I have tickets to a late concert downtown, which means a few things, principally that I'm still at the office. But I'm killing it on this sprint, so it works out.
Of course this means a link dump:
- The XPOTUS has a hate-hate relationship with life.
- After a damning ethics report, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has announced he won't run again, which is too bad because it would have been an easy D pickup.
- Speaking of Republicans in Congress, why do they behave like adolescent boys all the time?
- Israel is seeing a rally-around-the-flag effect, with the odd wrinkle that everyone hates the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud).
- The Post has decided to show people the horrific things 5.56mm rounds do to a body, as their public editor explains.
- George Packer looks at why political writing, in general, sucks.
- Where do all the stolen catalytic converters go?
- A train crash at the Howard St El station injured 23 passengers, and somehow distracted the cops on the scene from a shooting a block away.
- It will take Caltrans 3-5 weeks to fix the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles after a fire last week, with about 300,000 vehicles diverting each day.
- After Elon Musk's latest anti-Semitic garbage, author John Scalzi has left Twitter for good.
I promise to write something substantial tomorrow or Saturday. Promise.
We have unusual wind and sunshine for mid-November today, with a bog-standard 10C temperature. It doesn't feel cold, though. Good weather for flying kites, if you have strong arms.
Elsewhere in the world:
Finally, Citylab lays out the history of San Francisco's Ferry Terminal Building, which opened 125 years ago. I always try to stop there when I visit the city, as I plan to do early next month.
With a concert on Sunday and other things going on in my life before then, I don't know how much I'll post this week. Tomorrow I get to walk Cassie to day care and hop on a train to my downtown office in the snow, which sounds really bad until you look at the data and see that October 31st is actually the average date of Chicago's first snowfall. The weather forecast promises it won't stick.
Speaking of sticking around:
- David French believes President Biden has threaded the needle well with his response to the war in Gaza, even though his poll numbers have declined.
- US Sen. Kristen Sinema (I-AZ) may have done more to enable the lunatic fringe of the party she claims to oppose than any other Democratic senator (before she became "independent"), save perhaps Joe Manchin (D-WV).
- Author Anne Lamott, who recently turned 70, offers a plea to let yourself age gracefully.
- Bruce Schneier points out a hack long known to Scandinavians: you can avoid EU alcohol tax by taking a ferry from Helsinki or Stockholm to the Finnish archipelago Åland.
Finally, John Kelly interviewed some expert sources to find out what language tics really irk them. For example, to someone who rows, saying "a crew team" is like saying "an ATM machine." Don't do it.
The Writers Guild of America membership ratified the contract with the AMPTP yesterday by a vote of 8,435 to 90. The Guild provided a summary of what the contract contains, compared with what the studios didn't accept on May 1st, and it's clear the writers won almost everything they demanded:
The ratification marks the conclusion to the WGA’s turbulent 2023 bargaining cycle, which sparked a historic 148-day strike. After holding a strike authorization vote during a brief break from negotiations in the spring, union leaders officially called a work stoppage of around 11,500 scribes on May 2. As the strike got going, WGA members not only ceased their writing work but also set up picket lines in front of ongoing productions, seeking to shut them down as crew members and other workers refused to cross these barriers in solidarity. The strategy proved to be effective in disrupting day-to-day set work in Hollywood even before SAG-AFTRA called its own strike (which scrapped virtually all production) on July 14.
Multiple stops and starts to the talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ensued, and in the meantime a broad swath of industry workers were affected: Food insecurity among industry workers spiked as the months dragged on, and some workers reported facing eviction. Ultimately, only the entrance of some of the industry’s top leaders was able to finally break the impasse. Starting in late September, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Disney CEO Bob Iger and NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley began attending regular bargaining sessions and speaking with guild leaders directly. The deal then got wrapped up in a matter of (marathon) days: The WGA announced a tentative deal on the evening of Sept. 24, after a long weekend of negotiations.
Congratulations to the Guild! I hope this is the first of many successes for labor taking back its power from management.
Somehow, it's already the end of September. I realize this happens with some predictability right around this time of year, but it still seems odd to me.
Of course, most of the world seems odd these days:
Finally, just look at this happy dog and all his new human friends playing a fun game of keep-away...during a professional football game in Mexico. I've watched it about five times now. The goodest boi was having such a great time. I hope one of the players or refs adopted him.
