The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Rumsfeld's Rules

Via Sullivan, American Public Media's Kai Ryssdal yesterday committed an act of journalism against the former defense secretary:

I don’t know if y’all had a chance to listen to Donald Rumsfeld being torn a new one on Marketplace yesterday, but it was glorious to hear. Rummy was no doubt expecting softball questions about his new book Rumsfeld’s Rules and instead was grilled about how the wisdom in his book is in stark contrast to his work with Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve never felt a man squirm through airwaves like that.

I had to rewind a couple of times during the interview. As Sullivan said, "this guy is dangerously out of touch with reality, even as he insists he alone grasps reality."

Racial tolerance worldwide

Via Sullivan, Max Fischer at WaPo found an interesting proxy for racial tolerance:

Among the dozens of questions that World Values asks, the Swedish economists found one that, they believe, could be a pretty good indicator of tolerance for other races. The survey asked respondents in more than 80 different countries to identify kinds of people they would not want as neighbors. Some respondents, picking from a list, chose “people of a different race.” The more frequently that people in a given country say they don’t want neighbors from other races, the economists reasoned, the less racially tolerant you could call that society.

Here’s what the data show:

Anglo and Latin countries most tolerant. People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in Latin America. The only real exceptions were oil-rich Venezuela, where income inequality sometimes breaks along racial lines, and the Dominican Republic, perhaps because of its adjacency to troubled Haiti. Scandinavian countries also scored high.

Here's the map:

I'd love to see this data mapped at the U.S. county level...

Meanwhile, in the reality-based community

Noam Scheiber shakes his head about the origins of the IRS-Tea Party scandal:

Fine—there’s no law against neurosis. But, to borrow a thought experiment from my colleague Alec MacGillis, consider all this from the perspective of the IRS’s Cincinnati office, which handles tax-exempt groups. You’re minding your own business in 2009 when you start to receive dozens of applications from right-leaning groups, applications you didn’t solicit and don’t require. You peruse a few of the applications and it looks like many of the groups, while claiming to be “social welfare” organizations, have an overtly political purpose, like backing candidates with specific ideological agendas. Suffice it to say, you don’t need an inquisitorial mind to decide the applications deserve careful vetting. One Tea Party activist from Waco, Texas, has complained that an IRS official told her he was “sitting on a stack of tea party applications and they were awaiting word from higher-ups as to how to process them.” The quote is intended to sound nefarious—an outtake from some vast left-wing conspiracy—but it’s actually perfectly straight-forward: The IRS was unexpectedly flooded by dodgy 501c4 applications and was at a loss over how to manage them.

So the crime here had nothing to do with “targeting” conservatives. The targeting was effectively done by the conservative groups themselves, when they filed their gratuitous applications. The crime, such as it is, was twofold. First, in the course of legitimately vetting questionable applications, the IRS appears to have been more intrusive than justified, asking for information about donors whose privacy it should have respected. This is unfortunate and intolerable, but not quite a threat to democracy.

Second, the IRS was tone deaf to how its scrutiny would look to the people being scrutinized, given that they all subscribed to the same worldview, and that they were already nursing a healthy persecution complex.

Meanwhile, the Tin Foil Hat crowd now has something that appears, at first glance, to be real government overreach for ideological reasons, and now the IRS will be even less likely to go after Astroturf groups.

This is what most people in the world call an "own goal."

Extreme weather in the Midwest

Less than two weeks ago, southern Minnesota had 25 cm of snow on the ground. Yesterday, the region hit 40°C following the biggest two-day temperature swing in decades:

Even more dramatic were the stunning weather changes which occurred to Chicago's west Tuesday. Soaring temperatures smashed records from Nebraska into western Iowa, Minnesota and western Wisconsin—areas which less than 2 weeks earlier had been crippled by a record-breaking foot or more of late-season snow.

Albert Lea, Minnesota recorded a 38°C high Tuesday. Only 12 days earlier that city had been buried under a 250 mm accumulation of snow.

Iowa's state climatologist Harry Hillaker reported in a special weather statement out of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Des Moines Tuesday that 38°C or higher temperatures have occurred in the month of May on only 11 occasions since official weather records began in the state in 1873. Even rarer have been 38°C readings two weeks after a major snowstorm. Hillaker reports this has happened only a few times over that period.

Here in Chicago, O'Hare hit 33°C and Midway hit 32°C, while at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters—800 m from Lake Michigan—the temperature hovered around 21°C until the sun went down. Without the sun heating the city, the lake breeze stopped, and temperatures rose. Sitting at Wrigley Field last night, I had my sweater on in the first two innings and was down to a T-shirt by the 6th.

Today's forecast calls for rapidly dropping temperatures bottoming out around 14°C by 4pm.

