The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Labour searches for wheels, cart

The Conservative Party have apparently obliterated Labour in yesterday's local U.K. elections:

Although most of the county councils have yet to declare, early results show the Conservatives taking dozens of seats from Labour and seizing control of two county councils in the Liberal Democrats’ stronghold in the South West.

In Staffordshire, Labour, which has controlled the county for over 20 years, has already lost half its seats and the Tories are on course for an easy victory.

The Conservatives also took control of Devon and Somerset from the Liberal Democrats. The Tories have not been in power in Somerset for 16 years.

... Party officials hinted yesterday that Labour was likely to lose more than half its county council seats and all the four county councils that it still held. Results so far will have done nothing to lift their spirits. Pundits suggested the Tories will gain at least 200 seats although it is questionable whether they will get the 43 per cent share of the vote they gained in local elections last year.

It's sad, really. Gordon Brown actually has done well on paper, keeping the UK from suffering as much as other countries in the current recession, and generally doing the right things economically. But the man just can't manage the politics. Neither can David Cameron or Nick Clegg, by the way, which makes the situation even worse.

Any bets on when Brown will resign? It could happen this month.

Parking meter vandalism

The City is seeing more incidents of systematic violence against meters—this time in Andersonville.

I have a hypothesis, with some of the evidence to support it coming from my own head. Before the parking meter lease, people mostly accepted that feeding parking meters was part of our civic responsibility. We drive on the streets, which are a public good, so we should do our part and pay the $1 per hour or so for the privilege of parking on them. Now, however, a private company gets the money from the meters, which adds a profit motive (and, incidentally, up to $3 per hour) to parking meter collections. In other words, the mood has shifted from cooperative (it's our city, after all) to adversarial (who's getting the money?).

I should make it clear, I don't condone vandalism of any kind. But I understand, and even share to some extent, the feelings that cause it in this case. The proper thing to do, I think, is simply to boycott the parking meters. Starve them; don't beat them to death. But continue to let aldermen and the Mayor know why.

Where's Rhode Island?

I wrote yesterday about all of New England (except that one little bit in the southeast) has now ratified marriage equality. I asked some friends, why not Rhode Island? Reader EC wrote back from East Greenwich:

eventually they'll pass it. We have a Republican gov and he's trying to posture, but maybe even more significant is the fact that Rhode Islanders never rush into anything. We were the first to enter into the revolutionary fray with the burning of the British ship, the Gaspe, but the last of the colonies to ratify the Constitution. It has been thus ever since. To paraphrase, the mills of RI governance grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine. All in due time. We tend to fight for the underdog tooth and nail, but hesitate to legislate. Instead we spend years fighting about changing our state name, officially The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, to eliminate the potentially "racist" word, plantations. On second thought, maybe that's why we hesitate to legislate.

It'll be interested to see what they do. I haven't heard of any court challenges there, either. As for other states, via Andrew Sullivan comes Nate Silver's update on New York. Astute geographers will note that New York borders four of the six states in New England, and is (at least below I-84) a fairly left-leaning state.

New England becomes first U.S. region to join 21st Century

Governor John Lynch today signed legislation making New Hampshire the sixth state (and the fifth in New England) to allow gay marriage.

If gay marriage—or, the right of a person and another person to marry—can pass New Hampshire and Iowa, I think it's officially "mainstream." New Hampshire ("Live Free or Die") is the most Republican state in New England, and John Lynch is a Republican governor; so this isn't a party issue any more. Rhode Island politics may not permit the state to weigh in for some time (I've got emails out to some GOP friends from East Greenwich for clarification), which I kind of expected.

But now, I would hope that Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, even Maryland, and other states with long progressive histories start getting marriage-equality acts through. Since it's a matter of when, not if, I would like to see my home state on the van.

Because this time you messed with our cars, that's why

This morining Chicago's Inspector General released his official report confirming what everyone already knew: Chicago's parking-meter lease deal was, not to put too fine a point on it, galactically stupid. Apparently, though, Mayor Daley can't fathom why this scandal hasn't quietly disappeared like all the others.

