The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Angels and ministers of grace defend us

A North Carolina congressman wants to put Reagan on the fifty:

It's a Republican -- Rep. Patrick McHenry -- who has introduced the bill to replace the general who led the Union to victory in the (War Between the States) and led the nation as well with another more modern president, the late Californian and great communicator, Reagan.

Reagan transformed the nation's political and economic thinking, the way McHenry sees it. He maintains that "every generation needs its own heroes."

Grant may have had his problems, and he was, after all, a Republican. But let's wait a little bit before replacing him. Maybe we can put Reagan on a new 99c coin (which would be at least somewhat useful).

March of Civil Rights

Citizens of the District of Columbia are now free to marry:

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to stop same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia, clearing the way for couples to register to wed beginning Wednesday. Equal-rights opponents in the capital had asked Chief Justice John Roberts to prevent the issuing of licenses until residents had voted on the issue. Lower courts had denied requests to place a moratorium on issuing of licenses.

"It has been the practice of the court to defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern," wrote Roberts, who made the decision without bringing in the full court.

Roberts also cited the fact that although D.C. is autonomous, Congress could have passed a bill to disallow the city government from enacting the law, and it did not do so.

Marriages may be performed beginning March 9, as there is a waiting period of three business days after the issuance of licenses.

In response to the D.C. marriage equality law, Catholic Charities will no longer offer spousal benefits to any new or newly-married employees:

[On March 1st], Catholic Charities President and CEO Edward Orzechowski sent out a memo to staffers informing them of the change to the health care coverage, which will go into effect [March 2nd].

In short: If you and your spouse are already enrolled in Catholic Charities health coverage, your spouse will be grandfathered in. Starting tomorrow, however, new employees (or newly married employees, hint hint) will not be allowed to add spouses to the plan. So: Longtime employees will receive the spousal benefits they’ve always had; Catholic Charities will get to keep its pool of covered spouses gay-free; only fresh employees and gays will feel the sting on this one.

Orzechowski's memo to employees closes with, "Thank you for your understanding in this matter, and let me again express my appreciation for your support and patience over these past months as we have worked hard to arrive at a decision that allows us to continue to serve others in a manner that is consistent with our religious beliefs." Now, I'm not Christian, but I've read the instruction manual, and I'm not sure how exactly bigotry is consistent with it. But, you know, Orzechowski's a grown-up, he can make his own choices. Still, I'd pay real money to watch their financials over the next 24 months...

Why historical context matters

"[I]f James Carville and Jim DeMint are correct to argue that failing to pass HCR will be 'Obama's Waterloo' then the converse must also be true and, therefore, passing the bill could also be 'Obama's Waterloo' because, you know, Waterloo was a significant victory for some of us." —British journalist Alex Massie.

She goes on to say: "And even if it's not a final, crushing victory on the scale of Waterloo, it might be considered 'Obama's Peninsular War.' That's not nothing, either. Right?"

Core inflation defined

Paul Krugman has a review posting explaining the concept:

Core inflation isn’t supposed to measure the cost of living, it’s supposed to measure something else: inflation inertia.

Think about it this way. Some prices in the economy fluctuate all the time in the face of supply and demand; food and fuel are the obvious examples. Many prices, however, don’t fluctuate this way — they’re set by oligopolistic firms, or negotiated in long-term contracts, so they’re only revised at intervals ranging from months to years. Many wages are set the same way.

Why the review? Because we're becoming like more Japan in the 1990s:

[I]nflation tends to be self-perpetuating, unless there’s a big excess of either supply or demand. In particular, once expectations of, say, persistent 10 percent inflation have become “embedded” in the economy, it will take a major period of slack — years of high unemployment — to get that rate down. Case in point: the extremely expensive disinflation of the early 1980s.

...And what these measures show is an ongoing process of disinflation that could, in not too long, turn into outright deflation.

It's not quite end-of-the-world stuff, but it does make one nervous.

