Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 9 July 2009

The New York Times has a must-read article today about disproportionately small shares of transportation stimulus money going to places that produce disproportionately large shares of GDP. More simply: we in cities are subsidizing rural roads:

According to an analysis by The New York Times of 5,274 transportation projects approved so far — the most complete look yet at how states plan to spend their stimulus money — the 100 largest metropolitan areas are getting less than half the money from the biggest pot of transportation stimulus money. In many cases, they have lost a tug of war with state lawmakers that urban advocates say could hurt the nation’s economic engines.

...[T]he projects also offered vivid evidence that metropolitan areas are losing the struggle for stimulus money. Seattle found itself shut out when lawmakers in the State of Washington divided the first pot of stimulus money. Missouri has directed nearly half its money to 89 small counties which, together, make up only a quarter of the state’s population.

...Obama administration officials, who have called for ending sprawl and making sure that federal transportation spending is cost-effective, say they are looking at how states are spending the money from the stimulus law...

For example, New York, which produces almost 9% of U.S. GDP, is getting 2.9% of the money; Chicago, at 3.7% of GDP, gets 2.6% of the money. Contrast those figures with Kittitas County, Washington (population: 39,000), which is getting $836 per capita to resurface roads.

We don't need more roads. We need repaired bridges. We need trains and buses. Frankly, I also think we need $5 per gallon gas, which I think would lead directly to heavier investment in public transit, but that's a rant for another time.

Thursday 9 July 2009 12:03:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US#

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick hypothesizes why Sarah Palin really quit:

[W]hen the dust settles, the lesson may be that she was simply a woman who made no sense. Her meteoric rise and dubious fall will say less about America than you think, beyond the fact that America likes its politicians to communicate their ideas clearly. We will someday come to realize that while it's all well and good to be mavericky with one's policies, it's never smart to be mavericky with one's message.

...It's too easy to characterize Sarah Palin as an irrational bundle of bristling grievance. But I think it's more complicated than her simple love for playing the victim all the time. ... Think of an American visiting France who believes that if he just speaks louder, he will be speaking French. Palin has done everything in her power to explain herself to us, and still we fail to appreciate what she is all about. I'd be frustrated, too, if I thought I was offering up straight talk and nobody was getting the message. Especially if I held a degree in communications.

In any event, after this month, we won't have Dick Nixon Sarah Palin to kick around anymore.

Thursday 9 July 2009 10:42:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Chicago had its coolest July 8th in more than a century yesterday, capping the coolest summer (to date) in decades:

For the 12th time this meteorological summer (since June 1), daytime highs failed to reach 70°F Wednesday. Only one other year in the past half century has hosted so many sub-70-degree days up to this point in a summer season -- 1969, when 14 such days occurred.

Wednesday's paltry 65°F high at O'Hare International Airport (an early-May-level temperature and a reading 18°F degrees below normal) was also the city's coolest July 8 high in 118 years -- since a 61°F-degree high on the date in 1891.

The flipside, of course, is that the weather is delightful. Unfortunately the forecast for this week calls for much warmer (i.e., seasonal) temperatures. Pity.

Thursday 9 July 2009 08:47:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 8 July 2009

As someone who has contributed to Lisa Madigan's campaign fund, thinking it would help her become governor, I'm surprised about her pre-announcement this morning that she's not running for that office in 2010:

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is expected to announce today that she'll seek re-election to her current office and bypass bids for governor or U.S. Senate, a source told the Tribune.

Madigan has a 2 p.m. political news conference scheduled at a Chicago hotel.

The move comes as a surprise, as Madigan had been strongly mulling a run for governor and had been heavily courted by national Democrats to run for Senate. A Democratic source told the Tribune today that Madigan had ruled out a Senate run.

Dang. I wonder who's running for Senate then? (Presumably Pat Quinn will run for election to the office he inherited from impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich in January.)

Update: Madigan's press release.

Wednesday 8 July 2009 10:36:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

Oscar Mayer, perhaps not a celebrity but certainly a household name in the U.S., has left us:

Oscar G. Mayer, retired chairman of the Wisconsin-based meat processing company that bears his name, has died at the age of 95.

Mayer's wife, Geraldine, said he died of old age Monday age at Hospice Care in Fitchburg.

He was the third Oscar Mayer in the family that founded Oscar Mayer Foods, which was once the largest private employer in Madison. His grandfather, Oscar F. Mayer, died in 1955 and his father, Oscar G. Mayer Sr., died in 1965.

Photo: Kraft Foods, Inc.

Wednesday 8 July 2009 09:52:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 7 July 2009

Andrew Sullivan has taken a moment out of his day to compile a list of 32 of Sarah Palin's most egregious lies:

A couple of months ago, I asked an intern to re-fact-check all of them to make sure new details hadn't emerged that might debunk some. And I also asked to get any subsequent statements by Palin that acknowledged that she had erred in any of these statements that are easily rebuttable by facts in the public record and apologized and corrected. She has not. Since this was a vast project over the last ten months, it's possible there are some nuances or errors that need fixing....

After you have read these, ask yourself: what wouldn't Sarah Palin lie about if she felt she had to?

