The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wake up, Cameron

The Ferris Bueller house in Highland Park may be torn down:

Built from 1952 until 1954 and designed by architect A. James Speyer, the Highland Park home and pavilion that appeared in the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is for sale for $2.3 million. It is at risk of being torn down, Landmarks Illinois officials say, because several inquiries have been made regarding the demolition of the house and a possible lot split.

Overcast skies

Tom Friedman on why the U.S. is falling behind in alternate-energy research:

The reason that all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three prerequisites for growing a renewable energy industry: 1) any business or homeowner can generate solar energy; 2) if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and 3) the utility hasto buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop.

Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty, that is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation. With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry. One thing that has never existed in America — with our fragmented, stop-start solar subsidies — is certainty of price, connectivity and regulation on a national basis.

But hey, even though we're slipping behind just about every other rich country in the world, at least we have the Free Market. (I am reminded of the old Kit-Kat commercials from the 1970s: "We ain't got class, but we got taste!")

You think it's bad here?

Via Calculated Risk, tomorrow the Irish Finance Minister will explain, somehow, what Ireland's government will do with the €90 bn in real estate loans now crippling the country's economy:

In what may be the biggest financial gamble in 87 years as a sovereign state, the government will become the owner of loans for property developments that have plunged in value.

Ireland is suffering the worst economic slump of any developed nation since the Great Depression, according to the Economic & Social Research Institute in Dublin.

The National Asset Management Agency, known as NAMA, will buy 18,000 loans at a discount from lenders led by Allied Irish Banks Plc and Bank of Ireland Plc. The agency will manage the loans, which amount to about half of Ireland’s gross domestic product. Should any of the 1,500 borrowers default, the agency can seize the land or other security put up.

(Emphasis mine.)

To put that in perspective, imagine if the U.S. government took over $8.5 trillion in loans. That's the equivalent.

And 2-0 over the Brewers

The Cubs won again tonight, against the Milwaukee Brewers in a very fast 8 1/2 innings. Ryan Dempster had a no-hitter for 4 2/3 innings, and a solo homer by Derek Lee got the Cubs on the board.

Oddly, the park was as empty as I've seen this year. I say "oddly" because (a) it was a gorgeous, clear, 24°C evening, and (b) this was the upper deck ten minutes before the game started:

That was a troubling sign. This was not:

Of course, it hardly matters, with the Cubs now 10 games out with fewer than 20 to play. Maybe if St. Louis keep losing we'll have another opportunity to get swept by the Dodgers in the playoffs. But probably not.

Cubs 5-2 over Reds

Friends called me on Saturday afternoon to invite me to yesterday's game, which had perfect weather, a Cubs win, and really friggin' good seats (Field Box, section 130).

Ted Lilly got the win:

In box seats, people bring their own "W" flags:

I will not read your script

I left a word out, which I hate, because you should read Josh Olson's recent piece in the Village Voice:

You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it's not a huge imposition. It's not your choice to make. This needs to be clear--when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you're not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you're asking them to give you--gratis--the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.

Or, my favorite lines: "It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't. (By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)"

Security theater, 8 years on

Patrick Smith ("Ask the Pilot") wonders why we still can't get airport security right:

[T]he primary threat to commercial planes is, was and shall remain explosive devices. The Sept. 11 skyjack scheme is today unworkable for a variety of reasons. Yet those who run airport security refuse to acknowledge this, wasting time and resources ransacking people's luggage for what are, in effect, harmless items. Has anybody at the Transportation Security Administration bothered to peruse the air crimes annals of the past 50 years? The agency, along with too many Americans in general, seems to exist in a world that did not begin until 2001, oblivious to the long record of terrorist sabotage against civilian airliners.

My ranting on this topic might be redundant, but remember there are hundreds of lives, and tens of billions of dollars, at stake. A bombing, or multiple bombings, would be devastating to the U.S. economy and possibly catastrophic for the airline business. In the past, airlines were able to pull through after incidents of sabotage. People recoiled in horror, but they didn't stop flying. Nowadays our mind-set is very different. We are, I'm afraid, more predisposed to panic and rash behavior.

The entire column is worth a read.

Senator Durbin on health reform

My senior U.S. Senator responded yesterday to a letter I sent in July. He writes:

Thank you for contacting me about giving Americans the choice of a public health insurance option that will compete with private insurance plans.

I support a public option and appreciate hearing from you. We need health care reform that reduces costs for families, businesses, and the government; protects people's choice of doctors; and assures affordable, high-quality health care for every American.

We are crafting a reform bill with these goals in mind. Those who like the health insurance they have should and will be able to keep it. However, a public option will provide a valuable alternative to today's private health plans. Too many Americans do not like or cannot afford the health insurance offered by today's for-profit insurance companies. A public option will provide competition that will hold private plans accountable and help moderate the price of health insurance.

I will continue to work for a reform plan that provides stable and secure coverage, stable and affordable costs, and better quality care. We face a difficult challenge gathering the 60 votes necessary to move legislation forward in the Senate, but I will continue to work for the inclusion of a public option in the final legislation.

Keep in mind, Senator Durbin is the Majority Whip, the second-highest-ranking member of the Senate, so his views carry some weight.

Fifty five years later, a wrong is acknowledged

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday formally apologized to Alan Turing, the gay cryptogropher who broke the German navy's codes in World War II, saving the lives of thousands of British sailors:

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.

In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison – was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe's history and not Europe's present. So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work, I am very proud to say: we're sorry. You deserved so much better.

It's about bloody time. But good job, Prime Minister.