Welcome to 400 ppm CO2, folks. With more energy in the atmosphere, continental climates like the Midwest U.S. will have these violent temperature changes pretty normally from now on.

Minnesota makes 12

Yesterday, the Minnesota Senate passed, and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed, legislation making Minnesota the 12th state with marriage equality:

Minnesota becomes the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage by legislative vote, and the latest victory for those working to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples across the nation. Monday’s action technically repeals a state statute that had prohibited such unions.

Gov. Mark Dayton [signed] the bill at 5 p.m. Tuesday, on the Capitol steps, kicking off a parade that [took] supporters to a massive downtown St. Paul celebration. The law will take effect Aug. 1.

[Sen. Branden] Petersen, the only Republican in the body to support same-sex marriage, found himself a national villain with those who thought he betrayed his party.

Petersen acknowledged the vote could cost him his seat, but closed with parting advice to his young children: “Be bold, be courageous, and you will never regret it a day in your life.”

This victory comes just two years after Republicans floated a referendum to make marriage equality unconstitutional in the state.

Support for marriage equality was more popular in the Twin Cities, around Albert Lea, and in the far northeast and far west sections of the state. Legislators from the rural middle and southwest parts of Minnesota generally voted against the measure.

Update: I just did the math. Adding Minnesota's 5.4 million people to those who live in U.S. marriage equality jurisdictions makes the total 56.9 million, or 18.1% of the U.S. Illinois would push the total to 22.2%.

Ground control to Col. Hadfield

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield transferred command of the International Space Station to Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin yesterday afternoon. As a parting gift, with a little help from his friends (including David Bowie), he made this:

I've followed Hadfield's Facebook page for a while, enjoying his photos, observations, and occasional scoops (he did, after all, know about Saturday's space walk before anyone in the press). I hope Commander Misurkin continues Hadfield's habit of posting stuff. Here, as just one example, is London in February:

Sadly, Canadian budget cuts make it unlikely Hadfield or any other Canadian will return to the ISS for a while.

Welcome home, Col. Hadfield!

Criticizing renowned author Dan Brown


Renowned author Dan Brown hated the critics. Ever since he had become one of the world’s top renowned authors they had made fun of him. They had mocked bestselling book The Da Vinci Code, successful novel Digital Fortress, popular tome Deception Point, money-spinning volume Angels & Demons and chart-topping work of narrative fiction The Lost Symbol.

The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. They said it was full of unnecessary tautology. They said his prose was swamped in a sea of mixed metaphors. For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.” They even say my books are packed with banal and superfluous description, thought the 5ft 9in man. He particularly hated it when they said his imagery was nonsensical. It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket.

But since when have the masses listened to critics?

Is Tom Ricketts destroying the Cubs?

Chicago Tribune op-ed writer Marty Sandberg thinks so:

Ricketts has done one thing successfully — creating the most apathetic, undemanding fan base possible. Over the past few years third-generation die-hards have quietly been returning their season tickets. The knowledgeable, fun and sometimes offensive regulars that used to pack the park and make game day such a raucously enjoyable experience have disappeared. In their place, we find a ballpark full of expense-account-toting managers, teenage girls posting self-portraits on Facebook and a few drunken college bros confused by the ramp system. And let's not forget the legions of first-timers still traveling to Wrigley from out of state, somewhat disappointed by the lethargic atmosphere they encounter. But don't worry about them — they'll stop coming soon, too.

Ricketts loves to repeat that he "just wants to run his business like a business," because he "bought a private business, not a museum." Spare us the act, Tom. When you purchased a community institution like the Cubs, you were never naive enough to think you were buying an Al's Beef franchise. The Cubs have thrived for generations because of devoted fans. Professional sports is a give-and-take relationship — Ricketts can't expect to get whatever he wants without repercussions, simply because he bangs his spoon on the table loud enough.

Does Wrigley need a little face-lift? Most definitely. But the proposed alterations to Wrigley go beyond what is necessary or even tolerable. They discard the very atmosphere the Cubs spend so much time promoting. The renovations gut the soul of a stadium that has survived so long because of its character, not in spite of it.

I've been to 24 ballparks, including Fenway and the old Yankee Stadium, and on that basis I agree with Sandberg on the value of Wrigley Field. I don't agree entirely that one or two upgrades to Wrigley would kill its character. Jumbo-Tron in Left Field? Meh, as long as it's not too big. The old scoreboard will stay there above the bleachers, right? How about a hotel across Clark St.? Almost anything would improve the current situation of a temporary sports clothing store and a McDonald's.

He's right that the Cubs need to start winning games again. They've been in last place since April 16th, and just lost their 22nd game (out of 35) yesterday.

Maybe Tom Ricketts will surprise everyone and invest in the Cubs. I don't believe Ricketts would abandon or destroy the biggest asset the organization has. We'll see, though. It's already been 104 years; what are a few more?