Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Thursday 17 April 2014

As of today, 8 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Krugman puts it in perspective:

[T]he benefits of Obamacare, for all its imperfections, are immense. Millions of people who lived extremely anxious lives now have far more security than before. Compared with those benefits, the complaints of some already insured people that they have less choice of doctors than before, or that they’re no longer allowed to retain minimalist plans, look like whining. (And of course not one of the more serious-sounding stories about soaring premiums and all that has held up under scrutiny.)

And speaking of whining, the GOP response seems to be to make every possible insinuation to the effect that the numbers are somehow fraudulent. I actually don’t think there’s a game plan here; their whole position was premised on the inevitable collapse of health reform, and they have no plan B.

Winning.

Thursday 17 April 2014 17:15:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics | US#
Wednesday 5 March 2014

First-term Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza introduced an ordinance last month that would require pet stores to get dogs and cats from city pounds and shelters. The council will vote on it today:

“This ordinance cuts off the pipeline of animals coming into our city from the horrendous puppy mill industry and opens up a new opportunity for animals already in shelters who need a loving home to be adopted into,” Mendoza said.

It would, however, affect 16 businesses across the city, including Pocket Puppies in Lincoln Park, which sells small dogs at $850 to $4,000 a pup. Store owner Lane Boron said the ordinance would put him out of business or force him into the suburbs, but not curtail the operation of inhumane puppy mills.

“I opened my business, because I knew there were abuses in my business, eight years ago,” said Boron, who said he has sold puppies to celebrities and aldermen. “I wanted to make sure that my dogs were humanely sourced.”

In one of life's coincidences, I went to high school and college with Lane, and we served on the Student Judiciary Board together. I don't wish him ill, and I sympathize that the ordinance would affect his business negatively, to say the least.

That said, I fully support the ordinance. I generally oppose dog breeding, especially for designer dogs like Lane sells, when so many mutts need homes. The ordinance may not be the way to fix the problem of unwanted dogs and cats, either. But it might help.

Update: The ordinance passed 49-1.

Wednesday 5 March 2014 11:26:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Politics#
Saturday 1 March 2014

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Saturday 1 March 2014 14:27:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Cubs | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Religion | Software | Blogs | Business | Cloud | Travel | Weather | Windows Azure | Work | Writing#
Thursday 5 September 2013

I'm a big fan of the Ed and Dave show, also known as Prime Minister's Questions, which C-SPAN airs live when the House of Commons is in session. Today's game included a series of set pieces in which Conservative MPs had batting practice with the PM who hit a bunch of pop-ups that any competent infielder should have caught.*

Unfortunately, Ed Milliband leads the Labour Party right now, and—continuing the metaphor into extra innings—his side of the house play like Cubs.

Here's a typical exchange:

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con):
Since we last met there has been a spate of good economic news, both in Tamworth and around the country. Unemployment is down and the economy is growing. Manufacturing is up, exports are up and construction is up. Is it not time for those who still propose it to stop messing around, give it up and abandon plan B?

The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have had welcome news over the summer: exports are up 5.8% on a year ago, business confidence is at its highest level since January 2008, consumer confidence is up and all the figures on construction, manufacturing and services are going in the right direction. We must not be complacent—these are early days—but it is because of the tough decisions that this Government took that we can now see progress.

We ought to remember that Labour Members told us that unemployment would go up, but it has come down, and that the economy would go backwards, but it has gone forwards. It is time for them to explain that they were wrong and we were right.

OK, since the Labour Party couldn't explain why the Conservatives were wrong, let me try. It's great that the UK's economy has improved in the last six years, but it could have grown faster without the Tory Party's emphasis on cutting the deficit. A lot faster. In fact, Tory policies probably delayed the recovery by 18 months to two years.

My larger point is this: neither side got it right. But to quite literally sit there and take it seems like bad politics. Especially since we got this exchange right at the end of Questions:

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab):
Is it not the case that real wages have fallen by nearly £1,500 a year since the right hon. Gentleman became Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister:
Of course we live in tough times because of the incredible mess we have had to clear up from the Opposition. I have to say that the Opposition complaining about the economy and living standards is like the arsonist complaining to the fire brigade. It is this Government who are turning the economy around, and that is the way we will get living standards up.

Shit and fried eggs, you've got half a million more people in work since 2010, but they're all earning less money? And the Labour MPs have no response? (At least two other Labour back-benchers got in some facts about the profiteering of free—i.e., charter—schools and the £3.3 bn in energy company profits coinciding with an average £300 per-household increase in energy costs. I've indirectly experienced those high energy costs, too.)

Also towards the end, an old reactionary Tory hawk, Dr. Julian Lewis, trashed the Tories' coalition partners, causing nearly all of them to walk out of the House during the session. Oh, not by himself; I think most of them left when Cameron suggested that the Conservatives would rule alone after the next election that the Lib-Dems had had enough.

Oy. At least we've got nearly two years before the next election, giving the Tories a lot more time to screw people. I hope the Labour Party figures out how to win some matches before May 2015.

* Can I use a baseball metaphor when discussing the UK? Of course I can.

Wednesday 4 September 2013 20:33:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | Politics#
Friday 19 July 2013

Anyone who's paid attention to this blog knows I've gone to most of the ballparks in the country, Wrigley Field most often. As much as I love the place, Wrigley's age shows. I mean, poles, for crying out loud.

So, OK, the park needs some freshening, but on the inside. It does not need all this crap.

Yesterday, I and all the other fans of the park lost that fight: the pliant Chicago Plan Commission approved Tom Ricketts' renovation plan after a late-hour capitulation from 44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney:

With a unanimous vote at a hearing this afternoon, the Plan Commission moved the Cubs past one of the final hurdles before the entire project heads to the City Council for a vote, which could be on July 24.

The commission gave the Cubs the green light on construction of a plaza in its adjacent triangle property, a six-story office building and a boutique hotel across the street. The plan includes a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street and a main hotel lobby entrance facing Patterson Street as the team had planned, but the Cubs have "deferred" a planned patio deck over Patterson and hope to revisit the idea at a later date.

We don't need a frickin' Jumbotron. Really. Nor do we need a hotel at Clark and Addison. (And who's going to stay there on the 270 days when the Cubs aren't playing at home?) Oh, and the rooftop owners aren't exactly going to save the day, but their narrow self-interest will at least slow down the destruction:

With the Alderman on their side, the last remaining roadblock to the Cubs' plan could be the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association, which continues to threaten a lawsuit if their views are blocked by outfield signage that was approved last week.

