The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More weird weather

If the forecasts remain accurate, Christmas in Chicago will round out only the fifth "holiday temperature reversal" in history:

This could be only the 5th time that Christmas will be warmer than BOTH Halloween and Thanksgiving since records began in Chicago back in 1871.
  Halloween Thanksgiving Christmas
1873 -1°C 1°C 3°C
1895 6°C 5°C 13°C
1954 4°C 6°C 7°C
1982 7°C 3°C 9°C
2019 1°C 3°C 7°C

I'd say "cool" but that's cheap.

A theory on the Trump aesthetic

Former Deadspin editor David Roth examines the evidence in this year's White House Christmas decorations video:

Even though Melania is also a cipher whose relationship to her powerful husband has for years seemed tragicomically ceremonial, her Christmas video delivers an insight into a crucial mystery of the Trump aesthetic: Why is all this always so shittyHow is it possible for something so fancified to feel so repellent and cheap? Again, in one sense, there’s just nothing there to find. Trump himself doesn’t really know why he does anything, and every decision that he makes—personally, politically, aesthetically, whatever—ultimately resolves to him servicing whatever rude personal want is currently making itself felt. This doesn’t really explain how every space that the man inhabits became so desperately gilded and singularly inhospitable, although it does suggest he doesn’t much care about how other people experience it. But Melania’s latest foray into haunted festive design comes closer to providing a skeleton key for the warped mimetic rules of Trumpism than Trump himself ever has.

What’s spooky about it goes beyond Melania’s personal uncanniness or Trump’s world-historic tastelessness or the built-in stiltedness of White House ritual. The pure anhedonic cheerlessness of it all points back to a deeper psychic deficit: an inability to understand what any of this might even be for, if not to spite or defeat someone else. Of course there’s too much of it. They don’t know when to stop—they never have known when to stop, they do not know how to stop—because they have never really understood why they got started in the first place. After all, look where it’s gotten them.

Also, Roth does not say, but we can all observe, just how many id-driven strongmen have no taste at all.

Hot time down under

(Say it with me: "Under where?")

Australia just hit a record temperature—for the whole country:

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reports preliminary data showing that for Dec. 18, the nationally averaged maximum temperature was 41.9°C. This beat the old record of 40.9°C, which had been set the day before. Before this heat event, the country’s hottest day was Jan. 7, 2013, which had an average high temperature of 40.3°C.

Human-caused global climate change is making heat waves such as this one more likely to occur, more severe and longer-lasting. An early analysis of the ongoing heat event shows that climate change may have made the Australian national heat record at least 20 percent more likely to occur now than in a climate that had not been influenced by human emissions of greenhouse gases. It’s possible that forthcoming research will show that this event could not have occurred without human-caused global warming, as previous analyses of other events have found.

That's insane. Not to mention the extensive brush fires—including the largest ever recorded in Australia—that have rendered Sydney almost uninhabitable.

Johnson, Clinton, Trump

Yesterday, the House of Representatives impeached the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress:

After 11 hours of fierce argument on the House floor between Democrats and Republicans over Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, lawmakers voted almost entirely along party lines to impeach him. Trump becomes the third president in U.S. history to face trial in the Senate — a proceeding that will determine whether he is removed from office less than one year before he stands for reelection.

The Democratic-controlled House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — related to the president’s attempts to withhold military aid to Ukraine and pressure its government to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic opponent.

The House voted 230 to 197 to approve the article charging abuse of power, with the gavel falling about 8:30 p.m. On the obstruction of Congress vote, which followed soon after, the tally was 229 to 198.

All Republicans voted against both articles. Among Democrats, two voted no on the first article and three on the second, with one — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — voting “present” both times.

George Conway says the president's malignant narcissism made impeachment inevitable:

It was inevitable because of Trump himself, his very character, whose essential nature many who now support him have long understood.

In essence, Trump thinks everything should be about him, for him, for his benefit and glorification—and he can’t comprehend, and doesn’t care about, anything that isn’t. The American diplomat David Holmes testified that Ambassador Gordon Sondland explained to him that “the president only cares about ‘big stuff’”—clarifying, according to Holmes, that this meant “big stuff that benefits the president.”

And that’s why Trump can’t comply with his duties to the nation, and why he now stands as the third president ever to have been impeached. His own stated view of his constitutional authority can only be described as narcissistic: “I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.” But as the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report rightly explains, “Impeachment is aimed at Presidents who believe they are above the law, and who believe their own interests transcend those of the country and Constitution.” Or, as then-Representative Mike Pence put it in 2008: “This business of high crimes and misdemeanors goes to the question of whether the person serving as President of the United States put their own interests, their personal interests, ahead of public service.” It was inevitable that, given his boundlessly self-centered bent, this president would do precisely that.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has put the Articles of Impeachment in a drawer, ostensibly to get cooperation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on trial procedures, but also, as Josh Marshall points out, to keep the initiative and keep the focus on Republican intransigence.

