The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Heads-down research and development today

I usually spend the first day or two of a sprint researching and testing out approaches before I start the real coding effort. Since one of my stories this sprint requires me to refactor a fairly important feature—an effort I think will take me all of next week—I decided to read up on something today and have wound up in a rabbit hole.

Naturally, that means a few interesting stories have piled up:

Finally, Lagunitas Brewing will move its brewing operations back to Petaluma, Calif., (which is a million times better than Megaluma!) and close its Chicago taproom this summer, so I suppose the Brews & Choos Project should get its ass over there pronto.

Tories throw it in

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Cons., Richmond-Yorks) has gone to His Majesty and requested to dissolve Parliament, calling for an election on July 4th:

Rishi Sunak has called a surprise general election for 4 July in a high stakes gamble that will see Keir Starmer try to win power for Labour after 14 years of Conservative-led government.

Addressing the nation outside Downing Street, Sunak said it was “the moment for Britain to choose its future” as he claimed the Tories could be trusted to lead the country during a time of global instability.

The rain-soaked prime minister was almost drowned out by the New Labour anthem, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, blasted out by the anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray, as the surprise early election was called.

Sunak’s words were met with alarm by senior Tories who are concerned that their party, trailing 20 percentage points behind Labour in the polls, could face electoral wipeout, with some MPs even considering submitting letters of no confidence.

It will be the first July election since 1945, when Labour leader Clement Attlee won a majority of 145. The campaign will also be fought during the Euro 2024 football tournament, with polling day falling just before the quarter finals.

Two things. First, it's about fucking time, as the Tories have driven the UK into the ground, giving the country two of the worst PMs in history and certainly the worst Home Secretary in my lifetime.

Second, what bliss only to have a six-week public campaign period! But then again, the UK government does get things done even when the ruling party has such low polling numbers.

I remember the big vote the UK took in June 2016 and what that said about our own politics. I will watch the July 4th election intently for clues about our own future.

Heading for another boring deployment

Today my real job wraps up Sprint 109, an unexciting milestone that I hope has an unexciting deployment. I think in 109 sprints we've only had 3 or 4 exciting deployments, not counting the first production deployment, which always terrifies the dev team and always reminds them of what they left out of the Runbook.

The staging pipelines have already started churning, and if they uncover anything, the Dev pipelines might also run, so I've lined up a collection of stories from the last 24 hours to keep me calm (ah, ha ha, ha):

  • James Fallows, himself a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, digs into President Biden's commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College, saying: "It showed care in craftsmanship and construction. Its phrasing matched Biden’s own style and diction. It navigated the political difficulties of the moment. And it represented Biden’s attempt to place those difficulties in a larger perspective."
  • Economist Paul Krugman explains the insignificance (to most people's lives) of the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 40,000 last week, and how the news nicely illustrates "he gap between what we know about the actual state of our economy and the way [the XPOTUS] and his allies describe it."
  • Speaking of the stock market, Ivan Boesky, one of the greediest people ever to walk the earth, died last week at the age of 87.
  • Speaking of economics, Bill McBride takes us through the history of paying off the national debt, or increasing it as tends to happen under Republican presidents. He lists 8 events from 2000 to 2021 that significantly increased it, only two of which Democratic administrations oversaw.
  • Speaking of debt, Crain's scoops up the Oberweis Dairy bankruptcy case, and how it appears that a failson (actually a failgrandson in this case) killed it, as sometimes happens with inherited wealth.
  • Speaking of things falling abruptly, a Singapore Airlines B777-312ER encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea near Bangkok yesterday, and a 73-year-old British passenger died of what appears to be heart failure. Other passengers and crew suffered head injuries. This is why you need to keep your seatbelt on at all times in an airplane.

Finally, Block Club Chicago readers have sent in cicada photos from the south and west sides of the area. Still none in my neighborhood, though a colleague in Wilmette said she saw a couple yesterday. I want to see the bugs!

Hillbilly insincerity

Washington Post columnist Matt Bai has no patience for the "new breed of Republican charlatan" represented most clearly by US Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH):

My office shelves are full of these “books that miraculously explain our political moment” from over the years —“Don’t Think of an Elephant!,” “God’s Politics,” “The Radical Center” — and I’ve come to understand that their success is never an accident. Show me a book that captures the post-election zeitgeist of a worried intelligentsia, and I’ll show you a shrewd, ambitious author who sensed an opening and steered right into it. If the Pentagon could engineer a fame-seeking missile, it would look a lot like “Hillbilly Elegy.”