The park has nothing to do with the team sucking like a Dyson; the bad playing does. I have no idea why Tunney is letting this go through or why Ricketts thinks he needs to build this.

Wrigley's biggest draw is its history. Ricketts and Tunney, who have attention spans only slightly longer than Parker's, can't understand this.

Friday 19 July 2013 08:04:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs | Politics#
Thursday 11 July 2013

Because the world will end if 99-year-old Wrigley Field retains any of its historic character, at least according to its current owner, the Ricketts family have pushed the Landmarks Commission to approve an ugly Jumbotron in left field. It may get approved today:

At the strong urging of Mayor Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Commission on Landmarks is expected to approve the team's plans for a 6,000-square-foot electronic sign in left field and a smaller non-electronic sign in right.

[M]ultiple sources say that despite [the local Alderman's] opposition, and barring a last-minute surprise, the commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, will give its assent. That will leave only approval by the Chicago Plan Commission, another body appointed by the mayor, and the City Council, which already has approved the Cubs' request for more night and late-start games.

Wonderful. I can't wait for a huge electronic monstrosity to erupt from the left-field bleachers next year.

Thursday 11 July 2013 11:42:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Politics#
Friday 7 June 2013

Last Sunday's Game of Thrones episode portrayed one of the most gut-wrenching scenes from the books. People who hadn't read the books had understandably strong reactions:

More (with spoilers) in the full post.

Friday 7 June 2013 09:18:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Politics | Religion#
Saturday 1 June 2013

Sometimes, the Illinois General Assembly reminds us that Molly Ivins had it right: the only state legislature worse at their jobs than Illinois' is Texas'.

Yesterday, the only legislature we have adjourned for the summer, after passing the least popular bill on its agenda this year and failing to pass one of the most popular:

Illinois had appeared poised to become the 13th state to approve same-sex marriage. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn promised to sign the bill. Democrats held veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. President Barack Obama called for its passage during a Thursday night fundraiser in his home city, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was a major backer as well.

Under the bill, the definition of marriage in Illinois would have changed from an act between a man and a woman to one between two people. Civil unions could have been converted to marriages within a year of the law going on the books. The legislation would not have required religious organizations to perform a marriage of gay couples, and church officials would not have been forced to allow their facilities to be used by gay couples seeking to marry.

But as the hours wore on, the optimism and energy dissolved in the face of strong opposition from Catholic and conservative African-American church groups, leading [Rep. Greg] Harris [D-Chicago] to rise on the floor and tearfully announce that he would not call the bill — there wasn't enough support after all.

Thank you, churches, for confusing conservatism and Christianism once again. And thank you, Illinois House, for cowering behind procedure in the face of criticism from a small minority of constituents. Failing to take a vote means we actually don't know which of our representatives would have chosen to side with history and which ones with the past. Well-played, troglodytes, well-played.

Oh, and the legislature also failed to pass pension reform, about which the bond markets will probably have something to say on Monday.

Good thing it's now legal to carry concealed guns in Illinois. Because nothing keeps your kids safe (from gay germs, one must assume) like a .380 in your purse.

Saturday 1 June 2013 11:13:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics | US | Religion#
Thursday 14 March 2013

The Atlantic Cities blog has two nicely-juxtaposed stories today: "A brief history of Suburbia" and "If Your City Were Wrecked by Totalitarian Urban Planners."

The first:

[C]ity historian Graeme Davison of Monash University, in Australia...begins with the birth of modern suburb in the early-to-mid 19th century. By the 1830s, he writes, cities like London and new industrial towns like Manchester were beginning to expand outward, stretching the boundaries of the original cores. One observer in 1843 noted that unlike Paris (which was wilderness outside the city center) and Rome (which was desert), London was made of concentric sub-communities "like onions fifty on a rope."

Davison argues that it wasn't just "sheer pressure of population" that encouraged this early form of sprawl. Many factors played a role in the change, including improved rail transit that facilitated movement inside and outside town centers. Davison also points to four major ideologies—one each in the realms of religion, science, the arts, and social life—as critical sources of the shift....

The second:

Romanian authoritarian ruler Nicolae Ceauşescu infamously left a heavy mark on the capital city of Bucharest with a massive urban planning scheme known as the Centrul Civic. In the 1980s, the project displaced 40,000 people, demolished churches and monasteries in the way, and replaced it all with 8 square kilometers of communist-era concrete buildings and government complexes in the heart of what had been a historic city.

One of the new monuments, the 3.7 million square-foot Palace of the Parliament, is thought to be the largest administrative building in the world, and it anchors the Centrul Civic along a dramatic axis in much the same way that the U.S. Capitol does in Washington, D.C. To this day, the palace and the brutally rebuilt urban fabric around it remain “perhaps the most violent scar left by a totalitarian regime,” in the words of Bogdan Ilie and Dan Achim.

I will finish reading them...someday...

Thursday 14 March 2013 12:47:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Politics#
Thursday 27 December 2012

In a completely shocking, unforeseeable move, the people who stole leased Chicago's parking meters will raise rates next week:

In an annual ritual that has become as predictable if not as joyous as a New Year’s Eve countdown to midnight, Chicago drivers again will have to dig a little deeper to pay to park at meters in 2013.

Loop rates will go up 75 cents to $6.50 an hour as part of scheduled fee increases included in Mayor Richard Daley’s much-criticized 2008 lease of the city’s meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC.

Paid street parking in neighborhoods near the Loop will rise 25 cents and reach $4 an hour. Metered spaces in the rest of Chicago also will increase by a quarter per hour, to $2, according to the company.

So, CPM's costs won't change, because they have a fixed 75-year lease. In fact, since interest rates are the lowest they've ever been in the U.S., and since the Fed has made it clear rates won't rise until the economy gets better, CPM's costs are actually significantly lower than they were in 2008. On what basis, then, are they raising interest rates?

I believe my economics professor Leslie Marx might have some insight. I'll ask her next chance I get.

Thursday 27 December 2012 08:17:13 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Tuesday 24 July 2012

Krugman yesterday reminded us that people are so desperate for the security that investing in the U.S. brings them, they're paying us to take their money, at alarming rates of negative interest:

That’s right: for every maturity of bonds under 20 years, investors are paying the feds to take their money — and in the case of maturities of 10 years and under, paying a lot.

