The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Can't say we didn't see this coming

After a farcical background check of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, should it surprise anyone that new allegations of misconduct have come out? Not to Jennifer Rubin:

In September 2018, I warned about the abbreviated FBI investigation into allegations that Brett M. Kavanaugh engaged in sexually aggressive behavior: “If Democrats retake one or both houses in November, they will be able to investigate, subpoena witnesses and conduct their own inquiry. The result will be a cloud over the Supreme Court and possible impeachment hearings … Kavanaugh has not cleared himself but rather undermined faith in the judicial system that presumes that facts matter.”

And sure enough, two New York Times reporters have found multiple witnesses to the allegations from Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself during a dorm party at Yale. One newly discovered witness had information concerning yet another, similar event. That witness, Max Stier, is the chief executive of Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that, among other things, tracks nominations and confirmations. According to the Times report, he brought the information to the Senate Judiciary Committee (Who? Who knew about this?) and to the FBI.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)...will once more receive the lion’s share of the criticism and anger. Not only did she cast the last holdout vote on the premise that Kavanaugh would uphold the right to an abortion (!), but she accepted an obviously fraudulent investigation. Had she demanded a real inquiry, including witnesses we now know about, the truth might have come out before Kavanaugh was elevated to the court.

And, of course, barring a Constitutional amendment or impeachment, he's there for life. That diminishes the entire Court, says Greg Sargent:

But beyond the ugly tactics that produced this particular majority lies a looming question: What will the long-term consequences of this takeover be?

new study offers an alarming answer to that question. It concludes that even if Democrats win the White House and Congress, the high court will likely strike down much of what they do to address the climate change crisis, even as the window for action is closing, perhaps exacerbating the threat of civilizational catastrophe.

“Climate change legislation,” the report starkly concludes, is “unlikely to survive judicial review,” at a time when “leading scientists have concluded that only twelve years remain to avoid planetary climate change catastrophe.”

What makes the study interesting is that it uses the justices’ past rulings, as well as other conservative legal scholarship, to elaborate a picture of the specific legal doctrines they might employ to strike down efforts to legislate against global warming. The study concludes that their records clearly demonstrate they will have many such doctrines to weaponize in this fashion.

In other words, the right-wing majority on the Court seems likely to use established (but controversial) right-wing jurisprudence to limit the Federal Government's attempts to stop the planet from boiling.

Susan Collins and Mitch McConnell may have doomed half the planet to drowning and the other half to war. Thanks, Obama!

Meanwhile, in Israel

Israelis go to the polls tomorrow for the second time in six months. It's going to be brutal:

Benjamin Netanyahu was the silver-tongued, M.I.T.-educated sophisticate. Avigdor Liberman was a penniless former bar bouncer from Moldova, happy to be the hatchet man.

Now they are barreling toward a climactic denouement, as Israel votes in a national election on Tuesday that could reshape the country’s political landscape and determine whether Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, will be sent into retirement, and whether Mr. Liberman, his former deputy, is launched on a path to one day replace him or into political oblivion.

Mr. Liberman is not popular enough to replace Mr. Netanyahu himself but his party is expected to win enough seats to make him a kingmaker, capable of throwing the premiership to someone else.

While there is a rough consensus in Israel on the vital issues of national security and relations with the Palestinians, Mr. Liberman has exposed a fault line on the role of religion, appealing to secular Israelis fed up with the special benefits and subsidies accorded the ultra-Orthodox.

The high stakes and extraordinarily personal rivalry have turned what might have been a tedious midsummer campaign into a thrilling cage match.

