The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sure Happy It's Thursday vol. 2,694

Some odd stories, some scary stories:

  • Microsoft has released a report on Russia's ongoing cyber attacks against Ukraine.
  • Contra David Ignatius, military policy experts Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds call Russia's invasion of Ukraine "the death throes of imperial delusion" and warn that Putin will likely escalate the conflict rather than face humiliation.
  • Russia historian Tom Nichols puts all of this together and worries about World War III—"not the rhetorical World War III loosely talked about now, but the real thing, including the deaths of hundreds of millions."
  • The Saudi Royal Family finally returned a Boeing 747-8 to the manufacturer after it had sat on the apron in Basel, Switzerland, for 10 years. The plane has 42 hours on it but may have to be scrapped.
  • In other B747 news, Boeing admitted to $1.1 billion in cost overruns for the four planes the Air Force ordered to carry the President. Boeing will eat the costs after making a deal with the XPOTUS for a fixed-price contract. The Air Force should receive the planes in 2026.
  • George Will thinks we should amend the Constitution to prohibit people who have served as US Senators from becoming President. He argues that too many senators use their office to run for president. But since World War II, all but one former senator who became president came from the Democratic Party (Biden, Obama, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Truman), so I'm not sure it would pass the States even if it didn't also have to pass the Senate.

Finally, DuPage County officials have demolished a partially-completed mansion that sat vacant for 10 years, to the eternal sadness of its owner.

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

What happened to Tuesday?

And wasn't it just Tuesday?

I got an email from HR this morning reminding me that I'm approaching the upper limit for paid time off in my bank. I thought, what with taking half a day here and there over the past year, I might not already have almost a month of vacation to use. Cue searching on VRBO for places Cassie and I might like.

Meanwhile, back in the present:

But back to vacation: how cute is this place?

Earth to Warren...come in, Warren...

One hundred years ago today, President Warren Harding installed a "Radio Phone" in his White House office. As the Tribune reported, "Navy radio experts commenced work to-day installing the latest scientific means of communication."

Flash forward to now:

  • Margaret Talbot argues that Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom nobody ever elected to public office, is playing a long game to bring her right-wing Catholic ideology into the mainstream—or, at least, to enshrine it in the law.
  • Times columnist Margaret Renkl, writing from Nashville, argues that Tennessee has bigger problems than just one school board banning Maus.
  • Ultra-low-cost airlines Spirit and Frontier have merged, after years of dating and several previous feints toward the altar.
  • The oldest pub in the United Kingdom will close because of lost revenue during the pandemic, according to its current proprietor. The landlord hopes the pub, first opened in 793 CE, reopens soon.

And finally, Max Boot asks, why does anyone care what Ben, Jerry, Whoopi, or Joe have to say? In my conversation just now with the reader who sent me the link, I pointed out that people have had about the same reaction to every new communications technology back to the printing press. (Probably back to the stone tablet, if you really think about it.)

Fun weather for travel

We got about 150 mm of snow this morning, thanks to the giant lake a short walk from my house. This made getting Cassie to school a slog (she loved it, though), and made me seriously worry about my flight this evening.

Now it's sunny, and the roads are clear.

If only I knew how many parking spaces O'Hare had right now...

Happy 2nd Covidversary! And 5G...

Yes, today is the second anniversary of the first confirmed Covid-19 case popping up in Washington State. But that's not what this post is about.

No, instead, I want to highlight two articles about why airlines really do not like 5G mobile networks—at least, not the way the US implemented them:

“TO BE BLUNT,” reads a statement from ten U.S. airline executives, “the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.” That was in a letter sent to the White House, the FAA and the FCC. “Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly,” it continues, “the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded.”

There’s perhaps an element of hysteria and hyperbole in play here, as you’d maybe expect. But there’s also a big problem, and unless things are quickly worked out, the potential does exist for massive flight disruptions.

Most of the issue revolves around a cockpit device known as a radar altimeter (sometimes called a “radio altimeter”). Unlike the plane’s primary altimeters, which measure height above a particular barometric pressure level, the radar altimeter measures height above the ground itself. Essentially it bounces a signal off the terrain below and determines its vertical distance, displayed in feet.

What this interference would actually look like, I’m not sure. Would it be some transient flickering? A failure of the instrument? Whatever it might be, the implications of an outside signal messing with this data, when you’re low over the runway in the fog or blowing snow, hardly need explaining.

