The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Housekeeping

A year ago today I posted that the previous month, July 2016, was my worst blogging month in 5 years. Well, July 2017 was my best blogging month in 3½ years. The last month I posted 47 posts was January 2014 before I slowed down to the point where this past February I only posted 20 times for a rate of 0.74/day, a number not seen since November 2010.

I have some hypotheses why this happened, and why posting has rebounded. For now, though, I'll just say I've had three consecutive months of beating both the running 12-month average (1.21/day) and the all-time average posting rate (1.31/day).

Don't do it, man!

President Clinton's chief of staff John Podesta has simple advice for President Trump's new chief of staff, John Kelly:

Don’t take the job.

Kelly, who has rendered extraordinary service and sacrifice to the nation, just signed up for what may truly be an impossible mission: bringing discipline, order and strategic focus to the chaos that is the Trump White House.

To have any chance of succeeding, he will have to accomplish three extraordinary tasks, all at odds with President Trump’s instincts.

First, discipline.

Kelly is walking into a White House that looks more like a cock fight than an episode of “The West Wing.” (See Mooch, you can use that word without being profane.) The White House culture will have to be shaken to its core. Kelly must be able to fire anyone at will, including to enforce a no-tolerance policy for behavior unbecoming a senior government official. Scaramucci’s departure Monday is a good start, but Kelly will have to keep a tight rein on a White House staff that is used to few boundaries. And if there is going to be an exception for Trump’s relatives, Kelly should get an explicit commitment that even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump report through him — no end arounds.

What an interesting year this has turned out to be.

What Brexit means to Crossrail

Crossrail, the UK's £14.8bn rail line connecting London's far western suburbs with its eastern ones, either represents the end of an era or the beginning of one, according to today's New York Times:

Before Britain voted last summer to leave the European Union, Crossrail was conceived for a London open to the world and speeding into the future. Now, with Brexit, the nightmare scenario is that this massive project, to provide more trains moving more people more quickly through a growing city, ends up moving fewer people more quickly through a shrinking city.

Extending roughly 110 km, it is built to speed about 200 million passengers a year in a kind of Y from far to the west of the city, in the county of Berkshire, through Heathrow, to the heart of London, forking east to Shenfield in Essex and to the neighborhood called Abbey Wood, on the historically neglected southeast side of the Thames River. Linked with the existing Underground subway network, it will be rechristened the Elizabeth Line, inserting what is in effect a new steel-and-wheels spine into Britain’s capital.

“The danger with Brexit,” [George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf’s longtime chairman said], “is that if Britain gets out of the European Union and doesn’t keep the U.K. an attractive place for financial institutions, they will think twice about growing here. The issue isn’t banks leaving Canary Wharf. Most of them have long-term leases. The issue will be the pace of growth.”

But that’s not quite true. Because of Brexit worries, construction plans for several of Canary Wharf’s new buildings have already been put on hold. And long-term leases can always be broken.

The subway will open to passengers in 2018.

Chan eil iad mar a tha thu

Scottish authorities are making it difficult for Donald Trump to expand his money-losing golf course outside Aberdeen:

Two Scottish government agencies—the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, a conservation agency—say they will object to the Trump Organization’s plans to build a second 18-hole golf course at Aberdeen, known as the Trump International Golf Links. If they succeed in killing this expansion, it will be a major setback for Trump and raise doubts about the future profitability of the whole venture.

Industry experts say the value of many of Trump’s golf resorts is not in the daily management of the course itself but rather in the development and sale of housing. And according to the 2008 master plan that Trump convinced local planning officials to accept, he needs to build two courses before he is allowed to break ground on the profitable housing development. 

But with the Trump Organization back to trying to get the second golf course built, Scottish regulators are making the case that Trump apparently doesn’t fully understand the development limitations. According to the Guardian, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is objecting to the Aberdeen expansion on the grounds that the Trump Organization’s plans for managing sewage are inadequate. Scottish Natural Heritage, meanwhile, says the company’s expansion plans don’t take into account the fragility of the nearby dunes and how they may affect the course as they shift—already a recurring problem on the first course, where greens are strafed by mini-sandstorms. 