Palin lied when she said the dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, had nothing to do with his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten; in fact, the Branchflower Report concluded that she repeatedly abused her power when dealing with both men.

Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed to have said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere; in fact, she openly campaigned for the federal project when running for governor.

Et cetera ad ridiculam.

Seriously, though: it's quite an accomplishment for only 10 months of national exposure.

Tuesday 7 July 2009 13:52:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

ESPN moved the start of last night's Cubs game back to 6pm so they could sneak in a second game after it, which gave me the unusual twin opportunies to (a) see the Cubs beat Atlanta and (b) get home before 9:30.

Otherwise, not much to report about the team, except—oh, right, I almost forgot—the Tribune sold them yesterday:

Tribune Co. has finalized a deal to sell the Chicago Cubs to a bidding group led by bond salesman Thomas Ricketts.

Documents describing the fully financed deal were sent to Major League Baseball over the weekend, a source familiar with the negotiations said Monday. The value of the deal is between $850 million and $900 million, the source said.

The agreement reached over the weekend still needs approval from 75% of MLB team owners, as well as creditors and the Delaware judge overseeing Tribune’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

I hear Ricketts is a die-hard Cubs fan, who met his wife in the bleachers, according to NPR.

Tuesday 7 July 2009 10:58:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Monday 6 July 2009

It's time for the semi-annual update of the Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

(Chart after the jump.)

Monday 6 July 2009 11:19:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#

Ribfest Chicago, with its 10 (mostly-)local vendors, its dog-friendliness, and its proximity, is one of my favorite Chicago street festivals of the year.

Then there's Naperville's Ribfest, which, in the tradition of suburbs everywhere, dwarfs Chicago's festival in every way except accessibility. Chicago's takes over a city block; Naperville's, a huge park. Chicago has booths and people crammed in at maximum density; Naperville has a huge park. Chicago has 10 rib vendors, 8 of which are local restaurants; Naperville has 17, most of them just festival vendors (they travel the U.S. going to outdoor events everywhere).

(More after the jump.)

Monday 6 July 2009 10:49:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 4 July 2009

Happy 233rd birthday, country:

Saturday 4 July 2009 09:28:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Friday 3 July 2009

Sarah Palin announced on the second-biggest "take out the trash day" of the year that she's resigning her office on the 25th. No one seems to know why:

Palin announced that she will transfer power to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. Parnell will be sworn in during the upcoming governor's picnic in Fairbanks on July 25. An emotionally choked-up Parnell said he plans to keep all state commissioners and continue to pursue a natural gas pipeline.

Palin did not field questions and would not give any indications as to her future plans.

A burst of Patriotic Spirit on this holiday weekend? Or just another delusional escapade? Does she even know? Seriously—given her history of behavior lying somewhere between narcissistic personality disorder and worse, does anyone this side of the loony right fringe think she's not insane at this point?

Take a look:

Friday 3 July 2009 16:01:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

I sometimes shop at the Book Depository, a British online bookseller, because I'm a nerd. (Also because they have British editions and free shipping to the U.S.)

Today, I discovered their cool Google Maps mash-up, showing who is buying what on their site.

Did I mention I'm a nerd?

Friday 3 July 2009 10:27:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#

The FDIC closed seven banks yesterday, the highest number in one week since 1998. But back then, during the S&L crisis, things were much worse, believe it or not:

So far there have been 52 FDIC bank failures in 2009.

It appears the pace has picked up lately (12 bank closings over the last two weeks).

There were 28 weeks during the S&L crisis when regulators closed 10 or more banks, and the peak was April 20, 1998 with 60 bank closures (there were 7 separate weeks with more than 30 closures in the late '80s and early '90s).

(Emphasis in original.)

Still, if you have money on depsoit in the John Warner Bank, Clinton, Ill.; First State Bank of Winchester, Ill.; Rock River Bank, Oregon, Ill.; Millennium State Bank of Texas, Dallas; Elizabeth State Bank, Ill.; First National Bank of Danville, Ill.; or Founders Bank, Worth, Ill.; you may want to swing on by Monday and meet the new owners.

By the way, this doesn't mean that Illinois is a particularly bad place for banks. It's far more likely that the cluster of bank failures downstate has more to do with the logistics of getting FDIC personnel to so many at once. NPR has a good explanation of how it works.

And anyway, my deposits are at Citi, so I'm not at all worried about my bank's soundness.

Not one tiny bit.

Nope.

Perfectly safe bank, Citi.

Friday 3 July 2009 10:16:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 2 July 2009

you're resigning:

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

Thursday 2 July 2009 14:48:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes | US#
Wednesday 1 July 2009

Just kidding, though it seems like this could be from Stonewall. No, this is from last week—on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall raid, no less—and does not reflect favorably on the good people of Central Texas:

The short version is this: About 1 a.m. Sunday, two Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents and six [Fort Worth] cops showed up at the [Rainbow Lounge, a gay] club for an inspection.

More after the jump.

Wednesday 1 July 2009 15:25:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

I can't imagine United doing this:

Or this.

Air New Zealand.

Wednesday 1 July 2009 09:23:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Cool links#
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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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