The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

The Real Malcolm Stands Up

When I look at the state of the world today, with Trump being Trump, low-level, nasty little wars burning all over the Middle East and North Africa, crazy fluctuations in global resource and commodity prices, various crises playing out in Europe, the US, and even here in quiet little Australia, the first thing which occurs to me, obviously, is that something urgently needs to be done about the way we administrate foreign workers and citizenship.

How fortunate, then, that we have a government and a Prime Minister so well versed in the arcane business of government. Weaker minds might think that our most urgent priorities might be the future-proofing of our economy, defence, and foreign policy in the face of a rapidly changing world, but this would obviously be foolish and reactionary. What’s really needed, here, is for the government to embark on six weeks of consultation about what constitutes ‘Australian values’, having first declared to the nation what they are.

Truly, we are blessed to have leaders who so intimately understand the true nature of government. Who maintain such a tight grip on what’s actually important and relevant. And it’s not just our federal pollies who display such sagacity. Even at state level, we see the same fearless integrity at work, with a government so focussed on essentials that in the face of spiralling gun and drug crime, and record voter disaffection, they have bravely chosen to spend their time dropping the Safe Schools program.

Do you remember those heady days when Tony Abbott was rolled, countries like Taiwan (Taiwan!) were in a position to find our politics laughable, and myriad Australians were calling for the “real Malcolm Turnbull” to stand up? Well, as it turns out, he was planted foursquare on his tap dancing little footsies even then. His true stature as a leader has been apparent from the very beginning, and we should be pleased and grateful for his perspicacity and foresight. Because the real Malcolm Turnbull has now proven himself to be intimately familiar with what is important in Australian politics. Some idiots might think that the real business of government is the balancing of national, public, and commercial interests as part of a process of… well, of governing the country. But no, Malcolm and his right wing puppeteers know the score. They know that the essence of government in this country is to wall oneself off from the real issues of the day and play out petty factional fights in the great forum of the nation, whilst simultaneously leaning loudly in whichever direction one thinks the wind is blowing by making nakedly populist announcements about nothing very much at all.

I, for one, am overjoyed that this government has so nobly stuck to its guns and decided to continue the age-old Australian tradition of picking on immigrants in order to gain political brownie points. It shows a real respect for core Australian political values, and reveals, unequivocally, the intelligent, informed, and generally just wonderful state of our public discourse. Tony Abbott in a Malcolm suit is exactly the hero our country needs.

Let’s All Play Trump’s MOAB Propaganda Game

And the hits just keep on coming. I woke up this morning to a string of news articles about the use of the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ (MOAB) in Afghanistan. I suppose that’s newsworthy. What isn’t, however, is the assertion made by the Trump administration that this represents a message to the world about uptick in operational tempo. It doesn’t.

Basically, the use of this ordnance is governed by target type. The actual signal of operational uptick in this theatre would be (slightly) increased troop deployments, executive requests for UOF options and the thickening atmosphere of bull faeces gathering around White House press briefings (if that’s even possible). All of which have been wildly misreported and co-opted into various conspiracy theories over the past few weeks, proving definitively that the world’s public continues to get steadily worse at the fairly simple process of extrapolating real events from hard and obvious indicators.

What we’re looking at isn’t a sign of some firming of inherent resolve, or whatever tragic name it’s been given this week, but rather the usual political exploitation of a fait accomplis. The metamorphosis of necessity into virtue. The making of hay in conditions of solar disambiguity. A cheap, political organ grinder trick, in short.

But yes, by all means, let us jump on our various bandwagons and basically do the Trump administration’s work for them, in the name of resisting it. I like a bit of irony sauce with my Good Friday steak and chips.

Let’s All Panic About North Korea 

You know you want to. It’s a massive amount of fun, and distracts us from the mendacity central to our own stale, irrelevant internal politics.
It occurs to me, however, that some people, unaware of its status as a sort of national sport for the western global community, might be genuinely anxious about what’s going on ‘out there’. With this in mind, here’s a quick assessment of a situation which, quite frankly, is not so much a recipe for anxiety as it is for boredom.

