Dateline: Austin, Texas, 2099.
Lobbyists for the National Rifle & American Values Association last night successfully defeated an attempt by the minority Democratic group in the Texas state legislature to end the right of passengers to bring assault rifles onto an aircraft with their hand luggage.
Unlike the states of the north-east and west coast, Texas remains with those states that support the so-called 9/11 law, inspired by gun lobbyists who suggest that if passengers had been armed the infamous terrorist attack of a near century ago would not have occurred. In Texas, the right is so vigorously defended that even Texas Airlines cabin crew wear sidearms as a point of principle.
As it happens, since the Second Amendment was devolved to state level, Texas has had the greatest number of IFIs (In-flight Firearms Incidents) of any state. A small number of planes have been brought down through explosive decompression.
In 2095 two men on a Texas Airlines flight from Houston to Nashville got into a drunken row, and in the gun battle that followed the flight crew were all killed by armour piercing bullets through the door of the flight-deck. The Attorney General of Texas attempted to sue Boeing-Airbus for not supplying an aircraft capable of landing automatically and instead crashing into a mountain.
The company pointed out that the plane did indeed have automatic landing capacity, but its flight controls were not designed to survive a burst of armour piercing machine gun fire. The Texas AG regarded that as an admission of liability, and wanted to know why the entire plane wasn’t armoured. Boeing-Airbus pointed out that it would then be a tank. The case is continuing.
The north-east states, Illinois and the west coast refuse to recognise the law, with flights from “Right to Carry Onboard” (RCO) states not permitted to fly into non-RCO states with armed passengers.
Guns continue to be very much a defining issue in the late 21st Century United States. Those essentially “blue” states have become less tolerant of the casual, if anything hysterical attitude to guns in the south and mid-west. With the Second Amendment now devolved, the borders of the states that take gun control seriously have heavily armed checkpoints of state police and National Guard to prevent Right-to-Carry (RTC) hardliners entering whilst armed, and it gets heated.
Last year, 32 Virginia law enforcement officials were killed in gun battles on the border with North Carolina, both states representing the frontline. On the Illinois/Indiana border in the same year a group of drunks decided to load up their pick-ups and taunt the Illinois State Police, who responded with an anti-vehicle missile fired from a drone.
Kennedy Airport, despite being in the heart of a gun control state, still has to take a tough line with the flights coming in from RTC states. Often, the security at those airports is deliberately scant, sometimes as a political point, and so when the flights land in NY they have to be met by state police with heavily armed combat drones to provide support if the situation gets out of hand.
Last month a newly-elected US Senator from Montana, C. James Dickerson III, found his flight directed by bad weather away from Dulles airport in DC, which as the federal capital turns a blind eye to RTC. Instead he arrived in New York, where his automatic pistol was detected by a SecuriDrone(R) and he was requested to surrender his weapon. Still giddy from his election, and possibly taken in by his own rhetoric, he refused to surrender his weapon, finally drawing it against the drone, which machine gunned him to death.
The US Senate protested vigorously, but the Governor of New York defended the actions of the drone.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 30, 2015 in News from The Future!
, Not quite serious.
BEHOLD! THE FUTURE TODAY!
Dateline: EUROPE 2099
I’ll soon be posting a regular feature, News from The Future!, where I’ll be putting up some speculative reportage from the year 2099, on news items and comment from around the world, on everything from politics to technology to society.
Just a bit of fun that I’m enjoying writing, maybe slightly tongue in cheek in parts, but on subjects that have caught my eye and where they could be heading.
I hope you enjoy them too.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 30, 2015 in Not quite serious.
The HSE has apologised after it upset patients by appointing one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to a high level position within the organisation. The HSE has accepted that the appointment of a 15 foot skeleton in ragged robes and carrying a scythe, walking around A&Es telling patients not to worry as their wait “won’t be too long now” in a cavernous voice was probably inappropriate.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 26, 2015 in Politics
I’d never heard of the phrase “cultural appropriation” until about two years ago, when someone objected to white people using a (non-offensive) word of American black origin. I can’t recall the word, but I remember the fury of the writer at the idea that other people could use words her ethnic group had originated.
