The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Fallen on Hard Times

I've just yesterday finished Charles Dickens' Hard Times, his shortest and possibly most-Dickensian novel. I'm still thinking about it, and I plan to discuss it with someone who has studied it in depth later this week. I have to say, though, for a 175-year-old novel, it has a lot of relevance for our situation today.

It's by turns funny, enraging, and strange. On a few occasions I had to remind myself that Dickens himself invented a particular plot device that today has become cliché, which I also found funny, enraging, and strange. Characters with names like Gradgrind, Bounderby, and Jupe populate the smoke-covered Coketown (probably an expy for Preston, Lancashire). Writers since Dickens have parodied the (already satirical) upper-class twit and humbug-spewing mill owner so much that reading them in the original Dickens caused some mental frisson.

Dickens also spends a good bit of ink criticizing "political economics" in the novel, as did a German contemporary of his, whose deeper analysis of the same subject 13 years later informed political philosophy for 120 years.

It's going to sit with me for a while. I understand that Tom Baker played Bounderby in a BBC Radio adaptation in 1998; I may have to subscribe to Audible for that.

Leaving on a jet plane

Now that I'm more than two weeks past my second Pfizer jab, I'm heading to O'Hare tomorrow for the first time since January 2020. I remember back in September 2018 when I finally broke my longest-ever drought from flying of 221 days. Tomorrow will mark 481 days grounded.

But that's tomorrow. Today, I'm interested in the following:

And finally, Chicago's endangered piping plovers Monty and Rose have laid three eggs. We should see baby piping plovers in about four weeks.

Political news out of London

The UK Labour Party has suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn after an independent report found he presided over, and did nothing about, an increase in anti-Semitism in the Party:

The suspension was provoked by a statement from Corbyn that rejected the overall conclusions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report, saying the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents and the media.

That statement set the former Labour leader directly at odds with his successor. Moments after Corbyn’s statement was released, [current Labour leader Sir Keir] Starmer spoke at a press conference where he said those who “deny there is a problem are part of the problem … Those who pretend it is exaggerated or factional are part of the problem.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination over antisemitism. It cites “serious failings in the Labour party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.

However, the former Labour leader said he had been obstructed by party officials in trying to tackle the issue. “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media."

When a party leader takes his party into the worst election defeat in a generation, while doing nothing about systemic problems in the party that contributed to that loss, there is usually a reckoning. The only thing the failed leader can do at that point is show contrition, or be sacked. I hope the US Republican Party undergoes a similar realignment next year, for similar reasons.

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.

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.

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.

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.