The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

As regards patriotism

I'll have more on this when I digest it further. This week, U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released a report showing that the Department of Defense has spent $7m sponsoring patriotic displays at sports events. I am horrified. James Fallows is gobsmacked, saying: "I wasn't cynical enough."

The title of this post comes from a circa-1900 essay by Mark Twain. And, of course, we should all re-read Sinclair Lewis. And Edward Gibbon.

The end is not near. We still have hundreds of years for American civilization to run. Rome was still Rome long after Caesar, after all.

Like I said, I'm still digesting this. But I feel like the caretaker of a beachfront estate in Bangladesh more and more.

Is Ben Carson running a scam?

TPM's Josh Marshall isn't saying so exactly, but there does seem to be something off about the good doctor's campaign:

Hucksters and cheats can be found everywhere. But particularly on the right there is a significant layer of people in the business of fleecing outraged and/or low-information conservatives of their money. Some of it you see with those advertisements for buying gold on Fox News. ... But the big thing on the right are various fundraising groups that exist largely to fundraise. So for instance, you'll have Americans Against RINOs which sends out a ton of direct mail, raises lots of money from conservatives who've just had it up to here with RINOs like Boehner and McCain and McConnell selling the country out to Obama. But instead of that money going to fight the RINOs, most of the money goes back into raising more money.

So where's the money going? Well, the direct mail business is very lucrative. And usually you'll find that Americans Against RINOs has a tight relationship with AAR Direct Mail Inc which is making a pretty penny servicing Americans Against RINOs. You get the idea. Obviously there are crooked charities that run this way. But it's a prevalent model on the right.

Do I think Carson's going to grab all the money and run off to Venezuela if he gets the nomination? No. I'm sure he's pretty into this right now. But "Ben Carson" clearly comes out of this world. And his operation still seems mired in it.

So, Marshall is saying, essentially, Ben Carson is the modern version of "Springtime for Hitler." It would be funny if it weren't so scary.

More guns on planes?

The Economist reports that gun seizures at TSA checkpoints have risen dramatically:

TSA agents discovered 68 firearms in travellers’ carry-on bags. That is the most the agency has ever found in a week. Of them, 61 were loaded, and 25 had a round in the chamber, ready to fire.

The record probably won’t stand for long. The prior high-water mark for intercepted guns was  set a month earlier, when TSA agents found 67 firearms. As the Washington Post points out, it’s all part of a steady upward trend that stretches back at least a decade. In 2005, for every 1,000 air travellers, TSA agents discovered an average of less than one gun. In 2015, through the summer, the figure is more than three.

And of course that is just what TSA is catching. In a recent test, agents posing as passengers were able to sneak fake weapons and bombs through airport security 96% of the time. If the TSA agents were as sloppy last week as that exercise suggested, then there weren’t just 68 firearms packed into carry-on bags; there were more like 1,700.

Why are there so many more guns at TSA checkpoints? Possibly because there are so many more guns:

Gun production has more than doubled since President Obama took office, as gun advocates who fear that the president might crack down on the sale of firearms rush out to buy them, either in protest or in fear of future restrictions. But Mr Obama has not been able to persuade Congress to enact new gun-control measures, and so sales have continued to climb unimpeded.

I love living in a 19th-century country, don't you?

Unseasonably warm

The normal high temperature in Chicago on November 2nd is 12°C, which we aleady hit between 7 and 8 am today. Yesterday Chicago got to 22°C at O'Hare and 23°C at Midway, with similar temperatures expected to continue through Thursday.

These temperatures make more sense mid-September than at the beginning of November. But we'll take them anyway. Temperatures will go back to normal Friday and Saturday, with frost expected Saturday night.

Might have to get up early

A G3-class solar storm (i.e., a big one) is predicted to hit the earth tonight, generating category 7 aurorae, which are rarely seen on earth:

Auroral activity will be high(++). Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Igaluit, to Portland OR, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Springfield, and New York City, and visible low on the horizon as far south as Carson City, Oklahoma City, and Raleigh.

Here's the prediction map from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks:

But here's the observed aurora right now:

So, while the aurora isn't yet visible in Chicago, the solar storm might propel enough material into our ionosphere that we could see some auroral displays in a few hours—or tomorrow. The prediction for Tuesday calls for displays overhead central Wisconsin which would be visible down to St. Louis, weather permitting.

The only place in Chicago dark enough to see them is the lakefront. Parker and I might have to walk over there tomorrow evening.

Updates as events warrant...

Back to the 1980s

We live in an era of ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity. I'm writing this on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, with all my current documents synchronized with OneDrive, and six browser tabs open on Chrome...on an airplane over Wyoming.

I love in-flight WiFi. Sometimes. But right now, with three of my browser tabs spinning endlessly while I wait for them to download, and a Microsoft Excel document taking a few minutes to close (because it's uploading changes to OneDrive), I'm just trying to keep things in perspective and not get supremely irritated.

I'd report on my actual throughput, but won't even load up here—possibly because GoGo doesn't want me to know precisely whether their service is giving me 300 baud or 1200 baud speeds right now.

Good; my important document has finished downloading.

Update: did work, eventually. Sort of. I got a 290 kbps download and a 40 kbps upload, which is about the same as the ADSL I had in 1999.

Hoping to avoid 10R

Now that O'Hare's runway 10R/28L has opened, travelers on flights unlucky enough to land on the new tarmac have reason to be unhappy:

The normal taxi route from new runway 10 Right to the gate follows parts of three taxiways to wind around one runway instead of crossing over it, which would create potential collision risks.

But the taxi route then requires a turn to directly cross a different runway — staying behind planes that are taking off on that runway — followed by another turn, and then another runway to cross over, and a little more taxiing until reaching the core of the airport, where a left or right turn is required, depending on what concourse the plane is assigned.

When American Flight 1333 finally reached the fork in the taxiway requiring a left or right turn near the terminal core, a right turn onto taxiway Bravo would have taken the plane directly to its gate in Terminal 3 on the south end of the terminal buildings. But the Chicago Department of Aviation had closed a portion of Bravo because of Lima Lima construction, said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro.

So the plane had to hang a left and taxi clockwise all the way around the terminals to reach Gate K5 at the south end of the terminal complex, Molinaro said.

City aviation spokesman Owen Kilmer said short-term pain will lead to "long-term benefits for passengers, including reduced taxi times and a more efficient process for aircraft landing at O'Hare.''

I'm still 2½ hours from landing...I just hope I'm not 3 hours from the gate. (Probably not, as flights from San Francisco tend to use the north corridors and land runway 9L/27R.)