I guess not all of the stories I read at lunchtime depressed me, but...well, you decide:
One happy(-ish) story, as I didn't have to travel this past weekend: the TSA reported that on Sunday they screened more people (2.9 million) than on any single day in history. And of the 100,000+ flights scheduled between Wednesday and Sunday, carriers cancelled only 201 (0.2%). Amazing.
I have tickets to a late concert downtown, which means a few things, principally that I'm still at the office. But I'm killing it on this sprint, so it works out.
Of course this means a link dump:
- The XPOTUS has a hate-hate relationship with life.
- After a damning ethics report, Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has announced he won't run again, which is too bad because it would have been an easy D pickup.
- Speaking of Republicans in Congress, why do they behave like adolescent boys all the time?
- Israel is seeing a rally-around-the-flag effect, with the odd wrinkle that everyone hates the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud).
- The Post has decided to show people the horrific things 5.56mm rounds do to a body, as their public editor explains.
- George Packer looks at why political writing, in general, sucks.
- Where do all the stolen catalytic converters go?
- A train crash at the Howard St El station injured 23 passengers, and somehow distracted the cops on the scene from a shooting a block away.
- It will take Caltrans 3-5 weeks to fix the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles after a fire last week, with about 300,000 vehicles diverting each day.
- After Elon Musk's latest anti-Semitic garbage, author John Scalzi has left Twitter for good.
I promise to write something substantial tomorrow or Saturday. Promise.
I hope to make the 17:10 train this evening, so I'll just note some things I want to read later:
Finally, Molly White looks at the ugly wriggling things under the rocks Sam Bankman-Fried's trial turned over: "Now that Sam Bankman-Fried has been convicted in one of the largest financial fraud cases in history, the crypto industry would like people to please hurry up and move on. The trial is over, and it’s just so dang inconvenient that Bankman-Fried so publicly ruined the general reputation of an industry rife with scams and frauds by making it seem as though it is an industry rife with scams and frauds."
Via Bruce Schneier, your car does not respect your privacy anymore:
Mozilla recently reported that of the car brands it reviewed, all 25 failed its privacy tests. While all, in Mozilla's estimation, overreached in their policies around data collection and use, some even included caveats about obtaining highly invasive types of information, like your sexual history and genetic information. As it turns out, this isn’t just hypothetical: The technology in today’s cars has the ability to collect these kinds of personal information, and the fine print of user agreements describes how manufacturers get you to consent every time you put the keys in the ignition.
This gets even more complicated when you think about how cars are shared. Rental cars change drivers all the time, or a minor in your household might borrow your car to learn how to drive. Unlike a cell phone, which is typically a single user device, cars don’t work like and vehicle manufacturers struggle to address that in their policies. And cars have the ability to collect information not just on drivers but their passengers.
Consumers are effectively hamstrung by the state of legal contract interpretation, and manufacturers are incentivized to mitigate risk by continuing to bloat these (often unread) agreements with increasingly invasive classes of data. Many researchers will tell you the only real solution here is federal regulation. There have been some cases of state privacy law being leveraged for consumers' benefit, as in California and Massachusetts, but on the main it's something drivers aren't even aware they should be outraged about, and even if they are, they have no choice but to own a car anyway.
Note to self: no more don't start having sex in my Prius.
Climate advocate Rollie Williams looks at the legacy of the 2008 Chicago parking meter deal:
Contra Williams, many Chicagoans, including The Daily Parker, saw the problems with the deal at the time, and how it just got worse over a very short time.
But spend 25 minutes with Williams' video. He takes you through all the immediate problems as well as how it prevents Chicago from adopting more climate-friendly and pedestrian-friendly changes to its streetscape.
Today's roundup includes only one Earth-shattering kaboom, for starters (and I'll save the political stuff for last):
- Scientists hypothesize that two continent-sized blobs of hot minerals 3,000 km below Africa and the Pacific Ocean came from Theia, the Mars-sized object that slammed into the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, creating the Moon in the aftermath.
- October was Illinois 31st warmest and 41st wettest in history (going back to 1895).
- National Geographic looks into whether the freak winter of 1719—that never really ended that year—could happen again.
- The world's last Beatles song, "Now and Then," came out today, to meh reviews all around.
- University of London philosophy lecturer Rebecca Roche extols the virtues of swearing.
- Charles Blow warns that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who grew up in the same place, won't register for most people as the bomb-throwing reactionary MAGA Republican he is because "unlike Trump’s, Johnson’s efforts to undermine American democracy are served like a comforting bowl of grits and a glass of sweet tea. ... It’s not just good manners; it’s the Christian way, the proper Southern way. And it is the ultimate deception."
- At the same time, New York Times editorial board member David Firestone calls Johnson "deeply unserious." And Alex Shepherd shakes his head that Johnson has "already run out of ideas." And Tina Nguyen thinks he hasn't got a clue.
Finally, Asia Mieleszko interviews Jake Berman, whose new book The Lost Subways of North America reveals, among other things, that the Los Angeles electric train network used to have direct lines from downtown LA to Balboa Beach and Covina. ("I think that the original sin of most postwar cities was not in building places for the car necessarily. Rather, it was bulldozing large sections of the old city to reorient them around the car." Amen, brother, and a curse on the souls of 1950s and 1960s urban planners.)
We have a typical cloudy autumn day, good for reading and not so good for long walks with the dog. So I'll read and Cassie can wait for a bit:
- Turns out, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is even more of a scary, right-wing Christian nationalist nutter than most people knew. Paul Krugman concurs, warning that Johnson wants to eliminate the social safety net entirely.
- Actor Matthew Perry drowned in his California home yesterday. He was 54.