North Korea’s nuclear tests and other acts of aggression serve a multitude of purposes. Sure, it’s generally agreed that it is genuinely working towards becoming a nuclear power, but questions have to be asked about why it chooses to do so so publicly. A big element of this is domestic consumption. One of the major pillars of the regime’s justification of its own legitimacy is the narrative of plucky little country beset by enemies – actions like this are presented at home as measures taken to protect its people. Sound familiar? It should.

But by far the most significant aspect has to do with the regime’s isolation. As far as I know, the only means of communication with North Korea involve using China as an intermediary, or, alternatively, employing one of a handful of shady, largely non-government back channels. This isn’t ideal, and also makes it very difficult for North Korea to get anyone’s attention except through increasingly loony behaviour designed to force western engagement. Some masterly articles have been written about the potential for this policy to fall victim to entropic returns, and the implications of such a fate, and I acknowledge that this is cause for deep and genuine concern.

The thing is, the current situation simply doesn’t argue for such an interpretation. Far from entropic return, the mere threat of a test has propelled the regime into the front and centre position on the US administration’s priority list. The NK government must be in hog heaven, not having received this much propaganda friendly attention since they sunk that South Korean patrol boat.

It’s odd to me that so much attention is being focussed on troop and naval movements. As I understand it, it’s very rare not to find US naval assets IVO the Korean peninsula. The fact of these movements being announced is almost certainly for domestic consumption on the US administration’s part, and the movement of Chinese troops to the border, if it’s actually happened, is a natural reaction to the American movement.

What we’re looking at isn’t necessarily the start of some apocalyptic showdown, but opening moves in a jaded, long familiar game, the only real spice being the heavy, mumble-mouthed hand of a new player. This isn’t to say that idiot in chief Trump definitely won’t corner himself by doing or saying something idiotic, thereby precipitating a real crisis, but right now we’re basically in the yawn a minute state known as ‘ops normal’.

Of course, all of the above lacks entertainment value, so by all means head over to the other publications I write for, and enjoy the chills and thrills of warnings of doomsday which I and others of my ilk provide in order to pay our rent.

Syria Strike And The Trump Effect

Syria Strikes

It’s been an amazing experience, watching the world’s reaction to Trump’s recent strike on the Al Shayrat airbase in Syria. Rarely before has there been an opportunity to observe so many different conspiracy theories being formed in real time, and remarkably rapid real time at that. According to the various left and right wing rags which currently seem to pass for news media, Trump has variously conducted this strike in collusion with Russia and Syria for reasons which aren’t immediately clear, in collusion with Raytheon in order to raise their share price, in collusion with his own press office in order to raise his approval ratings… and this is even before we get to the Alex Jones end of the spectrum.

What’s amazing about this is that quite a bit of this kind of idiocy is coming from the mainstream media. While it’s axiomatic that any media will always make a dog’s breakfast out of any military story, it’s rarely been done to this extent. While I understand that reality isn’t nearly as entertaining as the hysterical witterings of partisan screamsheets, I do feel it’s probably important on some level, so let’s break down both what’s happened and what’s likely to happen.

BACKGROUND OF THE STRIKE

Very few media outlets spent any time at all avoiding the incorrect assumption that this was the first major chemical strike of the Syrian civil war. As such, it became difficult to see that there was any real background to the strike, as it seems to serve the turn of  sensationalist reporting to present this action as random and bizarre. A full transcript of Tillerson and McMaster explaining the rationale behind the action can be found here. Even if you don’t believe a word they say, it makes sense that even blatant lies coming from the White House are going to bear some relation to the truth, even if that relationship is purely inverse.

