The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Yes, it's getting hotter

We have lovely weather in Chicago today—24°C and sunny—but summer has been pretty warm so far. It's been worse in other places. The Times demonstrates today that this is a worldwide trend:

During the base period, 1951 to 1980, about a third of summers across the Northern Hemisphere were in what they called a “near average” or normal range. A third were considered cold; a third were hot.

Since then, summer temperatures have shifted drastically, the researchers found. Between 2005 and 2015, two-thirds of summers were in the hot category, while nearly 15 percent were in a new category: extremely hot.

Practically, that means most summers today are either hot or extremely hot compared to the mid-20th century.

The Climate Prediction Center calls for above-average chances (+33% to +50%) for above-normal temperatures throughout the U.S. through August, except for parts of the Southwest that are normally too hot for humans. The forecast for August through October calls for 40%+ probabilities of above-normal temperatures throughout all the U.S., particularly along the Gulf, Atlantic, and Bering coasts. The MET predicts the same for most of the world.

 

Just to clarify...

The President can't actually change military policy with a tweet:

This morning there is news that there will – for now – be no change in the US military’s policy toward transgender service members. The news comes in the form of a letter shared with members of the press from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

On its face this is no more than a statement of military command protocol and the chain of command. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, with vast powers that position grants him. But the President does not and cannot just dial up the head of Central Command and order a war. There is a specific and statutory chain of command. Under the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act....

There’s process and there’s law and there’s the President. The person of the president does not trump the other two.

So for now, the military can remain open to anyone who is fit to serve. Let's see if the president actually orders the change through channels.

Where did the day go?

Usually when I work from home, I get a lot done. Today...not as much. I've run errands, had two meetings outside the house, and (to Parker's horror) vacuumed.

Now I'm off to another meeting, with half the house un-vacuumed and many emails unread.

Articles also unread:

Now, time for a board meeting.

Not enough outrage?

New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker says President Trump's outrages aren't outraging us anymore:

After six months in office, Mr. Trump has crossed so many lines, discarded so many conventions, said and done so many things that other presidents would not have, that he has radically shifted the understanding of what is standard in the White House. He has moved the bar for outrage. He has a taste for provocation and relishes challenging Washington taboos. If the propriety police tut tut, he shows no sign of concern.

[Last week,] Mr. Trump urged uniformed sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford to call their members of Congress to lobby for his military spending plan and his proposed repeal of Mr. Obama’s health care program. Traditionally, the commander in chief does not tell the troops who serve under him to involve themselves in politics or policy battles on his behalf.

"Traditionally?" The President politicizing the military is such a bright line that only George W. Bush has even come close to doing so in my lifetime. Never, in my knowledge, has a president solicited votes from uniformed personnel, and for good reason. Baker:

“It was a mistake for the president to make this comment,” said Peter D. Feaver, a specialist on civilian-military matters at Duke University and a former national security aide to Mr. Bush. “While there is a legitimate role for senior brass to explain military affairs to the public, it is not good for civil-military relations to have the military viewed as a special interest group pleading for bigger budgets.”

And then there's the matter of calling for the prosecution of his defeated opponent:

The closest analogies that historians could summon occurred a century or more ago. Aaron Burr, who sought to snatch the presidency from Thomas Jefferson when the contest went to the House of Representatives in 1800, was prosecuted in a treason case for later plotting to break off territory and create a new nation. (He was acquitted.) Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate who lost the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson, was jailed for sedition for speaking out against World War I. In both cases, they were prosecuted for actions taken after the election.

So...never before have we come this close to being a banana republic. Meanwhile, Trump is inverting the way the White House has worked for nearly a century—or, rather, allowing his new communications director to do so:

Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, according to Politico, is among the first to get canned. It seems likely that that even if Scaramucci remains Communications Director and doesn’t become chief of staff himself – which I would not rule out – that the White House will now be run from the communications office, with a new chief of staff effectively, if not formally, reporting to Scaramucci.

This, while signalling that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is about to get his walking papers. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, sure; but it's still a little insane. Check out Jennifer Rubin's column yesterday in the Independent UK: "Trump's presidency can't be saved—so what happens next?"

Does anyone else have this website prominently on your favorites bar?

New hints about dog domestication

Via Deeply Trivial, a new study published last week provides new evidence that only a few genetic changes made wary wolves into friendly dogs:

Not much is known about the underlying genetics of how dogs became domesticated. In 2010, evolutionary geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University and colleagues published a study comparing dogs’ and wolves’ DNA. The biggest genetic differences gave clues to why dogs and wolves don’t look the same. But major differences were also found in WBSCR17, a gene linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans.

Williams-Beuren syndrome leads to delayed development, impaired thinking ability and hypersociability. VonHoldt and colleagues wondered if changes to the same gene in dogs would make the animals more social than wolves, and whether that might have influenced dogs’ domestication.

The team notes, for instance, that in addition to contributing to sociability, the variations in WBSCR17 may represent an adaptation in dogs to living with humans. A previous study revealed that variations in WBSCR17 were tied to the ability to digest carbohydrates — a source of energy wolves would have rarely consumed. Yet, the variations in domestic dogs suggest those changes would help them thrive on the starch-rich diets of humans.

I hope they're not barking up the wrong tree here.