The northern hemisphere started meteorological summer at midnight local time today. Chicago's weather today couldn't have turned out better. Unfortunately, I go into the office on the first and last days of each week, so I only know about this from reading weather reports.
At my real job, we have a release tomorrow onto a completely new Azure subscription, so for only the second time in 37 sprints (I hope) I don't expect a boring deployment. Which kind of fits with all the decidedly-not-boring news that cropped up today:
- The XPOTUS and his wackier supporters have a new conspiracy theory about him retaking office in a coup d'état this August. No, really.
- In what could only 100% certainly no doubt how could you even imagine a coincidence, former White House counsel Don McGahn will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning.
- Also uncoincidentally, a group of 100 historians and political scientists who study this sort of thing have put out a statement warning of imminent democratic collapse in the US. “The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” according to the Post.
- Speaking of democratic backsliding, Josh Marshall takes the Israeli cognoscenti to task for still not getting how much the Israeli government aligning with an American political party has hurt them.
- Here in Illinois, the state legislature adjourned after completing a number of tasks, including passing a $46 billion budget that no one got to read before they voted on it. (I'm doubly incensed about this because my own party did it. We really need to be better than the other guys. Seriously.)
- For the first time since March 2020, Illinois has no states on its mandatory quarantine list. And we reported the fewest new Covid-19 cases (401) since we started reporting them.
- The Northalsted Business Alliance wants to change the name of Chicago's Boystown neighborhood to...Northalsted. Residents across the LGBTQ spectrum say "just, no."
Finally, a Texas A&M business professor expects a "wave of resignations" as people go back to their offices.
Via James Fallows, Eric Scnurer worries that we've gone from the Gracci to Sulla to Cataline—a span of 57 years of Roman history—in only two years of ours:
Despite...Catiline’s intent to murder Cicero and various other members of the Senate, to stop the vote count and overturn the foregone election results, and unlawfully to seize the levers of government through violence is well known to all of them, a good number of these very same legislators and leaders shrug the whole thing off. Some sympathized with his political program; others were implicated in the plot; still others were basically in the same boat as Catiline, having committed similar crimes and sexual debaucheries that limited their political futures; and still others were perfectly fine with ending the trappings of republicanism if it meant they retained their power and Senate seats. And some simply couldn’t be roused to care.
The conspiracy ultimately collapsed and was defeated, but not without further militant uprisings aided by Rome’s enemies abroad. Catiline, a demagogue but in the end not the best of politicians or insurrectionists, was killed. Democracy, and the old order of things, seemed to have survived, and matters returned to a more-or-less normal state under Cicero’s stable hand.
But it turned out to be a brief reprieve. The rot had already set in. What mattered most in the long-term was not the immediate threat of the insurrectionists, but rather the complacency, if not sympathy, of the other ostensibly-republican leaders. It revealed the hollowness of not just their own souls but also the nation’s.
Another 10 months in America, another 15 years forward on the Roman sundial. At this rate, we’re about a year before midnight.
History doesn't actually repeat itself. But it does rhyme...
Happy Wednesday! Here's what I'm reading before my 8pm meeting, now that my 6:30pm meeting just ended:
And finally, the New Yorker's Tom Papa introduces you to "asshole cat behaviors."
Now that I'm more than two weeks past my second Pfizer jab, I'm heading to O'Hare tomorrow for the first time since January 2020. I remember back in September 2018 when I finally broke my longest-ever drought from flying of 221 days. Tomorrow will mark 481 days grounded.
But that's tomorrow. Today, I'm interested in the following:
And finally, Chicago's endangered piping plovers Monty and Rose have laid three eggs. We should see baby piping plovers in about four weeks.
The four-year, $40m Navy Pier flyover finally opened this week after 7 years and $64m:
The $64 million flyover, started in 2014, was originally planned for a ribbon-cutting in 2018 but it was repeatedly delayed. The 1,750-foot-long, 16-foot-wide steel and concrete flyover goes from Ohio Street Beach to the south side of the Chicago River.
City officials have blamed prior delays both on issues with the Lake Shore Drive bridge and a delay in getting funding from the state during the budget crisis under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
With the substantial completion of the Flyover, built to keep pedestrians and bicyclists from being in conflict with auto traffic, the Lakefront Trail now runs, uninterrupted, from Hollywood Avenue to 71st Street, according to the city.
Block Club Chicago has photos.
