It won’t be long now before the sixth series of Star Trek hits the TV screens. Annoyingly, the plan is to air Star Trek Discovery behind a ‘pay wall’, namely by sticking on the streaming service Netflix. To be, this goes against the ideals of inclusiveness and openness that Star Trek is all about. Yes, studios want to make money and I get that streaming is big business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. I’ll not be paying out still more money for the sake of one show, even if Star Trek is wired into my DNA. 


That aside, this post isn’t really a rant about that, but rather, it’s about the ferocious criticisms of a show that hasn’t even aired yet. I’ve seen posts on Twitter that complain this show ‘is made for social justice warriors’ and that they won’t be watching it – for those of you wondering what’s meant by that, their issue is with a black female lead, a Chinese woman as a captain and the inclusion of at least one homosexual character. 


Guys, this is Star Trek, a franchise built upon challenging misconceptions and giving social issues a platform. Anyone who’s seen the original 1960s show will be fully aware of the social commentary on offer, to say nothing of the controversy it generated. Subsequent shows have continued to offer up this sort of thing. It’s what Star Trek does. Besides, the tantrums being thrown on the web at the idea of women in charge only go to show why putting them in charge in necessary. Something needs to push back against this sort of misogyny, and it’s not just misogyny.

Racism plays a part in the objections too. I don’t recall the idea of Captain Janeway – a woman – in Voyager creating nearly as much of a backlash as the casting of Michelle Yeoh as Captain Han Bo and Sonequa Martin as Commander Rainsford. Might it be because Yeoh is Chinese and Martin is black? Are we not only as a fanbase hung up on female leads, but on race as well? 


Come on people. Star Trek was placing black women on the bridge of a starship in the 1960s. Have we made no progress since then? Are we not a fanbase of inclusion? Where are the principles of diversity and equality that the show itself has long practiced? Let’s not shame ourselves by rejecting the core message at the heart of the franchise. We are not sexist, or racist, or homophobic. Let’s be better than that.

I saw this on Twitter, earlier today, and wanted to correct a few misconceptions.

Firstly, atheism and communism are not one and the same. I have this argument brought up again and again as a sign that those of a religious faith are more ‘moral’ and better than atheists. You can be a communist and an atheist. You can be a communist and a Christian, or a communist and a Muslim. You can a capitalist and an atheist (and so on). This is a classic example of ‘false equivalence’, a problem that seems to be growing in the wake of Trump’s ill-fated words on the Charlottesville riots. That the followers of Stalin’s breed of communism carried out so many atrocities has nothing to do with the absence of faith. Atheists do not see themselves as gods, and do not act in the interests of only themselves (well, some of them perhaps, some of them don’t, but guess what, this applies to people who are religious too, no matter what they may say). This swings back to discussions and comments on the subject of morality. It also wants to treat various blocs of people as monolithic entities. ‘All atheists think X, all Christians think Y, all Muslims think Z’. This is completely false. It’s a method of thinking that gives rise to all sorts of unreasonable stereotypes that end up doing far more harm than good.

People have died in the name of political causes, cultural ideals, and yes, religious beliefs. Morality is not something that can be sourced only through divine ideas. Anyone, from any walk of life, is capable of being cruel. Equally, anyone is capable of acts of great compassion. Can we move past the idea that only the faithful can be moral?

yA1. fagagai

There has been a lot of chatter about the now infamous Google Memo and its ramifications, plus discussion over whether the sacking of James Damore was justified. Was he merely exercising his right of expression? Was he treated unfairly? Is the content of his memo worth examining in any great detail for factual content, or is it unsubstantiated bullshit?
If you want to read the memo, you can find it here – you may need a PDF reader to view it.
For all the ideas that Google is somehow biased toward women (and there’s also a hint at a bias toward ethnic minorities), Google’s main employee base is still the white male.
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Damore goes on to suggest that ‘biological differences’ explain why men are better suited to leadership and status-driven roles. Unsurprisingly, women have reacted quite angrily to the suggestion they cannot do such jobs, and there is no reason to believe they can’t either – learning coding and other computer-based work is not a matter of biology – what the memo reveals is a damning lack of understanding of what it takes to be a woman in the workplace, especially somewhere like Silicon Valley, where women have to jump through hoops just to be heard.
Historically women have been forbidden from working in certain fields, due to the idea that they are too emotional, or too fragile, to handle them. Even today, in parts of the world such as the USA and the UK, women make up a small percentage of people entering into computing, yet in other parts of the world, women are demonstrating a passion for things like coding – Malaysia for example, and India. There is also no biological basis for the assumption that women suffer more from anxiety.
So whilst some folks jump up and down about the oppressive left and it’s evil views, it’s worth remembering that sexism is alive and strong within the computing and engineering field, and people like Damore encourage it, under the guise of rallying against political correctness. The reality? They don’t want to lose their privileged positions.

