The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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?

This summer I hear the drumming

I'm mostly exhausted from this week of performing and rehearsing, and I still have another concert tomorrow afternoon. Plus, a certain gray fuzzball and I have a deep need to take advantage of the 22°C sunny afternoon to visit a certain dog park. (I also want to have a certain pizza slice near the certain dog park, but that's not certain.)

Joking aside, today is the 54th anniversary of the Ohio National Guard killing 4 innocent kids at Kent State University. As one of the projects on my way to getting a history degree, I studied the aftermath of the murders, with emphasis on how my own university reacted. (It was an archives project, teaching us history puppies how to do primary research, so that necessarily limited the scope of the project.)

That study has informed my attitudes towards the protests on elite university campuses today. I'm close to some conclusions, but not there yet, which has more to do with all the Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Bizet, Honneger, and Poulenc currently stuffing my brain than anything else. I will just say I found the contrast between Andrew Sullivan and Josh Barro this week a bit jarring. I think they're both a little right and a little wrong, but again, until probably Tuesday or Wednesday, I won't have the cognitive space to express how.

in short: children generally don't have the experience or cognitive development required to accept ambiguity in moral matters. The Gaza war is one of the messiest moral miasmas in my lifetime. The simple, black-and-white answers that some of the loudest voices offer makes the discomfort go away. And if no one has ever set real limits on your self-image, it's easy to believe that your own opinion—"guided" as it may be by people who seem to have the answers—must be the only valid one.

Like I said, I need to think more. A 10-kilometer dog walk with pizza as a reward, plus possibly some time sitting outside with a book and a beer, might help.

Sadly, yes

Angry Staffer, one of the last remaining informative Twitter accounts, had this yesterday:

Sigh.

Chait gets it right on protests

Jonathan Chait notes that the XPOTUS, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), and Hamas all seem to want the Gaza war to continue—at least until November—as well as all the protests calling for the elimination of Israel:

“This encampment escalation divides the Left, alienates influential supporters, and creates a sense of chaos that will move people against it,” writes conservative activist Chris Rufo in his newsletter. “The correct response from the Right is to create the conditions for these protests to flourish in blue cities and campuses, while preventing them in red cities and campuses.”

There are several reasons for this unusual right-left alliance. The most obvious is that Israel is an issue that bitterly divides the Democratic Party while uniting the GOP. Any news coverage raising the salience of this issue detracts from coverage of issues like abortion, Donald Trump’s various crimes, health care, or other subjects that divide Republicans while uniting Democrats.

A second reason is that the campus protests, with their ragged encampments and radical chants, enhance the image of chaos that Donald Trump claims has overtaken the country.

But perhaps the biggest reason is that extremists thrive on an atmosphere of crisis. The Middle East has been teetering on crisis for decades, which is why advocates of peaceful partition and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians have never had an easy time of it. The more fevered the atmosphere, the easier it is for Trumpian conservatives, along with radicals on the left, to argue that the conflict pits good against evil and that compromise is unthinkable.

[T]he best way to understand the beliefs of protests is usually to read the published statements of the groups organizing them. That is especially true when the protests are well organized by an established network. In this case, the protests have been organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that’s existed for decades, alongside other left-wing protest groups. And their position is totally explicit: They believe in the total destruction of Israel as a state by any means, including violence.

This is catnip not only for American conservatives, but also for the Israeli right. The central argument advanced by Israeli reactionaries since even before the founding of Israel has held that peacefully partitioning the land into Jewish and Arab states is hopelessly naïve. The two sides are engaged in a zero-sum struggle for control of the land, and only one can prevail.

And perhaps not incidentally, the protests increase the chance Trump wins, a prospect Netanyahu no doubt would relish.

Chait doesn't explicitly say that Hamas also wants the war and the protests to continue; Hamas does. At least, by surrounding their leadership with human shields while refusing every concession Israel offers, they seem uninterested in ending the suffering of the people they claim to represent.

Finally, Julia Ioffe brought up a good point in her weekly email today: how come we have massive protests about the Palestinians, but not about the Uighurs? Or the Rohinga? Or the Yemeni? Or...you get the point. I don't know either, but I have a hypothesis.

The Roscoe Squirrel Memorial is gone

The Chicago Dept of Transportation this morning removed and (they claim) preserved the "Chicago Rat Hole" on the 1900 West block of Roscoe St. in the North Center neighborhood. I admit, I never saw the Rat Hole in the flesh (so to speak), but I feel its absence all the same.

