Change don’t come easy

The third and final Presidential debate turned out to be a bit anticlimactic. Donald Trump actually performed relatively well, by his own low standards, managing to more or less focus on the issues, before blowing it at the end with his self-defeating reluctance to say he would accept the verdict of the very voters he was supposed to be trying to win over. Hillary Clinton, who, as all observers have noted, might well be struggling against a semi-competent opponent, once again had little to do but avoid disaster, which she managed with the ease one might expect from such a veteran operator.

The papers today have been full of hand-wringing about Trump undermining the traditions of US democracy, which I think is all rather overblown, especially now that he has started to walk back his “No Surrender” position. Hillary will win next month, and an exhausted electorate will move on. The GOP will regroup, and it will be business as usual by the end of the year, in Washington at least. There may be some grumbling from the disaffected elements that Trump has riled up, but they don’t constitute anything like an organised movement, so it’s unlikely to come to anything.

The best chance of real change probably lies in the remnants of the Sanders campaign, but that will be a long-term project. Hillary may progress some mild reform, but, whatever the right say, she’s no revolutionary. For the left, once the distraction of the quadrennial election has passed, it will, as ever, be back to the unglamorous grind of everyday activism, the sort of thing that actually gets things done.

He’s a poet

In an otherwise gloomy week there was one bright spot; Bob Dylan scoring a Nobel Prize for Literature. The somewhat controversial (but thoroughly deserved) award has had everyone quoting their best-loved lyrics, but I haven’t seen anyone mentioning my favourite, Motorpsycho Nitemare; one of the few songs where I can identify completely with the narrator.

Trumpocalypse now

Well, as I forecast, the Trump campaign has gone into meltdown, though I hesitate to claim too much credit for a feat of prognostication on a par with predicting that the sun will come up in the morning.

The election may be all over bar the shouting, but it does look there is going to be a lot of that before polling day rolls around, now that Trump has gone into full-on Nazi mode, railing against the vast conspiracy ranged against him, all orchestrated by shadowy “global financial powers” (hint: he means the Jews).

Trump’s strategy to consolidate the angry white male vote is not completely insane; as Nat Silver has shown, if it was up to the guys he would be a shoo-in. Fortunately, the 19th Amendement is a thing (however much the alt-right wishes it wasn’t), and the rest of the world can breathe easy knowing that the distaff side of the US electorate will keep us safe from disaster.

St Louis massacre

In news which has shocked – shocked! – the Republican hierarchy, it turns out that Donald Trump is an entitled, misogynistic asshole. Who knew? Despite Trump’s attempts to brush off the whole affair as the youthful indiscretion of 58-year old, it looks like this might be the point at which the wheels finally come off his increasingly unstable bandwagon.

If we were talking about anyone else but Trump, I’d say there was slim chance that the situation could be turned to advantage; Americans love a redemption narrative, and a display of humility and contrition at tonight’s debate might just be enough to persuade wavering conservatives to suppress their misgivings about Trump in the cause of keeping Clinton out of the White House. I’ve no doubt those of his advisors who haven’t yet jumped ship are begging him to follow that strategy, but I’m equally sure that he’ll ignore them and stick with the aggressive counterattacks that seem to be the only response he has to any adversity.

So we can expect an entertaining, if unedifying, spectacle in St Louis tonight; Trump becoming increasingly unhinged and incoherent, as Clinton stands back and looks presidential. If the GOP haven’t dumped him by this time tomorrow they might be looking at a defeat of historic proportions come November.


The dust has settled after the opening Presidential debate, and the consensus among the pundits seems to be that, in the battle between the know-all and the Know-Nothing, Hillary came out clearly on top.

The Clinton camp’s tactics were spot on; burnish their candidate’s credentials as a competent, if slightly dull, technocrat, while gently goading Trump into damning himself in the eyes of undecided voters (particularly women) by exploiting his almost Pavlovian inability to resist responding to criticism, or even contradiction, with bigoted invective.

Trump, meanwhile, appears to be calculating that the demographic he already has locked down – angry white guys essentially – will be enough to carry him over the winning line. That’s optimistic; even if he can motivate his base to turn out in big numbers, the list of groups he has insulted, belittled, threatened, or otherwise pissed-off is extensive, and they’ll be queuing up to vote against him.

I’ve no doubt that there will be more twists in this story between now and November, but I’m sticking to my prediction; Hillary will win.

Pool’s re-opened

We’re not the only metaversally-orientated blog that’s woken from a coma recently; after a gap of nearly three years the legendary Alphaville Herald has started updating again, with Peter Ludlow back at the helm. (Presumably he has time on his hands after leaving his last job just before getting fired for sexual harassment).

Ludlow, through his alter-ego Urizenus Sklar, has proclaimed a new mission statement for the publication, promising to extend his characteristically overwrought analysis from the virtual realm to real life, specifically contemporary US politics, on the somewhat shaky grounds that “Real Life has become a virtual world”.