The stakes couldn't be higher. Writing for the Washington Post last week, Robert Kagan calls tomorrow's election a referendum on liberalism in Israel:

[T]here is broad agreement among Israeli conservatives that the central institutions of the liberal world order created since the end of World War II — the European Union and the United Nations, and perhaps even the transatlantic alliance NATO — are hostile toward Israel and should be taken down a peg. A united Europe, regarded by many on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the great accomplishments of the post-Cold War era, “hasn’t been a blessing for this country,” Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, has argued. “The less united Europe is, the better.” The emerging nationalist forces in Europe have provided Israel new allies in its struggle with liberal Europe. “Major changes are happening in Europe,” one senior Israeli diplomat told Haaretz a year ago. “It is becoming less liberal and more nationalist.” Hungary’s Orban is “leading this change,” and that is why “Netanyahu has identified him as a key ally.”

What makes Israelis think if the United States were to cease supporting the liberal world order and began shedding the alliances it created after World War II, that the only ally it would not shed would be Israel? (Amusingly, many Poles these days also seem to believe that if the United States pulled out of NATO, it would still maintain the security relationship with Poland.) And how would Israel fare in the kind of world that would emerge if the United States stopped trying to uphold the liberal order? Such a world would once again be a multipolar struggle for power and advantage, pitting Russia, China, India, Japan, Iran, the stronger European powers and the United States against one another — all with large populations, significant territories and vast economies. What would be the fate of tiny nations such as Israel in such a world, no matter how well they might be armed and no matter how advanced their economies?

Could Israel, with its few million citizens, surrounded by enemies on all sides, and no longer living under the umbrella of the United States’ global hegemony, rely on the support of European nations ruled by right-wing nationalists? Is a divided, renationalized Europe good for Israel, or for anyone else? Would Israelis look to Hungary and Poland, to Britain, or to Russia and China for support?

There is a certain shortsighted selfishness to the current Israeli approach to the world. The price Israel paid for being born into the liberal world order was that it would have to suffer liberal criticisms and be held to liberal standards. This might have been difficult and even, from Israelis’ perspective, unfair, but Israeli leaders have borne this burden for 70 years because they knew Israel had no choice, that there was no home for Israel except within the liberal world order. That many Israelis now believe they have a choice is a reflection of our times, but it is a dangerous illusion. Those Netanyahu campaign posters showing him shaking hands with Putin, Modi and Trump carry the tagline “A Different League.” Indeed, it is. Good luck.

Good luck indeed. Polls open in just a few hours.

Parker update

The old dog had a semi-annual vet visit yesterday. He's now had all his shots, including the 3-year rabies booster, which twinged a little because of the high probability that he'll never have another one. That said, he's as healthy as a 13-year-old dog can be.

So while he may never need another rabies booster, he's probably going to live long enough to get one.

Lunch links

A few good reads today:

Haven't decided what to eat for lunch yet...

It's hot and wet

Two articles on current consequences of climate change. First, the Post has a long-form description of how global temperature rise is lumpy, causing localized hot spots such as the one off the coast of Uruguay:

The mysterious blob covers 130,000 square miles of ocean, an area nearly twice as big as this small country. And it has been heating up extremely rapidly — by over 2 degrees Celsius — or 2C — over the past century, double the global average. At its center, it's grown even hotter, warming by as much as 3 degrees Celsius, according to one analysis.

The entire global ocean is warming, but some parts are changing much faster than others — and the hot spot off Uruguay is one of the fastest. It was first identified by scientists in 2012, but it is still poorly understood and has received virtually no public attention.

The South Atlantic blob is part of a global trend: Around the planet, enormous ocean currents are traveling to new locations. As these currents relocate, waters are growing warmer. Scientists have found similar hot spots along the western stretches of four other oceans — the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, the South Pacific, and the Indian.

Barring some dramatic event like a major volcanic eruption — which can cause temporary global cooling by spewing ash that blocks the sun — scientists expect this to continue and steadily worsen.

Climate change has also driven a policy shift in Canada:

Unlike the United States, which will repeatedly help pay for people to rebuild in place, Canada has responded to the escalating costs of climate change by limiting aid after disasters, and even telling people to leave their homes. It is an experiment that has exposed a complex mix of relief, anger and loss as entire neighborhoods are removed, house by house.

