The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cosplaying soldiers arrested in Massachusetts

I mean...

Police in Massachusetts arrested 11 people Saturday after an hours-long standoff with a group of heavily armed men near Interstate 95, sparking stay-at-home orders for nearby residents and a highway shutdown during the holiday weekend.

According to the Wakefield Police Department, several men carrying rifles and handguns took off into the woods after refusing to comply with orders during a motor vehicle stop around 1:30 a.m. The men claimed to belong to a group that “does not recognize our laws,” police said.

“No threats were made, but these men should be considered armed and dangerous,” the department said in a statement at the time.

The incident concluded around nine hours later with authorities saying all those involved had been apprehended. The men are expected to appear in district court on a variety of firearms charges Tuesday morning. In the meantime, investigators are still trying to determine what, if any, motives the group might have had.

Apparently these guys belong to a group called "Rise of the Moors," which one must assume has nothing to do with Yorkshire:

The group’s website describes its organization as a collective of “Moorish Americans,” and its members believe they are the “original sovereigns of this land — America.”

During his phone conversation, the apparent leader said his men grabbed weapons Saturday morning on I-95 when they were approached by law enforcement because they felt threatened. The apparent leader asked to be served a summons, saying law enforcement officials could deliver the summons to a table that he offered to set up in the middle of the highway.

He expressed concern about being arrested and fingerprinted, which he described as a form of self-incrimination. He said he and his men wanted to go home.

“I want my men to be safe, alive, keep and bear their arms,” he said.

I mean...I'm less interested in where people come up with these ideas, which seem like legal mondegreens. But why do they persist in believing this stuff?

Milk Money Brewing, La Grange

Welcome to stop #45 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Milk Money Brewing., 75 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange
Train line: BNSF, La Grange Rd
Time from Chicago: 26 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 500 m

La Grange Road has a lot of competition, being essentially the restaurant district of La Grange. So for a suburban brewery, Milk Money does a good job. I stopped by on the Friday before July 4th, when the weather felt more like September and the vibe felt more like 2019.

They don't do flights per se, but they do have 5-ounce pours. I had five:

I started with the Queen Takes Pawn English-style ale (4.9%), which tasted like a solid real ale from the old country, albeit too cold to complete the illusion. It had a good bitter/malt balance and a sharp finish. The Pause Button APA (5.2%) had a bit more malt than I expected, but a good balance overall. The Vibrant hazy IPA (6.5%) had a citrus nose, a citrus-grapefruit flavor, and a lower-alcohol feel than the first two. The Milk Money milk stout (7.2%) started with a lovely nose and opened up into a smooth chocolate and caramel combination with a long finish. Finally, the Colorful Noise West Coast IPA (7%) had Citra on the nose and Cascade in the back. All five were solid representations of the styles.

And on the walk from the Metra station, I discovered that La Grange has gone to the dogs:

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Two, avoidable
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

Thought-provoking analysis of our "four countries"

The Atlantic's current issue adapts veteran writer George Packer's latest book, in which he argues that the US has fractured into four distinct world views:

National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires. Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality—when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live a happy and productive life in nonstop self-criticism, nations require more than facts—they need stories that convey a moral identity. The long gaze in the mirror has to end in self-respect or it will swallow us up.

The 1970s ended postwar, bipartisan, middle-class America, and with it the two relatively stable narratives of getting ahead and the fair shake. In their place, four rival narratives have emerged, four accounts of America’s moral identity. They have roots in history, but they are shaped by new ways of thinking and living. They reflect schisms on both sides of the divide that has made us two countries, extending and deepening the lines of fracture. Over the past four decades, the four narratives have taken turns exercising influence. They overlap, morph into one another, attract and repel one another. None can be understood apart from the others, because all four emerge from the same whole.

All four of the narratives I’ve described emerged from America’s failure to sustain and enlarge the middle-class democracy of the postwar years. They all respond to real problems. Each offers a value that the others need and lacks ones that the others have. Free America celebrates the energy of the unencumbered individual. Smart America respects intelligence and welcomes change. Real America commits itself to a place and has a sense of limits. Just America demands a confrontation with what the others want to avoid. They rise from a single society, and even in one as polarized as ours they continually shape, absorb, and morph into one another. But their tendency is also to divide us, pitting tribe against tribe. These divisions impoverish each narrative into a cramped and ever more extreme version of itself.