As a concept, I find it bizarre, the idea that a word or idea could be owned by any person, let alone a group.
“We invented the colour yellow. Anyone else who uses it is oppressing us!” Am I supposed to be outraged at an Englishman using the word “craic”? Should an Englishman be offended at me using that great Irish phrase “Careful now!” because it is in his language, or me offended because it was written by two Irishmen for a British sitcom starring Irish actors filmed predominantly in London with British money but set in Ireland? More to the point, does any of this actually matter?
I’m old enough to remember when Cultural Appropriation was something racist bigots feared. From Alf Garnett style fear of “smelly foreign food” to the KKK’s terror of the blood mixing of the races and the contamination of the bloodline, the far right looked at other cultures and saw nothing they wanted. Are we supposed to applaud that now? If I look at other races or nations and see food, clothing, language, things that I like more than my own native culture and suddenly that makes me some sort of colonial? Seriously?
Let’s just be clear here: the idea that you can look at another culture, see that they do something better, and say let’s copy what they’re doing, is what we used to call progress.
Ah, scream the Permanently Offended, but what if that food or culture belonged to a people who had been oppressed by your ancestors? You know what, I don’t give a toss. Let my ancestors answer for their crimes, I’m not carrying the can for them. Let us answer for our own crimes, not the crimes of ghosts.
Cultural Appropriation is if anything a badge of respect and open mindedness, that you accept that there is no such thing as an all knowing master race but that we can all learn something from the other people.
In short, Cultural Appropriation is the epitome of being liberal.
1. An individual in a public/NGO organisation is discovered to be on a Lotto style pay package.
2. Organisation initially tries to deem this a “private matter”. Is shouted down by public, stampeding backbench TDs and grassroots members.
3. Organisation admits truth. Suggests that no one in organisation can explain how salary came about. Suggestion that it was made by someone conveniently dead is a popular favourite.
4. Basic investigative techniques like inquiring from the bank who authorised the payments, and working backwards, are deemed “inappropriate”, which is one of the great Irish words.
5. The public get cranky over the idea that anyone can earn over €100k, on the basis that “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys rule” obviously does not apply in Ireland. (See Irish financial regulation, 1997-2011)
6. The story goes around and round in circles with the actual answer, who authorised this, never emerging. Public hearings seem to involve more windy grandstanding than actual specific questions.
7. Someone resigns on a Lotto style severance package.
8. The phrase “for legal reasons” (the other great Irish phrase) is bandied about to blur the situation. In a shock outcome, Learned Colleagues make a nice little earner on whole affair.
9. The organisation promises a new “robust” structure for salary/remuneration.
10. Rinse and repeat.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 23, 2015 in British Politics
, European Union
Listening to the Islamophobia spewing out of some US GOP candidates, and others in Europe makes my blood boil. As an Irish Republican and a European, I find the idea of any person being categorised and pigeonholed by their religion to be repugnant. That’s why my teeth go on edge when people talk about problems with Muslims and Islam. I don’t see that problem: I see groups of individuals who have made a twisted assessment of a religion and hijacked it for their own vicious fascist ends.
Having said that, even liberals such as I can’t ignore the fact that Islam seems to be capable of acting as a peculiarly effective breeding ground for extremism.
The role mosques and madrassas play in this can’t be ignored. Many are moderate places that preach tolerance and respect for other faiths. But some aren’t, and we cannot tolerate any place, regardless of how holy or revered it be, being used as a base to plot against western liberal values.
How do we balance our values of religious freedom with the need to exterminate extremism?
One possible solution could be, as happens in Turkey and the UK, for certain religions to be brought under direct state control. At present, the British prime minister appoints the head of the Church of England. It’s a nominal appointment at the moment, but establishes a precedent. Given the unique position of Islam, is it time for European governments to take direct control of its institutions?
