Monty Python character to be devoured by Brexit monster

I suppose one is meant to congratulate Boris Johnson on becoming prime minister, which seems like a big deal and quite the life goal achievement. After all, every aspiring mommy and daddy would love for their kid to become president or prime minister. Unfortunately for Boris his tenure involves getting mauled by Brexit as if he were a sick, deranged zebra getting hauled down by a pack of rabid lions. Brexit has already devoured two prime ministers, Johnson will surely be the third.

I can’t figure why anybody would actually want this job? I mean other than just to say you had it. Theresa May was a control freak whose strategic planning instincts consisted of a dart board and a bottle of magic elixir, but, she can still tell folks at the pub that for at least a few years she was top dog.

Whatever one thinks of Brexit one way or the other, it’s just about the most impossible task an executive arm of government could be asked to execute. And the British parliamentary system makes it even worse.

To the American eye, there’s something really antidemocratic in changing prime ministers this way. The Australians have had a similar problem for the last decade or so. To my brain, if a prime minister resigns, that should automatically trigger a general election. That way the public can choose their leader instead of back alley party hacks. This is especially a vivid problem right now.

The issue with Brexit as it currently stands is this:

1) Europe holds all the cards and promises they won’t renegotiate

2) Boris does not possess the ability to fold space, time, or the Irish border

3) Parliament has an overwhelming majority who will oppose any effort to conduct a no deal Brexit

This was what derailed May, and it will derail Johnson too. All the Tories have done is shift human beings, they haven’t shifted the problem. An election would have offered the chance for a course correction of some form. Without an election, nothing has changed, the situation remains the same and thus Britain will remain bogged down in political chaos and deadlock.

Nothing about Boris Johnson indicates he’s the kind of visionary leader who can overcome such a huge challenge. If the original Monty Python had made a character of Johnson way back when, it would have been rejected as too farfetched. The guy is a meld of insanity, humor, charisma, liar, opportunistic, lucky, and with the looks of a c-grade stuffed animal made in Bulgaria. His supporters really think this guy has what it takes to get the job done? Trust me, he doesn’t. Maybe nobody does.

The problem with modern democracy is essentially two things: it’s a rigged game, and it’s currently deadlocked. America’s Congress would be challenged to pass a bipartisan bill saying that Abe Lincoln was awesome. Britain is no different. Asking this parliamentary system to solve any problem at the moment is a chore, asking it to solve Brexit is near impossible.

To me, the only way out of this is for the EU to simply lay down the line. Regardless of what parliament says or does, if 01 November comes around and Britain hasn’t taken their deal, they should just kick Britain out. Otherwise they’ll just keep extending the deadline until the end of time, because that’s all that British politics has left. However, will they actually do this when it gives Boris exactly what he says he wants? Who knows?

In the meantime, I would say enjoy the ride, but you won’t. And neither will Boris.

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Mr Prime Minister, eight seconds before a nine year old girl throws a chunk of cinder block into his front wheel spoke

nature reminds West Coast of approaching nightmare

Lost amidst yesterday’s revelry, fireworks, beer, my dog’s inability to detail with percussive sounds, political mayhem, massive blatant disregard for local laws dealing with the employment of explosives by the citizenry, and so on, was the news that California endured it’s largest earthquake in 20 years.

A relatively mild 6.4 on the American scale yielded minor damage but the usual television mayhem as C grade news organizations tried to hitch viewers by showing helicopters following police cars around open desert communities like they were after the ghost of some 1849 horse thief.

In case most folks forgot, because I know I did, the entire West Coast has nature’s handgun held to its temple.  20 years!?  That’s how long it’s been since California has seen anything approaching a reasonable earthquake.  In geologic times this is less than a fraction of a heartbeat, but it’s quite a long time for us.

But these are not things to be ignored.  A good chunk of the West Coast is built on glass.  The supposed ‘big one’ might never happen, but if it does, oh man that’d be quite the mess.  A full scale cascadia subduction zone quake with the accompanying tsunami would make the 2011 Japanese tsunami look like a wave in a kiddy pool.

I wonder how much planning has been done in California, Oregon, and Washington lately to deal with these eventualities?  Or has all that institutional knowledge been lost after 20 years of not caring at all about it.  Not sure.  I hope folks are still thinking about it and planning.  Yesterday’s earthquake had only one minute’s warning.

