The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy Friday, with its 7pm sunset

It happens every September in the mid-latitudes: one day you've got over 13 hours of daylight and sunsets around 7:30, and two weeks later you wake up in twilight and the sun sets before dinnertime. In fact, Chicago loses 50 minutes of evening daylight and an hour-twenty overall from the 1st to the 30th. We get it all back in March, though. Can't wait.

Speaking of waiting:

Finally, Fareed Zakaria visited Kyiv, Ukraine, to learn the secret of the country's success against Russia.

Notable Friday afternoon stories

Just a few before I take a brick to my laptop for taking a damned half-hour to reformat a JSON file:

Oh, good. My laptop has finished parsing the file. (In fairness it's 400,000 lines of JSON, but still, that's only 22 megabytes uncompressed.) I will now continue with my coding.

God save our gracious King

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the British National Anthem has changed back to "God Save the King" for the third time in 185 years. In other news:

By the way, the UK has a vacancy for the post of Prince of Wales, in case anyone would care to apply. I think we can bet on nepotism, though.

Long live King Charles III

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96:

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has died.

Prince Charles, heir to the throne since the age of three, is now king, and will be officially proclaimed at St James’s Palace in London as soon as practicably possible.

Flags on landmark buildings in Britain and across the Commonwealth were being lowered to half mast as a period of official mourning was announced.

As Queen of the UK and 15 other realms, and head of the 54-nation Commonwealth, Elizabeth II was easily the world’s most recognisable head of state during an extraordinarily long reign.

What a week in the UK.

Truss elected PM with 0.0012% of UK vote

The UK Conservative Party has elected Liz Truss its new leader, making her the new Prime Minister. Just over 81,000 of the 67.22 million citizens of the UK voted for her, giving her even less of a mandate than the last two PMs had:

The foreign secretary, who won 81,326 votes (57.4%) of Tory members to the former chancellor’s 60,399 (42.6%), takes over from Boris Johnson, who was ousted by his own MPs earlier this summer.

Britain’s fourth Tory prime minister in six years declared “we will deliver, we will deliver and we will deliver” on the many challenges facing her government, including the state of the NHS.

Significantly, Truss appeared to rule out a snap general election, telling the audience in central London that she would “deliver a great victory for the Conservative party in 2024”.

The Economist wonders how long she'll last:

Her free-market instincts are at odds with the need to intervene to navigate an immediate cost-of-living crisis. Household gas and electricity bills will jump by 80% in October; businesses are seeing even bigger spikes. By January 2025 she must contest a general election in which she will face the judgment of a deeply dissatisfied public. She inherits a country in dismal spirits: 69% of Britons, including 60% of Conservative voters, agree that the country is “in decline”, according to polling by Ipsos for The Economist. And the party she now leads has grown insurrectionary: it has deposed her two immediate predecessors and is unenthused by her. She will bash at the walls like a wasp in a bell jar.

Ms Truss’s remedy for Britain’s economic ills is a Reaganite mixture of deficit-financed tax cuts and regulatory reform. She proposes low-tax zones with relaxed planning laws, and wants to keep the headline corporation-tax rate at 19% to pull in foreign investment.

To her critics, Ms Truss offers only a mimicry of Thatcherism: all the aesthetics, little of the insight. She may have the furs and the aphorisms, they say, but she abandoned her support for planning deregulation, the single most-obvious supply-side reform, as soon as it became clear that Tory activists wouldn’t wear it. Her pledge to scrap all unnecessary eu laws by the end of 2023 may sound reassuringly radical, but it is divorced from the fine-grained work of effective regulation.

Ms Truss is the fourth roll of the dice for a party squinting hard, searching for a simulacrum of the woman who turned Britain around before. The country she now leads may well be looking for something else entirely.

It is interesting, though, that Truss is the third woman to have her finger on Britain's nuclear button, while 39 of the 40* people elected President of the US have been white men. How's that working out for us?

* John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and Gerald Ford were never elected president.

Indian independence and partition, 75 years on

Today is India's 75th anniversary as an independent nation after the UK essentially abandoned it after World War II. The Guardian looks at how much—and how little—has changed:

The attack on Salman Rushdie shone a light on where Pakistan and India, both now 75 years old, share common ground. Amid worldwide outrage, both governments were conspicuous by their silence.

The silence came from different roots. Some of the first riots after the publication of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses were in Pakistan and violent extremism is still very much part of the country’s political life.

In India’s case, it was because Rushdie has been a critic of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and annoyed his supporters, who the author himself had dubbed the “Modi toadies”.

Intolerance of free speech is an area in which India is coming to be more like Pakistan as both countries celebrate their 75th birthdays. Under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), political opponents are increasingly likely to be arrested and beaten, and the press and judiciary are under increasing political pressure. India’s democracy has been downgraded to “partly free” by the democratic advocacy group Freedom House, a category India now shares with Pakistan.

Writers Pankaj Mishra and Ali Sethi have had enough of religious fighting between the two countries:

In many ways, the binary constructs of “Indian” and “Pakistani” embody the desolate logic of the event that 75 years ago split British-ruled India in two: the partition, attended by massacres, rapes and large-scale dispossession. Botched products of Britain’s imperialist skulduggery – and fierce struggles for personal power between leaders of the anti-imperialist movement – the new nations were locked right from their birth into military conflict; their pitiless “identity politics” ranges today from intellectual forgeries in history textbooks to the lynching of religious minorities.

