The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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British Airways cancelled all of its flights out of its two biggest hubs in London today because of a power-supply failure:

The airline hoped to be able to operate some long haul inbound flights on Saturday, landing in London on Sunday, Mr Cruz added.

The GMB union has suggested the failure could have been avoided, had the airline not outsourced its IT work.

BA refuted the claim, saying: "We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems".

All passengers affected by the failure - which coincides with the first weekend of the half-term holiday for many in the UK - will be offered the option of rescheduling or a refund.

The airline, which had previously said flights would be cancelled until 18:00 BST, has now cancelled all flights for Saturday and asked passengers not to come to Gatwick or Heathrow airports.

Some things never change.

Latter days of the Republic

"A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."

Robert HeinleinFriday

Montana's at-large congressional district will stay Republican after millionaire Greg Gianforte won yesterday's special election by 6 points. This is despite him assaulting a reporter Wednesday afternoon and being charged with the crime:

The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he is alleged to have slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting: “Get the hell out of here.”

Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire endorsed by Donald Trump, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.

“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “I think he whaled on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

A Fox News TV team corroborated Jacobs' report.

Reactions immediately split along Republican/everyone else lines:

The Montana donnybrook quickly became a Rorschach Test that highlighted the divide within the conservative media between the serious and unserious outlets. It also showcased how many prominent figures on the right reflexively rally behind Republican politicians, whether the president or a House candidate, even when they are very clearly in the wrong. This is part of a growing tribalism that contributes to the polarization of our political system.

Laura Ingraham aggressively questioned the Fox reporter on her radio show: “You can’t body-slam someone by holding both hands on the neck. That’s impossible…Didn’t he grab him near the neck and throw him down? Just asking.” Acuna held firm: “I saw both his hands go up not around his neck in a strangling type of way, but more just on each side of his neck, just grabbed him. I guess it could have been on his clothes, I don’t know. I can’t say that for sure. But he grabbed him and slammed him down. … He had one hand on each side of his neck.”

And while the news division at Fox covered the story seriously and showed integrity, at least one commentator said on the air that the reporter had it coming.

And then there was this gem, demonstrating what happens when a media outlet becomes a monopoly in a market:

The Montana NBC Affiliate reportedly refused to cover the Gianforte story at all on Wednesday night, a shocking blackout. Irate sources inside 30 Rock appear to have called up New York Magazine’s Yashar Ali to complain: “KECI news director Julie Weindel was called by NBC News to see if KECI would cover the story or had any footage of the Gianforte incident that NBC News and its affiliates could use. … She was unyielding in her refusal to share any footage she may have had access to, or run a report on the story. … Weindel said that they weren’t covering the story, though it was running in outlets across the country at the time, explaining, ‘The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.’ Weindel then added, ‘You are on your own for this.’ … The station was acquired, last month, by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting.”

Here’s why that’s a big deal: Sinclair Broadcasting just struck a deal with Tribune Media to buy dozens of local TV stations. “Already, Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation. If the $3.9 billion deal gets regulatory approval, Sinclair would have 7 of every 10 Americans in its potential audience,” Margaret Sullivan explained in a column last weekend. “Sinclair would have 215 stations, including ones in big markets such as Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, instead of the 173 it has now. There’s no reason to think that the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, will stand in the way. Already, his commission has reinstated a regulatory loophole — closed under his predecessor, Tom Wheeler — that allows a single corporation to own more stations than the current 39 percent nationwide cap…"

Meanwhile, the president appeared to shove the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way at a photo-op yesterday.

Who said Donald Trump would spread poison to everything he touched? Oh right. Everyone paying attention.

Chicago's signature building to change names?

The Tribune reported late yesterday that the John Hancock Center is for sale:

Chicago-based developer Hearn Co. plans to put the North Michigan Avenue tower's office space and parking garage up for sale, possibly by late summer, company President and CEO Stephen Hearn said.

Hearn said he believes the real estate is worth more than $330 million, or more than double what his firm paid in 2013.

Hearn has been in talks with companies interested in putting their name on the skyscraper since the structure's namesake no longer pays for that right. "We've had interest in it, but have not made a deal yet," Hearn said.

That process could be resumed by a new owner.

Hearn declined to say how much he believes naming rights are worth, but people familiar with the property estimate it could generate $1 million to $2 million annually.

When it opened in 1969, it was the second-tallest building in the world. Today it has the best view of any building in Chicago.

Shrinking journalism in Chicago

I'm sad that an urban area with 8 million people can no longer support two regional, daily newspapers. This makes me very uncomfortable:

Tronc, the parent company of the Tribune, has entered into a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Wrapports Holdings, which owns the Sun-Times as well other assets such as the Chicago Reader alternative weekly, the Aggrego digital content business and the syndicated column The Straight Dope.

The announcement follows months of discussions between Wrapports and Tronc and after both organizations worked closely with the Department of Justice's antitrust division.

The tentative deal means Chicago would remain one of the last two-newspaper cities in the country, though those papers would operate under a single corporate owner. Terms of the potential deal were not disclosed.

We still have DNA Info (for now), and competing national newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post have reporters here. (So does the Economist, for that matter.) But one corporation owning all the print newspapers in an area the size of Chicago? Scary.

