The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Officially a quagmire

Via Talking Points Memo, the White House is planning to stay in Iraq indefinitely:

When last we left the Bush administration's so-called benchmarks for strategic progress in Iraq—that is, the political progress that military success allows—they weren't being met, and the White House didn't care. Now that the year's almost over and the administration is beginning to bring the "surge" troops home, it's worth asking: what happened to the benchmarks? The New York Times reports that the administration has quietly given up on them, preferring nebulous goals for which it's easier to claim success.

We still have (up to) 420 days, 22 hours, and 30 minutes left in the worst presidency in history.

British nuclear security

Via Bruce Schneier, apparently the physical security of British nuclear weapons until around 1998 consisted of, essentially, a bicycle key:

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Oh. Well. Of course. Why use a hard-to-forge sequence of letters and numbers like the U.S. or U.S.S.R. when a little key will do?

So what prevented an accidental (or deliberate) British detonation until Tony Blair fixed the problem? Why, tradition, of course, what what!

The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders."

(Insert nervous laughter here.)

Alma mater to host debate

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday that my undergraduate alma mater, Hofstra University, will host the final debate in the 2008 general election cycle:

"We are extremely pleased and proud that the Commission has chosen Hofstra University for one of America's most important political events," said Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz. "The presidential debates are pivotal events that can shape the course of the election, and our students and community will be able to witness, first-hand, the democratic process."

President Rabinowitz will soon announce plans for a series of academic programs to be held in the months leading up to the debate that will provide students and the community with insights into the process and workings of the national election. "With Hofstra's unique academic strengths, particularly with our Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and our vibrant academic programs in political science, journalism and mass media, and law, we are uniquely poised to take advantage of the special opportunities a presidential debate offers. We plan to maximize every opportunity to involve students, faculty and the community in this historic event."

The debate will air Wednesday 15 October 2008 at 9 pm EDT.

No word yet on who will attend, but several qualified people have applied for the job.

Not sure what to do with this information

Via Talking Points Memo, Donny and Marie have endorsed Romney. They also endorse the idea that the Angel Moroni spoke to Joseph Smith and told him that the word of God was written on a collection of golden plates buried (conveniently) near his home; that native Americans spoke European languages and were white; and that white men quite literally rule all others.

Lest you think I'm inflating the religious issue, perhaps drawing too close an inference that having a world-view based on the demonstrably irrational and fantastic writings of a deeply disturbed individual is somehow incompatible with having nuclear launch codes handy, here is Donny Osmond's rationale for his endorsement:

Donny Osmond said Romney's candidacy has been "absolutely wonderful for the Mormon Church" because it has made many more Americans curious about their faith.

Marie added punctuation:

And Marie Osmond had this to say when asked whether Romney should give a speech on his religion similar to the one that John F. Kennedy gave during the 1960 campaign before becoming the nation's first Catholic president: "I hope we've grown up since then. I hope people look at the person and what they've done."

You're right, Marie, Mitt Romney is not John F. Kennedy. Romney supports theocracy, Constitution be damned, while Kennedy quite famously told the country "I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me." So the Osmonds' endorsement, couched as it is in religious terms, and Romney's refusal to distance himself from it, may not be the triviality it seems to be. And I'm not sure that sauntering toward religious rule, no matter what the religion, means we've "grown up."

Don't even start me on Romney's record.

Wing-nut primary ad

From Talking Points Memo (emphasis in original):

Tom Tancredo's new ad, set to run in Iowa—if any stations will accept it, that is—is a true original. The ad depicts the dire consequences of our open borders through a dramatization of a fictitious terrorist attack in the middle of a shopping mall. ...

One has to wonder if the plot is taken from the hypothetical terror scenario described by Brit Hume at the first Fox News debate earlier this year, which involved terrorist attacks taking place at malls.

The <i>other</i> CTA funding shortfall

Today's Chicago Tribune explains that while the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has serious problems funding its daily operations, it has an even bigger problem finding the $6 billion required to make capital improvements:

The CTA says it is more than $6 billion short of adequately modernizing its rail and bus lines, a staggering number lost in the debate as the agency lurches from one "doomsday" to another searching for the tens of millions of dollars it needs to keep operating.

The result is that more than 500 CTA buses, one-fourth of its fleet, have been on the road for 16 years, logging an average 580,000 miles apiece.

...

The cost of repairing and maintaining the old buses is soaring. The CTA said it spends $16 million a year to keep the old buses in running order, more than five-fold the $3 million cost for upkeep on newer models.

Reporter Jon Hilkevich does examine some of the reasons for the funding shortfall:

Increasing amounts of the CTA's capital budget -- more than a combined $150 million since 2003 -- have been diverted to operations to help balance annual budgets and reduce the threatened service cuts and fare increases under the CTA's doomsday plans.

At the same time, capital funding to the CTA has fallen by almost $200 million a year since the Illinois FIRST infrastructure program expired almost five years ago.

Without the state launching a successor to Illinois FIRST, non-federal capital funding to the CTA during the next five years is projected at one-tenth the level in 2002, according to CTA budget documents.

Health Care Excuses

Economist Paul Krugman gives us a heads-up on the lies we're going to (continue to) hear about the U.S. health care system:

The United States spends far more on health care per person than any other nation. Yet we have lower life expectancy than most other rich countries. Furthermore, every other advanced country provides all its citizens with health insurance; only in America is a large fraction of the population uninsured or underinsured.

You might think that these facts would make the case for major reform of America’s health care system—reform that would involve, among other things, learning from other countries' experience—irrefutable. Instead, however, apologists for the status quo offer a barrage of excuses for our system's miserable performance.

It's worth a read.

Supreme Court denies Ryan's freedom bid

The former Illinois governor goes to jail tomorrow:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens today rejected former Gov. George Ryan's final, long-shot bid to remain free on bail while he fights to overturn his corruption conviction before the nation's highest court.

The ruling means Ryan must report to a federal prison camp in Oxford, Wis., by 5 p.m. Wednesday to begin serving his 6½-year sentence.

A federal jury convicted Ryan in April 2006 on charges that, as secretary of state and governor, he doled out sweetheart deals to co-defendant Lawrence Warner and other friends, and used state resources and employees for political gain.

Off you go, then, guv. Cheerio!

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan will join a growing club of incarcerated Illinois politicians next Wednesday:

A federal appeals court today denied former Gov. George Ryan's bid to remain free on bail while he asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his corruption conviction.

The ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago increases the likelihood that Ryan must report to prison by Nov. 7. He can still ask the U.S. Supreme Court to extend his bail, however.