James Fallows eloquently sums up the worst bits of American culture, in the wake of Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas:
I am an optimist about most aspects of America’s resilience and adaptability, but not about reversing America’s implicit decision to let these killings go on.
Decision? Yes. Other advanced societies have outbreaks of mass-shooting gun violence. Scotland, in 1996. Australia, in 1996 as well. Norway in 2011. But only in the United States do they come again and again and again.
No other society allows the massacres to keep happening. Everyone around the world knows this about the United States. It is the worst aspect of the American national identity.
The identity of the shooter doesn’t affect how many people are dead or how grievously their families and communities are wounded. But we know that everything about the news coverage and political response would be different, depending on whether the killer turns out to be “merely” a white American man with a non-immigrant-sounding name.
These people are indeed deranged and angry and disturbed, and the full story of today’s killer is not yet known. It is possible that he will prove to have motives or connections beyond whatever was happening in his own mind (as Graeme Wood explains). But we know that if the killers were other than whites with “normal” names, the responsibility for their crime would not be assigned solely to themselves and their tortured psyches.
I've just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay "The First White President." Combined with Trump's performance today in Puerto Rico, and our inability as a polity to slow—let alone stop—gun violence, makes me despair for my country.
Crossrail, the UK's £14.8bn rail line connecting London's far western suburbs with its eastern ones, either represents the end of an era or the beginning of one, according to today's New York Times:
Before Britain voted last summer to leave the European Union, Crossrail was conceived for a London open to the world and speeding into the future. Now, with Brexit, the nightmare scenario is that this massive project, to provide more trains moving more people more quickly through a growing city, ends up moving fewer people more quickly through a shrinking city.
Extending roughly 110 km, it is built to speed about 200 million passengers a year in a kind of Y from far to the west of the city, in the county of Berkshire, through Heathrow, to the heart of London, forking east to Shenfield in Essex and to the neighborhood called Abbey Wood, on the historically neglected southeast side of the Thames River. Linked with the existing Underground subway network, it will be rechristened the Elizabeth Line, inserting what is in effect a new steel-and-wheels spine into Britain’s capital.
“The danger with Brexit,” [George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf’s longtime chairman said], “is that if Britain gets out of the European Union and doesn’t keep the U.K. an attractive place for financial institutions, they will think twice about growing here. The issue isn’t banks leaving Canary Wharf. Most of them have long-term leases. The issue will be the pace of growth.”
But that’s not quite true. Because of Brexit worries, construction plans for several of Canary Wharf’s new buildings have already been put on hold. And long-term leases can always be broken.
The subway will open to passengers in 2018.
Scottish authorities are making it difficult for Donald Trump to expand his money-losing golf course outside Aberdeen:
Two Scottish government agencies—the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, a conservation agency—say they will object to the Trump Organization’s plans to build a second 18-hole golf course at Aberdeen, known as the Trump International Golf Links. If they succeed in killing this expansion, it will be a major setback for Trump and raise doubts about the future profitability of the whole venture.
Industry experts say the value of many of Trump’s golf resorts is not in the daily management of the course itself but rather in the development and sale of housing. And according to the 2008 master plan that Trump convinced local planning officials to accept, he needs to build two courses before he is allowed to break ground on the profitable housing development.
But with the Trump Organization back to trying to get the second golf course built, Scottish regulators are making the case that Trump apparently doesn’t fully understand the development limitations. According to the Guardian, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is objecting to the Aberdeen expansion on the grounds that the Trump Organization’s plans for managing sewage are inadequate. Scottish Natural Heritage, meanwhile, says the company’s expansion plans don’t take into account the fragility of the nearby dunes and how they may affect the course as they shift—already a recurring problem on the first course, where greens are strafed by mini-sandstorms.
It turns out, Scots are really hard to bully, and (as the headline above says), they really do not like him.
A few minutes ago, the Central London constituency of Kensington was declared for Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad, who defeated incumbent MP Lady Victoria Borwick by 20 votes.
Imagine Bernie Sanders winning Kenilworth, Ill., or Beverly Hills, Calif., and you have a good idea how weird this is. Citylab explains:
[T]he richest cluster of neighborhoods in Europe has just for the first time in its history voted in an MP from the center-left Labour Party.
It may be understandably hard for an American reader to understand how seismic this shift is. The U.K.’s Labour Party, which first rose to prominence as an explicitly socialist party in the 1920s, has never had much of a foothold with the old guard that Kensington is associated with. It’s historically been to the left of U.S. Democrats, a position it has returned to under current leader Jeremy Corbyn, who's stood on a platform of nationalizing railways and postal services and abolishing university fees. This isn’t like citizens of the Upper East Side or Bel Air cheerleading for Hillary. It’s like raising the red flag over Downton Abbey.
That’s because, despite its wealth, Kensington is one of the most drastically unequal areas in all of Britain.
The residents behind the doors of Kensington’s rows of lavish Victorians may not have voted Conservative because they are not eligible to vote in Britain or are too disconnected from British politics by wealth and habit to care overly about who represents a place they merely breeze through. That means that Kensington’s electoral decisions are increasingly being made by those who remain in the district full-time, who might as well be living on a completely different planet.