All four narratives are also driven by a competition for status that generates fierce anxiety and resentment. They all anoint winners and losers.

The essay really has me thinking about our country, and how to get it back on track. I'm tempted to buy the book. Of course, it'll be about 80th in line with my current reading stack...but what's summer for?

Always wrong, never contrite

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld died Tuesday at age 88:

Mr. Rumsfeld had the distinction of being the only defense chief to serve two nonconsecutive terms: 1975 to 1977 under President Ford, and 2001 to 2006 under President Bush. He was also the youngest, at 43, and the oldest, at 74, to hold the post — first in an era of Soviet-American nuclear perils, then in an age of subtler menace by terrorists and rogue states.

A staunch ally of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been his protégé and friend for years, Mr. Rumsfeld was a combative infighter who seemed to relish conflicts as he challenged cabinet rivals, members of Congress and military orthodoxies. And he was widely regarded in his second tour as the most powerful defense secretary since Robert S. McNamara during the Vietnam War.

Like his counterpart of long ago, Mr. Rumsfeld in Iraq waged a costly and divisive war that ultimately destroyed his political life and outlived his tenure by many years. But unlike McNamara, who offered mea culpas in a 2003 documentary, “The Fog of War,” Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged no serious failings and warned in a farewell valedictory at the Pentagon that quitting Iraq would be a terrible mistake, even though the war, the country learned, had been based on a false premise — that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, had been harboring weapons of mass destruction.

Let's not mince words. Of the 28 men actually confirmed in the job, plus the 7 acting defense chiefs, Rumsfeld was without question the worst. George Packer:

Rumsfeld started being wrong within hours of the [9/11] attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he’d long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn’t need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn’t operate without a strongman like Saddam. He thought that all the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, except the dire reports that he’d ordered up himself. He reserved his greatest confidence for intelligence obtained through torture. He thought that the State Department and the CIA were full of timorous, ignorant bureaucrats. He thought that America could win wars with computerized weaponry and awesome displays of force.

By the time Rumsfeld was fired, in November 2006, the U.S., instead of securing peace in one country, was losing wars in two, largely because of actions and decisions taken by Rumsfeld himself.

The Nation:

War Criminal Found Dead at 88

Unlike the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and so many others killed in the wars he launched and in the torture cells he oversaw, Donald Rumsfeld died peacefully.

[W]ithin just a few months of the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and its replacement by an imposed government of Afghan exiles vetted and chosen by the US-led coalition, Washington’s strategic military energy turned from Kabul to Baghdad. Rumsfeld was in his element.

First came the lies. Rumsfeld’s false claims justifying war in Iraq continued and escalated. The inaugural lie, of course, was the entire premise that Iraq’s government was somehow connected to the 9/11 attacks. Assertion was easy, and with a mainstream media largely unwilling to challenge even known lies, there were few questions asked. Then came weapons of mass destruction, uranium yellowcake from Niger, Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes that could “only” be used for nuclear weapons production. The deception at the UN Security Council, where the supposed good guy among the Bush war criminals, Secretary of State Colin Powell, got up and lied to the council, lied to the American people, and lied to the world about what the United States “knew” about Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs.

After the lies came the scandals. Torture, from the beginning. First at CIA “black sites” in countries around the world that would promise—for a price—to keep silent about the hooded, shackled men brought into their territory to secret CIA-run torture centers. Then Guantánamo—turning the illegally occupied US naval base in Cuba into a harsh, isolated, and brutal prison. Then the prisons created by Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, which kept popping up across Iraq—Abu Ghraib (remember the photographs of Rumsfeld’s young men and women soldiers torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in 2004?) and Camp Bucca (where Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, later the founder of ISIS, was imprisoned that same year by Rumsfeld’s Pentagon). Rumsfeld’s bureaucrats described torture in banal, regulated lists of “enhanced interrogation methods”—sleep deprivation, extremes of cold and heat, hours in painful stress positions, waterboarding.

Killing of civilians was a feature of Rumsfeld’s war in Iraq. Air strikes ostensibly aimed at “enemy” forces (whoever the “enemy” was that month or that year) somehow kept managing to hit funeral processions and wedding parties and markets. And children. Ground troops shot at anything, or anyone, that moved—including children. Special Forces kicked in doors, killing everyone inside—including children—and planted weapons to make it look like a gun fight. Almost no one was ever charged, let alone convicted, of a crime. On the rare occasion that some soldiers or Pentagon-paid military contractors did face charges for killing civilians, they almost never spent time in prison. The four Blackwater contractors finally convicted, one of first-degree murder and others of manslaughter, and sentenced to 30 years or life in prison, were soon pardoned by Donald Trump and released from prison. They had killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians for no reason in Nisour Square in downtown Baghdad in 2007. Including children.

