The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Database error causes $8.1M budget shortfall

Software security expert Bruce Schneier reports on a database error in nearby Porter County, Ind., that has cost the county millions of dollars, and what that means to software design:

A house erroneously valued at $400 million is being blamed for budget shortfalls and possible layoffs in municipalities and school districts in northwest Indiana.
[...]
County Treasurer Jim Murphy said the home usually carried about $1,500 in property taxes; this year, it was billed $8 million.

If you don't like the weather...

Two days ago it was 13°C (56°F) in Chicago. Yesterday a storm dumped 28 mm (1.1 in) of rain on us before the cold front behind it dropped us below freezing. This was the largest temperature drop in 42 years here.

Here's our street after the storm:

Today we're looking forward to overnight lows around -18°C (-1°F). Fortunately, the local El stop has heat lamps to stand under when it gets cold. Sometimes, though, you have to share them with these guys:

In related news, scientists report that Greenland's glaciers are flowing faster, dumping more fresh water into the North Atlantic, which in turn may accelerate global warming. So maybe the pigeons won't need to hang out with commuters under heat lamps much longer.

Quick hits

Some items in the news today that probably should go without comment:

Maureen Dowd rocks

...even if she doesn't need men. In her column today (sub.req.) she pulls no punches with two men no one needs:

As the story of the weekend's bizarre hunting accident is wrenched out of the White House, the picture isn't pretty: With American soldiers dying in Iraq, Five-Deferment Dick "I Had Other Priorities in the 60's Than Military Service" Cheney gets his macho kicks gunning down little birds and the occasional old man while W. rides his bike, blissfully oblivious to any collateral damage. Shouldn't these guys work on weekends until we figure out how to fix Iraq, New Orleans, Medicare and gas prices?

Ultimately, this is why we implode

The Ohio Democratic Party has honked off Paul Hackett, because they believe another Ohio representative has a better chance of getting elected to the Senate this fall:

"It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in November against [incumbent GOP Senator Mike] DeWine," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "And in Ohio, Brown's name is golden. It's just that simple."

They're nuts. And now we've lost exactly the kind of person we need in the party. And we look like idiots.

Actually, the ODP look like idiots, but Harry Ried and the rest of our party didn't come out too well in this one, either. Unless there's something I'm missing about Hackett, he's exactly the kind of person we want running for Senate in Ohio.

Here's Hackett's side of it.

Well, they got Capone for tax evasion

Vice President Cheney has been cited for not having a hunting stamp required for non-residents to shoot birds in Texas.

One assumes he didn't have the proper license to shoot people, either, but that bit is still under investigation.

Also of interest: The Cheney supporter and fund-raiser who owned the property he was hunting on, Karen Armstrong, got a call from Karl Rove less than two hours after the accident:

"Chief of Staff Andy Card called the president around 7:30 p.m. to inform him that there was a hunting accident," a statement released today by the White House said. "He did not know the vice president was involved at that time. Subsequent to the call, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with Mrs. Armstrong. He then called the president shortly before 8 p.m. to update him and let him know the vice president had accidentally shot Mr. Whittington."

If Card didn't know the Vice President was involved, why bother to inform the President? Who else was there? Or is Armstrong that big a contributor?

The day after that conversation, she spoke to the press. Josh Marshall found an older news item showing her father got Rove his first job, as well.

So I guess it's just a family affair.

Let's review what's going on here. Cheney shot another hunter, which is on its face his fault. The other guy was behind him—behind him—meaning Cheney spun almost all the way around before firing. Now the guy is just leaving intensive care with doctors saying they'll just leave some of the bird shot in his body because it's in too deep. And Cheney and Armstrong are blaming the victim.

It's never their fault, is it?

Maybe we should stop thinking of these people as adults. They're really 10 years old.

Tom Lehrer, meet Dick Cheney

Josh Marshall wonders about Dick Cheney's hunting accident Saturday:

At a minimum it seems a tad ungentlemanly to put out word through your media operation that the guy you just shot was at fault for getting shot.

But I don't know. Tom Lehrer wrote a song about it many years ago:

I always will remember,
'Twas a year ago November,
I went out to hunt some deer
On a mornin' bright and clear.
I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow,
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

Anyway, this flap about whether the guy Cheney shot was to blame or not obscures discussion of the truly culpable party. I mean, who gave that man a gun in the first place?

The Washington Post has more.

Washington snowed in

Washington today is getting its biggest snowstorm in three years:

A major snow storm pounded the Washington region overnight and this morning, dumping 20 inches of heavy wet snow in some locations and 8 or 9 inches elsewhere, causing power outages for nearly 200,000 consumers and disrupting travel by road, air and Metrorail.

And in a later story:

The snow swept in lazily yesterday afternoon and was expected to depart by midday today, giving residents ample time to dig out before the start of the workweek. Airlines canceled scores of flights. But schools and most workplaces were already closed, and it was too soon for most to make decisions for tomorrow.
As of 10 p.m. yesterday, reports to the National Weather Service ranged from four inches in Fairfax City to two inches at Camp Springs and less than an inch at Reagan National Airport. Most main roads glistened with moisture, but some were slush-streaked; medians were white.

I was actually in Washington for the 2003 storm. Not intentionally; I was on my way back to a client in Richmond, Va., from a party in New York and got stranded in DC for two days. This is partially because, at the time, the Commonwealth of Virginia (area: 110,771 km², 42,769 mi²) had almost exactly the same number of snowplows as the city of Chicago (area: 1,214 km², 469 mi²). And in 2003, Virginia got hit with 13 snowstorms to Chicago's two. This may prompt a longer entry on tax policy and the division of private and public responsibilities for snow removal, but not right now.

Anyway, here's what the city looked like on 17 February 2003, and what it will probably look like tomorrow: