The border wall and other tall tales

Apparently we have a national emergency on the southern US border, necessitating funding for the completion of a border wall. That’s the story we are given from the Trump administration, anyway. But there seems to be some debate about the issue. Some people appear to question whether or not there is actually a national emergency, but more than that, if a wall is even necessary, or even if Trump has the authority to declare such an emergency. And, is this simply an election stunt? So many questions. So much media coverage. As is usually the case with such hyperbole, though, what is being sidelined in the process? Where should we really be looking? It would pay us to have a look at these other things, and not so much at the border wall. Continue reading “The border wall and other tall tales”

Bollocks, Bolton, on the INF!

John Bolton doesn’t much like treaties, it would seem. The Trump administration, in its INF-inite wisdom (?!) has just pulled the United States out of the INF Treaty – the acronym for the ‘Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces’ Treaty. This is the very same treaty that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe since Reagan and Gorbachev signed it and it came into force on 1 Jun 1988 (chart). Europeans are rightly concerned, with typical muted criticism even, because that treaty covered missiles that were aimed primarily at US/NATO bases and nuclear power stations in Europe, as well as key infrastructure sites. It was a landmark in détente between Russia and the US, which is also apparently not in the interests of Washington at the moment. This will be another reason for Europeans to distance themselves from Washington. Continue reading “Bollocks, Bolton, on the INF!”

America’s latest attempt at king-making

On the 23rd of Jan 19 the US, primarily, along with a few other nations, attempted a coup in Venezuela. It played out as an opposition leader, one Juan Guaidó, swore himself in as president of Venezuela. The only problem with that is that he is not the elected leader of Venezuela. That title falls to Nicolas Maduro, who was reelected by a wide margin on 20 May 18, in what the Western media outlets slammed as a sham election. The further problem with that is the opposition parties refused to take part in the election, and in fact were directed not to, with the result that voter turnout was low. The opposition parties are also badly divided. So now Venezuelans face the prospect of a drawn-out internal battle, mission creep and a long siege for control of their nation, intensified external pressure to overthrow Maduro and increased sanctions so long as Maduro hangs on to power. Continue reading “America’s latest attempt at king-making”

The US is leaving NATO (?)

Donald Trump wants to pull the US out of the NATO. At least, that is the story as outlined in a recent New York Times hit piece. According to ‘senior White House officials’ (they aren’t named, of course), Trump has said privately that he does not see the point of the organization and that it is a drain on the United States. And as to why a withdrawal of the US would be a problem The Gray Lady goes on to state that such a move “…could embolden Russia for decades”. And there we have it – the threat of the Russian bear breathing down the necks of Europeans and threatening American interests. But what is the truth about NATO? Is it relevant? Does it promote security? Does it make Europe or the wider world a safer place? And horror of horrors: Could Trump be right? Continue reading “The US is leaving NATO (?)”

Theresa May’s day, or Mayday!?

As we know by now, Theresa May has survived the no-confidence vote against her. It was not by a large margin, though, which would be troubling for her. The final vote count was 306 to 325. In fact, it was a win only by a slim margin. This is less than 25% of the margin by which she won her last confidence vote back in December. Clearly, confidence in the government is slipping fast. After the vote she was still vowing to carry through with Brexit, to find some sort of compromise that would be suitable to the House, but held mum about taking the no-deal Brexit off the table when pressed on the matter by Jeremy Corbyn. To her mind, nothing has changed. One gets the sense, though, that something is in the works. Continue reading “Theresa May’s day, or Mayday!?”

The wobbly state of Brexit

On the evening of 15 Jan 19 the sitting British government suffered its worst defeat in a House of Commons vote – ever. In a resounding rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the House voted it down by a margin of 230 votes, the largest since 1924. In fact, the three next-largest defeats were all in 1924. Two of those were on the same day and related to the Campbell case, the third relating to the defeat of a motion on Housing Bill on 3, all three under the first Labour government in Britain. The magnitude of May’s loss points to the divisiveness of the Brexit debate ongoing in the UK. Immediately after the vote was announced, the Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion for a vote of no confidence in the government, which was accepted. That vote is scheduled for tonight at around 6:00 PM. If she survives the vote, which is expected, then the government will have to come up with a ‘Plan B’ for debate and a vote on Monday, the day of the full moon/eclipse, and it should be no less interesting that yesterday’s vote. Continue reading “The wobbly state of Brexit”

The Hare, the Moon Maiden and the Magpies: The Meaning

Legend has it that Cháng’é was a beautiful woman married to the master archer, Hòu Yì. He was so legendary that he shot down nine of ten suns that had risen together in those distant times, which were scorching the Earth and causing hardship for the people, thus leaving the one sun we have to this day. As a reward for his skill and valor, he was given the elixir of immortality. We don’t know who gave him this magic elixir. We assume it was the gods, but who can say? Anyway,  Yì decided not to drink it just then, but instead hid it away at home in the care of his wife, Cháng’é. Continue reading “The Hare, the Moon Maiden and the Magpies: The Meaning”

The Hare, the Moon Maiden and the Magpies: The Mission

This year has already been a big year for space exploration. The New Horizons probe has just sent back the first pictures of the pink snowman – otherwise known technically as (486958) 2014 MU₆₉ – in the Kuiper belt. We also know it as ‘Ultima Thule’. Ultima Thule is the nickname given the little contact binary by NASA. But it is also a traditional term for worlds far beyond our own. The first pictures came through on Jan 2nd, but the closest flyby (chart) took place on New Year’s Day at 12:33 EST. It was discovered on 26 Jun 2014 at 08:52 UT (chart) in the constellation of Sagittarius in its retrograde phase. Its current astrological position is at about the halfway point of Capricorn. I haven’t bothered to calculate the exact degree, but it is a little past 19 hrs. RA. There is no online ephemeris that has this one in its database that I know of. But that is not our biggest story, although it is grand enough. Continue reading “The Hare, the Moon Maiden and the Magpies: The Mission”

A Christmas story…of sorts

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas. Americans are getting a special gift this season, with the announcement by the Trump administration that the US troops in Syria are starting their withdrawal from Syria. The Pentagon has since confirmed it. State department employees begin their withdrawal from the 20th of December. The complete draw-down is supposed to take between 60 – 100 days. Continue reading “A Christmas story…of sorts”