So far the fruits of this project are limited to amusing but fairly pointless trolling of an obscure white-supremacist, but presumably it will move on to consider the whole Trump phenomenon, which, representing as it does the griefing of the entire body politic, should be right up Ludlow’s street.


There’s a passage early in Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting where protagonist Renton decides to kick his heroin habit, which he manages, though not without some difficulty (and a trip to the Worst Toilet in Scotland). Afterwards he finds that his friend Sick Boy has come off the smack too, just to piss off Renton by showing how easily he could do it.

In a similar spirit, I resolved last month to quit Facebook, just to prove to myself that I could. Rather to my surprise it’s been pretty painless; after a couple of days the urge to click the familiar blue icon on my phone more or less completely faded. I was a bit worried that, divorced from my carefully curated timeline, I might fall out of touch with world events and popular culture, but it turns out that looking at the BBC news a couple of times a day and listening to the radio are just as effective in this regard as compulsively checking the latest minor updates every few minutes, so I don’t feel that I’ve lost anything terribly valuable.

What have I actually gained though? A gratifying glow of smugness when I sit on the train and look at all the sheeple hypnotised by their corporate overlords of course, and probably something intangible, like a deeper connection with the natural world around me or the like. I can’t say that I’ve done anything particularly constructive with the hour or two a day freed up by this change in habit, but I guess regaining the ability to just do nothing for periods of time is actually quite valuable.

In the story Renton eventually relapses, and his subsequent detox is exponentially more horrifying than the first, so I suppose that I shouldn’t get too complacent after just a few weeks of abstinence. I need to find some other diversional activity – perhaps I’ll take up blogging again…

Information overload

Today is apparently the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web (again), which seems like a good excuse to reflect on the future of our own little contribution to the medium, namely this blog.

One of the many statistics that I’ve seen bandied about today is that, of the billion or so web pages in existence, around 75% are inactive. I’m not sure exactly what the definition of “inactive” is in this context, but I’d have to admit that SLS, with our relaxed update schedule, must be at least flirting with it.

Why is this? It’s not as if I’ve become any less opinionated in the last couple of years, and there’s certainly no shortage of subjects to comment upon. If anything that’s the problem; the sheer deluge of information, handily delivered at all hours of the day, means I never have time to stop and write about anything before I’m distracted by the next item on the timeline. Even when I do pause long enough to start to formulate some thoughts on a subject, I tend to be discouraged by the feeling that someone else will undoubtedly have already expressed them, and probably more eloquently, a suspicion that I can usually confirm with a couple of clicks.

Would it really matter if this blog slipped into a permanent limbo? To the world, I guess not, but I would feel more than a twinge of regret. I enjoy reading our old posts, and it would seem like a shame to give up just when we are closing in on our tenth birthday.

So what’s to be done? I have to drop back to a slower pace of news acquisition; perhaps I should start reading actual papers again, instead of addictively clicking on a Facebook feed. I could get rid of my smartphone and attempt to wean myself off of the need to be constantly connected. I might even try just hanging out with my friends and talking about stuff, like we used to do back in the old days.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve tasted the sweet drug that is the modern internet, and I’m not about to give it up. I’ll just have to try harder not to be so passive…

Come what May

Rather sooner than expected we have a new Prime Minister; Theresa May has ascended to the top job in a fashion that, even for this country, seems astonishingly undemocratic. The chaotic state of the opposition may incline her towards seeking a personal mandate by way of an early election, but, given that her predecessor exited after an ill-judged consultation of the population, I suspect that is a temptation she will resist.

One of May’s first actions has been to appoint her erstwhile opponent Boris Johnson to the post of Foreign Secretary, presumably working on the principal that one should keep one’s friends close, and one’s enemies closer. Still, it seems like a risky choice; Johnson’s decidedly undiplomatic style will probably have us at war with half of Europe before the month is out.

Obscure future

Well, for about 109 minutes there it looked like I might have finally produced an accurate football tournament prediction, but no luck, for me nor France.

My political forecasting skills are not much better; despite my confident assertion that Boris Johnson would be the next Prime Minister he didn’t even make it on to the ballot. Instead we are to have a female premier, which sounds like it should be progressive, but neither Theresa May nor Andrea Leadsom are exactly hard-core feminists, so perhaps not.

There had been talk of an early election, but that possibility seems to be receding, and with it hopes that Brexit could be averted by some sort of democratic means. There are a couple of legal cases pending that seek to overturn the referendum result, but, aghast as I was at the leave vote, I would hesitate to change the outcome by such a method, since it would only drive already alienated sections of the population into the arms of the far-right.

I guess we just have to play the long game; as the Chilcot Report has shown, progressive positions are usually vindicated with the passage of time, even if it is years too late to make any difference.