The English actor does not make widgets or suffer fools:
At some point a few years back, an unholy union of like-minded tech bros, studio suits, media water-carriers and social media personalities settled on their own “widget,” a catchall phrase that would both encompass and minimize the various forms of entertainment they touch: “content.” And when news broke on Sunday night that the monthslong Writers Guild of America strike was coming to an end, Variety, the industry bible, gave this term its most skin-crawling deployment to date, noting that the W.G.A. strike had taken “a heavy toll across the content industry.”
Variety itself had run, just a few days earlier, a pointed rebuke to the term from no less an authority than the Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson. “To hear people talk about ‘content’ makes me feel like the stuffing inside a sofa cushion,” she said at the Royal Television Society conference in Britain last week.
“It’s just a rude word for creative people,” she added. “I know there are students in the audience: You don’t want to hear your stories described as ‘content’ or your acting or your producing described as ‘content.’ That’s just like coffee grounds in the sink or something.”
Way back in business school, the very first thing our finance professor said was, "An asset is a series of cash flows." When I asked him if assets had intrinsic value, he said "that is not a relevant consideration in corporate finance." These are the people running the studios and streamers.
Thank you for reading my content. I hope you feel content.
It's only Wednesday? Sheesh...
- The Writers Guild of America got nearly everything they wanted from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (i.e., the Astroturf organization set up by the big studios and streamers to negotiate with the Guilds), especially for young writers and for hit shows, but consumers should expect more bundling and higher monthly fees for shows in the future.
- Josh Marshall suspects that the two competing storylines about the XPOTUS (that he's about to return to power, but he's also losing every legal battle he fights) are actually just one: his "current posture of bravado and menace – while real enough as a threat – is simply his latest con, concealing a weaker and more terrified reality."
- Jamie Bouie marvels that Justice Clarence Thomas (R$) wins the trifecta: "We have had partisan justices; we have had ideological justices; we have had justices who favored, for venal reasons, one interest over another. But it is difficult to think of another justice, in the history of the Supreme Court, who has been as partisan and as ideological and as venal as Thomas...."
- Melissa Gira Grant profiles US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (R-NDTX), a Christian nationalist who rose through the Federalist Society pipeline to a lifetime appointment where he will push his Victorian-era views on the people of Texas for the next 30 years or so.
- North Korea vomited up US Army Private 2nd Class Travis King, having used him for the little he was worth after the soon-to-be-dishonorably-discharged soldier illegally entered the kingdom in July.
- Kelli María Korducki worries that "in the age of AI, computer science is no longer the safe major," not realizing, perhaps, that the most effective programmers are and have always been liberal arts majors.
Finally, yet another fact that will make everyone I know feel old: today is Google's 25th birthday. And yes, the Daily Parker has been around longer trillion-dollar search company. We just haven't had our IPO yet.
The Writers Guild of America's negotiating committee announced the tentative deal last night:
We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.
What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last “i” is dotted. To do so would complicate our ability to finish the job. So, as you have been patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again – one last time.
To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.
The last bit means that writers and actors still haven't returned to work, and probably won't for a week or two. Plus, writers may choose not to cross the actors' picket lines. But after 145 days of AMPTP stonewalling, the studio CEOs who attended negotiations last week seem to have knocked some sense into their own committee.
Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, now a United States Senator grâce a the wisdom and good sense of the fine people of Alabama, continues to degrade the United States military by preventing the US Senate from confirming 301 (and counting) general and flag officers from formally taking the jobs they're already doing. Earlier this month, the commanders of the Naval Air Forces and Naval Sea Systems Command retired, passing their responsibilities—but, crucially, not their policy-setting powers—to their putative successors. US Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), a retired US Navy Captain and 4-time Space Shuttle astronaut, stopped just short of calling Tuberville an idiot on today's NPR Morning Edition.
In other news:
- One of the last sane Republican office holders, US Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), announced he won't seek re-election in 2024.
- One of the least-sane Republican office holders, US Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), got thrown out of a performance of the Beetlejuice musical in Denver for, among other things, being a Karen when told to stop all the other things she was doing to disrupt the show.
- Contra David Ignatius' column in the Post yesterday advocating for President Biden to step aside in 2024, Josh Marshall has a simple message for my party: "Biden’s age is a real challenge. But the whole question is locked up. It’s locked in. So everyone who wants to beat Trump needs to absorb that, stop whining and buck up."