Even in October 2006, just before President Bush finally fired him, Jonathan Chait had some choice words:

[I]t seems as good a time as any to reexamine the wave of Rumsfeld hagiography that was in vogue for about two years following September 11, 2001. These documents offer a prime window into the pathologies of conservative thought in the Bush era. To be a loyal conservative during the last half-dozen years, you had to convince yourself to accept a series of propositions that ran the gamut from somewhat implausible to completely absurd. As those propositions collapse, one by one, conservatives are reacting much the same way as communists did following the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are the frantic efforts to rescue conservative orthodoxy by defining the party’s leaders as apostates who deviated from the true faith. And there are the dazed true believers coming to grips with certain realities—Katherine Harris is a not a paragon of wisdom and fair-mindedness, after all; the administration’s fiscal policies may not be completely sound; President Bush is not quite the visionary war leader we made him out to be; and so on. Only by revisiting the conservative propaganda in light of history’s verdict can we see how delusional the movement had become. And on perhaps no topic were conservatives quite as delusional as on the leadership genius of Donald Rumsfeld.

To plunge back into the conservative idealization of Rumsfeld, given what we know today, is a bizarre experience. You enter an upside-down world in which the defense secretary is a thoughtful, fair-minded, eminently reasonable man who has been vindicated by history—and his critics utterly repudiated.

Around the world:

  • The Guardian: "Donald Rumsfeld, who has died aged 88, arguably did more damage to the US’s military reputation than any previous secretary of defence."
  • The Toronto Star: "For all Rumsfeld’s achievements, it was the setbacks in Iraq in the twilight of his career that will likely etch the most vivid features of his legacy."
  • El País: "Argumentando que las armas de destrucción masiva iraquíes representaban un peligro para el mundo -a pesar que nunca se encontraron tales armas-, Rumsfeld intentó responder a la pregunta de un reportero sobre esa cuestión con una de las frases más incomprensibles -y famosa- jamás pronunciada por una personalidad política." ("Arguing that the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction represented a danger to the world, despite never finding these arms, Rumsfeld answered a reporter's question about it with the most incomprehensible and famous pronunciation of any political personality. 'There are known knowns...'")
  • Le Monde: "De la prison de Guantanamo (Cuba) à celle d’Abou Ghraib (Irak), son nom reste attaché à quelques-unes des pages les plus sombres de la « guerre globale contre le terrorisme », le concept qu’il a revendiqué après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001." ("From the prison in Guantanamo to a cell in Abu Ghraib, his name remains attached for many years to the most somber pages in the Global War on Terrorism, the concept he conceived after the attacks of 9/11.")
  • Al-Jazeera: "While [former US President George W] Bush remembers Rumsfeld well, it is likely history will not look kindly on their legacy, judging from initial reactions to Rumsfeld’s death."

Rumsfeld grew up only a couple of kilometers from me, and in similar circumstances. Somehow, I managed not to become a war criminal responsible for hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

And wow, he lived almost long enough to watch the Taliban take over Afghanistan. Again.

Partisan court takes another swipe at the Voting Rights Act

The two most recent US Supreme Court appointees may have agreed with the moderate justices on a couple of issues this term, but as the last opinions come out this morning, they have reminded us that the Republican Party's anti-democratic policies remain their top priorities.

Despite no evidence of retail election fraud, in 2016 Arizona's Republican majority enacted a law making it a crime to collect ballots from voters. Many voters in Arizona and elsewhere have difficulty making it to the polls, and in some cases, to the nearest mailbox. Ballot collection drives helped ensure they could still cast votes. Given who benefitted most from these drives, no one had any illusions about why Arizona Republicans passed this bill.

The Court today ruled, in a 6-3 decision right along party lines, that this does not violate section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Alito delivered the opinion, which repeats the Republican Party's canards about voting fraud as if channeling the voice of Mitch McConnell:

Finally, the strength of the state interests served by a challenged voting rule is also an important factor that must be taken into account. As noted, every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort, and therefore, in determining “based on the totality of circumstances” whether a rule goes too far, it is important to consider the reason for the rule. Rules that are supported by strong state interests are less likely to violate §2.

