The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The best map ever drawn?

Salon's Seth Stevenson highlights the Cartography and Geographic Information Society's "Best of Show" map from this year. It may not be the best map of the U.S. ever drawn, but wow, it's impressive:

David Imus worked alone on his map seven days a week for two full years. Nearly 6,000 hours in total. It would be prohibitively expensive just to outsource that much work. But Imus—a 35-year veteran of cartography who’s designed every kind of map for every kind of client—did it all by himself. He used a computer (not a pencil and paper), but absolutely nothing was left to computer-assisted happenstance. Imus spent eons tweaking label positions. Slaving over font types, kerning, letter thicknesses. Scrutinizing levels of blackness. It’s the kind of personal cartographic touch you might only find these days on the hand-illustrated ski-trail maps available at posh mountain resorts.

A few of his more significant design decisions: Your standard wall map will often paint the U.S. states different colors so their shapes are easily grasped. But Imus’ map uses thick lines to indicate state borders and reserves the color for more important purposes—green for denser forestation, yellow for population centers. Instead of hypsometric tinting (darker colors for lower elevations, lighter colors for higher altitudes), Imus uses relief shading for a more natural portrait of U.S. terrain.

This object—painstakingly sculpted by a lone, impractical fellow—is a triumph of indie over corporate. Of analog over digital. Of quirk and caprice over templates and algorithms. It is delightful to look at. Edifying to study. And it may be the last important paper map ever to depict our country.

I may have to buy one. The 1:4,000,000 version is only $14, folded.

New research clarifies where the moon came from

In the last 40 years, astronomers have gathered more and more evidence that our moon came out of a scarcely-imaginable collision between a baby (100-million-year-old) Earth and another proto-planet named Theia. (Watch this video for a good explanation.) Just two weeks ago, astronomers at UCLA announced a clarification: Theia didn't hit Earth in a glancing blow, as previously thought. Instead, the two planets hit head-on:

“We don’t see any difference between the Earth’s and the moon’s oxygen isotopes; they’re indistinguishable,” said Edward Young, lead author of the new study and a UCLA professor of geochemistry and cosmochemistry.

The fact that oxygen in rocks on the Earth and our moon share chemical signatures was very telling, Young said. Had Earth and Theia collided in a glancing side blow, the vast majority of the moon would have been made mainly of Theia, and the Earth and moon should have different oxygen isotopes. A head-on collision, however, likely would have resulted in similar chemical composition of both Earth and the moon.

“Theia was thoroughly mixed into both the Earth and the moon, and evenly dispersed between them,” Young said. “This explains why we don’t see a different signature of Theia in the moon versus the Earth.”

So why am I reviewing catastrophic astronomical events? I'm reading Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Seveneaves, which posits (in its opening paragraph) the collision between our moon and what is probably a small black hole. Stephenson imagines what would happen from a serious, scientific perspective. 

Seveneves isn't what you would call a character piece. I'm 45% through it, according to my Kindle, and thoroughly fascinated. But Stephenson is almost the anti-Ishiguro.

Another aside: I have to see the tidal bore in the Bay of Fundy someday. It just sounds so cool—especially in context.

Disqualifying characteristic of Rubio?

Buzzfeed via TPM reports that Marco Rubio is probably not ready for the White House:

The key line is: "Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness — and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined."

Now plenty of us get anxious. But there's probably nothing you want less in a President than a propensity to panic in moments of crisis. It's almost terrifying. Now I'm panicking.

For all that, not to put too fine a point on it but the presidency is a fairly unpredictable enterprise with a more or less nonstop stream of crises, some trivial, some potentially world shattering. Coolness under pressure and the ability to make decisions are the two critical attributes in any leader or executive and likely the two most important for a President. What's the 3 AM red phone line call for Rubio? Even better is the reference to panicking over crises "both real and imagined."

Again, not Obama.

The current Republican rap on Obama is basically that he doesn't panic enough. Too cool and collected, when the world is burning around him. Whatever you make of that, Obama isn't a panicker. No drama. Again, you cannot put that much stock in any single article. But the charge is about the most devastating one that can be leveled at a candidate for President. And recent debate evidence tends to confirm the diagnosis.

Yep.

What's it like for a woman to run against Sanders?

Former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin ran against Sanders during her 1986 re-election campaign:

When Sanders was my opponent he focused like a laser beam on “class analysis,” in which “women’s issues” were essentially a distraction from more important issues. He urged voters not to vote for me just because I was a woman. That would be a “sexist position,” he declared.

[B]oth Clinton and Sanders have declared they are favor paid maternity and sick leave, and equal pay for equal work. What sets them apart? I believe it is both style and substance. Sanders can shout his message and wave his arms for emphasis. Clinton can’t. If she appeared on stage as angry at the “system” as he is, she would be dismissed as an angry, even hysterical, woman; a sight that makes voters squirm.

An angry female voice works against women but is a plus for men. It demonstrates passion, outrage and power. Sanders bristled when he was accused of sexism after he implied that Clinton was among the shouters. Ironically, it is he who has, according to his doctor, suffered from laryngitis.

For the record, I've been supporting Hilary Clinton for years. Nothing I've seen of Sanders suggests he has the temperament or flexibility to be an effective president, and if he wins the nomination, I think any of the three Republican front-runners will McGovern him into obscurity.

One reason people are pissed off

Calculated Risk updates the "scariest jobs chart ever:"

The chart shows each of the post-World War II recessions in terms of job losses from the pre-recession peak. Notice that the 2001 recession line slides right into the 2007 line, as the Republican policies that led to the housing boom and bust tanked the banking sector.

We haven't fully recovered from the 2001 recession, in other words. We've had a generally-down cycle for almost 15 years now. That is why we should not elect a Republican legislature until they figure out how economics works.

