The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Random round-up

So, with a project running somewhere around 105%, an old and patient client that predates my current employment waiting for some updates, Global Financial Management requiring that I figure out the combined beta of two companies about to merge, Foundations of Strategy expecting a transaction cost analysis Saturday morning, and an overwhelming anticipation of seeing Diane and Parker tomorrow after almost two weeks, I find myself completely out of creativity. Heaven bless my winter office (probably, now that the pizzeria around the corner has left, simply "my remote office").

Fortunately, other people on the Intertubes have plenty of it. Creativity, I mean. Here is a quorum, mostly pinched from Sullivan:

  • The Washington Post has a list of twelve things to toss out this spring, as written by Elizabeth Warren, Karl Rove, and Onion editor Joe Randazzo. (The last is an indictment of Internet memes.) There's also a bit on virginity.
  • Writer Andrea Donderi posits a dichotomy between Asker and Guesser cultures. In Cultures, Civilization, and Leadership (one of the CCMBA's core classes) we'd look at this in terms of ICE profiles, which I would explain if I could find the link. (See above re: being overloaded.) This comes via The Guardian, who have the distinction this week of having endorsed for prime minister the guy who became deputy PM. By the way, this kind of embarassment (two guys running against each other only to have to work together as #1 and #2) hasn't happened in the US since 1800. But that's not important right now.
  • While on the subject, it's a little daunting that we haven't had our midterms yet and I've made no progress on the video, but there are only 50 days until our next residency starts. (See above re: being really overloaded.)
  • Finally, Sam Harris has a new demolition of the Catholic Church Good line near the top: "This scandal was one of the most spectacular 'own goals' in the history of religion, and there seems to be no need to deride faith at its most vulnerable and self-abased." (I would explain that my views are probably more moderate than Harris's, and yet I enjoy his writing, but see above re: being really monster raving loony overloaded.)

Shannon has brought my last drink and my check, my teammate KW is busy compiling all of our notes for Strategy, and Parker, I expect, is getting a relaxing belly-scratch from Diane 1,000 km away. I think we're all OK with this, but Parker has the best deal.

Also, for those of you watching in real time, yes: I posted this blasted entry five times in quick succession, because I kept finding typos. This should come as great news to the people currently engaged in Scrabble games with me on Facebook.

Un-hanging Parliament

I came across this at lunchtime: a Canadian analysis of how the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the UK will simultaneously introduce fixed, five-year parliamentary terms and at the same time prevent the government from calling an early election. (Why Canadian? Because Canada has a fixed-term parliament, but, as Stephen Harper demonstrated in 2006, it isn't a fixed term if the ruling party doesn't want it to be.) The whole column is a bit wonkish, but it describes something approaching an intersection of game theory and UK constitutional law:

[I]f you look at the text of the Conservative-Lib Dem accord, it...says 55% would be required for “dissolution,” that is for dissolving the House and calling an election. This is a crucial difference [with a vote of no confidence]. Significantly, too, the provision comes at the tag end of the paragraph establishing a fixed five-year term of government. Because it’s the guarantee of it.

What it means is that if the government were defeated in the House — by the usual 50% margin — Prime Minister Cameron could not simply go the Queen and ask for dissolution. He would have to get a vote of 55% of the House to permit him to do so. So he could not wriggle out of the coalition, or the commitment to a five-year term, by engineering his own defeat (still less do what Stephen Harper did, and call a snap election, without even the fig-leaf of defeat to justify the breach).

A note about velocity: I'm posting less lately because I'm on a pretty intense project at work, and because this term's Duke workload is actually larger than first term. I'll explain what that means when I have a spare moment.

It's over over there

Gordon Brown has tendered his resignation to the Queen. At this writing, David Cameron has an audience with Her Majesty, who is expected to ask him to form a government.

It'll be a Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition. Very, very interesting. Sullivan has good commentary on why.

Update: Prime Minister David Cameron takes power:

Wild swings in markets and UK

We all scratched our heads today as the Dow plunged almost 1,000 points in 15 minutes...then rebounded. Still no explanation:

Traders and Washington policy makers struggled to keep up as the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1,000 points shortly after 2:30 p.m. and then mostly rebounded in a matter of minutes. For a moment, the sell-off seemed to overwhelm computer and human systems alike, and some traders began referring grimly to the day as “Black Thursday.”

But in the end, Thursday was not as black as it had seemed. After briefly sinking below 10,000, the Dow ended down 347.80, or 3.2 percent, at 10,520.32. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropped 37.75 points, or 3.24 percent, to close at 1,128.15, and the Nasdaq was down 82.65 points, or 3.44 percent, at 2,319.64.

But up and down Wall Street, and across the nation, many investors were dumbstruck. Experts groped for explanations as blue-chip stocks like Procter & Gamble, Philip Morris and Accenture plunged. At one point, Accenture[1] fell more than 99 percent to a penny. P.&G. plunged to $39.37 from more than $60 within minutes.