What’s going on? Investor pessimism about prospects for the real economy, which makes the perceived safe haven of US debt attractive even at very low yields. And pretty obviously investors do consider US debt safe — there is no hint here of worries about the level of debt and deficits.

Now, you might think that there would be a consensus that, even leaving Keynesian things aside, this is a really good time for the government to invest in infrastructure and stuff: money is free, the workers would otherwise be unemployed.

But no: the Very Serious People have decided that the big problem is that Washington is borrowing too much, and that addressing this problem is the key to … something.

Conservatives here and in the UK (another country with unprecedented low government interest rates) have either a delusion or a willfully dishonest belief in the dangers of deficits. Yes, both countries have long-term deficit problems that need resolution, and both countries will need lower defense and entitlement spending to close their gaps. But that's in 20 years.

Right now, we need to take this free money (five-year Treasuries are at -1.18%; ten year notes are at -0.68%) and abundant labor (nationally still around 9% unemployment) and rebuild. We need to repair our roads, upgrade our trains, fix our sewers and electric grids, and restore our countries to the economic strengths they have had in decades past.

Those on the right, however, want to continue bloodletting, draining us of our strength when we're weakest. Or, put another way, if someone is starving, withholding food won't help him. Lending him some food might just get him feeling better again.

Ten years from now we're going to look back on this period of Republican and Tory intransigence, laugh nervously, and change the subject. If we're supremely lucky, we'll be out of the economic traps that their misguided policies have created for us.

Tuesday 24 July 2012 10:21:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics | US | World#
Thursday 16 February 2012

If you're driving in San Francisco, don't block the MUNI:

By early next year the city's entire fleet of 819 buses will be equipped with forward-facing cameras that take pictures of cars traveling or parked in the bus and transit-only lanes. A city employee then reviews the video to determine whether or not a violation has occurred — there are, of course, legitimate reasons a car might have to occupy a bus lane for a moment — and if so the fines range from $60 for moving vehicles to more than $100 for parked cars.

City officials consider the pilot program a success. "Schedule adherence" has improved, according to that update, as has general safety, since access to proper bus-stop curbs is impeded less often. In addition, the number of citations issued has risen over the past three years — from 1,311 in 2009 to 2,102 in 2010 and 3,052 last year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

At the root of the problem is a disconnect between the automobile and transit worldviews, transit planner Jarrett Walker explains in his excellent new book, Human Transit. (More on this in the coming days.) While an empty bus lane is actually a functional bus lane, an empty car lane is a wasted car lane, so drivers are quick to capitalize on what they view as a transportation inefficiency.

That's pretty cool. In principle, I approve of automated parking enforcement, such as Chicago's street sweeper cameras, even though I've had to pay fines as a result. Fair enforcement is all right with me. (But don't get me started on how Chicago puts up street-sweeping signs the day before...)

Thursday 16 February 2012 15:06:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics | San Francisco | Cool links#
Wednesday 21 December 2011

Remember the three-year-old parking meter privatization that will be former mayor Richard Daley's best-remembered legacy? In another example of how not to negotiate a deal, it turns out the city agreed to pay the parking meter company for lost revenues under what should have been eminently predictable circumstances:

Financial statements for the company show that CPM has billed the city an additional $2,191,326 in “True-up Revenue” through the end of 2010.

Under the contract, the city is given an 8% annual allowance for required meter closures in the Central Business District, and a 4% allowance everywhere else. After the annual allowance is exceeded, any metered space(s) closed for more than six hours in a day or for six total hours over three consecutive days, the city must pay the meter company for the lost revenue from that metered space(s) for that entire day.

In other words, if the metered space is closed for six hours, the city is on the hook for the estimated revenue for the total number of hours the meter is in operation. Most meters are in operation no less than 13 hours a day.

Remember that the city council voted on the 500-page contract only a few hours after receiving a copy. The city leased the meters for $1.16 bn, almost $3 bn less than a conservative cash-flow analysis suggested at the time and $7-8 bn less than high-end estimates.

In Chicago, we joke about how much we tolerate small-scale local corruption. The parking meter lease violated even that standard; the council should abrogate the deal, and investigate why it happened in the first place. Of course, I think we already know the answer to that: some people got really rich off it. And taxpayers in Chicago got screwed.

Wednesday 21 December 2011 11:58:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Tuesday 20 December 2011

I'm still banging away at software today—why is this damn socket exception thrown under small loads?—so I only have a minute to post some stuff I found interesting:

  • Chicago and the State of Illinois are planning the largest urban park in the world in the mostly-abandoned Lake Calumet and South Works areas of the south side.
  • It looks like the far-right has hijacked Hungary's government, in the way that right-wing governments do, which should remind everyone who lives in a democracy how fragile the form of government can be.
  • The Atlantic's Ta-Nahesi Coates has one of the best definitions of bigotry I've encountered: "The bigot is never to blame. Always is he besieged--by gays and their radical agenda, by women and their miniskirts, by fleet-footed blacks. It is an ideology of 'not my fault.' "
  • I have tentatively decided that Facebook's Timeline feature is cool, while at the same time recognizing how it once again makes it harder for average users to control the privacy of their data on the site.

More updates as events warrant.

Tuesday 20 December 2011 12:46:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Politics#
Thursday 15 December 2011

Former Chicago mayor Rich Daley got named to Coke's board of directors today. Coca-Cola said:

"Mr. Daley brings significant public policy expertise and experience in creating sustainable growth opportunities for businesses and communities to our Company," said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company. "His experience and insights will be invaluable as we continue to work to grow our business and invest in the fabric of the communities we serve."

Daley is also a senior advisor to JPMorgan Chase, where he will chair the new "Global Cities Initiative," a joint project of JPMorgan Chase and the Brookings Institution to help cities identify and leverage their greatest economic development resources. He also serves as a senior fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

I wonder how long this was in the works? And how long has he advised JPMC, the bank that negotiated our catastrophic parking-meter deal?

Thursday 15 December 2011 13:27:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Sunday 16 October 2011

New York Times op-ed columnist Tom Friedman interviewed Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel recently:

I find “Rahmbo’s” Chicago agenda intriguing because it’s a microcosm of what the whole country will have to do for the next decade: find smart ways to invest in education and infrastructure to generate growth while cutting overall spending to balance the budget — all at the same time and with limited new taxes. It’s a progressive agenda on a Tea Party allowance.

