26 October, 2019

I read the Mueller Report

When Robert Mueller was called to testify before a US Congressional panel in July, three months after his report was delivered, it went something like this:

Q: We haven’t read the whole report; can you summarise the juicy bits for us?
A: No. Read the report.


Well, I did. To the extent that it’s been released, I read every last meticulous footnote. It was a slog, which is why it took me so long, so I would be very suspicious of anyone who claimed to have digested it in a weekend as many did.

By now, I would have thought all this would be a bit dated but now the president and his attorney general, who both claimed the report exonerated Trump the week it came out, are now preparing an inquiry into the inquiry because that’s what grownups do.

For those who are interested, here’s my tl;dr version:

The report is split into two chapters, one on the subject of collusion and the second on the subject of obstruction.

That there was interference in the 2016 presidential election by Russian interests is never in question. Nor is it ever in question that there was contact between some of these Russian interests and the Trump campaign. However, the report returns an open finding as to whether there was direct collusion with foreign meddlers by the Trump campaign. It isn’t established beyond reasonable doubt that senior members of the Trump campaign willingly colluded with Russia, as opposed to simply being used as useful idiots. It also fails to show that candidate Trump himself had any direct knowledge of the cooperation at the time.

To quote a line from The Godfather Part II, the family has a lot of buffers.

On obstruction of justice, the inquiry has Trump, his campaign and his administration bang to rights. There is ample proof and the defence submitted by Trump’s counsel is thoroughly rebutted. The only reason it hasn’t gone further is because Mueller chose not to test the constitutional grey area of whether a sitting president can be indicted. It doesn’t mean Trump can’t be arrested at 12:01pm on January 20th.

It is perhaps for this reason, and to distract from impeachment investigations on another charge that has arisen since the report was published, that the Trump administration is looking to launch a counter-inquiry. However, if they are successful in their attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation, it would also negate over 20 criminal prosecutions which have arisen from it, seven of which have already resulted in convictions or guilty pleas.
  
 

27 September, 2019

Calm down! Trump isn’t going anywhere

With the Democratic Congressional leadership announcing an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s telephone call with the president of Ukraine, many of Trump’s opponents seem to think this is the moment they’ve finally got him. I’m sorry, but it isn’t.

The investigation may not result in articles of impeachment being drafted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been careful not to go off half-cocked so far and it’s unlikely the House will actually impeach unless they can be absolutely certain. But that’s hardly the point.

Impeachment would be followed by a trial in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans and led by a Trump troll in the form of Mitch McConnell. Does anyone seriously think they would convict? It’s not going to happen.

Trump is not without his critics in the Republican party but as the old saying goes, Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. One of the most vocal Republican opponents of Trump during the election campaign was Lindsay Graham, who is now one of the president’s chief apologists.

The fact is if ‘Grab ’em by the pussy,’ didn’t end Trump’s political career, nothing will.

The one great service Donald Trump has done America is to expose what a bunch of shameless hypocrites many Republicans and their supporters are. They maintained plausible deniability for over 50 years but it was Trump who proved beyond reasonable doubt that all their talk about character, faith and family values was a load of bunkum designed to use Christian conservatives as useful idiots.

When the tape of Trump uttering those vile words and far worse was broadcast, his supporters rationalised it by saying the US elects a president, not a Pope. It would be a fair argument if the same people hadn’t clutched their pearls so over Bill Clinton’s infidelity.

The same people who continue to search for any excuse to charge Barack Obama with treason, have no problem with Trump publically begging Russia to hack the State Department, appeasing an unstable dictator with newly acquired nuclear weapons, or inviting the leadership of the Taliban to Camp David on the eve of the September 11 anniversary. It’s not that negotiating for peace is a bad thing. It’s ultimately quite sensible. But you know Republicans would have demanded Obama’s head on a platter for any one of those things.

Despite talking tough on Twitter and at incredibly disturbing rallies, Trump has shown he doesn’t really have the stomach to order military action. Again, this isn’t such a bad thing. A president should not treat America’s military like toy soldiers. But after attacking every Democrat since Carter for being wimps when it comes to sending the marines at the drop of a hat, Republicans suddenly see strength in avoiding war. They don’t really of course. They see strength in backing Trump no matter what.

The same people who reached for the smelling salts when Obama used the word ‘hell’ as an expletive, were happy to shrug off Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ comment. “He uses the language of the common man,” they said. In fact, the biggest change I have seen in America under Trump’s presidency (apart from people no longer being ashamed of wearing or carrying swastikas) is the fact that news channels no longer bleep out the word ‘shit.’

It’s pointless to expect any kind of moral consistency from Republicans because they have none. And that’s why impeachment proceedings will probably go nowhere. It’s not that they don’t know Trump is a corrupt idiot, they just don’t care.

