The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

In other crimes...

May your solstice be more luminous than these stories would have it:

  • Chicago politician Ed Burke, who ruled the city's Finance Committee from his 14th-Ward office for 50 years, got convicted of bribery and corruption this afternoon. This has to do with all the bribes he accepted and the corruption he embodied from 1969 through May of this year.
  • New Republic's Tori Otten agrees with me that US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is the dumbest schmuck in the Senate. (She didn't use the word "schmuck," but it fits.)
  • Texas has started flying migrants to Chicago, illegally, in an ongoing effort to troll Democratic jurisdictions over immigration. This came shortly after they passed a manifestly unconstitutional immigration law of their own.
  • Millennial journalist Max Read, a kid who took over the Internet that my generation (X) built from the ground up, whinges about "the kids today" who have taken it over from his generation. (He thinks a gopher is just a rodent, I'd bet.)
  • Hard to believe, speaking of millennials, that today is the 35th anniversary of Libya blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Finally, a court in California has ordered one "Demeterious Polychron" to destroy all extant copies of what I can imagine to be a horrific example of JRR Tolkien fanfic that the court found infringes on the Tolkien estate's copyrights. Note that Polychron (a) put his self-published fanfic for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, (b) after sending it to them with a letter call it "the obvious pitch-perfect sequel" to The Lord of the Rings, and then (c) suing them when they allowed Amazon to produce its own prequel, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. Note to budding novelists: if you're writing fanfic, don't sue the underlying material's copyright owner for infringement.

The tragedy and pathos of Rudy Giuliani

Back when I was growing up, Rudy Giuliani destroyed the Italian mob in New York City. Today he declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid paying a $148 million defamation verdict—the day after the people he defamed sued him again for repeating the same defamatory statements outside the courthouse after the judgment was handed down:

Lawyers for the two Georgia election workers who won $148 million in damages from former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani last week filed a new lawsuit Monday, asking a federal judge to order him to stop repeating his damaging debunked claims about the poll workers and to immediately enforce the jury’s massive award before his assets are dissipated.

Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Arshaye “Shaye” Moss asserted that Giuliani is continuing to baselessly accuse the former Fulton County election workers of manipulating the absentee ballot count to steal the 2020 election from former president Donald Trump in Georgia. The former New York mayor repeated the allegations during and after his defamation damages trial last week, even as his lawyer conceded in court the claims were wrong.

“Everything I said about them is true,” Giuliani told reporters outside the courthouse after the first day of his trial on Dec. 11, adding, “Of course I don’t regret it. … They were engaged in changing votes.”

I'm no doctor, but it looks like Giuliani has suffered from dementia for a long time, and it's getting worse. He appears to have no self-awareness or self-control at this stage. Other circumstantial evidence suggests late-stage alcoholism. Whatever the cause, the man stopped making sense long before he started working for the XPOTUS—even before he tried to cancel the 2001 New York mayoral election:

Once he was the toast of town. As a federal prosecutor he sent a congressman to jail, locked up mobsters and indicted white-collar criminals. As mayor, he made the streets again feel safe. Love him or hate him, crime precipitously dropped on his watch.

In the days and months following 9/11, he projected strength, confidence and reassurance. He had braced himself for a calamity; he just didn’t know its source or when it would happen. He was steady when crunchtime arrived.

As mayor, his tenure was consequential. His eight years at city hall rank up there with Fiorello La Guardia, Michael Bloomberg and Ed Koch. All that feels like aeons ago.

Yet Giuliani’s latest woes cannot be described as wholly surprising. He always possessed a penchant for drama and a tropism for the transgressive. He loved the opera and his life emerged as operatic. As a prosecutor, he dressed up “undercover”. Then as mayor, he performed onstage in drag with Trump.

All that came with a darker side. The warning signs were there. We just chose to ignore them.

