The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Long night in London

The House of Commons have just finished slogging through 10 amendments to a bill tabled by Labour MP Hilary Benn that would prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, and have started voting on the "third reading." If the ayes have it, the bill would then pass out of the House of Commons and go to the "other place" (the House of Lords) for passage. After that, the Queen would give her Royal Assent, and Bob's your uncle.

And to underscore how weird all of this is, an amendment passed by accident (because the government didn't put "tellers" in the No lobby, never mind what that means for the moment) that mandates the failed Theresa May deal lurch back to life in the next Parliament.

No one has a good handle on how Lords will vote, or how long it will take, though there was talk of putting a time limit on the Lords' debate so the bill can possibly receive Royal Assent before Parliament prorogues next week.

Earlier today, in his first Prime Minister's Questions, PM Boris Johnson didn't answer any questions put to him by the opposition. It was quite a show. And like another head of government on this side of the Atlantic, Johnson demonstrated his lack of respect for his own office and for the institution of Parliament.

The vote is just in as I'm writing this: Ayes, 327; Nays, 299. The ayes have it, the ayes have it. Unlock!

Now Commons will now consider Boris Johnson's motion to hold an election in October, which will not be agreed because the Benn bill hasn't got Royal Assent yet.

What a day in London

With support of 21 Conservative members, the UK House of Commons this evening voted 328-301 to allow the introduction of a bill tomorrow that would prohibit the country from crashing out of the EU on October 31st absent a deal with the trading bloc. In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to table a motion tomorrow calling for a general election on October 14th, and also expelling several of the rebels from the party:

The rebel lawmakers seemed furious on Tuesday. In another era, they would have been the past and future of the Conservatives, with lawmakers like Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s 71-year-old grandson, standing alongside Mr. Stewart, a rising star among younger voters who walks the country filming his conversations with people.

But they said the party was now being set adrift by “entryists,” right-wing newcomers who have rushed into the Conservative fold to push it in a more extreme direction on Brexit. Mr. Hammond accused Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s most senior adviser, of not being a Conservative at all.

“This is my party — I’ve been a member of this party for 45 years,” Mr. Hammond said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning, brimming with anger. “I’m going to defend my party against incomers, entryists, who are trying to turn it from a broad church into a narrow faction.”

Minutes after Parliament adjourned around 11pm BST, Hammond and other party stalwarts got phone calls from the Whip telling them they could not stand in the next election as Conservatives. With those expulsions and other defections, the Conservative government no longer holds a majority in Commons.

Guardian columnist Rafael Behr had some of the day's harshest (public) words for Johnson:

In part, Johnson is captive to the public school cult of effortless dilettantism that despises diligence as vulgar and swotty. He is also a hostage to his own breezy rhetoric. Even now that the technical complexities and economic hazards of Brexit are indisputable, the prime minister pretends that obstacles are trifling or illusory. He claims that leaving the EU without a deal would not be a calamity, but also that the threat of calamity is necessary to persuade the EU to grant a deal. He says that MPs’ demands for an article 50 extension make it harder to negotiate in Brussels because continental leaders will compromise only when they see that the UK is beyond reason. In short: there is no cliff, and even if there was one, the way to avoid it is by driving towards the edge at full speed with no brakes.

Johnson’s actions are best explained by his congenital aversion to things that are hard. He wants a deal but not the effort of getting a deal. He is lying to the public when he blames the opposition or Brussels for his predicament – but lying also, one suspects, to himself. A man who spent years in estrangement from the truth is unlikely to seek its company now.

I listened to Parliament TV this afternoon, and you can bet I'll have it on again tomorrow. At the moment, the calendar shows Johnson taking his first round of Prime Minister's Questions at noon BST. I can hardly wait.

"Your call. We're a lighthouse."

