The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How to interview a politician

Via Sullivan, a great example of someone committing journalism on a politician:

Sullivan comments:

Over the weekend, Washington’s journalistic class was hobnobbing with the people they cover. Bob Woodward has helped pioneer access-journalism in which favored courtiers in The Village act as stenographers for the powerful – their skills deployed merely to figuring out which of their exclusive sources is telling the truth (a wrinkle unknown, it seems, to the access-journo of the day, Jo Becker). The idea that they would wreck their access by asking a politician questions that he really doesn’t want to answer – “Isn’t your wife German?” (see above), “Can you give us evidence for your crazy pregnancy stories?” – is preposterous.

So I give you the above video, by the intrepid BBC political reporter, Nick Robinson. Watch him go for the jugular, and watch him not release his grip until the prey is whimpering, near-lifeless on the ground. A joy to watch, and Hitch, I suspect, would approve.

Brilliant. "Was your wife taking someone else's job?"

The 400

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD reported this week that atmospheric carbon dioxide averaged more than 400 ppm in April, a new milestone:

Every single daily carbon dioxide measurement in April 2014 was above 400 parts per million. That hasn’t happened in nearly a million years, and perhaps much longer. Climate scientists have proven that the rise in human-produced greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of global climate change. The likelihood of dangerous impacts—like sea level rise, hotter heat waves, and certain types of extreme weather—increases with each incremental annual rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide levels have increased by more than 40 percent since humans first started burning fossil fuels in large quantities about 250 years ago. Once released, the carbon dioxide from coal, oil, and natural gas burning can remain in the atmosphere for centuries. Thus, the crux of the problem: There just hasn’t been enough time yet since those first coal-powered factories in Europe for the atmosphere to return to equilibrium. What’s more, the pace of fossil fuel burning has since dramatically quickened—there’ve been more greenhouse gas emissions in the last 40 years than over the previous 200—so carbon dioxide buildup keeps accelerating.

So what about the hockey stick? If you look at the last 800,000 years, the chart of CO2 concentration looks more like a brick wall:

Scary.

Crimean referendum finishes days after ballots counted

As predicted last week in private Kremlin memoranda, today's referendum in Crimea has determined that more people on the peninsula support union with Russia than actually live on the peninsula. As someone once said more eloquently than I:

But here's the BBC:

Some 95.5% of voters in Crimea have supported joining Russia, officials say. after half the votes have been counted in a disputed referendum.

Crimea's leader says he will apply to join Russia on Monday. Russia's Vladimir Putin has said he will respect the Crimean people's wishes.

Some review, I think, is in order.

First, Crimea doesn't have a leader that can apply for union with Russia any more than Long Island has a leader that can apply for union with Bermuda.

Second, Putin's respect for the Crimean people's wishes notwithstanding, I can't decide if we're back in 1980, 1939, 1914, or 1836; regardless, it's nice to have the USSR back in town as we're all sick of terrorists.

Third, is there anyone who thinks about these things seriously and believes that this action shows anything other than Russian weakness? Authoritarian leaders always make this mistake, and they wind up destroying their countries. You can't conquer your way to security. Just ask, well, us.

Doomed to repeat it

The news recently and Krugman this morning have brought Tennyson to mind:

Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Heroism has its place, but not when it takes everyone else through hell.

Dawn in Crimea

The sun rises in the Crimean Peninsula in just over an hour, at 6:16 local time. A rumor circulating earlier today was that Russian commanders occupying the region had threatened to attack unless the Ukrainian military surrendered by 0300 UTC this evening—20 minutes ago. The Russian navy has denied this. We'll see.

Russia, of course, has the power to take and hold the peninsula, and it seems to have support from a sizable portion of Crimean residents. But at what cost? Again, we'll see.

One thing is certain: Ukrainians are terrified. Ukrainians are in shock. But also, Ukrainians are Ukrainians, from Donetsk to Lviv.

Ask anyone we've invaded. Nothing brings a country together like an occupying army.

About this blog (v 4.2)

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Ukraine and Venezuela

The Economist on Ukraine:

While politicians in Kiev are scared to mention federalisation because of its separatist undertones, in reality it is already happening. The biggest danger for Ukraine’s integrity is not federalisation, but that Russian interferes and exploits it. That could involve an attempt to annex Crimea, carelessly given to Soviet Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. Over the weekend 20,000 people were out on the streets in Crimea, welcoming back riot police from Kiev as heroes. Russian armoured vehicles have already been spotted around Sevastopol, home to the large Russian naval base.

