The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Friendly Anglo-American competition

Parts of the United States and the United Kingdom have started a friendly competition to see which English-speaking country can obviate months of combating Covid-19 in the stupidest ways possible.

Up first, the UK, where so many people have flocked (in the 32°C heat) to the Channel Coast that Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole have declared a major incident:

Bournemouth East MP, Tobias Ellwood, said half a million people had flocked to the beaches and said the situation was so overwhelming that the UK government should step in to help the council deal with the crisis.

He said: “A lot of people have chosen to be not just irresponsible but dangerous. We’ve made such progress tackling this pandemic. I’d hate to see Bournemouth be the one place in Britain that gets that second spike.”

The council leader, Vikki Slade, said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks [in neighbouring Poole].

“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.

“The numbers of people descending down here are like those seen on a bank holiday. We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now. Please do not come.”

A "major incident" in the UK is similar to a disaster declaration in the US: it allows multiple agencies to coordinate and frees up emergency money.

Not to be outdone, Texas, the state that invented the phrase "hold my beer and watch this," and which had started reopening its economy despite not meeting its own goals for infection and positive-test rates, has now reversed course do to skyrocketing Covid-19 new infections:

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."

[T]he grim news was not just limited to Texas as the U.S. saw a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, with 45,557 reported Wednesday, according to a tally by NBC News.

Southern and Western states like Arizona and Florida that began aggressively reopening around Memorial Day are now seeing staggering spikes that make clear the deadly virus is showing no sign of going away, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly predicted.

I'm not even going to talk about Florida.

Josh Marshall yells into the wind, "this didn't have to happen:"

States around the country, responsive to the President’s messaging, have continued aggressive re-openings while cases were rising. President Trump has also consistently sent a message that basic mitigation strategies like masking are a sign of political affiliation with liberals and Democrats. Put more frankly, he’s being saying they’re for sissies. Republican politicians who rely on his support have backed this messaging and even outlawed cities’ efforts to protect themselves by imposing mitigation strategies at the city level. Since these governors mostly have their political bases of support in rural and exurban areas this amounts to the as yet lightly hit rural regions using their minoritarian political power to prevent the cities from protecting themselves.

So who wins? We'll see what Covid-19 infection rates look like in England's Southeast in two weeks, but for abject stupidity, we're hard to beat.

Saturday morning news clearance

I rode the El yesterday for the first time since March 15th, because I had to take my car in for service. (It's 100% fine.) This divided up my day so I had to scramble in the afternoon to finish a work task, while all these news stories piled up:

Finally, author and Ohio resident John Scalzi sums up why he won't rush back to restaurants when they reopen in his state next week:

My plan is to stay home for most of June and let other people run around and see how that works out for them. The best-case scenario is that I’m being overly paranoid for an extra month, in which case we can all laugh about it afterward. The worst case scenario, of course, is death and pain and a lot of people with confused about why ventilator tubes are stuck down their throats, or the throats of their loved ones, when they were assured this was all a liberal hoax, and then all of us back in our houses until September. Once again, I would be delighted to be proved overly paranoid.

I have sympathy for the people who are all, the hell with this, I’ll risk getting sick, just let me out of my fucking apartment. I get where you’re coming from. You probably don’t actually know what you’re asking for. I hope that you never have to learn.

Note to Mr Scalzi: I hope to start The Last Emperox this week. I really do.

Yesterday's results, journalized

As the final results of yesterday's election came in, journalists around the world started analyzing them. A sample:

The Guardian mourned not only the complete expulsion of Labour from Scotland, but also how seats Labour held since 1935 flipped. Jonathan Freedland puts the blame entirely on Jeremy Corbyn, who, meanwhile, is "very proud" of the party manifesto that scared millions of people away from the party.

The Economist sees it as clearly Corbyn's defeat. Corbyn has promised to step down as Labour leader but hasn't said when. I can scarcely imagine how he'll avoid a possibly-literal defenestration.

Jo Swinson managed to take the Liberal Democratic party from its 2010 high of 62 seats down to today's 11, losing her own seat and her job in the process. I mentioned last night that the Lib-Dems are the party of compromise in the UK, but right now, no one wants to compromise.

The Atlantic's Helen Lewis points out that 87% of British Jews think Corbyn an anti-Semite (as do 100% of the Daily Parker's Jews).

Many writers thought about what this means for American politics: Andrew Sullivan and David Weigel, for example.

On TPM, John Judis blames the philosophical problem Labour had over Brexit—and Jeremy Corbyn. Josh Marshall wonders if the UK will even exist in 2030.

And as Labour supporters throughout the UK wonder what the hell happened today, I should note that two Articles of Impeachment left the Judiciary Committee this morning on their way to the House floor. The last three weeks of the decade will be interesting, won't they?

"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.

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.

