The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

"An absolute disgrace"

Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker (Broxbourne) has "had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it's in the national interest, but because it's in their own personal interest:"

I had to watch that twice. Just imagine any American politician speaking so frankly with a journalist. Wow.

Giving 150%, William Henry Harrison style

Liz Truss has announced she will be the shortest-serving UK prime minister in history:

Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister and will step down after a week-long emergency contest to find her successor, she has announced outside Downing Street.

It follows a turbulent 45 days in office during which Truss’s mini-budget crashed the markets, she lost two key ministers and shed the confidence of almost all her own MPs.

Truss said she had entered office with “a vision for a low-tax, high-growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit”.

She went on: “I recognise that, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative party."

Opposition parties called for an immediate general election, saying the Conservatives had no mandate to govern.

Keir Starmer said: “After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos. In the last few years, the Tories have set record-high taxation, trashed our institutions and created a cost a living crisis. Now, they have crashed the economy so badly that people are facing £500 a month extra on their mortgages. The damage they have done will take years to fix.”

The Economist says "Welcome to Britaly:"

The comparison between the two countries is inexact. Between 2009 and 2019 Britain’s productivity growth rate was the second-slowest in the g7, but Italy’s was far worse. Britain is younger and has a more competitive economy. Italy’s problems stem, in part, from being inside the European club; Britain’s, in part, from being outside.

But if Britaly is not a statistical truth, it captures something real. Britain has moved much closer to Italy in recent years in three ways.

First, and most obviously, the political instability that used to mark Italy out has fully infected Britain. Since the end of the coalition government in May 2015, Britain has had four prime ministers (David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Ms Truss), as has Italy. The countries are likely to stay in lockstep in the near future.

Holding elections has not resolved Italy’s problems. But there is reason to feel more hopeful about Britain, where political instability is now a one-party disease. The Tories have become nigh-on ungovernable, due to the corrosion from Brexit and the sheer exhaustion of 12 years in power. Ms Truss is right to identify growth as Britain’s biggest problem. Yet growth depends not on fantastical plans and big bangs, but on stable government, thoughtful policy and political unity. In their current incarnation the Tories cannot provide it.

Forget a Tory leadership contest; Truss needs to call an election on her way out. This shows the strength (and the weakness) of the parliamentary system. When they get the worst leader in the history of the country, who took over from the second-worst leader in the history of the country, they can change course immediately without waiting until a fixed point in the future. But will they?

Not at the End of History quite yet

Stanford University historian Francis Fukuyama outlines why liberal democracies have better governance than dictatorships, and why authoritarianism comes back like an old stray cat ever couple of generations:

Russia and China both have argued that liberal democracy is in long-term decline, and that their brand of muscular authoritarian government is able to act decisively and get things done while their democratic rivals debate, dither, and fail to deliver on their promises. Over the past year, though, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of these strong states.

The weaknesses are of two sorts. First, the concentration of power in the hands of a single leader at the top all but guarantees low-quality decision making, and over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences. Second, the absence of public discussion and debate in “strong” states, and of any mechanism of accountability, means that the leader’s support is shallow, and can erode at a moment’s notice.

Liberal democracy, precisely because it distributes power and relies on consent of the governed, is in much better shape globally than many people think. Despite recent gains by populist parties in Sweden and Italy, most countries in Europe still enjoy a strong degree of social consensus.

The problem is that many who grow up living in peaceful, prosperous liberal democracies begin to take their form of government for granted. Because they have never experienced an actual tyranny, they imagine that the democratically elected governments under which they live are themselves evil dictatorships conniving to take away their rights, whether that is the European Union or the administration in Washington. But reality has intervened. The Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes a real dictatorship trying to crush a genuinely free society with rockets and tanks, and may serve to remind the current generation of what is at stake.

