24 October 2020

Polish court criminalises abortion

The decision by Poland's top courts that abortion due to foetal defects is unlawful as it violates their constitution is manifestly wrong.

I'm not the most comfortable with terminations for social reasons, but I believe that a ban does more harm than good. However, if the foetus is so badly deformed that their life will very short if they survive at all, I would support a termination without hesitation. It's not fair to make any woman give birth to a dead child like that.

Poland is slipping into autocracy and reaction. The EU must act.

17 October 2020

Coronavirus #20: On circuit breakers

With cases continuing to rise in the UK, calls have been made for a temporary "circuit-breaker" lockdown to 'reset' the pandemic back a month and create an opportunity to fix Test and Trace. Here are my thoughts on this: 

  • I am not sure how fixable Test and Trace actually is; there is a fundamental lack of engagement with the system from much of the public. But there are things that can be done.
  • We need to stop cases rebounding after any circuit breaker ends.
  • There are highly different rates of infection in different parts of the country, although there are rising cases in all of them.
  • A circuit breaker in the worst affected areas would be justified at the present time, especially with Halloween approaching. However, how much compliance there would be with it will be is unclear.
  • Money will be key in securing compliance; I am not sure how affordable this is considering the damage to the economy from the national lockdown.
  • Shutting schools would likely get R down below 1 on its own. A four-week half-term, with subsequent juggling of the rest of the school year to catch-up, would majorly reduce cases, with the added bonus that it would force many people to work from home.
  • A circuit breaker over Christmas would be very unpopular. One just before, however might just fly.
I would support a circuit breaker over October half-term, but we need something for beyond that.

03 October 2020

Coronavirus #19: Trump in hospital

I'm not taking anything the White House takes about Trump's condition at face value. I believe he has it, but I'm wondering just how bad it actually is as you don't go from positive to hospital that quickly.

Also, the "72 hours" comment at the press conference today raises massive questions about what Trump knew and when, because he was campaigning on the days before Friday.

26 September 2020

Coronavirus #18: The long game

We are likely to be at this whole social distancing for a while yet. The vaccines are making good progress and I think we will see at least one approved in time for Christmas.

However, roll out will take a good while longer as at-risk groups are rightly prioritised. I can see March before I can get a jab - and I will get one - with social distancing measures lifted gradually over the course of Q1 2021. At which point patience will have run out - it's already getting pretty thin.

Getting the world vaccinated will likely take longer; the manufacturing capacity just isn't there. It may easily be 2023 or 2024 before we get global 'herd immunity'.

During which time people will continue to get this illness and die of it. The WHO representative who estimated two million global deaths yesterday is being sadly realistic.

Barnet Fair (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.19, "A Private Little War")

Science fiction often holds up a mirror to our world - sometimes a black mirror (ba doom tish) - providing a fantastical commentary on a real-world situation.

One of the biggest real-world issues for the US at the time was the Vietnam War, with footage of the fighting broadcast nightly without government censorship into American homes and young men being drafted to fight in it.

While popular history depicts the war as "America loses to a bunch of rice farmers", in reality it's more complicated than that - for one thing the 'farmers' had pretty advanced weaponry made in the USSR and were themselves highly educated.


While examining the planet Neural for medical related herbs, Kirk reflects on the peaceful people of the planet who only use bows and arrows for hunting. At which point, a bunch of guys turn up with flintlock rifles and Spock gets shot. With Spock in a bad way and taken for emergency treatment, Kirk and McCoy dress up in native garb (meaning more pectoral action from Shatner, naturally) to investigate what is going on. Because the locals shouldn't have developed those weapons that quickly.

Of course, it turns out the Klingons are involved, giving one faction firearms technology so they can conquer the planet.

However, we don't really get much action with the Klingons. Instead, as soon as Kirk and McCoy come down, Kirk gets basically attacked by Bigfoot, whose bite is poisonous, so they have to go to a local leader and his wife...


This is an interesting concept, but woefully executed.

Firstly, we have Nona, the wife of the tribal leader of the Hill People. She's something straight out of William Ware Theiss' sex-fuelled imagination, dressed in tight leather trousers and a crop top with orange fur on it. It looks very well-tailored... like a sewing machine was involved. 

That's something true of all the costumes here and it seems the wig closet was raided too as most of the natives 

Speaking of sex, the scene where she heals Kirk using some root via psychic communion and flailing around making moaning sounds is well... I'm surprised that one got through Standards and Practices.

Then there's the rather problematic bit in which it seems she's basically using the herbs to control men... basically roofieing them. This proverbial elephant in the room isn't addressed, but we do see a bunch of other villagers try to rape her in what seems a gratuitous scene, along with an unconvincing death.

Speaking of unconvincing injuries, Spock is seemingly shot through-and-through by a lead ball with no visible exit wound... the penetration of flintlock weaponry was distinctly limited, especially at range. His healing is expected, but as part of that process, we get a pretty ridiculous scene where Nurse Chappell slaps him repeatedly to bring him back round.

The Hill People are problematic. Their diction is reminiscent of Tonto from The Lone Ranger and calling weapons "firesticks" is well, dodgy. They're basically a bunch of white guys playing Native Americans and the whole thing crosses over into cultural appropriation.

This is very much a Vietnam analogy - Kirk indirectly references the conflict himself - and the analogies would have been a lot more present had not Gene Roddenberry rewrote the episode, resulting in Don Inglis having his credit changed to "Jud Crucis" (a word play on "Jesus crucified") in protest.

The basic message of the episode is "the arms race and Vietnam are necessary because peace is impossible", which was debatable then and still is.

At least we don't get a comedy ending, with the episode ending on a sombre note. 



Overall, like primitive firearms, this misses the target a lot and hits other things.


19 September 2020

Coronavirus #17 - Circuit breakers

With more cases being identified and R now back above one, calls are being made for further restrictions and the government is considering a "circuit breaker" period of heavy restrictions during an extended half-term in October. Or earlier.

This - or even a full lockdown - is ultimately only a time buying measure. It may reduce the virus levels, but as soon as you lift one restriction too many, the virus starts coming back again. We have arguably done that since schools reopened.

Any circuit breaker period needs to be used to fix the wiring, such as ramping up test capacity and getting the tracing system sorted. This is easier said than done, although the app should help. I will definitely be installing it.

If we have to close something, I'd rather have closing pubs than a ban on socialising, but it needs to be based on the data.

12 September 2020

Brexit - again

Johnson's threat to breach part of the Withdrawal Agreement is a very bad move; why are the Tories so keen on holding onto Northern Ireland anyway?

I hope this plan gets blocked by the Lords - or the courts.

05 September 2020

Coronavirus #16: The younger wave

The 'second wave' in Europe seems to be very much among younger people, who are less vulnerable in general to the virus. Social distancing among this group seems to be much less followed from my own personal observations, making it easier to spread the virus between them. Then of course they could spread it to their much more vulnerable relatives.

We need to find a way to reinforce the need for social distancing at this time; messages from politicians aren't getting through to this generation, who don't trust them. The people they listen to are sadly just as likely to break the rules themselves...

No easy answers here.

We're hopefully getting closer to a vaccine, but it could still be a few months yet.