When the nightmare of nature calls, there are only seconds to answer.  So after 20 years, maybe a thought or two needs to occur in case the nightmare actually comes.  It’s way more important than some tweet, or celebrity outfit, or whatever.  Here’s hoping the West Coast takes yesterday as a needed wakeup call.

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75 years into what?

One of the most striking things I find from D Day commemorations is the implicit understanding among most who attend that victory was not inevitable. I think it’s what makes the drama of D Day still so compelling after all these years. The letter of failure prewritten by Eisenhower, how Hitler slept late while panzers sat idle, the blinding courage that seized Omaha Beach before the day ended with elite Nazi infantry separating the Allied beachheads. It all could have gone very differently.

This (and the Eurocentric mindset that permeates a war that essentially began in 1914) makes D Day something more than say, the invasion of Okinawa. Depending on how you count troop or ship numbers, the Allied invasion of Okinawa can be considered the larger and certainly far bloodier affair. But victory in Okinawa was essentially inevitable. It was simply a matter of how many Allied and Japanese would die in battle (alongside a near tragic 50% fatality rate of Okinawan civilians).

D Day is different, a great gambit, one of the most consequential risks in the history of war. Without it, it’s conceivable to consider the ideas of a separate peace with Germany, something less than total victory. A Europe and a world that would look very different. A massive failure of democracy against the worst of totalitarianism.

But to me, the seeds of victory lie in the differing systems at war, the different visions of humanity. Put in the bluntest of military of terms, the Allies win because democracy allows the battlefield flexibility of thought, leadership, and initiative required. Conversely, Rommel has to wait for a dictator to give him the most basic and common sense of tactical orders. One system was doomed to fail, to fall apart under its own contradictions. Something similar happens in the political realm with the Soviets Circa 1989.

So it’s a victory rightly celebrated, honored, and remembered. But I’m always given pause when considering these sorts of events. That was then, a generation guided by a singular purpose to keep their societies free. My own family was among them. How does that stack up with today?

Today speech laws in Britain can get you jailed if you publicly quote the “wrong” words of Churchill. Since that day the vaunted Allied coalition has lost more wars than it’s won, it will soon be in Afghanistan five times longer than it took to win World War II. 75 years after a war to preserve freedom across the globe, very few bat an eye when the Sudanese military guns down over 100 unarmed protestors; because they can, because they know nobody cares.

So D Day into what? I think a much narrower purpose than one would wish for. Perhaps less about freedom or democracy for the globe, but rather the very narrow goal for the planet’s Western powers to defeat the Imperial Japanese and Nazi threat that sought to supplant them. And then immediately after, to confront a Soviet threat that sought to do the same. If you don’t have nuclear weapons, eventually the very opposite Soviet and Western visions would have had to resolve their conflict in battle. But, the threat of mutual destruction left the Soviets to fall politically in 1989, albeit with a miserly amount of proxy wars that broke dozens of the planet’s other nations.

One out of every nine Americans wore a military uniform during this war. The equivalent number is if 30 million Americans were in the military today. Instead, there are more Americans in jail or prison at this very moment than are on active duty service. More Americans are likely to know their smartphone in greater detail than the most basic considerations of D Day. Whole sections of the modern culture think history has nothing to offer us at all, that it needs revision, or even destruction to rebuild society into something new.

It gives one pause, and a wonder about what D Day bought the world 75 years ago. A journey, into what? Toward victory, yes. But then what? That still, even today, is for us to decide. They bought us the chance we all have today. Today, as then, it’s up to us what we do with it.

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how not to conduct a coup

One cannot deny Juan Guaidó’s guts, even bravery, at taking the stand he has. I still don’t know how this man is still alive. Any number of deliberate accidents could have occurred by this point, to him or his family. Maduro’s drug trafficking gang regime is not exactly known for its restraint, having already used live rounds against unarmed demonstrators and raping the family members of defector soldiers.