For those of you who can’t be bothered reading lots of stuff in order to answer questions, I’ll provide a quick summary here. Previous chemical attacks had gone unpunished by the Obama administration (despite Obama’s efforts to get congressional approval for a near identical strike). This appears to have emboldened Assad, who stepped up his campaign of terrorising civilians in rebel held areas in order to aid his campaign. Whether this was a miscalculation, or was business as usual, this provided the Trump administration with the necessary pretext to signal their marked difference in approach. The official narrative from Trump is that he was watching television, had an attack of the feels, and called for options from the Joint Chiefs. This is worryingly plausible, given what we know about Trump, but there are some important factors to consider before we all retire to our bunkers.

The strike itself was perfect and copybook arms-length intervention. Not only was an attempt made to pre-establish a legal justification (Trump’s statements heavily hinted at collective self defence being the element in question), the strike itself was strictly, fussily in line with principles of proportionality, limitation, and targeting. Many outlets rightly pointed out that this strike looked to have been prepared months or even years in advance. This makes sense – an action like this would have been on the books as an option since the beginning of the conflict, with only the GPS co-ordinates wanting for completion.

EXECUTION OF THE STRIKE

Going further on the legal theme, much hay has been made of the fact that Syrian and Russian troops were informed of the impending action. This has been used as ‘evidence’ of collusion with Russia, Syria, China, the inhabitants of Planet X, and so on. Which is, needless to say, pretty damn silly. Notification of the strike is in line not only with certain elements of the international law of armed conflict, it’s also in line with numerous precedents. Like German U-Boat command in WWI. And WWII. And British submarine command. And the USAF. And so on, and so forth. Sure, it could mean that the Trump administration are colluding with their lizard overlords to create a New World Order, but it’s probably more reasonable to link this behaviour to the past behaviour exhibited during countless military actions conducted by countless administrations the world over.

The purpose of the strike was clearly to target relevant materiel. Or at least, as much materiel as could be targeted with a mere 59000 pounds of high explosive. For anyone who actually understands these matters, this always looked like a slap on the wrist – a largely symbolic act. It’s rather in the same category as a fine – the infliction of expense via the destruction of some very costly equipment. Casualty and damage reporting after the fact would indicate that people died, but it’s important to remember that these figures come from the Syrian regime and other less than credible sources. Regardless of this, the fact remains that this is about as distant and as minor as it’s possible to get while still being able to claim direct action.

REACTION TO THE STRIKE

War with Russia isn’t really on the cards unless the US is hell bent on making it happen. This is owing to the simple fact that Russia is neither ready nor able to win even a dirty little local war with the USA. So Russia’s reaction to the strike has largely been to open a war of words. Let’s focus, then, on the element that isn’t purely verbal.

Russia has intimated that any future strike will be met with “force”. This statement, initially worrying, should provoke some examination to try and figure out exactly what they mean. A quick scan of Sputnik, RT, and other Russian propaganda disseminators, allows us to discern that what Russia is heavily telegraphing is their intention to use BUK and S500 air defence systems (already deployed for over a year) in defence of any Syrian air installations to come under similar attack. While this will make things a bit tense, it’s important to note that exactly this level of hostility was repeatedly operative in the recent Balkan conflict, with the net result of the world failing to burst untimely into WWIII.

As for the likelihood of deep US intervention in Syria, I’d say that’s anyone’s guess. Will Trump be persuaded that his only option moving forward will be to establish regional hegemony a la Dubya? Or will his base force him to maintain the arms-length policy he inherited from Obama? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else, no matter how well they conspiracy.

LEGALITY OF THE STRIKE

Much has been said about whether or not the strike was legal, largely by partisan and entirely unqualified sources. There’s a good break down here, but I’ll once again summarise. The short answer to the question, “Was the strike legal?” is: yes and no. Or maybe, and probably not. The thing about international law is that it’s complicated and, like any law, it is by definition arguable. Is this aggression against a sovereign nation for no reason? How ‘legitimately sovereign’ is the Assad regime? Can the collective self defence argument be used? Who knows? This stuff needs testing in courts, most of which the US doesn’t recognise, so the point is largely moot (in the American sense of the word). What we do know, is that the US government is required to make its arguments to congress regarding the legality of the strikes some time within the next day or two, so it’s up to us to wait for that and either analyse those arguments ourselves, or wait for some media outlet to spin them into more entertaining hysteria.

