The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

War in Europe

Some things to remember:

  • "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."—Isaac Asimov
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin lost the argument. This is his tantrum. But like a 15-year-old with a rifle, he's still a threat to everyone else.
  • The argument is that liberal democracy produces better outcomes for everyone than lawless autocracy. Notice that Russian kleptocrats keep their money in the US and UK, countries with strong institutions and rule of law.
  • Russia's economy, which is based on resource extraction, is the 11th largest in the world, after Italy, Canada, and South Korea. It's smaller than New York State's and just a little bigger than Illinois' and Florida's. California's GDP is more than double Russia's. So is the UK's.
  • Wars never stay confined to their initial theater. How badly this spills out should keep us awake at night.

A friend in Kyiv sent these photos earlier today. People leaving Kyiv:

Explosions in the city:

Photos by Татьяна Мисиюк

Here's what the professionals have to say:

I'll be monitoring this situation closely.

Busy couple of days

I've had a lot to do at work the last couple of days, leading to an absolute pile-up of unread press:

Finally, on this day in 1940, Woody Guthrie released "This Land is Your Land," a song even more misunderstood than Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Some questions about Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin asserted yesterday that Ukraine doesn't exist, reasoning that Russia created the territory sometime in the past and therefore it remains part of Russia today. This raises some questions:

  1. If that were the case, how can Russia now recognize two "independent republics" with governments legally authorized to request Russian "peacekeepers?"
  2. Should New York send troops into its breakaway region in Vermont, and Massachusetts take back its former territory of Maine?
  3. How unpopular must Putin be at home that he needs to do something this dramatic to distract the world?

Let's also not forget that the Ukrainian fracas has taken the world's attention away from the South China Sea, where the next real war will probably happen. Fun times, fun times.

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

More about the insanity of crypto

A couple more resources about "web3" (cryptocurrencies, NFTs, DAOs, etc) crossed my inbox this week. Even before going through these stories and essays, the only way I can understand the persistence of the fantastic thinking that drives all this stuff is that the people most engaged with it turn out to be the same people who believe all kinds of other fantasies and wish-fulfillment stories.

Case in point: the extreme right-wing protestors up in Canada have received almost all of their funding from American right-wingnuts. Remember: the protestors believe, counter to all evidence, that vaccines cause more harm than good, and that they have a right to remain part of a common society without the responsibility of protecting others in that society from easily-avoided harm.

Because Canada really wants them to go away, and even more than that does not want foreigners funding domestic terrorists, the Canadian government blocked the cross-border financial transfers to the Maple Morons through the regular banking system. It took about 36 seconds for the Americans to try again using cryptocurrencies, and about 14 seconds longer for scammers to piggyback on the effort:

Canada Unity 2022, the group of anti-vaccine protestors who have snarled traffic in Ottawa and earned accolades in the right-wing media, wants to talk to you about Bitcoin.

A handful of the group’s organizers held a press conference on Facebook Live Wednesday that quickly devolved into a presentation on the popular form of cryptocurrency, confusing many of their supporters who were watching online.

“Are we at a press conference for Freedom Convoy 2022 or having some guy shove Bitcoin down our throats?” one commenter griped. “Very disappointed! I came to see updates about progress made by our Truckers.”

In some respects, the convergence of the anti-vaxx protests and Bitcoin was probably inevitable. Last month, the protests drew support from one of the biggest proponents of Bitcoin in the world, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted “Canadian truckers rule.” Former President Donald Trump has voiced support, and right-wing figures from Tucker Carlson to Ben Shapiro to Michael Flynn have seized on the trucker protests.