Nevertheless when Guaidó appeared on television yesterday calling for a coup, I had a bad feeling about it all. I felt he was overplaying his hand, reckless, and doomed to fail. Which is exactly what happened. Guaidó seemed to not understand the basic law of coups or war, you need guns and lots of guns. Guaidó had only a few dozen soldiers, who are now hiding in the Brazilian embassy. Leopoldo Lopez, another key opposition figure who broke house arrest to appear in yesterday’s video, went to the Spanish embassy. Guaidó’s whereabouts are unknown.

What did he expect to happen? Well, here’s the insanity of it folks. This was the “plan”:

1) The chief justice of Venezuela’s supreme court Maikel Moreno was supposed to declare “legally” that the Guaidó led legislature was the legitimate arm of the Venezuelan government. This is the point that Guaidó has made all along, that Maduro’s election is fraudulent and thus by the constitution Guaidó is the legitimate acting president.

2) Using this legal decision as his basis the Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez was then supposed to throw his weight behind the opposition and order the armed forces to shift their support to Guaidó. There are unconfirmed claims that other key regime figures such as the head of the domestic intelligence agency were also in on the plot.

3) It seems the key details of this plan were brokered between Guaidó, the coup plotters, and the US National Security Council. As in, John Bolton himself. We know this because Bolton laid out the plot itself in the last 24 hours, essentially explaining how the coup he engineered had failed. Bolton apparently still seems to think he’s a Fox News contributor and not a functioning government leader who should know when to keep his mouth shut.

4) What this means is the plan was never about soldiers fighting for Guaidó, or street demonstrators overthrowing the regime, but instead focused around what amounts to a palace coup where the main effort, the chances for any success, rested entirely on the personal decisions of hardcore Maduro regime loyalists.

That’s just about the dumbest plan I’ve heard all year. If that’s how this actually played out, then Bolton is an idiot. And Guaidó is either naïve, desperate, or stupid.

a) What would possess them to think that two of the most hardcore of Maduro loyalists in Moreno and Lopez were suddenly going to change hats, when their fortunes, their freedom, and perhaps their very lives depend on Maduro remaining on power?

b) Russia and Cuba have actual armed forces on the ground in Venezuela to support the regime. Their mission is to ensure the regime’s survival. For better or worse, the number of guns Bolton had on the ground is zero.

c) The Venezuelan armed forces and their paramilitary gangs have used live fire against unarmed civilians before. When this was always going to remain the case, and since Guaidó and Bolton essentially had zero guns of their own? So, … ???

Here is singular example of why one should not put their trust in the USA. Regardless of what political party happens to be in power, it’s not a wise bet. America’s enemies are serious. America is not. Bet on evil folks, it’s going to keep winning for a while.

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Keeps winning

human scum still alive

I prefer my evildoers to be comical or true believers. These are the bad guys one can get behind.

On the comical end of the spectrum are Bond villains, Indiana Jones Nazis, or say Maduro (a bumbling idiot of a former bus driver who hangs onto power because his vice president and generals are addicted to drug trafficking money). There was actually a Venezuelan propaganda video where Maduro was driving the slums talking up his record and in the background is a building with graffiti calling for his downfall. Not only does Maduro fail to notice this, but they were actually stupid enough to leave this in after editing. Now that’s a level of comical dumb I can get behind in my bad guys.

On the true believer end of the spectrum I like my villains to mean what they say. This provides the clearest indication for the rest of us as to how one can conduct their lives. For example, Hitler shot his own wife and himself rather than be taken. Dude was pure evil, probably mostly insane, but at least meant what he said. Or take the currently popular Thanos (I don’t watch these movies but it’s hard not to know what happens) who follows through on his evil plans all the way to the end, and on multiple occasions, dies to the bitter end for them.

Contrast this to bad guys who are total losers, they neither provide comic relief nor the pleasure of a true bad guy. For example, take Stalin, for all his crimes (more bodies than Hitler) what he essentially boils down to is a coward. Granted, we must take the story with a grain of salt as the tale is from his daughter (who had a mixed relationship with him at best) but at the very end Stalin apparently dies in bed but as a broken man full of fear in his eyes at the prospect of death. Hey man, I get it, nobody wants to die, I’d be scared too. But when you clock a body count in the tens-of-millions, you’d better have more of a gut when your time comes.

