The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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."

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?

You don't need sunscreen in Chicago in January

A weather pattern has set up shop near Chicago that threatens to occlude the sun for the next week, in exchange for temperatures approaching 15°C the first weekend of February. We've already had 43 days with above-normal temperatures this winter, and just 12 below normal during the cold snap from January 13th through the 22nd. By February 2nd, 84% of our days will have had above-normal temperatures since December 1st.

Thank you, El Niño. Though I'm not sure the gloominess is a fair exchange for it.

Elsewhere:

Finally, Minnesota-based wildlife photographer Benjamin Olson discovered that a mouse had moved into his car. So naturally, he set up a photo trap. And naturally, it's totes adorbs.

How to explain this to future generations?

Twenty years ago today, former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) showed enthusiasm for his 3rd-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in a way he came to regret:

Conventional wisdom says that this scream tanked (see what I did there?*) his campaign, but really, Dean never had the momentum or following needed to win the nomination. Plus, President Bush had taken us to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan and with common sense in Iraq, so war hero John Kerry looked like the best person to challenge him.

I can't remember exactly, but I think I voted for Kerry, mainly because the nomination was sewn up by then. More importantly, though, I voted for Illinois State Senator Barack Obama (D-13th) in the primary to fill the US Senate seat of retiring US Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R). My guy won that election (if you recall), and I got to go to the victory party on primary night. Fun!

* See, e.g., this clip from 1988.

Gross weather day

Looking out my 30th-floor office window this afternoon doesn't cheer me. It's gray and snowy, but too warm for accumulation, so it just felt like rain when I sprinted across the street to get my burrito bowl for lunch.

I do have a boring deployment coming up in about an hour, requiring only that I show the business what we've built and then click "Run pipeline" twice. As a reward for getting ahead on development, I have time to read some of these absolutely horrifying news stories:

Finally, Cranky Flier examines American Airlines' European operations and singles out its heavy dependence on Heathrow as a key reason why its fares trans-Atlantic are lower than other US carriers. Since I am using one of those really low fares to visit Germany next month, I'm OK with American keeping their fares low.

Political realignments take time

Josh Marshall, who studied history before he became a journalist, thinks the civic democratic vs. authoritarian contest in the US won't end with the next election—or the ones after it (sub. req.):

We often think about authoritarianism being defeated or democracy ending with the election of a Trump or one of his various imitators or progenitors abroad. But it may not necessarily work that way. The Polish Law and Justice party took power in 2015 and set about reshaping the Polish state into a post-democratic authoritarian and anti-liberal democratic state. This year they were defeated by a coalition of liberal democratic parties after eight years. Top Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro was defeated by incumbent President Lula da Silva. There are various other examples.

It is in the nature of authoritarian parties and leaders that they are rule breakers rather than rule followers. And in a contest between rule breakers and rule followers the former have an inherent and sometimes insuperable advantage. ... [I]t is also the case that if the authoritarians aren’t going anywhere it is unrealistic to think they will never win another national election. Indeed, not only are they not going anywhere but the post-2021 period suggests Republicans are becoming increasingly identified with their authoritarian commitments in a way that will likely outlast Trump himself.

This isn’t necessarily good news. But it’s helpful to understand the situation in its totality. We have a temptation to hope for final victories and fear final defeats. But both may be unrealistic. It may be more of a long haul with an uncertain outcome.

My guess would be 12 years of authoritarian rule before they get kicked out. But those 12 years would do incalculable damage to the country and the world. At least they won't get 3/4 of the states behind them, so absent a constitutional convention, we'd still have a constitution to go back to.

Democrats win big in an off-year

And cue the "Dems in disarray" headlines, which reminds me that reporters don't choose headlines, publishers do. (At least the New Republic has some cooler heads.)

Seriously, though, the Democratic Party did awfully well last night, winning another four years for Kentucky governor Andy Bashears, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court seat, and control of both houses of the Virginia legislature:

Eight years of Donald Trump’s chaotic leadership, a House Republican conference in turmoil and one very big Supreme Court decision on abortion rights have combined to produce untold damage to the Republican Party, a reality that hit home with special force in elections on Tuesday.

For Democrats, Tuesday’s results were an antidote to recent polls, national and in key states, showing Biden losing to Trump. “Polls don’t vote” quickly became a post-Tuesday mantra for the president’s allies and advocates, though Biden’s challenges are serious and will remain. Before anyone projects too far ahead, Tuesday’s results — concentrated in a few states and with voter turnout lower than it is likely to be a year from now when Americans everywhere will vote for president — are not a reliable indicator of what lies ahead.