- ProPublica takes us through the chronology of the Navy's failed $100 billion Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, that tried to support three entirely different mission profiles and, consequently, does none of them well. (This is why we're building a bunch more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and reintroducing frigates after a 35-year construction hiatus.)
- After a 13-year construction hiatus, the Hudson River tunnel connecting New Jersey Transit to Penn Station will resume in 2025, with a projected opening in 2035. (NB: A British-French consortium dug the 50-kilometer Chunnel in six years for the 2023 equivalent of £14 billion. If it finishes by 2035, the 3-kilometer Gateway Tunnel will have taken 25 years and cost over $16 billion.)
- Transport for London (TfL) announced that most of London inside the M-25 is now an ultra-low-emissions zone (ULEZ) with motorist fees of £12.50 ($15.61) per day for cars that don't meet the current emissions standards. The government has also pledged £163 million ($204 million) to scrap old cars that don't qualify for the ULEZ.
- A NIMBY group in Minneapolis has temporarily halted implementation of the city's environmentally-necessary zoning changes that would allow more housing density by—get this—using Minnesota's 1970s-era environmental laws.
- By the way, cars aren't just giving us asthma and killing more people than any other cause in the United States and Canada, they're also bankrupting us.
- Here's what you need to know about the latest Covid booster. I'm getting mine Tuesday.
Finally, John Scalzi's blog turned 25 today, making the Hugo-winning author a relative new arrival to the blogging scene, at least when compared with The Daily Parker.
Inner Drive Technology WHQ cooled down to 14°C overnight and has started to climb up into the low-20s this morning, with a low dewpoint and mostly-clear skies. Perfect sleeping weather, and almost-perfect walking weather! In a few minutes I'm going to take Cassie out for a good, long walk, but first I want to queue up some stuff to read when it's pissing with rain tomorrow:
- A Wall Street Journal poll (which the XPOTUS funded in part) appears to have bad news for the Biden re-election campaign, not least because 52% of voters surveyed believe the laziest person to hold that office since Harding and the dumbest since...well, Harding..."has a strong record of accomplishments."
- The Wisconsin Republican Party has given up any pretense of respect for the voters by threatening to impeach the newly-elected Democratic state supreme court justice Janet Protasiewicz before she has even heard a single case. Says Jamie Bouille, "In the absence of national regulation — and against the backdrop of a federal Supreme Court that is, at best, apathetic on issues of voting rights — states are as liable to become laboratories of autocracy as they are to serve as laboratories of democracy."
- Molly White may not shed any tears for Sam Bankman-Fried's difficulties getting comfortable in prison, but our prison system really does create dangerous conditions for people who don't have armies of lawyers fighting for them.
- Elizabeth Spiers has had enough of men who double down on reprehensible behavior, and the other men who let them.
- The Chicago Tribune looks at Underground Railroad sites around the city.
- Charlie Warzel laments that "streaming has reached its sad, predictable fate." Vulture reached that conclusion back in June, when it reported on studio executives having reached that conclusion in March. And then the strike happened...
- The Economist's Bartleby column provides a how-to guide on "networking for introverts."
- James Fallows reviews former Naval Intelligence officer Michael McLaughlin's book on the cyber-war that you and I are already fighting.
- The UK set a new record this afternoon with its 7th consecutive day of 30°C temperatures, an unprecedented (at least since the 1880s) occurrence. "Before that, according to Met Office data, the UK has only had three consecutive days of 30°C weather in September on four previous occasions: 1898, 1906, 1911 and 2016," the Guardian reports. "Saturday was named the hottest day of 2023 in the UK with 32.7C recorded at Heathrow." (This is not normal.)
Finally, my indoor Netatmo base station has picked up a funny mid-September thing: cicadas. The annual dog-day cicadas have only a few more days to get the next generation planted in the ground, so the remaining singletons have come out this morning instead of waiting for dusk. As you can see, the ones in the tree right outside the window closest to the Netatmo have been going at it since dawn:
The predominant species in my yard right now are neotibicen pruinosus, or "scissor-grinder" cicadas. But we also have our share of other species in Northern Illinois. And, of course, next May: Brood XIII comes out. That'll be fun (especially for Cassie)!