The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

In search of a dozen impartial New Yorkers

Yesterday, the XPOTUS began his first (!) criminal (!!) trial of the multiple legal actions he currently faces, and it didn't go well. For starters, as Josh Marshall pointed out, the XPOTUS has always behaved as if he believes nothing more than one is either dominating or dominated. Being at the defense table on trial for multiple felonies puts one distinctly in the second category:

What is clear to anyone who has ever tried to understand the man is that he lives in a binary world of the dominating and the dominated. The visuals around the man endlessly illustrate this. Most of us live in a much more fluid and textured world. We interact with most people on a ground of relative equality. Where real differentials of power exist most of us try to paper over those realities with softening trappings. Trump’s whole world view, the way he interacts with friends and foes, won’t accept any middle ground. And this is more than just performance. It’s clear that this is deeply rooted in his experience of the world. Being dominated is a kind of social and ego depth. That’s why he’s so good at his whole racket. Because it’s coded so deeply into him.

At the most basic level, sitting in the dock is horribly and perhaps even fatally off brand. Trump’s brand is swagger and impunity. Always be dominating. Until you’re not.

The XPOTUS's first reaction? He fell asleep, which comedian Trae Crowder summarized as, "there's an ongoing screaming match where one side is like, 'your guy can't even stay awake in the Oval Office,' and the other side accurately responds, 'your guy can't even stay awake in his criminal trial,' and somehow that doesn't immediately end the debate."

So far, jury selection in that trial has actually found 6 jurors, despite everyone having heard of the XPOTUS. Alexandra Petri imagines how the New York County District Attorney could amend the jury questions to speed this along:

1. Wait, you don’t have any strong opinions or firmly held beliefs about Donald Trump?

2. Have you been living in a hole for the past 20 years?

3. For the past 50 years?

I dunno, man. I feel for everyone involved in the trial—well, except that one guy—having to slog through that exercise.

The XPOTUS will do everything he can to make the trial a circus, partly because he does that with everything, but partly to force a mistrial so he won't have to run for president as a convicted felon. Meanwhile, he has three other trials going on. This will be a long summer.

Walks like a duck, poops like a duck...

Attorney Liz Dye teams up with Legal Eagle to explain that the smell emanating from the Truth Social merger and meme stock listing is exactly what you think it is:

So if the XPOTUS gets re-elected, the shares become an intravenous emoluments delivery mechanism; if not, he can cash out and pay his legal bills.

I wonder if I can short it...

One news story eclipsed all the others

Ah, ha ha. Ha.

Anyway, here are a couple other stories from the last couple of days:

Finally, Ohio State wildlife and ecology professor Stanley Gehrt has written a book I will have to stop myself (for now) from adding to my ever-expanding shelf of books I need to read. Gehrt spent decades studying Chicago's coyote population and how well they co-exist with us, tagging more than 1,400 coyotes and collaring another 700.

My only complaint about the animals is they don't eat enough rabbits. I live near several suspected dens, the closest only about 400 meters from my front door. I can't wait to read the book.

As for the risks coyotes pose to humans, he lets us know who the real enemy is: “If you were to ask me, ‘What’s the most dangerous animal out there [for urban dwellers]?’, it’s white-tailed deer,” Gehrt said.

At some point the record isn't that interesting

Leave it to the WGN Weather Blog to trumpet that we've set a new record for days over 15.6°C before March 15th (12). We've also tied the record for days over 240K (75)! In fact, I'm confident that 2024 will tie the all-time record for days over 240K (366), last set in 2020.

Closer to home (ah, ha ha), I still have two claim forms to fill out in the great National Association of Realtors settlement for anti-competitive commission payments, which has gotten the group to make a modest concession to avoid getting sued again:

The National Association of Realtors, a powerful organization that has set the guidelines for home sales for decades, has agreed to settle a series of lawsuits by paying $418 million in damages and by eliminating its rules on commissions. Legal counsel for N.A.R. approved the agreement early Friday morning, and The New York Times obtained a copy of the signed document.

Americans pay roughly $100 billion in real estate commissions annually, and real estate agents in the United States have some of the highest standard commissions in the world. In many other countries, commission rates hover between 1 and 3 percent. In the United States, most agents specify a commission of 5 or 6 percent, paid by the seller. If the buyer has an agent, the seller’s agent agrees to share a portion of the commission with that agent when listing the home on the market.

The lawsuits argued that N.A.R., and brokerages who required their agents to be members of N.A.R., had violated antitrust laws by mandating that the seller’s agent make an offer of payment to the buyer’s agent, and setting rules that led to an industrywide standard commission. Without that rate essentially guaranteed, agents will now most likely have to lower their commissions as they compete for business

The settlement will pay me a few hundred dollars, even though I could argue that during the settlement period I paid over $10,000 in excess commissions. It gets worse: in three deals, the same agency represented both sides, making it even harder to get a discount or shop around.