One strong and entirely legitimate state interest is the prevention of fraud. Fraud can affect the outcome of a close election, and fraudulent votes dilute the right of citizens to cast ballots that carry appropriate weight. Fraud can also undermine public confidence in the fairness of elections and the perceived legitimacy of the announced outcome.

(Brnovich v DNC, opinion at 19; citations removed.)

He then retreats deep into his epistemological bubble to declare that, even though Arizona has no documented instances of such fraud, and even though it will make it harder for Black, Hispanic, and poor people to cast ballots, the law doesn't really discriminate. Because, of course, the Arizona Secretary of State's office are all, all honourable men:

The State makes accurate precinct information available to all voters. When precincts or polling places are altered between elections, each registered voter is sent a notice showing the voter’s new polling place. Arizona law also mandates that election officials send a sample ballot to each household that includes a registered voter who has not opted to be placed on the permanent early voter list, and this mailing also identifies the voter’s proper polling location. In addition, the Arizona secretary of state’s office sends voters pamphlets that include information (in both English and Spanish) about how to identify their assigned precinct.

The Court of Appeals noted that Arizona leads other States in the rate of votes rejected on the ground that they were cast in the wrong precinct, and the court attributed this to frequent changes in polling locations, confusing placement of polling places, and high levels of residential mobility. But even if it is marginally harder for Arizona voters to find their assigned polling places, the State offers other easy ways to vote. Any voter can request an early ballot without excuse. Any voter can ask to be placed on the permanent early voter list so that an early ballot will be mailed automatically. Voters may drop off their early ballots at any polling place, even one to which they are not assigned. And for nearly a month before election day, any voter can vote in person at an early voting location in his or her county.

(Id. at 26-27, citations removed.)

So, once again, the Republican justices take the position that because the Voting Rights Act has done its job over the years, we don't need the Voting Rights Act anymore. (Kind of like how we taught the Germans a lesson in 1918 and they hardly bothered us after that.)

In her dissent, Justice Kagan expresses no patience for any of this crap:

If a single statute represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. It marries two great ideals: democracy and racial equality. And it dedicates our country to carrying them out. Section 2, the provision at issue here, guarantees that members of every racial group will have equal voting opportunities. Citizens of every race will have the same shot to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. They will all own our democracy together—no one more and no one less than any other.

If a single statute reminds us of the worst of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. Because it was—and remains—so necessary. Because a century after the Civil War was fought, at the time of the Act’s passage, the promise of political equality remained a distant dream for African American citizens. Because States and localities continually “contriv[ed] new rules,” mostly neutral on their face but discriminatory in operation, to keep minority voters from the polls. Because “Congress had reason to suppose” that States would “try similar maneuvers in the future”— “pour[ing] old poison into new bottles” to suppress minority votes. Because Congress has been proved right.

Today, the Court undermines Section 2 and the right it provides. The majority fears that the statute Congress wrote is too “radical”—that it will invalidate too many state voting laws. So the majority writes its own set of rules, limiting Section 2 from multiple directions. Wherever it can, the majority gives a cramped reading to broad language. And then it uses that reading to uphold two election laws from Arizona that discriminate against minority voters. I could say—and will in the following pages—that this is not how the Court is supposed to interpret and apply statutes. But that ordinary critique woefully undersells the problem. What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten—in order to weaken—a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about “the end of discrimination in voting.”

(Kagan Dissent at 1, 3; citations removed).

When a few commentators tut-tutted that the Court "is less one-sided than liberals feared," they missed the point. Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh seem less unhinged than they did at their confirmation hearings, but they never lost their party loyalty. Sure, they upheld Obamacare (for the 17th time); sure, they ruled that children don't lose First Amendment protections just because they say something their school doesn't like. And just as sure, they will vote every single time to limit the franchise, because voting rights have become an existential threat to the Republican Party.

The Republicans' 40-year program of selecting and promoting young, partisan judges continues to pay off. Until we Democrats start using the political power we actually have, the Republicans will continue to drive the United States toward minority corporatist rule that will take decades to undo.

