Demo

Sadly, I couldn’t make it to the anti-Brexit/pro-Europe demo today. I had a work thing that ended up taking most of the day. But I was there in spirit.

Last night was Comic Relief, which included Red Nose Day Actually. I thought the speech by Hugh Grant’s prime minister character was amazingly relevant to the times. Obviously that was intended, generally; but specifically it had resonance with London’s reaction to the Westminster terrorist attack.

Also about that, Mitch Benn has written a song called “London’s Had Worse,” in which he sings of our resilience and the attacker’s crapness. Not his best song, but no bad.

Laptop Ban Stranger Than I Thought

Today’s Washington Post WorldView newsletter throws more light, a lot of shade, and a lot more confusion onto the ban I linked to last night, on taking laptops and tablets in hand luggage from certain airports.

First, I didn’t realise that the list of affected airports is different between the UK and the US. Second, for the US, it is just a small set of airports, not all airports in the affected countries. The UK takes the broader approach — but for a different set of countries.

The most interesting point to my mind is that this may all be Trump trying to help American businesses:

When pressed by reporters, officials in both countries said the measures were not a response to a specific threat, but rather the result of intelligence assessments that concluded groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are seeking new methods to sow terror in the skies, possibly through hidden bombs in electronic equipment.

And later:

Farrell and Newman suggested Tuesday’s order is an example of the Trump administration “weaponizing interdependence” — using its leverage in a world where American airports are key “nodes” in global air travel to weaken competitors. My colleague Max Bearak detailed how this could be a part of Trump’s wider protectionist agenda. In February, President Trump met with executives of U.S. airlines and pledged that he would help them compete against foreign carriers that receive subsidies from their home governments.

“A lot of that competition is subsidized by governments, big league,” said Trump at that meeting. “I’ve heard that complaint from different people in this room. Probably about one hour after I got elected, I was inundated with calls from your industry and many other industries, because it’s a very unfair situation.”

So unfair. But if that’s what’s behind it, what the hell does our glorious leader get out of going along with a slightly modified version of it? It’s certainly not to protect British airlines, as they (unlike American airlines) are affected by the ban. Maybe my “lapdog” dig was exactly right. For years Tony Blair was referred too as George W Bush’s poodle. Maybe Theresa May is adopting the same role for Trump. Which is a horrifying thought.

Another WaPo article contradicts all that, though, suggesting that the whole thing might be based on some credible concerns:

The U.S. restrictions were prompted by a growing concern within the government that terrorists who have long sought to develop hard-to-detect bombs hidden inside electronic devices may have put renewed effort into that work, according to people familiar with the matter

But it asks the question and fails to get a satisfactory answer, “Why not ban all electronics on flights, then?”

People familiar with the discussions said the restrictions were designed to defeat the particular type of threat that is of greatest concern: the possibility that terrorists could smuggle explosives inside electronics and manually detonate them once on a plane.

Even if that makes sense (after all, its not like a computer in the hold is (or could hide) some kind of timing device): why just from a strange subset of airports, even in the countries of concern?

And if it’s all based on a real threat, why the US/UK difference?

They also raise the real concern that journalists, activists, and just ordinary citizens, will be separated from their personal information, leaving it under the control of unknown people.

Buckle up, folks, this ride is only going to get stranger and more unpleasant.

Stupid Fawning Lapdog Government Apes the US Again

UK flight ban on electronic devices announced - BBC News(BBC News)
Laptops and tablets will not be allowed on some inbound routes from the Middle East and North Africa.

Our glorious leaders have seen fit to copy Trump and his cronies with banning laptops and tablets on planes — from certain countries. The only possible reason for this madness is to punish people for coming from (or visiting) those countries.

Worse, though: such a ban is only going to:

  1. make things even more confusing and complex at airport security, and
  2. get extended until it covers all flights, everywhere. You wait and see.

Holding Pattern

I’ve been working on a more substantial piece about music and gigs and nostalgia and my gig-going plans for the year, but it’s getting long, and possibly out of hand. So I’m going to delay it till later.

