The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lunchtime incompetence, history, and whisky

Someday, historians may discover what former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker—I don't have to remind you, a Republican—got in exchange for the ridiculous deal his administration made with FoxConn. After the Taiwan-based company created only a tiny fraction of the jobs it promised in exchange for billions in tax credits, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has finally told them, no, you don't get all that money for nothing.

In other news:

Finally, Whisky Advocate has some recommendations for an essential whisky bar in your home.

Quick edit of old favorite

This photo popped up in my Facebook "Memories" feed this morning, so I spent five minutes correcting it. (You can see the original crop and color correction in my post from 14 August 2009.)

Man, that was a great hike. I miss the UK, I miss traveling, and I kind of miss these cows. I hope to see the first two next spring; the cows, I expect, mooed their last years ago.

Where I was supposed to be today

In November, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago performed in the Chicago Opera Theater production of Everest, a 2015 opera by Joby Talbot. After the second performance, Talbot and a number of the soloists met some of us out for drinks nearby. Andrew Bidlack, who sang the role of Rob Hall, mentioned they were going to London to perform the work at the Barbican. I told him I'd be there.

That performance should have taken place tonight at 7:30 BST. Obviously, it's cancelled, and even if it weren't, Covid-19 precautions mean I can't even get into the UK right now without a 14-day quarantine after arrival.

The middle half of 2020 may turn out to be the most disappointing period in my lifetime. But I'm optimistic about the fourth quarter, and about 2021. We'll get through this.

The past and the future

Two pieces caught my eye this week, one telling us that things will get better, and the other...well...

First, a letter from New Yorker London correspondent Mollie Panter-Downes—sent 14 September 1940, the 14th day of the London Blitz:

In getting about, one first learns that a bomb has fallen near at hand by coming upon barriers across roads and encountering policemen who point to yellow tin signs which read simply “Diversion,” as though the blockage had been caused by workmen peacefully taking up drains ahead. The “diversion” in Regent Street, where a bomb fell just outside the Café Royal and did not explode for hours, cut off the surrounding streets and made the neighborhood as quiet as a hamlet. Crowds collected behind the ropes to gaze respectfully at the experts, who stood looking down into the crater and chatting as nonchalantly as plumbers discussing the best way of fixing a leaking tap. Police went around getting occupants out of the buildings in the vicinity and warning them to leave their windows open, but even with this precaution, when the bomb finally went off that evening there were not many panes of glass left.

The scene next morning was quite extraordinarily eerie. The great sweep of Regent Street, deserted by everyone except police and salvage workers, stared gauntly like a thoroughfare in a dead city. It would have been no surprise to see grass growing up out of the pavements, which were covered instead with a fine, frosty glitter of powdered glass. The noise of glass being hammered out of upper windows, swept into piles at street corners, and shovelled into municipal dust vans made a curious grinding tinkle which went on most of the day. The happiest people there were two little boys who had discovered a sweet shop where most of the window display had been blown into the gutter, and who were doing a fine looting job among the debris.

Londoners kept the British end up, and got through it, though it took the UK 18 years before post-war debt fell below 100% of GDP.

The second, from Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman, reminds us that the Republican Party doesn't believe in the legitimacy of a Democratic government. So we should expect GOP intransigence and sabotage throughout the Biden administration:

We’ve been here before, and not that long ago. After the 2008 election but before Barack Obama took office, Time magazine put him on its cover photoshopped as FDR, under the headline “The New New Deal.” But while he did pass a string of significant legislation utilizing government power early in his presidency — a large stimulus bill, Wall Street reform, saving the auto industry, ending bank profiteering on student loans, the Affordable Care Act — two years later Republicans took back the House and ground it all to a halt.

You can bet that Republicans will be holding strategy meetings and fielding polls and writing reports to determine not just how to stop Americans from becoming more open to expansive government action, but how to turn this crisis into anger at government itself....

America’s response to this pandemic was so awful not just because Trump is incompetent, but because conservative you’re-all-on-your-own philosophy was put into practice in ways that left us all vulnerable. In so many ways what we’re suffering through now, both in public health and economically, is a failure of conservatism.

Republicans know that the public might arrive at that conclusion — and they’re working to make sure it doesn’t happen. Democrats need to work just as hard to make sure it does.

This is what I wrote about this morning. Remember: The Democratic Party wants to govern, the Republican Party wants to rule.

The UK locks down

Just a few minutes ago, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping restrictions on assembly and movement similar to those currently in effect in Illinois and some other parts of the US:

To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it – meaning more people are likely to die, not just from coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.

So it’s vital to slow the spread of the disease.

Because that is the way we reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, so we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope – and save more lives.

From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.

Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.

That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
    one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household;
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home.

You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No.

You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.

You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.

The key difference between Illinois and the UK: Johnson explicitly gave police the power to levy fines and disperse gatherings. Also, Johnson announced that people who can't work because of the restrictions will get government support, and 7,500 retired doctors and nurses have rejoined NHS to help.

Also today, author John Scalzi posted some advice to creatives on his blog.

Extraordinary measures in the UK

I'm trying to get my mind around a Conservative government announcing this a few minutes ago:

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced the government will pay the wages of British workers to keep them in jobs as the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

In an unprecedented step, Sunak said the state would pay grants covering up to 80% of the salary of workers kept on by companies, up to a total of £2,500 per month, just above the median income.

“We are starting a great national effort to protect jobs,” he said. “It’s on all of us.”

Sunak said there would be no limit on the funding available to pay people’s wages.

The government is also deferring the next quarter of VAT payments, which is the equivalent of injecting another £30bn into the economy and is designed to help companies stay afloat.

(Another thing that I just learned: Sterling has dropped 12% against the dollar in the past week, hitting £1 = $1.1641 a few minutes ago.)

Closer to home:

And finally, Mother Jones asks "How do you know if you're living through the death of an empire?"

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.

Fastest JFK-to-LHR flight since the Concorde

British Airways flight 112 arrived at 4:47 this morning at Heathrow, having made the trip from New York in an astonishing 4 hours, 56 minutes:

Virgin Atlantic wasn’t far behind British Airways, though. VS4 from New York JFK to London Heathrow was scheduled to depart at exactly the same time. The flight was operated by an A350-1000, and that plane completed the flight in just 4hr57min. It ended up arriving at the gate at Heathrow at 5:05AM, a full 1hr25min ahead of schedule.

Tail winds on both flights were as high as 425 km/h, and the planes reached maximum [ground] speeds of over 1,325 km/h.

It should be noted that this was not the fastest trans-Atlantic trip since Concorde, or even last night:

Aer Lingus flew from Boston to Dublin in a flight time of 4hr49min, which is actually not that impressive when you consider that the flight is nearly 800 km shorter (however, the 747 has a faster cruising speed than the A330).

It's still impressive.

More ridiculousness in the world

Did someone get trapped in a closed time loop on Sunday? Did I? Because this week just brought all kinds of insanity:

Well, one of those is good news...

Hurry home, little blue book

On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.

Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.

I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.