Review: Married At First Sight Australia, Season 10

April 26, 2023

Married couple with a large knife

I generally don’t watch “reality TV”. I remember when British television launched Big Brother. It was baffling. It was as if the contestants were lab rats in a maze and we were watching them eat, sleep, and claw each other.

The firm behind Big Brother, Endemol, apparently has gone in for an even more torturous psychological offering, “Married At First Sight”. On a rainy weekend when little else seemed fresh, I watched it. 

The premise of the show is straightforward, a panel of three “experts” have supposedly screened thousands of applicants. They selected twelve couples to take part in a “unique social experiment”. Specifically, these couples have never met prior to their “wedding day” (in reality, a “commitment ceremony”: if the marriages were legally binding, this would likely create enormous difficulties).  The couples go away on honeymoon for an unspecified amount of time, though it is probably no more than a few days. 

They then spend the bulk of the experiment living in tiny flats in a hotel in central Sydney. Each flat has a kitchen, a small living space, and a bed.  In order to squeeze 36+ hours of television out of the experience, a film crew records nearly every argument, disagreement, and yes, sweet moment.  The few furtive glances of the crew make clear that they are burdened with gear and unlikely to be a comfortable presence.   

The three “experts” compel the couples to perform a number of activities, some harmless, such as hugging each other for a few minutes. Others, such as rating the other brides or grooms in order of attractiveness are far more disquieting. The programme also makes the couples attend a weekly dinner party together: arguments often break out during these events. Following this, the couples meet with the “experts” to review what happened during the week. The “experts” then ask each couple if they wish to stay or leave the experiment. In the case of a deadlock, the couple is required to remain. In situations of catastrophic breakdown, the unhappy participant may be permitted to depart regardless.

It is highly addictive. However, I suspect I would have been less inclined to watch it if it featured any other country. In many ways, the programme is an advertisement for Australia. It appears to be a land rich with gorgeous landscapes, beautiful beaches, dynamic cities, and fashionable hotels.  Had all the action been in a far more mundane location, it wouldn’t have much of its appeal.

As I watched it, however, it became clear that this programme capitalises on the audience’s highest aspirations and its lowest appetites. To want love, to be in love, is noble in and of itself. It transforms life from a matter of mere survival into a meaningful journey that is shared with another. Simultaneously, the programme feeds the same instinct that enlivened the mob at the Roman Colosseum: to watch people make each other bleed.

We are led to believe that the three “experts” personally selected the couples and know them well.  Given the sheer number of applications this seems unlikely.  It’s possible that there is a research team which selects three types of couple. They may try to find a percentage who will be a good match.  Some may be in a more grey area.  Finally, there may be some that are likely to explode immediately.  It is unclear how aware the participants are of this potential calculus.

There are clues to this set up being in place. One couple, Ollie and Tahnee, provided a striking example of a well-suited pair: the cameras frequently went to them for relief from the chaos.  One individual, Harrison, appears to be a potential sociopath: he seemed to enjoy turning couples against each other.  He was so remorseless and unwilling to accept blame for his actions I wondered if he was considering running for public office. He has all the ingredients for a successful political career in the Trump Era.  His partner, Bronte, often wore a glazed, possibly brainwashed expression.

Perhaps a more obvious clue arose when two new couples arrived after a couple of relationships exploded early in the process.  The telltale couple was Hugo and Tayla.  A one-to-one conversation that Tayla had with one of the “experts” said much: she seemed controlling and demanding to a deranged degree.  They paired her with Hugo, a softer, more accommodating character.  I believe the producers were creating a “villain” narrative by putting such a couple together: Tayla made it obvious early on that she found Hugo unattractive and uninteresting, she was rude and dismissive, and even compelled him to sleep on a bench during their “honeymoon”.  Had the “experts” been trying to change Tayla for the better, they probably would have paired her with someone she found physically irresistible but would not tolerate her behaviour.  

The motives of the participants are not always clear.  When they are, the programme is particularly devastating.  For example, Season 10 saw the introduction of the first participant of Indian heritage, a dentist named Sandy.  She became involved despite her parents’ strong reservations, and stated she was inexperienced in relationships.  I believe her; I also believed her when she expressed her deep desire to find her person. 

Sandy’s match was Dan, a Digital Marketing business owner. His stated profession made me wince. I have worked with the internet since 1995, and seen many “Digital Marketeers” come and go. It is often a fly by night business, particularly because technology evolves so quickly. A quick look around social media later on provided potential evidence that his idea of digital marketing isn’t terribly clever, indeed, it could be rather tawdry. He has been accused of buying (fake) Instagram followers. Dan did not strike me as the sort of person suited to Sandy’s needs. He was not. I don’t believe the producers of the programme cared. Indeed, Sandy’s intense pain given what she sacrificed probably made for better television in their eyes.

The programme also presents a rather unflattering portrait of Australian men: I lost count of the number of references to “drinks” and a “boys’ night out”.  One fellow, Adam, who said he was an entrepreneur “in the crypto space” (which should be an instant red flag) went out on one of these nights. He kissed a bride that wasn’t his, went back to his apartment and had sex with his bride. He then tried to convince the wronged husband that he was imagining things and did not tell his bride the truth until forced to do so.  It was only when the betrayal was completely obvious that the other men turned on him.  There was an almost unspoken “bro-code” among the husbands: this rule compelled them to keep bad behaviour to themselves.  Only rarely was this broken; it was notable when it was.

Positives were few and far between. However, the few real relationships which have grown out of this programme have been tested to destruction. If you are still in love with someone despite having endured the aforementioned conditions and compelled to provide a running commentary besides, it is entirely likely you have struck gold.  But like striking gold, this is vanishingly rare.

I believe this programme should be discontinued. Its tapestry contains a distinct and unmistakable thread of cruelty. The truly lonely who are so unfortunate to be chosen will likely be broken, the malevolent will thrive, and the cynical will profit. It is compelling, like watching any other disaster. But we shouldn’t confuse calamities with entertainment: if we do, we could become desensitised.  This programme is on its tenth season. It is alarming to think what wreckage it will need to make a success of an eleventh.

And a final word….

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Farewell, Monarchy

January 23, 2023

A tarnished crown

I’m an amateur historian; I find monarchy fascinating.  It is an entirely irrational institution: we grant someone political power and privilege on the sole basis of birthright.  Yes, ultimately we can remove them (James II) or pressure them to resign (Edward VIII): however this is rare.  More often than not, we accept the transfer of authority from one generation to the next without so much as a murmur.  If you think about it, that’s really weird; at the very least, there is no compelling logic behind it.