More:

The height of panic on Thursday was reached shortly after lunchtime in the United States. First some currencies began to fall rapidly, with the euro suffering especially against the Japanese yen.

That could have been an indication that some large traders were unwinding positions. It has been popular to borrow yen at low interest rates and then use the money to speculate in higher yielding assets denominated in other currencies. Anyone unwinding such a trade would buy yen to repay the loan.

Then there's the U.K. election, which didn't go as planned for the Liberal Democrats:

The swing so far from Labour to Conservatives with 250 results in the bag is a little lower than before, at 5.6%. The Tories' share of the popular vote is 34.9%, Labour is on 28.3% and the LibDems on 21%. Compare that with the average of nine main pollsters' final predictions before the elections: 35.6% for the Tories, 27.6% for Labour and 27.4% for the Liberal Democrats. The Tories a little down, Labour a little up and Lib Dems bafflingly down. Still more than half of all seats to go, though.

That was about an hour ago. It's dawn in London right now, and no one knows who'll be in Number 10 at dusk. If no party has an outright majority in Parliament at the end of voting, Gordon Brown will have the right to form another government—but you can bet the UK will have elections again in a few months. This is the most exciting UK election since 1974.

[1] Disclosure: Accenture owns most of Avanade, my employer.

That's the ballgame

With Labour trailing behind both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, the Prime Minister today committed what may be the worst gaffe by a politician in modern British history:

And then – the journey into the car – the microphone left on…

"You should never have put me with that woman, whose idea was that, it's just ridiculous ... she's just a bigoted woman."

When the broadcasters catch up with her Mrs Duffy takes a while to understand what happened, but when she does, the nation sees the shock on her face.

“I’m very upset. He's an educated person ... and I'm an ordinary woman just asking him just questions like anyone would ask him ... I want to know why, with those comments I said there, why I was called a bigot.”

The moral is, of course, don't get into the car with a Sky microphone still attached to your lapel. More from the Times blog.

Did I mention I'd vote Lib-Dem this time if I were a UK citizen?

And all we have is Michele Bachmann

Every time I think our legislature has a bunch of crazies in it, I remind myself it could be a lot worse:

The speaker of Ukraine's parliament huddled under umbrellas as eggs rained down and smoke bombs filled the chamber with an acrid cloud. Then the lawmakers attacked each other, punching and brawling in the aisles.

The chaos erupted Tuesday as parliament approved a treaty allowing Russia to extend the lease on a naval base in a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea until 2042 — a move bitterly opposed by pro-Western lawmakers. Ukraine would get cheap natural gas from Russia in exchange.

Yeah. We've got a long way to fall before we can compete with that.

Why you shouldn't check email at midnight

You might see a news story like this:

Chicago would be headquarters to the largest airline in the world if United Airlines successfully consummates a deal with Continental Airlines.

Where to base the world headquarters of the merged entity is one of many potentially thorny "social" issues that have been resolved as the two airlines move rapidly toward a deal that could be completed as soon as next week, said people close to the situation.

The implications make my brain hurt. This would be tremendous for Chicago, at the expense of making O'Hare a fresh kind of hell for Conited (Uninental?) travelers. But United would gain a major hub in Houston to compete with American's in Dallas, and would solidify its Asia-Pacific lead even while essentially conceding the North Atlantic to oneworld. (For the record, I will continue to fly American regardless. The article mentions that US Airways, twice to the altar but never wed with United, may jump into American's arms instead.)

Then there was this, via Sullivan, which has to be a first in American history, in Philadelphia yet:

Veteran Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Phila.) last Thursday accused her primary opponent, Gregg Kravitz, of pretending to be bisexual in order to pander to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters, a powerful bloc in the district.

"I outed him as a straight person," Josephs said during a fund-raiser at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, as some in the audience gasped or laughed, "and now he goes around telling people, quote, 'I swing both ways.' That's quite a respectful way to talk about sexuality. This guy's a gem."

Kravitz, 29, said that he is sexually attracted to both men and women and called Josephs' comments offensive.

"That kind of taunting is going to make it more difficult for closeted members of the LGBT community to be comfortable with themselves," Kravitz said. "It's damaging."

Add to all this the increasing likelihood (though still well below 50%) that Nick Clegg could become Britain's prime minister in two weeks, and I think it will be a fretfully long night. (In a good way. If I were a UK citizen, I'd vote Lib-Dem this time. Seriously.)

Dawkins clarifies

As reported earlier, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens do not like the Pope's actions in dealing with child abuse. Dawkins has clarified his remarks:

Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself.

What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's proposed visit to Britain. Beyond that, I declined to comment to Marc Horme, other than to refer him to my 'Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope' article here: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5341.

I thought it sounded unusually acerbic, even for Dawkins.