We were #1

Forty four years ago today, workers in Chicago completed the Sears Tower:

The original plan was to build two separate buildings. That was changed to a single structure, 1,454 feet high. As board chairman Gordon Metcalf explained, “Being the largest retailer in the world, we thought we should have the largest headquarters in the world.”

Construction began in 1970. The foundations were dug, and the steel frame began to rise slowly over Wacker Drive. On the way up, the Sears Tower passed the former record holder, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

The Sears Tower kept is title until 1996. Today all the sky-piercing structures are going up in Asia.

Meanwhile, in 1992, Sears again moved its headquarters, this time to Hoffman Estates. The tall building on Wacker Drive is now known as the Willis Tower.

And in the meantime, Eddie Lampert has poisoned the company to death.

Organizing stuff is hard

This weekend, a "luxury" festival on a remote island in the Bahamas failed to live up to expectations, in the same way bricks fail to hover:

The organizers of the Fyre Festival promised “two transformative weekends” on a “remote and private” island in the Bahamas that was “once owned by Pablo Escobar.” Kendall Jenner promoted it on Instagram. Ja Rule was one of the organizers. Festival-goers paid thousands of dollars for what they believed was going to be a luxury experience. Anyone who could afford the ticket would arrive in paradise on a private jet with their friends, for a taste of the lifestyle that only seems to exist on the Instagram feeds of models.

None of that happened.

The first wave of paying guests arrived on Thursday, only to find themselves staring at a chaotic festival site that appeared to be weeks away from being able to host anyone. Blink-182, one of the bands headlining the festival, had canceled at the last minute. The tents that were set up for guests to sleep in looked like “FEMA tents,” one person said. Not exactly the luxury accommodations they’d paid for. Meanwhile some tents were still in their boxes.

The disorder at Fyre Festival appears to have caught a lot of the attendees off guard. But there were signs that all was not what it seemed. In early April, the Wall Street Journal reported that festival organizers had missed a series of deadlines, including those for paying artists.

Whew, the next time I have the opportunity to pay $250,000 for a trip to a desert island, I'll jump on it.

The festival organizers have posted an explanation.

Things I'll be reading this afternoon

Some articles:

And now, Parker needs a walk.

It's a tremendous brand, fantastic. Everybody loves it.

Property values in Chicago's Trump Tower have declined as other similar properties have gotten pricier. Go figure:

"I've never seen such a glut" of condos for sale, said real estate agent Carla Walker of KoenigRubloff Berkshire Hathaway. "When people live where they've paid $1.5 million and up, they don't want to see people hanging out and demonstrating. And there's still a stigma there for some people."

The number for sale "is amazing," said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors. "I've never seen that number for sale since they opened, and there have been very few transactions."

Only four units sold this year, and there was a decline in the number sold last year compared with the previous year, she said. There are about 52 residential units for sale now. With the addition of the hotel condos also on the market in the building, the number of units for sale jumps to about 70.

Based on the residential units alone, the number of available condos in Trump Tower is almost three times higher than other large condo buildings downtown, according to Lissner's data. No comparison is perfect, because the very high-end Elysian and Waldorf buildings are small with little turnover in units. But Lissner said that while Trump Tower has 52 of its 486 units on the market, the John Hancock building has 26 out of 703 for sale; Water Tower Place has 9 out of 260 for sale; Aqua has 12 out of 262 for sale; 340 on the Park has 11 out of 343; 600 N. Lake Shore Drive has 20 out of 395; and The Heritage has 5 out of 358.

Apparently the massive "TRUMP" logo on the southeast wall of the building is not what people in heavily-urban, heavily-Democratic Chicago want to pay extra for.

You know your industry is in trouble when...

The United Airlines debacle at O'Hare last week underscored how much people really hate airlines:

The severity of the situation really dawned on me last Thursday as I sat in an interview with a local Fox reporter. We started talking about the Chicago Aviation Police, and that’s when it hit me. Over the last few years, police violence has been a hot-button issue. It has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has polarized people around the country. And here was a textbook example of what people have been rallying against… a defenseless, older minority was dragged off an airplane by the police, and he was severely injured (though not killed, fortunately) in the process. You would have thought this would have ignited another round of vitriol aimed at the police, but no. Everyone blamed United. The Chicago Aviation Police even suspended officers over this, but nobody seems to care. It’s all about United, and that really says a great deal about just how much people hate airlines.

And unfortunately, there is no quick fix:

Can they do that? Well they’re trying. Flush with reasonable profits instead of the razor-thin margins (often negative) they’ve lived off of for years, airlines in the US are investing in their products. It’s now fairly normal to get free video content and free snacks when those were far from the norm just a couple years ago. And this stability also makes it a better work environment for employees. That should result in better service.

But while airlines have started to improve, they’ve also introduced product changes people instantly dislike, including Basic Economy and the decision to add more seats to airplanes. There may be rational justification for these moves, but they don’t play well publicly. Two steps forward, one step back. Or maybe it’s one step forward and two steps back. Either way, any improvement is met by the public with skepticism as people wait for the next axe to fall.

I wonder if people faced similar problems booking passage on sailing ships 200 years ago?