The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Friday morning linkfest

Lots of interesting (to me, anyway) items on the Intertubes today:

Whew. Back to accounting homework.

Not just South Carolina

Apparently Illinois has its own rude Congressman:

Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, walked out.

"Congressman Shimkus was frustrated that the president was not offering any new ground and left with just minutes remaining in the speech," spokesman Steven Tomaszewski said today in response to our question about the late-speech walk-out.

I have also gotten clarification of the British way of doing things:

Language and expressions used in the Chamber must conform to a number of rules. Erskine May states "good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language". Objection has been taken both to individual words and to sentences and constructions ‐ in the case of the former, to insulting, coarse, or abusive language (particularly as applied to other Members); and of the latter, to charges of lying or being drunk and misrepresentation of the words of another. Among the words to which Speakers have objected over the years have been blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor.

The context in which a word is used is, of course, very important. The Speaker will direct a Member who has used an unparliamentary word or phrase to withdraw it.

Members sometimes use considerable ingenuity to circumvent these rules (as when, for instance, Winston Churchill substituted the phrase "terminological inexactitude" for "lie") but they must be careful to obey the Speaker's directions, as a Member who refuses to retract an offending expression may be named or required to withdraw from the Chamber.

Still, our side disagreed with the President about a war that has cost thousands of lives and close to a trillion dollars and we behaved ourselves. What is it with the GOP today, anyway?

Why always South Carolina?

President Obama's speech last night demonstrated pretty clearly that he's committed to health-care reform, and most of Congress will support him. One Congressman, Joe Wilson (R-SC), decided to channel his inner Preston Brooks and...well, here's what the papers say:

Help me out here: does anyone recall the last time a congressman called the president a liar to his face during of a joint session of Congress?

He’s the face behind the off-camera shout of “You lie” after President Obama declared that his proposed health care legislation will not—repeat not—provide health care to illegal immigrants. Psst! Somebody please tell Rep. Wilson this is the U. S. Congress, not Question Time in Britain’s Parliament or a Town Hall meeting in Beaufort.

(One should note, of course, that while MPs may heckle each other during Question Time, none would do so during an actual speech. Also, during Parliamentary debates, members are forbidden to address each other, and can be expelled for doing so. "You lie!" would get the member tossed out; "Mr. Speaker, the Honorable Member from Basingfolly-on-Turdswallop lies!" is the correct form.)

Rep. Wilson has since apologized (sort of; watch the video and let me know what you think), though some want him to do so on the floor of the House.

As one observer remarked, the opposition have mistaken the United States Congress for a College Republicans convention.

The President has since said of the flap, "We all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation. We have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives."

Thank you, Mr. President.

Quick update: In the few short hours since the outburst, Wilson's Democratic opponent has raised over $100,000, and pulled ahead of Wilson in fundraising. Talk about a career-limiting move.

Strange maps, including good beer

Via Tom Hollander comes Strange Maps, a blog I will have to read through when I get a free moment next year. The blog supports Frank Jacobs' forthcoming book, Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities. The blog starts with "Lunatic Asylum Districts in Pennsylvania," moving through "The Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World" and "Heineken's 'Eurotopia'" on its random walk through maps. Very cool blog.

Example: a map showing the best beer in America, based on the number of medals won, with a handy refiguring of the results by population:

The top 10, reshuffled to reflect the number of medals per million of inhabitants, looks quite different, reflecting a dominance by states with a strong micro-brewing tradition:

  1. Colorado – 64.4
  2. Oregon – 42.5
  3. Wisconsin – 38.6
  4. Washington – 16.2
  5. Missouri – 15
  6. Pennsylvania – 13.5
  7. Massachusetts – 12.6
  8. California – 12.8
  9. Texas – 5.6
  10. New York – 5.1

Also from Hollander, a report that Samoa changed sides:

As sirens and church bells wailed across Samoa just before 6am on Monday, drivers obediently stopped their cars. Then, after instructions issued over the radio by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, they shifted to the other side of the road and ushered in history.

"After this announcement you will all be permitted to move to the other side of the road, to begin this new era in our history," Mr Tuilaepa told his people, warning: "Don't drive if you are sleepy, drunk or just had a fight with your wife."

Good advice, that.

I really wanted to give them my money, too

My plan seemed so simple: Book my flights from Chicago to Dubai and, on the way back, spend a couple of days in Jordan and Israel, two countries I'm not likely to see for a long time. Royal Jordanian airlines, however, made this sufficiently difficult to encourage me to look elsewhere.

The parameters were simple:

  • Fly only Oneworld carriers, because this trip bumps me to the next elite level.
  • Arrive in Dubai in time for the October 31st start of classes having had enough rest to make it through the day without passing out.
  • Take a side-trip after the residency ends on November 8th.
  • Get home by November 11th, because I need to actually earn a living and pat my dog.