Monarchy has become more prominent lately as the United Kingdom will celebrate the coronation of King Charles III in May.  Most people are looking forward to having an additional day off work.  I have to admit that I feel the same way.  It’s likely I won’t tune in but I will enjoy having the surplus holiday. I may sleep through it.

Soon, our stamps and money will reflect the change in monarch.  The Bank of England has already published pictures of what our new banknotes will look like.   They will be in our wallets in 2024.   It will be odd to carry banknotes and see Elizabeth and Charles alternate between them, as they likely will for a time. The thought crossed my mind if a five pound note with Elizabeth on it will be somehow seen as more intrinsically valuable than one with Charles.

Charles III may be the last King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  He begins with considerable handicaps. The historian Alan Ereira once stated that the “rule of elderly matriarchs seems perfectly proper to the English”.  It’s difficult to disagree: the odd reverence bestowed on the word “Victorian” suggests as much.  Films featuring Bette Davis, Judi Dench, Glenda Jackson, and Cate Blanchett have celebrated Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth II’s death punched a hole in the national psyche. The only male English monarch with a similarly elevated profile is Henry VIII, and the reasons for this are dubious at best. It’s clear: Charles simply doesn’t have discernible star quality.

Additionally, there is an inherent absurdity at work.  Charles is not only King of the United Kingdom, he is also King of many other countries including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.  Say “Charles III, King of Australia” or Canada aloud and there is a momentary shudder, a wince and a recognition that suggests there is something very wrong.   The Queen did not engender this reaction because she provided a link to an era in which that was not an absurd thing to say.

Caribbean countries see it.  Barbados became a republic even before the Queen passed (November 2021). It is entirely possible, if not likely, that Jamaica will vote to make itself a republic in the near future.  Belize and other nations may take similar steps: the respect the Queen engendered has vanished.   They are now left with this absurd colonial relic, which acts as a guarantor of nothing in particular except a connection to the past.

There are other reasons for the decay. The journalist Walter Bagehot once differentiated the parts of the British government by suggesting the democratic element was the “efficient” portion and the monarchy was the “dignified” part.  The “efficiency” of our current Parliament is debatable.  “Dignified” has gone completely out the window.

Monarchy thrives best under conditions of ignorance and superstition; dignity is easier to maintain at a distance.  Kings used to say that God appointed them and they were only answerable to the Almighty. This sounds eccentric to modern ears. It wasn’t that long ago that not only did monarchs believed it, but were willing to die for the principle. For example, King Charles I believed that God gave him his authority. He then proceeded to act like he wasn’t accountable to anyone else. The result was the English Civil War and his eventual beheading.

If Charles III believes in the “Divine Right of Kings”, he wouldn’t dare make such a view public. Indeed, if God selected Charles, it might be said the Almighty clearly has a sense of humour.  Prior to becoming King, Charles did good work with his Prince’s Trust charity, but apart from that it is difficult to see how such a privileged, sheltered man is in any way reflective of modern Britain. Nor should we be comfortable with how he makes money via ancestral sinecures including the Duchy of Cornwall.

Furthermore, we simply know too much about him and his private life.  Harry and Meghan didn’t begin the flow of revelations about his foibles and faults; they merely added to the torrent.  Camilla is unpopular, yet will be crowned Queen Consort.  The monarchy is now seen as downright strange. Even its exiles, like Harry, seem more like members of the entertainment industry than part of our system of government. The sad truth is the “dignified” element doesn’t remotely make itself without the Queen’s stoic silence and connection to history.  It’s worth remembering that her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill.   Britain’s trajectory can be measured by looking at her last, Liz Truss. 

During moments when the world makes no sense, like the premiership of Liz Truss, the Queen was a figure of comfort, a living reminder that we aren’t a complete basket case.  Charles’s all-too-public faults means he cannot perform a similar service. At best, he can pass subtle comment as he did once by uttering “oh dear” when Liz Truss approached.

It’s probably unlikely that there will be a “Eureka” moment when the Great British Public realises that we’ve outgrown the monarchy.   Perhaps if the UK splits apart, a reassessment will occur  An independent Scotland may not wish to embrace a modern, European future tethered to an English monarch.  Northern Ireland may join the Republic and thus abjure monarchy that way.  England and Wales may hold on; though Wales seems less settled on the matter than it was. As time goes on and generations pass, eventually the question may arise, “What are they there for?”  The answer will come, and it will likely be wanting.  If so Charles and his reign, may very well prove to be the bookend to the monarchy. If so, farewell.

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The End of Trump

January 5, 2023

Donald Trump dressed as a sad clown

Ever since Donald Trump began his Presidential campaign in 2016, there has been an expectation that his balloon would pop.  People thought that his making fun of a disabled reporter would do it.  Some opined that his offensive remarks about Mexicans would be his undoing.  A lot believed his sexist comments on the Access Hollywood tape regarding grabbing women by the genitals would finish him off.  None of these crippled him: those who disliked him merely had more reason to despise him, myself included.  It seemed that Trump was accurate in his assessment that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone yet not lose any popularity.

Not even an insurrection against the government of the United States turned off his fans.   This was drowned in a flood of excuses and obfuscations.  This continues.

Certainly, he was weakened by the 2022 midterm results: most of his prominent handpicked candidates were defeated.  Kari Lake, the Trump-loving candidate for Governor of Arizona, has pursued election denial to the point of insanity.  Mehmet Oz proved to be a mistake in Pennsylvania, and Raphael Warnock triumphed in an otherwise solidly Republican Georgia. Rupert Murdoch bailed on him. His New York Post said it was time to turn to a new generation of leaders, specifically the Trump-adjacent Governor of Florida, Ron De Santis.   Nevertheless, Trump launched his Presidential bid for 2024.   It was regarded as tepid, lacking 2016’s vigour.  His act has become old.

However, what may have finished Trump off is the selection of the new Speaker.  At the time of writing, Kevin McCarthy has lost six ballots.  There are some 20 Falangists within the Republican caucus who will apparently not endorse McCarthy under any circumstances.  I refer to them as Falangists as this designation may be the closest ideological analogue to the present hard right of the GOP: it was a far right movement in Spain that was instinctively anti-liberal, anti-democratic, sympathetic (at least) to fascists and was key in overthrowing Spain’s democratically elected government during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Despite the determination of these extremists, McCarthy’s ego will not permit him to give up the pursuit of power.  After all, the Speaker of the House is third in line to the Presidency. 

