The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Before I pack up my Surface

Just noting these things to read later, as I have just a few minutes before boarding:

Finally, The Cut's financial-advice columnist Charlotte Cowles describes how she fell for a financial scam.

The OTHER lounge

I forgot that one of the perks of flying in international first class—even if it's a miles ticket—is access to American's Flagship Lounge. I have to say, I see the appeal.

But like so much in the United States, the top-tier lounge in Chicago has roughly the same amenities and food as the regular lounges in Europe and Asia.

I'm heading to Munich, as mentioned earlier, in part to enjoy modern technology, now that my own country has drifted to the back of the pack amongst its peer countries. It's very frustrating, to put it mildly, that the Most Powerful Nation in the History of the Planet™ can't figure out how to build a high-speed train, for example.

The same thing happened to Rome, of course. By the 1st century CE, Rome had the largest empire and most powerful military the world had ever seen till then, but Constantinople had already started to pull ahead in technology. By 500 CE, Rome had become a provincial outpost with ruined monuments, and Constantinople was beyond anything the Romans could imagine.

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.

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."

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.

He's a damn good president, actually

In light of the report from special counsel Robert Hur that James Fallows calls "tendentious," Republican pollster and Lincoln Project member Stuart Stephens wonders why Democrats don't crow more loudly about all that President Biden has actually accomplished:

A plea to my Democratic friends: It’s time to start calling Joe Biden a great president. Not a good one. Not a better choice than Donald Trump. Joe Biden is a historically great president. Say it with passion backed by the conviction that it’s true.

Joe Biden should remain president because of his historic level of achievement here at home while standing on the side of freedom versus tyranny in the largest land war in Europe since World War II, a role no American president has played since the Roosevelt-Truman era. Be bold. Walk into this campaign with swagger and confidence and pride.

The stock market is hitting record highs. Unemployment is at a record low, with 14 million new jobs. Talk to small-business owners, and the biggest problem they are facing is finding workers. A child born in the first Republican “infrastructure week” would have been entering grade school by the time President Biden passed the largest public spending initiative in American history. As a Republican media consultant, I made hundreds of ads about the high cost of prescription drugs. But it took President Biden to give Medicare the power to directly negotiate with Big Pharma to lower prices and cap the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries at $35. For all the bitching about gas prices, the United States is now producing more oil than any country in history. Yes, more than Russia or Saudi Arabia, and that’s one of the reasons gas prices are now lower in inflation-adjusted prices than in 1974. Yeah, I know, fossil fuels suck, and the world should run on solar power. But the Biden administration also launched a $7 billion solar power investment project.

What is most amazing is that Biden got this done in a world in which the majority of Republicans believe he is not a legal president. Ponder that for a minute. You are a White House staffer working to help pass Biden initiatives, and you are dealing with members of Congress and senators who don’t just disagree with your boss—they think he’s an illegitimate president.

I could go on citing the achievements of a president who actually cares about governing. All of these actions and numbers are important, but none matter as much as what Joe Biden has done to restore stability and decency to the presidency. One of the greatest gifts of a democratic civil society is the freedom not to think about government, to wake up and not worry about the mood of a leader. Joe Biden has made governing boring and predictable, both fundamental rights of the people in a healthy democracy.

I agree with Stuart: 2024 looks a lot more like 1944 or 1948 than it does other, more troubling election years (like 1856 or 1908). But Biden's our Truman. Is he showing his age? Well, he looks better at 80 than either Johnson did at 67 or FDR did at 64, doesn't he?

Waiting for the build before walking two dogs

Another sprint has ended. My hope for a boring release has hit two snags: first, it looks like one of the test artifacts in the production environment that our build pipeline depends on has disappeared (easily fixed); and second, my doctor's treatment for this icky bronchitis I've had the past two weeks works great at the (temporary) expense of normal cognition. (Probably the cough syrup.)

Plus, Cassie and I have a houseguest:

But like my head, the rest of the world keeps spinning:

And now, my production test pipeline has concluded successfully, so I will indeed have a boring release.