So much to watch today in the UK as Parliament gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson one hell of a welcome back in his second appearance there as PM. Josh Marshall sums it up nicely:

[Johnson's] whole effort has been an elaborate game of chicken. Get the Tory leadership and thus the Prime Ministership. Drive headlong into the wall because the wall will decide we’re just crazy enough or just Churchillian enough to plow right into the wall. Seeing that, see stiff upper lip and scowl and all that, the wall will certainly get out of the way and we’ll get what we want.

And yet here we are with Johnson at full speed and the wall showing a marvelous indifference to his approach.

The Post has a less-Schadenfreaudish discussion going on:

In Parliament, Johnson was heckled and catcalled from almost the moment he stood to speak. He noted that Tuesday was the 80th anniversary of Britain’s entrance into World War II and said “This country still stands then as now for democracy for the rule of law.” He was met with jeering laughter.

He insisted that Britain was making progress in talks with European Union leaders about an orderly Brexit, which drew more mocking laughter.

Aided by repeated demands for “Order” by House Speaker John Bercow, Johnson said his opponents’ proposal to delay Brexit by another three months after Oct. 31 would “Force us to beg for yet another pointless delay.”

“It’s really not possible to govern,” said said Catherine Barnard, professor of European law at the University of Cambridge. She said in a less-fractious era, Johnson might find other parties willing to cooperate with him. But, “At the moment nothing is possible at all,” she said.

Barnard said the loss of a majority gives Johnson added incentive to seek a snap general election, which he has warned is possible in the coming weeks. Going to the voters would allow him a chance to strengthen his numbers in Parliament, and claim a mandate for his pursuit of Brexit on Oct. 31, “no matter what.”

Meanwhile, Sterling fell below $1.20 briefly today, clawing back up to $1.21 as of 19:15 BST.

Funny things

First, something legitimately funny, especially if you're Jewish:

And some things that are funny, as in, "the President is a little funny, isn't he?"

OK, that's too much funny for this morning.

Ride-sharing platforms have no inherent right to exist

I mentioned earlier today Aaron Gordon's evisceration of Uber's and Lyft's business model. It's worth a deeper look:

The Uber and Lyft pretzel logic is as follows: Drivers are their customers and also independent contractors but cannot negotiate prices or any terms of their contract. Uber and Lyft are platforms, not transportation companies. Drivers unionizing would be price-fixing, but Uber and Lyft can price-fix all they want. Riders pay the driver for their transportation, not the platforms, even though the platforms are the ones that set the prices and collect the money and allocate it however they want, often such that the driver does not in fact receive much of the rider’s fare.

There is a version of Uber and Lyft that might be profitable even if drivers are employees, but it is a much humbler one. It is one that uses the genuine efficiencies of app-based taxi hailing—the very ones Uber and Lyft claim is their actual secret sauce other than widespread worker exploitation—to get a smaller number of drivers more customers for each of them. 

Exactly. If Yellow Cab in Chicago had created an app to find and direct taxis, it would be just as good as Uber or Lyft, but it would cost consumers more to use because taxi fares are regulated. That would be OK by me.

I can't wait to see the effects of California Assembly Bill 5 on the two companies.

Slow news day? Pah

It's the last weekday of summer. Chicago's weather today is perfect; the office is quiet ahead of the three-day weekend; and I'm cooking with gas on my current project.

None of that leaves a lot of time to read any of these:

Now, to find lunch.

The myth of "consumer" security systems

Bruce Schneier takes apart Attorney General Bill Barr's proposal to weaken civilian computer security:

The Department of Justice wants access to encrypted consumer devices but promises not to infiltrate business products or affect critical infrastructure. Yet that's not possible, because there is no longer any difference between those categories of devices. Consumer devices are critical infrastructure. They affect national security. And it would be foolish to weaken them, even at the request of law enforcement.

The thing is, that distinction between military and consumer products largely doesn't exist. All of those "consumer products" Barr wants access to are used by government officials -- heads of state, legislators, judges, military commanders and everyone else -- worldwide. They're used by election officials, police at all levels, nuclear power plant operators, CEOs and human rights activists. They're critical to national security as well as personal security.