Trump endorsed McCarthy.  However the 20 Falangists, who supposedly are Trump’s most loyal acolytes, have decided to ignore their idol.  How this will end is anyone’s guess. Their present favoured candidate is Byron Donalds, who is only on his second term as a representative from Florida. His past, Wikipedia states, is somewhat colourful: “In 1997, Donalds was arrested for marijuana distribution; the charges were dropped as part of a pre-trial diversion program. In 2000, he pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge as part of a scheme to defraud a bank.”

This moment tells us how Trump ends. It’s not when he became too insane for his followers, but rather, too sane.  

It’s painful to say it: from the GOP’s perspective, Trump is right. The Republicans should “take the win”, elect McCarthy Speaker, and start to exercise power and influence. With McCarthy in place, they can launch as many spurious impeachment attempts and investigations of Hunter Biden as they like.  They might even do some damage. 

However, McCarthy wouldn’t give the extremists, who represent less than 10% of his caucus, absolute control, nor should he.  It would create a terrible precedent if a minority could constantly keep their boot on the neck of a Speaker.  Furthermore, McCarthy has no fixed principles or ideas of his own: he will swim with the tide.  This should give the Falangists most of what they want.  They have decided most is not good enough: they want it all.  Trump has suggested, pragmatically, that most is sufficient.  They don’t agree.

Trump was never about detailed policy, but rather, a mood and a style. His base is comprised mainly middle-aged white people who are bewildered by changes to the economy and society.  The economic changes that have occurred since 1970 mean that a factory worker without a college education will find it very difficult to become middle class. This is not how it was in the 1950’s.  The social changes have resulted in far more openness and tolerance towards diversity. Marriage has become much more equal, there is now an awareness (call it “woke”) of historic injustice. 

But what if you were the beneficiary of historic injustice?  What if believing you are superior to say, gay people was a crutch which prevented you from appreciating your own insignificance?  If you felt this way, Trump was your guy; he was a snake oil salesman who told you that it was these other people that made your pay packet smaller and meant you couldn’t say rude words anymore. 

However, once the initial emotional release had expired, there was little to show for it.  There were only two ways forward: admit the mistake or double down.  Enough people admitted the mistake in 2020 to elect Joe Biden.  Plenty of Trump’s supporters doubled down.  Doubling down built on top of doubling down.  Now they intend to burn down the Republican Party as it has hit an organic limit on how far it can double down without repelling mainstream voters.  The Falangists are uncompromising; they simply do not care if this proves to be self destructive.

Take Lauren Boebert, one of the most prominent of the extremists.  She is a representative from Colorado.  She was barely re-elected in the 2022 midterms; yet, her district is solidly Republican.  A mainstream centrist Democrat, Adam Frisch, nearly defeated her: he lost by only a little over 500 votes. Why? While Frisch was an exceptional candidate, her constituents were also fed up with her and her antics.  Did she draw any lessons from this?  No, her return to Congress has been an act of doubling down to the point where she told off Trump (supposedly her “favourite president”) for backing McCarthy.

There was always going to come a point when Trump, the ultimate egoist, had to stop: he wants power, and “his people” were making that ever more difficult to achieve.  The Falangists have no such limits.  Yet they have the energy which helped Trump into power in the first place, and gave him outsized influence in the Republican Party.  This is where Trump ends: where he has to stop, but others do not.  He can only go so far, others don’t care.  He has a somewhat rational, if animal instinct, for self-preservation; the others only live for acclaim by Fox News commentators.  Finally, it may be over for him.  Unfortunately, the “movement” he spawned may carry on. 

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Sketches of the Future

December 7, 2022

US election image

Perhaps it was inevitable that Reverend Warnock would win the Georgia runoff.  Reverend Warnock was by far the superior candidate.  Warnock did not discuss the relative merits of being a vampire or a werewolf on the campaign trail.  He had no stench of hypocrisy.  He did not have the backing of Donald Trump.

Whoever persuaded Trump to stay away from the Georgia runoff did the GOP a service.  It has been forgotten: however, Trump showed disrespect to the state of Georgia after the 2020 election. During that now infamous phone call to the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, he poo poohed the notion that anyone would move back to Georgia.  Anyone who felt the least amount of pride in their state would have been offended. Perhaps they were not angered enough to vote Democratic, but maybe they were sufficiently outraged to stay away from the polls.  This contributed to Warnock and Ossoff’s victories in the January 2021 runoff.  Had Trump come back to Georgia to help Herschel Walker, what was just a victory for the Democrats may have been much more emphatic.

Herschel Walker is an outlier in a state that largely remained Republican. Governor Kemp cruised to re-election victory as did Raffensperger. What Ji made them different? Trump did not endorse them. Indeed, Brian Kemp’s advisor Jay Walker promised a “scorched earth” strategy against a Trump backed challenger in the gubernatorial primary. It worked. It can be argued that Trump’s opposition helped Kemp because it provided distance. Kemp could appear sane and moderate to voters in places like the Atlanta suburbs.

This pattern was largely repeated elsewhere. Look beyond Georgia: Kari Lake, Mehmet Oz, Adam Laxalt, Blake Masters, all endorsed by Trump.  They all lost.  Trump’s advice to Masters was to keep doubling down on election denial, like Kari Lake did.  Mark Kelly defeated Masters convincingly. Kari Lake’s opponent Katie Hobbs is not conventionally charismatic and in the end, eschewed debating Lake. Most political strategists thought this was insane. However it shows how much Trump repels that a candidate who wasn’t there was preferable to one that Trump backed.

The Republicans are now in a terrible bind. Trump has enough support to win the Presidential nomination in 2024, but it is unlikely he can win the Presidential election.  The constituency which nominates the candidate is so out of synch with the wider electorate that they are baking in future failure.

The Democrats should take limited comfort from this. Winning because you are less terrible is not an endorsement for your policies.  Being better is, of course, better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are good or are communicating well.  I feel frequently exasperated by Democratic commentators who reel off lists of legislation passed by Biden and the Democratic congress.   Voters’ eyes glaze over. They see expenditure as a use of their taxation, not as a gift. Unless they feel or see it, it does not register.  No Democratic candidate should mention the  infrastructure bill again. They should take shots of a local road or bridge which was falling into disrepair. Then, they should show the brand new one as a contrast.

Despite these flaws, 2024 sees the Democrats in a good position. Hopefully they will not be complacent. If they are not, the future is likely to unfold this way: first, I suspect De Santis will keep his powder dry and run in 2028. He is young, he can wait: he can gain even more credit by serving out his full second term as governor of Florida, then dip into the fundraiser circuit for a time. Furthermore, by 2028, perhaps the Trump fever will have broken. Given this, it’s highly likely Trump will win the nomination in 2024. Biden will run again. Biden will win because he will talk about the present and future and Trump will go on about his grievances from 2020: he simply cannot help himself. His self-obsession is turning off voters in droves, and key states like Michigan are unlikely to be available to him.

