25 May 2019

Exit Theresa May

Theresa May was fundamentally not up to the job of being Prime Minister. She lacked the political skills, the charisma and the necessary ruthlessness to hold the very top position. Home Secretary was really as far as she should have gone and her ascension to the top job was basically a historical accident.

It is true that "proper Brexit" without wrecking the economy is an impossible task. Like trying to jump the Grand Canyon on a bicycle. She however was doing it with a pogo stick.

Her successor might well be trying it with a skipping rope. I think there is a good chance Article 50 will be revoked, especially if the policy of a new PM is No Deal.

We have five months before we are currently due to leave. This sorry saga won't be done yet.

18 April 2019

It's A Good Thing that The Good Place doesn't actually exist - Easter 2019

One of the best new comedy shows in recent years has been The Good Place, which explores ethical issues in a great way while being really rather funny and highly quotable to boot. It won a Hugo for "The Trolley Problem" and I wouldn't be surprised if "Janets" from the latest run does the same.

The key concept of the show is that whether you go to the "Good Place" i.e. heaven or the "Bad Place" is dependent on your actions in life, with good ones gaining you points and selfish or harmful actions losing you points. It becomes clear over the course of the run that it's a rather flawed system.

And it would be a flawed system in the real world too. Very few of us would be able to get into heaven on our own merits; my attempts to change some of my bad habits this Lent have been an abject failure by my own admission. The good thing is, we don't need to rely on our own merits; Jesus' death on the cross gave us so many points that he could share them around for everyone who follows him... and more. This doesn't eliminate the need to try to be good people - there is no place in heaven for the selfish or evil - but it does mean we don't have to feel bad over every failure.

Thanks, Jesus. To all my readers, Happy Easter.

17 April 2019

Extinction Rebellion

So a bunch of eco-activists have decided to draw attention to the whole issue of climate change by disrupting public transport in London through various means. They've done that, but also managed to annoy an awful lot of people in the process. Getting realistic change generally involves getting the people with the power to make it happen on side somehow, not by antagonising them.

In relation to climate change, the boat has arguably sailed on any meaningful action to prevent it. We're not going to be able make the necessary changes by 2030, because humanity is at heart a selfish and greedy species. The best we can reasonably do is prepare ourselves for a 4 degree rise over the course of this century and once climate change really starts to bite (it already has), it's going to be very unpleasant for a large number of people.

I can take some grim comfort from the fact I'll likely be dead by the time it happens.

Forgive us Lord our selfish ways.

09 April 2019

Brexit #2

The current Brexit clock stands at 3 days; it is highly likely that it will be extended at the European Council's emergency summit tomorrow, although how long remains to be seen.

There is an increasing frustration at this process among all parties:
  • The EU wondering why we haven't managed to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement or figure out what we actually want instead
  • Hardcore Leavers wondering why we haven't actually left
  • Hardcore Remainers wondering why we haven't revoked Article 50 or gone for a second referendum when it was obvious we were sold a bill of goods
  • Theresa May who frankly would rather have had this sorted out ages ago
  • A lot of the general public who are just sick of the whole thing
Much of the problem is among people who think compromise is a synonym for surrender. The Withdrawal Agreement, with its possibility of an indefinite customs union without any say in its operation, is seen as Leave by the Remain side and Remain by the Leave side... who rarely can actually cite any EU regulations, let alone ones they disagree with.

There is no easy solution here, there never has been. Not without finding some unicorn and the only one we have is busy supporting our coat of arms...

25 March 2019

The Mueller Report

I'd very much like to see the whole thing (or as much as gets released) before I can fully conclude on it, but I can believe that much of the Russian interference operation was conducted independently with the aim of weakening Clinton and electing Trump, whose views were much closer to the Russian world view.

Not exonerating Trump of obstruction of justice is the key finding, but I'd like to see why a decision wasn't made to charge him. If it was made by the Attorney General himself, then... well... the corruption is obvious.

18 March 2019

Christchurch and Utrecht

The recent attack in Christchurch is going to be New Zealand's 9/11; in terms of the relative population alone, it is the equivalent in terms of size. Tightening of gun laws will follow.

The attack in Utrecht today saw three people killed. I've been to the city myself and it's a lovely place, now having joined a long list of names of places where murder in the name of bigotry has taken place.

Both white supremacist and Islamist terrorism are two sides of the same coin; an insidious ideology that believes the best way to deal with a perceived threat against your people is to attack not the source of the actual threat, but something with only a tangential connection to it.

What did the people in the mosques have to do with Islamic extremism? What did the people on the tram have to do with Donald Trump? Next to nothing at most.

Vulnerable young men (and it is nearly all men) are being radicalised via the Internet and via our prison system. Something needs to be done about that without putting our fundamental freedoms at jeopardy.

May all the dead rest in peace and all the injured recover.

05 March 2019

Brexit

We are supposed to leave the European Union in 24 days. I don't think that will happen. I somehow doubt that any legal clarifications on the backstop (which is necessary because we have no idea how long a trade deal would take to thrash out) would ever be enough to satisfy the ERG. Come next week, Parliament will almost certainly vote against May's deal, against a no deal and in favour of an extension.

The EU will likely grant that, but the price may be a second referendum, which I would personally support. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of just revoking Article 50 without a second vote; while there was certainly criminal activity in the lead-up to the referendum, it didn't exactly involve ballot stuffing and much of the propaganda was called out at the time. In any event, just overturning any big vote like that sets a bad precedent.

At the end of the day, I really just want to go in the quicker queue at passport control and not need a visa to go to Europe for holiday. It's trivial, I know, but much of the stuff the EU is barely noticed in daily life. Free movement is nice, but I'm very unlikely ever to take full advantage of it due to my not exactly brilliant language skills. Customs checks aren't something I deal with at all in my daily life, except for the one time I had to pay £10 extra postage for the import duty on a game I bought from the US. Goods standards... if we left we can raise them ourselves. In any event, most companies would stick to EU standards to avoid having to do two different production lines; they're the global standard in a number of fields, I believe.

Ultimately, I'm just sick of the whole thing. Are you?