The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Security theater

Via Bruce Schneier, a really good article about security theater:

At the time, it seemed reasonable. Richard Reid tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoe while aboard a December 2001 flight from Paris, so Congress banned butane lighters on planes.

But in retrospect, the costs of the ban outweighed the benefits. Airport retailers had to stop selling lighters. Lighter vendor Zippo Manufacturing Co. laid off more than 100 workers in part because of the prohibition. Transportation Security Administration screeners at one point had to confiscate 30,000 lighters every day, quadrupling the amount of garbage the agency had to dispose of. TSA even had to hire a contractor to help with all the extra trash.

Welcome to homeland security, where everyone has an incentive to exaggerate threats. A Congress member whose district includes a port has little to lose and much to gain by playing up the potential for container-borne terrorism. A city with a dam talks up the need to protect critical infrastructure. A company selling weapons-detection technology stresses the vulnerability of commercial aviation. A civil servant evaluating homeland security grant applications has an interest in over-estimating dangers that might be addressed by grantees rather than denying funding and risk blame in the event of a disaster.

Great ride this morning

I think winds affect my biking regardless of what direction they're coming from. This morning, for example, in calm winds, I set three personal records on a 60 km ride: best distance over 1 hour (30.9 km); best time for 40 km (1:18:14, beating my previous PR by 4:01); and best time for 60 km (1:58:28, beating my previous by 3:22).

Next week I'm planning to ride 110120 km as part of my North Shore Century training. Maybe another PR or two?

Mainstream recognition of long-standing problem

Newsweek just published an article laying out how oil, gas, and other similar industries have bamboozled the American public for close to 20 years about climate change:

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."

Just last year, polls found that 64 percent of Americans thought there was "a lot" of scientific disagreement on climate change; only one third thought planetary warming was "mainly caused by things people do."

For the record: there is no dispute among climatologists that planetary warming is mostly caused by human activities.

I'm glad Newsweek published the story, even though it's old news to people who have followed the administration's (528 days to go!) assault on science and reason. Maybe more people will realize they're being hoodwinked.

Cheery Friday thoughts

After falling 3% yesterday, followed by the Nikkei and the European indices, the Dow dropped another 1.5% within minutes of opening today.

Don't say nobody warned us: we've just started a serious economic correction, which, if history is any guide, will turn seriously ugly in October. I think once the President (529 days, 3 hours) said we had sound economic fundamentals, he might as well have written "MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIM" on the podium.

In happier news, the Cubs pulled within a half-game of the Brewers last night.

Today's Daily Parker

I'm not alone in the office today, but I may as well be: Parker is so tired he's not even getting up when I leave the room. Day camp works, I tell you.

I should also point out one of the not-so-hidden costs of having an office puppy. Or, rather, a black office puppy on a white cotton rug. Yes, the rug in the photo above used to be blue and white. Now it's blue-grey and grey. And he's chewed it so much it can't be cleaned any more. But I discovered a possible solution: A couple of my friends have two enormous Labradors and a three-year-old. In their newly-remodeled kitchen they have a patch of Flor, which seems to have held up to the onslaught pretty well.

However, until I'm more certain Parker won't destroy it out of ennui—yesterday morning he tried to disembowel my comforter again—I think I'll just keep the dingy carpet.

Alone in the office

After attending the ALS fundraiser (i.e., Lou Gehrig Day at Wrigley Field) last night, I decided to sleep past the normal play-group time and take Parker to day camp instead. Several bits of good news in this: first, the Les Turner ALS Foundation raised butt-loads of cash; second, even though the Cubs lost, so did the Brewers, so the Cubs are still only one game out of first place; third, Parker gets to hang out all day with his friends; and fourth, said hanging-out will make Parker sleep most of tomorrow when he's back here.

The only bad part is, of course, no office puppy today. Sad.

Today's Daily Parker

Parker and Goldie have started playing together mornings. Goldie, until recently, never had anything nice to say to Parker, so this surprised everyone:

As a special bonus, I have some video of Parker (AVI, 10.3 MB) at my office. He has a new behavior: at the end of the day, when I pack everything in an get up to leave, he rushes forward with his paws stretched out front and slides across the terazzo floor. I have no idea why he does this, except perhaps because it's fun.

Quietly leaving

From this week's Economist, a strangely understated note:

The British army officially ended Operation Banner in Northern Ireland, its longest continuous operation. Soldiers were sent to the province in 1969 in what was intended to be a brief stint to quell sectarian violence. A garrison of 5,000 men will remain to offer support to the police.

More from the BBC about Tuesday's event:

The British army's operation in Northern Ireland came to an end at midnight after 38 years. Operation Banner—the Army's support role for the police—had been its longest continuous campaign, with more than 300,000 personnel taking part.

At the height of the Troubles, there were about 27,000 soldiers in Northern Ireland. From Wednesday, there will be no more than 5,000.

At 276,000 population, Belfast is about the same size as Raleigh, N.C., by the way.