Barr can't weaken consumer systems without also weakening commercial, government, and military systems. There's one world, one network, and one answer. As a matter of policy, the nation has to decide which takes precedence: offense or defense. If security is deliberately weakened, it will be weakened for everybody. And if security is strengthened, it is strengthened for everybody. It's time to accept the fact that these systems are too critical to society to weaken. Everyone will be more secure with stronger encryption, even if it means the bad guys get to use that encryption as well.

Schneier doesn't say it explicitly, but this is one more example of how Barr and other Republicans of his generation haven't caught up to the rest of the world.

More on Parliament vs the PM

More stories since yesterday about how Boris Johnson wants to wreck Britain:

Fun times, fun times.

Johnson whips out his Johnson

In a move that surprised almost no one but angered almost everyone, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that, at his request, the Queen prorogued Parliament from mid-September to October 14th:

The effect of the decision will be to curtail the time MPs have to introduce legislation or other measures aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit – and increase the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to table a vote of no confidence next week.

If Johnson lost that vote, there would then be a 14-day period in which the Labour party leader, or an alternative candidate, could seek to assemble a majority. If no new government emerges, a general election would have to be held.

But government sources insist Johnson is determined not to go to the polls before Britain is due to leave the EU. “We have been very clear that if there’s a no-confidence vote, he won’t resign. We get to set an election date. We don’t want an election, but if we have to set a date, it’s going to be after 31 October,” said a senior government source.

In practice, given MPs do not sit on most Fridays, they are only likely to lose between four and six sitting days in parliament, depending on which day parliament is prorogued on the second week of September. MPs would have been due to hold conference recess anyway, from 12 September until 7 October.

The plan would leave Parliament out of session for the longest period since 1945. The Speaker, John Bercow, said he will "fight with every breath in [his] body" to prevent the recess.

Columnist Tom Kibasi says Johnson is trying to set up a "people vs Parliament" election:

The last time parliament stepped in to block no deal earlier in the year, the necessary legislation was passed in just three days. Johnson has deliberately left enough time for parliament to seize control again. That’s because Johnson’s real objective is to use Brexit to win a general election, rather than use a general election to secure Brexit. By forcing the hands of his opponents, he has defined the terrain for a “people versus parliament” election. Expect him to run on “Back Boris, Take Back Britain”. He will say that the only way to definitely leave on 31 October is to give him a parliamentary majority to do so. The man of Eton, Oxford and the Telegraph will position himself as the leader of the people against the hated establishment and “remainer elite”.

Johnson's Conservative party are polling ahead of Labor, but none of the four major parties is polling above 33%. A Labour-Liberal Democratic coalition could happen; so could a grand coalition of Remainers.

Parliament returns from its August holiday on September 3rd. Expect fireworks.

Truly a unique mind

One of the articles I read at lunchtime concerned the president's press conference at the G7 in Biarritz, France, yesterday. It bears examining, not for anything new, but for the shift in the way journalists are describing his thought processes:

Asked why he continued to falsely blame Obama for the annexation of Crimea, as he did almost a dozen times Monday, the president suggested that he knew the black journalist asking the question, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS News, had an ulterior motive. “I know you like President Obama,” he said, without saying how he knew that.

“I’m not blaming him,” he said, before blaming him extensively because “a lot of bad things happened.”

In four days, Trump imposed new tariffs on China, called the country’s president an “enemy,” admitted “second thoughts” on the escalating trade war, reversed course hours later to say he only wished he had raised the tariffs higher, and then vowed a deal would be coming soon — because China wants one desperately, in the president’s telling. Doesn’t that make it harder, a reporter asked, to make a deal? 

“Sorry, it’s how I negotiate,” he said. “It’s been very successful over the years.”

Why the press corps don't laugh him out of the room escapes me. Because no other response seems appropriate.