Mr Putin clearly has no interest in defending Mr Yanukovych. He may have also decided that since Ukraine’s shift towards Europe now looks all but inevitable, grabbing Crimea quickly is the best Russia can do.

But don't forget Venezuela:

This degradation was years in the making. First, the opposition boycotted the 2005 parliamentary elections, which ended with a meager 25 percent voter turnout. This broke not only the checks and balances, but the opposition walked out of a space of dialogue. A culture of imposition was created inside the halls of the National Assembly, one we really haven’t shaken off yet. For five years the opposition was not to be represented in the central government, and no alternative outlet for discontent was provided.

The 2010 reforms, just weeks prior to a new legislature taking office, left the Parliament an institutional husk. This was exacerbated with every Enabling Law that gave the President the power to legislate by decree, of which we have had two since 2010. Add to that aggressive nationwide gerrymandering in 2009, which ensured the government ended up with 49 percent of the votes and 59 percent of the seats, and the Parliament’s emasculation was complete.

Still watching both stories.

Not the usual way to take the train

A person was removed from a commuter train this morning and taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Why? It could have to do with where he was standing:

Passengers on the Metra Union Pacific North line train heading out of the city witnessed a person jumping from the top of the outbound train to the inbound train that was headed to downtown Chicago.

"We can see his shadow," passenger Mike Pastore told RedEye. "There's a building next to the train and we can see the shadow of the man on top of the train. We can't see him directly, but we can hear him running back and forth on top of the train."

In another story about a man being removed from somewhere he should never have been, CNN has fired Piers Morgan. Don't let the door hit your ass, Piers.

On the ground in Kyiv

My friend in Ukraine gave me an update overnight:

It's not the opposition that has taken over president's residence; [Yanukovich] has abandoned it, and it was available for public to see. The Maidan guys are actually guarding it so it does not get burnt down.

The Opposition is not "controlling" the city. We have a fully-legitimate parliament that is working, and yes, patrols from Maidan are around to prevent crime as thousands of "titushkies" (thugs) are in Kiev, paid by the government.

Another very important point: the opposition for us is basically three guys who have their own political agenda. When it was starting peacefully back in November, they had their political rallies next door to Maidan, which is the main place. Soon they agreed to join efforts if they each of them stopped individually using the "Maidan," as the place represents every party. The protests were first for EU, and then changed into anti-Yanukovich issues once students's blood was shed in November. So our "opposition" is not the driving force. It's a bit of a façade. But they're not the power, and they get kicked by Maidan, too.

But the guys who were the majority of the Parliament, the Party of Regions, are gradually leaving the party. So there is no one "controlling" the parliament. They are simply scared for their future, so they change colors, and they vote vote vote with the majority.

The capital is quieter today, and Russia, preoccupied with the closing ceremonies in Sochi, haven't turned their attention back to their old province. That, I expect, will happen tomorrow.

Look everyone, Yulia's back. Great.

It's coming up on midnight in Ukraine, and former prime minister (and convicted felon) Yulia Tymoshenko is out of jail, addressing the crowds. The Beeb and Times are reporting that she's surrounded by ecstatic crowds, but other sources, including my friend in Kyiv, are not so enthusiastic. As political as Tymoshenko's trial was, there was enough truth to it that Ukrainians believe she deserved jail. I haven't got a strong opinion on that if for no other reason than Illinois' last governor is also in jail for corruption.

In fact, the exact phrase my friend used was "на воды СРОЧНО," which translates roughly to "get thee to a nunnery." She reports further that Ukrainians have moved past both Tymoshenko and Yanukovich, and are ready for a real government now, thank you. Tymoshenko is a modern-day Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, shouting "there go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."

Yanukovich, for his part, has fled the capital, though without actually reading the histories of Louis XVI or Nicolae Ceaușescu. So he got caught, and now he appears to be in the eastern city of Kharkiv, waiting desperately for the Olympics to finish so he can once again get Russian help. Only, like Ceaușescu before him, it looks unlikely Russia will do anything at all as long as Ukraine doesn't slip into total chaos.

Wait, let me revise and extend those comments. My non-expert bet would be that Russia announces new sanctions against Ukraine on Monday, and then shuts off their gas. Europe simply doesn't have enough to send east to Ukraine, so I expect people in Kyiv will be awfully cold for a few weeks.

Still, Yanukovich's plight brings Oscar Wilde's Lady Bricknell to mind: "To lose one's country to a popular uprising, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose it twice looks like carelessness."

Update, Sunday, 10:49am: Julia Ioffe agrees.