I'm arguing with the Blazorise framework right now because their documentation on how to make a layout work doesn't actually work. Because this requires repeated build/test cycles, I have almost no time to read all of this:
Finally, a group of Chicago aldermen have proposed that the city clear sidewalks of snow and ice when property owners don't. Apparently the $500 fines, which don't happen often, don't work often either.
We had four completely-overcast days in a row, including one with some blowing snow, so I'm happy today has been completely clear. Tomorrow might even get above 10°C—which would at least get into normal March temperatures. This whole winter has been weird, as the next few will likely be until temperature increases start leveling out.
In other news:
Finally, Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders explain how AI could write our laws in the future.
I released 13 stories to production this afternoon, all of them around the app's security and customer onboarding, so all of them things that the non-technical members of the team (read: upper management) can see and understand. That leaves me free to tidy up some of the bits we don't need anymore, which I also enjoy doing.
While I'm running multiple rounds of unit and integration tests, I've got all of this to keep me company:
- US Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who even people who love her wonder if she knows where she is half the time, announced she's finally retiring from the Senate at the end of this Congress.
- Both Paul Krugman and Josh Marshall call bullshit on the GOP's (latest) plans to steal my social security contributions. (Note to the masses: the only way Social Security could be in trouble is if the United States somehow lost its taxing authority.)
- Air India has ordered 220 airplanes from Boeing and 250 from Airbus, including 70 long-haul A350s and 777s.
- Cranky Flier chides United Airlines for publishing a flight schedule they have no intention of flying over the summer.
- In other "fictional schedule" news, the CTA hasn't fixed its own frequency and reliability problems even after six months of trying.
- Rick Steves recommends traveling to Europe's second cities, like Manchester, Lyon, and Hamburg.
- Timothy Noah draws a straight line from railroad cost-cutting through crew size reductions and the massive derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last week.
- Corrupt former Chicago police sergeant Ronald Watts, whose misconduct has led prosecutors to throw out more than 200 felony convictions and will probably cost the city half a billion dollars in settlements, blamed his downfall on "anti-police atmosphere" without the self-awareness required to see his part in that.
- Bruce Schneier bemoans the lack of urgency in Washington (and other capitals) to regulate cybersecurity.
Finally, you may not want to know what the CBP beagle squad has found in baggage at O'Hare.
I've got an open research problem that's a bit hard to define, so I'm exploring a few different avenues of it. I hope reading these count:
Since none of these has anything at all to do with my research project, I should get back to work.
Just a pre-weekend rundown of stuff you might want to read:
- The US Supreme Court's investigation into the leak of Justice Samuel Alito's (R) Dobbs opinion failed to identify Ginny Thomas as the source. Since the Marshal of the Court only investigated employees, and not the Justices themselves, one somehow does not feel that the matter is settled.
- Paul Krugman advises sane people not to give in to threats about the debt ceiling. I would like to see the President just ignore it on the grounds that Article 1, Section 8, Article VI, and the 14th Amendment make the debt ceiling unconstitutional in the first place.
- In other idiotic Republican economics (redundant, I know), Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) has proposed a 30% national sales tax to replace all income and capital-gains taxes that I really hope the House passes just so the Senate can laugh at it while campaigning against it.
- Amazon has decided to terminate its Smile program, the performative-charity program that (as just one example) helped the Apollo Chorus raise almost $100 of its $250,000 budget last year. Whatever will we do to make up the shortfall?
- How do you know when you're on a stroad? Hint: when you really don't want to be.
- Emma Collins does not like SSRIs.
- New York Times science writer Matt Richtel would like people to stop calling every little snowfall a "bomb cyclone." So would I.
- Slack's former Chief Purple People Eater Officer Nadia Rawlinson ponders the massive tech layoffs this week. (Fun fact: the companies with the most layoffs made hundreds of billions in profits last year even as market capitalization declined! I wonder what all these layoffs mean to the shareholders? Hmm.)