And so, as we go into the last two weeks of the decade, things keep getting more interesting. To that end, I'll have a bit about this morning's Queen's Speech once I've read it.

I'll take an antacid with my lunch now

With only two weeks left in the decade, it looks like the 2010s will end...bizarrely.

More people have taken a look at the President's unhinged temper tantrum yesterday. I already mentioned that Aaron Blake annotated it. The Times fact-checked it. And Jennifer Rubin says "It is difficult to capture how bizarre and frightening the letter is simply by counting the utter falsehoods...or by quoting from the invective dripping from his pen."

As for the impeachment itself, Josh Marshall keeps things simple:

Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.

One: The President is accused of using extortion to coerce a foreign power to intervene in a US presidential election on his behalf.

Two: There is no one in US politics who would ever find that behavior remotely acceptable in a President of the opposite party.

Three: The evidence that the President did what he is accused of doing is simply overwhelming.

In the UK, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Labour—Islington South and Finsbury) has announced a run for Labour Party leader: “Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’. To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts … I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it."

The Times review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker left me feeling resigned to seeing the movie, rather than excited. A.O. Scott said:

The director is J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most consistent B student in modern popular culture. He has shepherded George Lucas’s mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era, making the old galaxy a more diverse and also a less idiosyncratic place.

Abrams is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a longstanding sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up.

Which is not entirely terrible. “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a great “Star Wars” movie, but that may be because there is no such thing. That seems to be the way we like it.

Well, that's a ringing endorsement. I mean, I'm sure I'll come out of it feeling like it was worth $15, but I'm not sure I'll see it over 200 times like I have with A New Hope. (It helps that ANH came out when I was about to turn 7.)

And in other news:

Will the world be better in 2020? We'll see.

Surprised he didn't write it in crayon

The President of the United States threw another tantrum today, this time in the form of a six-page letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It isn't exactly the Gettysburg Address:

President Trump on Tuesday denounced what he called a “partisan impeachment crusade” being waged against him by Democrats, calling the effort to remove him an unconstitutional abuse of power and an “attempted coup” that would come back to haunt them at the ballot box next year.

“I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election,” Mr. Trump wrote in a rambling, six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent on the eve of House votes to impeach him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “They will not soon forgive your perversion of justice and abuse of power.”

Mr. Trump wrote that he knew his letter would not change the outcome of Wednesday’s votes, expected to occur almost entirely on party lines, to impeach him. But he said the missive was “for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”

He's right; history will judge how he handled his presidency. I doubt it will judge him the way his narcissistic little mind believes it will.

If you have nothing better to do this afternoon, you can read the letter here. Lincoln may have cringed, but Andrew Johnson would approve.

Update: Of course Aaron Blake annotated the thing.

Watchmen in real life

On Sunday HBO broadcast the season (and possibly series) finale of Watchmen, which I thought one of the best things I've ever seen on TV. New York Times media critic James Poniewozik agrees:

It’s hard to overstate how risky, how primed for disaster, was the challenge that the creator, Damon Lindelof, signed up for. First, to adapt a notoriously hard-to-adapt subversive superhero comic. Then to lovingly, impishly subvert that subversion, extending the story backward and forwards in time. To do all that while reframing the story as an antiracist pulp thriller, weighty without being pompous or exploitative. Oh — and could it also be electrifying and playful and fun?

Amazingly it could, culminating in “See How They Fly,” a mind-bending, gravity-defying finale that successfully landed this improbable airship.

Like a fine watch or a chicken’s egg, the symbols the finale returned to, this season was a marvel of self-contained engineering. It succeeded, first, in craft and performance, with visual invention and memorable work from [Hong] Chau, Regina King, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons, Louis Gossett Jr. and many others. It set up a domino chain of mysteries that the finale satisfyingly paid off.

But it also created something more: an urgent entertainment that was as unignorable as the pealing of an alarm bell.

And by coincidence, researchers at the University of Oklahoma say they have found evidence of a mass grave containing the remains of victims of the 1921 white terrorism attack that wiped out the African-American section of Tulsa--a major plot-point of Watchmen:

Geophysical scanning identified two spots at the Oaklawn Cemetery that might bear bodies of those killed in the city's race riots almost 100 years ago, Scott Hammerstedt, a senior researcher for the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, said Monday at a public hearing in Tulsa.

Surveys confirmed suspicions that one area might be a grave, in addition to a newly discovered trench under the soil of about 30 by 25 feet.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum initiated an investigation into rumored mass graves of the Tulsa Race Massacre in October 2018, calling the riots a "point of shame for our community," NBC affiliate KJRH reported at the time.

You don't think of Oklahoma as a particularly nasty place to be a person of color. But it always has been. Just ask Pore Jud.

