The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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?

Lords passes Benn bill

The Benn Bill, which would prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal in place, passed the House of Lords this afternoon and may receive Royal assent as soon as Monday evening.

Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, sees a real possibility that the Conservative Party could win a snap election by a considerable margin, with or without an October 31st Brexit:

Here’s why: It seems inevitable now that a general election will happen this October or, at the very latest, November. If Brexit has not happened — and it’s pretty clear at this point that it will not have — then the election is effectively going to be a second referendum. This time, the choice will be starker than in 2016: a no-deal Brexit or staying in the E.U. And this week, by firing the dissenters, Johnson has succeeded in making the Tories the uncomplicated “Leave Now” party. By clearing up any confusion, Johnson will thereby stymie the threat to Tory seats by the Brexit Party, which stormed to victory in the recent European elections. He may even secure an election “nonaggression” pact with the Brexit party on a clearly “no deal” agenda. What Boris has effectively done is rerun the referendum as an election campaign.

His argument is a simple and powerful one: In the referendum, a majority voted to leave the E.U., and this decision should be honored or democracy itself is undermined. The E.U. will not let Britain eat its cake and have it too, and has insisted that the U.K. remain largely under E.U. rules even as it leaves the E.U., offering a compromise that was rejected by the U.K. Parliament decisively three times. So a “no deal” exit is the only realistic version of Brexit left. It’s the people’s will against the elites’. The idea that voters did not know what they were doing in 2016 is delusional. They were told endlessly that leaving would mean catastrophe in economic terms, and they still voted to leave. The real question is: Why have we not left on time? What’s left to argue about? Get on with it. (A more elegant case for the restoration of British sovereignty — not empire, as some ludicrously claim, merely sovereignty over its own citizens — is made by the invaluable Christopher Caldwell here.)

Caldwell's essay is quite good, but quite pro-Brexit:

Brexit was not an “outburst” or a cry of despair or a message to the European Commission. It was an eviction notice. It was an explicit withdrawal of the legal sanction under which Brussels had governed Europe’s most important country. If it is really Britain’s wish to see its old constitutional arrangements restored, then this notice is open to emendation and reconsideration. But as things stand now, the Leave vote made E.U. rule over the U.K. illegitimate. Not illegitimate only when Brussels has been given one last chance to talk Britain out of it, but illegitimate now. What Britons voted for in 2016 was to leave the European Union—not to ask permission to leave the European Union. It is hard to see how Britain’s remaining in the E.U. would benefit either side.

And yet, given that Britain is the first country to issue such an ultimatum, given that pro-E.U. elites in other European countries have reason to fear its replication, given the moral ambitions of the E.U. project, given that the British who support Remain have transferred their sentiments and their allegiances across the channel, given the social disparity between those who rule the E.U. and most of those who want to leave it, how could the reaction of Britain’s establishment be anything but all-out administrative, judicial, economic, media, political, and parliamentary war? The battle against Brexit is being fought, Europe-wide, with all the weaponry a cornered elite has at its disposal.

It has proved sufficient so far.

It's probably the best pro-Brexit argument I've heard. It didn't change my mind, but it did get me to think a bit more about the other side.

Another anniversary

Monty Python's Life of Brian turned 40 on August 17th. The BBC has a retrospective:

The Pythons’ satire wouldn’t target Jesus or his teachings, instead caricaturing political militants, credulous crowds, the appeal of throwing stones at people, the complexities of Latin grammar, and the difficulties of being a tyrant when you’ve got a speech impediment. “I thought we’d been quite good,” said Idle in Robert Sellers’ behind-the-scenes book, Very Naughty Boys. “We’d avoided being specifically rude to specific groups.”

It seemed, though, that they hadn’t been quite good enough. Terry Jones was about to start directing the film in Tunisia when the Chief Executive of EMI, Bernard Delfont, finally got around to reading the script, and declared that there was no way his company could fund such an atrocity. The project’s unlikely saviour was George Harrison, the ex-Beatle. A friend of Idle’s and a fan of the Pythons, he volunteered to remortgage his house and chip in the £2 million ($4.1 million) the team needed – a bail-out which has become known as ‘the most expensive cinema ticket’ ever issued.

Once Life of Brian was completed, not everyone was so calm. Some countries, such as Ireland and Norway, banned it outright. (In Sweden it was advertised as being ‘so funny it was banned in Norway’.)  In the US, Rabbi Abraham Hecht, President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, told Variety magazine: “Never have we come across such a foul, disgusting, blasphemous film before.”

Shortly after the film came out in the UK, John Cleese and Michael Palin were on Tim Rice's show "Friday Night...Saturday Morning" with the Bishop of Southwark. It's quite a show.

Not a slow news day

Let's see, where to begin?

Finally, RawStory has a collection of responses to the President's Sharpie-altered weather map. (This is not, however, the first time the Administration has tried to make one of its Dear Leader's errors be true.) Enjoy.