The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Go home, Theresa. You're done.

The much-anticipated vote in the UK House of Commons on Theresa May's Brexit deal failed by a spectacular 432-202 vote. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a vote of no confidence, which could lead to elections before the end of February:

In her final appeal in Parliament, Mrs. May impressed on the lawmakers the importance of the vote facing them. “The responsibility on each and every one of us at this moment is profound,” she said, “for this is a historic decision that will set the future of our country for generations.”

Like most others, though, the prime minister has no easy answers about the way forward. She has signaled that she will appeal to the European Union in Brussels for concessions and try again to win parliamentary approval, but the bloc is unlikely to grant her any.

With no consensus behind any one pathway, and a vanishing window for further negotiation, more radical solutions are rising to the fore.

One group of lawmakers is campaigning for a repeat referendum, which could overturn the mandate to leave, and another favors leaving the European Union on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement, a move that experts warn could lead to shortages of some foods and an economic downturn.

“This is probably the most important piece of legislation for decades, and the executive can’t get it through,” said Tim Stanley, a columnist for The Daily Telegraph. “It’s a very dramatic moment.”

The problem, of course, is that almost no one has told the British public the complete truth about Brexit. Some British believe that crashing out of the EU will solve all their problems; of course, none of those people is an economist.

I can't see how the Tories, let alone May, survive this. But no one has an idea that can pass Commons right now. If Britain just leaves the EU without a deal...whoo boy. But that horrific possibility just became significantly more likely today.

New digs

I missed posting two days in a row because I've just been swamped. I'll have more details later. For now, here's my new office view:

One of my smartass friends, who lives in Los Angeles, asked what that white stuff was. It's character, kid. It's character.

STFU, Donnie, you're out of your element

We're gonna have the greatest government shutdown ever! It'll be a big, beautiful shutdown, because we need a wall!

Yep. It's the biggest one ever, all right:

Approximately 800,000 federal employees are estimated to be furloughed or working without pay because President Donald Trump and Congress cannot reach a deal to reopen the government. They are at an impasse over $5.7 billion for construction of a wall along the southern border.

The number of furloughed employees does not include federal contractors like Estes. It’s unclear how many contract or grant employees are affected by the shutdown — or even how many there are in total — but a Volcker Alliance report estimated that nearly 5.3 million worked as contractors in 2015.

Unlike furloughed federal employees, who have received assurances that they will be paid once the shutdown ends, contractors are not owed back pay. That has left them in an even murkier economic position.

Of course, I have to take NBC for saying the President and Congress cannot reach a deal, as if they're equally responsible. Nope! The buck stops at the Resolute Desk, let's not forget:

Seriously.

By the way, has anyone told Mitch McConnell that Congress can pass a law without the president's signature?

Warmest oceans ever

The planet's oceans have absorbed most of the extra heat greenhouse gases have prevented leaving the atmosphere, with consequences:

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.

People in the tropics, who rely heavily on fish for protein, could be hard hit, said Kathryn Matthews, deputy chief scientist for the conservation group Oceana. “The actual ability of the warm oceans to produce food is much lower, so that means they’re going to be more quickly approaching food insecurity,” she said.

And still the leaders of the world's biggest economies deny this is happening.

Parker's home

He has a weird haircut and he's back in the cone for two weeks, but Parker is otherwise happy and healthy.

My wallet, however... Jeez, these older models cost a lot in repairs.

Not getting it done

President Trump is, and has always been, a fraud. And now it may have caught up with him.

The man who claims to have written a book on negotiating couldn't get what he claimed was his first priority through a friendly Congress. Now Congress is no longer friendly. Josh Marshall concludes from this that "Trump cannot learn how to be President:"

Democrats were actually quite willing to fund the wall. They offered tens of billions of dollars for it, far more than they’re refusing to support now. But Trump had to give them DACA. He said he would but then refused, apparently because his most rage-driven advisors said it would make him weak, much as he was goaded into this shutdown by Coulter and Limbaugh. He’s weak in respect to his supporters who control him and manipulate him. It’s probably better to say that he couldn’t than he wouldn’t.

There were a number of red state Democrats who were quite ready to make deals and the entire Democratic caucus would have in exchange for something they wanted. But he couldn’t do it. He can only dictate. This shouldn’t surprise us. He couldn’t manage to get Obamacare repealed, even by the 50 vote standard, one in which he needed only Republican votes, even though Republicans had campaigned on doing just that for almost a decade. That’s a remarkable level of governance failure.

And now he's discovering that his self-lauded negotiating skills just don't seem to work:

Trump’s approach is a hallmark of a president who eschews strategic planning and preparation in favor of day-to-day tactical maneuvering and trusting his gut. But as he digs in against an emboldened Democratic opposition, Trump has found that his go-to arsenal of bluster, falsehoods, threats and theatrics has laid bare his shortcomings as a negotiator — preventing him from finding a way out of what may be the biggest political crisis of his presidency.

White House allies professed confusion over the president’s tactics. Trump aides initially signaled he would support a continuing resolution from Congress to fund the government through early February, but the president reversed course in the face of intense criticism from conservative talk show hosts and border hawks.