If the GOP focus on investigating Hunter Biden rather than tackling inflation and crime, they will lose the House of Representatives in 2024: again, focusing on the past rather than the present will likely prove lethal.  I believe on present form the Democrats will also hold the Senate in 2024.

Of course, it’s never wise to underestimate contingency.  If the situation in Ukraine turns particularly nasty, or the economy worsens, then Biden is vulnerable, even to Trump.  However Trump is probably the easiest GOP candidate to beat; this highlights the dysfunction in the Republican Party, as the candidate most likely to lose is the one they are most likely to select. 

If the future unfolds in this way, then all focus will shift to 2028.  De Santis will definitely run then; he will probably be tanned, prepared, and relaxed after two full terms and two years of preparing to run.  The Democrats will need to think very carefully about who they can pick to counter him.  

Perhaps we should take another look at Reverend Warnock.  In 2028, his first full term will be coming to an end.  He will have had 8 years in the Senate.  He is eloquent.  As the Guardian newspaper stated: 

“Every candidate needs a story and he has one, telling how his octogenarian mother used her “hands that once picked somebody else’s cotton” to “cast a ballot for her youngest son to be a United States senator”, adding: “Only in America is my story possible.””

He preached at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the same that once had Reverend Martin Luther King at its pulpit.  De Santis may offer more combat and struggle; Reverend Warnock can offer a pastor’s messages of healing and reconciliation.  It is difficult to assess what America will prefer in 6 years time, but at the time of writing, this sounds good and in tune with the national mood.

December 6, 2022 may be more consequential in hindsight.  It could have sealed not just Trump’s fate and the outcome of the 2024 election. It may also have set in motion what happens in 2028, and perhaps beyond.  There is reason to fear, there is a lot of work ahead, but there is reason to be hopeful too.

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The Folly of Wealth

November 22, 2022

I briefly glimpsed how the elite live.  A long time ago, I was the web development manager for a company which published classified ads for boats.  These could be anything from rubber dinghies to large yachts.  Management deemed it important that we present our glossy magazines at a conference of yacht builders and owners.  The gathering was held in Monaco.

My sales colleague was the lead; she was not at all technical, hence, I was invited to come along.  I was there to answer any questions about the website that accompanied the publication.  I ended up carrying a heavy bag full of magazines.

In contrast to most of the attendees, my colleague and I travelled via EasyJet.  We got a taxi from the airport to the principality of Monaco. 

Monaco is an anomaly; it’s an independent state surrounded by France on one side and the sea on the other. It’s known as a playground for the ultra wealthy and for its casinos. It’s also known for Formula 1 racing. There are boutiques featuring clothes and shoes from all the best designers. From what I saw, that was about it. Normal people had to make do with gawping at supercars parked in front of plush hotels, and eating fast food from kiosks. In short, it appeared to be a place for very well off people to flex their wealth and for the rest of us to look at it.

My colleague and I eventually made it to the exhibition.  From the start, it was clear that we had entered a completely different world.  I recall a stand manned by Dassault, the French aerospace manufacturer.  They had colour, wood, and leather samples on display for the interiors of private jets.  A video in the background showed a Dassault private jet flying towards the horizon above clouds that looked like massed cotton buds.  

My colleague and I discovered that rival publications were there. We felt outclassed. Unlike ours, they came in a variety of languages including Russian and Mandarin Chinese. We distributed what we could, had a break to get a soft drink, then scuttled back to the airport and took the first flight home.

The exhibition was a look into a world where someone can see a stand selling a private jet and think, “Yes, I’d like one of those,” write a cheque and have one delivered. However, over ten years after this experience, it seems the ultra wealthy now live in a stratosphere that floats even higher: I doubt they would bother to go to an exhibition, Dassault would perhaps go visit them.

But what is the point?  No matter how wealthy someone is, an individual has only one body.  There are limits to the number of fine meals one can eat, expensive wines one can drink, homes that one can possess and actually live in, beds in which one can sleep.  The amount of luxury that it is possible to consume or appreciate does have definite barriers.  And yet, the ultra wealthy have far more than this.

For the purposes of comparison, Elon Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter. This is sufficient to buy the Washington Commanders American football team nearly 8 times over. He could, theoretically, have bought a number of football teams and created a league of his own. This might have been more profitable, if not more fun.

That said, even if he loses his Twitter investment and has “just a few” billion left, he simply will not feel this loss in terms of his day to day existence. His pride may be damaged, but it won’t change the quality of his living conditions. He has more money that he and his reported ten children can spend in their lifetimes. Musk may have more than his ten children’s descendants can spend. He will never be able to appreciate or realise his wealth except as an abstraction.

There are ways out of the trap; philanthropy is one of the most positive. Andrew Carnegie made a great deal of money and was quite ruthless. However, he did build Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Mellon University is one of the finest in the country. Bill Gates has donated substantial sums via his foundation. If you have more wealth than you can possibly use, then why not use it to better the world around you? At least one’s reputation may grow in stature.

However, some appear to go for idle amusements.  Musk fits into this category.  He is treating Twitter as some sort of personal playground as opposed to a vital utility despite proclaiming its necessity for public discourse.  Some want power. The Koch brothers and their promotion of far-libertarian ideas are an example.  Some find that appetite increases with the eating and continue to build fortunes which are simply no use to them.

Meanwhile, we pay a price for this aggregating inequality. The very wealthy can keep growing their fortunes very easily. If they stick their assets into an index-linked fund, they need not actively intervene in their investments.  Yet wages for most people have stagnated; the standard of living in the United Kingdom is in active decline.  The only people who appear to be able to make a fortune are those who have one already.  

Viewed through this prism, current economic policies, by and large, are wrong. They are based on the notion that the wealthy, if given greater economic power, will invest more in businesses which will stimulate employment and growth. However, the wealthy don’t need to actively invest. Furthermore, most employment in Western economies comes via small and medium sized enterprises. The wealthy tend not to start these firms. Rather, those who have limited access to capital tend to be their initiators.

Small firms usually sustain themselves by appealing to those who have a desire to spend: individuals who require goods and services. Because of the limitation of any one person’s needs, the place to look for customers tends to be among those who aren’t wealthy. Thus, paradoxically, the ultra wealthy don’t necessarily create economic growth and widespread prosperity. Rather, it is via a more even distribution of wealth, i.e. equity, that best outcomes for the many can be achieved.

Although the logic applied here is based upon realistic market conditions, no doubt some would describe it as “radical”, even “socialist”. So be it. However, these ideas may also be “necessary”.