The political history of their 75 years – marked by several wars, arms races, anti-minority pogroms, authoritarian rule, and minimal protections for the poor and weak – provokes mostly despair and foreboding. While Pakistan nears economic collapse, Indian fantasies of becoming a superpower lie shattered amid shrivelled growth and ecological calamity. Demagogues in both nuclear-armed countries treacherously exploit the resulting anger and disaffection. While claiming to fulfil the broken promises of modernity, they mobilise the thwarted energies of individual and collective aggrandisement into a mass politics of fear and loathing.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of partition, it is abundantly clear to us that politics in India and Pakistan are doomed to keep forging a history of irresolvable enmity between Hindus and Muslims. It is also clear that any reasonable hope for peace between these two nuclear powers cannot rest on a political and economic breakthrough alone. We can avoid an apocalyptic scenario only if we acknowledge and consolidate, or at least not squander, the linked cultural and spiritual inheritance of the two countries. The great truth it underscores repeatedly – of the plural and interdependent nature of human identity – is the best remedy for our rancorously polarised worlds.

Imagine what the world would look like today had the British not drawn arbitrary lines through great chunks of it.

Practical advice on getting narcissists out of politics

This evening I finished psychologist Bill Eddy's Why we elect narcissists and sociopaths and how we can stop. It turns out, we just need to be rational!

OK, so, that's not likely. But Eddy does lay out the obvious: we need to stop electing narcissists and sociopaths. We also need to watch out for sick politicians dividing us into 4 groups that could work together but don't: Loyalists, Resisters, Moderates, and dropouts. The three groups who don't have automatic loyalty to the narcissist in question always outnumber the Loyalists.

In other words, when a politician says "I alone can fix it," the correct response is to ensure he (it's always "he") never holds any power. Because he will always try to increase his power to the detriment of everyone around him. And he will never fix it.

More Johnson reactions

No one seems sad that Boris Johnson has resigned his role as Conservative Party Leader, but many worry what he's going to do before he finally leaves Number 10. Some other reactions:

And my favorite so far:

Johnson resigns

In what The Economist calls "Clownfall," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Cons) this morning resigned as Conservative Party leader and will leave Number 10 as soon as the party chooses his replacement. But the Tories have deeper issues—after all, they supported him through every scandal but this last one:

Boris Johnson’s government has collapsed at last. For months Britain’s prime minister wriggled out of one scandal after another. Now, irretrievably rejected by his own MPs, he has accepted that his premiership is over. He has asked to stay until the autumn, but he should go immediately.

Mr Johnson was brought down by his own dishonesty, so some may conclude that a simple change of leadership will be enough to get Britain back on course. If only. Although Mr Johnson’s fingerprints are all over today’s mess, the problems run deeper than one man. Unless the ruling Conservative Party musters the fortitude to face that fact, Britain’s many social and economic difficulties will only worsen.

Right up until the end Mr Johnson clung desperately to power, arguing that he had a direct mandate from the people. That was always nonsense: his legitimacy derived from Parliament. Like America’s former president, Donald Trump, the more he hung on the more he disqualified himself from office. In his departure, as in government, Mr Johnson demonstrated a wanton disregard for the interests of his party and the nation.

Despairing of yet another scandal, over 50 ministers, aides and envoys joined an executive exodus so overwhelming that the BBC featured a ticker with a running total to keep up. In the end the government had so many vacancies that it could no longer function—one reason Mr Johnson should not stay on as caretaker.

As for staying on as a caretaker PM, his party have other ideas:

[S]enior Conservative MPs are pushing back against the idea that Johnson should be allowed to stay in office for any longer and want to see an interim leader in place, such as Dominic Raab. Labour also said it would force a confidence vote on the prime minister unless he stepped down from No 10 in short order.

Support drained away from Johnson as more than 50 ministers and government aides resigned in a rolling walkout, while a slew of once supportive backbenchers declared no confidence in his leadership.

The revolt began on Tuesday evening with the resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak as health secretary and chancellor respectively.

On the news, Sterling immediately started climbing from post-pandemic low of $1.19, and the FTSE 100 index also rose a bit. (The Pound hasn't traded at these levels since the mid-1980s, in fact, so I may have to stock up when I'm there later this month.)

Under the UK Constitution, the Prime Minister remains in office until the Queen invites a successor to take over, which will happen in this case when the Conservative Party elects a new leader. An early election seems unlikely, so the Tories will likely remain in power for a while, possibly until the next mandated election in January 2025.

Johnson being shown the door

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Cons) may finally have reached the limit of his ability to avoid consequences. Earlier today, five ministers resigned en masse, and now several others (including the Home Secretary) have gathered at Number 10 to hand Johnson his hat:

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, went in recently, and Priti Patel, the home secretary, arrived by a side entrance, according to PA Media. According to the Times’ Steven Swinford, four other cabinet ministers are saying Johnson should go (although that does not necessarily mean they are there now in person).

This news comes just minutes after Johnson left a meeting where the 1922 Committee (essentially the party rules committee) told him he's an "obstacle to the work of the government."

PMQs this morning was epic.

Updates as conditions warrant.