Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg put the Rauner administration in context in a column a couple of weeks ago:
Not only did Rauner fail to make tangible progress, but he didn’t even tread water properly. The normal operation of the state, such as passing an annual budget, failed to occur, sacrificed on the altar of the governor’s hunger for term limits, union enfeeblement and other unrelated pet causes. He’s like an office manager getting himself hired by promising to expand a business who then promptly fails to pay the electric bill, as a point of principle against the electric company monopoly, so they turn the lights off. Now we’re sitting in the dark, listening to him explain.
But give credit where due: Rauner has accomplished something real, something that I would have thought impossible:
He makes Rod Blagojevich look good.
In 2014, Rauner won every county in Illinois except Cook, beating Pat Quinn by about 150,000 votes out of 3.6 million cast. That's not a huge mandate. But it has turned into a huge disaster. ("A yuge disaster?" Hm.)
Mark Russell, a writer in Oregon I've never met, posted one of the best descriptions of the differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that I've seen on Tuesday:
[T]he truth is that this is not a battle between good and evil so much as an awkward contest between two animals who evolved in entirely different ecosystems.
Hillary Clinton is like a grizzled hunter in the Amazon. Every day is a battle for survival. She has suffered every venom and poison imaginable and from her time as being the wife of a Democratic governor in a red state to being Secretary of State to the most besieged administration in modern history, she has lived her entire life in a rainforest filled with things determined to kill her. Her political survival instincts have adapted accordingly.
Bernie Sanders is like a wallaby. He hails from the benign ecosystem known as Vermont, where he lacks any natural predators. He will be the beloved senator from Vermont for as long as he cares to be. So he hops around wherever he wants, unafraid that anyone might use his words to crucify him. Propose a $15 minimum wage? Just have a friendly chat with anyone who disagrees. Call yourself a "socialist?" Sure, why not? We're all friends here. On the other side of the world, though, if Hillary Clinton channels her inner Eleanor Roosevelt, the Republicans call it a seance. Write a few State Department e-mails from your personal server? Suddenly there's a major Congressional investigation, even though nobody cared when previous Secretaries of State did exactly the same thing.
I'll be reaching out to him for permission to publish his whole post.
I have three books in the works and two on deck (imminently, not just in my to-be-read stack) right now. Reading:
- Kevin Hearne, "Iron Druid Chronicles" book 8: Staked.
- Kim Stanley Robinson, "Mars" trilogy book 2: Green Mars.
Meanwhile, I have these articles and blog posts to read, some for work, some because they're interesting:
Time to read.
Meanwhile, I seem to have a cold. Yuck.
The European Commission yesterday announced they've reached a broad agreement with the United States to allow trans-Atlantic data transfers that respect European privacy laws:
The EU-US Privacy Shield reflects the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice in its ruling on 6 October 2015, which declared the old Safe Harbour framework invalid. The new arrangement will provide stronger obligations on companies in the U.S. to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including through increased cooperation with European Data Protection Authorities. The new arrangement includes commitments by the U.S. that possibilities under U.S. law for public authorities to access personal data transferred under the new arrangement will be subject to clear conditions, limitations and oversight, preventing generalised access. Europeans will have the possibility to raise any enquiry or complaint in this context with a dedicated new Ombudsperson.
The new arrangement will include the following elements:
- Strong obligations on companies handling Europeans' personal data and robust enforcement: U.S. companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed. The Department of Commerce will monitor that companies publish their commitments, which makes them enforceable under U.S. law by the US. Federal Trade Commission. In addition, any company handling human resources data from Europe has to commit to comply with decisions by European DPAs.
- Clear safeguards and transparency obligations on U.S. government access: For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms. These exceptions must be used only to the extent necessary and proportionate. The U.S. has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance on the personal data transferred to the US under the new arrangement. To regularly monitor the functioning of the arrangement there will be an annual joint review, which will also include the issue of national security access. The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce will conduct the review and invite national intelligence experts from the U.S. and European Data Protection Authorities to it.
