The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Bad faith and unfair dealing

The bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Texas has dismissed the National Rifle Association's bankruptcy petition as a sham meant to avoid the New York Attorney General's case against them:

"The question the Court is faced with is whether the existential threat facing the NRA is the type of threat that the Bankruptcy Code is meant to protect against. The Court believes it is not," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale wrote in a 38-page decision.

The group filed for bankruptcy in January at the direction of the NRA's chief executive, Wayne LaPierre — and unbeknownst to some of the organization's board of directors and top officials.

"What concerns the Court most though is the surreptitious manner in which Mr. LaPierre obtained and exercised authority to file bankruptcy for the NRA. Excluding so many people from the process of deciding to file for bankruptcy, including the vast majority of the board of directors, the chief financial officer, and the general counsel, is nothing less than shocking," the Northern District of Texas judge wrote.

Bankruptcy judges tend not to take a lot of bullshit. I'm pretty sure Judge Hale not only found the NRA's petition baldly disingenuous, but he probably also believed that the NRA chose to file in his court because Wayne LaPierre thought a court in Texas might have some sympathy for the gun-rights organization. Maybe Hale does; but that clearly didn't translate into sympathy for LaPierre.

Pass the popcorn.

Flyover territory

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.

Beyond farcical in Arizona

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.

All the news that fits

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.

Lunchtime reading

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.

Someone call "Lunch!"

We have gloomy, misty weather today, keeping us mostly inside. Cassie has let me know how bored she is, so in the next few minutes we'll brave the spitting fog and see if anyone else has made it to the dog park.

Meanwhile:

All right, off to the damp dog park.

Biden's first 100 days: the critics

The BBC Fact Checker corrects the record on things the President has said since he took office:

"An increase in border migration 'happens every year... in the winter months'"

The number fluctuates widely - but there is not always a significant increase during the winter months.

At a press conference in March, he said: "There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year."

Of the seven statements the BBC checked, only this and his claim about when polls close in Georgia was inaccurate.

The Washington Post found that President Biden made 78 false or misleading claims during his first 100 days in office, only two of which earned 4 Pinocchios. In contrast, the XPOTUS made 511 such statements in 100 days, including a few dozen whoppers. The Post also noted that the President "generally does not repeat his false claims if they have been fact-checked as false."

Meanwhile, the New York Times ran an op-ed this morning from Matthew Walther, a contributing editor at The American Conservative. Walther claims the President is governing the same as his predecessor:

After announcing his intention to “get tough on China,” the president has kept Mr. Trump’s tariffs largely in place and supplemented them with a wide-ranging “Buy American” order. Perhaps even more worthy of Mr. Trump was the new administration’s refusal in March to export unused supplies of the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca on the grounds that the United States needed to be “oversupplied and overprepared.” Mr. Biden’s sudden about-face on this issue a few weeks later was also fittingly Trumpian.

There is also the matter of immigration policy. Despite his formal reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other, mostly symbolic actions, such as proposing that the word “alien” be replaced with “noncitizen” in American law, Mr. Biden has presided over the sorts of barbarous spectacles at our southern border that were all too familiar during the past four years.

Even in the area of economics, where it might have been supposed by both supporters and critics during the presidential campaign that Mr. Biden would adopt a more progressive agenda, he has differed from the bipartisan center-right economic consensus along curiously familiar lines. In addition to keeping Mr. Trump’s moratorium on evictions in place, for example, he has continued with the suspension of interest on student loan debt and the collection of monthly payments.

So, I'm not entirely sure what Walther's criticisms are, really. I agree that the administration has taken more time than one would hope to correct the abuses at the border, but that seems more like bureaucratic inertia than policy—not to mention the philosophical bent of many of our border agents.

What Walther and other critics from the right get totally wrong is how the President corrects himself, and how the tone of the administration matters both at home and abroad. Not all of the previous administration's policies were awful. Not all of President Biden's are wonderful. But on balance, the world has become a better place now that we've seen the back of the last guy.

How to create jobs

Paul Krugman points out that adequate child care, such as President Biden has championed, goes a long way to helping families make and keep money:

It’s ... instructive to compare the United States with other advanced countries, almost all of which have higher taxes and more generous social benefits than we do. Do they pay a price for these policies in the form of reduced employment?

Many Americans would, I suspect, be surprised to learn that the truth is that many high-tax, high-benefit countries are quite successful at creating jobs. Take the case of France: Adults between the ages of 25 and 54, the prime working years, are more likely to be employed in France than they are in America, mainly because Frenchwomen have a higher rate of paid employment than their American counterparts. The Nordic countries have an even larger employment advantage among women.

How can employment be so high in countries with lots of “job-killing” taxes? The answer is that taxes don’t visibly kill jobs — but lack of child care does. Parents in many rich countries are able to take paid work because they have access to safe, affordable child care; in the United States such care is prohibitively expensive for many, if they can get it at all. And the reason is that our government spends almost nothing on child care and pre-K; our outlays as a percentage of G.D.P. put us somewhat below Cyprus and Romania.

The American Family Plan would completely change this picture, providing free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds while limiting child care costs to no more than 7 percent of income for lower- and middle-income parents. If this raised employment of prime-age American women to French levels, it would add about 1.8 million jobs; if we went to Danish levels, we would add three million jobs.

Might we finally get to a place in American history where we have better conditions than many of our friends? We'll see.

Thanks, Bruce!

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.

331,449,281

The Census Bureau released the top-line population counts for the United States at 2pm Chicago time today:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that the 2020 Census shows the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281.

The U.S. resident population represents the total number of people living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The resident population increased by 22,703,743 or 7.4% from 308,745,538 in 2010.

The new resident population statistics for the United States, each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are available on census.gov

  • The most populous state was California (39,538,223); the least populous was Wyoming (576,851).
  • The state that gained the most numerically since the 2010 Census was Texas (up 3,999,944 to 29,145,505).
  • The fastest-growing state since the 2010 Census was Utah (up 18.4% to 3,271,616).
  • Puerto Rico's resident population was 3,285,874, down 11.8% from 3,725,789 in the 2010 Census.

Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, and for the first time ever, California, will each lose one seat in Congress. Montana gets a second seat, while Oregon, Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado pick up one more each, and Texas gets two more.

Now comes the plague of lawsuits in several states whose reapportionment had to wait until today...