The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Just have to pack

The weather forecast for Munich doesn't look horrible, but doesn't look all that great either, at least until Saturday. So I'll probably do more indoorsy things Thursday and Friday, though I have tentatively decided to visit Dachau on Thursday, rain or not. You know, to start my trip in such a way that nothing else could possibly be worse.

Meanwhile, I've added these to yesterday's crop of stories to read at the airport:

Finally, don't skip your dog's walks. They're very important to her health.

Reading list for this week

As I'm trying to decide which books to take with me to Germany, my regular news sources have also given me a few things to put in my reading list:

Finally, the North Atlantic has near-record jet streams again this week, approaching 360 km/h, and shaving 45 minutes off the DC–London route. I would love that to happen Wednesday.

$350 million in fines

New York Justice Arthur Engoron just handed the XPOTUS a $350 million fine and barred him and his two failsons from running a business in New York for years:

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Of course he'll appeal, but New York doesn't give him many grounds to do so. And given the scale of the fraud he perpetrated on the State, even this eye-watering sum will probably survive scrutiny from the appellate court.

In other news this afternoon:

Finally, the Tribune has a long retrospective on WGN-TV weather reporter Tom Skilling, who will retire after the 10pm newscast on the 28th.

Fun international work meeting

I learned this morning that I have a meeting at 6am Wednesday, because the participants will be in four time zones across four continents. Since I'm traveling to Munich later that day, I'll just comfort myself by remembering it's 1pm Central Europe time.

I'm already queuing up some things to read on the flights. I'll probably finish all of these later today, though:

  • Jennifer Rubin highlights four ways in which the XPOTUS has demonstrated his electoral weakness in the past few weeks.
  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz agrees, warning the MAGA Republican extremists to stop screwing around lest the party suffer an historic ass-kicking in November. (For my part, I don't think they will stop, and the ass-kicking is long overdue.)
  • Sean Wilentz warns that the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to evaluate the XPOTUS in light of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause will lead to worse problems later on.
  • James Fallows chastises the Times in particular for creating the controversy about President Biden's age they claimed simply to report on.
  • Ian Bogost moans about the ever-deepening problems of carrying baggage onto planes. (I will be checking my bag through to Munich, for what it's worth, but I may carry it on for the return flight to avoid customs delays changing planes at Charlotte.)

Finally, John Scalzi erupts at the 2023 Hugo Awards administrators for outright fraud and unforgivable cowardice following a report on Chinese political interference in the awards selection process last summer.

Happy late-winter milestone

My team works in the downtown office 3 days a week. Given Cassie's daycare pickup deadline and the Metra schedule, I leave at almost exactly the same time every day: 5:20pm. That makes the rapidly-lengthening days in late winter very noticeable.

Yesterday, for example, was the first day since November 2nd that my normal departure time was before sunset. And in just a couple of weeks—March 7th, most likely—I'll pick Cassie up from daycare before sunset.

It really makes a difference.

Ukrainian engineering

With the news this morning that Ukraine has disabled yet another Russian ship, incapacitating fully one-third of the Russian Black Sea fleet, it has become apparent that Ukraine is better at making Russian submarines than the Murmansk shipyards. Russia could, of course, stop their own massive military losses—so far they've lost 90% of their army as well—simply by pulling back to the pre-2014 border, but we all know they won't do that.

In other news of small-minded people continuing to do wastefully stupid things:

Finally, a reader who knows my perennial frustration at ever-lengthening copyright durations sent me a story from last March about who benefits from composer Maurice Ravel's estate. Ravel died in 1937, so his music will remain under copyright protection until 1 January 2034, providing royalties to his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter. Please think of her the next time you hear "Bolero."

More info about the Divvy situation

After posting this morning about all the injured and lame e-Divvy bikes around Chicago, a Daily Parker reader just sent me this story from last November, reporting that Divvy planned to (and presumably did) switch its maintenance subcontractor on February 1st of this year:

Periodically we do a [Request for Proposals]," the Lyft staffer said. "We want the best operations and service delivery for our city partners and customers. Motivate's contract was running out on February 1, so we held a competitive procurement process. Both Motivate and Shift were interested in the new contract. Shift runs bike-share systems in Toronoto, Detroit, and Portland, Oregon." Shift also currently operates Divvy's electric scooter fleet.