Amid his first campaign for mayor, in 1989, a story broke of a concentration camp survivor, Simon Berger, being held in federal custody, facing a blackboard that read “Arbeit Macht Frei” the slogan written across the gates of Auschwitz. Berger would be acquitted. Decades later, Dunphy alleged that Giuliani has a problem with Jews.

I lived in New York City while Giuliani was mayor, though. As Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union reminded me while researching this post, even at his most popular, he was a bit unhinged:

Whatever may be going on with Rudy Giuliani personally, let’s be clear: while, for one brief moment in his career he served as a cheerleader for a devastated city and a shocked nation, the rest of Rudy Giuliani’s mayoralty was driven by a hostility to free expression, police brutality and violence, and an authoritarian disregard for democracy.

Let’s start with the First Amendment. The New York Civil Liberties Union was involved in 34 First Amendment lawsuits against the Giuliani administration – and prevailed in 26 of them. Those cases successfully challenged the firing of Police Officer Yvette Walton in retaliation for testifying before the City Council about racial profiling; the attempt to censor the Sensations exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; the ban on press conferences and demonstrations by Giuliani critics on the steps of City Hall; the ban on condom distribution as part of AIDS education in City Parks; police harassment of homeless people sleeping on the steps of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church; and singling out political demonstrators charged with minor offenses so that they could not get appearance tickets to return to court and often had to stay in jail overnight.

In the seven-and-a-half years before 9/11, let there be no mistake: racial bias, fear-mongering, and police brutality were the hallmarks of Giuliani’s mayoralty.

As mayor, Giuliani oversaw a policing regime repeatedly engaged in persecution and brutal assaults and killings of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers, using unlawful stop-and-frisk policies to jail Black and Hispanic New Yorkers in service of his ‘broken windows’ policing. Every time the NYPD killed a Black man, Rudy Giuliani was right there not only defending the police, but attacking the victim.

I will never forget his tirade against Patrick Dorismond, a 26-year-old Black security guard and father of two, after undercover police officers killed Dorismond after initiating a scuffle while on the job in Manhattan. Giuliani attacked Dorismond’s character and publicly revealed his legally-sealed juvenile record. It was Giuliani‘s notorious street crimes unit that killed Amadou Diallo in the lobby of his apartment building.

Rudy Giuliani has always had an authoritarian streak coupled with a belief that the rules didn't apply to him. Fortunately, he behaved so badly for so long that no one ever gave him more power after his mayoralty ended in 2001. And I mention all this because, as bad as Giuliani has always been, and as far as he's descended into dementia and insanity...the XPOTUS is worse.

Polls open in 319 days.

Evening round-up

I can't yet tell that sunsets have gotten any later in the past two weeks, though I can tell that sunrises are still getting later. But one day, about three weeks from now, I'll look out my office window at this hour, and notice it hasn't gotten completely dark yet. Alas, that day is not this day.

Elsewhere in the darkening world:

  • Mike Godwin, the person who postulated Godwin's Law, believes that invoking it as regards the XPOTUS is not at all losing the argument: "You could say the ‘vermin’ remark or the ‘poisoning the blood’ remark, maybe one of them would be a coincidence. But both of them pretty much makes it clear that there’s something thematic going on, and I can’t believe it’s accidental."
  • Julia Ioffe watches with growing horror at Ukraine's looming money cliff.
  • The rings of a 200-year-old tree in Arizona show just how bad last summer was.
  • The Federal Highway Administration has revised the MUCTD after 14 years, this time after actually listening to people who don't drive cars.

Finally, Tyler Austin Harper shakes his head that university administrators and other people of limited horizons completely misunderstand why the humanities are important:

If we have any hope of resuscitating fields like English and history, we must rescue the humanities from the utilitarian appraisals that both their champions and their critics subject them to. We need to recognize that the conservatives are right, albeit not in the way they think: The humanities are useless in many senses of the term. But that doesn’t mean they’re without value.

