The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Not a political post

Just a note that this afternoon, American Airlines flew its last scheduled flight on an MD-80 airplane:

The retirements mark the end of an era at American for the workhorse known as the Super 80, whose old-school design and noisy rear engines spawned a love-hate relationship among industry employees over the four decades it flew. The plane once provided the backbone of American, powering the carrier's expansion through the end of last century on bread-and-butter routes such as Chicago to New York or Dallas to St. Louis.

The single-aisle jet could be challenging to fly, but it sharpened pilots' skills and earned the loyalty of pilots like Gomez, who relished having more control over every aspect of the plane.

So on Wednesday, after 36 years, American will operate the last commercial trip of the MD-80, flying from Dallas to Chicago. It's Flight 80.

American will ferry the last 24 of its MD-80 jets to a desert parking lot in Roswell, N.M. Two more will be donated to flight-training schools.

Delta Air Lines continues flying some MD-88s and MD-90s, later vintages of the model.

I don't know exactly how many times I flew on American MD-80s, but it's north of 150. The last time was on 10 November 2018, from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago. And that was, indeed, the last time.

Long night in London

The House of Commons have just finished slogging through 10 amendments to a bill tabled by Labour MP Hilary Benn that would prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, and have started voting on the "third reading." If the ayes have it, the bill would then pass out of the House of Commons and go to the "other place" (the House of Lords) for passage. After that, the Queen would give her Royal Assent, and Bob's your uncle.

And to underscore how weird all of this is, an amendment passed by accident (because the government didn't put "tellers" in the No lobby, never mind what that means for the moment) that mandates the failed Theresa May deal lurch back to life in the next Parliament.

No one has a good handle on how Lords will vote, or how long it will take, though there was talk of putting a time limit on the Lords' debate so the bill can possibly receive Royal Assent before Parliament prorogues next week.

Earlier today, in his first Prime Minister's Questions, PM Boris Johnson didn't answer any questions put to him by the opposition. It was quite a show. And like another head of government on this side of the Atlantic, Johnson demonstrated his lack of respect for his own office and for the institution of Parliament.

The vote is just in as I'm writing this: Ayes, 327; Nays, 299. The ayes have it, the ayes have it. Unlock!

Now Commons will now consider Boris Johnson's motion to hold an election in October, which will not be agreed because the Benn bill hasn't got Royal Assent yet.

What a day in London

With support of 21 Conservative members, the UK House of Commons this evening voted 328-301 to allow the introduction of a bill tomorrow that would prohibit the country from crashing out of the EU on October 31st absent a deal with the trading bloc. In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to table a motion tomorrow calling for a general election on October 14th, and also expelling several of the rebels from the party:

The rebel lawmakers seemed furious on Tuesday. In another era, they would have been the past and future of the Conservatives, with lawmakers like Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s 71-year-old grandson, standing alongside Mr. Stewart, a rising star among younger voters who walks the country filming his conversations with people.

But they said the party was now being set adrift by “entryists,” right-wing newcomers who have rushed into the Conservative fold to push it in a more extreme direction on Brexit. Mr. Hammond accused Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s most senior adviser, of not being a Conservative at all.

“This is my party — I’ve been a member of this party for 45 years,” Mr. Hammond said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning, brimming with anger. “I’m going to defend my party against incomers, entryists, who are trying to turn it from a broad church into a narrow faction.”

Minutes after Parliament adjourned around 11pm BST, Hammond and other party stalwarts got phone calls from the Whip telling them they could not stand in the next election as Conservatives. With those expulsions and other defections, the Conservative government no longer holds a majority in Commons.

Guardian columnist Rafael Behr had some of the day's harshest (public) words for Johnson:

In part, Johnson is captive to the public school cult of effortless dilettantism that despises diligence as vulgar and swotty. He is also a hostage to his own breezy rhetoric. Even now that the technical complexities and economic hazards of Brexit are indisputable, the prime minister pretends that obstacles are trifling or illusory. He claims that leaving the EU without a deal would not be a calamity, but also that the threat of calamity is necessary to persuade the EU to grant a deal. He says that MPs’ demands for an article 50 extension make it harder to negotiate in Brussels because continental leaders will compromise only when they see that the UK is beyond reason. In short: there is no cliff, and even if there was one, the way to avoid it is by driving towards the edge at full speed with no brakes.

Johnson’s actions are best explained by his congenital aversion to things that are hard. He wants a deal but not the effort of getting a deal. He is lying to the public when he blames the opposition or Brussels for his predicament – but lying also, one suspects, to himself. A man who spent years in estrangement from the truth is unlikely to seek its company now.

I listened to Parliament TV this afternoon, and you can bet I'll have it on again tomorrow. At the moment, the calendar shows Johnson taking his first round of Prime Minister's Questions at noon BST. I can hardly wait.

"Your call. We're a lighthouse."

