The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

When the rain comes

I took Cassie out at 11am instead of her usual 12:30pm because of this:

The storm front passed quickly, but it hit right at 12:30 and continued for half an hour with some intensity. It'll keep raining on and off all day, too.

Other things rained down in the past day or so:

Finally, Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock has died at age 53 of cancer. No word whether the production of the 2004 documentary contributed to his early demise.

Heads-down research and development today

I usually spend the first day or two of a sprint researching and testing out approaches before I start the real coding effort. Since one of my stories this sprint requires me to refactor a fairly important feature—an effort I think will take me all of next week—I decided to read up on something today and have wound up in a rabbit hole.

Naturally, that means a few interesting stories have piled up:

Finally, Lagunitas Brewing will move its brewing operations back to Petaluma, Calif., (which is a million times better than Megaluma!) and close its Chicago taproom this summer, so I suppose the Brews & Choos Project should get its ass over there pronto.

The Ohio Feeder must die

The Ohio Feeder runs about 2 kilometers from Chicago's River North nightlife area to the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94). As former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist told Streetsblog on Friday, just like San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway and Seoul's Cheonggyecheon, we need to remove the Ohio Feeder:

Swapping the expressway extension for a surface-level boulevard would be an obvious choice to make this part of town safer, more efficient, more environmentally friendly, more vibrant – and more profitable. "Instead of making it harder to get to River North from the Kennedy, it would expand River North closer to the Kennedy."

SF actually saw travel times shorten when the Embarcadero Freeway was removed after being damaged by an earthquake, Norquist noted. "At rush hour, a boulevard carries more traffic because drivers move at the optimal speed. More and more research is piling up about the harmful aspects of urban freeways, including sprawl, pollution, congestion, and increased travel times. And you can't build a coffee shop on a freeway."

Transforming the Ohio Feeder into surface road, similar to what was done with Milwaukee's Park East Freeway "really won't require a change on every part of it," Norquist he said. "The bridge over the Chicago River was built in 1962 and fixed up in 1992. It's going be due for a rehab soon anyway. And it's not like you have to teat the whole freeway down. Much of it is practically at-grade, so you could turn it into a boulevard pretty easily."

With the redevelopment of the former Chicago Tribune printing plant 200 meters to the north, and the potential for having unimpeded bike, pedestrian, and (yes) car traffic between Kinzie and Chicago, it would transform the neighborhood. We might be stuck with the Kennedy and the Dan Ryan, as abominable as those two highways are; but we can—and should—open up River North to development west of Orleans by removing the ugly scar connecting it to the Kennedy.

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it

The US Drug Enforcement Agency has signaled its impending approval for reclassifying THC as a Schedule III drug, which would allow companies to use the US banking system and others to conduct real research on the drug:

Even though the move, which if approved would kick off a lengthy rule-making process, does not end the criminalization of the drug, it would be a significant shift in how the government views the safety and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

It could also lead to the softening of other laws and regulations that account for the use or possession of cannabis, including sentencing guidelines, banking and access to public housing.

For more than half a century, marijuana has been considered a so-called Schedule I drug, classified on the same level as highly addictive substances like heroin that the Drug Enforcement Administration describes as having no currently accepted medical use.

Last year, the Health and Human Services Department recommended to the D.E.A. that marijuana should be a Schedule III drug, which would put it alongside less addictive substances like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine and testosterone, meaning that it would be subject to fewer restrictions on production and research, and that it could be taken with a prescription.

The news made my holdings in Green Thumb Industries jump 20% in the last hour (to, ahem, 3.5% above what I bought them for), and I'm not alone:

Moving marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug doesn't make it federally legal, but it would be a significant change for cannabis businesses and their employees: it would mean instant cash flow with access to banking opportunities, as well as loan opportunities which could lead to much faster expansion of the industry in states where marijuana is legal. It would also open the door to research grant opportunities and, most importantly, end a rigid tax regime that until now has stifled growth in the highly regulated industry.

Shares for Chicago's cannabis companies jumped on the news. Green Thumb Industries shares shot up 21% to $15.22, Verano rose 18% to $5.97 and Cresco Labs went up 16% to $2.54.

Besides instant liquidity, the rescheduling could open up loans, which could lead to much faster expansion of industry in states where marijuana is legal.

Marijuana needs regulation, same as alcohol and codeine; but the fiction that pot was just as dangerous as crack cocaine has always been laughable. I'm glad the US will finally join several of its peer nations in recognizing that.

The rise of Global Tetrahedron

The satirical newspaper The Onion just got bought by a newly-formed LLC called, yes, Global Tetrahedron. Longtime Onion readers will probably recognize the name; I had to remind myself.

Other events in the past day or so:

Time to fetch Cassie from school.

Smelly criminals appeal to SCOTUS

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in Johnson v Grants Pass, Ore., the result of a 2018 lawsuit against the rural Southern Oregon town (pop. 39,000) for imposing fines of up to $1250 for the heinous crime of sleeping in public. Naturally, the usual suspects seem to think that's just fine:

Kelsi Brown Corkran, representing the challengers, argued that because Grants Pass defines a “campsite” as anywhere a homeless person is, within the city, with a blanket, it is “physically impossible for a homeless person to live in Grants Pass” without facing the prospect of fines and jail time. The order barring the city from enforcing its ordinances, she insisted, still leaves the city with an “abundance of tools” to address homelessness.”

At the oral argument on Monday, the court’s liberal justices largely seemed to agree. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the city’s ordinances only apply to homeless people who sleep in public. Police officers in Grants Pass, she suggested, don’t arrest others who fall asleep in public with blankets – for example, babies with blankets or people who are stargazing.

