The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What a beautiful day

We're looking forward to another lovely day in Chicago: 25°C, sunny, light breeze, crystal-clear skies. What more perfect day to wake up with the news that, not only are the Cubs still hanging on to first place, but also Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally resigned, no doubt to spend some quality time with his defense lawyers:

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not announced immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

The official who disclosed the resignation today said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales’s and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over Mr. Gonzales had made his continuing as attorney general difficult.

The turmoil has made the job difficult? Kind of like someone shooting his parents and then bemoaning his lot as an orphan, isn't it?

Well, with 512 days and 3 hours (or less) remaining in the worst administration in history, the President can still do enormous harm to the country, but with Gonzales back in Houston he'll now have none of his original cronies to help.

Update, 10:25 CDT: Does anyone else find some irony in his last day being September 17th?

Security theater

Via Bruce Schneier, a really good article about security theater:

At the time, it seemed reasonable. Richard Reid tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoe while aboard a December 2001 flight from Paris, so Congress banned butane lighters on planes.

But in retrospect, the costs of the ban outweighed the benefits. Airport retailers had to stop selling lighters. Lighter vendor Zippo Manufacturing Co. laid off more than 100 workers in part because of the prohibition. Transportation Security Administration screeners at one point had to confiscate 30,000 lighters every day, quadrupling the amount of garbage the agency had to dispose of. TSA even had to hire a contractor to help with all the extra trash.

Welcome to homeland security, where everyone has an incentive to exaggerate threats. A Congress member whose district includes a port has little to lose and much to gain by playing up the potential for container-borne terrorism. A city with a dam talks up the need to protect critical infrastructure. A company selling weapons-detection technology stresses the vulnerability of commercial aviation. A civil servant evaluating homeland security grant applications has an interest in over-estimating dangers that might be addressed by grantees rather than denying funding and risk blame in the event of a disaster.

Mainstream recognition of long-standing problem

Newsweek just published an article laying out how oil, gas, and other similar industries have bamboozled the American public for close to 20 years about climate change:

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."

Just last year, polls found that 64 percent of Americans thought there was "a lot" of scientific disagreement on climate change; only one third thought planetary warming was "mainly caused by things people do."

For the record: there is no dispute among climatologists that planetary warming is mostly caused by human activities.

I'm glad Newsweek published the story, even though it's old news to people who have followed the administration's (528 days to go!) assault on science and reason. Maybe more people will realize they're being hoodwinked.

Cheery Friday thoughts

After falling 3% yesterday, followed by the Nikkei and the European indices, the Dow dropped another 1.5% within minutes of opening today.

Don't say nobody warned us: we've just started a serious economic correction, which, if history is any guide, will turn seriously ugly in October. I think once the President (529 days, 3 hours) said we had sound economic fundamentals, he might as well have written "MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIM" on the podium.

In happier news, the Cubs pulled within a half-game of the Brewers last night.

Quietly leaving

From this week's Economist, a strangely understated note:

The British army officially ended Operation Banner in Northern Ireland, its longest continuous operation. Soldiers were sent to the province in 1969 in what was intended to be a brief stint to quell sectarian violence. A garrison of 5,000 men will remain to offer support to the police.

More from the BBC about Tuesday's event:

The British army's operation in Northern Ireland came to an end at midnight after 38 years. Operation Banner—the Army's support role for the police—had been its longest continuous campaign, with more than 300,000 personnel taking part.

At the height of the Troubles, there were about 27,000 soldiers in Northern Ireland. From Wednesday, there will be no more than 5,000.

At 276,000 population, Belfast is about the same size as Raleigh, N.C., by the way.

Tapping on empty skulls

I admit that on occasion I've bought bottled water, for example on long road-trips. But I've also found it amusing that Evian backwards spells...well, you can figure it out. The Economist this week explains why, exactly, buying bottled water shows consumers are daft:

The success of bottled water is in many ways one of capitalism’s greatest mysteries. Studies show consistently that tap water is purer than many bottled waters—not including those that contain only tap water, which by some estimates is 40% of the total by volume. The health benefits that are claimed for some bottled waters are unproven, at best. By volume, bottled water often costs 1,000 times the price of tap water. Indeed, even with oil prices sky high, a litre of bottled water can cost more than a litre of petrol. And on top of that, there are the environmental costs of transporting bottled water and of manufacturing and disposing of the bottles.

Yet sales of bottled water have been booming. In 2006 Americans spent nearly $11 billion buying 31.2 billion liters of the stuff, an increase in volume of 9.5% on a year earlier. The average American drank 104.5 L of bottled water last year, up from 63.2 L in 2000.

All of which shows the problems of the average IQ being 100.

Shelter Boxes

These things are cool. For about $1,000 each, the Shelter Box Trust (Shelter Box USA here) provides shelter to people in disaster areas. They've distributed over 32,000 boxes to half a million people since 2001, including to Indonesia in December 2004 and New Orleans in August 2005.

Each is a 49-gallon box containing a tent, ten sleeping bags, cookware, water jugs (sans water) and other neccesities that people need immediately following a disaster.

The Greedy Old Party (GOP) front-runner is...

..."none of the above." So says the latest AP/Ipsos poll (PDF; via Talking Points Memo):

In a new AP/Ipsos Poll, 25% of Republican respondents say they are either undecided or would prefer someone other than the current field — more than the vote share of any actual candidates listed in the poll. Compare this to the Democratic side, where only 13% of respondents are undecided or prefer none of the above. In the horse-race numbers, Rudy Giuliani leads the GOP side with 21%, followed by Fred Thompson at 19%, John McCain at 15%, and Mitt Romney at 11%. Among Dems: Hillary Clinton 36%, Barack Obama 20%, Al Gore 15%, and John Edwards 11%.

The poll also shows the "right direction/wrong track" numbers at 26% and 69%, respectively. Fortunately, at maximum, only 553 days and two hours remain in the worst presidency ever.

Those were the days

The current occupant and his Vice really are the worst pair ever, but achieving such lofty depths took some cunning, perserverence and a shooting incident. I mention this because on this day in 1804, the second-worst VPOTUS ever shot Alexander Hamilton to death—and the latter manifestly did not apologize to the former. (Had Hamilton done so, Cheney would have had another obstacle to slither under in his quest for the "worst ever" title.)

Excellent piece about the failed British bombings

Via Bruce Schneier, a former British military bomb-disposal operator offers some thoughts about the clowns who completely failed to bomb anything in the UK last week:

If these guys at the weekend really were anything to do with al-Qaeda, all one can really say is that it looks as though the War on Terror is won. This whole hoo-ha kicked off, remember, with 9/11: an extremely effective attack. Then we had the Bali and Madrid bombings, not by any measure as shocking and bloody but still nasty stuff. Then we had London 7/7, a further significant drop in bodycount but still competently planned and executed (Not too many groups would have been able to mix up that much peroxide-based explosive first try without an own goal).

...

Remember, this country carried on successfully for six years with hundreds—thousands, sometimes—of tons of explosives raining down on it every night for six years, delivered by very competent Germans who often died doing that job. The civilian death toll was around 60,000 according to most sources; the equivalent of 20 9/11s, more than three for every year of the war. Civilisation was not brought down. Germany and Japan withstood even greater violence, and survived it too.