At my day job, I go into our downtown office at least once a week, which turns out to be about once a week longer than almost everyone else. I like the change of scene, and Cassie gets to spend those days at day camp, so it's a win for everyone.
The 90%-or-so remote work that people have elected also means we have tons of empty offices while our multi-year leases run their courses. So, after waiting almost a year for the furniture upgrade that never came, the office manager today said "just go take the office next door to yours." Cool. Better furniture, a (very slightly) different view, and...that's about it.
While I move my stuff 4 meters to the west, you can read these:
Finally, in keeping with me schlepping my books and laptop next door, Salesforce and Meta have put 22,000 m² of downtown Chicago office space on the secondary market, terrifying commercial real estate owners everywhere.
After having the 4th-mildest winter in 70 years, the weather hasn't really changed. Abnormally-warm February temperatures have hung around to become abnormally-cool March temperatures. I'm ready for real spring, thank you.
- ProPublica reports on the bafflement inside the New York City Council about how to stop paying multi-million-dollar settlements when the NYPD violates people's civil rights—a problem we have in Chicago, for identical reasons—but haven't figured out that police oversight might help. (One Daily Parker reader suggested taking the money out of the police pension fund.)
- A bill moving through Florida's legislature would address suburban sprawl by redefining it. (Want to bet a real-estate developer lobbied for this one?)
- A ransomware attack a few weeks ago has affected up to 130 organizations, according to researchers and online boasts from the attackers.
- United Airlines wants to start air-taxi service between the Loop and O'Hare by 2025, using electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) airplanes.
Finally, I laughed out loud at the YouGov survey that found 46% of American men who have never flown an airplane think they could land an air transport with only some help from Air Traffic Control. I laughed because I do know how to fly a plane, and I don't think I could land a 787 well enough to use the plane again under any circumstances without a few dozen simulator hours. In fact, I would probably spend several crucial minutes trying to figure out how to change the radio to 121.5 and the transponder to 7700. But hey, the United States put Dunning and Kruger on the map, so this seems about right to me.
The Apollo Chorus annual fundraiser/cabaret is on April 1st, and tickets are still available. If you can't make it, you can still donate.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:
And finally, screenings of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, the new slasher pic featuring Winnie and Piglet as serial killers, will not be shown in Hong Kong and Macau, because Chinese dictator Xi Jinping thinks it's a jab at him. Seriously.
A few large US cities have seen housing prices rise much faster than inflation, particularly in higher-density areas. Eric Levitz explores some possible causes:
The United States is very good at sabotaging itself through policy errors. But few of our nation’s governing failures are as simultaneously needless and detrimental as our inability to build housing.
There are between 1.5 million and 6 million fewer homes in the U.S. than there are households ready to occupy them. The proximate cause of this mismatch isn’t hard to discern: Over the past ten years, the number of housing units per 1,000 people in the U.S. has actually fallen.
By itself, a rising ratio of people to units would be sufficient to put pressure on housing supply. But since the pandemic, the number of discrete households in the U.S. has also spiked. This phenomenon has multiple causes. One is that much of the millennial generation is aging out of its roommate-tolerating years en masse and starting separate households.
Another is that the rise of remote work has led many Americans to seek more personal floor space, whether by ditching roommates or upgrading from, say, one-bedroom dwellings to two-bedroom ones so as to make room for a home office.
[But] what is it about living in an English-speaking country that turns people against high-rises?
Speaking English probably didn't cause the housing crisis, but the correlation is hard to miss.
Cassie and I hung out for a bit at Spiteful Brewery yesterday. She, of course, got pats and love from everyone. But the couple sitting next to us had a Land Camera, so she also got photographed:
These are now on display in my library.
As reported in The Economist this week, US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) composed a haiku to encapsulate the sum total of his understanding of how education works in the US:
All this woke, uh, Trans-
Gender athletes, CRT
(I edited slightly for meter.)
I mean, you have to admire how well this illustrates the intellectual firepower that Tuberville brings to the Senate, and how far Representatives Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) have yet to go to approach his level.
Media reports, including the XPOTUS's own social-media posts, suggest the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York will issue an historic indictment on Tuesday:
The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to issue criminal charges against Trump in a case centering on a payment that Michael Cohen, Trump's attorney and fixer at the time, made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen told CNN Thursday that he believed an indictment of Trump was "imminent."
Trump has maintained his innocence in the case and claims he did not have an affair with Daniels. His attorneys have also argued the investigation is politically motivated. Trump attacked Daniels Wednesday on his social media platform Truth Social.
To secure a conviction, prosecutors would have to prove Trump knowingly broke state law by reimbursing Cohen for his payment to Daniels and then falsifying his business records to cover it up.
There is also no guarantee the case will go to trial.
Of course this won't go to trial. The XPOTUS may have massive lacunae in his higher functions, but I'm sure he's canny enough to realize that he can't afford politically to have Stormy Daniels take the stand.