Let me be clear: we are not talking about turning Islam into a state religion. Many of our countries, my own included, would have a serious problem now with any state religion. But the possibility of the state taking direct control of the training and appointment of Imams and the running of Islamic schools and mosques, and yes, their funding, should be considered. Better us running them than some fanatic funded by the Saudis.
In many instances, the existing Imams will remain in place, and nothing on the surface will change. There are downsides, of course. Will radicals flee the “official” mosques and set up radical secret ones? Possibly. But they’ll be illegal and will be hunted down. Let’s be clear that those who regard an Imam who cooperates with the state as a traitor are exactly the people we need to be targeting. Let’s also be clear that we are not talking about the state imposing a Christianised or liberal form of Islam. That will be the business of the communities running the mosques under the Imam’s guidance. The state’s only interest is that mosques not be abused to preach against broad western democratic values. They should have the same freedom as any Christian church.
Yes, it’ll be messy and controversial, and maybe it won’t work. And I do find the idea of the state interfering in the private religious practices of its Muslim citizens to be pretty repugnant.
But these are the times we live in, and unusual compromises to defend European values must be considered.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 21, 2015 in British Politics
, European Union
It’s a curious thing watching the reactions of UK eurosceptics to the current difficulties the Schengen area is going through. They sure loving queuing, those guys.
The concept they’re pushing is straightforward enough: if we bring back rigorous border controls we can catch terrorists at the borders. But even that logic is shaky. Won’t we have to stop and search every vehicle, every truck for secret compartments, to make that work?
Good luck with that.
Actually, the anti-Schengen people seem to be relying on a)luck, b)the idea that all terrorists are essentially foreigners, and c)we’ll be able to determine whether someone is an Islamist through some sort of non-intelligence based test. I look forward to seeing what that could be: maybe make them French kiss another man and judge their reaction? Ask them to tell us their favourite Woody Allen film? See if they can dance to YMCA?
UK opponents of Schengen just can’t see beyond the blue flag, as usual. If we called it the Dad’s Army Zone and put up pictures of Gene Hunt on the border maybe that would help?
The way they tell it, Schengen is some sort of rogue self-controlling entity, as opposed to a tool for member states. Schengen can be temporarily suspended (rightly) by a sovereign member state. It also allows the sharing of information, the most effective way of tracking and determining would-be terrorists. Yet ask UKIP about sharing information with Frontex or Europol and they go all Chief Inspector Dreyfus on you.
But, after Brexit who do they think they’ll be dealing with? Do they think they can phone up President Obama, inform him that they refuse to deal with the FBI, and demand that all 50 state police forces deal directly with them? If the rest of Europe decides that Europol or Frontex is to be our central clearing house, then so be it.
Of course, if they really believe that random checkpoints are the solution, then surely they should be implemented inside member states too, along with national ID cards to allow security forces to identify the illegals, right? Checkpoints outside supermarkets, on the tube, train stations, on the street.
There’ll be another irony: eurosceptics bringing in that most continental of devices, one’s “papiers” after leaving the EU.
Here’s an awkward reality: if we can stop relatively small contained terror cells before they strike, it’ll be through intelligence, and that means mass surveillance of phones, social media, gaming sites. That’s how we catch them, not randomly hoping they turn up at our borders in “I love IS” tee-shirts. That’s the debate we need to have. How to do that but prevent abuse of that information.
But that’s not the biggest single reason why we should be wary of scrapping Schengen. Schengen is part of the European way of life, and if we are going to scrap it, let us scrap it for a definite guaranteed result.
But to get rid of it just to do something is to accept that a handful of hateful fanatics in Daesh get to shape our society. Al Qaeda got to change the United States: are Americans living in a better country having permitted waterboarding? Do Americans feel safer? Have you listened to the leading candidates for the GOP nomination?