By contrast, Justice Clarence Thomas emphasized that the law at issue in Robinson barred both the use of drugs and being addicted to drugs. Do the city’s ordinances, Thomas asked, make it a crime to be homeless?

The justices also debated whether they needed to address the Eighth Amendment question at all, or whether the challengers’ contention that they cannot be punished because they have nowhere else to go would be better addressed through a “necessity defense.” Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of the justices to broach this prospect, suggesting that it would apply to bar fines or prosecutions for actions like eating or camping in public.

I'm reminded of two videos I've seen recently. The first, from British comedian Jonathan Pie, could have been about Grants Pass but actually came out of a new UK law that does approximately the same thing:

The other, from 2020, explains the thinking behind "since we can't solve homelessness in one go, what's the point of trying?" Essentially, conservatives think in binaries: either we have homelessness, or we don't. Here's Ian Danskin:

But I do find it interesting that the Tories and the Republicans came up with the same inhumane idea. Hm.

Another lovely day

Except for the sun blinding me around 5:30 pm every day due to a quirk in my house's architecture (I will eventually fix it with window treatments), I love sunny spring days. Cassie and I have already spent almost an hour outside and we'll spend another 45 minutes or so when I get back from an odd music gig that I'll describe tomorrow or Monday.

I wanted to highlight just one story from earlier this week, by New Republic's Kate Aronoff, with the accurate and delightful headline "Anything Elon Musk can do a bus can do better:"

Whether on electrification or autonomous vehicles, Tesla has long been hailed as a company uniquely capable of revolutionizing transportation, with Elon Musk portrayed as the big brain in charge. A series of high-profile blunders, though—like Cybertrucks with stick accelerators and a wrongful death settlement—have cast doubt on Tesla’s capacity to speed the world toward an electrified future. Policymakers might want to start asking themselves: When it comes to creating a transportation system fit for our climate-changed twenty-first century, what can Elon Musk do that the humble city bus cannot?

Public buses are an unbeatable value. Here in New York City, $2.90 will get you between and within boroughs, usually just a few blocks from your door. A pilot program initiated last fall included one fare-free route in each borough, in the hopes of eventually making buses free throughout. Boston made a number of bus lines fare-free this year, as well. Olympia and many other Washington municipalities have embraced free buses throughout their entire transit system, following the example set in 2019 by Kansas City, Missouri, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Luxembourg offers free public transit nationwide, and several other countries offer free buses, trams, and trains to people under 18, students, and senior citizens.

The cheapest Tesla, by contrast, costs nearly $40,000, which isn’t counting the cost of insurance, financing, and all the other headaches involved in purchasing and owning a car. Elon Musk has allegedly scrapped plans to make what would have been Tesla’s most affordable offering yet, a smaller car slated to be priced at around $25,000. That announcement had already been delayed for several years, reportedly because Musk demanded that his engineers produce a vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel.

Finally, public buses offer something to the challenge of decarbonizing transportation that Elon Musk never can: scale. If the goal of decarbonized transit is to get as many people moving using as little carbon as possible, then it’s wildly more efficient to invest more public resources into electrifying and expanding mass transit options than in helping a billionaire sell more luxury items.

Aronoff doesn't even need to point out that Musk himself has never invented a single goddamned thing. He leveraged a family fortune made in Apartheid South Africa into controlling shares of several companies that eventually all failed, whether completely or just simply never lived up to the hype.

But Aronoff is right. I've visited London 20 times in the last 10 years and only twice have I had to resort to taking a hired car—once when the Southern Rail went on strike the day I flew into Gatwick last summer, and once when I was well pissed and didn't want to wait for a bus in the rain. Trains and buses cover the entire Southeast region, run all night in most cases, and don't cost all that much. Chicago has them too. Who needs a Tesla truck that will cut your fingers off if you try closing the trunk?

Windy spring day

A cold front passed this morning right after I got to the office, sparing me the 60 km/h winds and pouring rain that made the 9am arrivals miserable. The rain has passed, but the temperature has slowly descended to 17°C after hanging out around 19°C all night. I might have to close my windows tonight.

I also completed a mini-project for work a few minutes ago, so I now have time to read a couple of stories:

And now, back to the next phase of the mini-project...

Things we probably could have predicted

The older I get, the less human beings surprise me. Oh, individual people surprise me all the time, mainly because I have smart and creative friends. But groups of people? They're going to be unsurprising and kind of dumb almost always.

Cases in point:

  • The Arizona Supreme Court's decision allowing enforcement of a pre-statehood, Civil War-era abortion law looks even worse when you learn what else is in the 1864 Howell Code.
  • Chicago's Loop neighborhood has 6,000 unsold luxury condos, with no more new projects underway, in part because developers failed to predict that 3% interest rates wouldn't last forever. This, to me, looks like failing to predict it will rain in Seattle eventually, because it hasn't rained in a week.
  • Forget Detroit and Houston; even ultra-wealthy municipalities like Santa Clara, Calif., have obstinately failed to predict that they would ever have to pay ruinous costs to maintain all the infrastructure they built last century.
  • Young women embracing the role of "tradwife" (i.e., becoming a 1950s-style woman of leisure or "stay-at-home-girlfriend") seem destined to unhappy long-term consequences of becoming someone's accessory.
  • Author John Scalzi provides advice which even he thinks aspiring authors should already know: don't fabricate quotes by living authors to sell your new manuscript because you will get caught.

Finally, author Gary Shteyngart floats off on the maiden voyage of Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built, and finds what can only be described as a very specific slice of humanity that would make the Golgafrinchans proud.