- Amtrak plans to buy a bunch of new rail cars to replace the 40-year-old rolling stock on their long-distance routes. Lots of "ifs" in there, though. I still hope that, before I die of old age, the US will have a rail travel that rivals anything Europe had in 1999.
- The guy who went to jail over his fraudulent and incompetent planning of the Fyre Festival a couple of years ago wants to try again, now that he's out.
Finally, Monica Lewinsky ruminates on the 25 years since her name popped up on a news alert outing her relationship with President Clinton. One thing she realized:
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno died in 2014. For me, not a day too soon. At the end of Leno’s run, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University analyzed the 44,000 jokes he told over the course of his time at the helm. While President Clinton was his top target, I was the only one in the top 10 who had not specifically chosen to be a public person.
If you don't follow her on social media, you're missing out. She's smart, literate, and consistently funny.
Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter, Jr., blamed "extremely higher-than-normal call-offs" (i.e., a blue flu) for the New Year's Eve failures that left The Daily Parker waiting on a platform 35 minutes for the El:
It’s not unusual for CTA workers to “call off” on holidays, but the CTA has in the past been ready to replace them. But this year, with a shortage of train operators in the ranks, the CTA couldn’t deliver the number of free trains it promised.
The CTA promoted increased service on the Blue and Red lines on New Year’s Eve, advertising free train rides sponsored by Miller Lite. Carter did not say how many workers called off, and CTA officials did not provide a number after Friday’s meeting.
CTA worker unions, represented by Local 308 and Local 241, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Carter said he would work with the unions and employees to come up with better ways to incentivize staff to come to work. Disciplinary measures could only go so far, considering the worker shortage, he said.
“We are operating very close to the margins,” Carter said. “I am trying to both put out a level of service that is within the constraints of the workforce that I have, but recognizing that in order for that to work, my workforce has to show up.”
One factor possibly limiting the available workforce: wages that have not kept up with inflation. If you want more people to work for you, pay more; QED. But even Chicago, with one of the best transport networks in the world, still struggles to see public transit as a public service rather than a profit-making enterprise. So who should pay more for the CTA? All of us in Chicago, perhaps by taking back some of the Federal money we send to Oklahoma for their useless freeway projects.
At least I didn't get too cold on the Brown Line platform on New Year's Eve. I still would have liked to see my friends earlier than I did.
Speaking of loathsome, misogynist creeps, former Bishop of Rome Joseph Ratzinger died this morning, as groundbreaking journalist Barbara Walters did yesterday.
In other news showing that 2022 refuses to go quietly:
And just a couple of blocks from me, Uncharted Books will reopen next week after the state closed it down for failing to file a required sales-tax form. For months. They might want to fire their accountants for this, as the state requires every business that has taxable sales to file the "quarterly sales tax report" every 3 months. I hope their soon-to-be-former accountants also filed their income taxes...
My commute to work Friday might get a little longer, as Metra has announced that 9 out of its 11 lines (including mine) would likely not operate if railroad engineers and conductors go on strike Friday. Amtrak has already started cancelling trains so they won't get stranded mid-route should the strike happen.
In other news:
- Cook County tax bills won't come out until late autumn, according to the County President, meaning no one knows how much cash they have to escrow when they sell real estate.
- The Post has an interactive map showing everywhere in the US that hit a record high temperature this summer.
- US Rep. Marjorie Taylor "Still Smarter than Lauren Boebert" Greene (R-GA) has come up with a climate-change theory so dumb it actually seems smart.
- US Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), another intellectual giant of the 117th Congress, proposed a Federal abortion ban, demonstrating a keen command of how most people in the United States view the issue.
- Robert Wright explores "why we're so clueless about Putin."
- Block Club Chicago explains why my neighborhood and a few others experienced massive geysers coming out of storm drains during Sunday's flooding rains.
Finally, right-wing lawyer Kenneth Starr died at age 76. No reaction yet from Monica Lewinsky.
To absolutely no one's surprise, the little shit arrested for murdering six people in Highland Park, Ill., yesterday turned out to be a 22-year-old white kid with a violent social media history. And of course he bought the gun legally.