Of course we must examine every option to make Europe safer. But we should be very reluctant to casually toss away one of the things that makes Europe the freest place on Earth.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 21, 2015 in Not quite serious.
It’s not like it isn’t hard enough, being in one’s mid-teens, struggling to deal with raging hormones and physical changes and whether that boy you like actually likes you. Then SHE enters into the mix. My God, she’s in her forties! That’s nearly a hundred! Yet she dresses to show off her curves and legs and don’t even get started on that cleavage. For God’s sake Mum, put them away! No one wants to see them! Except they do, and that’s the problem. Not just the old farts hanging around the bar in The Lep Inn who watch her off every reflective surface and nearly cry into their pints. But the young guys too, including the ones she fancies! SHE always insists on coming over to the table with her and her friends, and even though the talk is always about school and how the rugby is going, the daughter can see the effect her mum has on the boys. They can barely speak to her, some reddening in the face, shifting uneasily in their seats, all struggling to keep eye contact with her and not drift southwards.
The daughter sighs, and hopes that what ever it is that allows her mother to send boys into a frenzy with a single arched and well manicured eyebrow is hereditary.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 18, 2015 in Not quite serious.
We all pretend to be horrified, but have a good goo anyway.
They’re a treat, aren’t they? They tend to come in two varieties. First, there’s the “F**k you and your whore!” couple, normally fuelled with plenty of drink, where she doesn’t care who knows it, roaring at him about his infidelities and, occasionally, sexual inadequacies. All around the pub, conversations pause not in embarrassment but in an attempt to earwig on this juicy slice of life. He doesn’t put up much of a defence, normally deciding to build a defensive position around a single statement (“But I rang you! I rang you!”) which he believes absolves him of responsibility, or alternatively, he goes on the attack with a minor point that he attempts to magnify (“I saw the way you were lookin’ at him! I saw yez!”). It normally ends with him storming out because “his head is melted” and her realisation that the whole pub has been watching Eastenders: The Live Show. She then attempts to restore a few grammes of dignity by improved posture, walking back to the bar holding her alcopop like she’s a debutante at the Savoy. Kate Midleteon in leopardskin.
Then there’s the middle class couple, who manage the marvellous two-hander of being vicious to each other whilst on no account causing a scene. You’ll see them in professional workplaces, hospitals or law firms, standing in a corner. He’ll be looking coldly at her, wishing death, she’ll be hissing through gritted teeth. A colleague will pass, and both smile and nod, perhaps a playful remark, and then back to it. He’ll have an affair with one of the office juniors, her with his best friend.
They’ll stay together, however, for the good of the mortgage, or at least until David McWilliams says that property prices are rebounding.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 15, 2015 in Not quite serious.
The key to illicit excitement.
It wasn’t like they had planned it. He was single, out of a messy relationship. She was married with two young kids and a husband who was not by any accounts a bad guy. It just happened. They met at a work related social event, and their eyes, yeah, that corny moment actually happened. When two people look at each other without a word, without even having met each other, and they knew that they wanted each other.
Her boss had introduced them, and they had been careful not to show too much interest in each other, but both knew. When the event had broken up, both had slipped away to another bar in the hotel, and talked, both pretending to be more drunk than they actually were to allow for the excuse of the first kiss.
Her hand had shook in giddy excitement as she had phoned her husband to say that she’d be late, trying to find a little glimmer of anger over his casual acceptance that his wife was giving such a feeble excuse for being late, but she knew the answer. He trusted her, the bastard. In the room, it was like being a teenager again, hungrily wanting and being wanted. When she got home, her husband was snoring his head off and the kids were tucked in.
She had resolved that it had been a one off, a moment of weakness, but it wouldn’t go away. They had met again, her determined to end this before it escalated. He understood, and respected her decision, which made it all the harder, and the reason they ended up in another room again.
How will it end? Will it peter out, the danger finally outweighing the pleasure and the excitement? Possibly, but please, a tiny voice says in the back of her head, don’t let anyone fall in love.