The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy day

If you're Christian, merry Christmas!

If you're Jewish, happy Chanukkah!

If you just want to be with your family and share the joys of the holiday season, happy holidays!

Finally, if you believe we athiests have declared war on Christmas, read Michelle Goldberg's column in Salon, then Frank Rich (reg.req.) in the New York Times, then reflect on why any majority group in a democracy, who control the government and the press, would persist in believing that the minority were oppressing it.

Chicago Olympic bid gets Tribune help

Yesterday I posted about news articles I found funny, that included a Chicago Tribune report that Mayor Daley was musing about hosting the 2016 Olympics.

Today the Tribune's architecture critic wrote a surprisingly detailed column about it, offering a list of pros and cons.

Now, forgetting for a second that just a moment ago I posted about the U.S. paying Iraqi media paid to run news stories, what do people think? Should we try to host the 2016 Olympics in Chicago?

Suggested headlines for Iraqi news media

Molly Ivins suggests in her latest column (URL to follow) that we can dtect American military interference in Iraqi news by headlines such as:

  • "26 million Iraqis Unhurt in Latest Terror Blast."
  • "Few Changes Needed to Turn Abu Ghraib Into an Applebee's."
  • "Voting Machines in Upcoming Elections Donated by Florida."
  • "New Automatic Citizenship Law Turns U.S. forces Into Crack Iraqi Army Overnight."

And now for something completely different: Did you know pet pigeons are banned in Chicago? I didn't either.

Local man amused by morning newspaper

For no reason that I can determine, an unusual number of today's Chicago Tribune headlines tickled my funnybone. (Registration may be required for some of the stories.)

First, the editorial Religion, Science and Civility, which tells us:

...[S]cience and religion—evolution and intelligent design—can exist together; they are not mutually exclusive.

This we call "equivocating." Science and religion can co-exist the same way Capulets and Montagues can co-exist, and when they try to get together in any meaningful way, similar damage results. So I guess you can read anything you want in the editorial, depending on what you think "exist together" means. I, for one, will stick with science to explain the universe, and religion to provide comfort to those who need it. Neither is good at the other's role.

The editorial concludes:

There will always be room for different explanations and beliefs on the origins of life—and important constitutional limits on what can be said in the classroom.

They're right about the last bit. About the first bit, though, I think they've missed the boat. Only one explanation for the origin of life has any possibility of being true and correct: natural selection. Scientists (and many non-scientists) have tested the theory for about 150 years now, without finding any contradictory evidence. Let me repeat that: all of the evidence yet found supports the theory. That's why it's a theory, and not a hypothesis. People who say that some evidence is missing are themselves missing the point. There may be, somewhere, a life form designed by a supernatural being, just as there may be, somewhere, a building you could jump off without falling (as the theory of gravitation predicts), but the likelihood of either is too low to be calculated.

So, if you must say that "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth," you have to put "beginning" about 12 and 4 billion years back, for "heaven" and "earth" respectively, for creation and science to "exist together" in any meaningful way.

That was the first article.

Next we come to a succession of pieces that, for one reason or another, I found amusing:

Group Seeks to Warm Up Milwaukee's Image. This is about faith-based weather reporting: "So the private, nonprofit Spirit of Milwaukee wonders if moving the [official Milwaukee] thermometer further inland—where temperatures at times can be 6°C (10°F) warmer—would give Milwaukee a warmer image."

First, let me just suggest that the lack of visitors to Milwaukee has less to do with its proximity to Lake Michigan, and more to do with its proximity to Milwaukee. Second, wouldn't inflating the temperature make you feel warmer the same way that currency devaluation makes you feel richer? ("Honey! We made 2 million rupees this year! We're rich!")

But OK, I'll bite, and discuss the plan on its merits. It's true, temperatures are often warmer further inland—in the summer. In the winter, though, the Lake keeps downtown warmer. It's a giant heat-sink that keeps things more moderate nearby. Often in Chicago, the "official" temperature at O'Hare reaches up to 30°C (86°F), while downtown it's a pleasant 25°C (77°F).

That aside, it's important to realize the "official" thermometer is a the airport because weather is of vital importance to aviation and of lesser importance to tourists. And finally, there is an official thermometer farther inland: on Timmerman Field, 21 km (14 mi) North-West of downtown.

On to: Judge rules caged kids were abused by parents. No, really? What was his first clue?