It is often faculty who are trying to safeguard their fields from the progressive machinations of their bureaucratic overlords. But faced with a choice between watching their departments shrink or agreeing to hire in areas that help realize the personnel-engineering schemes of their bosses, departments tend to choose the latter. ... At the same time, a generation of Ph.D. students is eyeing current hiring practices and concluding that the only research that has a prayer of landing them a tenure-track position relates to questions of identity and justice.

Instead of trying to prove that the humanities are more economically useful than other majors—a tricky proposition—humanists have taken to justifying their continued existence within the academy by insisting that they are uniquely socially and politically useful. The emergent sales pitch is not that the humanities produce and transmit important knowledge, but rather that studying the humanities promotes nebulous but nice-sounding values, such as empathy and critical thinking, that are allegedly vital to the cause of moral uplift in a multicultural democracy.

The whole essay is worth a read.

XPOTUS disqualified in Colorado; SCOTUS appeal imminent

The XPOTUS racked up another first-in-history court ruling yesterday that already has US Supreme Court law clerks cancelling their Christmas vacations:

Colorado’s top court ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald J. Trump is disqualified from holding office again because he engaged in insurrection with his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, an explosive ruling that is likely to put the basic contours of the 2024 election in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court was the first in the nation to find that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which disqualifies people who engage in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to support it — applies to Mr. Trump, an argument that his opponents have been making around the country.

In the Colorado court’s lengthy ruling on Tuesday, the justices there reversed a Denver district judge’s finding last month that Section 3 did not apply to the presidency. They affirmed the district judge’s other key conclusions: that Mr. Trump’s actions before and on Jan. 6, 2021, constituted engaging in insurrection, and that courts had the authority to enforce Section 3 against a person whom Congress had not specifically designated.

“A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the justices wrote. “Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado secretary of state to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.”

The Post has four takeaways:

1. The historical and political impact may exceed the direct impact

The decision is at once explosive and likely to have little direct impact on the 2024 election.

Colorado has trended blue in recent decades and is not considered a competitive state in presidential elections, having given President Biden a 13.5-point victory in 2020. That made it the 14th-bluest state — the kind of state that if Trump ever won it, he would most likely secure more than enough electoral votes to be elected.

2. The court disagreed with a judge who ruled presidents were different

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from “any office, civil or military, under the United States,” anyone who takes an oath “as an officer of the United States ... to support the Constitution of the United States [who] shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace...ruled that Section 3 wasn’t meant to pertain to presidents.

3. A Trump traffic jam is converging on the U.S. Supreme Court

Already in the last week or so, special counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to fast-track a decision on Trump’s claims to presidential immunity from his election-subversion indictment. Then the Supreme Court signaled it would review the use of a popular charge against hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants, including Trump: obstruction of an official proceeding. Some judges have rejected or expressed skepticism about that charge’s applicability.

4. A long-running 14th Amendment effort reaches a milestone

The decision is the culmination of a long-running effort to disqualify not just Trump but other Republicans over Jan. 6.

Efforts to disqualify members of Congress including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and now-former congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) failed, in part, because it was harder to directly attach them to the events of Jan. 6.

I believe this was the correct, historical application of the 14th Amendment, and at the same time a risky strategy. Under any plain-language reading of the Constitution and the history of its adoption, the President is an officeholder, not a monarch, and so subject to the laws of the country. And the 14th Amendment exists precisely because Federal officeholders made war against the Constitution in order to preserve slavery.

But today's Republican Party bears no resemblance to the Republicans who wrote the Amendment in 1868, having decided that the only way to handle a dangerous fascist in their party was to join him. The XPOTUS continues to yell about "election fraud" as part of his Big Lie, so obviously he'll spin the Colorado case as proof of it. A reasonable person might think of it like killing your parents and then begging sympathy as an orphan, but clearly a third of the US have left reason behind in the 1960s.

We're a week and a half from 2024, and the times just keep getting more interesting...