Consider this a placeholder.

And so it’s got some content of value, let me just draw your attention to the National March to Parliament next Saturday, 25th March. Meet from 11:00 in Park Lane.

I don’t know if it can do any good, but if you believe, as I do, that Brexit must be stopped, then you should try to be there.

Wiretaps and Wipeouts

Couple of thoughts about the news, tonight. First of all, CNN reports on Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s “counselor,” and her strange thoughts about microwaves:

“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,” Conway said, before suggesting that surveillance could take place through phones, TVs or “microwaves that turn into cameras.”

I want one of these magic microwaves. I mean, think about it: you can reheat your leftovers, then take a photograph of them and post it to Instagram. All from the same device.

More sanely (at least slightly) they seem to be backing off from the nonsensical wiretapping accusations. According to Sean Spicer, the Whitehouse press secretary:

“The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities”

So that’s OK, then.

In another article they treat it all more seriously, pointing out that doing down your predecessors is a tactic of dictators everywhere:

They, too, use the apparatus of government to support their whims. And worse, they also seek to punish their predecessors in office and political opponents — as we have seen in countries from Iran to Zambia to, of course, Russia.

How long until we hear Trump surrogates suggest that Obama might be guilty of a crime?

Closer to home, the UK government’s Mayhem programme involved them forcing through the Brexit bill, so we’re teetering along the slippery slope, getting ready to run towards the cliff of deadly metaphors.

Jeremy Corbyn has things in hand, though. He tweeted:

This is the same Jeremy Corbyn who, just a few weeks ago, put a three-line whip in place to make his MPs vote in favour of the initial version of the bill — which is identical to the version that has now been passed, since the Lords’ amendments were all rolled back.

I voted for him as leader, twice, but I regret it now, I’ve got to say. He’s a decent guy, and I agree with him on many — even most — issues. But on this, the most important thing facing our country today, leading to potentially the biggest disaster since the Second World War, he’s been completely useless. Worse: complicit.

Tory MP Claims Astrology Could Help the NHS

This should be enough to disbar someone from public life for good: Astrology could help take pressure off NHS doctors, claims Conservative MP — The Guardian. Though I notice the article is two years old. It just came to my attention via Facebook one of Twitter’s occasional emails.

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”.

Getting his defence in early, he goes on to say that his likely critics (he names Brian Cox specifically):

“… are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.”

Nice tactic: he knows he’s talking bullshit, so accuses people of racism. Last time I checked, astrology wasn’t a race.

Nor was stupidity.

And in the unlikely event that anyone reading this thinks I’m just being reflexively mean and as bad as the critics he fears, here’s a considered scientific opinion. The only possible known way the positions of the planets and stars at our birth could affect us is by gravity. And while gravity does travel all through the universe, it is very, very weak — the weakest of the fundamental forces. Just look at how hard it was to measure gravitational waves. We were only able to do that in the last year, and it took colliding black holes to make enough of a splash for us to measure.

Is it possible that heavenly bodies affect us in some other, as yet unknown way? Yes. And here’s what science says about that: show us how, and we’ll study it. Demonstrate the mechanism by which this influence happens, and we’ll write down the equations that govern it and learn all about it. We’ll have to throw out all existing models of physics, but if you bring the evidence, that’s what we’ll do.

That’s science.

Civil Disappointment

I’m disappointed about the ruling on different-sex civil partnerships. But at least there’s hope for the future. The judges agreed that things need to be equalised, but they’re giving the government more time to sort it out.

You’ve got to wonder, though, why is the government bothering to fight it? It’s just a waste of public time and money. Who suffers by removing the difference?

Well, on that last, according to the Guardian article:

Jean Rathbone, a celebrant for humanist ceremonies, said opposition to extending civil partnerships came from the “marriage industry and the church.”

The “marriage industry?” I didn’t know there was such a thing. But the term makes sense when you think of the crazy amounts of money people can spend on weddings.

Anyway, onwards. There’s a GoFundMe page to contribute to help keep the campaign going. I’m in.