The Appearance of Government

While everyone’s been watching Trump burn his own face with the arse-gas which he uses for speech, our own government has been quietly stabbing itself in the eye with the stupid stick. Things have got so bad that I’m hearing Peter Dutton, horse-faced mental defective and general bad news bear, being spoken of as ‘leader in waiting’. Actually, I’m pretty certain that Mr Dutton is a fundamentally decent man, if only because he lacks the intelligence for genuine evil, and there’s also the fact that, unlike the current PM, he’s not a mealy-mouthed, spineless coward. But seriously, these basic pre-requisites for membership of the human race do not necessarily translate into qualifications for national leadership.

This government’s record has not been exactly stellar. After sneering at Labor’s inability to retain the same leader for more than seven minutes, they proceeded to roll their own, before limping back into government on the slimmest of possible mandates, and then steadfastly refusing to recognise that their position in power was based purely on sufferance. And now, deep into a lame duck second term, their only clear achievement has been to repeatedly waste our time and money. A startling lack of policy direction, moral leadership, economic management, or even the ability to control the simplest of narratives has marked this as an epoch of some of the most despicable, ineffectual leadership this country has ever endured. And a quick look at our history will reveal that that’s really saying something.

Many people have recently been outraged by proposed changes to 18c, which is possibly the only piece of legislation the greater public knows the name of, but I simply don’t care. A proposition to swap three vague words for two, with as much chance of passing the senate as Pauline Hanson has of passing a grade six English exam, simply doesn’t strike me as worth paying any attention to. And then there’s the ‘omnibus bill’, which represents three solid years of attempting to pass budget measures which have repeatedly been flagged as both unnecessary and unwanted – the clearest example yet that changing the label on a steaming turd only works if Apple are involved. The marriage equality debate, which probably shouldn’t be happening at all, isn’t really happening unless you define a debate as meaningless posturing followed by extreme inaction – all of this is apparently evidence of our tax dollars at work.

What is the current government’s agenda? Nobody knows. What is their vision for the future of Australia? It depends which cartoonish cabinet member you ask. What is our position with regard to the seismic strategic and economic threats a deeply stupid White House presents us with? Nobody has the slightest clue. What, in actual fact, is this government actually for? Apart, that is, from saturating the airwaves with nonsensical nation-building rhetoric, and the parliament with bills they know will be rejected? Why, as Australians, do we put up with such piss-poor leadership? I guess it’s because the only viable alternative government is likely to be just as stupid, in different ways. And as for the minor parties, apart from the current de-facto PM, Nick Xenophon, they’re pretty well all as dangerous as they’re comical.

Beneath all this, however, lies a central uncomfortable truth. We knew, when we voted, that we were unenthusiastically defaulting to party lines without any real expectation of proper government. The voting public is not as stupid as we make ourselves out to be – we had no reason to suspect that any of our available choices would actually achieve anything worthwhile. So what confuses me, is why we weren’t screaming in the streets about a situation where our elected leaders no longer even pretend to serve us, and where even the appearance of government has been sacrificed in favour of narrow factional fights that have absolutely nothing to do with the needs of the people or the state. On the principle that democracy tends to produce the government we deserve, I’d strongly recommend we lift our game or, at the very least, our expectations.

Fred Nile’s Insidious Theocracy

Fred Nile

A lot of people find Fred Nile faintly amusing. I understand this, as a casual glance at God’s own MP can leave a mistaken impression of some harmless old throwback shouting into a secular and unresponsive darkness. The truth, however, is far more disturbing.