Political systems rely on promises. Some promise order, some offer prosperity, some pledge both. Western democracy has long had the following compact: work hard, and your children will be better off than you are. But what happens if that promise proves to be untrue? In the case of right wing populism, current fallacies stay in place. Minorities receive the blame for the contract no longer being valid. This populism has proven to be so enduring partially because it also contains the thrill of transgression, being able to say and do hostile and offensive things as if it were a natural right.

Unfortunately, the re-emergence of Donald Trump and the continued success of figures like Marine Le Pen suggest that society is not yet willing to face its problems directly.  Rather, it is willing to cater to the absurdity of someone buying a private jet or multiple private jets with a choice of interiors as a matter of mere personal choice, as rather than a symptom that something may be wrong.  If we don’t diagnose the illness properly, then we will never arrive at a cure.  Until we arrive at a cure, we will all stay sick. 

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Life with A

November 21, 2022

For years, I didn’t think of myself as being autistic: l just thought I was odd or perhaps, eccentric. Small talk and sociability, which came easily to others, was hard work for me. I would engage in conversation but find I could only discuss intellectual topics like politics. The easy, breezy chatter which was readily available to the rest of humanity seemed to be a gift which I did not possess. I recall being at many parties and uniformly feeling awkward: people raised glasses, chatted, laughed, smiled, and toasted. There I was in the corner of the room, feeling excluded from the flow of conversation, cut off, blockaded.

I find being around other people draining; however, this used to indicate to me that I am just an introvert.  My preference is for quiet spaces, quiet music, quiet pursuits.  I do not have feet that itch to go into the centre of a town unless there is a bookstore or a classical music concert involved. Even then, I am often reluctant to go.

At times, I find interactions with others incredibly difficult. If a situation is completely illogical, it’s tough for me to hide how disconcerted I feel; I have had to learn how to hide my emotions and I am not always successful. Complex emotional scenarios, like those in romantic relationships, often leave me bewildered. Whenever people get angry with me, I find it deeply threatening. I try to avoid confrontations. I do my best to go through checklists of things to do in order to avoid people getting angry at me. I have often felt like a burden on others, as if their happiness hinges on my avoiding dumb mistakes, and the pivot often breaks. There is a disconnect: because I am educated and well read, there is an odd assumption that somehow I should always know better.

Thus the world is a confusing, often terrifying place. I find being in my home office with my books, my cats, my CDs and vinyl records is my sole respite. If another person steps into my office, I feel like my sanctuary has been invaded.

Nevertheless, I don’t believe I am a misanthrope. I mean well. I do my best to be kind. I do my best to cope. This often requires a great deal of effort. I have lived like this for as long as I can remember.

At the suggestion of others, I have tried a variety of “remedies” for my condition: for example, I’ve taken anti-depressants. The drugs only put a floor under my anxiety, and not a particularly strong one. The floorboards were often creaking. Eventually, I stopped taking them and apart from once hallucinating that my cat was a wolf, it was a largely trouble free detox. I can’t say that losing the “floor” was particularly harmful, nor was it beneficial.

I sought counselling. During one session I filled out a questionnaire. Lo and behold, it’s highly likely that I have some form of Aspergers. I am apparently high functioning: this prognosis is based upon my ability to deal with social situations, even though it doesn’t come naturally to me. I even ran for office for three times; probably because there was a purpose in my communications, I found it relatively straightforward to talk to others in that situation. However, my inclination is towards the quiet of open spaces and to get as much peace as I can possibly get.

The world is not geared for someone like me.  I am aware that to do anything in life, you have to “put yourself out there”.  We are pelted with the incessant din of idle chatter. I am certain this is challenging for anyone.  For me, however, it requires an additional layer of determination: I don’t even like using the telephone.

The mismatch between how I am and how the world works sometimes leads to darker thoughts. I recently had a skin blemish which I thought might be cancerous: it was not, but I had to ask myself if it was, how would I feel? If I am really honest, abandoning the struggle that life represents sometimes seems ideal. I recall the anger and upset of others in the face of my incomprehension; there is a part of me that wants to shrink back into the tightest corner to avoid any blowback. It’s perhaps natural to have the desire to disappear.

Matters become even more difficult when those around me don’t understand my motivations.  I want to keep saying, “I am trying.  Please, I don’t mean any offence to you or to anyone.  Can you hear me?”  I am rarely heard. 

I am frequently tired.  I keep myself going with coffee.  Animals are also a source of comfort because they understand with just one gesture or word that one means no harm.  Love on their part is uncomplicated and pure; it’s easy to express it in return.

But this is living with “A”, at least it is as how I define it. Perhaps others have better support structures. Maybe others find help more available: to get a referral from the NHS for a therapist would take years. Apparently Elon Musk is “on the spectrum” too; if so, I don’t recognise it. I worry about offending people; he apparently doesn’t care. I worry about making mistakes, he apparently revels in them. If he too is living with “A”, he clearly feels that money shields him from consequences; he does not have the impulse to care or improve. No one said that having “A” as a constant companion made one a nice person, I suppose.

I have not written this piece to inspire sympathy or pity. Despite my obvious hangups, I have achieved much in life. As previously stated, I ran for office. I have channeled my energies into academic and literary pursuits. When I am focused on a piece of work, I can stick with it for a long time without losing concentration. In a way, the “A” can be a strength.

There are comforts too; when my dog Jenny Penny, a bright-eyed long haired dachshund, climbs onto the sofa beside me and falls asleep, I smile. I hope, however, that anyone who has someone like me in their lives can try to understand that this individual is coping, not thriving, feeling under threat, not comfortable. Maybe, just maybe, that awareness will lead to a bit more kindness.

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Tech Bros, Twitter, and Toxicity

November 18, 2022

I am old enough to remember the dot com boom. It was like the Palaeolithic Era. It was well before the “tech bros” had evolved, though the Neanderthal versions were there. At the time, I worked for a start up that was attempting to turn itself into a major corporation. The original owner was still around, the original programmer held sway. Documentation and structured working processes were coming in, but they grated against a firm that operated on the basis of intuition and personality.

The culture was often fun but it was also toxic. The teams competed to see who would come in the earliest, stay the latest, drink the most. I wasn’t particularly well paid, but I recall using my limited cash to pay for many late night sessions in London pubs, consuming pints of dark ale. Often, the teams would go to a cafe the next day that was run by a couple from Kazakhstan who served up fried eggs, bacon, and fried bread. I still recall the heavy scent of warm, cheap vegetable oil emanating from the kitchen.