The FAA has published a list of at-risk runways; there are hundreds of them. Pilots may not land on these runways during low-vis conditions that require a radar altimeter — i.e. Category II or III approaches — without a special authorization. That authorization comes in the form of something called an “alternative means of compliance,” or AMOC. Two types of radar altimeters commonly installed on Boeing and Airbus models have been judged safe for operation into certain runways. For now, however, this AMOC clearance applies only to around 20 percent of the country’s busiest airports.

The entire thing is a mess. And we saw it coming. Airlines, along with pilot unions and other industry groups, have been sounding the alarm on this for the better part of two years.

How did this happen? Well, the previous administration didn't believe that governments should interfere with business, so no one at the FCC (which approved the 5G implementation) discussed it with anyone at the FAA until the FAA blew a gasket. And yet, in other countries, 5G rollouts haven't caused any of these problems. Maybe because the other countries, with their functioning governments, got the implementation right:

The French antennas have permanent safeguards in airport buffer zones that provide more protection than the US ones. Further, the French antennas near airports have to be tilted downward to reduce interference, and the French antennas have far less power. Not mentioned here but also notable is that in Europe, the C-Band spectrum is in the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz range, so it’s further away from the range that radio altimeters use.

The FAA has a handy infographic explaining this in more detail:

It must be nice to live in a country with a functioning government.

Update: The Times columnist Peter Coy has more about the previous administration's political infighting that led us here.

Civis romanus sum

A grand jury convened by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has indicted four Belarusian security officials for air piracy:

In response to a purported bomb threat, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s authoritarian president, sent a fighter jet on May 23 to intercept the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 carrying some 170 passengers from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania — among them the journalist, Roman Protasevich. The forcing down of the plane and his seizure led to international outrage.

The bomb threat was a fake, orchestrated by senior Belarus officials who were seeking to detain Mr. Protasevich in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, the indictment says.

The move was seen as a marker of how far Mr. Lukashenko, with the support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was willing to go to repress dissent in his country.

The criminal complaint acknowledges that the incident occurred "out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district of the United States," but 49 USC 46502(b)(2)(A) gives the United States jurisdiction over any unlawful seizure of an aircraft when a US national is onboard. This comes by way of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, which the US signed in September 1971 and, here's the thing, Belarus signed on December 30th of the same year.

I doubt that any of the defendants will avail themselves of the American justice system voluntarily. But the SDNY has issued arrest warrants for them, and I expect Interpol will get the warrants soon. And guess what? Belarus is a member of Interpol.

This indictment also won't bring down Lukashenko's government, especially not with Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin needing a pliant Belarus to maintain his own internal power. But the four guys who actually carried out his illegal orders might wind up leaving Belarus in someone's diplomatic bag.

Property crime stories that have deeper meanings than I first thought

On this day in 1950, eleven thieves stole $2.7m ($29.8m today) from the Brink's Armored Car depot in Boston. They would have avoided prosecution had they just followed the plan, but the Liddy Rule got them in the end ("three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead").

Flash forward 72 years and we find that theft again dominates the news in Los Angeles, as thieves plunder stopped trains outside the intermodal depot in Lincoln Heights. If your package is delayed, it might have helped derail a freight train just down the hill from Dodger Stadium.

Finally, FedEx has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to install anti-missile lasers on its A321-200 cargo jets. I couldn't find statistics about how many airplanes have taken fire from portable missile batteries, but apparently FedEx has enough trepidation about them to want countermeasures on its planes.

I just realized I put those stories in order of increasing chaotic destruction. Hm. More to think about.

Technically a good landing

The pilot of a Cessna 172H that crash-landed near Burbank, Calif., earlier this week survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but he came uncomfortably close to a really bad landing—and they most assuredly cannot use the plane again:

LAPD officers pulled an injured pilot from a crashed Cessna 172 moments before it was struck and destroyed by a commuter train. Mark Jenkins, the 70-year-old pilot, was pulled from the wreckage of the aircraft after he crash landed on railroad tracks near Whiteman Airport, which is located in the north Los Angeles suburbs near Burbank Airport. Police body camera footage revealed that several officers acted quickly to free and remove Jenkins just seconds before the Metrolink train obliterated it.

The police body-cam video shows just how close everyone came to the train. Jeebus.

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.