“I want to be honest about this budget,” the mayor declared. “Almost every one of these ideas has been discussed and debated before. But politics has stood in the way of their adoption. Maybe in the past, we could afford the political path. But we have come to the point where we can’t afford it any longer. The cost of putting political choices ahead of practical solutions has become too expensive. It is destroying Chicago’s finances and threatening the city’s future. In all of these reforms, we will be guided by principle, pragmatism and progress — not politics. What we simply cannot do is to temporize any longer. We can’t kick the can down the road because we’ve run out of road.”

I like our mayor. He's more policy-motivated than his predecessor. I hope he's at least as effective at getting his policies through.

Sunday 16 October 2011 12:43:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Saturday 15 October 2011

In a long-overdue move I completely support, Chicago will raise the annual vehicle tax on SUVs and minivans:

[Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel] is pushing in how ... large passenger vehicles are defined. Instead of setting the bar at 4,500 pounds, as it is now, Emanuel wants it set at 4,000 pounds.

Such a change means 184,000 more Chicago vehicles would fall under a pricier sticker class. And their owners would pay $60 more for a sticker.

Minivans like the Dodge Grand Caravan and Honda Odyssey and midsize SUVs like the Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento will join outsize gas guzzlers already subject to the higher sticker fee such as Hummer H1s, the GMC Suburban and Land Rover Discovery. Vehicle weights depend on the year and model.

The mayor explicitly linked the tax increase to the well-known relationship between vehicle weight and road repairs. As a driver of a VW hatchback, and as a responsible city dweller who understands that roads are the modern commons, it has always irked me that people who own SUVs are allowed to drive don't pay their share for parking or road maintenance. I look forward to this tax increase, which I hope will encourage people, however slightly, to buy smaller cars.

Saturday 15 October 2011 11:01:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Friday 16 September 2011

ParkerI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 5-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in February, but some things have changed. In the interest of enlightened laziness I'm starting with the most powerful keystroke combination in the universe: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.

Twice. Thus, the "point one" in the title.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until a few months ago when I got the first digital camera I've ever had that rivals a film camera. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than ten years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago, the greatest city in North America, and the other ones I visit whenever I can.

I've deprecated the Software category, but only because I don't post much about it here. That said, I write a lot of software. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got about 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Another, non-trivial point. Facebook reads the blog's RSS feed, so many people reading this may think I'm just posting notes on Facebook. Facebook's lawyers would like you to believe this, too. Now, I've reconnected with tons of old friends and classmates through Facebook, I play Scrabble on Facebook, and I eagerly read every advertisement that appears next to its relevant content. But Facebook's terms of use assert ownership of everything that appears on their site, regardless of prior claims, which contravenes four centuries of law.

Everything that shows up on my Facebook profile gets published on The Daily Paker first, and I own the copyrights to all of it (unless otherwise disclosed). I publish the blog's text under a Creative Commons attribution-nonderivative-noncommercial license; republication is usually OK for non-commercial purposes, as long as you don't change what I write and you attribute it to me. My photos, however, are published under strict copyright, with no republication license, even if I upload them to other public websites. If you want to republish one of my photos, just let me know and we'll work something out.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Friday 16 September 2011 18:36:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Chicago | Cubs | Duke | Geography | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Raleigh | Religion | San Francisco | Software | Blogs | Business | Cool links | Security | Weather | Astronomy | Work#
Wednesday 6 April 2011

Chicago Public Radio is calling Chicago's 43rd Ward for Michele Smith. I don't have the final figures, but so far it looks like she spent over $1.4m—or around $150 per vote.

I hope it's worth it.

Wednesday 6 April 2011 10:55:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Tuesday 5 April 2011

Voters in Chicago's 43rd Ward, including I, will choose a new alderman in today's general election. The two candidates, Tim Egan and Michele Smith, have spent $387k and $1.1m respectively.

Is it really worth $1.4m to become an alderman? The ward has a population somewhere around 50,000, or about 1/12th of a U.S. Congressional district, and aldermen have almost no power in city government. Of course, they do have power over things like snow removal contracts and liquor licenses. So possibly both Smith and Egan have deep and abiding senses of civic duty, willing to sacrifice so much for the good of the city.

Not to be cynical, but perhaps it's more than that:

Aside from $3,000 in "in-kind" contributions—apparently in the form of food for fundraisers, provided by O’Brien’s Restaurant—another $22,500 was donated to the Egan campaign by four other companies that share the same Wells Street address (found here and here), and that city records show are affiliated with the O’Brien family.

... But Smith has a major contributor of her own. That would be the retired Helen Meier, of Wilmette. This election cycle, Meier has given Smith’s campaign $95,000. Going back to Smith’s previous run for alderman in 2007 and her 2008 win for Democratic ward committeeman, Meier has donated roughly $360,000 to Smith.

And this is only one race out of 14. (There are 50 wards in Chicago.) Welcome to the political earthquake caused by Mayor Daley retiring at the end of this month. Pass the popcorn.

Tuesday 5 April 2011 08:58:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Sunday 3 April 2011

More Hofstra photos are coming soon. Before I get to those, here's an image from my drive home from O'Hare this afternoon. It's the last Cabrini Green high-rise in its death throes:

The site, on Division between Halsted and Larrabee, contained the last two high-rises of a blighted urban complex that covered over 2.5 sq km and had some of the worst crime in the city. The Encyclopedia of Chicago describes the history:

The large new apartments and large swaths of recreation space failed to mend the area's poverty. The difficulty blacks had finding better, affordable housing gave Cabrini-Green a permanent population. CHA failed to budget money to repair buildings and maintain landscaping as they deteriorated. Cabrini-Green's reputation for crime and gangs rivaled Little Hell's. The murders of two white police officers in 1970 and of seven-year-old resident Dantrell Davis in 1992 drew national attention.

Increasing real-estate values in the late twentieth century led housing officials to propose replacement of the complex with mixed-income housing. Residents argued however that such a move would displace them permanently, completing the slum removal effort begun with the building of Cabrini Homes half a century earlier.

Those "increasing real-estate values" mean that you can now spend $500k on a townhouse in the former no-go zone around Wells and North, and the Cabrini-Green site could wind up selling for many tens of millions. And if you're wondering what happened to all the project's residents, you're not alone.