The real-world consequences of that philosophy are playing out in Gatineau, a city across the river from Ottawa that has been hit by two 100-year-floods since 2017. Residents here are waiting for officials to tell them if the damage from the latest flood, in April, exceeded 50 percent of the value of those homes. Those who get that notice will be offered some money and told to leave.

Canada doesn't have the constitutional protections for private property that we have in the US. But the approach works; they spend a lot less on clearances than on rebuilding, especially since they only need to clear once.

Whither foliage?

WaPo has an interactive map:

Cue the 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map on SmokyMountains.com, a site promoting tourism in that region. The interactive tool is one of the most helpful resources to reference as you plan your autumnal adventures.

“We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn,” data scientist and SmokyMountains.com chief technology officer Wes Melton said in a statement.

Travelers are presented with a map of the United States and a user-friendly timeline to adjust below. As you drag through the season, the map changes to show where fall foliage is minimal, patchy, partial, near peak, peak and past peak.

By swiping through, you can easily find the best time to visit the region of your choosing.

Enjoy. According to the map, Chicago's peak occurs between October 19th and November 2nd. You might see some color this weekend in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and the top tier of New England.

Lunchtime link roundup

Of note or interest:

And now, back to work.

Long, long time to sit

After sitting for 824 days—the longest time since World War II—the UK Parliament prorogued last night in a scene reminiscent of 1629:

The chaos unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after a day of high drama in which Boris Johnson lost his sixth parliamentary vote in as many days and Bercow announced his impending retirement as Speaker.

As the prorogation got under way, Bercow expressed his anger, saying it was “not a normal prorogation”.

“It is not typical. It is not standard. It’s one of the longest for decades and it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues, but huge numbers of people outside, an act of executive fiat,” he said.

As Bercow spoke, opposition MPs held signs reading “silenced” and some attempted to block his way.

One of those involved in the protest, Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, said the action “echoes the action of members to try and prevent the speaker proroguing at the request of Charles I”, referring to the 1629 incident when MPs, furious at the closure of parliament, left their seats and sat on the Speaker, preventing him from rising and closing the house, allowing MPs to pass a number of motions condemning the king.

Bercow was not sat on, and was soon allowed to pass through the House of Commons to attend the House of Lords.

I found the whole session yesterday completely fascinating. PM Boris Johnson lost his sixth consecutive vote when the House declined to hold an early election (for now), as the opposition parties united in a demand that a no-deal Brexit be forestalled. But what will happen on October 31st is anyone's guess at the moment.

The Liberal Democrats have announced the will call for a repeal of Article 50 (i.e., Brexit) in the next election. The Conservatives, under Johnson and in collusion with Ukip extremists, will continue to support a no-deal Brexit.

This has been an historic Parliament. The next one will be even weirder.

Loose lips sink ships

Remember back in May 2017, barely a couple of months in office, when the president bragged to the Russian Foreign Secretary about some intelligence we'd developed on ISIS in Syria? That disclosure resulted in a dangerous and expensive mission to exfiltrate one of our highest-level assets within the Russian government:

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.

At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or "exfiltration" as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.

Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter's notes. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community's response to the Trump-Putin meeting.

Knowledge of the Russian covert source's existence was highly restricted within the US government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was "no equal alternative" inside the Russian government, providing both insight and information on Putin.

So is he a Russian asset or just a useful idiot? What difference does that make, anyway?

OrDAAAAAAAHHHH! ORDAH! The gentleman will step down

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, announced this evening in London that he would step down at the end of October:

At the 2017 election he promised his wife and children that it would be his last, he says.

He says if the Commons votes for an early general election, his tenure as Speaker and as an MP will end when this parliament ends.

He says, if MPs do not vote for an election, he has concluded the least disruptiveoption will be to stand down at close of play on Thursday 31 October.

He says the votes on the Queen’s speech will come at the start of that week. He says it would make sense to have an experienced Speaker in the chair for those votes.

Here's video.

The British Twitterverse is going nuts, of course. And so is betting.

And, not for nothing, the Benn Bill became law about 15 minutes ago.