The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Parisian unions throw a tantrum

Paris has essentially shut down for the past 12 days as transport unions protest pension reform:

Au onzième jour de mobilisation contre la réforme des retraites, le trafic restait fortement perturbé dans les transports publics, dimanche 15 décembre. A Paris, le trafic des métros était particulièrement compliqué, avec quatorze lignes complètement fermées.

Dans le métro parisien, les lignes automatiques 1 et 14 fonctionnaient normalement, avec un risque de saturation, de même que les lignes Orlyval, RoissyBus (deux bus sur trois) et OrlyBus (quatre bus sur cinq), qui desservent les aéroports. En revanche, les lignes 2, 3 bis, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7 bis, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 et 13 sont totalement fermées.

Translation: Most of the Metro is closed, most trains aren't running, most buses aren't running, and Paris can barely function.

NPR's Paris-based Eleanor Beardsley has a first-person account on today's Weekend Edition Sunday.

Why is this happening? Here is the Times:

While France’s official retirement age may be 62, the actual age varies widely across the country’s labyrinthine system. Train drivers can retire at 52, public electric and gas workers at 57, and members of the national ballet, who start dancing at a very young age, as early as age 42. That is to name just a few of the stark differences.

It is this sheer complexity that [French President Emmanuel] Macron has vowed to untangle, aiming to standardize 42 different public and private pension schemes into one state-managed plan.

The system is staring at a potential deficit of 19 billion euros by 2025 if no action is taken, according to a landmark report issued by France’s pension czar, Jean-Paul Delevoye.

So Mr. Macron says he wants to merge the disparate systems, public and private, into one state-managed system by 2025.

He also wants to keep the deficit from growing, which Patrick Artus, chief economist of Paris-based Natixis bank, said could be achieved if every worker works at least another six months before retiring.

France isn't the US or the UK, and French unions have tremendous power that unions in the Anglo-American world never had. But years of strikes in the UK during the 1970s drove British voters to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party and the heavy-handed anti-labour policies she enacted.

I don't think France will ever see that kind of anti-union governance. But I do suggest that perhaps this tantrum needs to end so that the government and the unions can work to fix the structural problems that everyone knows exist.

Please show this guy to the nearest window

Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday presided over the worst election result of a major UK party since Arthur Henderson lost 235 seats to Stanley Baldwin's Conservatives in 1931.

Today Corbyn wrote an op-ed in the Observer today that shows he never had the right stuff to become PM, and needs to go. "I take my share of responsibility," he says, not seeming to understand that the party leader bears complete responsibility for an election loss of this magnitude. He goes on:

Writing in the Observer, the Labour leader, who has announced he will step down when a successor is elected in the spring, describes the results as “desperately disappointing”.

He says he believes Labour paid a price for a Brexit policy that was seen by some voters as an attempt to straddle the divide between remainers and leavers, and by others as wanting to rerun the referendum.

“We have suffered a heavy defeat, and I take my responsibility for it,” he says, in his first note of contrition since Labour seats fell to the Tories across the north of England and the Midlands, giving the Conservatives a majority of 80.

But, as critics tore into his leadership record, for the most part he defends it, blaming a political system that he says has been volatile since the financial crash of 2008, as well as the media and Johnson’s dishonesty, for the result.

Corbyn insists that on many issues Labour had the right answers: “I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate.”

No, you narcissistic putz, you lost the arguments. And mainly because you lost the arguments. You must resign right now so that someone else can start putting the party back together. In fact, it seems the party leadership might want to take a step back. Otherwise the Tories will continue to run the table in England, and without a viable alternative to Labour, Scotland will remain an SNP stronghold until it leaves the UK.

Who has won the most votes?

At the moment, Elizabeth Warren has won more votes on her own in an election than anyone else running for the Democratic Party nomination. Here are some of the numbers:

Warren, US Senate, 2012: 1,696,346
Booker, US Senate, 2014: 1,043,866
Bloomberg, New York Mayor, 2005: 753,090
Biden, US Senate, 2008: 257,539
Sanders, US Senate, 2012: 207,848
Buttigieg, South Bend, Ind., Mayor, 2015: 8,515

Until she dropped out, Kamala Harris had won more votes than anyone else, with 7,542,753 voting for her in 2016 for US Senate.

And one shouldn't forget that Joe Biden won national election as Vice President with 69,498,516 votes in 2008—but he didn't do it on his own.

None of this means much, of course. It's interesting, though, who actually has experience winning millions of votes and who doesn't.

Yesterday's results, journalized

As the final results of yesterday's election came in, journalists around the world started analyzing them. A sample:

The Guardian mourned not only the complete expulsion of Labour from Scotland, but also how seats Labour held since 1935 flipped. Jonathan Freedland puts the blame entirely on Jeremy Corbyn, who, meanwhile, is "very proud" of the party manifesto that scared millions of people away from the party.

