The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Air travel through Borowitz

Andy Borowitz reports on a new revenue model for airlines:

Struggling with rising fuel costs and sagging profits, several leading airlines announced today that they would attempt to boost their revenues by stowing passengers in their aircrafts’ overhead bins.
After Airbus announced earlier this week that it was toying with the idea of introducing standing room areas for passengers in the rear of their planes, the airlines decided that the time was right to pitch the idea of stowing passengers in a part of the plane that has customarily been reserved for carry-on luggage.

Jokes aside, I figured out why overhead space is so dear on airplanes (remember I deal with this every week). Simply, the airlines encourage carry-on baggage because it frees up space in the hold. Even with a full passenger load, transport-category airplanes have lots of capacity for cargo, which earns significantly more revenue per kilo than passengers do.

So I'll keep running on the elite-status hamster wheel to ensure that, when I fly, I can at least find a spot for my tiny carry-on bags.

The Crony Fairy

Paul Krugman (sub.req.) offers a hypothesis about the Administration's hiring policies:

The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.
That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The report points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "had been operating at a more than 15 percent staff-vacancy rate for over a year before Katrina struck"—that means many of the people who knew what they were doing had left. And it adds that "FEMA's senior political appointees...had little or no prior relevant emergency-management experience."

Does anyone think Gore would have let this happen? Anyone at all?

States file climate-change suit against EPA

Well, this is interesting. Ten states and two cities today filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency seeking enforcement of the Clean Air Act to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions:

The states, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer [quel surprise—ed.], want the government to require tighter pollution controls on the newest generation of power plants.
In July 2005, a three-judge panel in the same court upheld the EPA's decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act. The agency argues the law does not authorize them to regulate emissions to reduce global warming, and maintains there is not enough scientific data to support such a move.

Not enough data? Tell that to Kiribati and Nunavut.

(Found first on Dr. Heidi Cullen's blog at weather.com

Bush 36% approval: NBC/WSJ

With only 999 days (or fewer) left in his term, President Bush has scored his 9th consecutive month of under-40 approval ratings, and his lowest-ever rating in the NBC/WSJ poll, "a feat exceeded only by Richard Nixon (13 months) and Harry Truman (26 months)."

[But] with the midterm elections just six months away, the biggest drop in the survey—11 points in one month—is in the approval rating of Congress, which is locked in a bitter debate over what do about these gas prices, immigration, Iraq and a host of other issues.
In the poll—which was taken April 21-24 of 1,005 adults, and which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points—just 24 percent believe the nation is headed in the right direction, a drop of two points since last month and seven points since January. What's more, only 17 percent think the nation’s economy will improve in the next 12 months, a decline of seven points since March.

MSNBC also has detailed poll results available.

Election day is just 194 days away.

While I'm on the subject

Since I just discussed an article about criticizing Israel, I thought a Jewish joke would be appropriate as a follow-up. Note I said "Jewish" and not "anti-Semitic;" if you're looking for that kind of thing, let me tell you where to go.

Four Jewish Sons

Four Jewish brothers left home for college, became doctors and prospered. Some years later, chatting after a Chanukah dinner, they discussed the gifts that they were able to give to their elderly mother.

The first said, "I had a big house built for Mama."

The second said, "I had a hundred thousand dollar theater built in the house."

The third said, "I had my Mercedes dealer deliver her an SL600 with a chauffeur."

The fourth said, "Listen to this. You know how Mama loves reading the Torah and you know she can't see very well. I sent her a parrot that can recite the entire Torah. It took twenty rabbis 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 a year for twenty years to the temple, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it."

Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her Thank You notes. She wrote: "Milton, the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks so much."

"Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home, I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes...and the driver is a Nazi. A million thanks."

"Menachim, you give me a theater with Dolby sound, it could hold 50 people, but all my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind. Thanks anyway."

"Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. Such a delicious chicken."

Ivins on our Israel policy

Molly Ivins' column published in today's Chicago Tribune raises some good questions about why we can't ask good questions about our policies toward Israel:

For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious—that there is an Israel lobby in the United States—[researchers] have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring, article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."
Of course there is an Israel lobby in America; its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.

As she points out, Israelis are pretty harsh critics of their own government (and ours); why can't Americans criticize the Israeli government, too?

Great moments in energy policy

Let's sum up: The administration's energy and foreign policies have helped create a dire shortage of oil and prevented creation of alternatives. Yet, Bush is "probing" rising gas prices. There are only two possible conclusions: either he does not understand the connection, or he is lying about not understanding the connection.

"Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that's going to be a continued strain on the American people," Bush said....
Under pressure from GOP leaders, Bush is taking a tough public line with the U.S. oil companies that are recording record profits and paying hefty salaries and retirement packages to executives.

Remember Upton Sinclair's wisdom: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

This story directly connects to two important milestones for today. First, as of 1pm Eastern time today (17:00 UTC), there are no more than 1,000 days left in the Bush administration. Let's start the countdown; it's our own "thousand points of light."

Second, as many people know, today is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The Russian and Ukrainian governments are still cleaning up from it, yet nucular—sorry, nuclear—energy is starting to look more environmentally friendly than its principal competitors, oil and coal. This suggests that our problem isn't from where we get our energy, but how much we use. What a concept.

The glass eye

A man who lived in a block of apartments thought it was raining and put his head out the window to check. As he did so a glass eye fell into his hand.

He looked up to see where it came from in time to see a young woman looking down.

"Is this yours?" he asked.

She said, "Yes, could you bring it up?" and the man agreed.

On arrival she was profuse in her thanks and offered the man a drink. As she was very attractive, he agreed. Shortly afterwards, she said, "I'm about to have dinner. There's plenty; would you like to join me?"

He readily accepted her offer and both enjoyed a lovely meal. As the evening was drawing to a close the lady said, "I've had a marvelous evening. Would you like to stay the night?"

The man hesitated then said, "Do you act like this with every man you meet?"

"No," she replied, "Only those who catch my eye."

Soldier Field loses landmark status

As many predicted, and as the perpetrators denied, Soldier Field has lost its landmark status following its destr--er, renovation in 2003, former Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced as one of her last official acts on Friday. Says Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin:

If you obliterate a building's form, the government's decision suggests, you obliterate its meaning. Norton wisely ignored the arguments of those who claimed that Soldier Field retained its historic significance, irrespective of how it looked. Perhaps they would like to drop a steel-and-glass box inside the White House.

I'm reminded of Archimedes, I think it was, being skewered by an invading Roman for no apparent reason.