The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The 59th time in a row

President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris started their terms at noon Eastern today. It's the 59th time that the United States has transferred executive authority according to law. Let's hope for at least 59 more times.

Sixty-five minutes

The VSTBXPOTUS* has by now arrived in Palm Springs, where in just a few minutes he'll cease to matter and instead become the ultimate Florida Man. I would like to draw attention to something he said today (and wow, am I never going to write those words about that person again) as he stopped briefly at Joint Base Andrews while a very big door swung towards his ass:

As Trump concluded his remarks, he vowed, “We will be back in some form,” and he told his supporters, “Have a good life.”

Yes, you will. That's how subpoenas work.

Speaking of, as of this writing (10:50 EST), he has not yet pardoned his family or attempted to pardon himself. I woke up with a daydream of him at 11:55 asking an aide for the pardon paperwork for his kids and the aide giving him a cartoonish shrug. Remember: Marbury v Madison is still the law of the land.

* Very, very soon.

Evening roundup

With only 18 hours to go in the worst presidency in American history—no, really this time—I have a few articles to read, only two of which (directly) concern the STBXPOTUS.

Finally, after seven weeks of back-and-forth with Microsoft engineers, I've helped them clarify some code and documentation that will enable me to release a .NET 5.0 version of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™—the IDEA™—by this time tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours to go

The US Constitution, Amendment XX, section 1, says point blank that the STBXPOTUS will be XPOTUS in less than 24 hours. Between now and then, I have no doubt he'll shit the bed (possibly even literally) on his way out the door. Just a few minutes ago the Times reported that the outgoing administration has declared China's treatment of Uighurs "genocide," which may complicate President Biden's plans to pressure the country diplomatically. (Biden apparently supports this designation, however.)

From completely bollixing the vaccine rollout to failing in the most basic acts of class and decency with the Bidens to appointing crazy people to civil-service roles to executing more people in the past month than the US Government has executed in the past 12 years, he has done everything in his power to make 60% of Americans ready to see the back of him. We haven't even seen today's pardon list yet; I can only guess how much fun I'll have reading it.

For all of that, though, one thing has absolutely delighted me these past two weeks: he hasn't posted anything on social media. Consequently, as the Post reports, misinformation online has dropped 73% since he got booted from Twitter and Facebook:

The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.

Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8.

The findings, from Jan. 9 through Friday, highlight how falsehoods flow across social media sites — reinforcing and amplifying each other — and offer an early indication of how concerted actions against misinformation can make a difference.

The research by Zignal and other groups suggests that a powerful, integrated disinformation ecosystem — composed of high-profile influencers, rank-and-file followers and Trump himself — was central to pushing millions of Americans to reject the election results and may have trouble surviving without his social media accounts.

Researchers have found that Trump’s tweets were retweeted by supporters at a remarkable rate, no matter the subject, giving him a virtually unmatched ability to shape conversation online. University of Colorado information science professor Leysia Palen declared in October, after months of research: “Trump’s amplification machine is peerless.”

Glory, hallelujah. Despite 25,000 Guard troops defending the capital, and an inauguration ceremony tomorrow without a huge cheering crowd, things seem better than they did a month ago. I think once we're past the 2020 hangover, 2021 will turn out all right.

Man caught living at O'Hare for three months

Aditya Singh never left O'Hare after arriving on October 19th:

Singh, 36, lived in the secure area with access to terminals, shops and food at O’Hare International Airport until his arrest Saturday after two United Airlines employees asked to see his identification, prosecutors said. He showed them an airport ID badge that an operations manager had reported missing on Oct. 26.

Police said Singh told them that the coronavirus pandemic left him too afraid to fly and so he instead remained in the airport, often relying on the kindness of strangers to buy him food.

Singh completed a master’s program at Oklahoma State University and had been living since summer 2019 in Orange, California, southeast of Los Angeles, in the home of Carl Jones, who said he offered Singh a place to live in exchange for helping him care for his elderly father and other odd jobs.

Jones told the Tribune that Singh’s visa was expiring, so he planned in October to return to India, where his mother lives. Jones described Singh as a “very gentle soul” who often volunteered helping the homeless. The two last spoke Oct. 19 when, Jones said, Singh confirmed he had arrived safely in Chicago and was on his way to India.

Singh faces two felony charges, but I can't imagine a jury sending him to jail.

Stuff that seems cool but...

The Consumer Electronics Show went virtual this year, but it still had some interesting toys, like these:

Air Safety Virus Monitors

It's well-known that things like ventilation and humidity affect how well coronavirus spreads indoors. But how do you know how much ventilation is enough? Airthings sensors pair with a smartphone to monitor indoor air quality for temperature, humidity and number of people in the room (it makes a guess based on the amount of carbon dioxide present). If quality dips and virus risk rises, Airthings will suggest opening windows or making other changes. This could be helpful for businesses, such as restaurants, to know if their capacity is too high. Airthings also monitors for more traditional air quality risks like radon and mold.