In the area’s northern reaches, it’s a different story. A place where pretty Victorian streets give way densely populated public housing (including Brutalist icon the Trellick Tower) this area doesn’t look at all bad, and is even somewhat chi-chi in patches. Much of it is still populated by an ethnically diverse range of residents who, in austerity-hit Britain, are having a very tough time indeed. Their homes may be located within 15 minutes walk of some of the world’s wealthiest citizens, but poorer residents’ access to good jobs and (beyond public housing tenancies guarded like Fabergé eggs) affordable housing is limited and getting worse.
The political storm that flipped Kensington is happening on a wider scale across the U.K.
Last night was such an embarrassment for Teresa May it's just hard to wrap my head around it. She's made a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to form a coalition, so she'll hang on to her job. But the DUP's 10 seats plus the Tories' 318 give her a two-vote majority in the 650-seat House of Commons—not exactly a mandate. So when's the next election? On an over-under, I'd bet on before the end of 2018.
Well. What a difference a few weeks can make. Last night, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who called a snap election in April to shore up her majority in Parliament, discovered that she no longer had a majority in Parliament:
We are heading for a hung parliament. The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system means hung parliaments rarely happen in Britain, but it was the case following the 1974 election and most recently in 2010.
In the case of a hung parliament, the leader of the party with the most seats is given the opportunity to try to form a government. This can take two forms: one option is a formal coalition with other parties, in which the coalition partners share ministerial jobs and push through a shared agenda.
The other possibility is a more informal arrangement, known as “confidence and supply”, in which the smaller parties agree to support the main legislation, such as a budget and Queen’s speech put forward by the largest party but do formally take part in government.
May or her successor as Conservative leader will have the chance to try to form a government. She could attempt to scramble together a formal coalition of other parties, possibly including the DUP, that would take her over the threshold needed to obtain a House of Commons majority. Alternatively she may try to lead a minority government if she can convince other parties to back her in a vote of confidence.
If the Tories fail to form an alliance, Jeremy Corbyn could attempt to strike a deal with the SNP, the Lib Dems, the nationalist parties from Northern Ireland and the Greens. But this is an unlikely scenario.
Other reactions to the UK's election surprise:
And one other item of interest, especially as I'm visiting the Ancestral Homeland in August: Sterling dropped 2% against the dollar overnight, and is now, at $1.27 to the pound, near it's 10-year low of $1.20.
Back in 2011, after holding elections in 2005 and 2010, the British Parliament made an all-party agreement to hold elections every five years instead of just when the government needed to shore up their power. Today PM Theresa May tore up that agreement:
In a surprise statement outside Downing Street on Tuesday morning, the prime minister claimed that opposition parties were jeopardising her government’s preparations for Brexit.
“We need a general election and we need one now,” she said. “I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion but now I have concluded it is the only way to guarantee certainty for the years ahead.”
May claimed the decision she would put to voters in the election, the announcement of which was a tightly guarded secret known only by her closest aides, would be all about “leadership”.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, May cannot call an election directly, but she said she would lay down a motion in the House of Commons. This will require two-thirds of MPs to back it.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, said he welcomed the decision, suggesting his MPs would back the Commons motion.
No, Corbyn, you feckless twat, don't do it! You really don't get how this will screw the Labour Party, do you?
My prediction: Labour loses seats, the Liberal Democrats vanish entirely, and the Scottish National Party completely take over Scotland, ensuring five more years of Conservative rule and a bruising battle over Scottish independence.
Stuff I'll read before rehearsal today:
Back to the mines...
Even though there are about 58 hours left in the year, I still have work to do. Meanwhile, a few things to read have crossed my RSS feeds:
OK, back to work.
Before discussing the most important sports story in North America since...well, since the States were United, let me highlight some of the political and professional stories percolating:
- The Economist has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. "This choice is not hard."
- Meanwhile, the High Court in London ruled today that Parliament must actually vote to trigger Brexit, which gives MPs another crack at the piñata and perhaps a way out. No telling when Teresa May plans to schedule this vote as the UK Supreme Court still has to hear the case. In any event, the government now can't trigger Article 50 for the indefinite future.
- TPM's electoral scoreboard now stands at Clinton 269, Trump 221, with New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Florida now toss-ups. Nate Silver points out that his estimates have Clinton at about the same point Obama was in 2012, giving Clinton 293 to Trump's 244. Deeply Trivial explains more about Silver's statistics.
- Meanwhile, if it seems like the FBI is in full-on Clinton-hating mode, it's because they are. The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman reports that the bureau is "Trumplandia" and totally off the rails. Great. TPM (where Ackerman worked previously) analyzes the journalism making the FBI's political interference worse.
- University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone is appalled by elected Republicans threatening a scorched-earth rear-guard assault against Clinton's policies. Brian Beutler agrees it could be a long two years until the 2018 mid-terms in which absolutely nothing gets done.
Stay tuned for the real story of the day.
I'm a little disappointed with the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Giants last night, but they get another crack at them tonight. I'll probably watch—while writing software. Meanwhile, here are some articles I wish I'd had more time to read:
Go Cubs, and back to work.