Or, as Winston Churchill said 75 years ago,

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

I have faith that democracy will prevail, in my lifetime, against the current crop of authoritarian dickheads. But I also think a generation of Europeans and North Americans won't get there without quite a bit more authoritarian discomfort.

Monday afternoon links

Busy day today, but I finished a major task at work just now. As I'm waiting for the CI system to finish compiling and pushing out a test build, I'm going to read these:

Finally, we got our first official (trace) snow of the season this morning, even as forecasters predict temperatures over 21°C this weekend. While I'm packing. All day.

Liz Truss clings to her job

New Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt today essentially admitted that PM Liz Truss massively screwed up her mini-budget, as if his mere presence at Number 11 didn't admit the same thing in itself:

Truss stayed on the sidelines while Hunt — a political rival who was tapped on Friday for the top cabinet post — announced that the government would not slash taxes and instead may allow them to rise.
 
Truss left it to House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, another rival, to defend the government in Parliament, where both opposition lawmakers and some mutinous politicians from the ruling Conservative Party are calling on the prime minister to quit after just six weeks in office.
 
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer pushed the refrain that Truss was “in office but not in power.”

Although there is no general election in sight, two polls published Monday showed Labour more than 30 points ahead of the Conservatives.

“Who voted for this?” signs have been popping up at protests and in opposition lawmakers’ social media feeds.

Well, 160,000 old, white, rich people voted for it, which may have made this crash-and-burn spectacle inevitable.

The Tories have nowhere to go but a general election at this point. I wonder how much they'll drag the country through a horrible winter before they finally admit that.

The Tory clown car

Guys, you really need to go to the country now. You're making Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party look like a model of competence:

Liz Truss started her premiership with a mad dash for growth. She continues to insist that boosting Britain’s growth rate is her mission. But whatever remains of her time in office is now focused on a different goal: restoring the faith of the bond markets in Britain.

Ms Truss’s reversal is a humiliation. She had spent the Conservative Party leadership campaign promising to abandon the planned rise in corporation tax. She brushed aside warnings from Rishi Sunak, her rival, that her plans for unfunded tax cuts represented a dangerous “fairy tale” which would stoke inflation. In the end the fiscal statement on September 23rd included cuts worth £45bn ($50bn), an even more lavish giveaway than the one she had dangled during the contest.

Much of her party is determined to get rid of her. Her project of deficit-funded tax cuts and a smaller state always had shallow support in a party that combines a new-found taste for state intervention with an old liking of sound money. Even those Tories who backed her project now have little reason to keep her in place, save for the embarrassment of installing its third leader in a year. The question preoccupying MPs is not “if” but “when”: should they move against her now or wait until after the fiscal plan on October 31st?

In a public letter thanking Mr Kwarteng for his 39 days as chancellor, Ms Truss declared that he had “set in train” structural reforms to planning law, as part of her mission of lifting Britain’s parlous productivity. In truth, those reforms exist only on paper and face a difficult battle through Parliament. “We share the same vision for our country and the same firm conviction to go for growth,” she wrote. Convictions are all she has left.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer didn't hold back:

In an interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader said Truss had driven the economy “into a wall” while “trashing our institutions”, and changing the prime minister again without allowing the country to vote would not be acceptable.

However, Starmer said he had told his shadow cabinet not to be complacent about the party’s 30 points-plus poll lead, and that Labour was “not going to sit back” but fight for every vote.

He said people were “looking to Labour for the answers to the next election” and the party needed to carry on putting in the work to win the contest, rather than assuming the government’s incompetence would cause the Tories to lose.

Asked if a general election was necessary immediately, or if Truss is replaced, Starmer said: “Yes … We are in the absurd situation where we are on the third, fourth prime minister in six years and within weeks we have a got a prime minister who has the worst reputational ratings of any prime minister pretty well in history. Their party is completely exhausted and clapped out. It has got no ideas, it can’t face the future and it has left the UK in a defensive crouch where we are not facing the challenges of the future because we haven’t got a government that could lead us to the future. For the good of the country we need a general election.”