The Christian Democratic Party (CDP), of which Nile is president, is a small, but potent force in Australian politics. Sure, they’ve hardly any seats in parliament and, like most personality cult parties, the CDP has lost about as many seats as it’s held through endorsed members splintering off to do their own even whackier stuff. But bums on legislative seats is not the whole story by a long shot. The CDP fields multiple candidates in multiple states every election and by-election, not because they expect to win, but because their profile makes them reasonably certain to attract enough votes to receive Electoral Commission funding. You can click the link and do the maths, if you like, but the long and short of it is that parties can draw close to $1.5 million dollars in funding and ‘reimbursements’ by winning a single seat. Add to this the odd few thousand, up to a cap of about $12,000, which candidates receive if they garner at least 4% of the vote, and it becomes apparent that the CDP is a proper moneymaker.

This is not, of course, a rort in any sense of the word. The funding exists for sensible and admirable reasons, but the sad reality is that seasoned political operators will invariably ‘game’ this and any other system around. So what begins as a democratic initiative to encourage worthy candidates to stand again, evolves into a fundraising arm of what I can only describe as one of the most bigoted, non-violent extremist groups I have ever encountered. Fred Nile’s harmless old coot persona does not survive more than a few seconds of scrutiny. His ideas aren’t so much old fashioned as they are Mediaeval. Homosexuality, in his world, is a ‘mental disorder and lifestyle choice’, ‘adoption unnatural’, and any and all forms of fertility or sexual treatment/therapy a gratuitous misuse of God’s procreative design features. And as if this weren’t enough, Nile is said to have resigned from the Uniting Church because it “officially decided to part with a literal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian Bible“.

What I wonder is why this party isn’t given the same treatment as Neo-Nazis or Islamist Jihadis. Sure, they’re not beating up minorities in the street or beheading people on the internet, but their beliefs are at least as regressive and hateful. And how much harm – how many suicides, breakdowns, and so on – are brought about by the airing of their hateful ideas? If the limit of free speech is generally agreed to be the incitement of hate and harm, why do Fred Nile and his Christian Jihadis get not only a pass, but a bunch of our money? It must boil down to the double standard which is operative when we’re dealing with Christian extremists – a result of the fact that, in some ways, our country is still very Christian. Sure, church attendance is dropping, and secularism is a rising force, but as a whole we are still biased towards the notion that familiar evils, like Nile’s, are somehow less dangerous or harmful than exotic ones.

Monotheism And The End Of The World


When the Romans came to Bath, they found a set of natural springs and a thriving local religion based around a deity whose name they rendered as ‘Sulis’. Sulis was not a goddess with whom they were familiar, but they did not doubt her existence, destroy her shrine, or suppress her worship – far from it. Noticing that Sulis had many qualities in common with their own goddess Minerva, they decided that they must be different aspects of the same idea. They therefore built a massive sacred complex dedicated to the worship of ‘Sulis Minerva’, and then presumably got on with their lives.
It’s important not to make the common mistake of projecting modern values onto ancient people. Constructions such as ‘Cyrus the Human Rights activist’, or ‘Hatshepsut the Feminist’, are patently ridiculous. But one thing which can certainly be said about paganism is that it was essentially pluralistic. Naturally, there were limits (the Romans and human sacrifice, for example), but the general tendency of pagan mentality was to search for commonality over difference, and to co-opt and co-exist with alien cults. Religious intolerants like Akhenaton and Nabonidas are remembered as anomalies in what was an overwhelmingly pluralistic religious world.

The Romans at Bath, the Greeks in Bactria, the Egyptians in Nubia – all demonstrate similar patterns of encounter. Contact is made with a foreign deity, inquiries are made as to their attributes, and a native parallel is found, not to replace, but rather to combine with it. This tendency must reflect a mentality which was as intellectually curious as it was tolerant. 