A large portion of Americans, and fellow travellers internationally, would happily watch the world burn so long as the guy who flicks the match yells, “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!” as he does it, and it upsets leftists

(which these days can be described as anyone more progressive than Mussolini).

These people are enabled by another large section of the population which expresses its disillusion in the imperfection of alternative candidates in the form of not voting. And how’s that working out for you?

This is not a fit environment for common sense to prevail. If intellectual, ideological or moral consistency mattered a damn, Trump would never have made it past the first primary.

The truest thing Trump ever said was, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” I don’t see impeachment going anywhere. It’s not that he isn’t a liar, a phoney, incompetent, and probably a traitor. It’s just that half the county doesn’t give a fuck.
  
 

06 August, 2019

The lyin' and the unicorn

With apologies to George Orwell for the title, a summary of Brexit so far...

"We want a unicorn!"

David Cameron: You don't really want a unicorn, do you?

"Yes! We want a unicorn!"

Cameron: Are you sure you've thought through all the ramifications of getting a unicorn?

"Stuff thinking! Unicorn or GTFO!

Cameron: Alright, if you're very good and re-elect me, I'll hold a vote on whether you get a unicorn...

[Cameron re-elected]

Cameron: Okay, you can have your vote on whether you get a unicorn, which I am sure you don't really want.

"We want a unicorn!" 

Cameron: Look, I really don't think it's a good idea...

[referendum]

"WOOHOO! WE'RE GETTING A UNICORN!"

Cameron: I see. You have voted that you will get a unicorn and therefore I will... [car door slams, tyres squeal]

Theresa May: Fuck!

"Where's our unicorn?" 

May: Well, we have this horse. If we just affix this silver horn...

"That's not a unicorn!"

May: Alright, we have a silver horn. If we were to get, say, a donkey...

"No! Still not a unicorn!"

May: Okay, fine. I believe if we were to find a zebra...

"NOT A UNICORN!"

May: Look, I think we can all agree that a species of the Equus genus with a silver horn protruding from its forehead, is for all intents and purposes...

"NO! UNICORN NAO!"

May: Look, be reasonable.

Boris Johnson: I can make a unicorn.

May: You can't be serious.

"YAY BORIS! HE'LL GET US A UNICORN!"

[to be continued...]

Spoiler: Unicorns don't exist.
 
 

04 August, 2019

No more sympathy

Following the Australian federal election in May, there was a move on social media to stop donating to regions that regularly suffer drought, bushfire and flood. It may seem cruel and petty, but there is a certain logic to it.

You see, the regions which are suffering these events with increasing regularity due to climate change, are the ones that keep electing climate deniers to parliament.

It’s not a question of ‘punishing’ them for voting in the wrong people. No-one is suggesting they deserve the hardships of extreme weather. Nobody does. It’s simply a case of recognising that decisions have consequences. There is a direct connection between the way regional areas traditionally vote and successive governments’ inertia when it comes to mitigating climate change.

Why should people in areas that didn’t vote for climate deniers throw good money after bad? Why should we protect people from the consequences of their own decisions?

Which brings us, with extreme sadness, to El Paso.

Embed from Getty Images

Yet another mass shooting with depressingly familiar details. Yet more calls for gun control. Yet more offers of thoughts and prayers, and yet more mocking of those same offers. It’s all become clichéd.

This may sound callous, but as with the farmers who keep electing representatives who deny the real causes of their situation, perhaps the time has come for some tough love. America can wring its hands over this latest* slaughter all the way up to the next one, but if they keep electing representatives who are either beholden to the gun lobby or haven’t the spine to stand up to them, then this is going to keep happening.

In any democracy, however flawed, you get the government you deserve. I’m not going to make the case for gun control again. It’s been made. You can heed or ignore. It’s up to you. I’m sorry America, but you can have as many dead kids as your precious Second Amendment is worth to you. Your decisions have consequences. It’s just a pity everyone has to live with them.
  
 
*UPDATE: I posted this less than three hours ago, and El Paso is now no longer the latest mass shooting.

YES, it IS the GUNS and America's attitude towards them!

25 July, 2019

Boris Johnson vomits into the Queen's hat

Well, that didn't happen. At least, it hasn't yet.

The premise came about from a comment I made on the socials at the time Boris was being announced as the winner of Most Popular Actor in a Comedy Soap:
Theresa May was expected to achieve the impossible. Of course, it's still impossible for Boris too, but expectations are so low that if he manages to avoid vomiting into the queen's hat, he'll be considered a success.
A friend made the comment that they would probably let him get away with that too. And that got me to thinking exactly how the reflexive right and gratuitous contrarians would justify it, and I am sure my correspondent is right.