The Economist sees it as clearly Corbyn's defeat. Corbyn has promised to step down as Labour leader but hasn't said when. I can scarcely imagine how he'll avoid a possibly-literal defenestration.

Jo Swinson managed to take the Liberal Democratic party from its 2010 high of 62 seats down to today's 11, losing her own seat and her job in the process. I mentioned last night that the Lib-Dems are the party of compromise in the UK, but right now, no one wants to compromise.

The Atlantic's Helen Lewis points out that 87% of British Jews think Corbyn an anti-Semite (as do 100% of the Daily Parker's Jews).

Many writers thought about what this means for American politics: Andrew Sullivan and David Weigel, for example.

On TPM, John Judis blames the philosophical problem Labour had over Brexit—and Jeremy Corbyn. Josh Marshall wonders if the UK will even exist in 2030.

And as Labour supporters throughout the UK wonder what the hell happened today, I should note that two Articles of Impeachment left the Judiciary Committee this morning on their way to the House floor. The last three weeks of the decade will be interesting, won't they?

"Be a leader," they said...

If I lived in the UK, I would probably not only support, but run for office, as a Liberal-Democratic candidate. The LDP has always seemed to me the right compromise: labo[u]r is what made this nation great, and we need to keep our commitments to the people who built our great nation; but we're 40 years past coal strikes, come on, let's keep up. Also, wealth is great, but let's not get carried away, come on, it's bad for the country to have billionaires.

So I am quite bothered to report that the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Jo Swinson, someone I like on paper but have never met in person, lost her seat to the Scottish National Party.

Only, it turns out, people really only liked her on paper.

It gets worse:

It looked set to be the third worst performance in the party’s 31-year modern history, following its disastrous fall from 57 to eight seats in 2015 after the coalition government with the Conservatives and 2017’s modest improvement to 12 elected MPs.

Swinson’s loss follows that of former leader Nick Clegg, who was booted out by voters in 2017. She was defending a 5,339 majority, but lost by just 149 votes to the SNP.

So, from the cheap seats across the Atlantic, I have a couple of questions for British voters:

  1. As an outsider, it looks to me like the Lib Dems had a really solid compromise platform that everyone could have gotten around with minimal whinging. Are y'all that...what's the word?...irrational that you couldn't compromise?
  2. Why are the leaders of the major parties such wankers? I mean, you've got Boris Johnson, who hasn't spoken a true word since that day in 1965 when he told his mum "I really have to wee," and you've got Jeremy Corbyn who practically ran on the slogan "work makes you free" and wondered why people couldn't see the logic of nationalizing cupcake stores, and you've got Jo Swinson who I haven't personally met but who almost every person who has met her in the last six months walked away not wanting to vote for her...
  3.  Which makes me wonder, as someone who thinks about causes, effects, and influence: doesn't it worry you that the biggest beneficiary of yesterday's UK election and the imminent impeachment of President Trump is Vladimir Putin?

This isn't conspiratorial thinking. Just game it out, folks. There's no secret kabal; there's a bunch of assholes acting this out in real time, on camera, and in some cases in the Well of the US Senate.

Look, it's been a trying day. Those of us who are frustrated with the UK election and angry that the Republican Party refuses to take the impeachment seriously have spent the last three years being disappointed in humanity. Not because our champion lost; but because people think it's about whose champion wins.

I've left you with this a few times, and it's no less relevant today:

Tories up 51, Labour down 71

Polls in the UK closed a few minutes ago, and Ipsos-Mori are reporting a likely Conservative majority of 86 over a crippled Labour Party:

Conservatives: 368 - up 51

Labour: 191 - down 71

SNP: 55 - up 20

Liberal Democrats: 13 - up 1

Plaid Cymru: 3 - down 1

Greens: 1 - no change

Brexit party: 0

Others: 22 (18 of these will be Northern Ireland MPs)

If the numbers hold into the night, Boris Johnson will have scored the largest Conservative majority, and Jeremy Corbyn the worst Labour numbers, in 40 years. At least this means Corbyn might finally be shown the door. And Scotland may be heading for the exit as well, judging by those SNP numbers.

A British friend tells me "it's the racists in the North who found a new home in the Tory Party that done it." Wonderful. It may also have something to do with Corbyn's tin ear and the first-past-the-post system that denied smaller parties seats commensurate with their popular vote counts.

Updates as events warrant. This page will have results as they come in.