When we compare this with religious encounters as conducted by the Abrahamic monotheists, the comparison is not at all favourable. From Joshua (either in reality or imagination) to Cortes, it can be clearly seen that monotheism walks a much shorter track to genocidal violence. Even curious, ethnographically-minded Jesuits or Caliphate scholars all eventually arrive at the same place: ‘Your gods are false, my god is not.’

It’s easy to see why the rise of monotheism is seen as such a significant event in human history. Viewed clearly, it was nothing less than a psychic apocalypse – the death of ancient pluralism and a catastrophic interruption to the globalising movements of the age. It created an epoch of murderous intolerance and a world where religious war became not just a norm, but a near constant. It drew, much more harmfully and definitively than Sykes/Picot or the British Empire, the lines which so bitterly divide us to this day.

The Curious Effect of the Sharia ‘Threat’

It’s a well known fact that importing Muslims into our country puts us under threat of having our culture obliterated and our hapless citizens yoked to the harsh and oppressive juggernaut that is Sharia Law. That is, it’s well known amongst people who are unclear on the definitions of the following words:

  • Muslim
  • Threat
  • Culture
  • Sharia
  • Law
  • Fact
  • Mat
  • Cat
  • Sat

Leaving such minor matters aside, we are still confronted with the reality that a growing number of Australians is embracing the idea that the Islamification of Australia is a threat which exists outside the realm of paranoid white supremacist fantasy. This growing anxiety is pushing more and more of our fine citizens to the political right, where we find such sterling products of the democratic process as Pauline Hanson, Corey Bernardi and George Christensen.

Now, to be fair, I do need to point out that the right wing is not the exclusive province of the sort of people who inspire the design of signs like this:

No, the political right has its fair share of savvy, intellectually agile and politically sophisticated adherents, well grounded in the complex theoretical bases behind nativist monoculturalism, protectionism, and so on. It’s just that they tend to limit themselves to painstakingly levering these concepts into the tiny minds of shrill populists, presumably via the exclusive use of words of one syllable.

This situation is imbued with a twofold irony. Firstly, there is the fact of people like Hanson – a spokesperson for the people who is incapable of coherent speech. And then there is the deeper and more worrying irony, mostly having to do not with the nationalist or white supremacist side of politics, but with the stolid core of ultra-conservatism.

This core, represented by the likes of Bernardi, Nile, and Christensen, is one possessed of deep religious roots, and an unshakeable belief in the idea that civil law should be informed by one or more of the many flavours of Christianity. As crazy as this idea might sound, it’s not a conspiracy theory I have confected in order to fight fantasy with fantasy – this is an openly stated position.

This means that the imaginary threat of a sharia-based criminal code is causing a movement towards politicians who believe that religion is a sound basis for the creation of laws.  Or, to put it another way, the fear of religious law is causing people to support politicians who wish to enact religious law.

This being the case, I think our most urgent policy priority should be the mass production of this warning sign:

Let’s hope it’s as least as effective as the chainsaw one.

The real problem with “gender theory”

Remember when life was simple? When men were men, and women were women, and men loved women, and women loved men, but only after marriage, and then after marriage men were still men, and women were still women, but the women cooked and had sex with the man whenever he wanted? Ahh, those were the days… everyone just lived their lives according to the way I wanted. There were no gays, just straight-as-an-arrow legends like Rock Hudson, Peter Allen, and the dad from the Brady Bunch. And if anyone was gay, they had the decency to live miserably by internalising it so I wouldn’t get upset. It was a different time. People were thoughtful back then – because I made them think about me.

But my, how times change. Now everyone thinks they can be true to themselves. Oh, you’re a man, attracted to men? Sure, go ahead, do the bum sex! Never mind that it makes me feel icky. Or perhaps you’re a woman, who likes the boobies? Well muff-dive right in, the waters fine! Don’t even think about the fact that I don’t want to see lesbians on the street because I only like to watch fake lesbians on the internet in the comfort of my basement. It’s selfish, that’s what it is. Everyone thinks they can just be with the person they love. But what about what I love? I love people to conform to my ideals. Why can’t you just love who I want you to love? Why don’t I get a say? Doesn’t my view count anymore?
___

And that, my friends, pretty much sums up every conservative’s objections to LGBTI rights. Since the dawn of humanity, apparently, something about gays and lesbians has made people uncomfortable, and you have all had to fight tooth and nail to gain what few rights you now enjoy. We have, of course, made some progress – but it’s clear that, as a society, we still have a long way to go.

