23 November 2020

57 Years of Doctor Who

The show has not had a brilliant year. While Series 12 was pretty strong, the finale proved divisive. Series 13 has only just started production and will be just eight episodes because of the extra precautions necessitated by the pandemic. 

But the lockdown has not stopped some excellent additional material from coming out, although I admit I haven't really experienced much of it. I have too busy catching up on Big Finish audios, where the show's vast history is the source for excellent stories; Derek Jacobi's War Master in particular. 

We have a Christmas special, which will give us some escapism in what has been a difficult year to put it mildly. 

That's what Doctor Who has served to be for many people over the years. A break from an unpleasant world... and an inspiration for those seeking to create a better one.

Happy anniversary.

21 November 2020

Donald gets Trumped - thoughts on the results of the US Presidential Election 2020

It's all over bar the shouting; Trump's lawsuits are going nowhere due to the fact that he can't actually provide any evidence for his wild and crazy claims of voter forms.

So, some thoughts on how this has all turned out.

  1. It's a fairly standard election in some regards - unpopular incumbent doesn't get re-elected.
  2. Of course, it wasn't in others. Being conducted in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way people campaigned. Biden was essentially confined to his home, not holding the kinds of big rallies that Trump did (and which left a trail of virus cases in their wake). This arguably helped him as it limited the risk of him making damaging gaffes.
  3. Trump getting Covid-19 was very much the "October surprise"; the way he handled it was shocking even for those used to him being awful. It's very likely the bad handling of this pandemic and the huge numbers of American deaths that result will be his biggest legacy; far more than getting America into any disastrous overseas wars, he has brought the equivalent of five Vietnams to American soil.
  4. The record levels of mail-in ballots also led to a record turnout - this is likely to become routine for many voters as it is a much easier process than long queues at a polling station. It also was something a lot harder to intimidate against.
  5. The Georgia Senate run-offs will be pretty close and who can turn out their voters better will ultimately win there.
  6. 538 were correct in that Biden could survive a 2016-size polling error, which is basically what we got. It's looking like Republicans were under sampled, with a real reluctance to engage with pollsters by hardcore Trump supporters and Democrats being very keen to make their feelings known.
  7. There were a fair number of ticket-splitters; those who voted Biden for President and Republican down-ballot. Biden outran lower-ballot Democrats across the board, essentially meaning that he had no coattails. With a 50-50 Senate the best possible outcome for them, Democrats have some cause for concern.
  8. Taking the "Latino vote" for granted - indeed assuming there is a monolithic Latino vote in the first place - was a big mistake for the Democrats and could have cost them a closer election. Texas is now a swing state, but it's unlikely to flip unless there is a seriously popular Democrat running.
  9. "Law and order" remains a strong driver of Republican turnout; riots scare voters.
  10. Biden is very likely a one-term President due to his age. Kamala Harris has four years to work on her overall public image as Vice President if she wants a chance at the top job come 2024.
  11. Trump will probably try to run in 2024 if he is capable of doing so; even being imprisoned doesn't legally stop you as Eugene Debs demonstrated in 1920.
  12. Biden is going to need a lot of political skill to get any major policies passed in a divided Congress; he arguably has it.
It's going to be somewhat of a return to normality. Only somewhat though.

15 November 2020

Coronavirus #21 - The end of the beginning

We have a vaccine. In fact, we are likely to have more than one, as we're waiting for the Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines to report back, which they should do in the next week or two.

The main challenge now will the logistics of rolling out the vaccine to millions. This will take a couple of months and the winter will be challenging.

This why it is important to keep wearing a mask and doing the other things. Don't be the last person to die in this war.

11 November 2020

Disease and war - Remembrance 2020

This year's commemorations of the end of the First World War and our annual remembrance of those who died for the peace and freedom we enjoy today are rather different. For one thing, we're not exactly enjoying a great deal of freedom at the moment, with heavy restrictions on our lives to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The very existence of that pandemic should serve as a reminder at this time that disease is very much a part of war. The 1918-20 pandemic came about at the tail end of the First World War, with efforts to fight it hindered by the extensive censorship imposed by the belligerent nations. The unsanitary conditions of the frontlines helped spread the sickness at a time when many had weakened immune systems from wartime deprivations.

Remember that warfare helps spread disease by the destruction of facilities for sanitation. Until the World Wars, you were far more likely to die of disease than actual violence. Even the World Wars had widespread epidemics, most notably of typhus in the Nazi concentration camps. Infected wounds could kill you just as surely as the wounds themselves, especially if you had no access to antibiotics. Cholera outbreaks remain common in wars today, such as in Yemen.

So, at this time, remember those who fell not just from gunfire, but germs. And work for a more peaceful world, because that will be a healthier world. 

07 November 2020

That's President-elect Sleepy Joe to you

When the polls closed on Tuesday and we saw the initial swings in the suburbs of Florida, it looked good for Joe Biden. Then Miami-Dade went heavily for Trump and people started to get rather nervous. The 'red mirage' turned out to be real... and it slowly dissipated.

Very slowly. It has taken nearly four days for the winner to hit 270 electoral college votes, due to the sheer number of mail ballots and several states banning them being processed until the polls closed. This process needs to be very much reformed.

Donald Trump, demonstrating that just when you think he can't go any lower he does it anyway, is completely denying reality, making spurious allegations of fraud with no evidence, as is his campaign. This sort of stuff is dangerous and it is fortunate with all the weapons being carried around that no-one has yet been killed.

President-elect Biden will have several tough challenges on his plate... including dealing with the Trump cultists.

01 November 2020

US Election Prediction for 2020

 OK, here's my prediction for Tuesday. I may be wrong on some or all of these.

  • Biden will win the popular vote by 5 to 10 percentage points, probably on the higher end of that range.
  • It will be clear, but not 100% confirmed, who has won on the night.
  • Biden will get 351 Electoral Votes, picking up Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (My full predictions can be found here)
  • He will just miss out on Ohio and Texas. 
  • Turnout will be at its highest since universal suffrage.
  • The Democrats will win both Houses of Congress.
  • Trump will privately concede, but publicly not do so.
  • Expect multiple criminal investigations into Trump as soon as he leaves office.
  • A lot of Republicans will not take this lying down and the next four years could be pretty tense.