The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sir Keir Starmer, KDB, KC...PM

A few hours ago, HM King Charles III invited Sir Keir Starmer (Lab) to become his Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, and form a government in his name:

Keir Starmer has said the “sunlight of hope” is now shining in Britain again as Labour won a landslide UK election victory, bringing a crushing end to 14 years of Conservative rule.

Labour had won 411 seats, while the Conservatives were on just 119, with five left to declare by 9.30am. The government’s likely majority is set to be about 170 seats. The party dominated in Scotland, with the SNP reduced to eight seats so far, while the Liberal Democrats gained at least 71 seats – their best performance ever.

There were five shock victories against Labour for pro-Palestine independent candidates, with Jonathan Ashworth, one of Labour’s election chiefs, voted out in Leicester South, and the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn winning in Islington North. Plaid Cymru was expected to win four seats.

At the last general election, in 2019, the Conservatives had a majority of 80, with 365 seats to Labour’s 203. The SNP won 48 seats and the Lib Dems had just 11.

Former PM Liz Truss lost her seat, as did former leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, incumbent leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt, and Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps. Outgoing PM Rishi Sunak has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party.

It wasn't all good news: racist demagogue Nigel Farange (Reform) won a seat in Westminster, and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, expelled from the Labour party for anti-Semitism and also leading the party to its worst loss in generations, won election as an independent in his constituency in Islington. (For US readers, Islington is the Logan Square or—and I am aware of the irony—SoHo of London. So exactly the kind of area that would elect someone like Corbyn.)

Proportionally, the Scottish National Party had the worst night, losing 38 of its 47 seats, while the Liberal Democrats jumped from 8 to 71 seats and will get to ask questions on Wednesdays again.

Right now, Labour front-benchers are meeting individually with Number 10 to find out what exciting new jobs they get in government. But as the Zen koan that the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg just posted, "none of these appointments are confirmed, until they are confirmed." Angela Rayner has become the deputy PM, and it looks like Rachel Reeves will has become the UK's first female Chancellor, an office that often leads to election as PM later on.

It took 14 years for the UK's voters to remember why right-wing governments suck. I just hope the Labour government takes at least that long to fall apart. We all need a strong center-left government somewhere in the West while Putin still breathes.

Holiday weekend

I'm about to leave the office for the next 4½ days. Happy Independence Day!

And who could forget that the UK will have a general election tomorrow? To celebrate, the Post has a graphical round-up of just how badly the Conservative Party has screwed things up since taking power in 2010:

There’s a widespread feeling among voters that something has gone awry under Tory government, that the country is stagnating, if not in perilous decline.

Nearly three-quarters of the public believes that the country is worse off than it was 14 years ago, the London-based pollster YouGov has found. More than 46 percent of people say it’s “much worse.” And to some extent, economic and other data back that up.

Before Brexit, a different word hung over Conservative policy: “austerity.”

Cameron pushed spending cuts intended to reduce government debt and deficit. The goal was never achieved — public debt this year hit its highest rate as a percentage of economic output since the 1960s — but austerity had many side effects, including huge cuts to local governments that hit services such as schools and swimming pools.

Britain’s beloved National Health Service was one of the few places to see funding rise in real terms during this period, but it mostly failed to match pre-2010 trends, let alone keep up with spiking inflation, immigration and the needs of an aging population. Under the Conservatives, waiting times for treatment have surged.

I'm sorry I can't be there tomorrow, but I will be there in September, eagerly questioning my friends about the election and its aftermath.

For this weekend, though, expect some Brews & Choos reviews, and probably some blather about other things as well.

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

The Roscoe Squirrel Memorial is gone

The Chicago Dept of Transportation this morning removed and (they claim) preserved the "Chicago Rat Hole" on the 1900 West block of Roscoe St. in the North Center neighborhood. I admit, I never saw the Rat Hole in the flesh (so to speak), but I feel its absence all the same.