The latest (public) battle in the LGBTI war, of course, is trans* rights. And while you and I know that each of the letters in the LGBTI acronym represents a distinct and diverse sub-set of queer-folk, to conservatives you’re all the same. To them, you’re all just people who refuse to accept their version of your reality.

The latest blow is the apparent banning of the teaching of “gender theory” in NSW schools. As ACL’s NSW State Director, Mark Makowiecki, said:

Parents will now no longer have to worry if their children are being taught harmful gender theory at school after the NSW Government today banned it.

The NSW government, you see, has apparently conducted a review of the teaching of “gender theory” in NSW schools. The review “was tasked with evaluating the scientific merit of the research underpinning the materials in question, [and] appears to have made a negative determination in relation to the validity of the research.”

Well, well, well. Interesting. Apparently the science is not as settled as the intellectual elites on the Left believe.

That will of course come as a shock to the scientists who actually study such things, but, happily, for the purpose of making people like Mark Makowiecki look like jerks, the scientific research doesn’t actually matter.

Yes, you heard right. I could sit here and list hundreds of studies and articles, and I could quote all kinds of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, in support of “gender theory”. But I don’t need to. Because people like Mark Makowiecki are quite happy to defeat their own argument without any science at all.

You heard what he said. “Parents will now no longer have to worry if their children are being taught harmful gender theory.” It’s harmful, apparently. But what makes it harmful? Why, people like Mark Makowiecki, of course. Isn’t that neat? People like Mark Makowiecki not only get to claim that “gender theory” is harmful, they also get to create the conditions that make it so. People like Mark Makowiecki get to demonise gender diverse and trans* folk to the point where 41% of them attempt suicide, but – it’s a miracle! – they also have the luxury of claiming that it’s harmful to be trans* or gender diverse. And then claim it’s science.

And that, my friends, is the real problem with “gender theory”. People like Mark Makowiecki will always be around to pull out one of the few studies that goes against the established scientific view, so he can place “gender theory” in inverted commas. But this is one issue in which I’m OK to say that the science doesn’t even matter.

You know what does matter? People.

You see, regardless of what the science says, people don’t tend to randomly choose lifestyles that bring about a lifetime of misery and collective scorn. But that’s what people like Mark Makowiecki apparently believe. “Gender theory” has to be a myth, right? People are just choosing to be like that for the fun of it, aren’t they? It’s trendy, or a fad, or a mental illness. And if we teach “gender theory” to our children then they’ll want to be like that too. Because people love living a life of internal conflict, public shame and discrimination. Right?

Funnily enough, no, they don’t.

What people want is to be themselves, and to live out their lives in a way that will ensure the best chance for their own happiness. What they don’t want is for people like Mark Makowiecki to deny their own reality, dictate who they should be, and place inverted commas around a “gender theory” which they know to be true.

Because everyone has the right to be who they are.

Even if “people” like Mark Makowiecki are too callous to admit it.

Trump, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and Beyond…

Trump Iran Nuclear Deal

The Iran Nuclear Deal, or, to give it its proper name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been described by President Trump as “the worst deal ever negotiated”, and likely to cause a “nuclear holocaust”. Throughout the course of his campaign, Trump made repeated references to the JCPOA, telling anyone who would listen that the deal was a “joke”, and that he intended to re-negotiate, revising key provisions, lengthening time limits and generally changing the current plan into a kind of extended penance. As always with President Trump, there is some doubt as to how much, if any, of what he’s said is meant to be taken seriously, but let’s do our best.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the JCPOA contains no provisions for checking Potential Military Applications (PMA), no safeguards to prevent Iranian weapons development now or into the future, and that it virtually guarantees a nuclear armed Iran within fifteen years, followed shortly by a nuclear holocaust. Unsurprisingly, none of these claims is true.

