Jun 142020
 

In the wake of the tearing down of many US statues of Confederate generals and in the UK, the removal of a statue to a slave trader in Bristol, there is an ongoing debate about the status of statues in the public space.

And some pretty daft things have been said about it.

One of the daftest is the notion that they represent our history and destroying them is destroying our history; no they don’t and no it isn’t. History is a lot bigger and more diverse than the handful of historical (in some cases) so-called heroes.

The best a statue (almost always of an old white dude) can achieve in that direction is to spark an interest in history. And replacing the Bristol statue of Edward Colston with a statue of Paul Stephenson would have very little effect on this “sparking effect”. From a purely ancient history perspective, I might prefer one to Robert Fitzharding, but given that there is no shortage of statues to old white dudes, someone else can take centre stage.

The Bare Family

In the US, it is rather peculiar to say the least that many US cities have statues to traitorous (not to mention racist) Confederate generals. Even ignoring the political question of why they are there, a fair few of them have little to no aesthetic value – if I were one of those dead Confederate generals, I’d be saying “Look, I may have been pretty ugly but at least I looked human!”.

But it gets on to an interesting point – we don’t so much worship the real people depicted in statues as our idealised version of them. In the case of Confederate generals (and ignoring the conscious and blatant racists), some view these as heroes of states’ rights which is more than a little invented – those making up the Confederacy were quite happy trampling on states’ rights when it came to achieving things they wanted (such as the return of run-away slaves).

In some cases the myth of the man (and woman in some rare cases) is enough to justify their statue despite what they were like in life – for instance Churchill was a racist and an imperialist but he also represents anti-fascism, Britain’s war leadership, and the initiation of the European state project.

There are those who would point to the Bengal famine of 1943 as a reason why he should not be venerated in statue form. He certainly deserves criticism for his handling of that famine and bears some responsibility for it, but he hardly caused the famine and there was plenty of other things going on at the time.

Back to the Confederate generals … I don’t think their myth is sufficient to justify the continued existence of their statues in the light of their very real crimes.

In the case of at least some statues, their origin story can be more interesting than expected – for instance there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the British parliament that was put up in the late 19th century. At the time, it was felt that putting up such a statue was rather provocative given the situation with Ireland at the time.

So no public money went to funding the statue; a ‘benefactor’ paid for the statue, but it was put up in the public space anyway – kind of missing the point!

But is the violent removal of such statues justified?

Normally, no. But in some instances, yes.

In the case of the Bristol slave trader, people have been trying to have the statue removed through official channels for over twenty-years! If you do not have a sensible way of handling reasonable objections to questionable statues in a reasonable time frame you can’t get too upset when people resort to direct action.

There must be a sensible, timely, and semi-democratic mechanism by which statues in the public space can be removed – perhaps if 25% of the local electorate vote to remove it, it should go. Whilst this is not properly democratic, if a statue is offensive to a quarter of the local population it seems not unreasonable to remove it.

Jul 112018
 

Well that was an interesting day in politics!

Trump has arrived in Europe and immediately tried to insert both feet into his mouth – he insults the other members of NATO by openly criticising them for not meeting their commitment to military spending, and claims that NATO owes money to the USA for protection.

Now there used to be some grounds for criticising the European members of NATO for not spending enough on their military, but the spending has been going up in recent years (despite austerity). You don’t criticise someone for being overweight when they’re on a diet and have lost half their flab!

And Trump claimed that Germany is under the control of Russia because of Germany buying natural gas from Russia! First of all, the figures he were using were wrong, and when you boil it down Germany’s energy needs are very rapidly being switched to renewable energy sources – on some days all of Germany’s energy is supplied by renewable energy sources.

Trump exhibits the diplomatic skills of a rabid dog.

European nations aren’t dumb – we watched Russia blackmail Ukraine over gas supplies in winter and know that we need to wean ourselves off Russian gas. And we know that the US has sent us a self-destructive idiot to deal with; those meeting with Trump will be gritting their teeth and putting on their most diplomatic face.