Moving on:

  • Three Republican Arizona state representatives voted with all 29 Democrats to repeal the state's 1864 abortion ban; the repeal now goes to the Arizona Senate.
  • Monica Hesse reminds people who say it's sexist to advocate for US Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire before the end of President Biden's current term that advocates for former Justice Stephen Breyer to resign made much more noise.
  • Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter cautions student protestors that blaming Jews for the actions of the Israeli government is crossing a line. Bret Stephens concurs, describing attacks on Jewish students that belie the "peaceful" label of the pro-Palestinian protests.
  • NPR stops by historical markers at the side of the road, in all their raucous inaccuracy and frivolity. Like the 600 or so planted by the Daughters of the Confederacy, which offer even less accuracy and frivolity than most.
  • Meanwhile, the New York Times tunes into the "crisis" at NPR, which has lost nearly a third of its audience since 2020.
  • Four people and a horse needed medical treatment and several vehicles needed repairs in London this morning after five of the King's Household Cavalry mounts panicked and ran from a training exercise, making it from near Buckingham Palace all the way to St Paul's before the Met could corral them.

Finally, are you an extrovert, and introvert, and ambivert, an omnivert, or some other kind of green French thing? National Geographic explains the first four.

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.

Hoping not to get rained on this afternoon

A whole knot of miserable weather is sneaking across the Mississippi River right now, on its way to Chicago. It looks like, maybe, just maybe, it'll get here after 6pm. So if I take the 4:32 instead of the 5:32, maybe I'll beat it home and not have a wet dog next to me on the couch later.

To that end I'm punting most of these stories until this evening:

Finally, if you have an extra $500 lying around and want to buy a nice steak with it, Crain's has options ranging from 170 grams of Chateau Uenae rib-eye steak (and a glass of water) at RPM on down to a happy hour of rib-eye steak frites for eight at El Che. The txuleton at Asador Bastian for $83 seems like a good deal to me, even without three other people or a bottle of wine to bring the bill up to $500. But the Wagyu? Maybe if I get a bonus next year. A guy can dream.

Lovely March weather we're having

We have a truly delightful mix of light rain and snow flurries right now that convinced me to shorten Cassie's lunchtime walk from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to just 9 minutes each time I came to a street corner. I don't even think I'll make 10,000 steps today, because neither of us really wants to go outside in this crap.

I'm also working on a feature improvement that requires fixing some code I've never liked, which I haven't ever fixed because it's very tricky. I know why I made those choices, but they were always the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, the cancellation of the UK's HS-2 project north of Birmingham has left more than 50 homes empty for two years. Can't think why the affected constituencies have flipped from Tory to Labour, can you?

Joe Lieberman dead at 82

Former US Senator Joe Lieberman (D, maybe?–CT) and Al Gore's running mate in 2000 has died:

Joseph I. Lieberman, the doggedly independent four-term U.S. senator from Connecticut who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, becoming the first Jewish candidate on the national ticket of a major party, died March 27 in New York City. He was 82.

The cause was complications from a fall, his family said in a statement.

Mr. Lieberman viewed himself as a centrist Democrat, solidly in his party’s mainstream with his support of abortion rights, environmental protection, gay rights and gun control. But he was also unafraid to stray from Democratic orthodoxy, most notably in his consistently hawkish stands on foreign policy.

His full-throated support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the increasingly unpopular war that followed doomed Mr. Lieberman’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and led to his rejection by Connecticut Democrats when he sought his fourth Senate term in 2006. He kept his seat by running that November as an independent candidate and attracting substantial support from Republican and unaffiliated voters.

His transition from Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 on the Democratic ticket to high-profile cheerleader for Republican presidential candidate John McCain eight years later was a turnaround unmatched in recent American politics.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • Stanford University sophomore Theo Baker expresses alarm at his classmates' growing anti-rational beliefs.
  • Slate's David Zipper analyzes what the Baltimore bridge collapse will do to the city's traffic.
  • The Economist reviews the lasting influence (or surprising lack thereof) of Steven Levitt's Freakonomics books.
  • The Chicago Dept of Transportation announced major construction on Division Street that will include new protected bike lanes and replacement of two bridges.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the crash of a one-third scale B-29 in Kokomo, Indiana, last year.