- Effective protection of EU citizens' rights with several redress possibilities: Any citizen who considers that their data has been misused under the new arrangement will have several redress possibilities. Companies have deadlines to reply to complaints. European DPAs can refer complaints to the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, Alternative Dispute resolution will be free of charge. For complaints on possible access by national intelligence authorities, a new Ombudsperson will be created.
The EC will release the text of the agreement soon. I'll be monitoring this development closely.
This is what happens when you work across the street from the Chicago Teachers Union:
As part of their negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago, the CTU are withdrawing their funds from Bank of America. The Tribune has background:
One day after the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a contract proposal from Chicago Public Schools, district officials said they would slash school budgets and stop paying the bulk of teachers' pension contributions — moves CTU's president quickly blasted as "an act of war."
CPS officials told reporters of their plans while announcing the district would make a fresh attempt Wednesday to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the school system's finances afloat.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also taking shots at the union:
[B]y intentionally and unilaterally whacking tens of thousands of CTU members right in their wallet—and spreading word that Rauner is trying to sabotage the bond deal—Team Emanuel did something more: make it clear that, the Laquan McDonald controversy or not, they're tired of playing patsy.
CTU doesn't like it, and is planning a big protest rally. It accuses Emanuel of “intimidating” the union. But there's no sign of a strike, and the union will have to convince Chicagoans that its members deserve a defined benefit pension with a 3 percent compounded annual inflation hike for only the 2 percent of salary members still will have to pay.
Of course, the 500,000 children who could be turfed out of school should the union strike, and the parents who will have to stay home from work to care for them, would be the proverbial grass that suffers when elephants wrestle.
I'll have more about the news trucks outside my building later today.
I forgot yesterday—blocked it out, more likely—that not only were the February 1sts in 2011 and 2014 horrible, so was last February 1st. (On the other hand, 2012 was ridiculously warm, and 2013 was just really cold. In 2010, I was in India, so what do I know?)
Today it's just rainy and cold (but obviously above freezing), and I'm about to head into it.
It's sunny and just above freezing today, and all our snow melted over the weekend. So let's just remember for a moment the weather in Chicago five years ago today:
And just two years ago today, we got our 34th consecutive day with snowfall.
So I'll take a snowless, above-freezing February 1st any year.
No more or less than any other state. But that doesn't mean Iowans have any ability to pick winning candidates for president:
The problem is not that the people of Iowa are stupid. They are not, by most measurements. It’s that Iowa looks nothing like the rest of America. As a result, the winners, more often than not, are nationally unelectable extremists. Who can remember President Rick Santorum or President Mike Huckabee, both previous winners? Or President Uncommitted, who beat Jimmy Carter in 1976? And what to make of the finding that 43 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers this year are self-described socialists, prepared to select a dyspeptic and unelectable senator as their candidate?
As a bellwether, the Iowa caucuses are no more predictive than a gasbag on an ethanol high swaying from a bridge in Madison County. As a representative exercise relevant to the concerns of a nation of 322 million people, the caucuses are laughable.
Consider that half of all the babies born last year in the United States were nonwhite. Not in Iowa, of course, one of the whitest states in the nation. On Monday, if the Republican caucus is anything like the 2012 turnout, 99 percent of the attendants will be white. That’s not even the United States of 1816, let alone this year.
Meanwhile, the Republican party held a debate last night that their front-runner skipped, which apparently shows how big his testicles are.
I've meant to post this for a while. Here's a photo looking south-west from a point just southwest of the intersection of Wacker and Michigan, here in Chicago, in April 1986:
And here's a similar view today. Note that you can no longer see the Thompson Center, City Hall, or anything else beyond the row of skyscrapers erected on Wacker between Wabash and Clark since then:
The photos aren't from the same vantage point, because this afternoon I only had my phone and not my SLR. I will try to get a photo from approximately the same location and using the same focal length (probably 210mm) soon.