The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

"Be a leader," they said...

If I lived in the UK, I would probably not only support, but run for office, as a Liberal-Democratic candidate. The LDP has always seemed to me the right compromise: labo[u]r is what made this nation great, and we need to keep our commitments to the people who built our great nation; but we're 40 years past coal strikes, come on, let's keep up. Also, wealth is great, but let's not get carried away, come on, it's bad for the country to have billionaires.

So I am quite bothered to report that the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Jo Swinson, someone I like on paper but have never met in person, lost her seat to the Scottish National Party.

Only, it turns out, people really only liked her on paper.

It gets worse:

It looked set to be the third worst performance in the party’s 31-year modern history, following its disastrous fall from 57 to eight seats in 2015 after the coalition government with the Conservatives and 2017’s modest improvement to 12 elected MPs.

Swinson’s loss follows that of former leader Nick Clegg, who was booted out by voters in 2017. She was defending a 5,339 majority, but lost by just 149 votes to the SNP.

So, from the cheap seats across the Atlantic, I have a couple of questions for British voters:

  1. As an outsider, it looks to me like the Lib Dems had a really solid compromise platform that everyone could have gotten around with minimal whinging. Are y'all that...what's the word?...irrational that you couldn't compromise?
  2. Why are the leaders of the major parties such wankers? I mean, you've got Boris Johnson, who hasn't spoken a true word since that day in 1965 when he told his mum "I really have to wee," and you've got Jeremy Corbyn who practically ran on the slogan "work makes you free" and wondered why people couldn't see the logic of nationalizing cupcake stores, and you've got Jo Swinson who I haven't personally met but who almost every person who has met her in the last six months walked away not wanting to vote for her...
  3.  Which makes me wonder, as someone who thinks about causes, effects, and influence: doesn't it worry you that the biggest beneficiary of yesterday's UK election and the imminent impeachment of President Trump is Vladimir Putin?

This isn't conspiratorial thinking. Just game it out, folks. There's no secret kabal; there's a bunch of assholes acting this out in real time, on camera, and in some cases in the Well of the US Senate.

Look, it's been a trying day. Those of us who are frustrated with the UK election and angry that the Republican Party refuses to take the impeachment seriously have spent the last three years being disappointed in humanity. Not because our champion lost; but because people think it's about whose champion wins.

I've left you with this a few times, and it's no less relevant today:

Tories up 51, Labour down 71

Polls in the UK closed a few minutes ago, and Ipsos-Mori are reporting a likely Conservative majority of 86 over a crippled Labour Party:

Conservatives: 368 - up 51

Labour: 191 - down 71

SNP: 55 - up 20

Liberal Democrats: 13 - up 1

Plaid Cymru: 3 - down 1

Greens: 1 - no change

Brexit party: 0

Others: 22 (18 of these will be Northern Ireland MPs)

If the numbers hold into the night, Boris Johnson will have scored the largest Conservative majority, and Jeremy Corbyn the worst Labour numbers, in 40 years. At least this means Corbyn might finally be shown the door. And Scotland may be heading for the exit as well, judging by those SNP numbers.

A British friend tells me "it's the racists in the North who found a new home in the Tory Party that done it." Wonderful. It may also have something to do with Corbyn's tin ear and the first-past-the-post system that denied smaller parties seats commensurate with their popular vote counts.

Updates as events warrant. This page will have results as they come in.

Barr unfit to serve as AG, says Eric Holder

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder slams his successor for "actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official" that he felt compelled to speak out:

In Barr’s view, sharing executive power with anyone “beyond the control of the president” (emphasis mine), presumably including a semi-independent Cabinet member, “contravenes the Framers’ clear intent to vest that power in a single person.” This is a stunning declaration not merely of ideology but of loyalty: to the president and his interests. It is also revealing of Barr’s own intent: to serve not at a careful remove from politics, as his office demands, but as an instrument of politics — under the direct “control” of President Trump.

Virtually since the moment he took office...Barr’s words and actions have been fundamentally inconsistent with his duty to the Constitution. Which is why I now fear that his conduct — running political interference for an increasingly lawless president — will wreak lasting damage.

