Monthly Archives: January 2017

Shock event

I got up late this morning, so I’ll be brief.

Donald Trump and his regime are sounding ever more like China or North Korea. I’ve got used to my own government sounding like those two beacons of free-speech whenever someone is talking about spying on every single one of us because that’s the only way to stop terrorism.

Anyway, I read about the “shock event” yesterday: the article makes perfect sense to me. With one possible exception: I am not sure that Donald Trump has the intelligence to plan anything like this, so I am unsure he is trying to use the shock event to cover anything up. That said, Mike Pence and other veteran politicians are not stupid: it’s entirely possible that they have something up their sleeve and that their puppet is dancing in just the way they want him to.

In the meantime, the shock is still operating in full force. Acting attorney general Sally Yates was on the sharp end of Trump’s “You’re fired” yesterday, for suggesting that the president’s blatantly unconstitutional executive order was, well, blatantly unconstitutional. The venom issuing forth from the Administration, as I said, sounded much more like a totalitarian regime than an alleged democracy.

Ms Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.

It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.

White House Press Secretary’s office

It seems to be legitimate policy to blame the brown guy for everything right now.

Of course, the fall-out is immediate and ridiculous. The USA is embarrassing itself on the world stage and the top dogs don’t seem to care. Top research scientist? Sorry, Iranian. We don’t need your God-damn Islamic genetic research. The fact that this has utterly screwed an eminent academic is irrelevant.

The fact that it is utterly screwing many people, both vulnerable and not, is irrelevant.

The fact that the first terrorist attack since Trump came to power was committed by a white “Christian” against a group of Muslims who made the fatal mistake of practising their religion in peace has not received much of a response from the White House.

What is most important is that the US is seen to be ripping up the very Constitution that it has been worshipping for the last 228 years, and everyone outside can see that. The man-child in the big seat doesn’t care, though. Because he’s a narcissist, and those closest to him are using this fact to get what they want. Regardless of the cost.

It’s an unfolding tragedy.

Hubris

It happened, then. One Mr Donald J Trump is now in the most powerful job in the world.

Apparently, he attended the first ever (and/or biggest ever) concert at the Lincoln Memorial the night before, in spite of the fact that it was neither the first nor the biggest. Then he gave an inaugural address that was mostly about himself (using a teleprompter, no less) and how great he is and how wonderful he’s going to be.

At least he wrote the speech himself…

Then he went on to boast about the size of his manhood, sorry the size of his crowd, and get all uppity with reporters who posted actual, you know, facts. Good thing that his press secretary was there to update us with some alternative facts. They are a wonderful thing to have, of course, and always come in handy in a sticky situation…

“Sir, you were doing 50mph in a 30 limit. We used our radar speed gun to measure your speed. It’s a fact.”

“Officer, I was doing 29mph. You can use ‘science’ all you want to make your ‘facts’, but my alternative facts state that I was doing 29mph and you can dance on your speeding ticket.”

I suppose that the search for definitive truth depends, itself, on the prerequisite that there is a truth to find.

Undeterred, the new president stood in front of the CIA to make a speech at which the crowd is reported to have been laughing and cheering. Somewhat disturbingly, it is reported that the laughers and cheerers were not actually members of the press or the CIA who were gathered to hear the great man’s words (they were such great words, the best words ever spoken), but were actually Trump’s own people that he’d brought in specially in order to laugh and cheer at his speech.

Closer to home, we have hubris all of our own. A couple of our finest Brexiteers went over to Berlin to speak to business leaders about how they are all going to be crowding around post-EU Britain (nobody ever seems to say ‘the UK’, but that’s another story) and begging for access to our market. Because the German economy will collapse completely and immediately if it becomes difficult to sell us BMWs, Audis and Mercedeseseses. It seems that the German audience was unimpressed with the “but we’re British and we’ve told you what we want, you have to do as we say. It’s the rules!” attitude. Sorry to break it to you, toffs, but the Empire died many decades ago and we are one of many countries in the world and we are far from the best. That attitude just puts people’s backs up and makes it harder for us to get anything at all. In the great school playground that is international diplomacy, it seems that we are falling back on our traditional tactic of throwing a gigantic tantrum. Good luck with that, guys.

Oh, and in other news?

The day after Trump’s inauguration failed to pull in a huge crowd, women marched. And, wow, did they march

When Science Fiction seems indistinguishable from reality

[Spoilers for 1990’s sci-fi series Babylon 5. Sorry.]

In recent days, I’ve dusted off my DVD box-sets of Babylon 5 (is it really 23 years since it arrived on our screens?), and I’m idly watching episodes of season 1 in idle moments. It is proving to be quite scary watching.