Act III, Scene 1

The first debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn last night probably didn't sway anyone:

In a testy live debate on ITV, during which the prime minister repeatedly returned to the claim that he would “get Brexit done”, both men lavished praise on the NHS, but Corbyn said Johnson would put it up for sale.

Throughout the debate, Johnson continually tried to bring the focus back to Brexit, on which Corbyn repeatedly declined to say how he would campaign in a second EU referendum, while the Labour leader attacked the prime minister over the NHS and public services.

At one point, the audience openly laughed at Johnson when he agreed that the truth mattered in the election. The Conservatives came under fire during the debate when it rebranded its CCHQ Twitter account as “factcheckUK” and used it to pump out a series of pro-Tory messages.

Barry Gardiner, a shadow cabinet minister, emphasised the audience scorn for Johnson’s truthfulness, saying: “People looked at the prime minister and thought: how can we believe a word he said? How can we believe the manifesto when it comes out? He promised we would come out on 31 October and he would die in a ditch if we didn’t. It’s just lie after lie after lie.”

Polling still shows neither party getting 50% of the vote, but the Conservatives have pulled ahead a bit. The election is three weeks from tomorrow.

Backfield in motion

That's American for the English idiom "penny in the air." And what a penny. More like a whole roll of them.

Right now, the House of Commons are wrapping up debate on the Government's bill to prorogue Parliament (for real this time) and have elections the second week of December. The second reading of the bill just passed by voice vote (the "noes" being only a few recalcitrant MPs), so the debate continues. The bill is expected to pass—assuming MPs can agree on whether to have the election on the 9th, 11th, or 12th of December. Regardless, that means I'll be in London during the first weekend of the election campaign, and I'm elated.

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of other things made the news in the last day:

  • Writing for the New Yorker, Sam Knight argues that before Boris Johnson became PM, it was possible to imagine a Brexit that worked for the UK. Instead, Johnson has poisoned UK politics for a generation.
  • Presidents Trump and Obama came to Chicago yesterday, but only one of the personally insulted us. Guess which one.
  • That one also made top military officers squirm yesterday when he released classified information about our assassination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, including a photograph of the dog injured in the raid. The dog's name remained classified, even as it seemed clear that he was a very good boy.
  • Grinnell College in Iowa released polling data today showing just how much people don't like President Trump. Moreover, 80% of those polled thought a presidential candidate seeking election help from a foreign government was unacceptable. Adam Schiff cracking his knuckles could be heard all the way to the Grinnell campus.
  • An appellate court in North Carolina ruled that the election maps drawn up by the Republican Party unfairly gerrymander a Republican majority, and must be re-drawn for the 2020 election.
  • Grubhub's share price crashed today after the company released a written statement ahead of its earnings call later this week. The company made $1.0 million on $322.1 million in revenue during the 3rd quarter, and projected a loss for the 4th quarter.
  • The City of Atlanta decided not to pay ransom to get their computers working again, in order to reduce the appeal of ransomware attacks.

Finally, it looks like it could snow in Chicago on Thursday. Color me annoyed.

The hospice of history

Writing in the Guardian, journalist and historian Neal Ascherson says that the long Brexit fight has deepened divisions within the UK that have always been there, but now may have passed the point of no return:

It’s commonly said that the Brexit years have made the English more xenophobic, less tolerant, more angrily divided among themselves. 

[T]he deepest change since 2016 is the weakening of the United Kingdom’s inner bonds.

The “great rest of England” seem to have felt for many years that if the Scots want to leave, “it seems a pity but it’s their right”. Few southerners would feel diminished. Many believe, incorrectly, that England subsidises Scotland. Since 2016, Scotland’s heavy vote to stay in the EU, and the SNP’s incessant campaigning against any sort of Brexit, have become a severe irritant to “British” politics. Devolution is working more scratchily month by month, and the common English assumption for the past few years has been that Scottish independence is inevitable. Curiously, this is not how it looks in Scotland, where minds change slowly and where it’s far from certain that the next independence referendum will drag the yes vote over the line.

In the union of four nations, one – England – has 85% of the population. What the past three years have shown is that the big partner is no longer concerned to put its own interests behind those of the others. A poll this year showed that Tory voters would be ready to “lose Scotland” (revealing words) if that ensured Brexit. In turn, devolution only made sense when all four nations were inside the European Union. If England in 2019 can no longer remember why the union with Scotland and Northern Ireland once made sense, Brexit has delivered the United Kingdom to the hospice of history.

Meanwhile, a deal in the works between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats may end the fixed-terms parliament act and send the UK to the polls on December 9th, instead of December 12th as the Government have previously asked. The EU have voted to postpone Brexit until January 31st, further complicating things for the Labour party (even though Labour demanded the extension).

I expect an earful at the Southampton Arms in two weeks.