The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Four stories, more related than they seem

Article the first: Stocks have continued going up relentlessly even though producer prices are also up, exports are way down, and wages have stagnated. This means, essentially, our economy is rent-seeking and not producing.

Article the second: President Trump's tariffs have hurt agriculture and commodities, caused job losses, and hit the most vulnerable people in Trump Country. They haven't helped the economy at all. Question: bugs or features?

Article the third: Michiko Katutani draws direct parallels between the "end of normal" of the 2010s and Richard Hofstadter's "paranoid style."

Article the fourth: The 2010s also had good-looking celebrities pushing (almost literal) snake oil on us, and people bought it up wholesale. Actors and other Dunning-Krueger sufferers made billions on imaginary health and wellness products that helped neither health nor wellness.

So as we go into the bottom of the 10s, this is America today. Can't wait to see the '20s on Wednesday when it's all better.

War criminal

New information has come out that retired Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the convicted (and pardoned) war criminal, did some truly abhorrent shit while fighting in Iraq:

The trove of materials also includes thousands of text messages the SEALs sent one another about the events and the prosecution of Chief Gallagher. Together with the dozens of hours of recorded interviews, they provide revealing insights into the men of the platoon, who have never spoken publicly about the case, and the leader they turned in.

Platoon members said they saw Chief Gallagher shoot civilians and fatally stab a wounded captive with a hunting knife. Chief Gallagher was acquitted by a military jury in July of all but a single relatively minor charge, and was cleared of all punishment in November by Mr. Trump.

In the video interviews with investigators, three SEALs said they saw Chief Gallagher go on to stab the sedated captive for no reason, and then hold an impromptu re-enlistment ceremony over the body, as if it were a trophy.

“I was listening to it, and I was just thinking, like, this is the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Special Operator Miller, who has since been promoted to chief, told investigators.

Special Operator Miller said that when the platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, told the SEALs to gather over the corpse for photos, he did not feel he could refuse. The photos, included in the evidence obtained by The Times, show Chief Gallagher, surrounded by other SEALs, clutching the dead captive’s hair; in one photo, he holds a custom-made hunting knife.

From the outside looking in, the culture in the Navy SEALS seems particularly toxic. People like Portier and Gallagher, far from making Americans safer, put other units in danger through their actions. These are the kinds of people President Trump wants to reward, further threatening our troops overseas.

Wild weather continues

Yesterday we broke a heat record; today the temperature feels more or less normal for late December; this weekend it will get warm again. Welcome to Chicago:

The record-breaking warmth comes on the heels of another historic ranking. With a high of 57 Wednesday, this year now ranks No. 2 on the list of warmest Christmas Days in Chicago since the mid-1800s, when records started being kept. The warmest Dec. 25 ever in Chicago was 17°C degrees in 1982.

But after the daytime high pushes the record for warmest Dec. 26 further out of reach, the city should brace for a rollercoaster of cold and warm days, [meteorologist Mark] Ratzer warned.

“Very late afternoon, it looks like probably just after dark, so between 5 and 7, a front will go through, and we’ll cool down markedly,” Ratzer said. “We’ll drop pretty quickly into the single-digits Celsius, which isn’t that bad, but overnight we’ll be back around freezing.”

After a brisk Friday, the temperature again will rebound into the low-teens Celsius in time for a mild and comfortable weekend, although it will be rainy, he said.

“Then we’ll cool off again by Monday,” Ratzer said.

Parker did not like the change at all, moping around on his two walks today like the ancient dog he has become. Maybe this weekend he'll feel more spring in his step again?

Second-warmest Christmas; warmest Boxing Day

Yesterday's 14°C high temperature made it the second-warmest Christmas on record in Chicago, missing by a lot the 17°C record set in 1982. The warmth continued overnight: the temperature at O'Hare hit 14°C just after midnight, surpassing the 13°C record for December 26th set in 1971. Today's forecast calls for 20°C.

These temperatures would be normal in October and April—or Atlanta and Dallas.

Yesterday Parker got an hour and a quarter of walks; today he'll get about the same. And I may even open windows in my apartment.

Temperatures should get more seasonal promptly. A cold front should get us back to normal December temperatures tonight, and we have rain and snow coming in Sunday night. New Year's Eve should give us a close-to-normal 1°C high.

End of the decade? Yes, dammit

Nineteen years ago, I banged the drum pretty hard that 2000 was not the first year of the 21st Century, because the Christian calendar has no year zero. But yesterday, I disagreed entirely with Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the Farmers' Almanac, during her interview on NPR:

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: I mean, it feels like a big deal, 2019 to 2020. Why is there such a debate about whether or not this is the end of the decade?