It turns out, Scots are really hard to bully, and (as the headline above says), they really do not like him.

A classic from McSweeney's

There is one musical play, out of all of them, that I loathe more than any other. My hatred of this play far exceeds my antipathy towards Mitch McConnell, such that I would gladly prefer an evening reading his floor speeches than to listen to one single song from this abomination. Rogers and Hammerstein, you should be ashamed.

Way back in May 2011, Melinda Taub wrote a gem for McSweeney's that suggest she agrees:

Dear friends, family, and Austrian nobility,

Captain Von Trapp and I are very sorry to inform you that we no longer plan to wed. We offer our deepest apologies to those of you who have already made plans to travel to Salzburg this summer.

Those of you on the Captain’s side of the guest list are probably aware of the reason for the change of plans. I’m sure by now you have received that charming “Save the date!” card in the shape of a mountain goat from the Captain and his new fiancée, Maria.

I must confess to being rather blindsided by the end of our relationship. It seems Captain Von Trapp and I misunderstood each other. I assumed he was looking for a wife of taste and sophistication, who was a dead ringer for Tippi Hedren; instead he wanted to marry a curtain-wearing religious fanatic who shouts every word she says.

The first time I read the line about "the eldest daughter, who seems intent on losing her virginity to the mailman" I snorted tea out my nose.

Brava, Ms Taub. Brava.

So long, big guy

Yesterday around 7pm, as I dropped a friend off at O'Hare, I was lucky enough to see the last United 747 take off from Chicago:

Chicago-based United still has 14 747s in operation that typically only fly from San Francisco to a handful of cities in Asia and Europe.

But United will have one of its 747s fly from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to San Francisco on Friday, the airline said. Tickets for the flight — UA2704, departing Chicago at 6:30 p.m. — went on sale Tuesday, said United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin.

Here's the airplane's flight track.

It was majestic, this huge thing taking off over Terminal 5 just as we were pulling up. And then it was gone, never to return.

Kind of like the American 767s that used to fly from Chicago to London twice a day. My flight next Sunday will be on one of American's brand-new 787-8 airplanes, and wow, am I looking forward to it.

How a fundamentalist sect may be wiped out by polygyny

A fundamentalist Mormon sect living along the Nevada-Arizona border has a serious problem with a rare genetic disorder, because everyone is closely related to everyone else:

“With polygyny you’re decreasing the overall genetic diversity because a few men are having a disproportionate impact on the next generation,” says Mark Stoneking, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany. “Random genetic mutations become more important.”

In isolated communities, the problem is compounded by basic arithmetic: if some men take multiple wives, others can’t have any. In the FLDS, a large proportion of men must be kicked out as teenagers, shrinking the gene pool even further.

Which brings us to the good news. Since inbreeding tends to uncover “recessive” mutations that would normally remain in hiding, studying these communities has helped scientists to identify many disease-causing genes. That’s because genetic information is useless on its own. To be meaningful to medical research, it must be linked to information about disease. In fact, more human disease genes have been discovered in Utah – with its Mormon history – than any other place in the world.

It’s not the legacy Brigham Young expected, but in the end, it’s possible that the controversial practice might have some unintended positives.

Religion, man. Religion.

Shut up, shut up, and shut up

Three groups from whom one would expect general support of the President of the United States yesterday told the current occupant of that office to stop behaving like an ass:

It’s far too early to know whether they mark a turning point in how people who have been at least nominally supportive of the president will approach him in the future, but Trump ought not to be dismissive of their significance. The critiques may not change the president’s behavior, but as a marker of the rising concern about the president even from allies, they couldn’t have been more obvious.

The first of the three came from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the generally even-tempered chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

In terse language, Grassley made clear that he would not consider holding confirmation hearings for a replacement [Attorney General] any time this year. That would leave the Justice Department in the hands of Rod J. Rosenstein, the career prosecutor who is now deputy attorney general and someone who also has earned Trump’s disrespect for having appointed Mueller.

The other rebukes came from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ("you can't order a policy change via tweet") and the Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America.

You just can't make this stuff up.