The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

I'm worried about...

Gulliver follows up on the 'sno-good situation at Heathrow:

Gatwick used to be owned by BAA, like Heathrow. But under its new owners, Global Infrastructure Partners, it has coped better than its London rival and is now fully operational. Part of the problem at Heathrow, of course, is that it operates at up to 98% capacity so small problems can have massive knock-on effects. But even so, the differences between snow-fighting provisions at Heathrow and Gatwick are notable, as the BBC has reported:

Earlier this year, BAA published an investment programme of £5.1bn for Heathrow over five years, of which £500,000 was invested in snow and ice-fighting technology this year, with another £3m planned for the next four years. By comparison, reports suggest that Gatwick Airport, which is half the size of Heathrow and was sold by BAA last year, spent £1m on snow and ice this year and plans to spend another £7m next year. Heathrow's "snow fleet" is made up of 69 vehicles; Gatwick's is a reported 150.

It reminds me of a statistic I encountered in 2003, when I worked for a time in Richmond, Va. That year, as many on the East Coast remember, the mid-Atlantic states had 12 snowstorms in three months. I got trapped in DC for two days in February returning from New York; I watched panicked Virginians buy all the bread and milk they could carry upon seeing the first snowflake.

Anyway, it turned out that the Commonwealth of Virginia (area: 110,785 km²) owned the same number of snowplows as the City of Chicago (area: 606 km²). It may be an unfair comparison—after all, municipalities also have snow-removal equipment—but I swear I didn't see Richmond start plowing until the snow had gotten at least 50 mm deep.

And if you want a laugh, the title of this post harks back to this old Monty Python ditty:

Incompetence and snow

Back in 1979, Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic lost re-election to Jane Byrne mostly for his failure to clear the streets of snow after the worst snowfall in the city's recorded history. His story didn't end too badly, as he ultimately became Chief Justice of Illinois; but it taught all the city's subsequent mayors to get the snowplows out before the first flake hits the ground.

The Spanish company Ferrovial—owner of the British Airports Authority, which runs Heathrow—hasn't, apparently, learned this lesson, according to Daily Beast aviation blogger Clive Irving:

[Y]ou might think that, given its importance, the ability of Heathrow not simply to wreck the holiday travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people but to undermine economies, disrupt international air cargo and, most significantly, to visit disaster on the travel industry, plans would be in place to ensure that it can function after a 13 cm snowfall. After all, terrorists would be delighted to have wrought such harm.

Here we are, though, four days after the weekend shutdown of Heathrow and even now the airport is still barely functional.

And it’s all because the people in charge of Heathrow could not muster the resources to plow two runways and clear ice and snow from terminal gates—not exactly rocket science and something hundreds of airports have to face on a regular basis in winter.

It's interesting how O'Hare manages to keep 7 runways clear (or at least the three in use at any point) during 30 cm snow events, without resorting to the army.

Remember the "botched" assassination in Dubai?

Via Bruce Schneier, it seems the assassins might not have botched anything. And you know all those CCTVs in London? More evidence they're completely useless:

It has been more than eight months since the murder of top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was found in a Dubai hotel room Jan. 20. Quick work by Dubai police and a diplomatic furor over the use of dozens of forged passports in the case fed early optimism that at least some of the 30-plus suspects would be found. But a string of apparent dead ends has frustrated international investigators, lengthening the odds that anyone will be caught or that definitive proof of Mossad involvement will emerge.

And despite an initial burst of tough talk from various governments, some international investigators are concerned that politics may be hampering cooperation from some governments that support Israel.

... Police spent about 10,000 hours poring over footage from some 1,500 security cameras around Dubai. Using face-recognition software, electronic-payment records, receipts and interviews with taxi drivers and hotel staff, they put together a list of suspects and publicized it.

As Schneier has said, if the police spend resources on CCTVs and other high-tech options, they don't have those resources to spend on footwork.

It's all over now

Not my MBA, which finishes in 73 days. At least we're done with classes; all that remains are my distance classes and three projects.

No, more interesting than that is how World War I finally ends on Sunday:

The final payment of £59.5 million writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the 'war guilt' clause, accepting blame for the war.

This, one must admit, is a head-scratcher. Good thing no one held a grudge after 1919, else we'd have had real problems.

Gay kaken am meer

Apparently a former Hitler Youth called me a Nazi today:

The pontiff praised Britain's fight against the Nazis - who "wished to eradicate God" - before relating it to modern day "atheist extremism".

