The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Unthinkable

The Atlantic shares "50 moments that define an improbably presidency:"

This week marks the midway point of Trump’s term. Like many Americans, we sometimes find the velocity of chaos unmanageable. We find it hard to believe, for example, that we are engaged in a serious debate about whether the president of the United States is a Russian-intelligence asset. So we decided to pause for a moment and analyze 50 of the most improbable, norm-bending, and destructive incidents of this presidency to date.

Our 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today. What follows is a catalog of incidents, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable.

Number 50: "Donald Trump touches the magic orb." Number 1: "Children are taken from their parents and incarcerated."

It's chilling, seeing them all together in one place.

May lives to fight another day

No one really thought the UK government would collapse today (though it should have), but only because the norms of British politics have collapsed instead:

Theresa May has comfortably won the no confidence vote, by 325 to 306 - a majority of 19. The vote came after a debate which saw Jeremy Corbyn accuse her of leading “a zombie government”. And Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, closed the debate with a powerful speech saying May does not “possess the necessary political skills, empathy, ability, and most crucially the policy, to lead this country any longer”.

Opposition party leaders have refused an invitation from May to join her for talks about an alternative approach to Brexit until she abandons some of her red lines. After the vote May said she would like talks to start tonight. But Corbyn and the Lib Dems said they would not engage with her until she ruled out a no-deal Brexit. And the SNP said she would have to be willing to discuss extending article 50 and holding a second referendum before they agreed to participate.

This was PMQs today:

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.