The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him. William Barr has proved he is incapable of serving as such an attorney general. He is unfit to lead the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, across town from the Justice Department, the Republican Party, from Congress to the White House, apparently have decided that no defense is their best offense against the articles of impeachment against President Trump. This may have something to do with Trump admitting to all the impeachable conduct the House accuses him of...

Voting underway...

Voting in the UK general election started at 1am Chicago time (7am GMT) last night and goes until 4pm Chicago time (10pm GMT) this afternoon. Because we have regular readers in the UK, the Daily Parker will observe UK law and precedent against reporting or commenting on the election while the polls are open.

Instead, I'd like to call attention to an article in yesterday's Times outlining the problems with the FBI's wiretap on Carter Page. While the inspector general found that the investigation started from genuine criminal suspicion rather than politics, he also unearthed many abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rules in the investigation's early stages:

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and his team uncovered a staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process in how the F.B.I. went about obtaining and renewing court permission under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

To give just three examples:

First, when agents initially sought permission for the wiretap, F.B.I. officials scoured information from confidential informants and selectively presented portions that supported their suspicions that Mr. Page might be a conduit between Russia and the Trump campaign’s onetime chairman, Paul Manafort.

But officials did not disclose information that undercut that allegation — such as the fact that Mr. Page had told an informant in August 2016 that he “never met” or “said one word” to Mr. Manafort, who had never returned Mr. Page’s emails. Even if the investigators did not necessarily believe Mr. Page, the court should have been told what he had said.

Second, as the initial court order was nearing its expiration and law-enforcement officials prepared to ask the surveillance court to renew it, the F.B.I. had uncovered information that cast doubt on some of its original assertions. But law enforcement officials never reported that new information to the court.

Finally, the report stressed Mr. Page’s long history of meeting with Russian intelligence officials. But he had also said that he had a relationship with the C.I.A., and it turns out that he had for years told the agency about those meetings — including one that was cited in the wiretap application as a reason to be suspicious of him.

On the other hand, the FBI had credible suspicions that a hostile foreign power had begun to intervene in our election.

On the third hand, civil libertarians (and The Daily Parker) have criticized FISA for years, both in law and application, because it makes abuses like these far too easy.

We'll be back after 4pm with the latest news from Britain.

In other news...

Let me first acknowledge that the biggest news story today today came from the House Judiciary Committee, which has drawn up two articles of impeachment against President Trump. This comes after committee chair Jerry Nadler nearly lost control of yesterday's meeting.

As Josh Marshall points out, no one expects the Senate to remove the president from office. So the Democratic Party's job is just to demonstrate how much malfeasance and illegality the Republican Party will tolerate from their guy.

If only that were the only story today.

And tonight, I get to preside over a condo-board meeting that will be at least as fun as yesterday's Judiciary Committee meeting.

Alexandra Petri nails it, again

I had the misfortune of hearing the entirety of Rep. Doug Collins' (R-GA) opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee this morning, and I almost ran off the road because I was rolling my eyes too much.

Fortunately, Alexandra Petri neatly summed up the Republican positions he advanced:

You bet I would love to support impeachment! Nothing would delight me more — if it were just bipartisan, which unfortunately it’s not, because I have vowed to oppose it at all costs. This is sure an unfortunate coincidence. I keep asking: Why isn’t there bipartisan support for this? I could support it, if only I were not against it — which I am, vehemently, and will hear no reason to change my mind. A most ingenious paradox!

We must consider the facts. Alas, the facts are in dispute, coincidentally again by me. So, there we are. Who can say what’s true? I understand you to be saying that a certain set of things are demonstrably true, but to that I say, “What if they weren’t? Also, think about President Andrew Johnson.”

It is your fault that this impeachment process is not bipartisan, and you ought to feel bad. If I had not vowed that this process was illegitimate and I would oppose it, I would consider it legitimate, and support it. It is your fault that I won’t, for starting this process, instead of waiting for me to start it.

Which I would have! If the president were a Democrat.

As long as the Republican members of Congress do not care at all how President Trump executes his office, all the Democrats can do is point out how bad it is. And also their hypocrisy. Remember, when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair, they made all the arguments that Democrats are now making for far worse conduct.