Trump is a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing – or maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing, hence his backtracking on his earlier backtracking.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Trump said:

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,”

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

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Whoa! Hold the phone for a second! Does Trump seriously believe the opponents of the facism, racism and anti-Semitism that was on such open display are somehow equally responsible for what happened the other day? Which side came armed with guns and which side had a member who drove a car into people?

Trump is now drawing fire from his own party, who surely must eject him sooner rather than later, if they are to preserve their political future? Senator John McCain tweeted:

Whereas Trump has proven quite happy to jump to conclusions about radical Islam, his need to apparently wait for the ‘facts’ about this, not to mention suggesting there were ‘good people’ mixed in with the white supremacists, only goes to show that Trump knows who and what a large chunk of his support base is, and not only is he fine with that, he doesn’t want to risk alienating them by criticising their violent antics.

Trump is now effectively being open about his bigotry. He is the Bigot-in-Chief. To my American friends, and to any Americans that read this – consider the direction you want your nation to take.

P.S: Josh on his Friday Blog has written some excellent posts on why we shouldn’t be tolerating Nazis and their ideals, in case for some strange reason you think we should be open to listening to Nazis.

I ask the question because I’ve read, repeatedly (via Twitter) that the violence in Charlottesville was a clash between the left wing and… the left wing. This seems like an attempt by moderate and centre-right supporters to distance themselves from the actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville (and elsewhere). The attempt is understandable in some ways – they don’t wish to be associated with the Nazi sympathisers who were marching so openly – it is also intellectually dishonest.

It is worth noting that describing the Nazis and their sympathisers as far right is not a reflection upon anyone and everyone who identifies as right wing.

Why the Nazis were Right Wing

It is generally agreed that the far right eschews egalitarianism; instead, there is a ‘natural’ (or in some cases a ‘divine’) order to society. The strong (in the Nazis’ case the pure) control the weak. In Hitler’s case, he actually tried to present the Nazis as a centrist movement, attacking the right and left in speeches, including this:

Today our left-wing politicians in particular are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily results from the disarmament of Germany, whereas the truth is that this is the policy of traitors … But the politicians of the Right deserve exactly the same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came into power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms.

The reality is, Hitler and the Nazis were far right. The far right favours elitism, and the Nazis, for all their rhetoric, were the same – Hitler was a dictator whose party elevated him, and he imagined a Third Reich that has uncanny similarities to the elitist ruling monarchies of Europe, despite claims to be different. The far right also prefers racial segregation – a common theme in Nazi messages was about preserving the purity of the German people from ‘undesirable’ elements (such as Jews).

The Nazis were also anti-immigration – a view often held by far right groups.

Of course, the far left has displayed similar characteristics – Stalin’s USSR is a prime example – what this serves to demonstrate is how the far right and far left are very similar, but make no mistake, whilst the outcomes are the same, they arrive at their destinations through very different sets of ideas.

There might be an argument that Nazis were left wing in an economic sense – but their social and political policies were anything but.

Originally posted on The Coalition of the Brave.

Sometimes it’s difficult to comment properly on a situation as it unfolds. Sometimes, it’s really really easy. What’s going on in Charlottesville, USA, is very easy to properly comment on. It’s about racists wanting to enable more racism, under the guise that they’re the poor, oppressed class, even though none of them have actually known true oppression.

This all started (or at least the excuse that will be given is) because of plans to remove a statue of US Civil War General Robert E. Lee, who fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the conflict. Plans to remove a pro-slavery symbol have been met by marchers – who appear to consist of almost entirely white men – protesting against… well, I’m not sure they even know. How exactly are they being victimised or oppressed? Will one of them strike up the courage to explain this to me?

Do they know that the symbols they march with – the Confederate flag, the Swastika – are in fact emblems of evil and violence? Surely no one can be so ignorant, not least of all when the history of these symbols are so well known?

I’ll probably end up writing about this a lot more – highlighting Trump’s weak attempt to spread the blame for this – and the scary and open displays of bigotry, but not right now. At the time of writing this, at least one person has died when a car ploughed through a crowd of anti-far right protesters, and that’s just too sickening. Worse still, Trump hasn’t had the conviction or courage to even mention this. Let’s just hope, no matter how bad this is now, it can serve as a lightening rod for those who wish for a better way.

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I’m not going to pretend to be a huge fan of Linkin Park. I’m familiar with their music and style, and I like quite a few of their songs, but I am not a fan in the way that my wife is a fan. Their music has proven inspiration to her.

Much of what they (and any band or artist does) is in the writing. It’s in the pouring of the heart and soul into the music and lyrics. Truly great artists give something of themselves in every line, every word, every brushstroke or scene or song lyric. Whether you like Linkin Park, love Linkin Park, or hate them, you cannot deny that Chester gave something of himself when he wrote songs and performed them. I’ve seen Linkin Park live – I know how much energy and passion went into his performances.