Every society has its psychopaths and angry young men. But most societies acknowledge this, and make it really hard for those assholes to buy guns. Here, we make it easier to buy a gun than to buy a car. That's just insane, but politically hard to change.
Right now, with the current right-wing Supreme Court and Senate, we can't pass meaningful gun safety laws. But I have an idea. Let's make it harder to get military-grade weapons through taxation.
What if Illinois added use taxes for ammunition and magazines? Any ammunition of magazines purchased in or brought into Illinois must have a tax stamp. Failure to show the proper stamp multiplies the tax by 10. Tax rifle ammunition at $1 per round, pistol ammunition at 25¢ per round, and shotgun ammunition at 10¢ per round, reflecting the social costs (externalities) of each. And tax magazines at $10 per round for the first 10 rounds and then $100 per round after.
So if you really want that Glock 9mm pistol with the 17-round magazine, filling it will cost you $800 in magazine tax and $4.25 in ammunition tax. But if you simply must have that AR-15 with its 20-round mag, then it's $1,100 for the magazine and $20 for the ammo.
This tax won't really bother legitimate hunters as hunting rifles tend to have 5-round magazines ($50 + $5), and a good hunter won't waste rounds on a deer. And, of course, there would be exemptions for law enforcement and Federal agencies. (Illinois has a huge Navy presence, for example, and the state can't tax them.)
Is this nibbling at the edges? Of course; obviously we need to ban these weapons entirely. But I think it would pass the current Court. And if it adds enough friction to purchasing military-style rifles to deter just one mass shooting a year, it will have saved lives.
Leading off today's afternoon roundup, The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) announced today that Netflix has a series in production based on his game Exploding Kittens. The premise: God and Satan come to Earth—in the bodies of cats. And freakin' Tom Ellis is one of the voices, because he's already played one of those parts.
Meanwhile, in reality:
- A consumers group filed suit against Green Thumb Industries and three other Illinois-based cannabis companies under the Clayton Act, alleging collusion that has driven retail pot prices above $8,800 per kilo. For comparison, the group alleges that retail prices in California are just $660 per kilo. (Disclosure: The Daily Parker is a GTI shareholder.)
- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D), one of the indirect defendants in the pot suit, signed a $46 billion budget for the state that includes $1.8 billion in temporary tax relief. Apparently, I'll get a $50 check from the State that I can apply to the $600 increase in property taxes Cook County imposed this year, which is nice, but I think the state could have aimed a bit lower on the income cap for that rebate and given more help to other people.
- Shortly after US District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle (a 35-year-old who never tried a case and who graduated summa cum mediocrae laude from the legal powerhouse University of Florida just 8 years ago and earned a rare "not qualified" rating from the ABA upon her appointment in 2020 by the STBXPOTUS) ruled against the CDC in a case brought by an anti-masker, the DOT dropped mask mandates for public transport and air travel in the US. In related news, the Judge also said it's OK to piss in other people's swimming pools and up to the other swimmers not to drink the water.
- While the Chicago Piping Plovers organization waits for Monty and Rose to return to Montrose Beach, another one of the endangered birds has landed at Rainbow Beach on the South Side. He appears more inclined to rent than buy, but local ornithologists report the bird has a new profile on the Plōvr dating site.
- NBC breaks down the three biggest factors driving inflation right now, and yes, one of them is president of Russia. None, however, is president of the US.
- Along those lines, (sane) Republican writer Sarah Longwell, who publishes The Bulwark, found that 68% of Republicans believe the Big Lie that the XPOTUS won the 2020 election, but "the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose." Makes me proud to be an American!
And finally, via Bruce Schneier, two interesting bits. First, a new paper explains how a bad actor can introduce a backdoor into a machine learning training session to force specific outcomes (explained in plain English by Cory Doctorow). Second, an attacker used a "flash loan" to take over the Beanstalk crypto currency voting system and stole $182 million from it. Because Crypto Is The Future™.