Where you and 74 friends can ride out the apocalypse

Kansas developer Larry Hall bought a missile silo and turned it into a 15-story apartment complex:

Hall was able to buy the long since decommissioned silo for a fraction of its construction cost. He then spent $20m (£15m) transforming it into a cushy bolthole replete with a library, swimming pool, climbing wall, video arcade, shooting range, bar, cinema, and seven floors of private living space. Half floor units sell for $1.5m, full-floor units for $3m and penthouses for $4.5m, cash only.

Fifty-five ultra-high-net-worth residents have purchased private apartments inside the condo. Residents are understandably cagey about sharing their identities, but include real estate moguls, a financial entrepreneur and two doctors. One resident had the view from her loft in Manhattan filmed in all four seasons, so it could be piped into high-definition screens installed as ‘windows’ inside the bunker. Residents often do not have specific motivations for moving into the bunker, they are acting on a sense of general unease about the future.

Hall says 75 individuals can survive inside the sealed, self-sufficient converted silo for up to five years during social, political or environmental instability – even total collapse. When the crisis passes, silo residents expect to be able to emerge into the post-apocalyptic world to rebuild.

I will not be buying a time-share there...

Parisian unions throw a tantrum

Paris has essentially shut down for the past 12 days as transport unions protest pension reform:

Au onzième jour de mobilisation contre la réforme des retraites, le trafic restait fortement perturbé dans les transports publics, dimanche 15 décembre. A Paris, le trafic des métros était particulièrement compliqué, avec quatorze lignes complètement fermées.

Dans le métro parisien, les lignes automatiques 1 et 14 fonctionnaient normalement, avec un risque de saturation, de même que les lignes Orlyval, RoissyBus (deux bus sur trois) et OrlyBus (quatre bus sur cinq), qui desservent les aéroports. En revanche, les lignes 2, 3 bis, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7 bis, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 et 13 sont totalement fermées.

Translation: Most of the Metro is closed, most trains aren't running, most buses aren't running, and Paris can barely function.

NPR's Paris-based Eleanor Beardsley has a first-person account on today's Weekend Edition Sunday.

Why is this happening? Here is the Times:

While France’s official retirement age may be 62, the actual age varies widely across the country’s labyrinthine system. Train drivers can retire at 52, public electric and gas workers at 57, and members of the national ballet, who start dancing at a very young age, as early as age 42. That is to name just a few of the stark differences.

It is this sheer complexity that [French President Emmanuel] Macron has vowed to untangle, aiming to standardize 42 different public and private pension schemes into one state-managed plan.

The system is staring at a potential deficit of 19 billion euros by 2025 if no action is taken, according to a landmark report issued by France’s pension czar, Jean-Paul Delevoye.

So Mr. Macron says he wants to merge the disparate systems, public and private, into one state-managed system by 2025.

He also wants to keep the deficit from growing, which Patrick Artus, chief economist of Paris-based Natixis bank, said could be achieved if every worker works at least another six months before retiring.

France isn't the US or the UK, and French unions have tremendous power that unions in the Anglo-American world never had. But years of strikes in the UK during the 1970s drove British voters to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party and the heavy-handed anti-labour policies she enacted.

I don't think France will ever see that kind of anti-union governance. But I do suggest that perhaps this tantrum needs to end so that the government and the unions can work to fix the structural problems that everyone knows exist.

Please show this guy to the nearest window

Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday presided over the worst election result of a major UK party since Arthur Henderson lost 235 seats to Stanley Baldwin's Conservatives in 1931.

Today Corbyn wrote an op-ed in the Observer today that shows he never had the right stuff to become PM, and needs to go. "I take my share of responsibility," he says, not seeming to understand that the party leader bears complete responsibility for an election loss of this magnitude. He goes on:

Writing in the Observer, the Labour leader, who has announced he will step down when a successor is elected in the spring, describes the results as “desperately disappointing”.

He says he believes Labour paid a price for a Brexit policy that was seen by some voters as an attempt to straddle the divide between remainers and leavers, and by others as wanting to rerun the referendum.

“We have suffered a heavy defeat, and I take my responsibility for it,” he says, in his first note of contrition since Labour seats fell to the Tories across the north of England and the Midlands, giving the Conservatives a majority of 80.

But, as critics tore into his leadership record, for the most part he defends it, blaming a political system that he says has been volatile since the financial crash of 2008, as well as the media and Johnson’s dishonesty, for the result.

Corbyn insists that on many issues Labour had the right answers: “I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate.”

No, you narcissistic putz, you lost the arguments. And mainly because you lost the arguments. You must resign right now so that someone else can start putting the party back together. In fact, it seems the party leadership might want to take a step back. Otherwise the Tories will continue to run the table in England, and without a viable alternative to Labour, Scotland will remain an SNP stronghold until it leaves the UK.