Sunday 3 April 2011 18:02:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Thursday 3 March 2011

The Economist ran a good story last week analyzing the pros and cons of federalism:

Why is the tie between federalism and democracy so awkward? In most federations the units have formally equal status, regardless of population, so voters in small units fare better. Thus the 544,270 residents of Wyoming have two senators—the same as the 37m people of California. In Australia the 507,600 people of Tasmania have the same weight in the upper house as the 7m who live in New South Wales. In rich, consensus-based democracies, such anomalies are often accepted. They may be seen as an inevitable legacy of the past; when political units have freely come together, as the 13 original American colonies did, they keep their status as building blocks of the union. But the perverse electoral system of the European Parliament (to which the 1.2m voters of Northern Ireland elect three members, whereas 500,000 Greek-Cypriot voters send six) cannot claim the veneer of age. After a scolding over its democratic deficiencies from Germany’s constitutional court, the Euro-legislature has commissioned a study of federal systems, and the associated electoral quirks, all over the world.

They also ran a bit on IKEA's inconsistencies worth reading:

Critics grumble that its set-up minimises tax and disclosure, handsomely rewards the Kamprad family and makes IKEA immune to a takeover. The parent for IKEA Group, which controls 284 stores in 26 countries, is Ingka Holding, a private Dutch-registered company. Ingka Holding, in turn, belongs entirely to Stichting Ingka Foundation, a Dutch-registered, tax-exempt, non-profit-making entity, which was given Mr Kamprad’s IKEA shares in 1982. A five-person executive committee, chaired by Mr Kamprad, runs the foundation.

The IKEA trademark and concept is owned by Inter IKEA Systems, another private Dutch company. Its parent company is Inter IKEA Holding, registered in Luxembourg. For years the owners of Inter IKEA Holding remained hidden from view and IKEA refused to identify them.

In January a Swedish documentary revealed that Interogo, a Liechtenstein foundation controlled by the Kamprad family, owns Inter IKEA Holding, which earns its money from the franchise agreements Inter IKEA Systems has with each IKEA store. These are lucrative: IKEA says that all franchisees pay 3% of sales as a royalty. The IKEA Group is the biggest franchisee; other franchisees run the remaining 35 stores, mainly in the Middle East and Asia. One store in the Netherlands is run directly by Inter IKEA Systems.

These kinds of stories make me happy to spend $3 a week on the newspaper. I just wish it would arrive Fridays or Saturdays, so I can read them on time. It's no fun to get home from a business trip on Thursday to find last week's Economist in the mailbox.

Thursday 3 March 2011 16:41:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Politics#
Wednesday 23 February 2011

The AP and Mayor Daley are calling it; the Chicago Tribune isn't ready to commit yet. But with 55% of the vote, it looks like Rahm Emanuel has avoided a runoff and so will be the next mayor of Chicago:

City Clerk Miguel del Valle had 9.4 percent and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was at 8.7 percent.

Despite a tremendous amount of attention on the mayor's race and a slew of hotly-contested aldermanic races, election officials say turnout could be as low as 40 percent. That's far less than the 50 percent turnout officials were hoping for on Monday.

If no candidate scores a majority tonight, the top two finishers will square off for six more weeks of campaigning. A runoff election will be held to determine Chicago's next mayor.

Mayor Richard Daley, who is out of town today, isn't on the ballot for the first time since 1989. He'll leave office on May 16 when his successor is sworn in.

No word yet who'll be my next alderman. I assume it will be the one who outspent her opponents by an obscene margin. More later.

Update, 20:35 CT: Gery Chico has conceded; Emanuel has won.

Tuesday 22 February 2011 21:26:11 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Sunday 20 February 2011

ParkerI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 4½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page almost two years ago, so it's time for a quick update. In the interest of enlightened laziness I'm starting with the most powerful keystroke combination in the universe: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-leftie by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • Software. I work for Avanade (a company that has no editorial control over this blog and which wants me to make it clear I'm not speaking for them), and I continue to own a micro-sized software company in Chicago. I have some experience writing software, which explains why Avanade continue to tolerate me. I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than ten years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago, the greatest city in North America, and the other ones I visit whenever I can.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma (de rigeur in my opinion).

Another, non-trivial point. Facebook reads the blog's RSS feed, so many people reading this may think I'm just posting notes on Facebook. They would like you to believe this, too. Now, I've reconnected with tons of old friends and classmates through Facebook, I play Scrabble on Facebook, and I eagerly read every advertisement that appears next to its relevant content. But Facebook's terms of use assert ownership of everything that appears on their site, regardless of prior assertions, and despite nearly three centuries of legal precedents. They want you to believe that, too.

Everything that shows up on my Facebook profile gets published on The Daily Paker first, and I own the copyrights to all of it. All the photos I post are completely protected: send me an email if you want to republish one. I publish the blog's text under a Creative Commons attribution-nonderivative-noncommercial license; republication is usually OK for non-commercial purposes, as long as you don't change what I write and you attribute it to me. With apologies to King James and Yaishua ben Miriam, render to Facebook the things that are Facebook's; and to the original authors what is not.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Sunday 20 February 2011 17:49:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Politics | Weather#
Friday 21 January 2011

Via Sullivan, what happens in the House of Commons when a MP's tie starts to make unusual noises:

Friday 21 January 2011 10:17:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Politics#
Monday 3 January 2011

The fight continues today over whether Rahm Emanuel meets Chicago's residency requirements. Of course he does: he always intended to return to Chicago after finishing his service with the Federal Government, which makes him prima facie a Chicago resident. But don't take my word for it; let Cecil Adams explain it:

Let's review. There are two laws applying to Rahm's situation. My friend Greg Hinz says one is a city law and one is a state law. Not so — they're both state laws. If you read only the first one, things look bad for Rahm. Here's what Section 3.1-10-5 of the Illinois Municipal Code says:

A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment.

Rahm did not, of course, live in Chicago for at least one year prior to the election. As one of the petitions objecting to his spot on the ballot states, he moved with his family to Washington, D.C., where he served as Obama's chief of staff from January 2009 till October 2010.

Let's turn to the second law. Chapter 36, Section 3.2(a) of the Illinois Compiled Statutes includes the following provision:

A permanent abode is necessary to constitute a residence within the meaning of Section 3-1 [which says who's allowed to vote in Illinois]. No elector or spouse shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence in any precinct or election district in this State by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States, or of this State.