SANDI DUNCAN: You know, it's really interesting. But I hate to tell you it's not.

MARTIN: It's not?

DUNCAN: Actually, no. We ran a story several years ago. In fact, you know, remember the big celebration in 1999. People thought that the new millennial was going to start the next year. But really, a decade begins actually with the year ending in the numeral one. There was never a year zero. So when we started counting time way back when, it goes one through 10. So a decade is 10 years. So in actuality, the next decade won't start until January 1, 2021.

That's such a narrow technical point—I should know, I made the same point in 1999—but it isn't what Martin asked.

Duncan concluded, "I mean, what do you call the decades of the '20s? I guess it's the '20s, but is that the 1920s or the 2020s? So it's one of those fun things that you can argue about until next - the new decade, which starts on January 1, 2021."

We'll call it "the '20s" because, you know, the numbers all have 20 in them.

So, let's clarify. 2000 was the first year of the 2000s but the last year of the 20th century. The 21st century began on 1 January 2001. So 2020 will be the first year of the '20s (duh!) but technically, just technically, it will be the last year of the 202nd decade of the Common Era.

Got that?

Happy Christmas all

Every year at this time, it's important to talk about language skills. There is a tribe in the remotest part of the Amazon forest who, every December 25th, dance around a large pile of dirt, singing to it and telling it stories. This is because of a tragic mistranslation by a missionary centuries ago, who told them, "On this day the ton of sod was bored."

Die hard but not quickly

Eddie Lampert continues to destroy the once-great retailer Sears piece by piece. Yesterday, the company revealed that it has sold the DieHard battery brand to Advance Auto Parts for $200m in cash:

The move follows news in October that Sears had hired investment bankers to advise it on potential asset sales, including the DieHard brand, according to the Wall Street Journal at the time.

Sears has spent the last several years selling key brands to receive cash infusions and survive. In 2017, it sold the Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker.

In February 2019, Transform Holdco, owned by former Sears CEO Edward Lampert and his hedge fund, emerged as the buyer of 425 Sears Holdings stores after the company filed for bankruptcy in late 2018.

I really hate that man, but not, one suspects, as much as the tens of thousands of people he's put out of work while killing Sears.

Moments in great timing

First event: Last night around 7pm, my main data drive seized up after storing my stuff for a bit less than 4 years. Let me tell you how much fun Micro Center is at 9pm two days before Christmas. After 12 hours it looks like it's about 75% restored from backup, and I didn't suffer any data loss.

Second event: Just look at this lovely, peaceful scene:

That's the cemetery in my neighborhood a few minutes ago. And that's what we call "dense fog," with about 200 m visibility and what they call "indeterminate" ceilings at 100 m.

Which is exactly what you want in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the second-biggest travel day of the year:

Amid dense fog reducing visibility in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration early Tuesday grounded incoming flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports until at least 8 a.m.

For a short time Tuesday morning all flights were grounded, according to the FAA, but as of 7:30 a.m. the agency’s website noted the “ground stoppage,” or halting of flights, was indicated only for airplanes arriving at the city’s two airports. Flights were departing regularly at Midway, according to travelers at the airport.

Still, the ground stoppage for incoming flights means not all departing flights will leave on time and travelers could miss connecting flights, leading to a chain-reaction of air travel delays during a traditionally peak period for travel.

Have a safe and fun travel day, and if you're going to or through Chicago, enjoy your airport time.

Christmas crabs

Actually, Christmas Island crabs, which migrate around Christmas, and were the subject of an NPR story yesterday:

Palm fronds, turquoise lagoons and a clattering army of crustaceans making their way from the island's forest to the beaches. Christmas Island red crabs - 50 million of them. Jahna Luke works for Christmas Island's tourism association and lives there. She says everyone has a hand in the crabs' journey.

JAHNA LUKE: We have all these measures in place to keep the crabs safe while they make their migration down to the ocean. Even cars on the island - we all have rakes in our cars so that on our way to work or wherever it is we need to go, we - we're out raking the crabs off the road to clear our way.

It's a real thing, and not just because NPR talked about it:

So if you feel crabby this week, imagine being on Christmas Island, which should not be confused with Kiritimati. We'll return to Kiritimati in about a week, as they will be the first place on earth to enter the 2020s. Meanwhile, enjoy the crabs.