The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Pas de Bourbon pour l'Europe

Craft distillers in the U.S., like home-town FEW Spirits, are getting creamed by the European Union's retaliatory tariffs:

Following the European Union's June implementation of a 25 percent tariff on bourbon, the popular U.S. whiskey variety, the impact has been clear. One American producer said his exports have "dropped to zero" as a result. Last year, they made up 15 percent of revenue.

"Every U.K. buyer backed off," said Paul Hletko, the owner of Evanston-based Few Spirits. "They may want to buy it, but if they can't sell it at the right price, that's not doing us any favors."

Small distillers cite the drought as proof their fears of a global trade war are coming to fruition. Europe had been blossoming as a source of new revenue — but this market has been effectively cut off for producers that lack the clout or brand recognition of titans like Brown-Forman and Diageo. Now they've been sent back to square one.

Remember: we didn't want these tariffs, we didn't need the tariffs that prompted them, and we are all (European and American alike) suffering because of them. So why did the president start this fight? Does he even know?

President Trump does not put "America first"

Greg Sargent points out the obvious reality of who the president is really looking out for:

The suggestion here is that we are now seeing what “America first” really looks like. That is, when Trump says “America first,” he means it.

But this concedes too much. In an inadvertent but pernicious way, it supports Trump’s preferred framing of his presidency. In this case and many others, Trump is not being “frank” about his real priorities, and he is not putting America first. He’s putting his own naked self-interest over what’s good for America, and prioritizing the real-world policy realization of his own prejudices over any good-faith, fact-based effort to determine, by any discernible standard, what might actually be in the country’s interests.

But I’d like to take this further and point out that here Trump is not actually operating from any meaningful conception of what is good for the country. It isn’t just those lies [about our relationship with Saudi Arabia]. It’s also Trump’s insistence that we’ll never know whether the crown prince actually ordered the killing, which breaks from the intelligence community’s conclusion, and the subtle slandering of Khashoggi via the floating of the Saudi claim that he was an “enemy of the state.”

Again, this has been obvious for years. Decades, even. As Michelle Goldberg writes in today's Times, Trump's entire presidency is based on a con.

And the House of Representatives can start dismantling that con in just six weeks.

But where are the elephants?

Journalist Kelly Weill, writing for the Daily Beast, went to a flat-earth convention:

Thousands of years after ancient Greeks began referencing Earth as a sphere in mathematical proofs, people who believe in a flat Earth have become a movement. They’ve found their voice in the disinformation age, fueled by YouTube videos. For true believers, it’s more than just a conspiracy theory. It’s whole world view, a level plane onto which hucksters, trolls, and Christian fundamentalists can insert their own ideologies.

In an age of rising conspiracy theories—voter fraudQAnonanti-vaxxerschemtrails—Flat Earth might be the most foundational conspiracy theory of them all.

Religious conspiracy (some people I speak to at the conference accuse the Freemasons, not the Jews of covering up Flat Earth) and political uncertainty go hand in hand. Embittered by Germany’s loss in World War I, fascists falsely accused the country’s Jews of “stabbing Germany in the back” during the war. The conspiracy theory contributed to the Holocaust under Nazi rule. The ongoing genocide of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, during a period of political strife has been fueled by a dramatic increase in anti-Rohingya hate speech and conspiracy on Facebook. In a period of political unrest in America, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and subsequent murders of Jews are on the rise.

When the entire world feels uncertain, it’s no wonder people look for an easy culprit. Flat Earthers say the planet is a stationary disk that does not rotate or orbit the sun. But I speak to enough to suspect they still feel off-balance in the world.

I probably don't have to convince any regular readers of this blog of the (mostly) spherical shape of our home. But I have seen proof with my own eyes, and posted it here previously:

That is the shadow of the earth stretching straight out into space as the earth itself curves away under it. You, too, can see this any time you fly across the terminator, as thousands of people do daily.