But the election results in Virginia offer other indicators of problems for Republicans. The legislative elections in Virginia were widely viewed as a test of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his effort to steer a course that neither fully embraced Trump nor fully rejected him, seeking to prove that his call for a “limit” on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions, was a stance that could play well enough in the suburbs to neutralize the issue.

Tuesday’s elections couldn’t answer questions about what might happen in 2024. No off-year elections do that. But they were a reminder that Americans are weighing a variety of factors as they assess their choices — and that when a majority say they think the country is heading in the wrong direction, that isn’t solely because they are unhappy with Biden.

And Ohio voters said Yes to abortion protections and legal marijuana, the first of which author and Ohio resident John Scalzi loves, and the second of which Illinois-based cannabis companies like Green Thumb Industries love. As Scalzi wrote:

In a week where the press and some Democrats were wringing their hands about the fact that Trump is leading Biden in some entirely meaningless polls a year out from the 2024 presidential election, the actual reality of how people are voting offers, shall we say, some interesting and possibly corrective perspectivse. One, restoring peoples’ ability to control their own bodies is a winner, and we’ve seen that over and over and over again in the time since the Dobbs decision. Two, you won’t go wrong letting people have their weed. Three, people in general are not nearly as intolerant as their gerrymandered representatives, or professional propogandists, or the people hoping to monetize their shittiness on the former Twitter.

Yeah. And yet, the Times can't shut up about things being "bad for Biden." It's almost like they want us to lose.

Today's complaints from the field

With a concert on Sunday and other things going on in my life before then, I don't know how much I'll post this week. Tomorrow I get to walk Cassie to day care and hop on a train to my downtown office in the snow, which sounds really bad until you look at the data and see that October 31st is actually the average date of Chicago's first snowfall. The weather forecast promises it won't stick.

Speaking of sticking around:

  • David French believes President Biden has threaded the needle well with his response to the war in Gaza, even though his poll numbers have declined.
  • US Sen. Kristen Sinema (I-AZ) may have done more to enable the lunatic fringe of the party she claims to oppose than any other Democratic senator (before she became "independent"), save perhaps Joe Manchin (D-WV).
  • Author Anne Lamott, who recently turned 70, offers a plea to let yourself age gracefully.
  • Bruce Schneier points out a hack long known to Scandinavians: you can avoid EU alcohol tax by taking a ferry from Helsinki or Stockholm to the Finnish archipelago Åland.

Finally, John Kelly interviewed some expert sources to find out what language tics really irk them. For example, to someone who rows, saying "a crew team" is like saying "an ATM machine." Don't do it.

Why am I indoors?

It's 22°C and sunny right now, making me wonder what's wrong with me that I'm putting together a software release. I probably should fire off the release, but I'm doing so under protest. I also probably won't get to read all of these things I've queued up:

Finally, Stan's Donuts will open a new store just three blocks from the apartment I moved out of one year ago today. I might have to stop in soon. I will not, however, wash them down with CH Distillery's latest abomination, Pumpkin-Spice Malört.

This is the opposition party now

The reactions to yesterday's defenestration of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) share a particular theme I can't quite put my finger on:

  • Aaron Blake foresees more chaos, particularly for McCarthy's successor.
  • Dana Milbank foresees more chaos, particularly for the Republican Party.
  • Josh Marshall foresees more chaos, particularly for the so-called Problem-Solvers Caucus.
  • The Economist foresees more chaos, particularly around funding for Ukraine.
  • Ronald Brownstein foresees more chaos, particularly because of a half-century of Republicans simply unable to countenance even the slightest whiff of bipartisan governance.
  • Alex Shephard foresees more chaos, but McCarthy particularly deserved to go.
  • Grace Seeger foresees more chaos, but not particularly for big winner House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
  • John Scalzi foresees more chaos, but the "spineless, self-hobbled wretch at the mercy of the worst elements of the House GOP" brought it on himself, particularly. ("Modern conservatives can’t govern; they can only signal. That’s the only thing they know how to do any more.")

Have you noticed that every time the Republican Party does something unprecedented, it creates more chaos? They have proved, once more, that they deserve a time-out until they learn how to play with others, just like the 3rd-graders they have become.