Does this second law contradict the first law? Of course not; it merely provides an exception.

It's a distracting petition, and the petitioners know it. But every fool must have his day in court. (Cecil supplies a few other reasons why the petitioners might be even more foolish.)

Monday 3 January 2011 09:11:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Friday 15 October 2010

Sometimes you can't make these things up:

Chicago election officials say crews will work overtime to reprogram thousands of electronic voting machines that mistakenly list a gubernatorial candidate's name as "Rich Whitey" instead of Rich Whitney.

Chicago elections board chairman Langdon Neal said 530 machines being used for early voting and an additional 4,200 destined for the Nov. 2 election will be reprogrammed and retested.

The mistake in the Green Party candidate's name appears on a review screen that allows voters to double-check their selections and not on the screen where the vote is registered. It also is not on paper ballots, Neal said.

Heavens, where does one go with this...

Friday 15 October 2010 12:19:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Wednesday 1 September 2010

Dilbert creator Scott Adams raises an interesting point in his blog today:

I'm fascinated by the degree to which brains have evolved to become more powerful than guns. Society's founding geniuses engineered a social system that encourages the young people who have guns to shoot at each other instead of robbing old people. Forgive me for calling that awesome.

In other news, my total working hours for August was 275.5, so I'm actually looking forward to the Term 6 residency for a respite. We've only got four full classes this term, so, you know, it's easier.

Only 102 days left...

Wednesday 1 September 2010 12:29:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Politics#
Friday 4 December 2009

Coincidentally with the Illinois Dept. of Resources' desperate (and probably too-late) effort to stop Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes comes another tragically predictable outcome of local politics. The Mayor of Chicago this week forced a budget through the City Council over an unusually-high 12 dissenting votes that raids the paltry parking meter trust fund only a year after the (allegedly) corrupt and (actually) stupid decision exactly a year ago to sell the streets of Chicago:

As has become customary, aldermen bitched and moaned about Mayor Daley’s $6.1 billion budget before they passed it today. Nobody claimed to like it, though 38 aldermen voted in favor of it. But that number is smaller than it has been for most of Daley's reign. In years past the mayor viewed a single nay vote as an intolerable act of defiance; these days he’s lucky no one else has the clout to wield or goodies to hand out that he does, because his governing style is wearing thinner among an ever larger group of aldermen. As in a dozen.

Still, their arguments are getting more pointed. For evidence, consider the diatribe that 38th Ward alderman Tom Allen delivered to explain why he was casting his first vote against a Daley budget since the mayor appointed him to the City Council in 1993. “I have come to the conclusion that this 2010 budget is one that I have no confidence in,” Allen said.

He offered three reasons. “First and foremost,” he said, “the parking meter spending plan here I consider to be a breach of our fiduciary duties to the taxpayers that we represent.” Allen produced materials that Daley budget aides had distributed to aldermen a year ago when they rammed the 75-year parking meter privatization deal through the council in four days. He said aldermen were promised that the administration would save enough of the proceeds that the interest on them would equal or exceed the $20 million the city was accustomed to collecting from the meters. Instead, Daley’s budget will burn through two-thirds of the replacement fund in a single year.

The pattern should be familiar to students of 20th-century history. As they grow older, leaders become more concerned with their legacies than their constituents. The trend accelerates, until, near the end of their political careers, they almost inevitably experience epic failure. In the case of fairly-elected leaders in functioning democracies, the results are merely disappointing: Clinton, Nixon, and Gray Davis come to mind. But in the case of one-party states, where the leaders have no functioning or effective opposition, the outcome often destroys the polis as it destroys the leader: Mugabe, Cheney, and recently the mayors of Baltimore and Detroit.

I don't know which hypothesis I prefer: that Daley doesn't actually believe his actions will prove beneficial to the city in the long run, so he's feathering his nest before retiring; or that Daley, after 17 years without tolerating any criticism or dissent, has gotten so deluded he really thinks these decisions are good. Of course, without an effective challenger—where's Harold Washington when we need him most?—we're stuck with Daley Sese Seku until he chooses to leave office.

Friday 4 December 2009 10:36:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Friday 25 September 2009

People who live outside Chicago might find it shocking and dismaying to read a newspaper report that their city's Olympics bid will, if successful, make the mayor's friends rich. For us, it's actually comforting. I mean, we all knew someone would get rich; now we have a better idea who:

Chicago 2016 committee member Michael Scott also served as a consultant to the developer on a condominium project near the proposed athletes village, a development that would increase in value if the city wins the Olympics.

Scott, who negotiated key components of the $1.2 billion Olympic Village plan, said his business relationship with the developer, Gerald Fogelson, does not interfere with his role with the bid team. Chicago 2016 officials declined to say whether Scott's relationship with Fogelson was a problem, with Daley's Olympic team poised to spend billions of dollars in coming years.

What? You think civic pride alone would motivate the mayor to put us on the hook for $4 bn to get a sporting event?

In other news, the White Sox are officially out of the post-season, but the Cubs are still hanging on.

Friday 25 September 2009 07:11:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Politics#
Tuesday 25 August 2009

The U.S. Postal Service finally plans to sell the Old Post Office building in Chicago, which they abandoned more than 10 years ago:

One of the biggest real estate auctions in the city’s history is slated for Thursday, when the U.S. Postal Service is to sell the Old Main Post Office.

And even though the postal service is planning an "absolute auction" — meaning the building is to be sold regardless of price, with a suggested opening bid of just $300,000 — the question remains who will step up for the roughly 279,000 m² building at 433 W. Van Buren St., which straddles the Congress Parkway and has been vacant for more than a decade.

This is the same building into which the Postmaster for Chicago ploughed $1 million to renovate his own office—about 6 months before the USPS moved out.

Tuesday 25 August 2009 09:42:31 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Friday 19 June 2009

The Chicago Reader has another article on the Chicago Parking Meter Debacle, this time examining who got rich off it:

Not only did William Blair advise the city on the deal—it came up with the idea in the first place. Then it provided the city with the only estimate it ever received of what the system was worth and coordinated the bidding process.

Two other financial services firms and three law firms were brought in to assist. All were given no-bid contracts for the work, and all appear to have political or personal ties to the Daley administration (which is not unusual for the way the city of Chicago does business).