The behaviour was just as destructive as the long hours and the diet. Senior managers began relationships with personal assistants. Alcohol fuelled many instances of post-coital regret. Hurt feelings, perhaps irreparable in some instances, were a result.

Looking back, I see how the tangled weeds of toxic masculinity took root then. In order to impress the owner, one had to show dedication to the work, but the work itself had to be presented with a total confidence that is unwarranted and dangerous in technology – always something can go wrong. Perhaps, the subconscious knowledge that something could blow up was blotted out with alcohol and the bacchanals that occurred nearly every evening. The inappropriate relationships were perhaps the response of drowning people; at the same time, it kept the testosterone levels high.

It ended. The owner sold his firm to a larger, more established competitor. He pocketed millions and walked away. All the practices which had made everything seem like it was poised on the edge of a volcano, were discontinued. Many people, including my team, were made redundant. I left of my own accord. I never worked in such an environment again.

One would have hoped that we would have learned something from this period; my firm was not alone in having this peculiar culture. Staff from other technology firms frequented the same watering holes. Reports of their behaviour were no better than ours. As painful as it was to walk away from a job that I was doing well despite the circumstances, I breathed a sigh of relief: at least the professional era, as I thought of it then, would lead to greater calm and stability. Code would be efficient. Hardware would be appropriate to the task. Decisions would be made on the basis of information rather than instinct.

My hopes have been completely dashed. If there is a symbol of our age, it is the unqualified, uninformed (invariably white) man who “shoots from the hip”; unlike the dot commers of my time, they lack the introspection and inherent doubt to feel any fragility. Rather, they regard offence and destruction as a positive outcome.

Take Elon Musk. He has achieved great things: however, I wonder how much of his “greatness” was facilitated by economic confidence. His father was co-owner of an emerald mine. Having said this, Starlink is a great achievement and is helping Ukraine in its war against Russia.

And yet, he decided to spend $44 billion to acquire Twitter. No sane valuation provided evidence that this was a good idea. Musk has carelessly fired a lot of staff. He has gone onto his platform and pursued users demanding $8 for a premium account. He created a programme that allowed unverified users to look like verified ones. The results have been chaos: an account impersonating Eli Lilly suggested insulin would be free. We were reminded how critical Twitter is for companies to market their news. The stock market instantly took fright and Eli Lilly lost a substantial chunk of its valuation before the matter was cleared up. Lockheed Martin, Chiquita Bananas were all similarly affected.

Musk did not pause: rather, he told his staff he wanted them to be “hardcore” and demanded they come into the office despite Twitter having had a home-based working policy hitherto. It appears this was another trigger for mass resignations. Musk appears to have few, if any regrets. After all, he may have done it for the “lolz” and “owning” people. Neither of these fill a bank account, ensure a business is successful, and add utility of any kind to society.

We see variants of this behaviour across politics and industry. Sometimes they are satirised: the British comedian Josh Berry created “Rafe Hubris”, a PR consultant and “early stage tech investor” who offers advice to Conservative politicians. All of his counsel is bad and completely lacking in self awareness. “Hubris” is notable for wearing red trousers, talking in a plummy accent, and having zero doubt.

Perhaps the ultimate expression of this whole “tech bros” culture is Donald Trump. He says whatever pops into his head, no matter how untrue, self-serving and self-destructive. He wants to “own” his opponent, he is perhaps doing it part for the “lolz” and again, has zero conscience about the lives wrecked, the people tricked, the destruction wrought. His followers perhaps wish they could be just as liberated from the qualities of self-restraint and responsibility; however, these qualities are what define a civilised society.

I am a straight, white man. Despite this background, I find the pursuit of “lolz” and “owning” to be futile, nonsensical, and hurtful. Musk may be laughing into his mug of whatever he’s drinking, but a lot of people depend on Twitter to find accurate information, to market their goods and services, and interact with their friends. His former employees sunk their talents into its progress; they now have to worry about how they are going to pay their mortgages and finding jobs in a tech sector that has recently been affected by mass layoffs.

However, Elon is now able to tell whomever that it was a great ride. He can boast that he offended a lot of people, what a laugh it was, and yeah, he’s still richer than God and Donald Trump is knocking on his door. Should he let him back on? Yeah, Musk might say, just for the lolz. It doesn’t matter if democracy is collapsed as a result. And here we arrive at the central proposition of the tech bros: whatever they want, whenever they want it, supersedes any other consideration. If it amuses them, it should be done.

I am old. The phrase “barbarians at the gate” has been used many times in my lifetime. We perhaps should have worried less about them being outside our enclosure, than them rising within our institutions. And if our institutions are so weak as to not produce sufficient “antibodies” to repel them, what good are they?

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The Unbearable Brezhnevianess of Putin

April 2, 2022

Picture the following scenario: a leader of Russia has been in situ for circa two decades.  He is credited with leveraging higher oil prices into increased living standards for his people.  This leader has clamped down, stamping out any green shoots of dissent.  Critics of the regime are forced to go abroad or languish in the prison system.  Politics are ossified; this is presented as stability.  An American observer likens this leader’s regime to Tammany Hall and refers to the system he has built as “boss-ism” with the leader at the apex of the pyramid. 

America has been shaken by internal dissension after a Republican President left office under a cloud. A long-term conflict has ended in what has been perceived as a defeat. A recently elected Democrat President is viewed as somewhat weak.  It’s a time of high inflation.  This Russian leader thinks he and his ideology is winning.  At this moment, the Russian leader in question decides to institute regime change in a neighbour to make it more to his liking. What follows is a war that earns international opprobrium and begins an unwinnable conflict against a foe whose populace hates the Russians with a passion.

These events, which so well align to the present day, describes the position of the Soviet Union during the 1970s under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev.

A Forgotten Time

The Brezhnev epoch may be the most under-studied episode in Russian history.  It’s relatively straightforward to get biographies of Lenin.  Works about Stalin exist in abundance.  Khrushchev was the subject of a magisterial biography by William Taubman.  Gorbachev is also well represented.  However, given that Brezhnev oversaw the USSR for 18 years, it seems odd that there is so little published about him.  The comparison of Brezhnev to Tammany Hall politicians came from the American writer John Dornberg in his 1974 tome.  Another prominent biography of the man in English (“Brezhnev: the Making of a Statesman”) wasn’t released until 2021.

Perhaps scholars are repelled by the man’s pomposity: he awarded himself the Hero of the Soviet Union medal four times.  He was similarly generous towards himself with awards of the Order of Lenin and the Order of the October Revolution. In total, he had 114 medals.

