Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 8 February 2012

Maldives, an archipelago of 400,000 people with less than twice the area of Washington, D.C., has overthrown its government:

The ex-president of the Maldives said on Wednesday that he was forced to resign at gunpoint, despite earlier claims by the Indian Ocean resort islands' new leader that there had been no coup.

"Yes, I was forced to resign at gunpoint," Mohamed Nasheed told reporters after his party meeting a day after his resignation. "There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn't hesitate to use them if I didn't resign.

The Maldives, one of the world's most high-profile luxury tourist destinations, installed Mohamed Waheed Hassan as president on Tuesday after the man credited with bringing democracy to the islands resigned, apparently under military pressure following a police mutiny. It was not immediately clear who was holding the guns.

The U.S. State Department, usually right on top of these things, has not yet issued a travel warning; however, the British Foreign Office has advised against travel to the capital, Male.

Wednesday 8 February 2012 14:31:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | World#

None of the lower 48 had their warmest January ever (Illinois had its 6th warmest), but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January averaged out to be the 4th-warmest ever:

The average contiguous U.S. temperature in January was 2.4°C, 3.0°C above the 1901-2000 long-term average -- the fourth warmest January on record, and the warmest since 2006. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 46.9 mm. This was 9.4 mm below the long-term average, with variability between regions.

In contrast to the contiguous United States being much warmer than average, several towns across Alaska had their coldest average January temperatures on record -- Nome (-27.0°C), Bethel (-27.4°C) McGrath (-33.6°C), and Bettles (-37.6°C).

And none of the four Republican front-runners acknowledges anthropomorphic climate change theory...

Wednesday 8 February 2012 07:38:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Tuesday 7 February 2012

Earlier today, Komen's head of public policy, Karen Handel, resigned from the organization, mischaracterizing her opponents as having mischaracterized her:

Karen Handel, the charity's vice president for public policy, told Komen officials that she supported the move to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. She said the discussion started before she arrived at the organization and was approved at the highest levels of the charity.

"I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it," Handel said in her letter. "I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen's future and the women we serve."

A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen's headquarters in Dallas said the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. The criteria's impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood.

Shorter version: Karen Handel is lying. But so are other people at Komen, who either can't see, don't understand, or don't care about the damage they've done to the organization by bringing naked politics into it. Then again, criticisms of Komen's politics and methods go back many, many years; their troubles this week may be less "implosion" and more "straw on the camel's back."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Writing for the court, Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt said,

Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.... The Constitution simply does not allow for "laws of this sort."

More analysis later. For now, lots of people are wondering whether the law remains in force pending appeal, whether the Supreme Court will hear the case, and whether the bigots in California will lose now or in five years.

Tuesday 7 February 2012 13:39:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

A man accused of rape in Alabama got into an online argument with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on the office's Facebook page:

U.S. Marshals took Dustin McCombs into custody today in Ohio, said Chief Deputy Randy Christian.

The U.S. Marshal's Gulf Coast Regional Task for in Birmingham shared information with their counterparts in Ohio who tracked down the fugitive.

McComb's was featured on the Jefferson County Sheriff Department's Facebook page as its "Creep of the Week" because of an outstanding forcible rape charge.

McCombs apparently decided that was a challenge, taking up a posting duel with the department on Facebook, according to the website Gizmodo.

Of course, McCombs has not been convicted of the crime that led to his arrest warrant, but wow is he stupid. The entire exchange is still available on Failbook, and worth a look. So is the sheriff's Facebook page, which seems like an effective use of social media by government.

Tuesday 7 February 2012 08:10:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Security#
Monday 6 February 2012

Writer Matt Glassman wrestles with why Bradshaw didn't take a knee on the 1 in yesterday's game:

League wide, 99.4% of extra points were made this year. The Giants were 45 for 45. You think Brady has less than a 0.6% chance of leading a TD drive with a minute and two timeouts? Not a chance. According to the NFL win probability stat, the Pats had a 4% chance to win when they got the ball back. And they only had 1 timeout as it turned out. And win probability doesn’t take into account the individual team, or whether or not you have Tom Brady. Here’s the thing: football is a zero-sum game. If Belichek was correct to let the Giants score, then by definition the Giants were wrong to get into the end zone there. By the above math, the Giants gave the Pats a 24-1 chance to win, when they could have made it roughly a 199-1 chance. That’s right: by getting in the end zone, the Giants increased their chance of losing eightfold.

He goes on to outline how it was the wrong choice by the numbers, but probably the better choice for the individuals involved. Good stuff.

Monday 6 February 2012 13:02:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 5 February 2012

The Superbowl starts in a little over an hour, with weather in Indianapolis no one expected: clear skies and 9°C. In Chicago it's just a smidge cooler, but still a beautiful afternoon for February. Or for March, for that matter.

Parker gets one more walk before the game. Go Giants! (For why, see Robert Wright's decision tree on the subject.)

Sunday 5 February 2012 16:21:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#

Erin Ryan at Jezebel put together a brief outline of the Susan Komen Race for the Cure public relations disaster over the past week:

We reported that the timing of Planned Parenthood's defunding seemed oddly coincidental, seeing as less than a year ago, Komen appointed a woman named Karen Handel to serve as the charity's Senior Vice President of Public Policy. Handel had run unsuccessful for governor of Georgia in 2010 on an anti-choice platform that cited as one of its central tenets the necessity of defunding Planned Parenthood. Could the defunding of Planned Parenthood have been a political move forced by external anti-choice voices as well as Komen's own personnel?

On Thursday, Joseph Goldberg at The Atlantic reported that according to sources inside Komen, Karen Handel was indeed behind the curiously recent "rule change" that led to Planned Parenthood's defunding, and that when the rule was put on the books in December, it upset one high-level Komen employee so much that she resigned in protest.