How much Bruce Rauner cost Illinois

In another implicit rebuke to the lump of clay that occupied the Governor's Mansion for four years, Illinois finally got a bump in its credit rating after Governor Pritzker started paying our bills again:

In upgrading Illinois’ credit by one step — to two notches above junk bond status instead of one — Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service noted that the $42 billion spending plan for the year starting July 1 “increases pension contributions, repays emergency Federal Reserve borrowings and keeps a backlog of bills in check with only constrained use of federal aid” from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.

Even after the upgrade, Illinois remains the lowest-rated state on Moody’s scale, two notches below the next-lowest: New Jersey. Generally, states with higher credit ratings are able to borrow money at lower interest rates, ultimately saving taxpayers money.

While the upgrade from Moody’s is welcome news, it only returns the state’s rating to where it was before the last of three downgrades during the tumultuous tenure of Pritzker’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It still baffles me why Rauner screwed Illinois so hard and without lube. He may have qualified as a "moderate" Republican by today's standards, but he still moved to kill unions, kill the state budget, and kill working people in Illinois.

Rauner now lives in exile in—where else?—Florida.

The NSA has a sense of humor

After Fox network blowhard Tucker Carlson whined that the National Security Agency, the US intelligence service tasked with spying on communications outside the US, had tapped his phones, the agency clapped back on Twitter:

TPM's Cristina Cabrera reports, "Carlson doubled down on his accusation shortly afterward on his program, saying the NSA’s statement 'an entire paragraph of lies written purely for the benefit of the intel community’s lackeys at CNN and MSNBC.'"

The NSA is just having a bit of sport with Carlson, but one can't know for sure. First, the NSA would never admit to spying on anyone. But second, even if the NSA were spying on him, wouldn't Carlson want to know which overseas friend of his would have attracted the agency's attention, and why?

In related news, the Manhattan District Attorney appears ready to charge the Trump Organization and its CFO with tax crimes tomorrow morning. Stay tuned!

Redundant recovery systems at 100%

The good news: putting my phone number and a close friend's phone number on Cassie's ID tags worked!

The bad news: I gotta trek back to the dog park to pick up Cassie's tags.

Because of the way they lay on her collar, they don't jingle when she walks, only when she shakes or (as happens from time to time) rolls over to let me demand that I rub her belly. So while walking back from the dog park, I had no idea that she didn't have her tags anymore.

Sigh.

Misunderstanding national happiness

After the World Happiness Report comes out each year, everyone wants to live in Scandinavia, which usually dominates the top 10 every time. But people seem not to understand why Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the rest rank so high. Perhaps it's not hygge but lagom. Or maybe it's free health care:

Sort of like how the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led Americans to feel like their country was falling behind technologically, or how the results of international standardized tests in the 2000s led them to feel like their kids were falling behind educationally, the happiness rankings have subtly encouraged an anxiety fit for our era of self-optimization: that somewhere, other people are doing things that make them much happier than we are.

This disturbing thought has contributed to the rise of a genre of lifestyle content that aims to help unhappy Americans emulate the daily practices and philosophies of happier places, whether that means taking a dip in frigid water or making your living room super-cozy. Wanting to copy the happiest people in the world is an understandable impulse, but it distracts from a key message of the happiness rankings—that equitable, balanced societies make for happier residents. In the process, a research-heavy, policy-oriented document gets mistaken, through a terrible global game of telephone, for a trove of self-help advice.

Perhaps deeper insights can be gained from looking beyond the trends of cozy hearths and nature walks. Even the Nordic countries themselves have a lesser-known cultural ideal that probably brings happiness more reliably than hygge. Jukka Savolainen, a Finnish American sociology professor at Wayne State University, in Michigan, argued in Slate that the essence of his happy home region is best captured by lagom, a Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount.”

In other words, people report feeling happier when they don't have to worry about bankruptcy after incurring minor medical expenses, when they have adequate public services, and when they just don't want to acquire more stuff. But hey, buy more cardamom if it feels good.

The forecast didn't lie

At the moment, the 10 hottest places in the world are all in the Pacific Coast states and British Columbia. The Dalles, Ore., hit 48°C at 4pm Pacific; Portland hit 46°C, the same as Palm Springs, Calif.; and even Lytton, B.C., reports 46°C right now—the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada. All of those figures exceed yesterday's forecast and broke all-time records set just yesterday.

It's bonkers. And it won't be the last time this happens.

Here in Chicago we have a perfectly reasonable 26°C. I'll keep it.