Of course, the Tories have no requirement to call an election until 2025, so I expect we're about to see which bozo comes out of their Mini Cooper to move into Number 10 before Christmas. Maybe Jeremy Hunt?

Not the shortest term as Chancellor ever

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng is out on his ass so that PM Liz Truss (who also holds the title First Lord of the Treasury) can put off going to the country for just a little longer:

Jeremy Hunt has been appointed as Liz Truss’s new chancellor, in a stunning reversal of political fortune and a sign that the beleaguered prime minister wants to reach out to other sections of the Conservative party.

Hunt, the former foreign secretary and health secretary, who has twice tried unsuccessfully to become Conservative leader, was named chancellor after Kwasi Kwarteng, in the job for just over five weeks, was sacked by Truss ahead of another U-turn over tax cuts.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats said Truss now needed to stand down. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said: “We don’t just need a change in chancellor, we need a change in government.”

Kwarteng now holds the record for the shortest-serving Chancellor ever to survive the office:

Mr Kwarteng, formerly Ms Truss’s close political ally, is carrying the can for the financial and political turmoil unleashed by his mini-budget on September 23rd. His tenure of just 39 days in a job that dates back to the Middle Ages is not the shortest. But it’s not far off....

Mr Kwarteng’s chancellorship is the second shortest of modern times. Only Iain Macleod, who died on his 31st day in office, in 1970, spent less time in 11 Downing Street. Mr Kwarteng’s immediate predecessor, Nadim Zahawi, was chancellor for just 64 days. His tenure, it turns out, was not even the shortest of the year.

Mr Kwarteng’s successor, Jeremy Hunt, is the sixth chancellor in just over three years. Philip Hammond gave way to Sajid Javid when Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May as prime minister in July 2019. Mr Javid fell out with Mr Johnson after less than seven months. Rishi Sunak quit this year to force Mr Johnson from office. Mr Zahawi kept the seat warm while the Tories chose a new leader. And now Ms Truss’s catastrophic start has cost her ally his job. It may yet cost her hers.

The parliamentary system means that the government doesn't have to call an election if they don't want to, though an act passed earlier this year will force Parliament to dissolve five years after its opening. As that won't happen until January 2025, the Conservative Party could continue to drag the country through chaos until just after the end of President Biden's first term. Let's all hope they just get out of the way next spring.

Consequences

Man-shaped bag of feces Alex Jones may be "done saying I'm sorry," but a Connecticut jury suggests he should have tried just one more time:

The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay $965 million to the families of eight Sandy Hook shooting victims and an FBI agent who responded to the attack for the suffering he caused them by spreading lies on his platforms about the 2012 massacre, a Connecticut jury found on Wednesday.

Jones had already been found liable by a judge after refusing to hand over critical evidence before the trial began, and this six-member jury was only asked to decide how much Jones should pay.

During closing arguments, Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families and agent, suggested that Jones should be ordered to pay at least $550 million, saying that the host's Sandy Hook content got an estimated 550 million views from 2012 to 2018.

“I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times, and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” Jones said. 

A defiant Jones said he believed Sandy Hook was a hoax when he spread his lies. “I legitimately thought it might have been staged and I stand by that. I don’t apologize for it.”

News reports suggest he can afford it—barely. And of course, he'll just make up more vile shit that the MAGA folks will eat, because we're at that point in an historic cycle of stupidity. Maybe this means the cycle could end soon? I hope so.

Packing day

As far as I know, I'm moving in 2½ weeks, though the exact timing of both real-estate closings remain unknown. Last time I moved it took me about 38 hours to pack and 15 to unpack. This time I expect it to go faster, in part because I'm not spending as much time going "oh, I love this book!"

I'm taking a quick break and catching up on some reading:

Finally, a new survey says Chicagoans swear a lot less than most Americans, with people from Columbus, Ohio, swearing the most. Fuck that shit.