So much to watch today in the UK as Parliament gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson one hell of a welcome back in his second appearance there as PM. Josh Marshall sums it up nicely:

[Johnson's] whole effort has been an elaborate game of chicken. Get the Tory leadership and thus the Prime Ministership. Drive headlong into the wall because the wall will decide we’re just crazy enough or just Churchillian enough to plow right into the wall. Seeing that, see stiff upper lip and scowl and all that, the wall will certainly get out of the way and we’ll get what we want.

And yet here we are with Johnson at full speed and the wall showing a marvelous indifference to his approach.

The Post has a less-Schadenfreaudish discussion going on:

In Parliament, Johnson was heckled and catcalled from almost the moment he stood to speak. He noted that Tuesday was the 80th anniversary of Britain’s entrance into World War II and said “This country still stands then as now for democracy for the rule of law.” He was met with jeering laughter.

He insisted that Britain was making progress in talks with European Union leaders about an orderly Brexit, which drew more mocking laughter.

Aided by repeated demands for “Order” by House Speaker John Bercow, Johnson said his opponents’ proposal to delay Brexit by another three months after Oct. 31 would “Force us to beg for yet another pointless delay.”

“It’s really not possible to govern,” said said Catherine Barnard, professor of European law at the University of Cambridge. She said in a less-fractious era, Johnson might find other parties willing to cooperate with him. But, “At the moment nothing is possible at all,” she said.

Barnard said the loss of a majority gives Johnson added incentive to seek a snap general election, which he has warned is possible in the coming weeks. Going to the voters would allow him a chance to strengthen his numbers in Parliament, and claim a mandate for his pursuit of Brexit on Oct. 31, “no matter what.”

Meanwhile, Sterling fell below $1.20 briefly today, clawing back up to $1.21 as of 19:15 BST.

Funny things

First, something legitimately funny, especially if you're Jewish:

And some things that are funny, as in, "the President is a little funny, isn't he?"

OK, that's too much funny for this morning.

The Matrix at 20

The Atlantic's David Sims takes a look back:

The film came out exactly 20 years ago, before 1999’s summer action-movie season had even begun; The Matrix’s big competitors at the theater were comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You and Analyze This. As an R-rated sci-fi epic about hackers who know kung fu and do battle with machines in a postapocalyptic wasteland, The Matrix was difficult to describe. Yet it somehow became a word-of-mouth hit, the rare blockbuster that opens at No. 1 at the box office, falls to No. 2, and then climbs back to the top position (which it did in its fourth week). It’s the kind of dazzling, original film that inspires a generation of fans and imitators—and the kind of movie Hollywood wouldn’t make in today’s franchise-heavy media landscape.

Twenty years on, much is being written about 1999 as a crucial turning point for Hollywood. By the end of the 20th century, the industry was suddenly crowded with directors fresh from making indie cinema, buzzy music videos, and commercials, many of whom had grown up with the rebellious New Hollywood filmmakers of the ’70s as their artistic lodestars. The future of moviemaking was foreshadowed in the year’s big hits, which included the relaunched big-ticket franchise Star Wars (The Phantom Menace), the low-budget horror of The Blair Witch Project, the provocative teen humor of American Pie, and the twist-ending virality of The Sixth Sense.

Watching today, Neo seems like the poster boy for a disaffected Generation X, a nonconformist who escapes his dull life as a cubicle drone to become a god. (In fact, one of The Matrix’s closest thematic companions from the fertile cinema du 1999 is probably Mike Judge’s Office Space—another sad ballad about humans being swallowed whole by faceless corporations, though Judge’s film has a few more jokes.) The villains of The Matrix are invincible computer programs known as Agents, led by the stone-faced Smith (Hugo Weaving), that take on the appearance of anonymous-looking government officials in bland suits and ties. Meanwhile, Neo and his compatriots, including Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), dress like they’re attending a fetish club, and they do battle to a thumping soundtrack of heavy metal and techno music.

In other anniversaries, yesterday marked 80 years since the German Army poured into Poland, officially igniting World War II.

Frank Bruni's timely column yesterday

I don't know that Frank Bruni reads The Daily Parker, but his column yesterday made for a nice coincidence with my post earlier today:

My interactions in Central Park are partly about having a dog but just as much about what the dog encourages, even compels: spending time in public spaces that are open to everyone and well situated and appealing enough to guarantee that people from all walks of life cross paths.

And we need dogs, or at least we’re better off with them. They yank us outside of our narrowest selves. They force us to engage. In a perfect world, we’d do that on our own, but in this one, Regan plants herself squarely in front of a Central Park sprinkler, opens her jaws wide, treats the spray as an unusually emphatic water fountain and attracts an eclectic cluster of admirers who then fall easily into chitchat — about the cooling weather, the blooming skyline, new movies, old routines — that probably wouldn’t happen otherwise. We walk away feeling a little less isolated, a little less disconnected. I know I do.

Parker has certainly done the same for me that Regan has done for Bruni. And here's to a few more years with him.