I think the best structure for a real-estate commission would start with a flat dollar amount and add bonuses for shortening the time on market. Something like, I'll pay you $10,000 plus 1% of anything above list from the sales proceeds if we sell at or above the listing price. I'll pay another $2,500 if we get a buyer within 7 days and the deal is closed within 42 days. But if we don't get a buyer within 28 days or we close for under 92.5% of the listing price, I'm only paying you $7,500.

The days of paying 6% for a sales agent to do one open house and shoot some photos are over.

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.

It's all Billy Joel to me

A friend posted on Facebook that Billy Joel's album Glass Houses came out 44 years ago today. That means it's as far behind us as the 1936 Olympics was from Billy Joel at the time. A horrifying pun war followed, but that has nothing to do with the horrifying fact that people have known "You May Be Right" for 44 years.

And speaking of things that happened a long time ago, it turns out the President's memory is just fine, thank you, despite what Republican Special Prosecutor Robert K Hur said in his memorandum last month:

A transcript of a special counsel’s hourslong interview of President Biden over his handling of classified files shows that on several occasions the president fumbled with dates and the sequence of events, while otherwise appearing clearheaded.

In a report released last month, Mr. Hur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Biden with a crime after classified documents ended up in an office he used after his vice presidency and in his home in Delaware. But the report also portrayed Mr. Biden, 81, as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” touching off a political furor amid his re-election campaign.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers, who were present for five hours of questioning over two days, have challenged the damaging portrait by Mr. Hur, a former Trump administration official. But the transcript had not been publicly available to evaluate Mr. Hur’s assessment that Mr. Biden’s memory has “significant limitations.”

But Mr. Hur made a particularly striking assertion in stating that Mr. Biden “did not remember when he was vice president.” As evidence, Mr. Hur quoted him as saying, “If it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?” According to the report, Mr. Biden displayed similar confusion on the second day of questioning, asking, “In 2009, am I still vice president?”

The transcript provides context for those lines. In both instances, Mr. Biden said the wrong year but appeared to recognize that he had misspoken and immediately stopped to seek clarity and orient himself.

I wonder how Hur would have done in a similar situation? And can you imagine how the XPOTUS would handle a deposition like that? Oh, wait—we don't have to imagine it, we have ample evidence of his inability to get through one without falling apart completely.

Before I start ranting more about the way the press treats President Biden's occasional (and rare) senior moments versus the way they treat the XPOTUS being unable to string together a coherent though, I'll go back to the original topic and leave you with Weird Al's eloquent response to Glass Houses:

My brain is full

Almost always, during the last few days before a performance, a huge chunk of my working memory contains the music I'm about to perform. I have two concerts this weekend, so right now, my brain has a lot of Bruckner in it. I feel completely prepared, in fact.

Unfortunately, I still have a day job, and I need a large chunk of my brain to work on re-architecting a section of our app. Instead of loading data from Microsoft Excel files, which the app needs to read entirely into memory because of the way Excel stores the contents of cells, I need to allow the app to use comma-separated values (CSV) files that it can read and throw away. So instead of reading the entire Excel file into memory and keeping it there while it generates an in-memory model of the file, the app will simply read each row of a CSV file and then throw that row away while building its model. I believe that will allow the app to ingest at least 5x more data for any given memory size.

I'm finding that the "In Te, Domine speravi" fugue from Bruckner's Te Deum keeps getting in the way of thinking about the re-architecture.

And oh, the irony, that I don't have enough working memory to think about how to get more working memory for our app.

Meanwhile...

  • James Fallows shakes his head at a pair of New York Times headlines that tell exactly the opposite stories as the articles under them. Salon's Lucian K Truscott IV elaborates.
  • The Mary Sue does not hold back on dismissing retiring US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (?-AZ), a "useless corporate Senate shill who accomplished nothing." "The only thing Sinema accomplished was outing herself as a toxic narcissist who deceived her supporters to make herself wealthy."
  • Monica Hesse has a similar, but more restrained, take on Sinema: "The interesting thing actually wasn’t her clothes. The interesting thing was that we wanted her clothes to mean something."
  • Nicholas Kristof pounds his desk about how the bullshit anti-Woke school battles coming out of places like Florida distract from the real problem: Johnny can't read.
  • A Santa Fe, N.M., jury convicted Hannah Gutierrez Reed of involuntary manslaughter for putting a live round in a prop firearm on the set of the movie Rust in 2021.
  • Cornell professor Sara Bronin leads the effort to create a National Zoning Atlas, which hopes to show what places in the US have the most onerous housing restrictions.
  • Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has launched a new exhibit on "the science of James Bond."