So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when Vance’s argument turned out to be mostly pretext and his convictions nonexistent. Almost immediately, Vance started entertaining a career in Republican politics. By 2022, when he ran for the open seat left by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, Vance had gone from Never Trump to Long Live the King; his conversion included a spirited embrace of Trump’s stolen-election nonsense.

Look, there’s nothing new about cynical opportunism at the highest level of our politics. Richard M. Nixon shredded reputations to make himself the ultimate Cold Warrior, then repositioned himself as a moderate in the Goldwater years. Bill Clinton used conservative talking points to deflect attention from his antiwar protesting days.

But there were basic lines of duplicity that neither Nixon nor Clinton nor any other American politician of the last century would cross — in part because they had some genuine convictions about the value of public service, and in part because a robust and reasonably trusted news media would never have let them get away with it.

History tells us that repressive movements enabled by cowards and hucksters are just as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the legitimately hateful. You can wreck a country with cosplaying careerists just as easily as you can with bloodthirsty revolutionaries.

We've always had these people, and we always will. But we can stop elevating them to public office.

When is bad butt not bad butt?

Cassie got a bad result from the lab yesterday: a mild giardia infection. It's a good-news, bad-news thing: The bad news, obviously, is that she can't go to day camp (meaning I can't spend a full day in my downtown office) for at least a week. The good news is that she's mostly asymptomatic, unlike the last guy. So we just went to the vet again, got another $110 bill for dewormer.

But at least she wasn't crated for three hours with her own diarrhea. Poor Parker.

In other good news, bad news stories today:

Actually, they're all bad-news stories. Apologies.

Democracy may be up for debate

The XPOTUS has agreed to "debate" President Biden twice before the election:

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed Wednesday to participate in general election debates on June 27 and Sept. 10.

A press release from CNN said the first, on June 27, would start at 9 p.m. ET and will be held in the news organization's studios in Atlanta.

“I’ve also received and accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by ABC on Tuesday, September 10th," Biden said on X. "Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

One of my friends doesn't think the President should have agreed to debate the XPOTUS, arguing that someone who attempted a coup "does not get a debate." He worries it "will be judged on who talks the loudest, who is the rudest, etc. It'll be closer to professional wrestling than a political debate."

I disagree. I think the XPOTUS will show people who don't seek him out (read: swing voters) exactly how demented he has become. James Fallows likens him to "[t]he kind of person you’d assume to be drunk if you didn’t know he teetotaled, or you’d think was in other ways disturbed." Commenting on the XPOTUS's Atlantic City rally over the weekend, Fallows says, "We’ve all heard things like this. In bars. In public parks. In institutional care. We move away from people talking this way."

Even before we get there, we have to wonder how a good hunk of the population seem to have forgotten how shambolic the guy's administration actually was, especially doing the one thing in his job description:

There was no breathing room — no calm in the eye of the storm. From beginning to end — from the “American carnage” inaugural on Jan. 20, 2017, to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — it felt as though the country was in constant flux, each week a decade. We lurched from dysfunction to chaos and back again, eventually crashing on the shores of the nation’s worst domestic crisis since the Great Depression.

Trump presided over a recession worsened by his total failure to manage the coronavirus. As Covid deaths mounted, Trump spread misinformation and left states scrambling for needed supplies. It was not until after the March stock market crash that the White House issued its plan to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. And the most generous provisions found in the CARES Act, including a vast expansion of unemployment benefits, were negotiated into the bill by Democratic lawmakers.

No other president has gotten this kind of excused absence for mismanaging a crisis that happened on his watch. We don’t bracket the secession crisis from our assessment of James Buchanan or the Great Depression from our judgment of Herbert Hoover or the hostage crisis in Iran from our assessment of Jimmy Carter. And for good reason: The presidency was designed for crisis. It was structured with the power and autonomy needed for handling the acute challenges of national life.

With 174 days until the election, one feels like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis...

The Ohio Feeder must die

The Ohio Feeder runs about 2 kilometers from Chicago's River North nightlife area to the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94). As former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist told Streetsblog on Friday, just like San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway and Seoul's Cheonggyecheon, we need to remove the Ohio Feeder:

Swapping the expressway extension for a surface-level boulevard would be an obvious choice to make this part of town safer, more efficient, more environmentally friendly, more vibrant – and more profitable. "Instead of making it harder to get to River North from the Kennedy, it would expand River North closer to the Kennedy."