- New DNA evidence confirms that the Assateague horses on Delmarva's barrier islands arrived in North America when a Spanish galleon wrecked there 400 years ago.
- Data from Tallinn, Estonia, suggests that even free public transit doesn't keep people from wanting to drive.
- Chicago's first railroad line turned 175 this week. Happy birthday.
Finally, new research shows elucidates the complex relationship between alcohol and orgasms. Apparently there's a sweet spot somewhere in the "moderate drinking" zone. I will leave the details as an exercise for the reader.
I'm iterating on a UI feature that wasn't 100% defined, so I'm also iterating on the API that the feature needs. Sometimes software is like that: you discover that your first design didn't quite solve the problem, so you iterate. it's just that the iteration is a bit of a context shift, so I'm going to read for about 15 minutes to clear my head:
- Kevin Philips, whose 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority laid out Richard Nixon's "southern strategy" and led to the GOP's subsequent slide into authoritarianism and ethnic entrepreneurialism has died, but unfortunately his ideas haven't.
- The US and Qatar have agreed not to release any of the $6 billion of Iran's money that Qatar currently has in escrow for them, which will no doubt make Iran yet another country demanding to know why Hamas attacked Israel just now.
- The Chicago Tribune digs into Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's $16.6 billion budget.
- In the wake of huge class-action settlements, two major Chicago real-estate brokers have changed their commission policies, but we still have to see if they'll change their actions.
- The History Channel blurbs the origins of Oktoberfest, which started in 1810 and ends for this year today. Und nächstes Jahr, ich möchte nach München zum Oktoberfest gehen!
- Jacob Bacharach says the core problem with Michael Lewis's recent biography of Sam Bankman-Fried is that SBF is just too boring to be the subject of a biography.
Finally, Chicago's heavy-rail operator Metra formally proposed simplifying its fare structure. This will cut my commuting costs by about 11%, assuming I use the day passes and individual tickets correctly. It will have the biggest impacts on suburban riders who commute into the city, and riders whose travel doesn't include the downtown terminals.
I could have worked from home today, and probably should have, but I felt well enough to come in (wearing an N95 mask, of course). It turned that I had a very helpful meeting, which would not have worked as well remotely, but given tomorrow's forecast and the likelihood I'll still have this cold, Cassie will just have to miss a day of school.
I have to jam on a presentation for the next three hours, so I'll come back to these later:
- Alex Shephard says this is the week Twitter finally went totally evil.
- Bret Stephens says the American anti-Israel left really needs to sit down for a minutes.
- Julia Ioffe decided to take the risk of getting yelled at as she mourns the chance for any peaceful resolution to the millennia-long conflict in the Levant.
- Yair Rosenberg interviews his friend Amir Tibon, who describes how he and his family survived the Hamas attack on Nahal Oz on Saturday.
- Yoval Noah Harari draws a line from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and right-wing populism to Saturday's attack.
- Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz (Blue and White) have agreed to form a wartime coalition, excluding the crazy parties on both sides, and to suspend routine legislative activity.
- Speaking of crazy parties, House Republicans have nominated Steve Scalise (R-LA), "David Duke without the baggage," to take over as Speaker. He needs 217 votes to get elected, which means any 4 people in his party can send this game to overtime.
- As soon as that's done, the New York delegation to the Republican House Caucus plans to introduce a measure to kick out Rep. George Santos (R-NY). This will probably succeed as the seat will certainly go to a Democrat next November if he stays, but only probably go to one if the GOP can run someone else.
- In a filing with the court overseeing the XPOTUS's classified-documents trial this week, the US said it can show why he took the documents. ("Vell, Donald's just zis guy, you know?")
- Speaking of fraud, Molly White takes us through the first half of Caroline Ellison's testimony in the Sam Bankman-Fried trial.
- Speaking of corruption, US Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (R$), the subject of thousands of press reports that he took bribes in every form but bags of cash from billionaires before ruling on their cases before the Supreme Court, once again called on the Court to do away with the Sullivan rule that ensures the press can find out when Justices are on the take.
- Caltrans fired its deputy director for planning and modal programs for advocating against widening I-80 through Sacramento, even though widening I-80 through Sacramento is one of the worst ideas currently proposed by Caltrans.
Finally, no sooner did it open than the new Guinness brewery in Chicago is for sale. It will stay a Guinness brewery, just under different ownership. The Brews and Choos Project will get there soon.
Other things actually happened recently:
- Slate's Sarah Lipton-Lubet explains how the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court keep allowing straw plaintiffs to raise bullshit cases so they can overturn laws they don't like.
- Julia Ioffe, who has a new podcast explaining how Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's upbringing as a street thug informs his foreign policy today, doesn't think the West or Ukraine really need to worry about Robert Fico's election win in Slovakia.
- Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter Jr. has a $376,000 salary and apparently no accountability, which may explain why we have some transit, uh, challenges in the city.
- The Bluewalker 3 satellite is the now 10th brightest thing in the sky, frustrating astronomers every time it passes overhead.
- An Arkansas couple plan to open an "indoor dog park with a bar" that has a daily or monthly fee and requires the dogs to be leashed, which makes very little sense to me. The location they've chosen is 900 meters from a dog park and about that distance from a dog-friendly brewery.
- Conde Nast Traveler has declared Chicago the Best Big City in the US.
Finally, as I write this, the temperature outside is 28°C, making today the fourth day in a row of July-like temperatures in October. Some parts of the area hit 32°C yesterday, though a cold front marching through the western part of the state promises to get us to more autumnal weather tomorrow. And this is before El Niño gets into full swing. Should be a weird winter...