There's evidence this management switch could be good news for Divvy riders. The system's recent challenges with out-of-service bikes and ineffective rebalancing are well-documented. And then there was the embarrassing July 2022 spotting of a massive number of dysfunctional Divvies sitting in a vacant lot across the alley from the bike-share system's service warehouse at 2132 W. Hubbard St. in West Town. That was definitely not a good look for Motivate, which was managing Divvy's bike maintenance operations at the time.

While the machinations going on right now at Divvy are a little complex, there's no reason to believe they'll be bad for customers or employees.

I mean, except for the transition period, one supposes...

What's going on with our e-bikes?

Divvy, Chicago's bike-share program, seems to have some issues lately. For about two weeks now, almost no electric bikes have shown up on the app. This one, for example, clearly needs some TLC, and it's invisible online:

I counted half a dozen in my neighborhood that have dead batteries. My friends in other neighborhoods describe similarly grim situations, or worse: one rack in Lakeview had nothing but broken bikes, and showed 0 available on the app.

Divvy's Twitter feed doesn't provide much insight, either. They can only repeat "we'll have our Operations Team check it out!" so many times before it becomes self-parody.

On top of the subscription price increase that took effect last week, I and other users have gotten a bit annoyed. Divvy, what gives?

But her emails!, 2024 edition

I really have a hard time understanding why so many news organizations have trouble covering the substance of politics rather than the game of it. The general reporting on Special Counsel Robert Hur's (R) exoneration of President Biden shows what I mean. I mentioned in passing Saturday that James Fallows called Hur's report "tendentious," but he had more to say:

After Biden finished his remarks last night, White House reporters bayed and yelled at him, more aggressively than I can ever recall. They exceeded the baseline I wrote about nearly 30 years ago in the book Breaking the News, about the macho-style code of the press room that equated being ill-mannered with being intellectually tough.

After this yelling session, most of the leading press ran stories like this one in the NYT, saying that the one word—Mexico—had "placed Mr. Biden’s advanced age, the singularly uncomfortable subject looming over his re-election bid, back at the center of America’s political conversation."

Note the agent-free verb “placed.” It’s actually the journalists who are placing it there—as they placed Hillary Clinton’s emails eight years ago, and as they have not placed Donald Trump’s Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley.

Greg Sargent goes further:

Indeed, that New York Times analysis claims those details were “quickly seized on by Republicans,” and could “set the stage” for “a fresh round of political attacks” on Biden.

But in this case, those findings in the report are both being manipulated dishonestly by Republicans and are largely tangential to the report’s most important finding. Republicans are claiming the special counsel opted against charges for Biden because of his “age related dementia,” with many jumping on that idea to declare that this showed him to be unfit for office.

Yet Hur also reached that conclusion for another reason. He explicitly declares that a jury would be unlikely to convict “in the absence of other, more direct evidence” that Biden willfully and improperly hoarded that classified information. Hur says investigators “searched” for such evidence, but “found it wanting,” adding that “no witness, photo, email, text message, or any other evidence” was discovered. That’s why a jury would be unlikely to convict.

Jennifer Rubin sums up the problem:

Special counsel Robert K. Hur had a single task: Determine if President Biden illegally retained sensitive documents after his vice presidency. The answer should not have taken nearly 13 months or a more than 300-page report.

The Biden-Harris campaign decried the media’s obsession with Biden’s age while virtually ignoring another rambling, incoherent Trump speech in which he insisted Pennsylvania would be renamed if he lost. (In South Carolina on Saturday, he was at it again, inviting Russia to invade NATO countries and insulting Nikki Haley’s deployed husband.) By habitually and artificially leveling the playing field, much of the media enables MAGA propaganda and neglects Trump’s obvious mental and emotional infirmities.

Still, facts matter. Biden acted responsibly and committed no crime. Trump faces multiple felony counts, including intentionally withholding top-secret documents and obstructing an investigation. Three years separate Biden and Trump in age, but the distance between their mental and emotional fitness remains incalculable — as is the chasm between the media we have and the media democracy requires.

We've got just under 9 months until the election. Someday, I hope the country can have an election based on policy. Clearly, this is not that day.

Houseguest leaving today

Dogs adapt very quickly to new environments when they're comfortable, as Cassie and Butters have done these past few days. Butters has appropriated both of Cassie's beds just as Cassie appropriated my couches:

My lungs have also gotten mostly back to normal, meaning I don't need any more Delsym, meaning no more mild cognitive side-effects. In other words, my upcoming week could be completely back to normal. Hosting Butters has been fun; 16 days of bronchitis have not.