The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy November!

I've spent the morning playing matchmaker between disparate time-streams of data, trying to see what relationships (if any) exist between them. They all seem pretty cool to each other at the moment, which is sub-optimal from my perspective. If I can get a couple to get together amicably, then I can get baby time streams to analyze, which I need desperately.

Speaking of sub-optimal:

OK, back to work. Does anyone have an aphrodisiac for data streams?

Foggy Hallowe'en

A week after moving, I'm averaging 30 minutes more sleep and my Body Battery score is back to normal levels after two weeks of waking up like a zombie. I might even have all the boxes unpacked by this time next year.

Meanwhile, me shifting a couple tonnes of matter a few hundred meters did not affect the world's spin by any measurable amount:

Finally, the Tribune reviewed a new New York-style pizzeria in East Lakeview that...doesn't sound like it sells the greasy slices I used to get on Lexington after midnight. But I'll try it.

Putin remains master strategist

Thirty-five weeks into his 3-day war, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin woke up to a new IAEA report that his invasion of Ukraine may cause a permanent decline in Russian fortunes:

The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to speed up rather than slow down the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner technologies like wind, solar and electric vehicles, the world’s leading energy agency said Thursday.

While some countries have been burning more fossil fuels such as coal this year in response to natural gas shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, that effect is expected to be short-lived, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, a 524-page report that forecasts global energy trends to 2050.

Instead, for the first time, the agency now predicts that worldwide demand for every type of fossil fuel will peak in the near future.

Russia, which had been the world’s leading exporter of fossil fuels, is expected to be hit especially hard by the energy disruptions it has largely created. As European nations race to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, Russia is likely to face challenges in finding new markets in Asia, particularly for its natural gas, the report said. As a result, Russian fossil fuel exports are unlikely to return to their prewar levels.

Josh Marshall connects the dots:

What interested me most about the report however is the impact of the Ukraine War on Russia itself. Russia has spent decades building up both the economic engine of its fossil fuel industry as well as its geopolitical power. The report includes a range of scenarios for how the 2022 energy crisis impact plays out over the coming decades. But in each scenario Russia’s role as an energy producer goes into permanent decline. As the report’s executive summary puts it, “Russian fossil fuel exports never return – in any of our scenarios – to the levels seen in 2021, and its share of internationally traded oil and gas falls by half by 2030…”

That's the problem with malignant narcissism: if you think you're the smartest guy in the room, and you discount everyone else's opinion because of it, you won't know you're wrong until reality asserts itself.

Lunch reading

I'm starting to adapt my habits and patterns to the new place. I haven't figured out where to put everything yet, especially in my kitchen, but I'll live with the first draft for a few weeks before moving things around.

I'm also back at work in my new office loft, which is measurably quieter than the previous location—except when the Metra comes by, but that just takes a couple of seconds.

I actually have the mental space to resume my normal diet of reading. If only I had the time. Nevertheless:

Finally, does anyone want to go to New York with me to see a play about Robert Moses starring Ralph Fiennes? Apparently tickets are only $2,000 a pop...

"An absolute disgrace"

Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker (Broxbourne) has "had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it's in the national interest, but because it's in their own personal interest:"

I had to watch that twice. Just imagine any American politician speaking so frankly with a journalist. Wow.

Giving 150%, William Henry Harrison style

Liz Truss has announced she will be the shortest-serving UK prime minister in history:

Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister and will step down after a week-long emergency contest to find her successor, she has announced outside Downing Street.

It follows a turbulent 45 days in office during which Truss’s mini-budget crashed the markets, she lost two key ministers and shed the confidence of almost all her own MPs.

Truss said she had entered office with “a vision for a low-tax, high-growth economy that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit”.

She went on: “I recognise that, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative party."

Opposition parties called for an immediate general election, saying the Conservatives had no mandate to govern.

Keir Starmer said: “After 12 years of Tory failure, the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos. In the last few years, the Tories have set record-high taxation, trashed our institutions and created a cost a living crisis. Now, they have crashed the economy so badly that people are facing £500 a month extra on their mortgages. The damage they have done will take years to fix.”