Bruce Rauner does the impossible

Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg put the Rauner administration in context in a column a couple of weeks ago:

Not only did Rauner fail to make tangible progress, but he didn’t even tread water properly. The normal operation of the state, such as passing an annual budget, failed to occur, sacrificed on the altar of the governor’s hunger for term limits, union enfeeblement and other unrelated pet causes. He’s like an office manager getting himself hired by promising to expand a business who then promptly fails to pay the electric bill, as a point of principle against the electric company monopoly, so they turn the lights off. Now we’re sitting in the dark, listening to him explain.

But give credit where due: Rauner has accomplished something real, something that I would have thought impossible:

He makes Rod Blagojevich look good.

In 2014, Rauner won every county in Illinois except Cook, beating Pat Quinn by about 150,000 votes out of 3.6 million cast. That's not a huge mandate. But it has turned into a huge disaster. ("A yuge disaster?" Hm.)

Good analysis of the Democratic candidates

Mark Russell, a writer in Oregon I've never met, posted one of the best descriptions of the differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that I've seen on Tuesday:

[T]he truth is that this is not a battle between good and evil so much as an awkward contest between two animals who evolved in entirely different ecosystems.

Hillary Clinton is like a grizzled hunter in the Amazon. Every day is a battle for survival. She has suffered every venom and poison imaginable and from her time as being the wife of a Democratic governor in a red state to being Secretary of State to the most besieged administration in modern history, she has lived her entire life in a rainforest filled with things determined to kill her. Her political survival instincts have adapted accordingly.

Bernie Sanders is like a wallaby. He hails from the benign ecosystem known as Vermont, where he lacks any natural predators. He will be the beloved senator from Vermont for as long as he cares to be. So he hops around wherever he wants, unafraid that anyone might use his words to crucify him. Propose a $15 minimum wage? Just have a friendly chat with anyone who disagrees. Call yourself a "socialist?" Sure, why not? We're all friends here. On the other side of the world, though, if Hillary Clinton channels her inner Eleanor Roosevelt, the Republicans call it a seance. Write a few State Department e-mails from your personal server? Suddenly there's a major Congressional investigation, even though nobody cared when previous Secretaries of State did exactly the same thing.

I'll be reaching out to him for permission to publish his whole post.

Lengthening reading list

I have three books in the works and two on deck (imminently, not just in my to-be-read stack) right now. Reading:

On deck:

  • Kevin Hearne, "Iron Druid Chronicles" book 8: Staked.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, "Mars" trilogy book 2: Green Mars.

Meanwhile, I have these articles and blog posts to read, some for work, some because they're interesting:

Time to read.

Meanwhile, I seem to have a cold. Yuck.

New EU-US data privacy deal

The European Commission yesterday announced they've reached a broad agreement with the United States to allow trans-Atlantic data transfers that respect European privacy laws:

The EU-US Privacy Shield reflects the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice in its ruling on 6 October 2015, which declared the old Safe Harbour framework invalid. The new arrangement will provide stronger obligations on companies in the U.S. to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including through increased cooperation with European Data Protection Authorities. The new arrangement includes commitments by the U.S. that possibilities under U.S. law for public authorities to access personal data transferred under the new arrangement will be subject to clear conditions, limitations and oversight, preventing generalised access. Europeans will have the possibility to raise any enquiry or complaint in this context with a dedicated new Ombudsperson.

The new arrangement will include the following elements:

  • Strong obligations on companies handling Europeans' personal data and robust enforcement: U.S. companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed. The Department of Commerce will monitor that companies publish their commitments, which makes them enforceable under U.S. law by the US. Federal Trade Commission. In addition, any company handling human resources data from Europe has to commit to comply with decisions by European DPAs.
  • Clear safeguards and transparency obligations on U.S. government access: For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms. These exceptions must be used only to the extent necessary and proportionate. The U.S. has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance on the personal data transferred to the US under the new arrangement. To regularly monitor the functioning of the arrangement there will be an annual joint review, which will also include the issue of national security access. The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce will conduct the review and invite national intelligence experts from the U.S. and European Data Protection Authorities to it.
  • Effective protection of EU citizens' rights with several redress possibilities: Any citizen who considers that their data has been misused under the new arrangement will have several redress possibilities. Companies have deadlines to reply to complaints. European DPAs can refer complaints to the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, Alternative Dispute resolution will be free of charge. For complaints on possible access by national intelligence authorities, a new Ombudsperson will be created.

The EC will release the text of the agreement soon. I'll be monitoring this development closely.

Not what you want to see outside your building

This is what happens when you work across the street from the Chicago Teachers Union:

As part of their negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago, the CTU are withdrawing their funds from Bank of America. The Tribune has background:

One day after the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a contract proposal from Chicago Public Schools, district officials said they would slash school budgets and stop paying the bulk of teachers' pension contributions — moves CTU's president quickly blasted as "an act of war."

CPS officials told reporters of their plans while announcing the district would make a fresh attempt Wednesday to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the school system's finances afloat.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also taking shots at the union:

[B]y intentionally and unilaterally whacking tens of thousands of CTU members right in their wallet—and spreading word that Rauner is trying to sabotage the bond deal—Team Emanuel did something more: make it clear that, the Laquan McDonald controversy or not, they're tired of playing patsy.

CTU doesn't like it, and is planning a big protest rally. It accuses Emanuel of “intimidating” the union. But there's no sign of a strike, and the union will have to convince Chicagoans that its members deserve a defined benefit pension with a 3 percent compounded annual inflation hike for only the 2 percent of salary members still will have to pay.

Of course, the 500,000 children who could be turfed out of school should the union strike, and the parents who will have to stay home from work to care for them, would be the proverbial grass that suffers when elephants wrestle.

I'll have more about the news trucks outside my building later today.