If you think the Democratic Party wouldn't be as hard on one of our own as we think the Justice Department should be about the XPOTUS, here's just one of the things I wrote about Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich—who I fucking voted for—when it turned out he was unfit for office. Heck, read all of the things I wrote.
See, it's not about partisan politics; it's about not wanting our politicians to do crimes. And it's about wanting something approaching ethics based on a simple fear of consequences to guide these narcissists, as actual moral philosophy is simply beyond them.
Also, this is likely only the first indictment coming for the XPOTUS. There are at least two other grand jury investigations in other jurisdictions, operating on their own timetables. The next election will not be fun.
Twenty years ago today, the United States invaded a neutral country that hadn't taken a shot at us for over a decade. This had predictable results for the region, including making our long-time adversary Iran a major player:
The invasion “was the original sin,” said Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow for Middle East security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank. “It helped Iran bolster its position by being a predator in Iraq. It’s where Iran perfected the use of violence and militias to obtain its goals. It eroded the U.S.’s image. It led to fragmentation in the region.”
All of that was enabled by the political changes that the American invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, set in motion. Later on, the 2014 takeover of a large swathe of northern Iraq by the Islamic State terrorist group prompted Iraq to turn to Iran as well as the United States for help, cementing Iran’s grip.
Under the Iraqi dictatorship, the Sunni minority had formed the base of Mr. Hussein’s power; once he was killed, Iran set up loyal militias inside Iraq. It also went on to dismay Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies and Israel by supporting proxies and partners, such as the Houthi militia in Yemen, that brought violence right to their doorsteps.
People on my side of things in 2003 felt incandescent rage at President Bush and Secretary of State Powell lying through their teeth about Iraq's supposed cache of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Robert Wright points out that the invasion's premises were already dishonest, since the United Nations was already there doing what we claimed our invasion would do:
The fog of time makes it easy to lose sight of one of the most amazing facts about that war: In order to invade Iraq and start looking for weapons of mass destruction, the US had to first kick out UN inspectors who were in Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction.
And they’d been looking intensively! Over the previous four months they had inspected more than 500 sites and found no WMDs and no signs of a WMD program.
Given that those inspected sites included the sites US intelligence agencies had deemed most likely to yield paydirt, this result—zero-for-500—suggested to the attentive observer that information coming from the US government about Saddam Hussein’s activities was not to be trusted.
But let’s leave that aside. Suppose the US government hadn’t been thus discredited—suppose that on the eve of the invasion there was still good reason to think that WMDs were out there somewhere. Why not let the UN inspectors—who had been allowed by the Iraqi government to inspect every site they had asked to inspect—keep looking? There just isn’t an answer to this question that holds water.
By dividing our attention between Iraq and Afghanistan, we failed to accomplish any of our claimed long-term goals in either country—and made the world a much more dangerous place in the process.
I refuse to purchase tickets from the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly, no matter how much I love the act or believe that going to a show would bring about world peace. The Cure's Robert Smith makes it clear the artists themselves hate the monopoly as well:
Hours after Ticketmaster began the “verified fan” process on March 15 to distribute tickets for the band’s first American tour in years — an additional layer of security that Smith insisted upon to prevent scalpers and astronomical prices — the front man wrote an angry screed against the company for the mandatory fees they snuck in for buyers. “I am as sickened as you all are by today’s Ticketmaster ‘fees’ debacle,” he wrote in an all-caps Twitter thread. “To be very clear, the artist has no way to limit them. I have been asking how they are justified. If I get anything coherent by way of an answer I will let you all know … There are tickets available, it is just a very slow process. I will be back if I get anything serious on the TM fees.”
One particular tweet gained virality for showcasing the extent of the company’s malpractice: A fan’s reasonable ticket price of $20 was more than doubled due to processing fees and charges.
At least The Cure have enough clout to get some changes made. Ticketmaster backed down ever so slightly from the 110% surcharges after Smith's complaints:
“After further conversation, Ticketmaster have agreed with us that many of the fees being charged are unduly high, and as a gesture of goodwill have offered a $10 per ticket refund to all verified fan accounts for the lowest ticket price transaction,” [Smith Tweeted]. “And a $5 per ticket refund to all verified fan accounts for other ticket price transactions for all Cure shows at all venues.”
Unregulated capitalism produces monopolies in short order; that's why we have regulation. But having a history degree means watching everything in the present rhyme with everything in the past. So while the monopolies of today have their moment or rapacious greed, I fully expect that we'll see some serious trust-busting soon, and then, 60 years from now, our grandchildren will have forgotten why.
Welcome to March in Chicago, where the temperature drops 20°C in 31 hours:
This morning's -10.7°C was the coldest temperature in Chicago since the night of February 3rd-4th. What a strange winter.
Check back on Wednesday when it's back above 10°C.