Next: Tracks give archeologists foot in door to 18,000 B.C.. What tickled me was the subhead:

Discovery of aboriginal runner's dash and children's wanderings, pressed in ancient Australian mud, are called "the nearest we've got to prehistoric film"

I got hung up on the image of prehistoric parents yelling at their kids to stop tracking mud through the archaeological dig. Poor joke, I know, but when I first read it I laughed.

Right. On with it.

The Tribune has an exclusive today about a new welfare plan for Chicago construction companies: Daley floats stadium plan; Mayor hopes to lure 2nd football team, Olympics to Chicago. Now, for those of you keeping score at home, remember that we just dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the Soldier Field renovation. Result: happy construction firms, sad architectural critics, indifferent fans.

Finally, this item: Madigan to gas stations: Donate to Red Cross or risk suit:

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says 18 gas stations across the state either can donate $1,000 to the American Red Cross or risk being sued for price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Two things to note. First, this decision actually came from Deborah Hagan, chief of the attorney general's consumer protection division, not from Madigan. Second, a lovely quote from a gas-station owner makes the article worth reading.

So, all right, maybe not as funny a roundup as the Onion, but certainly more unintentionally amusing items than the Tribune usually publishes.

Now I must get back to my vacation.

Tabloid's tabloid going away

WLS-TV is reporting that the Chicago Sun-Times' Red Streak tabloid will end after the Thursday issue.

According to WLS, the Sun-Times launched the infra-tabloid because the Chicago Tribune started publishing its own tabloid, RedEye. Now that Tribune has given up trying to charge money for RedEye, which probably didn't affect the its revenue at all since no one in Chicago ever paid for it in the first place, the Sun-Times is declaring victory.

If anyone out there believes that either Red Streak or RedEye ever deserved to see the inside of a newspaper stand, I'd love to hear from you. Mostly I've thought of both papers as something to read on the El when I've forgotten my Economist and finished with the ads for divorce lawyers. But I understand many birds will allow them to be used as cage liners.

Unintelligent designs

Praise be!

MSNBC is reporting this hour that the judge hearing the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board case has ruled that Intelligent Design is not science.

I think Doonesbury's strip last Sunday put the case into perspective quite nicely.

Tell me: would it be an appropriate response to the neo-Creationists to demand that we preach evolution in their pulpits? Just wondering.

Update: Full story from the New York Times (reg.req.)

Picket line at Congress Hotel, Chicago

Teran Loeppke, Boycott Organizer at UNITE HERE Local 1 in Chicago, sent us this information about the picket line at the Congress Hotel on South Michigan Avenue. As UNITE HERE says,

Workers at the Congress Plaza Hotel have been on strike since June 2003, after hotel owners cut wages and benefits. Hundreds of customers complained of poor service and hazardous and unsanitary conditions. Dozens of groups and conferences have moved or canceled their events after learning of the strike. Yet, the Congress still refuses to inform individual customers of the strike. Chicago visitors are not allowed to make an informed decision about having to cross the picket line or risk compromised service.

Here's Teran's comment and photo:

I just wanted you to see this wonderful moment we had in Chicago last Thursday at the Congress Hotel—our boycott rally and picket led by the strikers and the Alliance for Justice at the Congress Hotel.

For more information about the strike, or to find out how you can support hotel workers in Chicago, contact Clare Fauke at +1 (312) 663-4373 ext. 247 or read about it on the Web.

Sad week in politics

Four stories from past week (two of them today) sadden all of us who love American democracy.

First, and most importantly, the President revealed today that he authorized secret surveillance of Americans because of—wait for it—9/11:

"This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States," Bush said.

So, he authorized violating our laws and Constitution, compromising our civil liberties, "under our laws and Constitution, to protect [our] civil liberties" then? Is he channeling Nixon? If so, maybe he'll end his presidency the same way. One can hope, anyway.John Spencer, 1946-2005

Notice, by the way, that he dropped this bombshell on Saturday morning, when people are listening to Wait Wait! Don't tell me instead of reading actual newspapers. This tactic is described in The West Wing episode "Take Out the Trash Day," which has special poingiancy this morning.

Second and third, former Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire died Thursday at the age of 90, and former Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy died last Saturday at age 89.

And finally, Emmy-winning West Wing star John Spencer also died, at 58. (Photo: NBC)