Moving on:

  • Three Republican Arizona state representatives voted with all 29 Democrats to repeal the state's 1864 abortion ban; the repeal now goes to the Arizona Senate.
  • Monica Hesse reminds people who say it's sexist to advocate for US Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire before the end of President Biden's current term that advocates for former Justice Stephen Breyer to resign made much more noise.
  • Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter cautions student protestors that blaming Jews for the actions of the Israeli government is crossing a line. Bret Stephens concurs, describing attacks on Jewish students that belie the "peaceful" label of the pro-Palestinian protests.
  • NPR stops by historical markers at the side of the road, in all their raucous inaccuracy and frivolity. Like the 600 or so planted by the Daughters of the Confederacy, which offer even less accuracy and frivolity than most.
  • Meanwhile, the New York Times tunes into the "crisis" at NPR, which has lost nearly a third of its audience since 2020.
  • Four people and a horse needed medical treatment and several vehicles needed repairs in London this morning after five of the King's Household Cavalry mounts panicked and ran from a training exercise, making it from near Buckingham Palace all the way to St Paul's before the Met could corral them.

Finally, are you an extrovert, and introvert, and ambivert, an omnivert, or some other kind of green French thing? National Geographic explains the first four.

Another lovely day

Except for the sun blinding me around 5:30 pm every day due to a quirk in my house's architecture (I will eventually fix it with window treatments), I love sunny spring days. Cassie and I have already spent almost an hour outside and we'll spend another 45 minutes or so when I get back from an odd music gig that I'll describe tomorrow or Monday.

I wanted to highlight just one story from earlier this week, by New Republic's Kate Aronoff, with the accurate and delightful headline "Anything Elon Musk can do a bus can do better:"

Whether on electrification or autonomous vehicles, Tesla has long been hailed as a company uniquely capable of revolutionizing transportation, with Elon Musk portrayed as the big brain in charge. A series of high-profile blunders, though—like Cybertrucks with stick accelerators and a wrongful death settlement—have cast doubt on Tesla’s capacity to speed the world toward an electrified future. Policymakers might want to start asking themselves: When it comes to creating a transportation system fit for our climate-changed twenty-first century, what can Elon Musk do that the humble city bus cannot?

Public buses are an unbeatable value. Here in New York City, $2.90 will get you between and within boroughs, usually just a few blocks from your door. A pilot program initiated last fall included one fare-free route in each borough, in the hopes of eventually making buses free throughout. Boston made a number of bus lines fare-free this year, as well. Olympia and many other Washington municipalities have embraced free buses throughout their entire transit system, following the example set in 2019 by Kansas City, Missouri, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Luxembourg offers free public transit nationwide, and several other countries offer free buses, trams, and trains to people under 18, students, and senior citizens.

The cheapest Tesla, by contrast, costs nearly $40,000, which isn’t counting the cost of insurance, financing, and all the other headaches involved in purchasing and owning a car. Elon Musk has allegedly scrapped plans to make what would have been Tesla’s most affordable offering yet, a smaller car slated to be priced at around $25,000. That announcement had already been delayed for several years, reportedly because Musk demanded that his engineers produce a vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel.

Finally, public buses offer something to the challenge of decarbonizing transportation that Elon Musk never can: scale. If the goal of decarbonized transit is to get as many people moving using as little carbon as possible, then it’s wildly more efficient to invest more public resources into electrifying and expanding mass transit options than in helping a billionaire sell more luxury items.

Aronoff doesn't even need to point out that Musk himself has never invented a single goddamned thing. He leveraged a family fortune made in Apartheid South Africa into controlling shares of several companies that eventually all failed, whether completely or just simply never lived up to the hype.

But Aronoff is right. I've visited London 20 times in the last 10 years and only twice have I had to resort to taking a hired car—once when the Southern Rail went on strike the day I flew into Gatwick last summer, and once when I was well pissed and didn't want to wait for a bus in the rain. Trains and buses cover the entire Southeast region, run all night in most cases, and don't cost all that much. Chicago has them too. Who needs a Tesla truck that will cut your fingers off if you try closing the trunk?

Twice. I hit Ctrl+W *twice* while writing this post

Ctrl+W closes the active browser window, you see. I meant to type the word "Wade" in italics but somehow hit the Ctrl key instead of the Shift key. There may be some irony there.

Possibly the warmth has addled my brain? It's just gone above freezing for the first time since the wee hours of January 13th. It's also gloomy and gray, but those things go together.

