The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lunch links

A few good reads today:

Haven't decided what to eat for lunch yet...

It's hot and wet

Two articles on current consequences of climate change. First, the Post has a long-form description of how global temperature rise is lumpy, causing localized hot spots such as the one off the coast of Uruguay:

The mysterious blob covers 130,000 square miles of ocean, an area nearly twice as big as this small country. And it has been heating up extremely rapidly — by over 2 degrees Celsius — or 2C — over the past century, double the global average. At its center, it's grown even hotter, warming by as much as 3 degrees Celsius, according to one analysis.

The entire global ocean is warming, but some parts are changing much faster than others — and the hot spot off Uruguay is one of the fastest. It was first identified by scientists in 2012, but it is still poorly understood and has received virtually no public attention.

The South Atlantic blob is part of a global trend: Around the planet, enormous ocean currents are traveling to new locations. As these currents relocate, waters are growing warmer. Scientists have found similar hot spots along the western stretches of four other oceans — the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, the South Pacific, and the Indian.

Barring some dramatic event like a major volcanic eruption — which can cause temporary global cooling by spewing ash that blocks the sun — scientists expect this to continue and steadily worsen.

Climate change has also driven a policy shift in Canada:

Unlike the United States, which will repeatedly help pay for people to rebuild in place, Canada has responded to the escalating costs of climate change by limiting aid after disasters, and even telling people to leave their homes. It is an experiment that has exposed a complex mix of relief, anger and loss as entire neighborhoods are removed, house by house.

The real-world consequences of that philosophy are playing out in Gatineau, a city across the river from Ottawa that has been hit by two 100-year-floods since 2017. Residents here are waiting for officials to tell them if the damage from the latest flood, in April, exceeded 50 percent of the value of those homes. Those who get that notice will be offered some money and told to leave.

Canada doesn't have the constitutional protections for private property that we have in the US. But the approach works; they spend a lot less on clearances than on rebuilding, especially since they only need to clear once.

Whither foliage?

WaPo has an interactive map:

Cue the 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map on SmokyMountains.com, a site promoting tourism in that region. The interactive tool is one of the most helpful resources to reference as you plan your autumnal adventures.

“We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn,” data scientist and SmokyMountains.com chief technology officer Wes Melton said in a statement.

Travelers are presented with a map of the United States and a user-friendly timeline to adjust below. As you drag through the season, the map changes to show where fall foliage is minimal, patchy, partial, near peak, peak and past peak.

By swiping through, you can easily find the best time to visit the region of your choosing.

Enjoy. According to the map, Chicago's peak occurs between October 19th and November 2nd. You might see some color this weekend in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and the top tier of New England.

Lunchtime link roundup

Of note or interest:

And now, back to work.

Long, long time to sit

After sitting for 824 days—the longest time since World War II—the UK Parliament prorogued last night in a scene reminiscent of 1629:

The chaos unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after a day of high drama in which Boris Johnson lost his sixth parliamentary vote in as many days and Bercow announced his impending retirement as Speaker.

As the prorogation got under way, Bercow expressed his anger, saying it was “not a normal prorogation”.

“It is not typical. It is not standard. It’s one of the longest for decades and it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues, but huge numbers of people outside, an act of executive fiat,” he said.

As Bercow spoke, opposition MPs held signs reading “silenced” and some attempted to block his way.

One of those involved in the protest, Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, said the action “echoes the action of members to try and prevent the speaker proroguing at the request of Charles I”, referring to the 1629 incident when MPs, furious at the closure of parliament, left their seats and sat on the Speaker, preventing him from rising and closing the house, allowing MPs to pass a number of motions condemning the king.

Bercow was not sat on, and was soon allowed to pass through the House of Commons to attend the House of Lords.

I found the whole session yesterday completely fascinating. PM Boris Johnson lost his sixth consecutive vote when the House declined to hold an early election (for now), as the opposition parties united in a demand that a no-deal Brexit be forestalled. But what will happen on October 31st is anyone's guess at the moment.

The Liberal Democrats have announced the will call for a repeal of Article 50 (i.e., Brexit) in the next election. The Conservatives, under Johnson and in collusion with Ukip extremists, will continue to support a no-deal Brexit.