As James Fallows said:

Give me a lever that is long enough, and I can move the world, Archimedes is supposed to have said. We now have a Coulter corollary, descended perhaps from Iago and Lady Macbeth. It is: Give me a man who is weak enough, and I can taunt him into anything.

We're still 10 days away from the half-way point of this administration. Heaven help us all.

Parker recovering fine

Parker's surgeon just called. She had no difficulty removing the plate from his leg and she got the fatty cyst out of his neck without complications. She also identified the screw that had hidden the infection from his immune system and has sent it in for culture, but she suspects it's a run-of-the-mill bacterium that, absent the screw, his body would barely have noticed.

He'll be a little wobbly for a day or so and he'll have to wear his cone for two weeks, but the surgery wasn't nearly as invasive as the original repair. So, he's expected to make a full and speedy recovery before the end of the month. I'll pick him up tomorrow morning and post photos of his new haircut shortly after.

Correlation is not causation

American diplomats injured in Cuba in 2016 reported hearing strange noises before their symptoms set in. Apparently they heard crickets:

[W]hen the biologist Alexander Stubbs heard a recording, uploaded by the Associated Press, he heard not mechanical bugs, but biological ones. He realized that the noise sounded like the insects he used to hear while doing fieldwork in the Caribbean.

Together with Fernando Montealegre-Z, an expert on entomological acoustics, Stubbs scoured an online database of insect recordings. As first reported by Carl Zimmer in The New York Times, they found that one species—the Indies short-tailed cricket—makes a call that’s indistinguishable from the enigmatic Cuban recording. The duo have written a paper that describes their findings and are set to submit it to a journal for formal peer review.

That's interesting, but not the point. There was some speculation that the diplomats' injuries came from a microwave weapon, but that hypothesis didn't hold up. Last month, some evidence appeared that it may have been a sonic weapon after all. But probably not crickets.

Parker update

Oh, dog.

As I mentioned earlier, Parker has developed an infection around the implants in his leg. In itself this isn't life-threatening, but it is pretty uncomfortable, especially when stuff oozes out of his leg.

So, tomorrow he's having the implants out. And while he's under anesthetic, the surgeon will also remove a fatty cyst from his neck—also not dangerous, just uncomfortable.

The surgeon, his regular vet, and I all agree that this is Parker's last surgery. No matter how healthy he seems right now, at 12½ he hasn't got a lot of years left. But removing the steel from his leg and cleaning out the infection (which could well be a biofilm) will make his last few years a lot more comfortable.

I'll post an update when Parker comes home Thursday morning.

Don't air the speech

James Fallows argues that television networks have clear precedents as well as unprecedented reasons not to air President Trump's speech tonight:

The challenge for the news media was to “make the important interesting,” rather than to search for the purely interesting. Car-crash footage, or the last seconds of a sudden-death playoff game, will always be more eye-catching than reports on a drought, or on sexual-harassment patterns, or emergency-room standards, or a million other topics. But things that are merely interesting will never lack for coverage. The definition of news is that it attempts to explain things that matter, things that a democratic society needs to know about in order to make sane decisions.

Donald Trump has been the most entertaining figure on the public stage since he came down the golden escalator in 2015. TV news, in particular, has therefore not been able to resist showing him (and his rallies) or talking about him. It’s the civic equivalent of seeing that 9-year-olds are guzzling down the Mountain Dew and asking for more Spam. Trump’s going live? Let’s switch to the White House! This needs to change.

Trump just lies. He doesn’t know, or he doesn’t care, about the difference between claims that are true and those that are obviously made up. (Daniel Dale, of the Toronto Star, has indefatigably catalogued Trump’s lies, at a rate of more than 100 per week.) Maybe 4,000 “terrorists” have been apprehended at the southern border? Maybe zero? Who can ever really know? Over the past week Trump has claimed that former presidents “privately” told him they supported building his wall. All four living ex-presidents have taken the unusual step of denying that they said any such thing.

The network executives’ position has a lot in common with that of the Senate Republicans. Each group knows with perfect clarity what Trump is actually doing. The Senate Republicans know that Trump is using the wall as a distraction and life raft. They know that because they had unanimously approved, by voice-vote, a plan to keep the government open, with no mention of the wall, before Trump panicked in the face of criticism from Ann Coulter and Fox News. They could pass that resolution again tomorrow—but they won’t speak up in public, so fearful do they remain of being criticized, too. For their part, the network executives know exactly what Trump will do if given air time. (Though they also realize that the formal Oval Office speech is Trump’s weakest venue. He’s not good at reading prepared texts, with his trademark ad-libs of “that’s so true” when he encounters lines he had clearly not seen before.) But they are giving it to him.

They were not afraid of criticism for turning down Obama. They are afraid about what would happen if they turned down Trump. You can think of lots of explanations. But the difference is clear.

I won't watch or listen to the speech live because I have other plans, and because Fallows is right. Why listen to half an hour of untruths coming from a person manifestly unfit to sit behind the desk he'll be sitting behind?