On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Air flight 409 crashed shortly after takeoff from Beirut. Radar and cockpit communications showed that the pilots struggled to keep the plane flying from the moment it rotated off the runway, eventually just falling out of the sky in a stall.
It was eerily similar to the rash of Lion Air 610 out of Jakarta on 29 October, 2018. Both crashes were of a kind that simply should not happen to a modern aircraft.
Since both incidents involved the relatively new Boeing 737 Max airplane, attention immediately centered on how safe the plane was. It seems like a simple decision – is this plane safe? But if you read a lot of the coverage of it, you might think this was entirely a political issue. Has everything, even safety, become a matter for politics and the questions at hand involving money and who looks bad?
It is a busy week in the UK House of Commons. At this writing, Meaningful Brexit Vote 2.0 (We Really Mean It This Time) has failed by 149 votes. This deals an apparent death blow to PM May’s attempts to negotiate an orderly retreat from the EU. The likely result will be a lot of hand wringing and a vote to delay the process.
The entire exercise appears to be based on what Winston Churchill once accused Americans of doing, namely “Once we have exhausted all the other possibilities we do the right thing.” Ignoring the will of the people after a referendum requires a period of slow torture and likely another popular vote (We Really, Really Mean It, We Promise).
All of this is quite impossible for one simple reason: Brexit isn’t really about Brexit. Like most political issues in developed nations today, the cause of all this noise and nonsense isn’t really the issue at hand. It’s not about whether the UK should be in the EU or not – in an ideal situation it’s rather obvious that it should be. The problem is that we are so far from ideal that no one can make any sense of anything. And that’s where this American politely, humbly, offers his opinion on this situation.
Queen Elizabeth II (or I, if you’re Scottish) is one of the most powerful people in the world. She can dissolve Parliament on a whim, declare war, revoke passports, and commit just about any act that would be a crime to anyone else with no consequences.
This may surprise you, given that she never does any of these things. Yet the main reason why the monarch of the UK still holds all these powers, what with the Magna Carta and Commonwealth and other historical tidbits, is a simple one. She absolutely never uses them. If she did, you can bet the UK would become a Republic faster than you could sing, “Rule, Britannia.”
This may seem like a rhetorical point, even with Brexit turning far further South than the Treaty of Rome ever enabled. But we’re about to see this principle in action. Not in the UK, but here in the US.
A day after the State of the Union address has the internet lit up. Everyone has an opinion, and many of them want to state it. Topics range from the substance of the address to how it was presented and ultimately how it is received in the nation given a varying degree of relevance.
It’s entirely possible to go through this point by point and make some kind of alternative statement about the state of the union as I see it. But that seems to miss the main point. Our nation is fractured and unfocused. Why? Before we debate this topic, it seems reasonable to go back to the main purpose of debate in the first place, a fundamental skill necessary for an open, free, and democratic society.
The purpose of debate is to learn.
It’s polar vortex day across much of the United States. Temperatures are plunging well below zero, close to the point where going metric doesn’t change a thing. It’s a day to stay inside and huddle, a day to not only be glad you’re still alive but wonder why you live where the air hurts your face.
It is not, however, a day to talk about climate change. These things just happen on a big continent with interesting geography. The same forces that water it and keep it green also create nasty weather patterns that can kill us all. It’s a big part of the North American experience, and it’s why people tend to migrate freely in this part of the world and have since humans first arrived.
So let’s talk about the Jet Stream again, and why this is just one of those things.
With the federal government open again, there’s a little less uncertainty in the economy. Things are back to normal and everyone is happy again. Right?
Unfortunately, the effects of the record shutdown are still hard to predict. As with any economic data, we won’t know until the quarter is over just what happened. We do have a few clues, however, and a few things that we can watch to know just where it’s going.
A high technology world is a world fundamentally based on trust. The lack of this is currently the single largest issue, defining politics within and without national borders.