Even better, the way organizers have decided to distribute the Bitcoin meant for the rationality- and education-challenged protestors might not exactly show the benefits of cryptocurrencies in the best light:

Instead of giving the truckers the money in a cash format they can actually use, the "professional orange-piller" in charge of the Bitcoin distribution has explained a multi-step plan to give truckers pieces of paper with seed phrases printed on them. The seed phrases will be placed into sealed envelopes along with instructions on how to create a Bitcoin wallet, which are then "numbered and squiggly random lines should be drawn on the envelope to help with later identification". The volunteers then plan to physically destroy the printer with shears and screwdrivers, to try to prevent attackers from pulling the seed phrases out of the device memory. Of course once the trucker has their seed phrase, they have to go through the multi-step process of gaining access to the Bitcoin wallet on their smartphone, and then figure out how on earth to actually use their newfound Bitcoins to, say, pay for fuel.

That comment comes from software engineer Molly White, who has a delightful and detailed series of essays on blockchain in general. If you have any questions about web3 or blockchain and don't want a sales pitch from someone trying to keep the value his holdings inflated until he can dump them on you, start with White.

In a world where people devalue the study of history and economics in favor of shouting to the world about their magical beliefs, the rise of crypto doesn't surprise me. I don't know what will happen when it all collapses, but I have a pretty good idea who'll get hurt. I wonder who the right-wingnuts will blame when they lose everything? Probably not themselves.

What happened to Tuesday?

And wasn't it just Tuesday?

I got an email from HR this morning reminding me that I'm approaching the upper limit for paid time off in my bank. I thought, what with taking half a day here and there over the past year, I might not already have almost a month of vacation to use. Cue searching on VRBO for places Cassie and I might like.

Meanwhile, back in the present:

But back to vacation: how cute is this place?

Cue the weekend

The temperature dropped 17.7°C between 2:30 pm yesterday and 7:45 this morning, from 6.5°C to -10.2°C, as measured at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters. So far it's recovered to -5.5°C, almost warm enough to take my lazy dog on a hike. She got a talking-to from HR about not pulling her weight in the office, so this morning she worked away at a bone for a good stretch:

Alas, the sun came out, a beam hit her head, and she decided the bone could wait:

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

  • Julia Ioffe interviews Russian diplomat Dr Andrey Sushentsov about Russia's views of the Ukraine crisis. tl;dr: the US and Russia don't even have a common set of facts to discuss, let alone a common interpretation of them.
  • In Beijing, former Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon blasts the Russian team for once again crapping on their own performance with yet another doping scandal.
  • The government of Ontario secured a court order last night allowing the Windsor Police and OPP to start clearing the Ambassador Bridge. So far, they have managed to do so without violence, but a few extremists haven't yet budged.
  • James Fallows updates his earlier post on how framing outrageous actions as "that's just Trump" is an abrogation of the press's responsibility to its consumers. "For perspective here: the late Sandy Berger, who had been Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, was investigated, charged, fined $50,000, and sentenced to two years of probation for stuffing copies of a classified document into his socks, and sneaking them out from the National Archives. The story of his downfall was a major news feature back in the mid-2000s."
  • The UK now allows fully-vaccinated travelers from most countries to arrive and depart without getting a swab stuck up their nose.
  • Comedian Bob Saget died of blunt head trauma, consistent with a slip and fall, according to an autopsy. It also found his heart had a 95% blockage, which might have killed him even without the fall.

Finally, in 2018 Rebecca Mead returned to London after living in New York for 30 years. Her 15-year-old son now speaks with a unique accent Mead says has become the new standard "Multicultural London English."

More about the dangerous situation in Ottawa

Via Josh Marshall, Canadian journalist Matt Gurney raises the alarm about the other group of truckers camping in Ottawa:

You may have heard reports of a secondary encampment that is well removed from the main protest sites around Parliament Hill. I certainly had. It has been described in different reports as either a logistics area or some kind of staging ground for protesters.

This site, for lack of a better term, has been fortified. There are many trucks parked in the parking lot, but some of them have been arranged to form outer walls. These walls have been augmented with wooden sawhorses and what looked to me to be stacked pallets of some kind.

[T]he police are very much aware of the site, and they are very worried about the presence of a hard-right-wing, organized faction that isn't there to protest mandates and vaccine passports, but to directly create conflict with the government. This hard-right element probably includes some non-Canadians, here for the party. The broader complaints of the protesters are a cover for the group seeking open conflict.