The Economist says "Welcome to Britaly:"

The comparison between the two countries is inexact. Between 2009 and 2019 Britain’s productivity growth rate was the second-slowest in the g7, but Italy’s was far worse. Britain is younger and has a more competitive economy. Italy’s problems stem, in part, from being inside the European club; Britain’s, in part, from being outside.

But if Britaly is not a statistical truth, it captures something real. Britain has moved much closer to Italy in recent years in three ways.

First, and most obviously, the political instability that used to mark Italy out has fully infected Britain. Since the end of the coalition government in May 2015, Britain has had four prime ministers (David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Ms Truss), as has Italy. The countries are likely to stay in lockstep in the near future.

Holding elections has not resolved Italy’s problems. But there is reason to feel more hopeful about Britain, where political instability is now a one-party disease. The Tories have become nigh-on ungovernable, due to the corrosion from Brexit and the sheer exhaustion of 12 years in power. Ms Truss is right to identify growth as Britain’s biggest problem. Yet growth depends not on fantastical plans and big bangs, but on stable government, thoughtful policy and political unity. In their current incarnation the Tories cannot provide it.

Forget a Tory leadership contest; Truss needs to call an election on her way out. This shows the strength (and the weakness) of the parliamentary system. When they get the worst leader in the history of the country, who took over from the second-worst leader in the history of the country, they can change course immediately without waiting until a fixed point in the future. But will they?

Not at the End of History quite yet

Stanford University historian Francis Fukuyama outlines why liberal democracies have better governance than dictatorships, and why authoritarianism comes back like an old stray cat ever couple of generations:

Russia and China both have argued that liberal democracy is in long-term decline, and that their brand of muscular authoritarian government is able to act decisively and get things done while their democratic rivals debate, dither, and fail to deliver on their promises. Over the past year, though, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of these strong states.

The weaknesses are of two sorts. First, the concentration of power in the hands of a single leader at the top all but guarantees low-quality decision making, and over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences. Second, the absence of public discussion and debate in “strong” states, and of any mechanism of accountability, means that the leader’s support is shallow, and can erode at a moment’s notice.

Liberal democracy, precisely because it distributes power and relies on consent of the governed, is in much better shape globally than many people think. Despite recent gains by populist parties in Sweden and Italy, most countries in Europe still enjoy a strong degree of social consensus.

The problem is that many who grow up living in peaceful, prosperous liberal democracies begin to take their form of government for granted. Because they have never experienced an actual tyranny, they imagine that the democratically elected governments under which they live are themselves evil dictatorships conniving to take away their rights, whether that is the European Union or the administration in Washington. But reality has intervened. The Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes a real dictatorship trying to crush a genuinely free society with rockets and tanks, and may serve to remind the current generation of what is at stake.

Or, as Winston Churchill said 75 years ago,

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

I have faith that democracy will prevail, in my lifetime, against the current crop of authoritarian dickheads. But I also think a generation of Europeans and North Americans won't get there without quite a bit more authoritarian discomfort.

Monday afternoon links

Busy day today, but I finished a major task at work just now. As I'm waiting for the CI system to finish compiling and pushing out a test build, I'm going to read these:

Finally, we got our first official (trace) snow of the season this morning, even as forecasters predict temperatures over 21°C this weekend. While I'm packing. All day.

Liz Truss clings to her job

New Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt today essentially admitted that PM Liz Truss massively screwed up her mini-budget, as if his mere presence at Number 11 didn't admit the same thing in itself:

Truss stayed on the sidelines while Hunt — a political rival who was tapped on Friday for the top cabinet post — announced that the government would not slash taxes and instead may allow them to rise.
 
Truss left it to House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, another rival, to defend the government in Parliament, where both opposition lawmakers and some mutinous politicians from the ruling Conservative Party are calling on the prime minister to quit after just six weeks in office.
 
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer pushed the refrain that Truss was “in office but not in power.”

Although there is no general election in sight, two polls published Monday showed Labour more than 30 points ahead of the Conservatives.

“Who voted for this?” signs have been popping up at protests and in opposition lawmakers’ social media feeds.

Well, 160,000 old, white, rich people voted for it, which may have made this crash-and-burn spectacle inevitable.

The Tories have nowhere to go but a general election at this point. I wonder how much they'll drag the country through a horrible winter before they finally admit that.