Herschel Walker should not have run for Senate

Comedian John Fuselgang summed up the Georgia GOP's position as: "I oppose abortion in all cases, unless it's to save the political life of the father." And whose political life does the Georgia GOP want to save? This guy's:

to read the mainstream media’s coverage of Walker’s gaffes and transgressions—his previously unidentified children from different partners, his spaced-out climate change commentary about “China’s bad air” taking over America’s “good air space,” a seemingly never-ending litany of resume-inflating lies—you’d think that everyone reporting these incidents imagines that the hypocrisy police are sure to arrive on the scene to make an arrest. What they’re missing is that the law of gravity is no longer in effect; the point of view that Senate candidates need to possess plainly evident core values or sturdy credentials to hold high office has been beaten into obsolescence by McConnell, who is the sole arbiter of who gets to run for Senate as a Republican.

For McConnell, the ideal Senate Republican possesses one quality: They are a warm body with enough cognitive acuity and physical dexterity needed to cast votes according to his demands. No further values or credentials are required. And for the most part, the votes those senators will cast only really reify an agenda he has already successfully enacted. For the past decade, as Beltway journalists have touted him as a “master tactician” by the way he’s leveraged arcane Senate rules to his own advantage or praised him, inexplicably, as a civil rights hero because he ultimately voted for an eminently qualified Black woman to serve as attorney general after months of delaying her confirmation, they’ve largely ignored his masterwork: a federal judiciary transformed by his blowtorch and pickax.

Andrew Sullivan piles on:

But then you come across the Senate candidacy of one Herschel Walker, and, well, words fail. No magical realist fiction writer could come up with something so sickeningly absurd. Walker is, of course, inextricable from his longtime friend, Donald Trump....

Walker is, to start with, very dumb. I don’t usually note this quality in a candidate and it doesn’t make him a huge outlier in politics of course. Being brainy, moreover, can be a serious liability for some pols. But seriously: this stupid?

He’s clearly incapable of understanding even a scintilla of what his job would entail, and manifestly incapable of doing it.

Maybe Walker makes up for it in charm and eloquence? Nope. He speaks like someone with brain damage. (As a pro-football alum, it’s amazing that the possibility of CTE has barely been raised, even though he has shown classic symptoms — no impulse control, murderous rage, incoherent speech, and even multiple personalities — for decades.) Just read any transcript of his incoherent rambling.

I am not saying that the Democrats are not also corrupted by rank tribalism. At their worst, they are, as I often point out. I am saying that they do not compare with the current GOP in its hollowness and depravity and madness.

Walker shows that there is no principle they will not jettison, no evil they will not excuse, no crime they won’t “whatabout,” and no moron they won’t elect, if it means they gain power. There is degeneracy among many Democrats, sure. But the Republican party is defined by this putrescence. Burn it down.

Karen Attiah compares Walker with another "toxic Black man," Kanye West:

If I had my way, I would dismiss these two as clowns. But America just makes them impossible to ignore. This country loves to inundate us with coverage of Black male figures embodying the archetype of the dumb, violent, Black servant eager to please the White masters.

But what can be done? I think it’s worthwhile and necessary to reward Black men who are doing good in society with our attention, votes and money when we can. For my part, I try not to allow West to profit off my attention. That’s what’s within my control. And Walker? It’s on Georgia voters to do the right thing — and keep him away from the Senate.

But no matter what happens, as long as our culture rewards anti-Blackness and misogyny, we will be sure to see more Wests and Walkers. It’s a dark state of affairs, for sure.

After Walker's most recent scandal, his poll numbers have plummeted, so we might not have to worry about him for too much longer. But the GOP has shown (with Walker, with Tommy Tuberville, with Sarah Palin, with so many other candidates) that they really don't care about governing, and have stopped any pretense of doing so. I hope more voters figure this out before the GOP takes us past the point of no return.