Anyway:

  • Today is the 51st anniversary of the US Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade.
  • Michael Tomasky wants to know why the press seem to ignore the XPOTUS's obvious dementia.
  • Something fishy happened with the 2023 Hugo nomination process, but that certainly has nothing to do with the politics of the host country.
  • The City of London has embarked on an ambitious pedestrianization scheme that has, among other things, turned the area around the Bank Tube stop into a pleasant place to sit.

Finally, European researchers have published a report suggesting that domestic dogs wag their tails because humans like the rhythm. I will shortly go test this theory on my resident tail-wagger.

It's the gloomiest time of the year

Forget Christmas songs: Chicago does not have the most wonderful time of the year between mid-November and the beginning of January. We haven't seen the sun all month (well, I have, but I was in California), and we had a lovely thing we call "wintry mix" during morning rush hour. It looks like we might get up to 13°C on Friday, at the cost of an obscene amount of rain dumping on the Pacific Northwest as the warm air mass makes it way toward us.

Elsewhere:

And finally, Bruce Schneier believe generative AI will greatly enhance spying capabilities enabling spying on a scale never before imagined. "We could limit this capability. We could prohibit mass spying. We could pass strong data-privacy rules. But we haven’t done anything to limit mass surveillance. Why would spying be any different?"

With that, 5 straight days of overcast skies doesn't seem so bad.

Posting in the future

I'm setting this to post overnight so I can read these things tomorrow morning:

  • President Biden published an op-ed in Saturday's Washington Post, laying out the necessary steps for ending the Gaza war, with the nuance, sensitivity, and command of the facts we should expect from any President.
  • Robert Wright lays out the history of Hamas, with particular emphasis on how American and Israeli meddling shaped it into the awful group of people it has become.
  • Josh Marshall points out that "the day after" the Gaza war looks pretty bleak, because (a) Netanyahu has no reason to plan for something he doesn't want in the first place; (b) none of the Palestinians' "allies" want to get involved in Gaza; (c) the US and the UK, which could potentially occupy the strip until it can stand on its own, really can't for lots of obvious reasons; and (d) Hamas has every reason to prolong the war as long as it can.
  • Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died at 99. James Fallows, who worked for her husband in the White House, has a remembrance.
  • Bloomberg City Lab explains the design and social history of London's Mansion Block apartment buildings.

Finally, if you come across a mostly-empty parking lot this coming Friday, post a photo of it with the tag #BlackFridayParking to raise awareness that we have way too much parking in the US. Maybe it can nudge policymakers towards necessary zoning and parking minimums changes to help us get out of the urban planning disaster of the 20th Century?

Chicken soup with rice

Last weekend I made approximately 5 liters of chicken soup due to an unfortunate decision midway through the process to add more salt. Given the saltiness of the soup I put in mason jars, I recommend a 3:2 ratio of soup to water, meaning I effectively made 8 liters of soup. Most of it is in my freezer now, in convenient 250 mL jars, one serving apiece.

Suffice it to say I have had chicken soup for lunch 3 times this week. It is, however, very delicious. Except for over-salting it (which is easily corrected and preventable in future), I know what I'm doing.

Elsewhere in the world, things are not so delicious:

Finally, today is the 50th anniversary of both the Sydney Opera House opening and Nixon's (and Bork's) Saturday Night Massacre. One of those things endures. The other does too, but not in a good way.

Two more senior Navy jobs blocked by Coach Tuberville

Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, now a United States Senator grâce a the wisdom and good sense of the fine people of Alabama, continues to degrade the United States military by preventing the US Senate from confirming 301 (and counting) general and flag officers from formally taking the jobs they're already doing. Earlier this month, the commanders of the Naval Air Forces and Naval Sea Systems Command retired, passing their responsibilities—but, crucially, not their policy-setting powers—to their putative successors. US Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), a retired US Navy Captain and 4-time Space Shuttle astronaut, stopped just short of calling Tuberville an idiot on today's NPR Morning Edition.

In other news:

Finally, John Scalzi's blog turned 25 today, making the Hugo-winning author a relative new arrival to the blogging scene, at least when compared with The Daily Parker.