Perhaps he has been dismissed because he represented a time of ossification: few things symbolised this “set in aspic” quality better than the Lada car.  Based on the Fiat 124, which was first introduced in 1966, the Lada changed only marginally over time.  A 1980’s Muscovite was forced to drive a vehicle that belonged to two decades before.

Perhaps he also has been forgotten because of his policy failures: he set in train the war in Afghanistan, which shed the blood of Soviet youth for no good end.  It should have embedded a lesson in Russia’s collective consciousness: don’t invade a country full of people who hate you, no matter how small and less powerful they may seem.

Maybe he also has been memory-holed because he and his regime created a culture that led to catastrophes like the Chernobyl disaster: it was a nervous, fragile order that prioritised comfortable lies, such as about the safety of RBMK nuclear reactors, over difficult truths.  Yes, there were problems with the design of the reactor at Chernobyl, the targets of the Five-Year Plan were a nonsense, and falsehoods had become endemic.  Trying to untangle the lies, as Gorbachev did, was a contributing factor to the Soviet Union’s collapse.

And now Putin

If we look at Putin today, it’s not difficult to see how he has emulated Brezhnev, though this is likely unconscious on his part.  He too is afflicted with self-love to an unhealthy degree: witness his willingness to be pictured with his shirt off.  Under his reign, the pop group “Poyushchie vmeste” released a song called “A Man like Putin”, a shameless cult-of-personality work.

Putin let Russia ossify, perhaps on purpose.  For example, despite Russia having many fine scientific minds, he has not been able to leverage brainpower into wealth.  There is no Russian equivalent to IBM or Apple.  Its closest equivalent to Facebook, VK, was taken over by the state in December 2021 and its CEO was forced to step down.

Putin may regard creativity as dangerous: it says much that the recent wave of Russians that have left the country are likely among its most skilled.  The BBC reported on March 13 that some 200,000 have fled, including “tech industry professionals who can work remotely”.  Creativity, however, is the main means by which developed countries create growth.

Furthermore, the Ukraine invasion has shown up the comfortable lies that presently surround him: he believed that it would be a blitzkrieg and Ukraine, led by a “comedian” president would crumble.  However, Putin’s army was less strong than it appeared: it has been reported the Russian Army’s vehicles are not well maintained, conscripts were sent into battle without knowing why, the column outside Kyiv stalled, then was strafed, and punished by the superior technology given to the Ukrainians.  The “comedian” president turned out to be, as one Ukrainian social media video stated, an “Iron Joker”.

Look at Putin again: see him seated at his overly large tables, his face puffed out for reasons which can only be speculated (Botox? Steroids?), his fearful cabinet, hesitant and frightened to contradict him.  Like Brezhnev, Putin’s kingdom rests on brittle glass.  Like Brezhnev, he has miscalculated, and he may be suffering from a lack of accurate information. The supply of falsehoods may buy the advisors another day out of prison, but only prolongs the agony.

The End

Brezhnev’s term ended because his body failed him: by the end of the 1970’s, it was clear he had suffered a series of strokes.  According to the British historian Dominic Sandbrook, resuscitation equipment was kept with him to keep him going perhaps longer than he would have otherwise.

How will Putin fall?  There is speculation that he has Parkinson’s; however, this is mere conjecture.  Perhaps he will be “retired” in much the same way Khrushchev was in 1964: the Politburo in effect fired him, and Khrushchev was subsequently kept out of the public eye, dying in 1971. 

Perhaps Putin’s departure from office will be more dramatic; like Brezhnev, he has set in motion the same elements that eventually caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Perhaps the most vital presage of eventual ruin is the lack of truth: a well-informed regime would attack neither Afghanistan nor Ukraine, it would not prioritise lies.  Lies have a way of collapsing in a dramatic fashion, as they did at the end of the Soviet period.  It is merely a question of when they crumble, not if.

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The Age of Fetishist Disavowal

August 1, 2020

Every so often, I get emails from America which give me an insight into what is going on in the minds of Trump supporters. The latest in this series is entitled “Rowboat for You”.

The email’s title is based upon an old parable in which a someone trapped by a flood is passed by a series of rowboats. The protagonist refuses them, saying God will save him. He eventually drowns, and then in the afterlife asks God why He never came. God replies that He sent those rowboats, what did the man want?

This long and rather tediously written screed suggests that Trump is the “rowboat” in this instance. It suggests that he is the only life preserver which will help America float against the tide of radical leftism which will destroy the country. I had difficulty picturing Biden in a Che Guevara pose, but nevertheless, this was the stance the author of this email was taking. Biden, and those around him, represent a fundamental threat to America’s way of life and its “Judeo-Christian Values”. This election, apparently, is America’s last chance to save itself. I have heard this before: I heard it in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and so on. Substitute “Bill Clinton” or “Barack Obama” for “Biden” and it reads much the same.

The author initially admits that Trump makes him cringe. He confesses that Trump often says daft things. However, he also states that Trump is a “fighter” and a “patriot”. It then goes on to denounce the virtue of niceness, saying that Romney, Paul Ryan, et al were “nice” and “gentlemanly” and it didn’t get them anywhere. It even suggests that God isn’t always nice, look at World War 2. We needed “vicious SOBs” like George Patton to win it, apparently. Indeed, Trump is not just a “rowboat”, he is a “battleship”.

I am certain that this email circulated to a mainly white, middle class and definitely male audience. I am sure that many were nodding their heads in agreement with the text. They say to themselves: why, life isn’t nice. Trump is coarse, but he represents my values. We need to take the lifeboat and give him a second term; maybe the Democrats will wake up and become Republicans. Make America Great Again, despite it being brought low by the man in charge and his party.

This more than delusional email is perhaps the most egregious recent example of what’s called “Fetishist Disavowal” – a state which be summarised by saying, “I know very well but”. I know very well that Trump is crude and awful and a dreadful human being and not an avatar of Christian values, but he is the rowboat. Or battleship. He will protect my way of life, they say to themselves.

As this example suggests, Fetishist Disavowal is a cop out, an excuse. Previous political examples include Brexit. Many MPs know the truth, it will hurt the economy, damage Britain’s prospects and its standing in the world. I know very well, but….I have to do what Nigel Farage says because Brexit supporters might vote against me. Or worse.

The release from the coronavirus lockdown is another example. We know very well that a premature ending of lockdown will kill people, but….we have to re-open the economy. Or we have to send children back to school. Or these people would die anyway due to co-morbidities. Anything, just so we don’t actually have to look at the fact that an economy that can’t adjust to a global pandemic and allow lives to be saved is one that is deeply flawed.

The failure to tackle climate change is also another example. We know very well that climate change is the biggest issue facing the planet, but…we don’t want to increase unemployment. We don’t want to face into the costs of decarbonising the economy. We don’t want stop eating meat. We would rather be deluded than have a future.

