze and comfortable humidity at Inner Drive Technology World HQ. Cassie and I had a half-hour walk at a nice pace (we covered just over 3 km), and I've just finished my turkey sandwich. And yet, there's something else that has me feeling OK, if only for a little while...

Perhaps it's this? Maybe this? How about this? Or maybe it's Alexandra Petri?

In other news:

Finally, another solar storm, another cloudy night in Chicago: the Aurora Borealis may be visible as far south as Chicago overnight, just not in Chicago. As long as I can get Cassie on her daily long walk before the rain hits...

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

The chorus season is mostly over

After a week of rehearsals capped by two performances of some really challenging works by French and Swiss composers, I finally got a full 8½ hours of sleep last night. What a difference. Not just the needed rest, but also having a much smaller inbox (just one task for the chorus left until next week) and less to worry about.

Until I open a newspaper, of course:

  • The head of the political arm of Hamas, the terrorist group and de jure governing party in Gaza which has called for the annihilation of all Jews, claims to have accepted cease-fire terms that would avoid an Israeli invasion of Rafah, but Israel disputes this.
  • Six months out from the election, Walter Shapiro looks at President Biden's approval ratings and concludes they probably don't matter.
  • UMass Amherst professor Ethan Zuckerman has sued Facebook over a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC 230) that could allow people to use third-party tools to block their social media. Zuckerman explains the suit in layman's terms in the Times.

Finally, a new bar claiming to be Chicago's first with an indoor dog park got a special-use permit, enabling them to open sometime this fall. B-A-R (as in, "who wants to go to the B-A-R?") still needs a liquor license, and will charge $25 per day or $50 per month per dog. I just passed by the site on Saturday, so I will note that it's directly across the street from some of Chicago's best thin-crust pizza. But $25 just to visit? Hm. The do know they're only a kilometer from a dog park, right?

Sam Alito has stopped pretending to be impartial

We always knew US Associate Justice Sam Alito (R) had a mediocre aura and a partisan bent, but before the Great Kentucky Turtle stole Merrick Garland's appointment and rushed through Comey Barrett's, Alito at least sometimes pretended to understand that the Supreme Court's legitimacy rested in part on people perceiving it as non-partisan.

This week he decided to abandon that pretense. First, when his questions in US v Idaho on Tuesday revealed that he has no interest at all in protecting adult women from pain or suffering:

The case, United States v. Idaho, is about whether emergency rooms in Idaho—a state that bans all abortions except those done to prevent death, not to preserve health—are in violation of a federal law that requires E.R. patients to be stabilized. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, says hospitals that accept Medicare funding have to stabilize patients facing threats to their health, and for pregnant patients facing complications, the treatment is sometimes abortion.

During arguments, some of the male justices seemed content to talk about whether EMTALA’s funding conditions are an appropriate use of the Constitution’s spending clause, while the women were focusing on the medical harm Idaho’s law has caused to living, breathing women. Late in the argument, Alito—who wrote the majority opinion in Dobbs that allows laws like Idaho’s to be enforced—was upset that not enough time had been devoted to the existence of the words “unborn child” in the law about emergency room care.

Alito seems to have a habit of trying to slip one over the American public. In the other abortion case this term, concerning the fate of the abortion drug mifepristone, he referred to the Comstock Act not by name, but by statute number18 U.S.C. 1461. Comstock is a dormant, Victoria-era law that the power-hungry folks behind Project 2025, the proposed agenda for a second Trump term, expect the former president to revive and enforce in order to ban the mailing of abortion pills—if not all clinic supplies—should he win a second term.

Two days later, during oral arguments about whether the President of the United States can be held criminally liable for at all for actions taken while in office, Alito again expressed some opinions that would have made James Madison's blood boil:

During oral arguments, several Republican-appointed justices expressed concern that without immunity, former presidents might suddenly begin to face criminal prosecution with regularity. But Alito took this entirely hypothetical concern to an absurd conclusion: He worried that if presidents believed theirs successors could prosecute them, they might refuse to leave office peacefully when they lose reelection. Put another way, presidents need immunity from prosecution in order to encourage them to accept electoral defeat and preserve American democracy.

Considering that this entire case is about a president who sought to illegally remain in office—and whose supporters staged a violent insurrection to help him do just that—this was a stunning argument to make.

The irony of using Trump as the vehicle for enhancing presidential immunity out of a fear of increased instances of political prosecution never came up. But it’s worth remembering that Trump was elected in 2016 on a platform of locking up his political opponent. Throughout his presidency, he tried to use the Justice Department to launch politically motivated prosecutions and was dismayed that the norm of the department making its own prosecutorial decisions did not break down. He has even complained bitterly that his attorney general and other federal prosecutors refused to help him steal the election.

Josh Marshall has said that the entire Republican contingent on the Court is now nakedly partisan, and therefore nakedly corrupt. But we can still marvel at how far Justice Alito has strayed from anything resembling normal American jurisprudence.

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.

Scattered thunderstorms?

The forecast today called for a lot more rain than we've had, so Cassie might get more walkies than planned. Before that happens, I'm waiting for a build to run in our dev pipeline, and one or two stories piqued my interest to occupy me before it finishes:

Finally, after a couple of months of incoherent babbling, Voyager 1—now 24.3 million kilometers from Earth, 22.5 light-hours away, after 46 years and 7 months of travel—has started making sense again. Well, hello there!

Smelly criminals appeal to SCOTUS

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in Johnson v Grants Pass, Ore., the result of a 2018 lawsuit against the rural Southern Oregon town (pop. 39,000) for imposing fines of up to $1250 for the heinous crime of sleeping in public. Naturally, the usual suspects seem to think that's just fine:

Kelsi Brown Corkran, representing the challengers, argued that because Grants Pass defines a “campsite” as anywhere a homeless person is, within the city, with a blanket, it is “physically impossible for a homeless person to live in Grants Pass” without facing the prospect of fines and jail time. The order barring the city from enforcing its ordinances, she insisted, still leaves the city with an “abundance of tools” to address homelessness.”

At the oral argument on Monday, the court’s liberal justices largely seemed to agree. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the city’s ordinances only apply to homeless people who sleep in public. Police officers in Grants Pass, she suggested, don’t arrest others who fall asleep in public with blankets – for example, babies with blankets or people who are stargazing.

By contrast, Justice Clarence Thomas emphasized that the law at issue in Robinson barred both the use of drugs and being addicted to drugs. Do the city’s ordinances, Thomas asked, make it a crime to be homeless?

The justices also debated whether they needed to address the Eighth Amendment question at all, or whether the challengers’ contention that they cannot be punished because they have nowhere else to go would be better addressed through a “necessity defense.” Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of the justices to broach this prospect, suggesting that it would apply to bar fines or prosecutions for actions like eating or camping in public.

I'm reminded of two videos I've seen recently. The first, from British comedian Jonathan Pie, could have been about Grants Pass but actually came out of a new UK law that does approximately the same thing:

The other, from 2020, explains the thinking behind "since we can't solve homelessness in one go, what's the point of trying?" Essentially, conservatives think in binaries: either we have homelessness, or we don't. Here's Ian Danskin:

But I do find it interesting that the Tories and the Republicans came up with the same inhumane idea. Hm.

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.

Windy spring day

A cold front passed this morning right after I got to the office, sparing me the 60 km/h winds and pouring rain that made the 9am arrivals miserable. The rain has passed, but the temperature has slowly descended to 17°C after hanging out around 19°C all night. I might have to close my windows tonight.

I also completed a mini-project for work a few minutes ago, so I now have time to read a couple of stories:

And now, back to the next phase of the mini-project...