The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Anno Catuli

That's "The Year of the Cub" in Latin. At the moment, that year looks like this:

The numbers—04, 67, 104—refer to the years since the Cubs' last division, league, and World Series championships.

They had to put another digit on it after the 2008 season. My guess is the current 7 digits will last about 33 more years.

At least they've won a few recently, and have gotten back up to .400. I'm going tonight; we'll see if they can make it to .423.

Former Justice O'Connor: "Herp derp!"

When the U.S. Supreme Court issues a 5-4 decision, it means, for practical purposes, they haven't actually decided anything to help lawyers figure out how similar cases will proceed in the future. Sandra Day O'Connor put the "5" in "5-4" so many times during her 23 years on the Court that for a time it seemed she was single-handily causing an explosion of litigation, re-litigation, and rogue appellate court decisions.

None of her 5-4 votes had a worse outcome than her vote in 2000 on Bush v Gore. Now, after watching her judicial legacy (such as it is) get destroyed by Republican-partisan Sam Alito, she admits maybe she made the wrong call in putting W. in the White House:

Looking back, O'Connor said, she isn't sure the high court should have taken the case.

"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor said during a talk Friday with the Tribune editorial board. "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

The case, she said, "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation."

"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision," she said. "It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn't done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day."

No kidding. One can only wish that somewhere, someone in the U.S. might have said this back in December 2000. Oh, wait.

Wrigley Field open house

Being a season-ticket holder includes a "Rookie Day" open house at the park. Ours was yesterday. The open house included access to all the stands, the first-base-side warning track, the visitors club house, and the press box:

Visitors club house:

And the right-field wall, up close and personal:

More later or tomorrow.

One paragraph to explain it all

Krugman summarizes why we still have massive unemployment even though all the Serious People say we should be in a recovery:

Part of the answer surely lies in the widespread desire to see economics as a morality play, to make it a tale of excess and its consequences. We lived beyond our means, the story goes, and now we’re paying the inevitable price. Economists can explain ad nauseam that this is wrong, that the reason we have mass unemployment isn’t that we spent too much in the past but that we’re spending too little now, and that this problem can and should be solved. No matter; many people have a visceral sense that we sinned and must seek redemption through suffering — and neither economic argument nor the observation that the people now suffering aren’t at all the same people who sinned during the bubble years makes much of a dent.

The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.

Meanwhile, we in the U.S. are making sure the planes run on time even while Head Start and food stamps are crunched. It makes me proud to be a 'Murcan.

How budget cuts cost more money than expected

Two seemingly-unrelated stories this morning outline how Republican-led spending cuts have reached diminishing returns. First, from New Republic, it turns out that when you cut the FAA's budget by 6% suddenly, you get airline delays:

As you probably have heard, the FAA has responded to the automatic cuts by furloughing air traffic controllers—that is, ordering them to take extra days off, without pay. With fewer controllers watching over the skies, fewer airplanes can travel at one time. The FAA says staffing shortages from the furloughs led to the delay of about 1,200 flights on Monday and another 1,000 on Tuesday. The first day of delays appear to have affected the Northeast and Southern California. Since then, delays have spread to other cities, including Tampa and Las Vegas. Overall, the interruptions actually seem less severe than some experts had predicted. But the waits are expected to get worse over the summer, once travel increases.

In an ideal world, this would shake Republican faith in sequestration as an acceptable budget policy. They’d start discussions about replacing it with some other deficit reduction plan—ideally, one that didn’t rely so exclusively on immediate and arbitrary spending cuts. This, of course, is not the way Republicans are reacting. Instead, they and their allies keep insisting that the delays are the result of Obama Administration deception and opportunism. Under the headline, “The Manufactured Sequester Crisis,” National Review’s Veronique de Rugy writes that her recent flight from Washington to New York was on time—and wonders whether, like last month’s predictions of longer security lines, the delays will turn out to be illusory. Over at the Wall Street Journal opinion page, the editors aren’t questioning whether the delays are real. Instead, they write, President Barack Obama could spare air travelers the delay by ordering the FAA to shuffle funds differently and make necessary cuts. On Capitol Hill, Republicans are making the very same argument: If air traffic is slowing down, they say, it’s because the Obama Administration wants it that way, in order to make a political point.

It's Obama's fault for spending too much money, Obama's fault for not spending enough, Obama's fault for following the law, Obama's fault for not following the law...isn't everyone tired of GOP blamestorming yet?