The tipping point

Frustrated with point-of-sale systems suggesting you tip the self-checkout machine 25%? You're not alone:

[T]raditional tipping patterns are being disrupted in unpredictable ways, raising workers’ expectations and making consumers grumpy. The feeling even has a name: “tipping fatigue.” A June survey by the financial services company Bankrate found that 66 percent of adults held a negative view of tipping. Forty-one percent said businesses should just pay workers better, and 32 percent said they don’t like being presented with those Goldilocks-like tablet screens suggesting three possible tips. Thirty percent said tipping culture was out of control, but only half as many (16 percent) said they’d be willing to pay higher prices to make tipping go away.

[N]either Amy Vanderbilt (1908–1974) nor Letitia Baldridge (1926–2012) ever knew today’s world, where you’re invited to tip at a retail checkout counter where the only service is to ring up a charge and perhaps bag a few items, or at a self-checkout machine where no service is provided at all. Tipping is in effect a new form of “junk fee,” with the only difference that paying or not paying is left to the customer’s tortured conscience. Even when you’re promised the proceeds will go to employees, the boss is clearly shifting some labor costs onto the customer, which is infuriating.

In D.C., many restaurants are introducing a 20 percent service charge, the equivalent of the French “servis compris”; European restaurateurs figured out long before their American counterparts that tipping culture is retrograde. But it’s still advisable to check with your waiter to make sure the money goes to staff and isn’t offsetting previous wages or benefits; D.C. law requires that restaurants disclose how such fees are spent, but there have been abuses.If the financial arrangement isn’t clear, then my own etiquette guide says you’re still stuck paying a 20 percent tip.

You still don't have to tip the self-checkout machine, though. It gets paid enough.

European cities mend car-centric streets

Paris, Barcelona, and Brussels have taken back streets for pedestrians, streets never designed for cars:

Strategies vary, from congestion charges, parking restrictions and limited traffic zones to increased investment in public transport and cycle lanes. Evidence suggests that a combination of carrot and stick – and consultation – works best.

A startling statistic emerged in Paris last month: during the morning and evening rush hours, on representative main thoroughfares crisscrossing the French capital, there are now more bicycles than cars – almost half as many again, in fact.

The data point is the latest to comfort Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor, who since she was first elected in 2014 has pursued some of the toughest anti-car policies of any major city – starting with closing the 1970s Right Bank Seine expressway to traffic.

Hidalgo has since sealed off famous streets such as the Rue de Rivoli to most traffic, created an expanding low-emission zone to exclude older cars, and established 1,000km (620 miles) of bike routes, 350km of them protected lanes.

Due in part to her policies and those of her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë, driving within Paris city limits has fallen by about 45% since the early 1990s, while public transport use has risen by 30% and cycle use by about 1,000%.

I admit that the US has huge difficulties breaking away from its car-centric development pattern because most existing US infrastructure was built for cars. But the inability of US voters to imagine a better life with alternatives to driving hurts us as well. I've chosen to live in a city that pre-dates mass car ownership (at least in some parts), but even here, we struggle with compact, walkable development.

Still, Paris and other European cities are showing that it's possible to undo some of the damage cars and car-centric development cause. I hope more of the US catches on to this in my lifetime.

Political realignments take time

Josh Marshall, who studied history before he became a journalist, thinks the civic democratic vs. authoritarian contest in the US won't end with the next election—or the ones after it (sub. req.):

We often think about authoritarianism being defeated or democracy ending with the election of a Trump or one of his various imitators or progenitors abroad. But it may not necessarily work that way. The Polish Law and Justice party took power in 2015 and set about reshaping the Polish state into a post-democratic authoritarian and anti-liberal democratic state. This year they were defeated by a coalition of liberal democratic parties after eight years. Top Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro was defeated by incumbent President Lula da Silva. There are various other examples.