Or how about:

Balcony Bee-Keeping Box

The pandemic has driven an upswing in gardening and home-canning: why not beekeeping? Italian company Beeing’s B-Box is a small hive that works with a sensor to monitor the bees’ health and environment. It also has a special design that separates the extra honeycomb from the bees, so you can harvest the honey without suiting up like an astronaut. Plus, it’s small enough to keep on even a modest urban balcony.

I don't know how my neighbors would feel about that one, but it seems perfect for the building.

Bonnie Wilson Coleman (D-NJ) is pissed off

After sheltering-in-place on January 6th with fact-denying, mask-refusing Republican colleagues, Rep. Coleman contracted Covid-19:

Over the past day, a lot of people have asked me how I feel. They are usually referring to my covid-19 diagnosis and my symptoms. I feel like I have a mild cold. But even more than that, I am angry. 

I am angry that after I spent months carefully isolating myself, a single chaotic day likely got me sick. I am angry that several of our nation’s leaders were unwilling to deal with the small annoyance of a mask for a few hours. I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause: my Republican colleagues’ inability to accept facts.

[On January 6th, m]y staff and I then decided that the Capitol building would likely be the safest place to go, since it would be the most secure and least likely to be crowded. I’ve spent a lot of time since in utter disbelief at how wrong those assumptions turned out to be.

Everyone knows what happened next: A mob broke through windows and doors and beat a U.S. Capitol Police officer, then went on a rampage. Members and staff took cover wherever we could, ducking into offices throughout the building, then were told to move to a safer holding location.

I use “safer” because, while we might have been protected from the insurrectionists, we were not safe from the callousness of members of Congress who, having encouraged the sentiments that inspired the riot, now ignored requests to wear masks.

When I say that many Republicans are responsible for what happened to me, to others and to the country last week, I mean their essential failure to accept facts led us here. Much like they should be able to accept the results of an election, elected leaders should be able to accept facts like the efficacy of masks. It’s clearly time for a congressional campuswide mask requirement, enforced by the House and Senate sergeants at arms.

Facts really do matter. I hope to get back to work soon to make sure we respect them.

We've had a strain of aggressive stupidity in the United States going back to the country's founding. Only trouble is, these days they have more political party than they usually have.

Not a typical January

We've only had six days where the temperature stayed below freezing since November 1st, and the third year in a row where we've not had a temperature below -18°C by this point. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows that 2020 either tied or set the record for warmest year in history:

[An] analysis of global temperatures, by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and released Thursday, found that 2020 was slightly warmer than 2016. But the difference was insignificant, the institute’s director, Gavin Schmidt, said in an interview.

“Effectively it’s a statistical tie,” he said.

Other analyses issued Thursday, one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and another by Berkeley Earth, an independent research group in California, found that 2020 was slightly cooler than 2016, as did one published last week by the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe. But the difference was small enough to not be statistically significant.

With the 2020 results, the last seven years have been the warmest since the beginning of modern record-keeping nearly a century and a half ago, Dr. Schmidt said.

But the numbers are only a small part of the story. As climate scientists have predicted, the world is seeing an increase in heat waves, storms and other extreme weather as the planet warms, and in disasters like droughts, floods and wildfires that result. Last year offered no respite, with record fires in Australia and California, and severe drought in central South America and the American Southwest.

Some climate forecasters had thought that the arrival of cooler sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean — part of the recurring global climate phenomenon called La Niña — would tamp down temperatures this year. It is difficult to quantify the influence of La Niña, but it is clear that any effect was eclipsed by the emissions-related rise in temperatures.

As I've said for a very long time, global warming will make Chicago a much more comfortable place to live for a century or two at least, though changing precipitation patterns could seriously alter the Great Lakes' shorelines in ways that make us much less comfortable later on.

It keeps getting worse

As the capital braces for violence at President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week, Andrew Sullivan points out the obvious:

We could have...the beginning of an ongoing, armed insurgency, denying the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of the United States, backed by a hefty chunk of one of the two major parties.

Josh Marshall points out that the GOP has hobbled our resistance to this disease for 30 years or longer:

Go back to April 1995 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. This sparked the first widespread interest in the militia movement which had begun to take root in the country in the 1980s. But Republicans, who had just taken control of Congress in January of that year, quickly shifted gears to defending militias as conservatives being smeared the association with McVeigh and his accomplices. Indeed, in June of 1995 the Senate held a hearing aimed at humanizing members of the militia movement as little more than very motivated conservative activists. As Ken Adams of one Michigan militia group told Senators at the hearing: “What is the militia?. We are doctors, lawyers, people getting involved in their government.”

[W]e’ve seen four or four cycles of this drama over the last twenty-five to thirty years: the US government is prevented from taking even basic steps to combat violent right wing extremism because the Republican party either forbids it (when Republicans are in power) or makes the political costs prohibitively high (when Democrats are).

Every time it’s the same. And the coddling of right wing extremists and terrorists by the institutional GOP has led us to a place where a government that spends approaching a trillion dollars a year on military and intelligence capacities had its seat of government stormed by an insurrectionist crowd acting at the behest of a renegade President.

As I said to a London-based colleague this morning, things will be strange over here for a few years, at least.