The financial advisers were each paid a share of what the city made in cash on the lease deal. William Blair received 0.375 percent of the payout, or about $4.3 million, according to records obtained from the city through a FOIA request. The others, Gardner Rich and Ramirez & Company, each received 0.0625 percent, or $722,813. The attorneys’ fees added up to another $1.3 million. All told, the city paid its legal and financial advisers more than $7 million for their work on the deal.

Yeah? So where's mine?

Friday 19 June 2009 09:21:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Thursday 18 June 2009

Chicago mayor Richard Daley has possibly committed the city to an enormous public expense for the 2016 Olympic Games:

Faced with losing the 2016 Summer Games to competing cities offering full government guarantees, Mayor Richard Daley made an about-face Wednesday and said the City of Chicago would sign a contract agreeing to take full financial responsibility for the Games.

In a worst-case situation, such as severe cost-overruns or a catastrophic event, the agreement could leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars or even more, a scenario Chicago's bid team acknowledges but insists is far-fetched.

Um...in what universe are cost overruns on a Chicago public works project "far-fetched?" The Tribune's editorial board wonders who's really on the hook:

The mayor's spokeswoman, Jacquelyn Heard, says...[t]he financial commitment...will fall on the Chicago 2016 committee, the group that's organizing the city's bid.

Well, hold on a minute. If the Olympics lose money, the IOC wants somebody to pick up the cost. So if the Games are a bust and the losses blow through the public and private guarantees, the Chicago 2016 committee will pay the rest of the tab?

How? By taking up a collection among its members?

I'm beginning to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis...

Thursday 18 June 2009 10:40:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Friday 5 June 2009

The Conservative Party have apparently obliterated Labour in yesterday's local U.K. elections:

Although most of the county councils have yet to declare, early results show the Conservatives taking dozens of seats from Labour and seizing control of two county councils in the Liberal Democrats’ stronghold in the South West.

In Staffordshire, Labour, which has controlled the county for over 20 years, has already lost half its seats and the Tories are on course for an easy victory.

The Conservatives also took control of Devon and Somerset from the Liberal Democrats. The Tories have not been in power in Somerset for 16 years.

... Party officials hinted yesterday that Labour was likely to lose more than half its county council seats and all the four county councils that it still held. Results so far will have done nothing to lift their spirits. Pundits suggested the Tories will gain at least 200 seats although it is questionable whether they will get the 43 per cent share of the vote they gained in local elections last year.

It's sad, really. Gordon Brown actually has done well on paper, keeping the UK from suffering as much as other countries in the current recession, and generally doing the right things economically. But the man just can't manage the politics. Neither can David Cameron or Nick Clegg, by the way, which makes the situation even worse.

Any bets on when Brown will resign? It could happen this month.

Friday 5 June 2009 10:35:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics | World#

The City is seeing more incidents of systematic violence against meters—this time in Andersonville.

I have a hypothesis, with some of the evidence to support it coming from my own head. Before the parking meter lease, people mostly accepted that feeding parking meters was part of our civic responsibility. We drive on the streets, which are a public good, so we should do our part and pay the $1 per hour or so for the privilege of parking on them. Now, however, a private company gets the money from the meters, which adds a profit motive (and, incidentally, up to $3 per hour) to parking meter collections. In other words, the mood has shifted from cooperative (it's our city, after all) to adversarial (who's getting the money?).

I should make it clear, I don't condone vandalism of any kind. But I understand, and even share to some extent, the feelings that cause it in this case. The proper thing to do, I think, is simply to boycott the parking meters. Starve them; don't beat them to death. But continue to let aldermen and the Mayor know why.

Friday 5 June 2009 10:21:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Wednesday 3 June 2009

This morining Chicago's Inspector General released his official report confirming what everyone already knew: Chicago's parking-meter lease deal was, not to put too fine a point on it, galactically stupid. Apparently, though, Mayor Daley can't fathom why this scandal hasn't quietly disappeared like all the others.

Here's the Trib:

While Inspector General David Hoffman put an official seal on what critics have been saying for months, the scathing report comes amid public outrage. Anger over the parking meter meltdown has yet to subside in a rare case where a blunder is sticking to a mayor who has outrun many controversies during his two decades in office.

Though Hoffman declined to single out Daley for criticism, the report will resonate at City Hall, where the mayor's tight rein is legendary and aldermen almost always are expected to back his agenda with little scrutiny. The report takes the City Council to task for ratifying the deal by a 40-5 vote in December, just a day after Daley aides briefed aldermen on it.

... Hoffman's report calls the lease a "dubious financial deal," arguing the city could have raked in at least $2.13 billion if only it had kept the meters after raising rates -- minus the cost of collecting the money and maintaining the meters.

Top Daley aide Paul Volpe immediately fired back at what he called a "misguided and inaccurate" report.

"Misguided and inaccurate?" Dude, you guys messed with our cars. This is America. If you'd sold the CTA for 25 cents[1] the outrage would have ended in a few hours, but this—this is parking, fer crissakes.

[1] It's hyperbole, Richie. Please, for the love of all that's holy, do not sell the CTA.

Wednesday 3 June 2009 11:22:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Saturday 30 May 2009

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced an investigation of the parking-meter lease:

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the "transaction and implementation" of Chicago's parking meter privatization deal, according to a Madigan spokesperson. On May 19 the attorney general's office sent subpoenas to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, LAZ Parking, and Chicago Parking Meters LLC--the three entities that now control the meters--said Robyn Ziegler, who represents Madigan. She wouldn't say what specific information was requested.

Also, the New York Times has picked up the story of our awful parking-meter disaster.

Saturday 30 May 2009 10:54:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Wednesday 27 May 2009

Odd as it seems[1], the parking meter fiasco may turn out to be the turning point of the Daley administration. The city of Chicago today had to declare a moratorium on parking tickets because too many meters and kiosks are broken:

The private company that earlier this year assumed operations of the city's 36,000 paid street parking spots recently promised to speed up installation of pay-and-display boxes after suffering widespread problems with coin parking meters. The new boxes, roughly one per block, take credit cards in addition to cash, eliminating the need to lug around a bagful of quarters.

But many of the new pay boxes---including those near City Hall---were not working today.

... Police officers told drivers they had received orders not to issue any parking tickets today due to "issues" with the parking meters.

[1] I say "odd" because Daley has been accused of far worse things than this over the years. But this one affects people's cars, so it got everyone's attention.