Meanwhile, with a modern-day Know-Nothing party in control of our government, it seems almost natural that so many people would reject the only possible explanation for so many readily-observable phenomena in favor of something so insane it took a fantasy writer to describe it comprehensively. All hail the Great A'Tuin!

Where are the feminists for May?

Why is a white, gay, male, naturalized American the only journalist I have come across saying Theresa May deserves a lot more credit for persisting in the face of unrelenting male hostility? Sullivan:

I don’t know how else to describe Theresa May’s grueling slog toward the least worst Brexit possible.

The awkward prime minister is still standing upright, though maybe not for much longer. In this respect, I’m surprised more feminists haven’t come to May’s defense. May’s bourgeois Toryism, like Margaret Thatcher’s, doubtless disqualifies her from any respect from the left. But her tenacity in the midst of male obloquy is emblematic of many themes American feminists focus on.

May, after all, is taking responsibility while her male colleagues posture and preen and complain or resign; she gets almost no credit for negotiating one of the more complex international deals in British history for two demoralizing years; she works harder than anyone else in her government; and the deal she has struck is almost certainly the only one the E.U. will ever accept. A woman, in other words, got the toughest job in government in decades, did the best that could be done, has been pilloried for it, but still plowed on, and even now, won’t surrender. Her pragmatism and resilience — along with remarkably good cheer in public — are a wonder to behold. I guess May’s feminism, like Thatcher’s, requires no labeling.

Yes. Brexit is pathologically stupid; yet May has to make it work. She'll probably be out of office by March, of course, leaving the hard work up to someone who hasn't got the tools to get it done. Oh, England.

Sex!

Both The Atlantic and the New York Times have penetrating articles on the subject today. First, Kate Julian examines why young people are having less sex, despite the relaxation of taboos around it:

many other experts, attributes the sex decline to a decline in couplehood among young people. For a quarter century, fewer people have been marrying, and those who do have been marrying later. At first, many observers figured that the decline in marriage was explained by an increase in unmarried cohabitation—yet the share of people living together hasn’t risen enough to offset the decline in marriage: About 60 percent of adults under age 35 now live without a spouse or a partner. One in three adults in this age range live with their parents, making that the most common living arrangement for the cohort. People who live with a romantic partner tend to have sex more than those who don’t—and living with your parents is obviously bad for your sex life. But this doesn’t explain why young people are partnering up less to begin with.

Over the course of many conversations with sex researchers, psychologists, economists, sociologists, therapists, sex educators, and young adults, I heard many other theories about what I have come to think of as the sex recession. I was told it might be a consequence of the hookup culture, of crushing economic pressures, of surging anxiety rates, of psychological frailty, of widespread antidepressant use, of streaming television, of environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, of dropping testosterone levels, of digital porn, of the vibrator’s golden age, of dating apps, of option paralysis, of helicopter parents, of careerism, of smartphones, of the news cycle, of information overload generally, of sleep deprivation, of obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.

Some experts I spoke with offered more hopeful explanations for the decline in sex. For example, rates of childhood sexual abuse have decreased in recent decades, and abuse can lead to both precocious and promiscuous sexual behavior. And some people today may feel less pressured into sex they don’t want to have, thanks to changing gender mores and growing awareness of diverse sexual orientations, including asexuality. Maybe more people are prioritizing school or work over love and sex, at least for a time, or maybe they’re simply being extra deliberate in choosing a life partner—and if so, good for them.

Of course, the best solution for a recession is a stimulus package that encourages growth. I am in favor of this policy.

Ross Douthat, commenting on Julian's article, attributes the decline of civilization sex to porn and masturbation as Aldous Huxley predicted:

Conservatives didn’t expect it because they believed that sexual liberation would inevitably lead to social chaos — that if you declared consent the only standard of sexual morality and encouraged young people to define fulfillment libidinally, you would get not only promiscuity but also a host of dire secondary consequences: Teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates rising together, a pornography-abetted spike in rape and sexual violence, higher crime rates among fatherless young men … basically everything that seemed to be happening in the 1970s and 1980s, when the anti-porn crusade Alberta describes was strongest.