Finally, prosecutors agreed to dismiss (without prejudice, I believe, though the Post left out that detail) the criminal case revolving around Don Henley's handwritten notes outlining the Eagles album Hotel California when Henley's lawyers got caught withholding evidence from the defense team. In civil cases, this is bad, but in criminal cases it's much, much worse. Like, reversible error at best and dismissal with prejudice at worst. It appears that Henley himself blew up the case by changing his mind about waiving attorney-client privilege after his attorneys had already testified. Perhaps he thought he could score points against the defense that way, but like most victims of the Dunning-Krueger Effect, he didn't understand that "gotcha" moves are generally not allowed in US courts. We'll see if the prosecutors move for a new trial or just take the loss. (It looks like the latter.)

Not even a little surprised

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that individual states have no power to remove a presidential candidate from the ballot, suggesting that only the US Congress has that power:

All the justices agreed that individual states may not bar candidates for the presidency under a constitutional provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, that forbids insurrectionists from holding office. Four justices would have left it at that.

But a five-justice majority, in an unsigned opinion, went on to say that Congress must act to give Section 3 force.

In a joint concurring opinion, the court’s three liberal members — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — expressed frustration at what they said was the majority’s needless overreach. They said it was meant to insulate the court and Mr. Trump “from future controversy.”

“The court today needed to resolve only a single question: whether an individual state may keep a presidential candidate found to have engaged in insurrection off its ballot,” they wrote. “The majority resolves much more than the case before us.”

The full opinion is here, which I plan to read tomorrow.

But of course this was the only possible outcome. And of course the Justices that the XPOTUS appointed would go farther than necessary. And of course the Court could have ruled on the XPOTUS's claims of immunity right away instead of scheduling oral arguments for April.

The corruption of the Republican justices does not surprise me anymore, but it does make me angry and sad. The Court will reverse most of their worst decisions, but like Plessy and Dred Scot, it could take decades to turn some of them around around.

Leapin' lizards

Stories for the last day of winter, this year on the quadrennial day when your Facebook Memories have the fewest entries and, apparently, you can't pay for gas in New Zealand:

Finally, Economist editor Steve Coll got access to hundreds of hours of Saddam Hussein's taped strategy meetings. He concluded that both the CIA and Hussein had no understanding at all about what the other was thinking.

Also, the temperature at IDTWHQ bottomed out at -5.3°C just after 7am and has kept climbing since then. The first day of spring should get it up into the high teens, with 20°C possible on Sunday. Weird, but quite enjoyable.

Getting warmer?

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World HQ bottomed out this morning, hitting -4.8°C at 10:41 am, and it may even end the day above freezing. So this mercifully-short cold snap won't keep us out of the record books, just as predicted. It's still the warmest winter in Chicago history. (Let's hope we don't set the same record for spring or summer.)

Meanwhile, the record continues to clog up with all kinds of fun stories elsewhere:

  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led his party in the Senate since the Cretaceous, announced he will step down from leadership in November, handing some other schmuck clean-up duties after the electoral disaster likely to befall the party on the 5th of that month.
  • After the unhinged ruling on embryo "personhood" the Alabama Supreme Court handed down last week, Republicans across the country have fallen over themselves saying they want to protect IVF treatment while they vote against protecting IVF treatment. Jamelle Bouie runs down some of the dumbass things Republicans have said on the ruling, with a cameo from the dumb-as-rocks junior US Senator from Alabama, who sounded more like Nigel Tufnel than usual.
  • Aaron Blake pointedly contradicts the usual "bad for Biden" story line by putting President Biden's Michigan-primary win last night in perspective.
  • Bruce Schneier looks at the difficulties insuring against cyber crime, one of the problems we're also solving at my day job.
  • New York prosecutors said the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited "willful blindness" in 1966 when it acquired art looted by the Nazis, an accusation the museum denies.
  • Harry Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, lost his case against the UK Home Office, in which he sued to keep his publicly-funded security detail the same size as it was when he actually did his job as the Royal Spare. The high court (the rough equivalent of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in this case) ruled that the relevant agency had made a perfectly rational decision as the Duke now lives in California, doesn't do bugger-all for the UK, and is a whiny prat to boot.

Finally, Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter took a—gasp!—CTA train to a city council hearing, at which he promised the CTA could be the best transit system in the world if only the State of Illinois would give it more funding. The very last thing I did in Munich on Sunday was to take the S-Bahn to the airport at 7am, so I can assure you money isn't the CTA's only impediment to achieving that lofty goal.

(Also, I just realized that This Is Spinal Tap turns 40 on Saturday. Wow.)