People's initial reaction—Komen bowed to pro-life pressure—has given way to the uncomfortable realization that Komen was the pro-life pressure. It's sad, really. But Komen isn't the only organization fighting breast cancer. New Jersey reporter Kathleen O'Brien came up with three local alternatives (who don't have prominent Republicans as CEOs) in just a few minutes: The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, Friend 2 Friend/Sussex County (N.J.) Women's Forum, and Operation Bling.

As one commenter at Jezebel wrote, "In all honesty, I'm sort of weirdly glad that all this happened, because finally I won't have people being all "WHY DO YOU HATE THIS CHARITY OBVIOUSLY YOU LOVE BREAST CANCER YOU HEARTLESS WITCH" whenever I state that I think Susan G. Komen is a bloated money-making machine that's focused more on selling pink crap and creating this simultaneously sanitized and sexualized image of breast cancer than actually helping women."

Harsh, perhaps, but Komen's complete mishandling of this event, orchestrated in part by former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, of all people, may have politicized the organization into irrelevance. Let's see what happens to pink ribbons over the next few months.

Sunday 5 February 2012 09:29:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Saturday 4 February 2012

The international airline consortium oneworld, which includes American Airlines and British Airways, this week lost one member and had an applicant postpone membership. On Thursday, Hungarian flag carrier Malév suspended operations:

Malev, the state-owned Hungarian airline, ceased flying with debts of €205 million after the government withdrew financing. The airline, which was placed under bankruptcy protection earlier this week, stopped operating all fights at 06.00 this morning.

Ryanair today announced that it will base four new Boeing 737-800 series aircraft at Budapest Airport commencing on Friday 17th February and open 31 new routes, “subject to reaching final agreement with Budapest Airport today on costs, facilities and handling”.

Then, Kingfisher Airlines said it needs more time to get its financial house in order before joining the alliance:

oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby said: "These are turbulent times for the airline industry in India and many other parts of the world. We have been working closely with Kingfisher Airlines over the past months and it has become increasingly clear recently that the airline needs more time to resolve the financial issues it is confronting before it can be welcomed into oneworld.

"We wish it well during this process and will work with Kingfisher Airlines with the aim of setting a new joining date once it is through this current period of turbulence."

In good news, however, Air Berlin will join the alliance on March 20th, and has jumped in to help mitigate the Malév collapse.

Saturday 4 February 2012 12:19:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Thursday 2 February 2012

Sure, I've posted photos of the moon before, but it never gets old to me:

Well, all right, at 4½ billion years it is old to me, but you know what I meant.

On a side note, I just Googled "age of the moon" and discovered that many of the top results are from outside the reality-based community. For example, the second item on my results came from the Institute for Creation Research ("Biblical. Accurate. Certain."), in which one Thomas G. Barnes, D.Sc., begins with the assertion: "It takes but one proof of a young age for the moon or the earth to completely refute the doctrine of evolution." If you're a science teacher, you might want to have a look at this article, because it could be a great way to introduce kids to the meanings of theory, hypothesis, and fallacy.

And could someone please tell me what the credential "D.Sc." purports to be?

Thursday 2 February 2012 08:59:22 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Religion | Astronomy#
Wednesday 1 February 2012

The thing I like most about February: at the end of it, Chicago has an hour and a quarter more daylight than at the beginning of it. Today we have 10 hours of daylight, the most since November 10th, and on the 29th we have 11 hours and 14 minutes.

I notice this every year around now, just as I forget every year how grim December can be.

Wednesday 1 February 2012 16:50:22 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#

With yesterday's temperatures more like April than January, Chicago magazine's explanation of it is timely:

So what is going on? It's the warmest La Niña on record. That brings the global temperature down, but causes different effects in different places. Chicago is going through a near-record warm spell—strong La Niñas correlate with above average temperatures, like the 18°C we hit in 1989 when the mean January max was 11°C, 2°C higher than this month's mean. Meanwhile, Alaska and northern Europe are suffering through deadly cold snaps.

This came to me through the WGN weather blog, which in the same story points out that groundhogs are less accurate than random chance at predicting the weather. Just a heads-up for tomorrow.

Wednesday 1 February 2012 13:09:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 31 January 2012

The normal temperatures in Chicago for January 31st are a low of -8.3°C and a high of 0°C.

Right now, the temperature is 13°C; the low last night was 7°C

The normal temperatures in Chicago for April 9th are a low of 2°C and a high of 13°C.

That is all.

Tuesday 31 January 2012 14:48:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Who was Saul Alinsky? Bill Maher explains, sort of:

Tuesday 31 January 2012 09:38:39 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

I can scarcely believe I've had this guy for 10 years:

The car is named João, because he's from Brazil, and he seemed kind of like a Joe: He's a little rough around the edges, he's fun to hang out with, and he's super-reliable—except for the occasional hangover.

The photo is from the day after I got him. He's scarcely aged. (See, for example, this shot from last February. You can kind of see the dings, but he's still got a good profile.)

Tuesday 31 January 2012 07:30:42 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
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On this page....
Coup d'État in Maldives
Near-record January temperatures in 14 states
Developments in Prop. 8 and Komen
You have the right to remain silent
Good analysis of New York's 4th-quarter touchdown
Still not February
Timeline of a non-profit implosion
One-two hit for Oneworld
Shooting the moon...again...
Shine a little light on me
Good explanation of this winter's wacky weather
I am *still* loving this winter
Bill Maher on the latest GOP fantasy
Happy birthday, car
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David Braverman and Parker
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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