But many of those grim social trends stabilized or turned around in the 1990s, and instead of turning teenage boys into rapists, the internet-enabled victory of pornographic culture had, perhaps, the opposite effect.

But liberal optimists were wrong as well — wrong to expect that the new order would bring about a clear increase in sexual fulfillment, wrong to anticipate a healthy integration of sexual desire and romantic attachment, wrong to assume that a happily egalitarian relationship between the sexes awaited once puritanism was rejected and repression cast aside.

Instead we’ve achieved social stability through, in part, the substitution of self-abuse for intercourse, the crowding-out of real-world interactions by virtual entertainment, and the growing alienation of the sexes from one another.

Again, I see an opportunity here for a solution that benefits, if not everyone, at least the participants in the solution.

I can't wait for the comments...

Serious national-security risk

Worse than the president's unsecured iPhone are the obvious but undisclosed conflicts of interest in his family. Add the unelected, unconfirmed Jared Kushner on top and we've got serious problems:

Senior adviser Jared Kushner was the one who pushed a Saudi-centric policy. One can easily see why. In the crown prince Kushner no doubt saw a kindred spirit — a young sophisticate living in his family’s shadow who had great potential to transform the region. He (Kushner) and the actual crown prince, MBS, were a match made in heaven, although hardly an even match. Kushner seemed to ingest every foolish idea about the Middle East (“the conflict between Arabs and Israelis was essentially a real-estate problem, a deal to be worked out”) and, like his father-in-law, fell prey to the flattery of whomever he faced at the moment. MBS convinced Kushner that making the Saudis the Trump administration’s surrogate would work out for both.

The irony is that conservatives with varying degrees of justification accused the Obama team of not driving hard enough bargains on foreign policy. The Trump-Kushner team, however, has done one better (worse?) — giving our worst foes a pass on egregious human rights violations and allowing our allies to run wild. This comes from the president who is always accusing our allies of taking advantage of us. Well, now they are, and what does Trump intend to do about it?

Putting together a viable policy while simultaneously trying to avoid U.S. commitments to the region won’t be easy. His effort to peddle minimalist sanctions is unlikely to work — and judging from his willingness to dump the problem into Congress’s lap, the White House knows it. The Saudis will not escape unscathed if Congress has its way, and the young menace, the callow heir, who has arguably made the Middle East more unstable and less amenable to U.S. leadership, should go. And MBS should go as well.

Both families need to go in their entireties. Unfortunately we're stuck with ours for the next 818 days.

What to do while waiting for tonight's deployment

We have a deployment at work tonight at 5pm (because in financial firms, you always deploy at 5pm on Friday). Fortunately, we've already done a full test, so we're looking forward to a pretty boring deployment tonight.

Fortunately, we have the Internet, which has provided me with all of these things to read:

Back to planning for next week's post-deployment fixes.

Other things I'm reading

If the Kanye West–Donald Trump crazyfest didn't do it for you, there are plenty of other things to take a look at this lunchtime:

That's all for now. Enough crazy for one Friday.

Warming up to climate change

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report this weekend:

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.

With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.

Most strikingly, the document says the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to more than 40 billion tons per year, would have to be on an extremely steep downward path by 2030 to either hold the world entirely below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or allow only a brief “overshoot” in temperatures. As of 2018, emissions appeared to be still rising, not yet showing the clear peak that would need to occur before any decline.

Overall reductions in emissions in the next decade would probably need to be more than 1 billion tons per year, larger than the current emissions of all but a few of the very largest emitting countries. By 2050, the report calls for a total or near-total phaseout of the burning of coal.

Meanwhile, the next person to regulate the coal industry in the U.S. will likely come from the coal industry.