SF actually saw travel times shorten when the Embarcadero Freeway was removed after being damaged by an earthquake, Norquist noted. "At rush hour, a boulevard carries more traffic because drivers move at the optimal speed. More and more research is piling up about the harmful aspects of urban freeways, including sprawl, pollution, congestion, and increased travel times. And you can't build a coffee shop on a freeway."

Transforming the Ohio Feeder into surface road, similar to what was done with Milwaukee's Park East Freeway "really won't require a change on every part of it," Norquist he said. "The bridge over the Chicago River was built in 1962 and fixed up in 1992. It's going be due for a rehab soon anyway. And it's not like you have to teat the whole freeway down. Much of it is practically at-grade, so you could turn it into a boulevard pretty easily."

With the redevelopment of the former Chicago Tribune printing plant 200 meters to the north, and the potential for having unimpeded bike, pedestrian, and (yes) car traffic between Kinzie and Chicago, it would transform the neighborhood. We might be stuck with the Kennedy and the Dan Ryan, as abominable as those two highways are; but we can—and should—open up River North to development west of Orleans by removing the ugly scar connecting it to the Kennedy.

Friedman on campus protests

Columnist Thomas Friedman, who identifies himself as "a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, [and] cares about people on all sides," finds American campus protests troubling because they're missing the larger context and workable goals:

In short: I find the whole thing very troubling, because the dominant messages from the loudest voices and many placards reject important truths about how this latest Gaza war started and what will be required to bring it to a fair and sustainable conclusion.

My problem is not that the protests in general are “antisemitic” — I would not use that word to describe them, and indeed, I am deeply uncomfortable as a Jew with how the charge of antisemitism is thrown about on the Israel-Palestine issue. My problem is that I am a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, cares about people on all sides and knows one thing above all from my decades in the region: The only just and workable solution to this issue is two nation-states for two indigenous peoples.

If you are for that, whatever your religion, nationality or politics, you’re part of the solution. If you are not for that, you’re part of the problem.

I am intensely both anti-Hamas and anti-Netanyahu. And if you oppose just one and not also the other, you should reflect a little more on what you are shouting at your protest or your anti-protest. Because no one has done more to harm the prospects of a two-state solution than the codependent Hamas and Netanyahu factions.

The whole column encapsulates a lot of my own struggles with this particular moment.

My home town's village board caught sleeping

After rejecting several proposals for what to do with a 51-hectare golf course that closed in 2018, the Village Trustees in Northbrook, Ill., woke up this week to discover that the DuPage County Water Commission bought it for $80 million. The western suburban county plans to build a water treatment plant on the land, which seems somewhat less pleasant than the housing development and senior living facility that the Village rejected earlier. Oops.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • President Biden raised about $2 million in downtown Chicago yesterday. I'm a little bummed I missed him, but not bummed that, because I take public transit, his motorcade didn't disrupt my commute at all.
  • Gonzo right-wing spoiler candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., disclosed that doctors years ago found a dead tapeworm in his brain. It's still there, taking up space. (The poor thing must have starved.) Oh, he also mentioned the mercury poisoning for which he's currently undergoing chelation therapy. I have no idea which ailment affects cognition and judgment more, but I do know they both affect cognition and judgment a lot.
  • The usually-sleepy House Rules Committee has become the latest battleground in the Republican Party's civil war. As usually, the country suffers.
  • Soon-to-be former US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (WTF?-AZ) warns that the Senate filibuster will probably disappear when the next Congress convenes in January, conveniently forgetting that a minority of Americans already controls the Senate, and anyway the minority party right now wants to burn it all down. But sure, it's the Democrats, not the vandals on the other side, who wrecked the Senate. You can sit down now, Senator.
  • Police in Washington, D.C., have started going after porch pirates with Apple Airtags and some cooperation from local residents. They've got nothing on this guy, though.

Finally, a church near my house will host its last Mass on the 19th as members of the community have banded together to buy the building from the Archdiocese. The church has an amazing history, including a painstaking move and 90-degree rotation from its original location across Ashland Ave. in 1929.

Also: watch for some new Brews & Choos reviews early next week. This chorus season really did a number on my free time. I'm starting to get moving again.

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?