Finally, the Atlantic's Faith Hill wonders, why do we date the same person over and over again?

Israel's growing isolation

The UN Security Council, with the US abstaining, voted to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza for the month of Ramadan just a few minutes ago:

The breakthrough resolution, which is legally binding and was put forth by the 10 nonpermanent members of the Council, was being negotiated intensely until the last minute.

The U.S. asked for a change in the text that removed “permanent cease-fire” and replaced it with a “lasting cease-fire,” according to diplomats, and called for both sides to create conditions where the halt in fighting could be sustained.

The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the adopted resolution fell in line with diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt to broker a cease-fire in exchange for hostage release. She said the U.S. abstained because it did not agree with everything in the resolution, including a decision not to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks to the text.

The Economist says Israel's mission to destroy the terrorist Hamas organization has largely failed:

A temporary ceasefire and hostage release could cause a change of Israel’s government; the rump of Hamas fighters in south Gaza could be contained or fade away; and from the rubble, talks on a two-state solution could begin, underwritten by America and its Gulf allies. It is just as likely, however, that ceasefire talks will fail. That could leave Israel locked in the bleakest trajectory of its 75-year existence, featuring endless occupation, hard-right politics and isolation. Today many Israelis are in denial about this, but a political reckoning will come eventually. It will determine not only the fate of Palestinians, but also whether Israel thrives in the next 75 years.

If you are a friend of Israel this is a deeply uncomfortable moment. In October it launched a justified war of self-defence against Hamas, whose terrorists had committed atrocities that threaten the idea of Israel as a land where Jews are safe. Today Israel has destroyed perhaps half of Hamas’s forces. But in important ways its mission has failed.

It is a bleak picture that is not always acknowledged in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Mr Netanyahu talks of invading Rafah, Hamas’s last redoubt, while the hard right fantasises about resettling Gaza. Many mainstream Israelis are deluding themselves, too. They believe the unique threats to Israel justify its ruthlessness and that the war has helped restore deterrence. Gaza shows that if you murder Israelis, destruction beckons. Many see no partner for peace—the pa is rotten and polls say 93% of Palestinians deny Hamas’s atrocities even took place. Occupation is the least-bad option, they conclude. Israelis would prefer to be popular abroad, but condemnation and antisemitism are a small price to pay for security. As for America, it has been angry before. The relationship is not about to rupture. If Donald Trump returns he may once again give Israel a free pass.

This seductive story is a manifesto for disaster.

Having studied the war and Israel's security situation, David Brooks similarly concludes that Israel has no good options at this point:

[I]n this war, Hamas is often underground, the Israelis are often aboveground, and Hamas seeks to position civilians directly between them. As Barry Posen, a professor at the security studies program at M.I.T., has written, Hamas’s strategy could be “described as ‘human camouflage’ and more ruthlessly as ‘human ammunition.’” Hamas’s goal is to maximize the number of Palestinians who die and in that way build international pressure until Israel is forced to end the war before Hamas is wiped out. Hamas’s survival depends on support in the court of international opinion and on making this war as bloody as possible for civilians, until Israel relents.

Israel has done far more to protect civilians than the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has sent out millions of pamphlets, texts and recorded calls warning civilians of coming operations. It has conducted four-hour daily pauses to allow civilians to leave combat areas. It has dropped speakers that blast out instructions about when to leave and where to go. These measures...have telegraphed where the I.D.F. is going to move next.

Hamas’s strategy is pure evil, but it is based on an understanding of how the events on the ground will play out in the political world. The key weakness of the Israeli strategy has always been that it is aimed at defeating Hamas militarily without addressing Palestinian grievances and without paying enough attention to the wider consequences. As the leaders of Hamas watch Washington grow more critical of Jerusalem, they must know their strategy is working.

Remember, Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map, at any cost. Israel mostly wants its neighbors, like Hamas, to stop attacking it, but their political leadership and internal myopia, helped along by nearly-unlimited resources from the US, have blinded Israelis to the larger strategy of its enemies.

Hamas timed its attack on October 7th perfectly, striking a weak and craven Israeli prime minister whose political survival depends on listening to the most deranged people in his coalition. Of course Israel was going to over-react; that was part of the Hamas strategy. But maybe with the US and the UN putting pressure on both sides, we can pause for a moment and figure out how to end the war.