Or take another example with our current human scum of the day in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is apparently still alive after five years of war. For those who aren’t aware, ISIS is finished as a landholding organization. What remains is a true stateless terror cell. al-Baghdadi made his name calling for an apocalyptic vision of his false view of Islam where the end was near and the apocalypse would rebuild humanity in a new era, his world. I’m paraphrasing but that’s what this guy sold to the planet. It was this vision that brought tens-of-thousands of foreign fighters from across the globe to fight for ISIS.

But oh dear, oh so sorry folks, because I guess al-Baghdadi didn’t really mean it after all. Shocker. If al-Baghdadi really believed any of that, he’d be a corpse in Baghuz either dead by his own hand or any number of lethal means from the Syrian Defense Forces or their Western allies. Instead he’s slumming it up in some false tent / film set like a total loser. I mean, just look at this guy, he looks like a roadside panhandler. All he needs is a cardboard sign with third grade handwritten scrawling: “unemployed false prophet/jihadist – need money – homeless veteran – please help – God bless!”.

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It’s like bin Laden. For all that dude was and claimed to be, he died in a purpose built cult compound mansion surrounded by his PlayStation and his (ultra large) porn stash. What a total loser.

al-Baghdadi’s time is coming, it’s just a matter of when. But like bin Laden he’ll go out as a complete fraud. An evil man for sure, but one who was never comical, serious, or even competent. It’s a testament to the flaws of humanity that such pathetic creatures manage to mayhem as much as they do.

What’s the real lesson from al-Baghdadi’s brief, violent reign? That he was good at it? Or rather, as I believe, that his foes (the criminally incompetent Syrian and Iraqi governments) were just even more incompetent / fraudulent.

ordinary, average, human experience

Boss tells you to do something. You do it. Boss comes back, apologies, and says they wanted something different. Boss walks away. Boss then comes back, and yells at everybody for doing it wrong in the first place. Boss then sends an inflammatory e-mail to all impacted colleagues demanding said product now and asking why it’s late.

I would gather for most, this is not an uncommon experience.

You know, in so many different ways, part of me wants to take us back to the stone age. Back then, things like this could be handled so much more simply. I could just challenge the boss to a fight to the death. Only the strong, wise, or guileful got to lead. Now, anybody can lead, and be permitted by society’s ‘rules’ to fail and fail again and lead for years and years thus increasing the overall misery of others without consequence.

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Give me back my drunken club fights!

NASA loses keys

Imagine you’re taking two dogs to the mountains for the weekend.  It might snow, and you want your dogs to have a jacket in case they duel a grizzly bear and need to keep warm.  Both your dogs need medium sized jackets.  Do you:

a) Make sure you have two medium jackets, and if not, buy one or two

b) Not bother to check at all and hope it somehow all works out

c) Panic

d) Ask your dogs for money

e) Skip your mountain trip and sit on your floor playing with your dogs as you drink beer

Most normal people would choose option (a).  But apparently not NASA, you know, those people who are geniuses and make things go into space.  Last week NASA announced that it would have it’s first all female spacewalk.  Because apparently these diversity things matter to NASA when it currently doesn’t have a functional space vehicle with which to get it’s astronauts into orbit so we rely on the Russians.

But as it turns out they cannot conduct this two female spacewalk because, wait for it, they don’t have two medium sized spacesuits.  This is not a joke.  This is legitimately happening.  Apparently NASA planned a complex dangerous spacewalk but didn’t bother to make sure they had two appropriate spacesuits.  I mean how hard is this?  One of the flight engineers could have asked her five year old to look at an inventory list and see the word ‘medium’ next to ‘spacesuit’ and make sure the number said at least two.

In related news, Boeing (that company that has problems lately), has now burned through north of $5B, yes billion, to produce a rocket that hasn’t flown once (and will probably never fly) and will take longer to produce than it took NASA to get to the Moon.

Man, this organization used to be the pinnacle of technology and awesome.  But that was five decades ago.  Now these folks probably lose their keys on their way to the parking lot.

Just disestablish NASA and give its entire budget to help fund STEM scholarships for poor kids.  Let the commercial sector have a go at space awesomeness.  They’ll do a cheaper, probably safer, and at least remember to look at an inventory list before planning a mission.

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Have fun!  Make sure you remember your airlock keys to get back into the station!