Where can I get some?

Chicago Public Radio's David Hammond investigated raw-milk cheese, which is illegal to sell in Illinois:

HAMMOND: ...[W]e got together with a group of chefs and other food enthusiasts in Itasca at a wine bar called Wine with Me to sample both raw and pasteurized milk versions of camembert. No money changes hands, and we’re all consenting adults, so technically there’s no illegal activity taking place. Sitting around a big wooden table, we’re confronted by two very different looking cheeses. As part of this taste test, neither cheese was labeled, but the differences were very apparent. One cheese was rigid and uniform; the other was collapsing in on itself. We started by putting our noses into the stuff. Gary Wiviott is a Chicago food writer and author.

WIVIOTT: Of the two cheeses, one has a distinct ammonia smell and the other smells funky, earthy, almost a little mushroom-y, like a damp forest on a fall day, when the leaves are just starting to break down, very appealing, a very appealing aroma. And the other has a less appealing aroma…I just want to dive into the softer, slightly gooey looking one. I just want to take a big bite out of the darn thing.

Is there a black market for raw-milk cheese in Illinois? Or do I have to go to France to get some?

Sad to see it go

The epitome of overcompensating excess and planetary rape will soon fade away into memory:

The sale of the [Hummer] SUV brand with military roots to a Chinese heavy equipment maker has collapsed. GM said it would still hear offers for the company, but potential investors would have to move fast.

GM said Wednesday that its bid to sell Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co. fell through. The Chinese manufacturer said it failed to get clearance from regulators in Beijing within the proposed timeframe for the sale.

GM will continue to honor warranties for current Hummer owners.

One wonders what short, angry men will drive instead? I guess there's always the Escalade, or possibly the good ol' John Deere 9030.

There's one other consequence of this: once again, a hummer will be a good thing.

Stupefying

If this story is true, someone needs time in jail to think about civic responsibility:

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, [a Pennsylvania] family said the school's assistant principal had confronted their son, told him he had "engaged in improper behavior in [his] home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in [his] personal laptop issued by the school district."

The suit contends the Lower Merion School District, one of the most prosperous and highest-achieving in the state, had the ability to turn on students' webcams and illegally invade their privacy.

The suit says that in November, assistant principal Lynn Matsko called in sophomore Blake Robbins and told him that he had "engaged in improper behavior in his home," and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam in his school-issued laptop.

Matsko later told Robbins' father, Michael, that the district "could remotely activate the webcam contained in a student's personal laptop . . . at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam" without the knowledge or approval of the laptop's users, the suit says.

A security professional in New York has investigated the technical claims and found them convincing. He also expanded on the original news story with some circumstantial evidence:

The truly amazing part of this story is what's coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated
  • Disabling the camera was impossible
  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

When I spoke at MIT about the wealth of electronic evidence I came across regarding Chinese gymnasts, I used the phrase "compulsory transparency". I never thought I would be using the phrase to describe America, especially so soon, but that appears to be exactly the case.

I can't wait to see how this turns out.

Paper or plastic?

Via Going Green @ Your Library, an elucidation of everything you need to know about grocery bags. But:

Ultimately, neither paper nor plastic bags are the best choice; we think choosing reusable canvas bags instead is the way to go. From an energy standpoint, according to this Australian study, canvas bags are 14 times better than plastic bags and 39 times better than paper bags, assuming that canvas bags get a good workout and are used 500 times during their life cycle. Happy shopping!

Ouch

Top Palin aide Meghan Stapleton quit today, with this statement:

"While I had hoped to work together on so many more projects, time with my precious 2-year-old has been further minimized with the whirlwind commitments of all things Palin,” she told the SarahPAC staff. “I have done my best to scale back, but [my two-year-old daughter] Isabella is now resorting to hiding my BlackBerry, and she shouldn't grow up begging for a mother to start acting like a mother.”

With friends like these...who needs to carry her kid around like a prop?