My government and security sources do not agree. What’s happening in Ottawa, they were clear, is two separate events happening in tandem: there is a broadly non-violent (to date) group of Canadians with assorted COVID-related gripes, ranging from the somewhat justified to totally frickin’ insane. But that larger group, which has knocked Ottawa and too many of our leaders into what my colleague Jen Gerson so perfectly described as “stun-fucked stasis,” is now providing a kind of (mostly) unwitting cover to a cadre of seasoned street brawlers whose primary goal is to further erode the legitimacy of the state — not just the city of Ottawa, or Ontario or Canada, but of democracies generally.

Andrew Sullivan also takes a look, and sees it as part of a larger reaction against what he calls the "successor ideology:"

To be honest, I didn’t quite see the Canadian truckers coming. I’ve watched a lot of Canada coverage over the years (mainly via South Park, I concede) and the whole anti-vaxxer, campfire-burning, horn-tooting, macho revolt among our gentle neighbors to the north nonetheless took me by surprise.

Rob Ford was a harbinger, I guess. It’s as if the ancient, manly, lumberjacky Canadian id was finally roused from its cultural slumber by a soy-boy prime minister, forcing truckers to take a jab or forfeit their livelihood. And some reports suggest that the vaccine issue seems just the proximate trigger for the rage, and not the real source — a rage which has been steadily building for some time, especially in the pandemic, in the most progressive-left country on the planet.

And there’s something very blue-collar male about this populist anger.

The rise of the angry macho right is easily explained by its progressive foes. It’s a fevered backlash to white patriarchal privilege finally being dismantled — so enjoy the white male tears. And this contains, as many woke insights do, a kernel of truth. It is a good thing that the default identity in America is no longer white, straight and male. It’s a great thing that women’s talents and abilities are no longer so constrained. The workplace-harassment bill that just passed with wide bipartisan support, for example, seems a positive development. It’s wonderful that gay and trans people who are sometimes seen as foils to this “cis-hetero-patriarchy” are so much more visible than before, most recently with Amy Schneider, the brilliant and charismatic Jeopardy champ.

But the successor ideology will not stay there. It never rests. It insists that masculinity itself is entirely socially constructed and can and should therefore be entirely deconstructed; it regards the construction of masculinity as inherently oppressive; it regards men as problematic and privileged; it affirms that the “future is female”; and it treats the straight white male on campus as an unfortunate burden at best.

I eagerly await an email about this from my friend in Montreal.

Slow-ish afternoon

I've sent some test results off to a partner in Sydney, so I have to wait until Monday morning before I officially mark that feature as "done." I'm also writing a presentation I'll give on March 16th. So while the larger part of my brain noodles on Microsoft Azure CosmosDB NoSQL databases (the subject of my presentation), the lesser part has this to read:

Finally, software developer Ben Tupper has created a Myst-like game surrounding the mysterious door at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. I walked past that door every day for almost two years, and even got a peek inside once. It's not really a townhouse, after all.

Mid-afternoon roundup

Before heading into three Zoom meetings that will round out my day, I have a minute to flip through these:

  • US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a bold grab for the Dumbest Person in Congress award yesterday when she warned OAN viewers about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "gazpacho police." Let the memes begin.
  • The Economist has an update to the Democratic Freedoms Map, and things do not look good—unless you live in Norway.
  • Along similar lines, WBEZ reports on the Urban Institute's findings that Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago, has some extraordinary wealth gaps.
  • 99% Invisible explains how the "future" office historically looks a lot like the past.
  • Arthur C Brooks advises singles to look for complementary, rather than similar, characteristics in potential mates.
  • The Pullman House Project here in Chicago will soon offer tours of the Thomas Dunbar House in the Pullman National Historic Site.

Finally, Tesla has some impressive software in its cars, but it still has a few (very frightening) bugs.