Wednesday 27 May 2009 15:30:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Thursday 23 April 2009

The Chicago Tribune reports today that the City Council now, five months later, wants to have hearings about the late-night, rush-rush, badly-managed parking meter privitization they pushed through in December:

Less than five months after the Chicago City Council quickly and overwhelmingly approved the deal, aldermen buffeted by public complaints pushed a slew of ordinances Wednesday targeting the $1.2 billion lease of Chicago's parking meters to a private company.

One measure calls for hearings to examine the deal, which ushered in dramatic rate hikes at 36,000 meters across the city. Another would halt rate increases until all meters are uprooted and replaced with "pay and display" equipment allowing motorists to pay with credit cards and place tickets on their dashboards. Yet a third would require a 30-day waiting period before aldermen could approve any plan to privatize city assets.

The proposals appear aimed at giving aldermen political cover amid widespread discontent and technical problems as the parking meter system transitions to private control.

Not that people don't carry around buckets-full of quarters wherever they go. Not that charging the same price for parking all the time and throughout the city fails to take account of the fundamental principles of demand economics. No, now let's have hearings.

I can't tell whether they were stupid or if they all got paid off. That's how badly they handled this. (Usually in Chicago the politicians aren't actually stupid, they just lose IQ points when confronted with fat envelopes.)

Thursday 23 April 2009 10:47:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Thursday 26 March 2009

The city of Chicago, apparently responding to citizen complaints, has started fixing broken parking meters on its own and billing the company:

Indications of a more urgent approach to fixing the problems became apparent Monday morning when the Tribune observed meter inspectors and repair personnel working downtown.

It followed a Tribune story on Friday that exposed the broad scope of the problems and how drivers and business owners are angry at the city, which watched rates quadruple this year as part of a 75-year deal to lease 36,000 meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC for almost $1.2 billion.

There's not much more in the article. But I have to wonder, will the city actually collect the money it bills? And if not, will the city boot the company's office building?

Thursday 26 March 2009 10:34:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Friday 20 March 2009

It turns out, the privatization of Chicago's parking meters is becoming a total cluster:

During spot checks around the city, the Tribune found:

  • Outdated fee and violation-enforcement information still posted on many meters since the city switched from six parking zones to three.
  • Meters that, regardless of what the stickers indicate, charge the wrong hourly rates for the zone in which they are located, increasing the chance of vehicles being ticketed. For example, in the 1800 block of North Clybourn Avenue, an area where 25 cents is supposed to buy 15 minutes of parking time, meter No. 279089 provides only seven minutes for a quarter. A black marker was used to cover up the "15" on the meter's rate sticker with "7."
  • A surge in broken meters, many overstuffed with coins.
  • Stepped-up writing of tickets for parking-meter violations.

The parking-meter companies last weekend exercised an option in the contract that allows them to ticket vehicles parked at expired meters, Walsh said. Chicago police officers and parking enforcement aides also continue to write tickets, and the city will keep all fines collected.

Asked why the concessionaire would spend resources on ticketing even though it cannot keep any fines, Pete Scales of the Chicago Department of Budget and Management said, "That extra enforcement is an added incentive to fill the meters."

So, pop quiz for anyone who's taken Intro to Microeconomics: what are the incentives for either the parking meter company or the city to provide fair and accurate parking meters, or to keep them in good repair?

Pop quiz for second-year law students: Is a class action suit warranted, and if so, for what relief, and in which court?

Friday 20 March 2009 09:06:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Wednesday 18 March 2009

ParkerI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 3-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page two years ago, so I thought it's time for a quick review.

Wednesday 18 March 2009 10:41:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Politics | Software#
Tuesday 3 March 2009

Crain's Chicago Business reports today that the pension liabilities of several prominent employers have exploded just as their assets have imploded:

Boeing Co.'s shareholder equity is now $1.2 billion in the hole thanks to an $8.4-billion gap between its pension assets and the projected cost of its obligations for 2008. At the end of 2007, Boeing had a $4.7-billion pension surplus. If its investments don't turn around, the Chicago-based aerospace giant will have to quadruple annual contributions to its plan to about $2 billion by 2011.

... At Peoria-based Caterpillar, shareholder equity dropped more than 25% from the previous year after the company booked a $5.8-billion pension shortfall and its plan went from 93% funded to 61% funded.

That means Cat has to pay an additional 1.5 percentage points of interest to keep its untapped credit lines intact, according to SEC filings. Its pension assets sank 30% last year, and this year's contribution will more than double to about $1 billion. A Cat spokesman declines to comment.

In many cases these pension deficits will hurt exactly the people who need them most.

Tuesday 3 March 2009 07:11:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics | US#
Wednesday 27 February 2008

The UK humor site Daily Mash has a different take than, say, the Chicago Tribune:

THE price of a bushel of wheat rose yet again in the markets of Flanders yesterday presaging a monstrous tribulation and a grave rise in the price of mead, the Lord High Guardian of the King's Purse has warned.

...

The noble lord forewarned that a time of privation would surely be visited on the kingdom, when the peasant would find himself cast from his wretched midden and the knight dispossessed of his estates by the grubby moneychangers of old Lombard Street.

Wednesday 27 February 2008 07:12:26 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Politics | World#
Wednesday 30 January 2008

Yes, this is my 1,000th post since this blog started in November 2005.

I had hoped to write a long, introspective essay on blogging in general and this blog in specific over the years, but it turns out I have work to do today, so that will have to wait until the 2,000th post or so. (Many of you are fighting back tears, I know; though I suspect they're tears of joy.)

No, today I'm just going to mention the two most immediately relevant things that confronted me on my way to work today.

Wednesday 30 January 2008 09:02:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics | Blogs | Weather#
Wednesday 23 January 2008

From the Onion, via Marc Andreesen:

CHARLESTON, SC—After spending two months accompanying his wife, Hillary, on the campaign trail, former president Bill Clinton announced Monday that he is joining the 2008 presidential race, saying he "could no longer resist the urge."

...

Clinton also noted that, if elected, the timing would be perfect for his family, as his wife has recently expressed a desire to move back to the D.C. area.

Wednesday 23 January 2008 13:51:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Politics#
Tuesday 25 December 2007

...a new president.

Tuesday 25 December 2007 10:39:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Politics#
Friday 7 September 2007

A larger-than-usual bunch of news stories piqued my interest this morning:

Friday 7 September 2007 09:40:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Politics | Security#
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David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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