Afterwards his spokesman Federico Lombardi said: "I think the Pope knows rather well what the Nazi ideology is".

Yes, Ratzinger should know what the Nazi ideology is, but I'm afraid we athiests are rather unlike him. In the same speech he also said, "I also recall the regime's attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives," forgetting, I suppose, how these pastors were resisting the organization he himself wanted to join and how the organization he himself now leads turned Jews over to the Nazis throughout the war.

Really, is there any reason to continue treating this man with the deference and respect we show actual world leaders?

Ach, he's nae welcome here

Sullivan asks, "What if the Pope came to Britain and not even the Catholics showed up?"

ONLY 65,000 Catholics are now expected to take part in the papal mass in Scotland tomorrow – one third fewer than originally expected and a mere fraction of the total number in the country.

The figure falls far short of the 100,000 pilgrims it was originally hoped would flock to see Pope Benedict XVI at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.

The Catholic Church denied that the controversy over the Pope's handling of the Church's child abuse scandal has undermined his imminent arrival.

But critics of the visit claimed the figures revealed the extent of indifference towards the first visit by a Pope to Scotland for 28 years.

The Catholic Church says more than 250,000 attended the mass in Bellahouston Park when Pope John Paul II visited in 1982.

I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles away from Ratzinger.

Note to Republicans: this is what a conservative looks like

Via Sullivan, UK Prime Minister David Cameron presents the Conservative view of gay marriage:

I know there is one other subject that the gay community is particularly interested in: marriage. As someone who believes in commitment, in marriage and in civil partnerships, my view is that if religious organisations want to have civil partnerships registered at their places of worship that should be able to happen. Last week the Equalities Minister held listening events with faith groups and representatives of the gay community, as we consider what the next steps are for civil partnerships and how we enable religious organisations to register same-sex relationships on their premises if they wish to do so. I think this is an important step forward and we will help to make it happen. But making this country a more equal, open place isn't just a job for government alone. The truth is we will never really tackle homophobia in schools, the workplace or in sport just by passing laws. We need a culture change as well.

There's no single lever we can pull or even collection of measures that we can take to make that happen. The wall of prejudice is also chipped away by high-profile role models, by public celebrations, by a positive approach to diversity. That's why I am proud that there are now more openly gay MPs in the Conservative Party than any other party. It's why I wish the upcoming Pride events – today in Leeds, all week in Brighton and on Saturday in Liverpool – every success. And it's why I congratulate everyone on this list for doing their bit to inspire and change attitudes. This is a country where people can be proud of who they are – and quite right too.

As Sullivan says, "Imagine a Republican leader doing that. Better still, imagine him or her writing this."

That's as likely right now as a Republican leader who believes we can cut the deficit by increasing spending without increasing taxes. I mention this because the Lib-Con coalition in the UK is reducing speding and increasing taxes, as that seems the surest way for the government to spend less than it takes in. Arithmetic, you see.

Morning round-up

After a Strategy exam, Finance exam, Strategy team paper, project estimate for work, and...well, that's really all I did the last four days, come to think of it...I'm more or less back.

Herewith a quorum of things I noticed but didn't have time to note:

  • The Washington Post reported yesterday that MC 900 Ft. Jesus—sorry, I meant an actual 30 m statue of Jesus—got struck by lightning Monday night and burned to the ground. Signpost to Armageddon? Probably not, but it has an element of Apocalyptic whimsy to it, don't you think?.
  • Via Sullivan, the Vision of Humanity project's Global Peace Index puts New Zealand at the top and Iraq at the bottom. We're 85th (of 149); Britain is 31st; and Finalnd and Russia, countries I'm visiting in two weeks, are 9th and 146th, respectively. Check out the interactive map.
  • The Economist's Gulliver blog linked to a Sunday Times (reg.req.) article about the beauty of window seats. I always get the window, if possible; so does Gulliver, apparently, and the Times author who wrote: "My favourite window-seat ride is crossing America — with the asphalt labyrinth of the crammed east coast giving way first to ceaseless Appalachian forest, then to the eerie geometric perfection of the farm-belt fields, then to the intimidating, jaw-dropping emptiness of the west, before the smog starts lapping at your window as California sprawls into view." Yep.
  • Today has tremendous significance to my small and fuzzy family which I will relate later.

Back to the mines.