If there is a commonality between all these examples, it is its reliance on conspiracy theorists, reality deniers, and keyboard warriors with Caps Lock firmly stuck in the “On” position to spread them. More perniciously and significantly, it offers a reason not to do what is right.

Yes, the more intellectually stunted may not know very well; but there is a significant portion which does know better. However, there is always that “but”. It is a very big “but” indeed: it allows the strictest of fundamentalist Christians to justify to themselves voting for a serial adulterer who had an affair with a porn star, or grants them excuses for continuing to destroy God’s good Earth.

Trump is not some sort of “battleship” or “rowboat”. He is not a patriot; as his current and former wives can attest, his only loyalty is to himself. Everything else is secondary. He is also not some sort of fighter just because he is rude to journalists. When he was called to serve his country, he developed bone spurs. He cannot withstand the tiniest pinpricks to his ego; he lashes out at anyone who dares suggest that he is doing anything other than winning or is anything less than superb. He even went so far as to denounce Fox News for questioning him recently, and expressed his sadness that Roger Ailes, a serial sex abuser, was no longer running the channel.

Trump’s Cabinet, full of intellectual pygmies unable to do anything other than flatter and abase themselves, is testament to his weakness. The author of the email should know this. It would not take much examination to see it. He may know very well, but….

I am not suggesting enthusiasm for Joe Biden is warranted. I’ve stated this election is a choice between “Argh” and “Meh”. Having said that, it is also a decision about whether or not we want to continue to indulge in fetishist disavowal. We know very well but…can we not linger in dreams longer, in which science is unimportant, and reality can’t touch us? The problem is, the dawn always comes, and with it, reality. We can either face into it, or be crushed by it once we can hide from it no longer.

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Val or Tammy

June 13, 2020

I used to work in political communications; I was a volunteer. I wrote articles, campaigns, press releases, even an MP’s Maiden Speech. I took a step back from that in recent years, but nevertheless, I am still keenly interested in it. I have stood for the Labour Party as a candidate; by and large, I support the Democrats in America. The frustration both parties have given me is similar to watching a beloved relative consistently having accidents because they weren’t watching where they were going.

I was frustrated with the Labour campaign in 2019, because there were too many policy pronouncements for the voters to absorb. It contrasted poorly with the simplicity of the Tory message of “Get Brexit Done”. The Tory message was a lie, of course, but it was memorable. The Tories tapped into the country’s boredom and frustration with the Brexit process. It worked. Certainly, reality has proven to be far more messy, but that’s a worry that the Conservatives can postpone until 2024.

From afar, I see the Democrats standing on the end of the proverbial rake in the yard and getting whacked in the face by the handle. The ads from the Democrats so far are far less effective than those put out by never-Trump Republicans like those at the Lincoln Project. The Lincoln Project has been scoring direct hits, showing Trump’s alignment to symbols of the racist Confederacy, and how far he is from the ideal President. Some ads contrast Trump to Lincoln and General Mattis: Trump looks like a self-involved, incoherent psychopath in comparison. I fully expect the Lincoln Project to keep drawing blood. But where are the Democrats?

I suggest that Biden needs to be more the President than the President is. There have been some signs of this: the serious speeches, the calls for unity, even standing at a podium with American flags, all suggest that he is a return to respectability and sanity. However, he will need to step this up; in my opinion, he should assemble a “Shadow Cabinet”, appoint people who will be ready to take charge from the moment he becomes President. These appointments could become an opportunity for him to contrast positively to the inept advisors around Trump.

There is one choice that Biden must make soon: he has to pick a running mate. Indications presently are that he will pick Senator Kamala Harris of California. I believe this could be an unforced error.

I will begin by stating that I like Senator Harris. I think she has a highly engaging personality and has strong credentials. However, she is from California; this is a state that Biden has in his column anyway. Furthermore, “California” is likely to be a millstone hung around the neck of any candidate who is going to the Midwest. With Pence in tow, Trump has someone from that area to counter.

Given this, I believe that Biden has two potential choices: Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Senator Duckworth was in the Army Reserve; she served as a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. She had both her legs blown off when her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. When she retired from the Illinois National Guard in 2014, she had the rank of lieutenant colonel. Her education credentials are impressive: she has a PhD in Human Services from Capella University which she earned in 2015. Among other things, she was honoured by the Daughters of the American Revolution; her father’s lineage goes all the way back to that time.

It would be incredibly difficult for Trump and Pence to take the line of “duty, honour, country” with Lt. Col. Duckworth as the VP. Pence would look like a shadow of a patriot compared to Duckworth’s sacrifice, he doesn’t nearly have her credentials. It’s highly likely she would make mincemeat out of him on the debate stage. It would be a move to wrap the Democratic ticket in the Star Spangled Banner. One of the few institutions that inspires any trust any longer is the military; Duckworth has served, Trump and Pence did not. Who knows what it is like to sacrifice for the country? Furthermore, Duckworth is Midwestern and thus the “coastal elite” label in her case makes no sense.

An alternative candidate, who apparently is already being vetted, is Rep. Val Demings of Florida. Rep. Demings has not been in Congress for long: she only began there in 2017. Prior to this, she was the Police Chief of Orlando, Florida. She has served in the police for 27 years. It is this service which may very well be suited to our present day. If there is someone whom Biden could tap immediately to oversee police reform, it would be her. She could put forward detailed policy proposals; these would be far more informed by practical experience than anything Trump and Pence have to offer. Again, I believe she would make mincemeat of Pence, particularly when discussing the current issues that trouble the nation. Furthermore, Demings is from Florida: while this is also Trump’s present home state, Demings may stimulate more Floridians to come out and vote Democratic.

Again, suggesting these two candidates is no slight on any others. Stacey Abrams did the near impossible in Georgia. Kamala Harris is engaging, bright and has a great future in politics. Both should be included in a Biden Administration; perhaps both should be offered positions in a Biden “Shadow Cabinet”.

However, campaigns are like prolonged conflicts; you try to bring to bear your strengths against your opponents weaknesses. Trump’s main weakness is simple: he is a phony. He has hugged the flag but has never sacrificed for it. He appeals to patriotism but has never done anything that doesn’t indicate love for himself first. He says “America First” but the biggest gainers from his malign reign have been America’s enemies. Biden can use the talents within his party to highlight that Trump is a fake in every respect. I hope for the sake of the world that he does so.

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Me And My Blog

Picture of meI'm a Doctor of both Creative Writing and Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering, a novelist, a technologist, and still an amateur in much else.

By the Blog Author