The incredible gravity of the U.S. Presidential election pulled all of our attention towards Donald Trump and his scandalous behaviour. His unexpected victory will have us reeling for weeks to come. His forthcoming presidency will probably be a permenant distraction. Just as his presidential primary rivals failed to get their message across, so other pressing issues will surely be crowded out by a general obsession and fascination with Mr Trump.
Here is one such issue that has not received the attention it deserves: the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to confirm, or even hold hearings on Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice for the United States Supreme Court.
Continue reading “The Disgraceful Behaviour of the Senate on the Supreme Court Opening”
The 2016 US Election has been, as they would say, a ‘dumpster fire’. The media have graded one candidate on a curve, and the discussion has been almost entirely about personalities. There does not appear to have been any sustained news cycle dedicated to policy. Indeed, even the discussion of actual policies in the debates was atrocious.
It’s clear that the country is incredibly polarised. Nevertheless, I still admire the American political system.
One silver-lining of the Trump candidacy is that there has been plenty of discussion about the US system. I don’t mean admiration for the electoral college (although I’ve heard some good arguments for its retention recently) but more simply and fundamentally, the fact that everything is subordinate to the Rule of Law, and a Constitution which places and incredibly strong emphasis of individual rights and protections against government over-reach.
This may seem like a statement of the obvious, but recent events elsewhere in the world have made me particularly appreciate the American approach.
Continue reading “I Admire the American Political System”
I’m bookmarking this Washington Post profile of Professor Susan Benesch, whose research looks at ‘dangerous speech’—that is, speech that can incite mass violence.
For Benesch, it’s important that people understand that the type of speech she wants to counter is different from hate speech, which she says is a broad category for which there is no agreed-upon definition. An advocate for free speech, she does not believe that hate speech can or should be silenced. In fact, it’s one of the central reasons she sought to differentiate dangerous speech.
Continue reading “A Framework for Countering Dangerous Speech”
Despite having written very little on this blog about the United States Presidential election, I’ve been following it closely. My main source of news and commentary has been podcasts: The FiveThirtyEight weekly round-up in particular. But I’ve been reading mainstream news sites and blog commentary too.
Even as she makes history as the first woman to run for president, and even as she prepares to become the first woman to take the office, Hillary Clinton is still the victim of sexism. Most analyses attribute her lead to the to the failings of her opponent: Donald Trump is egotistical, misogynist, racist. He is under-prepared and has led a shambolic campaign. There is an implication that Clinton—a historically unpopular candidate—is not winning on her own merits but because The Donald has thrown the election to her. In another year (so goes the argument), against another candidate, she would lose. Continue reading “Why Hillary Clinton Will Win”
The keynote speeches at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia were a fantastic reminder of just how potent is the idea of ‘America’. The President and the First Lady are perhaps more comfortable speakers, but I thought Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech on Thursday evening (which I’ve only just watched) was actually the most persuasive analysis of what the country stands for and what it can be. Continue reading “Stronger Together: America is a Collaboration”
Belgium has become the latest victim of a terrorist attack. Daesh/Islamic State have claimed responsibility for the bombings in Brussels, and the authorities there have named two of the suicide bombers as brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui.
The last three terrorist outrages in Europe have all been carried out by brothers. Salah and Brahim Abdeslam were part of the group who carried out the Paris attacks on 13th November 2015. Continue reading “Brothers Grim”
JK Rowling periodically releases short pieces of writing on her Pottermore site that build upon the Harry Potter world. She has recently published information on wizarding schools around the world, such as Uagadou in Uganda or Mahoutokoro in Japan. Its a clever way to engage fans from all over the world, bringing a little bit of the magic to those who might not readily see themselves reflected in Ron, Hermione and Harry.
But with her ‘History of Magic in North America‘ JK Rowling appears to have become unstuck. Her attempt to integrate the Native American community into her world building has drawn criticism… not least because she lumps the myriad tribes and Nations together under one ‘Native American community’ catch-all. Continue reading “Harry Potter and the Ethnographic Refusal”
The Trump candidacy is looking ever more likely.
Here are a couple of opinion pieces noting the rise of the anti-politics he represents and why leaders within the Republican Party are now unable to stop him.
First, Josh Marshall, the editor of Talking Points Memo, describes the political ‘debt’ to the truth that the Republicans have racked up in recent years. Continue reading “Anti-Politics as a Debt and a Cancer”
Apple have refused an FBI request to help crack the iPhone of a terrorist.
Ray McClure, the uncle of murdered soldier Drummer Lee Rigby has said that Apple is protecting terrorists, and that ‘life comes before privacy’.
I think Drummer Rigby’s uncle is mistaken, both in his assumptions about what Apple is technically capable of, and the moral trade-off between life and privacy.
We need to understand that Apple are not being asked to decrypt just the iPhone of one particular terrorist. They are not like a landlord with a spare key that will open a particular door. If they were, then there would be legitimacy in Mr McClure’s complaints. A judge could examine the particular case at hand, and then sign a warrant that permitted entry to the property or decryption of a device. Targeted surveillance and privacy violations are a legitimate law enforcement tool.
But that is not the request. Instead, the FBI have asked Apple to hack their entire operating system in such a way that would enable them to by-pass encryption on any iPhone. Including mine. Continue reading “I Take Full Responsibility For Apple Inc Protecting The Privacy of a Dead Terrorist”
Not a week goes by, it seems, without a mass shooting in the USA. The world’s oldest democracy also has the highest rate of gun related deaths in the developed world. It’s a shocking public safety problem, and it’s caused by the fact that the Constitution of the Unitied States says that the government cannot curtail its citizens’ right to bear arms.
Many constitutional scholars say that the 2nd Amendment does not really mean that individuals can arm themselves. Rather, they say, it simply stops the Federal Government from preventing the formation of militia. The authors of that text were, after all, mindful of tyrannies, dictatorships and unchecked state violence. Continue reading “On Gun Ownership, Nothing Less Than Repeal of the 2nd Amendment Will Do”