Barr unfit to serve as AG, says Eric Holder

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder slams his successor for "actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official" that he felt compelled to speak out:

In Barr’s view, sharing executive power with anyone “beyond the control of the president” (emphasis mine), presumably including a semi-independent Cabinet member, “contravenes the Framers’ clear intent to vest that power in a single person.” This is a stunning declaration not merely of ideology but of loyalty: to the president and his interests. It is also revealing of Barr’s own intent: to serve not at a careful remove from politics, as his office demands, but as an instrument of politics — under the direct “control” of President Trump.

Virtually since the moment he took office...Barr’s words and actions have been fundamentally inconsistent with his duty to the Constitution. Which is why I now fear that his conduct — running political interference for an increasingly lawless president — will wreak lasting damage.

The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him. William Barr has proved he is incapable of serving as such an attorney general. He is unfit to lead the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, across town from the Justice Department, the Republican Party, from Congress to the White House, apparently have decided that no defense is their best offense against the articles of impeachment against President Trump. This may have something to do with Trump admitting to all the impeachable conduct the House accuses him of...

Voting underway...

Voting in the UK general election started at 1am Chicago time (7am GMT) last night and goes until 4pm Chicago time (10pm GMT) this afternoon. Because we have regular readers in the UK, the Daily Parker will observe UK law and precedent against reporting or commenting on the election while the polls are open.

Instead, I'd like to call attention to an article in yesterday's Times outlining the problems with the FBI's wiretap on Carter Page. While the inspector general found that the investigation started from genuine criminal suspicion rather than politics, he also unearthed many abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rules in the investigation's early stages:

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and his team uncovered a staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process in how the F.B.I. went about obtaining and renewing court permission under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

To give just three examples:

First, when agents initially sought permission for the wiretap, F.B.I. officials scoured information from confidential informants and selectively presented portions that supported their suspicions that Mr. Page might be a conduit between Russia and the Trump campaign’s onetime chairman, Paul Manafort.

But officials did not disclose information that undercut that allegation — such as the fact that Mr. Page had told an informant in August 2016 that he “never met” or “said one word” to Mr. Manafort, who had never returned Mr. Page’s emails. Even if the investigators did not necessarily believe Mr. Page, the court should have been told what he had said.

Second, as the initial court order was nearing its expiration and law-enforcement officials prepared to ask the surveillance court to renew it, the F.B.I. had uncovered information that cast doubt on some of its original assertions. But law enforcement officials never reported that new information to the court.

Finally, the report stressed Mr. Page’s long history of meeting with Russian intelligence officials. But he had also said that he had a relationship with the C.I.A., and it turns out that he had for years told the agency about those meetings — including one that was cited in the wiretap application as a reason to be suspicious of him.

On the other hand, the FBI had credible suspicions that a hostile foreign power had begun to intervene in our election.

On the third hand, civil libertarians (and The Daily Parker) have criticized FISA for years, both in law and application, because it makes abuses like these far too easy.

We'll be back after 4pm with the latest news from Britain.

Another long-predicted climate change force is confirmed

The US government's 2019 Arctic Report Card finds that melting permafrost has made the arctic a net producer of greenhouse gasses:

Especially noteworthy is the report’s conclusion that the Arctic already may have become a net emitter of planet-warming carbon emissions due to thawing permafrost, which would only accelerate global warming. Permafrost is the carbon-rich frozen soil that covers 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s land mass, encompassing vast stretches of territory across Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland.

Warming temperatures allow microbes within the soil to convert permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane — which can be released into the air and accelerate warming. Ted Schuur, a researcher at Northern Arizona University and author of the permafrost chapter, said the report “takes on a new stand on the issue” based on other published work including a study in Nature Climate Change in November.

Taking advantage of the new studies — one on regional carbon emissions from permafrost in Alaska during the warm season, and another on winter season emissions in the Arctic compared to how much carbon is absorbed by vegetation during the growing season — the report concludes permafrost ecosystems could be releasing as much as 1.1 billion to 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is almost as much as the annual emissions of Japan and Russia in 2018, respectively.

Only, if you can believe, it's worse than that. Because the microbes also produce methane, which gram-for-gram causes about 4 times more warming. And as the region gets warmer, more microbes produce more gas, in a negative spiral.

Happy Wednesday.

In other news...

Let me first acknowledge that the biggest news story today today came from the House Judiciary Committee, which has drawn up two articles of impeachment against President Trump. This comes after committee chair Jerry Nadler nearly lost control of yesterday's meeting.

As Josh Marshall points out, no one expects the Senate to remove the president from office. So the Democratic Party's job is just to demonstrate how much malfeasance and illegality the Republican Party will tolerate from their guy.

If only that were the only story today.

And tonight, I get to preside over a condo-board meeting that will be at least as fun as yesterday's Judiciary Committee meeting.