The biggest budget increase came when engineers discovered that the original plan to tunnel through the southeast Lake Shore Drive bridge tower would have cut a load-bearing column. But like so much in Chicago, the biggest delay came from our incompetent and ideologically-blinkered former governor refusing to fund the state government for two years.
But hey, it's open now, so bikes and runners no longer take their lives into their hands crossing the off-ramp from Lake Shore Drive to Grand Avenue.
A supporter of the XPOTUS has organized, with the help of the Arizona State Senate, a private hand-recount of Maricopa County's ballots. Apparently they're looking for bamboo fibers? Yeah, it's just as crazy as it sounds:
On the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where Sir Charles Barkley once dunked basketballs and Hulk Hogan wrestled King Kong Bundy, 46 tables are arrayed in neat rows, each with a Lazy Susan in the middle.
Seated at the tables are several dozen people, mostly Republicans, who spend hours watching ballots spin by, photographing them or inspecting them closely. They are counting them and checking to see if there is any sign they were flown in surreptitiously from South Korea. A few weeks ago they were holding them up to ultraviolet lights, looking for a watermark rumored to be a sign of fraud.
The 2.1 million ballots were already counted by Maricopa County election officials in November, validated in a partial hand recount and certified by Gov. Doug Ducey. Two extra audits confirmed no issues. No evidence of fraud sufficient to invalidate Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Arizona and Maricopa County has been found.
Still, counters are being paid $15 an hour to scrutinize each ballot, examining folds and taking close-up photos looking for machine-marked ballots and bamboo fibers in the paper. The reason appears to be to test a conspiracy theory that a plane from South Korea delivered counterfeit ballots to the Phoenix airport shortly after the election.
When the recount started, the ballots were viewed under ultraviolet light to check for watermarks. A theory popular with QAnon followers has it that Trump secretly watermarked mail ballots to catch cheating.
Meanwhile, our named adversary, Russia, continues to disrupt our economy with impunity because people don't know how to do security.
Spring has gone on spring break this week, so while I find the weather pleasant and enjoyable, it still feels like mid-March. That makes it more palatable to remain indoors for lunch and catch up on these stories:
And finally, via Bruce Schneier, Australia has proposed starting cyber-security training in Kindergartens.
Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.
Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:
And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.
After languishing for four years while former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R-of course) refused to govern, Metra's Peterson/Ridge station project...has stalled again:
Crews for Metra were slated to break ground in May on the train station at Peterson and Ravenswood avenues. Due to a permitting issue with the city, work will be delayed by roughly three to five months, said Joe Ott, director of Metra’s construction department.
If the permits take any longer to secure, major construction on the new station could be pushed to spring 2022, he said.
The problem is that the ground beneath the station holds city water mains, and the city’s Department of Water Management was worried about groundwater from the station leaking into the water mains, he said. The city agency said the project’s groundwater system needs revision before a permit will be granted.
It is just the latest setback for a project first announced in 2012.
The project fell by the wayside during the state’s years-long budget impasse. Local officials said in 2017 funding for the project was nearly secured, but a $1 billion fund earmarked for Metra was slashed in half that year.
At least they've cleared the vacant lot connecting where the station will go. Apparently they've also put up a sign. It's a start, I suppose.
In tangential news, Amtrak announced that it will offer tickets up to 50% off to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. I wish my travel plans would allow me to take a long train trip somewhere.
House Democrats passed a bill granting statehood to the District of Columbia yesterday afternoon. It has a better chance of becoming law than the last one:
The bill, symbolically titled H.R. 51, now heads to the Senate, where proponents hope to break new ground — including a first-ever hearing in that chamber. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged Tuesday that “we will try to work a path to get [statehood] done,” and the White House asked Congress in a policy statement to pass the legislation as swiftly as possible.
But the political odds remain formidable, with the Senate filibuster requiring the support of 60 senators to advance legislation. Republicans, who hold 50 seats, have branded the bill as a Democratic power grab because it would create two Senate seats for the deep-blue city. Not even all Senate Democrats have backed the bill as the clock ticks toward the 2022 midterm election.
H.R. 51 would shrink the federal district to a two-square-mile enclave, including federal buildings such as the Capitol and the White House. The city’s other residential and commercial areas would become the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, to honor abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Of course, without filibuster reform, it won't get a vote in the Senate. So we may have to try again in 2023. But this one may squeak by, as it's really hard for Republicans to deny that keeping 750,000 people from representation in Congress looks bad, even for them.