Here's the Trib:

While Inspector General David Hoffman put an official seal on what critics have been saying for months, the scathing report comes amid public outrage. Anger over the parking meter meltdown has yet to subside in a rare case where a blunder is sticking to a mayor who has outrun many controversies during his two decades in office.

Though Hoffman declined to single out Daley for criticism, the report will resonate at City Hall, where the mayor's tight rein is legendary and aldermen almost always are expected to back his agenda with little scrutiny. The report takes the City Council to task for ratifying the deal by a 40-5 vote in December, just a day after Daley aides briefed aldermen on it.

... Hoffman's report calls the lease a "dubious financial deal," arguing the city could have raked in at least $2.13 billion if only it had kept the meters after raising rates -- minus the cost of collecting the money and maintaining the meters.

Top Daley aide Paul Volpe immediately fired back at what he called a "misguided and inaccurate" report.

"Misguided and inaccurate?" Dude, you guys messed with our cars. This is America. If you'd sold the CTA for 25 cents[1] the outrage would have ended in a few hours, but this—this is parking, fer crissakes.

[1] It's hyperbole, Richie. Please, for the love of all that's holy, do not sell the CTA.

U.S. Business schools losing foreign students: Economist

As I'm less than three months from starting an MBA program designed to foster international relationships, I don't know what to make of this:

[F]oreign (or, more euphemistically, "international") students are thinking twice about handing over their hard-earned and recession-hit cash for an education at a prestigious Western hall of academe.

... Big private business schools in America, already hit by the much lower valuations of their endowment funds, seem likely to take the biggest hit. The American-based Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), a regular surveyor of MBA graduates and recruiters, presciently noted in its 2008 Global MBA Graduate Survey that "graduates who attended full-time MBA programmes outside their country of citizenship rated overall value lower compared with graduates who attended similar programmes in their home country".

... Three factors are likely to weigh heavily on international students’ willingness to travel abroad to study: financing their studies, fears about the jobs market and the availability or otherwise of good business schools in their home country.

I'm very interested to see the composition of my CCMBA class. So far, to judge by the 25 or so of us who have submitted biographies to the class portal, about 2/3 of us are from the U.S., 1/3 from the rest of the world.

The article mentions, as a tangent, that the U.K. Border Agency maintains a list of the top 50 MBA programs worldwide. Fuqua is on the list, which means Fuqua graduates can get a working visa from Britain under the Highly Skilled Workers scheme nearly automatically.

More beer taxes?

There are apparently proposals out there to make beer drinkers sad:

In Congress, the Senate Finance Committee has raised the possibility of a 150% increase in the federal tax on beer to help pay for health care reform. And about three dozen states, including Illinois, have called for alcohol tax hikes to offset budget shortfalls.

The federal government hasn't raised the beer tax in nearly 20 years, but legislators are considering increasing it to the same level as spirits. An equalization of alcohol taxes would be a huge problem for brewing giants such as MillerCoors LLC, which will move its headquarters to Chicago this summer. The tax hikes would raise prices and drive many customers to buy cheaper brands or switch to spirits, beer industry insiders say.

But wait! Turns out, MillerCoors is wrong: the tax increase wouldn't lead people to cheaper beers (as if such existed), it might actually lead people to better beers:

Small brewers would be exempt from the taxes, giving the fast-growing microbrew segment another boost against giants like MillerCoors.

The [Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group] estimates most people would pay little extra if taxes were increased on alcohol because 20% of drinkers consume 85% of the alcohol in the U.S.

In marginally-related news, hoppy beer in San Diego is booming:

A dizzying variety of small breweries are lapping away at the dominance that mild, light-colored lagers have enjoyed since Prohibition, and some of the best-regarded are in North County, short on history and long on the bitter herbs known as hops.

... North County breweries have racked up their share of accolades. The Brewers Association named Port Brewing as the nation's best small brewing company for 2007. The association named Alesmith Brewing Co., in San Diego's Miramar neighborhood, as the best small brewery last year. Beer Advocate magazine called Stone the "best brewery on earth" in December and rated five Stone beers among its top 25. Food & Wine Magazine's June issue dubs Highway 78 a "near-mystical" route for visiting breweries.

So, it the beer tax doesn't seem that bad, especially in Southern California.