The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

New, improved El cars coming

The Chicago Tribune reports today that the Chicago Transit Authority has agreed to buy 406 new El cars for the Blue and Pink lines. The cars will have aisle-facing seating rather than the mixed seating arrangement currently in use (see the Tribune graphic). This is a long-overdue improvement on the Blue line, whose trains go to O'Hare. Struggling with luggage on the current trains causes pain; the new arrangement will alleviate it.

The CTA expects the cars to roll by 2009, shortly after we have a new President (984 days from now).

"Congress is a Joke:" Motley Fool

I don't agree with everything Motley Fool columnist Bill Mann says, but I think in essence he's correct:

My editors hate it when I call people idiots. But I mean it. Our elected officials are either stupid, or they think enough of us are stupid that they can say stupid things and we'll just thank 'em for it. ... Pay $100 from the federal Treasury to compensate Americans for high gas prices? Are you people completely, utterly devoid of brain matter?
You want to blame $3 gas on something? Fine, let's start with where blame should go—on $0.95 gas.

I think he's right that cheap gas hurt in the long run, but I'm not sure that the free market justifies the enormous profits oil companies are reaping. I'll think more about this.

It doesn't take a conspiracy

Paul Krugman (sub.req.) confronts the wingers who try to divert rational thought by crying "conspiracy theory:"

A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, "attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance." Claims that global warming is a hoax and that the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq meet that definition. In each case, to accept the claim you have to believe that people working for many different organizations—scientists at universities and research facilities around the world, reporters for dozens of different news organizations—are secretly coordinating their actions.
But the administration officials who told us that Saddam had an active nuclear program and insinuated that he was responsible for 9/11 weren't part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.

I can imagine Limbaugh looking thoughtful for a moment before saying: "Thanks, Paul! That sure clears things up!" But I have a very vivid imagination.

CIA chief steps down

Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss has abruptly resigned his post. His office swears this has nothing at all to do with the hookers-and-parties scandal inching ever closer to him.

Says Josh Marshall:

We don't know definitely why Goss pulled the plug yet. But the CIA Director doesn't march over to the White House and resign, effective immediately, unless something very big is up.

I'll be watching this story.

Schneier on who owns your computer

Security expert Bruce Schneier has a good article today about threats to your computer (hint: Sony is one):

There are all sorts of interests vying for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer.

This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.

Net neutrality threatened; Mike McCurry on wrong side

The New York Times editorial page today reminded everyone who values the Internet to call their representatives in Congress and demand continued net neutrality:

One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.

And over on Huffington, Adam Green has some things to say about Mike McCurry's activities helping the big telcos:

Mike McCurry knows that the free and open Internet most Americans think is the "status quo" is actually GONE in 3 months. So it's more than a little bit deceptive when McCurry asks, "What service is being degraded? What is not right with the Internet that you are trying to cure?" McCurry is implying the exact opposite of what he knows to be true.That's a lie, and it's a genuinely sad sight for those who once admired him.

It's possible that, in three months, not only will Iraq be shattered, but also the Internet. Then Iran? Maybe India? Anyone for Indiana? Why does the Administration (993 days, 21 hours) hate things that start with "I?"

Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondants Dinner

Daily Kos has the complete transcript. Unbelievable.

So, Mr. President, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Okay, look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback.

He's funny. And he's biting. And if it were Nixon's White House...

Real ID act opposed in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire legislature is about to reject the Federal Real ID Act, which was passed to "close the kinds of loopholes that allowed the 9/11 hijackers to get valid ID cards," according to its principal sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). New Hampshire would become the first of possibly many states to refuse to implement the law, and given New Hampshire's history and character, that's not surprising:

"The war on our civil liberties is actually begun," New Hampshire state Rep. Neal M. Kurk (R) told his colleagues recently, borrowing from Henry's famous "Liberty or Death" speech to condemn the license plan and the U.S. government in place of the British crown. He continued: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"
...Emboldened by that success, groups opposed to Real ID staged a rally in late April in front of the statehouse where, according to a report in the Concord Monitor, some wore "666" on their foreheads—indicating their belief that a national system of rules for driver's licenses is a step toward the "mark of the beast" prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

I'm not sure about the last part, but I am sure that Real ID doesn't actually solve the security problems it's meant to solve. Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in:

The REAL ID Act requires driver's licenses to include a "common machine-readable technology." This will, of course, make identity theft easier. Assume that this information will be collected by bars and other businesses, and that it will be resold to companies like ChoicePoint and Acxiom. It actually doesn't matter how well the states and federal government protect the data on driver's licenses, as there will be parallel commercial databases with the same information.
Even worse, the same specification for RFID chips embedded in passports includes details about embedding RFID chips in driver's licenses. I expect the federal government will require states to do this, with all of the associated security problems (e.g., surreptitious access).
REAL ID requires that driver's licenses contain actual addresses, and no post office boxes. There are no exceptions made for judges or police -- even undercover police officers. This seems like a major unnecessary security risk.
REAL ID also prohibits states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens. This makes no sense, and will only result in these illegal aliens driving without licenses -- which isn't going to help anyone's security. (This is an interesting insecurity, and is a direct result of trying to take a document that is a specific permission to drive an automobile, and turning it into a general identification device.)
REAL ID is expensive. It's an unfunded mandate: the federal government is forcing the states to spend their own money to comply with the act. I've seen estimates that the cost to the states of complying with REAL ID will be $120 million. That's $120 million that can't be spent on actual security.
And the wackiest thing is that none of this is required.

So while I think the protests in New Hampshire might have been a little over the top, I agree that REAL ID is a bad idea. That said, I believe New Hampshire's action might cause yet another Federalism problem on top of all the other splits between the states we've seen during this Administration (995 days, 3 hours left).

Stay tuned.

Update: The Electronic Privacy Information Center has a brief brief article and long list of links about REAL ID.