Last week, I called the Royal Jordanian reservation line, a New York phone number, with the simple request to book flights from Chicago to Dubai through Amman. The reservation agent—who happened to be in Amman—dutifully took my information, quoted the fare, and told me no problem, I'm leaving Chicago on October 28th, leaving Dubai on November 8th, and leaving Amman on November 11th. Perfect. And, because it's a 12-hour overnight trans-Atlantic flight, I booked that segment in discounted business class. He ended by telling me to expect an email with an attached form that I needed to fax to the local ticket office with my credit card information.

So far, so good. Except...why do I need to fax my credit card again?

OK, forget faxing, I had to go out to O'Hare anyway, so I stopped by the ticket office in person. This was just about 4pm on Friday. They were closed, with no hours or phone number posted anywhere. Back home, digging through the Royal Jordanian website also failed to produce their phone number or hours. Curious.

Flash forward to today. I still hadn't received a confirmation email from them (despite calling their reservations line again), nor did I have a phone number for the Chicago office, so I went out there. No traffic, got there in 20 minutes. Great. Talked to an actual person, in person. Great.

We discovered, in short order, a number of problems. First, there are no flights from the U.S. to Jordan on October 28th this year. My reservation had magically shifted forward to October 30th, arriving at 1am on November 1st. The previous flight from Chicago to Amman would leave on October 26th, giving me three extra days in either Amman or Dubai, right in the middle of the pre-reading period that is absolutely critical for the residency. Not to mention, if I want to take a day trip from Amman to, say, its neighbor to the west, I probably need to do that after visiting the United Arab Emirates.

Other options: Fly from Detroit or New York on the 29th, arriving in Dubai at 1:00am on the 31st. Or American to London, thence Amman and Dubai.

Then we got into some discussion about fares. If I'm showing up just a few hours before classes start, I'm flying business class, at least for the trans-Atlantic eastbound segment. The fares she found made me and the baby Jeebus both cry.

I went home to think about it. This thought process involved: an hour comparing fares on, British Airways, and (why not?) Emirates, which isn't a Oneworld carrier but does fly to Dubai, since they're based there.

I did consider going on Royal Jordanian through JFK, but then I thought about having to find a fax machine, send a copy of the credit card and my drivers license along with it, and then have to call my credit card company anyway because they always get twitchy when anything looks out-of-pattern. Bother.

After that exercise, it came down to: (a) booking a British Airways round-trip through; (b) realizing to my horror that the discount fare on the connection from Chicago had vanished while I was doing that; and finally (c) giving up and calling American directly.

In fifteen minutes, the American Airlines ticket agent had booked me through Boston to London on a deeply-discounted business fare, with a return non-stop from London back to Chicago, for about $2,000 less than the website suggested and $500 less than Royal Jordanian, all told.

So, I'll get to Dubai in reasonable shape before midnight on the 30th, and I'll get a night on the way back in the land of some of my ancestors. (This time I picked a hotel near the Earl's Court tube stop, because that one has elevators.)

That's 'cause they're better

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that craft beers, like our own Goose Island brews, have not suffered a dropoff in sales during the recession, unlike the (ahem) "flagship beers" most people consume:

Some of the industry's biggest brands lost their fizz during mid-summer, which is prime time for beer. Bud Light, the nation's best-selling beer, saw a rare sales revenue decline, 3.8 percent, during the four weeks ended Aug. 9, according to Information Resources Inc., which tracks sales in conventional supermarkets and convenience and drugstores.

Isolate the small-but-fast-growing craft sector, which makes up about 5 percent of beer sales, and the story is different.

Craft sales volume as measured in barrels increased 5 percent during the first half of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008, according to the Brewers Association, a craft beer trade group. That's down from a 6.5 percent increase a year ago, but still strong given the weak economy, analysts say.

Too bad the Trib didn't have an economist look at this. I'm not an economist either, but I think one could come up with a good explanation, along the lines of lower marginal consumption costs for craft-beer drinkers, and lower price sensitivity in general at higher levels of quality. In other words, people like me don't care about spending an extra 50c per beer for significantly higher quality, because we're after a good-tasting drink, not a cheap buzz.


Don't get snippy with me, mister

This, ah, came up in conversation with a friend the other day (we were talking about her choices as a parent of a toddler). Via Andrew Sullivan, some thoughts about a very common and arguably unnecessary surgical procedure:

Here's the problem: Why is the CDC launching campaigns to "universally" promote a medical procedure? If you're an adult (and nuts) or a parent, no one stands in your way of having a bris. ... Today, incidentally, government-run Medicaid doesn't pay for the procedure in 16 states. Most private insurers, on the other hand, do.

Though dismissed by public-option proponents, this is an example of how government persuasion can influence our decisions—first by nudging and then, inevitably, by rationing.

Bet he knows the capitals, too

Mildly amusing video of U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) [1] drawing a map of the U.S. freehand. I would like to find out what he was saying:

I think this or something like it should be required for all aspirants to Federal office, but then we'd lose half of Congress.

[1] Dang, I like seeing that.