The other interesting thing is the effect Trump’s attack on NATO has had on the US Senate; they’ve basically passed a resolution (passed 97-2) saying in a long-winded way: “Ignore that idiot Trump, we’re fully behind NATO”.

There are those in the US media saying that Trump is Putin’s biggest ally on all of this – he apparently would rather do a deal with the Russians than with the traditional allies of the US. Is Trump actually an FSB agent?

No. The Russians might well make use of Trump and drop him an advantage or two, but they’re not so dumb as to employ an idiot like Trump.

Trump is a clear and present danger to the interests of the US; not the stuff like treating immigrants like criminals (although that is bad enough) but the big stuff; stuff that will encourage Republicans to turn on Trump – National Security and the economy.

 

Jun 212018
 

The USA likes to think of itself as the “leader of the free world”, but two things that have happened recently shows that it is really morally bankrupt. It is no longer a great country but an international pariah.

The first is that they have left the UN panel on Human Rights because it is supposedly broken – they would rather throw a childish tantrum than stay, fix the supposed problems, and fight for human rights.

Actually it is the US that is broken. They would rather protect their ally (Israel) than actually do their job on the human rights panel; the honourable thing to do is not to protect their ally no matter what but to keep quiet when Israeli human rights abuses are being discussed.

The second is that the US has been found out about it’s policy of dragging young children (including dragging a baby away from its mother whilst breastfeeding), and locking them up in concentration camps (not death camps). Putting them in cages, letting the sleep on floors, limiting their bedding to survival sheets of shiny foil, keeping them inside for 22 hours a day; what else can you call this other than a concentration camp.

And that is just what has leaked so far – in just over a month since this policy was started.

There has been predictably a negative reaction to this policy – many US politicians  are outraged (and not just Democrats). One Republican governor has had himself pictured sending Sessions the finger; eight state governors have refused to send their respective National Guards to the borders.

And the number of lies told by Trump’s minions is unbelievable. The scum in the White House did this deliberately to provoke a reaction. But the reaction may have been bigger than expected – Trump has just announced that he is revoking his policy and children will be imprisoned with their parents.

I thought about not publishing this post when I heard, but then I thought No. The US government did this thing so still qualifies as a rogue nation.

Just take a good long look at that crying child; the US government did that. Trump and his minions went ahead and set up concentration camps for children; they probably spent close to a year getting prepared for this and at no point thought better of it. If your government ever does anything like that, you know that the wrong sort of people are getting into power.

And the people. As many as 28% approve of immigrant children being put into concentration camps; as many as 28% have a broken moral compass.

Apr 142018
 

In the USA, a considerable number of states (30 counting 16 years as “adult”) allow the marriage of underage children under certain constraints. And these marriages do happen; whilst proportionally they are a tiny minority, to those victims it is nothing less than state-sanctioned child sex abuse.

In terms of numbers, Unchained at Last (via Wikipedia) found that between 2000-2010 there were 167,000 children in marriages; 13% were boys (I mention boys because most articles start with the girls). But weren’t they all children marrying each other? Only in 14% of cases.

The USA government condones and supports child sex abuse.

The overwhelming majority of not just the rest of the world, but even third-world countries are better on the marriage loophole allowing child sex abuse. Trump: For the victims of those marriages, USA is the “shit-hole”.

The Bench

Mar 252018
 

It seems likely that the company Cambridge Analytica paid Facebook for access to data and using it’s access, downloaded as much data as possible for nefarious purposes. Nobody should be that surprised at this.

Facebook does not host an enormously expensive social network just because it is fun; it does it to make money. It probably does this primarily through advertising, but selling access to social network data is always going to take place.

And from time to time, scandals when companies like Cambridge Analytica are going to take place. At which point Facebook will protest saying that it didn’t realise that the associated firm was doing such naughty things. And once the story drops out of the news, Facebook will carry on leaking data.

As the saying goes: “If you are not paying for it, you are the product.”

In the end, the only solution to something like this, is to produce some kind of peer-to-peer application that is as easy to use as Facebook, uses strong end-to-end encryption, and keeps our data private to those people and groups we choose to share it with.

The Hole

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