Episode 7, The War Prayer has two main storylines. In one, Ambassador Mollari faces a harsh reality about his own life summed up beautifully in his sobbing father’s words “My shoes are too tight, but it doesn’t matter for I have forgotten how to dance.”

The principal storyline is darker, however. A group from Earth are attacking aliens. Not just on Babylon 5 but on several other Earth-controlled systems too. They call themselves, variously, Earth First and the Home Guard. It is their aim to purify Earth, to kick out all the non-humans. This is set against a background of Earth president Santiago’s tour of the Earth Alliance: he’s on his way to Babylon 5, both to present them with a new wing of fighter craft, but also to promote his pro-immigration policy. He thinks that Earth should be an outward-looking world, a place where all beings, human and alien, can work together in harmony for our mutual prosperity.

It seems that there is a growing populist movement back home intent on blaming aliens and alien influence for all problems from poverty to traffic congestion. The president is pressing ahead with his plans to include those who are different because he believes that we are stronger together and that peaceful integration is the best way forward. By the end of Season 1, the president has been assassinated (it’s coincidence that the vice president got off the president’s doomed ship just before it blew up. Definitely.) and the new president, President Clark, implements a new policy aimed at removing alien influence at home, and casting suspicion onto everyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Under Clark, Earth descends rapidly into a police-state that has close parallels with the world of 1984, complete with a Ministry of Truth in charge of lies. Earth turns in on itself and ends up crippled and on the wrong side of a brutal civil war and nearly tears itself apart. In his last act (season 3, if I recall correctly), President Clark turns Earth’s defence system against Earth itself and the entire planet is seconds away from being cooked in its own juices. Ironically, it takes the selfless generosity of alien governments to help Earth get back on its feet once more.

Watching last night, I was struck by the eerie familiarity of the arguments. Obama wasn’t killed, but he is being replaced by a nutter intent on setting communities against one another. There is a sense that rich white men are now the oppressed ones (for more detail, see Stop Saying Feminism is Good For Men over at Medium) and it is time for them to fight back lest their privilege be wrested from them. The muscle they employ is the same as it has always been: the very people the previous administration has been trying to raise up (Affordable Healthcare Act, anyone?).

When people in power aim to serve their own needs by feeding ill-informed mobs blatant lies, we end up with Trump and Brexit and, if Babylon 5 is anything to go by, we will be at war, hot literal death-of-millions, war with each other before we begin to see sense.

I really, truly, hope that life does not imitate SciFi this year. I hope sense might prevail, but the signs and portents are not looking promising.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Web round-up

In lieu of a coherent post this week, I’ve got a stack of web-links that I’ve been saving for a rainy day.

It’s raining, so here we are.

  1. The real reason women quit tech
  2. Autocracy: rules for survival (useful if an autocrat has just taken the most powerful job in the world)
  3. We are ignoring the most obvious problem with Trump (he has the worst approval rating of any incoming president ever)
  4. North Carolina is no longer considered a democracy. Impressive for a (region of a) regime that styles itself “the land of the free”.
  5. I exist. Really.
  6. When you’d rather your son be dead than be gay. Five lessons in inspirational parenting or how to embody Christ’s teaching that “they shall know you are my disciples by your love for one another”.
  7. Inclusive church (it’s not all bad).
  8. And finally… Get your children thinking with this curious, apparently anomalous, composite material.

It would be lovely to feel positive. Sadly, I do not.

Have a good week.

2016 is finally over. And yet…

So, that’s it. One of the worst years in global history since the Cuban missile crisis is finally over.

Celebrities died like flies, which was the first sign that rich Western nations got that it was going to be bad. The good people of Syria had already had plenty of notice that things were still awful and likely to stay that way.

Then politics took off its gloves and we had a referendum campaign in the UK that was centred around overt lies and deliberate misdirection with a largely inevitable result, both in terms of vote count and also in terms of the bitterness and disappointment left behind for voters on both sides of the debate. Then it was the US’s turn. Trump’s campaign was mostly based on two things: 1) being a rich white man and 2) telling as many lies as possible. Since the election, he’s been going to rallies all across America telling everyone that what he said during the campaign was simply stuff that “sounded good during the campaign”. Truly, nobody has any idea what he’s going to do in the White House but, already, he’s managed to provoke China and Russia in ways that could possibly start a nuclear arms race or, indeed, a nuclear war.

Joy.

And just as we thought it was over, George Michael and Carrie Fisher both died. Happy Christmas, everyone.

And 2017 is the year when our stupid decisions of 2016 begin to bear fruit. Theresa May is determined to pull the trigger on the EU and Trump gets the presidency (unless the Electoral College pulled a completely unprecedented move: we’ll find out this month).

One thing that seems certain is that facts no longer matter and we can look forward to a year of deepening divisions between factions. Truly, we are living through what history books call “matters leading up to”. I am fearful of what they might be leading up to.

I am.