Then this load of crap from the Washington Post:

This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a balance of zero.

Right now, about 7 percent of the 202,000 government grant accounts are devoid of money. These sit on the books, costing about $5.42 per month. The service fees are the same, whether an account is full or empty.

Oh my god! Five dollars a month!

But still, one might ask, why haven't the affected agencies closed these empty accounts? Maybe because they can't afford the staff time to do it. So, yes, let's immediately suspend every other program and direct thousands of staff hours (and therefore hundreds of thousands of dollars) at this horrible problem of empty grant accounts.

Then, buried in the two pages of indignant squawking about government waste, writer David A. Fahrenthold mentions in passing that all those account fees go back to the government. That's right, the grant accounts are government accounts. So this $890,000 in "wasted" money is actually an inter-department transfer—an accounting item.

Want to cut government waste? How about starting with the $2 trillion we spent on our wars since 2001. Want to have an effective government? That's not a question Republicans, or the Washington Post, really want to answer.

Wettest April ever

Did I mention cold and wet? Yeah, it's wet all right:

Tuesday marked April 2013's 11th day of measurable rain. The day's 15.5 mm rain accumulation was enough to put this month's 215 mm tally (late Tuesday night, with rains still falling) into the record books as the wettest April to occur over Chicago's 143-year observational record.

The previous record for most April precipitation here—212 mm—was retired after a 66 year run dating back to 1947.

The new 215 mm monthly total is more than 9 times (939%) the amount of rain which had fallen during April's opening 23 days a year ago (23 mm) and 2.5 times the full month's 86 mm "normal" total.

Add to that, we're running 2°C below normal, and we've seen 41% of our possible sunshine (normal for April is 52%).

The rain has helped Lake Michigan water levels, but not as much as one would expect.

This weekend they're predicting 21°C and sunny, finally. We'll see.

Chicago in the spring

As a large part of my brain noodles on how to get multiple IDPs to work with a single RP, a smaller part of my brain has looked out the window and realized Chicago is having a normally crappy April:

  • The are 5-13 after allowing a run in the bottom of the 13th last night in Milwaukee;
  • It's 13°C 7°C and raining, which is great because we need the rain and cool weather; and
  • ...well, that's all I got right now.

I had a third thing, but SAML got in the way, I guess.

When Bruce Schneier blogs about politics know it's going to be bad. And it really is:

Passed in 2012 after a 60 Minutes report on insider trading practices in Congress, the STOCK Act banned members of Congress and senior executive and legislative branch officials from trading based on government knowledge. To give the ban teeth, the law directed that many of these officials' financial disclosure forms be posted online and their contents placed into public databases. However, in March, a report ordered by Congress found that airing this information on the Internet could put public servants and national security at risk. The report urged that the database, and the public disclosure for everyone but members of Congress and the highest-ranking executive branch officials -- measures that had never been implemented -- be thrown out.

The government sprang into action: last week, both chambers of Congress unanimously agreed to adopt the report's recommendations. Days later, Obama signed the changes into law.

Bluntest of all was Bruce Schneier, a leading security technologist and cryptographer. "They put them personally at risk by holding them accountable," Schneier said of the impact of disclosure rules on Congress members and DC staffers. "That's why they repealed it. The national security bit is bullshit you're supposed to repeat." (Three of the four experts we consulted opted for the same term of choice.)

As Schneier said, "There was a security risk, but it was not a national security risk. It was a personal Congressperson risk." And that was enough to stymie transparency.

One commenter on the original CRJ article points out, "Right, they're concerned about people getting their personal info they pass CISPA."

This was a bipartisan effort, by the way.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone

We had a lovely weekend in Chicago, and today the sun is still out. Not like last week, which drenched the state:

Northern and central Illinois saw widespread heavy rains on April 18-19, 2013. As a result, widespread flooding occurred first at the local level and then along major rivers by the weekend. Last year we had the drought; this year we have what I’m calling the “anti-drought”.

Below is the multi-sensor precipitation map for the 7-day period ending April 19, 2013. This map is based on radar-estimated precipitation and calibrated using available raingauges. Some of the heaviest rains fell north of a line between Quincy and Kankakee. Areas in purple reported between 150 and 200 mm, while the areas in the two shades of red were between 100 and 150 mm. Areas to the south of Interstate 70 escaped the heavier rains.

So, yeah. Damp.

Oh, and the Cubs are now 5-12, going into a 3-day series against first-place Cincinnati. So, yeah.