This has been an historic Parliament. The next one will be even weirder.

Loose lips sink ships

Remember back in May 2017, barely a couple of months in office, when the president bragged to the Russian Foreign Secretary about some intelligence we'd developed on ISIS in Syria? That disclosure resulted in a dangerous and expensive mission to exfiltrate one of our highest-level assets within the Russian government:

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.

At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or "exfiltration" as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.

Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter's notes. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community's response to the Trump-Putin meeting.

Knowledge of the Russian covert source's existence was highly restricted within the US government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was "no equal alternative" inside the Russian government, providing both insight and information on Putin.

So is he a Russian asset or just a useful idiot? What difference does that make, anyway?

OrDAAAAAAAHHHH! ORDAH! The gentleman will step down

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, announced this evening in London that he would step down at the end of October:

At the 2017 election he promised his wife and children that it would be his last, he says.

He says if the Commons votes for an early general election, his tenure as Speaker and as an MP will end when this parliament ends.

He says, if MPs do not vote for an election, he has concluded the least disruptiveoption will be to stand down at close of play on Thursday 31 October.

He says the votes on the Queen’s speech will come at the start of that week. He says it would make sense to have an experienced Speaker in the chair for those votes.

Here's video.

The British Twitterverse is going nuts, of course. And so is betting.

And, not for nothing, the Benn Bill became law about 15 minutes ago.

The Real Donald Trump

...is a character on TV, according to TV critic James Poniewozik, writing in today's Sunday Review:

The taunting. The insults. The dog whistles. The dog bullhorns. The “Lock her up” and “Send her back.” All of it follows reality-TV rules. Every season has to top the last. Every fight is necessary, be it against Ilhan Omar or Debra Messing. Every twist must be more shocking, every conflict more vicious, lest the red light grow bored and wink off. The only difference: Now there’s no Mark Burnett to impose retroactive logic on the chaos, only press secretaries, pundits and Mike Pence.

To ask whether any of this is “instinct” or “strategy” is a parlor game. If you think like a TV camera — if thinking in those reflexive microbursts of adrenaline and testosterone has served you your whole life — then the instinct is the strategy.

And to ask who the “real” Donald Trump is, is to ignore the obvious. You already know who Donald Trump is. All the evidence you need is right there on your screen. He’s half-man, half-TV, with a camera for an eye that is constantly focused on itself. The red light is pulsing, 24/7, and it does not appear to have an off switch.

Well, it does: 20th January 2021, just 500 days from today.

Not exactly country over party

Greg Sargent makes the case that Mitch McConnell keeps finding new ways to diminish himself by supporting the president:

The diversion of military funds to pay for President Trump’s border wall obsession — which is taking money away from more than 100 military projects around the country, just as a junkie’s habit might take money from the grocery kitty — provides an opening to reconsider the extraordinary depths to which Mitch McConnell has sunk to enable Trump’s corruption.

The Senate majority leader has not only assisted and protected Trump in doing great damage to our democracy, for naked partisan purposes, though that’s a major stain. But McConnell also has in effect now prioritized the mission of enabling and defending Trump’s corruption over the interests of his own state and its constituents.

One project that will lose funding as a result of Trump’s wall — which is now being paid for out of funds diverted as part of the national emergency that Trump declared on fabricated grounds — is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

That project is a planned middle school at the Fort Campbell army base. The Pentagon has diverted $62.6 million in money slotted for construction of that school, as part of the $3.6 billion that has been shifted toward Trump’s wall.

Let’s not forget that this is the same Mitch McConnell who refused to show a united, public bipartisan front against Russian sabotage of our 2016 election, and has refused to allow multiple bills securing our next election against more Russian sabotage — which Trump has openly invited — from coming to the floor.

McConnell now claims he’s fighting to get the funding for the school, anyway. And he might succeed at that. But regardless, this is not a certainty, and McConnell’s explicit public position is now that funding the wall first — putting that school funding at risk — was the right thing to do.

Yet somehow, McConnell is blaming Democrats for this result, thus spinning away and continuing to enable Trump’s profoundly corrupt and destructive role in all of it.

The election is in 423 days. If you live in Kentucky, ask yourself: do you really want this guy representing you?