The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Random round-up

So, with a project running somewhere around 105%, an old and patient client that predates my current employment waiting for some updates, Global Financial Management requiring that I figure out the combined beta of two companies about to merge, Foundations of Strategy expecting a transaction cost analysis Saturday morning, and an overwhelming anticipation of seeing Diane and Parker tomorrow after almost two weeks, I find myself completely out of creativity. Heaven bless my winter office (probably, now that the pizzeria around the corner has left, simply "my remote office").

Fortunately, other people on the Intertubes have plenty of it. Creativity, I mean. Here is a quorum, mostly pinched from Sullivan:

  • The Washington Post has a list of twelve things to toss out this spring, as written by Elizabeth Warren, Karl Rove, and Onion editor Joe Randazzo. (The last is an indictment of Internet memes.) There's also a bit on virginity.
  • Writer Andrea Donderi posits a dichotomy between Asker and Guesser cultures. In Cultures, Civilization, and Leadership (one of the CCMBA's core classes) we'd look at this in terms of ICE profiles, which I would explain if I could find the link. (See above re: being overloaded.) This comes via The Guardian, who have the distinction this week of having endorsed for prime minister the guy who became deputy PM. By the way, this kind of embarassment (two guys running against each other only to have to work together as #1 and #2) hasn't happened in the US since 1800. But that's not important right now.
  • While on the subject, it's a little daunting that we haven't had our midterms yet and I've made no progress on the video, but there are only 50 days until our next residency starts. (See above re: being really overloaded.)
  • Finally, Sam Harris has a new demolition of the Catholic Church Good line near the top: "This scandal was one of the most spectacular 'own goals' in the history of religion, and there seems to be no need to deride faith at its most vulnerable and self-abased." (I would explain that my views are probably more moderate than Harris's, and yet I enjoy his writing, but see above re: being really monster raving loony overloaded.)

Shannon has brought my last drink and my check, my teammate KW is busy compiling all of our notes for Strategy, and Parker, I expect, is getting a relaxing belly-scratch from Diane 1,000 km away. I think we're all OK with this, but Parker has the best deal.

Also, for those of you watching in real time, yes: I posted this blasted entry five times in quick succession, because I kept finding typos. This should come as great news to the people currently engaged in Scrabble games with me on Facebook.