His death, aged just 41, is both a huge shock and also a damning indictment of the way society views mental health and masculinity. I’ve written about this before – expression of feelings, in any way, acknowledgement of pain, especially for men (but it affects everyone) is seen as shameful. Progress has been made to remove these stigmas but make no mistake, they are still there.

Chester was a tortured soul. You need only listen to the lyrics of his songs to know that. This man was a victim of abuse as a child and the scars of this have, sadly, remained with him. He had his battles with alcohol and drugs, and with the death of his friend Chris Cornell (also by suicide), he reached a tipping point.

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This isn’t an isolated issue. The suicide rate in the USA is at its highest for three decades. It’s fuelled by comments like this, from Korn guitarist Brian Welch:

Welch wrote: “Honestly, Chester’s an old friend who we’ve hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly pissing me off! How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I’m sick of this suicide shit! I’ve battled depression/mental illness, and I’m trying to be sempethetic, but it’s hard when you’re pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!! [sic]”

Did Chester have the support he needed? Did Chris Cornell? And what of the thousands of people who feel the same way? When there is still an expectation that admitting to problems is a weakness, something to be condemned, then the problem won’t go away. If we bottle up our trauma, if we are afraid to talk about it, it will only get worse. What happens when we take away any recourse for someone to get help with their problems? They become desperate. Let’s end that.


Meet Jodie Whittaker. If you’re like me, you’ll be completely unfamiliar with her past work. She’s been in a showed called Broadchurch (alongside a former Doctor as it happens), but I’ve never seen it. I cannot therefore pass judgment on her acting ability. I can talk about the kerfuffle that’s erupted over her reveal as the 13th Doctor.

The issue? Previous actors to play the Time Lord from Gallifrey in Doctor Who have been men. This is the first time a woman has been cast in the role (though not the first time we’ve had a Time Lord change from male to female). Doctor Who has been subtly (or not so subtly, depending upon your point of view) preparing the audience for this possibility for a few years – but for some sections of the fandom, this is a bridge too far. 

If you’re on Twitter, the hashtags #13thDoctor and #Doctor13 are already providing a huge volume of misogynistic, sexist tweets. I am not at all surprised. However, there has also been a huge outpouring of support for Jodie. 

My own view? The same as always – I will judge the show on the acting and the writing. I don’t care if the Doctor is a woman – it makes no difference to me. What will make a difference is whether or not the stories are a little more energetic next season. We’ll have to wait and see!

https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/

https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm

The three above links represent just the tip of (an ever-shrinking one, if this carries on) iceberg from experts and scientists from around the world, who all agree that man-made climate change is real. From the NASA link:

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.1

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.3

From Skeptical Science:

That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 80 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.

Trump has decided to ignore the decades of carefully compiled research and evidence in favour of… ‘Murica. It doesn’t matter that clean energy is actually a fast-expanding sector, it doesn’t matter that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that we’ll need to move away from them eventually. He ought to heed the words of a fellow Republican politician, one who has made some keen observations: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Clean energy technology will become a huge business, and people like Trump will get left behind. His narrow-minded approach will not be permitted to doom the rest of us.

Some people will say that Muslims are terrorists, or have the potential to be terrorists. They will say ‘once again no one will do anything and this will happen again! Ban Muslims from the country, deport them!’ But these people have no long-term ideas, no actual answers to the extremely complicated issues that surround IS and their attacks. Both Britain and the USA sell weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia, which uses these weapons to perpetuate the refugee crisis. The failure to have any clear and coherent exit strategy after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created voids for IS and their ilk to thrive. Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, the refugee crisis owes a lot to our actions.

It’s also strange that people cry out for members of the Muslim faith to condemn these attacks, yet when they do, the reporting falls strangely silent. It isn’t newsworthy – it doesn’t sell papers, least of all rags like The Sun and The Daily Mail, who thrive on ignorance and hate. Yet believe it or not, there are many Muslims who actively protest the actions of IS, and for further, oft-unreported irony, it is often Muslims who are targeted by IS.

There is more to this than simply religious beliefs. And Islam is not the only religion that has fundamentalists that kill. People have used religion, culture and politics as excuses for violence and war throughout history. Should we have banned Catholics in the UK because of the IRA? Obviously the answer would be no. Looking beyond the simplistic explanations, we have a tangled web with a lot of bitter history, and yes, there are religious influences involved, but targeting ála Trump an entire faith of one billion people (who obviously aren’t all out to kill non-Muslims, otherwise we’d see a lot more bloodshed) is exactly what IS want. They need us to drive a wedge between ourselves and moderate Muslims, so they can radicalise more. There are no easy solutions to this, but let’s not turn to giving IS what they want.