Let’s first look at the provisions of the plan. PMAs were a sticking point during negotiations, and it became apparent to even the casual observer that the Iranians, beyond a natural unwillingness to share their secrets, were also unclear as to the exact extent of their secret research programs. In the UNCLAS version, very little is said about PMA, but it is nevertheless apparent from various textual clues that the issue was dealt with. Similarly, the provisions with regard to intrusive inspection, the closure of various pathways to weaponisation (enrichment and plutonium), and various other strictures, all point to an agreement which is perfectly competent to achieve its stated aim: a temporary freeze of Iran’s progress towards nuclear weaponry. President Trump, however, does not see it that way. In President Trump’s view, Iran is a “bad” and “terrorist” state, needing to be kept at all times under the mailed fist of US hard power. It’s difficult to see, given this view, how any deal could have struck him as satisfactory.

Hassan Rouhani Iran Nuclear Deal

Hassan Rouhani, unique amongst Iranian presidents for being more stable than his US counterpart

Now for the safeguards designed to prevent Iranian weaponisation of its nuclear program which, according to Trump, do not exist. Firstly, there’s provisions for inspection, facilities re-purposing from high level enrichment and Plutonium manufacture to power generation, technology, replacement programs for cycling out 20% enriched uranium, the list goes on… And Iran has been pathetically eager to comply. Completion of each action plan has been tagged to the lifting of sanctions and, more importantly, the release of the associated funds. The deal, from Iran’s point of view, is easy to understand. In exchange for restored oil wealth, access to global markets, normalisation of trade and other relations, and a place at the negotiating table, they take a fifteen year halt in a nuclear weapons program which took twenty years to produce next to nothing, and which isolated them so badly that one of their key trading partners was North Korea. President Trump’s belligerent paranoia aside, it’s difficult to see a situation where Iran voluntarily breaks the deal. There’s too much to gain, and at such little cost. And while it is true that Iran could restart weaponisation post agreement, there’s little reason to expect this. A large part of the agreement is clearly designed to end Iran’s isolation – a key factor in their clandestine rush for the bomb.

Trump Iran Nuclear Deal

Trump labelled Iran a ‘terrorist state’ when addressing AIPAC

It’s axiomatic, though, that Christian conservatives cannot see any future in the Middle East without Israel, heavily force-multiplied by the US, maintaining military superiority. A rehabilitated Iran would necessarily change the dynamic. Iran is a natural hegemon – it has ample resources, an educated and numerous populace, access to the sea and a position of key strategic importance. All it really lacks is money. The deal itself, being a UN deal brokered by P5+1, is not US property. Energy hungry P5+1 members Russia and China have a strong interest in its success, as does the UK, who hopes to profit from expanding G/O exploration.

Now that Trump has finished appeasing the GOP’s Zionist donors, the time is ripe for one of his trademark backflips. It’s far from clear whether he can kill the deal (I’d say he can’t), but he is easily capable of killing relations with Iran. Given the likely interventionism of a Trump administration, this would be a critical mistake. Iran has a long (albeit covert) history of co-operation with the USA, and has been a key collaborator in US campaigns in the Middle East. Iranian support, or at least non-aggression, is vital to any operation in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. Additionally, Iran has reach and effectiveness far out of proportion with its military power, thanks to decades of investment in power projection by paramilitary and covert proxies. If President Trump really intends to establish safe zones in Syria, escalate the campaign against IS, and generally re-establish US hegemony in the Middle East, all this will be much easier with Iran’s cooperation and assistance. This is a problem for the near future, of course. In the meantime, President Trump should work on gaining better control of his public utterances before the laws of consequence come into proper effect.