It is in the nature of authoritarian parties and leaders that they are rule breakers rather than rule followers. And in a contest between rule breakers and rule followers the former have an inherent and sometimes insuperable advantage. ... [I]t is also the case that if the authoritarians aren’t going anywhere it is unrealistic to think they will never win another national election. Indeed, not only are they not going anywhere but the post-2021 period suggests Republicans are becoming increasingly identified with their authoritarian commitments in a way that will likely outlast Trump himself.

This isn’t necessarily good news. But it’s helpful to understand the situation in its totality. We have a temptation to hope for final victories and fear final defeats. But both may be unrealistic. It may be more of a long haul with an uncertain outcome.

My guess would be 12 years of authoritarian rule before they get kicked out. But those 12 years would do incalculable damage to the country and the world. At least they won't get 3/4 of the states behind them, so absent a constitutional convention, we'd still have a constitution to go back to.

Post-concert fun and enjoyment

Our performances at Holy Name Cathedral and Alice Millar Chapel went really well (despite the grumblings of one critic). But part of the fun of serving as president of the chorus meant I got to go back to Holy Name this morning to sign off on 128 chairs and 4 dollies getting into a truck:

They say Mass at noon every day. The window the rental company gave me was "ESTIMATED to arrive one hour before or after 10:53 AM." They actually showed up at 11:37. Fortunately, I had 4 of the 13 stacks you see above positioned by the door before he arrived, and I got the other 9 trundled across the chancel just in time (11:59). (Only four dollies, only four stacks pre-positioned.)

That said, it really is a beautiful building:

Tomorrow I hope will be a more normal workday. Tonight I hope to get 9 hours of sleep.

Finally saw the sun

I complained yesterday that Chicago hadn't seen sunlight in almost a week. Ever the fount of helpful weather statistics, WGN pointed out that it made it the cloudiest start to a December since 1952. This streak had nothing on my winter break in 1991-92, when Chicago went 12 days without sunlight, or spring 2022, which had only 1 day of sunshine from March 21st through May 2nd. So the sun on my face this morning was delightful.

In other gloominess:

Finally, Block Club Chicago today posted almost exactly the same thing I have posted more than once: that Friday will be Chicago's earliest sunset of the year. I'm just sad they didn't cite Weather Now.

Tuberville finally sits down and shuts up

US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), top contender for Dumbest Person in Congress since taking office earlier this year, finally released his hold on over 400 general and flag officer promotions he's held up for almost a year:

The hold, which Tuberville began in February, applied to all senior military promotions, and hundreds of officers were caught up in its net. As officers increasingly complained of the toll on military readiness and morale, and as a war raged in the Middle East, Tuberville faced increasing pressure from his fellow Republicans to drop the hold.

He has now narrowed his hold to the 10 or so promotions at the four-star rank. Tuberville said he relinquished the hold because he wanted to keep Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) from bringing up a vote to get around his maneuver. He did not receive any concessions he previously demanded, such as a change to the military funding bill to address the abortion policy.

Tuberville’s hold led to a remarkably public confrontation with some of his GOP colleagues, who staged a late-night attempt to promote the officers he had blocked, forcing him to personally object to each one. Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Todd C. Young (Ind.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), all veterans, implored Tuberville on the Senate floor to lift his hold for the sake of national security.

As of Tuesday, there had been 451 senior military officers nominated for a total of 455 jobs, he said.

Assuming the Senate confirms them all tonight or tomorrow, a lot of senior officers will have a lot of work. Families have to move, for starters, and not just the families of the 451 new admirals and generals. Each of those officers will pick a new staff, meaning a lot of captains and colonels get to pack their bags right before Christmas. And while all this happens, many of the new admirals and generals will spend tens of hours signing all the papers that no one could sign because their predecessors had to retire before they could start.

I wish I had a transcript of the conversation Mitch McConnell had with Tuberville to convince him to get out of the way. What a stupid asshole, causing this much disruption for so little gain.