Andrew Sullivan on Boris Johnson

Sullivan, who attended Oxford with the British Prime Minister, takes a nuanced view:

It’s hard to take the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, completely seriously. Just look at him: a chubby, permanently disheveled toff with an accent that comes off as a parody of an upper-class twit, topped off by that trademark mop of silver-blond hair he deliberately musses up before venturing into the public eye. Then there are those photo-op moments in his long career that seem designed to make him look supremely silly — stuck dangling in midair on a zip line with little Union Jacks waving in his hands; rugby-tackling a 10-year-old in Japan; playing tug-of-war in a publicity stunt and collapsing, suited, onto the grass; or declaring at one point that he was more likely to be “reincarnated as an olive,” “locked in a disused fridge,” or “decapitated by a flying Frisbee” than to become prime minister.

And yet he has. And more than that: This comic figure has somehow managed to find himself at the center of the populist storms sweeping Britain and the West — first by becoming the most senior politician in Britain to back Brexit in 2016, and now by plotting a course that might actually bring the United Kingdom out of the epic, years-long, once-impossible-looking mess he helped make. Just over four months into office as PM, he appears poised to win an election he called and, if the polls are anywhere near correct, score a clear victory and take Britain out of the E.U. by the end of January.

Shallow, lazy, incompetent, and bigoted, this clown has somehow leveraged the fears of the many to advance the only thing he has ever genuinely believed in: his own destiny.

But there is another story to be told about him: that he has been serious all along, using his humor and ridiculousness to camouflage political instincts that have, in fact, been sharper than his peers’. He sensed the shifting populist tides of the 2010s before most other leading politicians did and grasped the Brexit issue as a path to power.

I can't quite tell where Sullivan comes down on Johnson, but as a lifelong liberal Tory, Sullivan seems to see Johnson as the right person for the job right now. He has no love of Johnson's mendacity or narcissism, and thinks he'd sell his sister for ten votes. But Sullivan sees Johnson as a strong politician who managed to neuter the far right by co-opting it.

Next week will be interesting. The UK election is in six days.

Feeling insecure? Blame these guys

The Post reported today that a simple review of phone logs shows how the president and his stooges left themselves open to Russian espionage by using insecure cell phones:

The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents — a stance that is particularly remarkable given Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign for her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state.

The connection to the Ukraine campaign is also troubling because of how Moscow could exploit knowledge that Trump was secretly engaged in efforts to extract political favors from the government in Kyiv.

Trump and Giuliani have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information,” said John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Sipher and others said that it is so likely that Russia tracked the calls of Giuliani and others that the Kremlin probably knows more now

“Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text” of what was said, Sipher said. “I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.”

Ordinarily I'd chalk this up to stupidity. But GOP strategist Rick Wilson sees something far darker:

The traitors deliberately ignore the reporting, counsel, and warnings of the intelligence community when it comes to Russia’s attacks and Vladimir Putin’s vast, continuing intelligence and propaganda warfare against the United States.

The traitors — be they United States senators like John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham or columnists from the Federalist, Breitbart, and a slurry of other formally conservative media outlets — repeat the Kremlin-approved propaganda messages and tropes of that warfare, word for word.

It’s not simply treason by making common cause with a murderous autocrat in Russia, or merrily wrecking the alliances around the world that kept America relatively secure for seven decades.

Their betrayal is also to our system of government, which as imperfect — and often downright fucked up — as it is, has been remarkably capable of surviving.

And if you can’t spot the treason yet, you will soon enough. That’s the thing about spies, traitors, and those who betray their country — they rarely stay hidden forever.

We need to get this administration out of office in 2021, and help the American people understand the danger their sympathizers represent. If only we still taught civics in schools.

Someone call lunch

Today in Chicago we have seen more sun than in the past several weeks, and yet here I toil in my cube. But a lot is going on outside it:

And we now return to our regular JSON debugging session, already in progress.

In the news today

As the House Judiciary Committee goes through the unfortunately necessary step of having expert witnesses state the obvious, other things caught my attention over the course of the morning:

Finally, two CTA employees were fired after one of them discovered an exploitable security hole in bus-tracking software, and the other tested it. The one who discovered it has sued under a Federal whistle-blower statute. Firing someone for discovering a potentially-catastrophic software design error is really dumb, people.