Wednesday 29 March 2017

King of the Road

Today, the UK formally notifies the EU that it is invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, to begin the process of withdrawal.

Theresa May signs the letter of notification.
Image source: BBC/AP

Hurrah for freedom. God save the Queen. Enjoy shouting those slogans, because it's about all the benefit we'll get from this sorry exercise.

Friday 24 March 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-03-24: Joni

This is a most satisfactory place for me to sit. Well done, human.


The Westminster bridge attack this week was a vicious crime and a tragic waste of human life. Our leaders, and ordinary Londoners, have reacted by keeping calm and carrying on. Fear and panic are exactly what terrorists want; for the most part, we are not giving it to them.

Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament:

Yesterday an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy. But today we meet as normal - as generations have done before us, and as future generations will continue to do - to deliver a simple message: we are not afraid. And our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said:

We can’t allow them to succeed in dividing communities, we will not allow them to destroy our way of life. We’re going to be defiant, we’re going to be resilient, we’re going to return to work but of course never be complacent…we must never accept terrorists being successful.

Some of the calm reaction is good old-fashioned British stoicism. I think it also stems from an understanding there is very little that could have been done to prevent the attack.

The perpetrator appears to have been a single deranged individual with a car and a knife. He had a criminal record, but his last conviction was in 2003. He was known to have previously associated with extremists, but was not the subject of any active investigation.

The immediate vicinity of Westminster is one of the most heavily policed and secured areas in any major British city. Armed police reacted quickly; not quickly enough to save everyone, but it's difficult to see what more they could have done.

The police investigation is ongoing, and maybe it will turn up some additional understanding of the attacker's motives. But the fact is, we can't really stop an individual who one day decides to commit mass murder. At least it was not possible for the attacker to obtain guns, otherwise the death toll could have been much higher.

Can we stop the mindset which makes such crimes possible? Unfortunately this too is doubtful, especially in this day and age when hateful and murderous ideologies are just a few taps of the keyboard away.

We must try to build a society where we can live together in peace, prosperity, and freedom; in the end, this is the best way to discourage our fellow citizens from turning to hatred. We must be vigilant, and punish those who are caught planning or committing violent attacks; but sooner or later someone will get through.

When that happens, the most fitting memorial to the dead is to carry on living in a free and open society.

Friday 17 March 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-03-17: Joni

Joni is good company when you're trying to recover from a cold.

The Sound of Inevitability

First, a disclaimer: I've had a rotten cold all week, and I'm writing after a long day of work, childcare, and driving through the grim rush-hour traffic of Cambridge. So this post will be grumpier than usual, which in my case is saying something. All the same, I couldn't resist writing about the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum.

It's not entirely certain if or when a referendum will be held. Theresa May has rejected Nicola Sturgeon's demand for a vote in 2018, before the Brexit deal is finalised, but has been careful not to rule one out altogether. My best guess is that they may compromise on a vote in autumn 2019, after Brexit but before the next general election.

Regardless of the exact decision on a vote, the unofficial campaign has already begun. Sturgeon has marched her troops to the top of the hill, and they won't come down again without a fight.

My overwhelming mood is one of weary resignation. This referendum appears with all the unwelcome inevitability of a January credit card statement.

Friday 10 March 2017

Friday 3 March 2017

Third Blogiversary

As of the 1st of March, I've been writing this blog for three years. I'm still enjoying it very much and intend to continue. In these times especially, it's good to have a space to sort out my thoughts on the direction of our society; rant about my frustrations with the same; and post cat pictures to try and maintain sanity.

My ten most viewed posts in the year are:
  1. Cute Cat Friday 2017-01-27: Joni
  2. Parliament: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: On Parliament, Donald Trump, and Brexit
  3. On the Stupidity of David Cameron: My immediate reaction, the morning after the European referendum result. Lots of NSFW language.
  4. Full Circle: On the grotesque caricature of Western capitalism practiced in Russia, and how the Trump administration sees it as a model to be followed.
  5. Please Vote Remain: My heartfelt argument to vote Remain. I was one of many people saying things like this, but as it turned out, not enough.
  6. Mad Hatter Democracy: On the chaotic aftermath of the Brexit vote.
  7. Cute Cat Friday 2016-03-11: Joni
  8. Reasons to be Afraid: My post on the eve of the US election, pointing out that it was not in the bag for Hillary Clinton.
  9. Assorted US Election Thoughts: Observations from the primary season, on Hillary versus Bernie and Trump versus Everyone.
  10. The Deplorables of Punxsutawney: On the voters in small Pennsylvanian towns who helped hand Trump the election.
Inevitably, they're dominated by Brexit and Trump. Here's hoping the next twelve months are a little more positive. If not, there's still Cute Cat Friday to sustain us.

A couple of less-political posts I'd like to highlight:

Thanks to all my readers, and to the lovely Joni, star of Cute Cat Friday.

Cute Cat Friday 2017-03-03: Joni

Enjoying a sunbeam in our dilapidated greenhouse.

The Baseball Disconnect

There is a lot of understandable anger directed at Trump voters just now. Charles M. Blow writes in the New York Times:

This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of “almost pregnant.”

This is rather extreme. Even Hillary Clinton only put half of Trump's supporters into the infamous "basket of deplorables". If we take Blow's words at face value, every single Trump voter is beyond redemption: Bearing the mark of Cain, forever exiled from the progressive Eden for their act of kinslaying.

E pluribus unum?

It makes no logical sense. It's a statistical certainty that many voted for both Obama in 2012, and Trump in 2016. A minority of Trump voters to be sure, but a significant one; more than his margin of victory in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, even Ohio. Have these erstwhile Obama voters really fallen so far, it is not worth even trying to speak to them?