Boris Johnson 
Look, I happen to be aware that when Her Majesty was working as a nurse, tending to our brave lads on the Russian front in the first world war, she liked nothing more than the scent of a bit of hardworking chunder as bit of a pick-me-up at the end of a long hard day. 


Donald Trump
I believe it's considered a mark of great respect in the British aisles. I know it is in Scotland. They always offer it to me. Beautiful place. They have the best golf there. They invented it, I perfected it. Boris is a very good friend of mine, he says very nice things about me, he's making regurgitation great again.  


Scott Morrison
How good's spewing? 



Piers Morgan
Oh, it's just the leftie snowflake fun police at it again. When I was a young man, blowing chunks in a girl's ear was a sign you liked her. In fact, it was quite a leg-opener. Oh, I suppose I'm not allowed to say that any more either!  



Paul Watson
The liberal left wing elite are supposed to believe in recycling and sustainable use of resources, yet when a Conservative Brexiter does it, suddenly they hate him for donating his excess nutrients to the Sovereign. They also claim to hate royalty but are now using the Queen as their new poster child for loony left victimhood. And I'll bet YouTube won't monetise this video for me.

  

10 February, 2019

It’s the 24-hour news cycle and social media

Theory:
Saying, “I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media,” has become an acceptable answer to absolutely any topic on a news discussion panel show. It has already been blamed for everything from road rage to teenage body image problems, despite both being around a lot longer.

Try it for yourself...

Why does political discourse seem so juvenile these days?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

Why are more children being driven to school by their parents rather than taking the bus or walking?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

Why are we seeing an increase in childhood obesity?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

How do we explain the increase in religious extremism?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

Why are people deserting mainstream religions?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

What’s with the rise of neo Nazis?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media. (yeah, because that’s how it happened last time)

Why are we seeing such extreme weather?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media. (nah, really. Back in my day we just said, “funny old weather” and got on with it)

It climate change real? (YES!)
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

Why are we seeing so many severe food allergies?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

What’s the go with the au pairs?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.

Where’d all the good people go?
I think it’s the 24-hour news cycle; I think it’s social media.


03 February, 2019

LET IT BE - The Beatles (1970)

It was supposed to be a rebirth. It turned out to be the death throes.

With the news that Peter Jackson will be ploughing through the 96 hours of film shot for an album and documentary originally to be titled Get Back, I thought I’d take another look at the original. The film has never had an officially sanctioned DVD release but there is a version of the original cut issued by United Artists available if you look hard enough.

It is both fascinating and depressing. Paul’s idea was for the band to get back to the ways they used to make music – recording live, no overdubs – and film the whole process. What becomes evident even without the history we know, is that John and George have accepted that the group has all but broken up; Paul is in denial, desperately trying to hold things together; and Ringo is just dutifully coming to work.

The film is basically split into three acts: the Twickenham sessions, the Apple sessions, and the rooftop performance.

It’s immediately evident that attempting to make a record in a film studio was a mistake. The most notable section is the argument between Paul and George. The music is terrible. The environment of the film studio was so cold (both figuratively and literally) that the sessions were abandoned. Recording shifted to the Apple offices in Savile Row resulting in a noticeable improvement in mood. The presence of Billy Preston at these sessions seems to help them keep on track, and it’s here that they actually complete some takes.

Naturally, it’s the rooftop session that is the highlight – arguably the first ever guerrilla gig. Even though they had several weeks of rehearsals under their belts by then, we get the impression that having an audience – even of passers-by – forces them to behave themselves and put in a decent performance. It’s a rightly legendary show, but will give nightmares to anyone brought up with a 21st century understanding of health and safety.

Even though it’s obvious the four of them have completely drifted apart, when they’re playing they still give their all. It also reveals how underrated John Lennon is as a musician. He plays sensitive bass on The Long and Winding Road and Let It Be (despite his distaste for the latter), some blistering slide blues on For You Blue, and one of the most recognisable guitar solos in history on Get Back. It’s worth remembering that none of these were his songs.

Both the film and album were shelved, and only released to satisfy contractual obligations. The film does deserve credit for its honesty. None of the Beatles come out looking particularly good but it’s Paul who comes out worst. In fairness, his domineering is clearly an attempt to give the band direction and delay the inevitable breakup, but it’s not hard to see why none of the Beatles were keen on having the film reissued in any way. One hopes the new edit will not be a whitewash.

The transfer on this version is abysmal so Peter Jackson’s cut will probably be worth the wait if only for picture quality, providing he doesn’t CGI it all into a flaming island castle.

Highlight: The rooftop session
Feature: * * ½
Extras: None
Audio: Dolby mono