Now Gove loses his marbles

What is wrong with these people? I don’t know Michael Gove, but when he was Education Secretary and we were campaigning for a change in the GCSE ICT curriculum he was courteous and appeared rational, or at any rate cerebral. But according to this report he has today been comparing the economists who think that leaving the EU would be a mistake for Britain to the Nazi-recruited scientists who challenged Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Justice Secretary made the historical comparison to Einstein after being asked why voters should not listen to the economic organisations warning about the impact of an Out vote.

“I think the key thing here is to interrogate the assumptions that are made and to ask if these arguments are good,” Mr Gove said during an interview with LBC Radio.

“We have to be careful about historical comparisons, but Albert Einstein during the 1930s was denounced by the German authorities for being wrong and his theories were denounced and one of the reasons of course he was denounced was because he was Jewish. They got 100 German scientists in the pay of the government to say that he was wrong and Einstein said ‘Look, if I was wrong, one would have been enough.’”

Hmmm… Time for a lie-down in a darkened room, methinks.

What the butler saw

So it begins. As the media establishment wakes up to the realisation that this Trump nonsense might really be serious, so its organs begin to burnish the clown’s image. First up is this NYT piece about the property that will be “the Western White House” if Trump were elected President. It’s a three-sickbag piece, so be warned. Sample:

“You can always tell when the king is here,” Mr. Trump’s longtime butler here, Anthony Senecal, said of the master of the house and Republican presidential candidate.

The king was returning that day to his Versailles, a 118-room snowbird’s paradise that will become a winter White House if he is elected president. Mar-a-Lago is where Mr. Trump comes to escape, entertain and luxuriate in a Mediterranean-style manse, built 90 years ago by the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Few people here can anticipate Mr. Trump’s demands and desires better than Mr. Senecal, 74, who has worked at the property for nearly 60 years, and for Mr. Trump for nearly 30 of them.

He understands Mr. Trump’s sleeping patterns and how he likes his steak (“It would rock on the plate, it was so well done”), and how Mr. Trump insists — despite the hair salon on the premises — on doing his own hair.

And so on, seemingly ad infinitum.

And the headline over this farrago? “A King in His Castle: How Donald Trump Lives, From His Longtime Butler”.

No matter what you get up to in bed, there’s an app for it. Apparently.

This morning’s Observer column about the obsession with ‘datifying’ our bodies.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are obsessed with the datafication of their bodies and those who are not. I belong to the latter category: the only thing that interests me about my heart is that it is still beating. And when it isn’t I shall be past caring. But if the current craze for wearable devices such as fitness trackers is anything to go by, I may soon find myself a member of a despised minority, rather like cigarette smokers, whisky drinkers and followers of David Icke…

Read on

The myopia of technological determinism

Farhad Manjoo is one of the most thoughtful tech commentators around. But sometimes even he loses it. For example:

Silicon Valley luminaries are easily mocked as having a precious, narrow take on the world. People in the tech industry can’t see past themselves, critics often charge; they act as if the products they build sit at the center of everything.

But this year, the techies were right: Technology did rule many issues in 2015…

First, to understand the problem, consider the year’s headlines. From terrorism to protests over police abuse, from the scandal at Volkswagen to global tensions over energy and the climate, technology was central to just about every major news story that came across the wire.

Eh? “Just about every major news story that came across the wire”. What has this guy been smoking? Or has he just spent too much time in the Valley’s solipsistic world?

Here’s a few things he seems to have missed: the global refugee crisis; the civil war in Ukraine — and Russia’s role in it; the Eurozone crisis; the French regional elections; the Trump phenomenon; the British general election (and the subsequent election of Jeremy Corbyn); the thaw in US-Cuba relations; the continued rise of ISIS; the Paris massacre…

Apart from ISIS, tech is nowhere to be found in these stories.

I like Mr Manjoo’s stuff. But really he ought to get out more.

The triumph of hope over adversity?

NYT_editorial

The New York Times has put an editorial on its front page for the first time since 1920. It’s about gun control in the wake of the Californian terrorist massacre. It will, of course, have no effect: the US is beyond rationality in this area — as Nick Kristof observes in a remarkable column on the inside pages:

LESBOS, Greece — For three weeks American politicians have been fulminating about the peril posed by Syrian refugees, even though in the last dozen years no refugee in America has killed a single person in a terror attack.

In the same three weeks as this hysteria about refugees, guns have claimed 2,000 lives in America. The terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs were the most dramatic, but there’s an unrelenting average of 92 gun deaths every day in America, including suicides, murders and accidents.

So if politicians want to tackle a threat, how about developing a serious policy to reduce gun deaths — yes, including counterterrorism measures, but not simply making scapegoats of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The caricatures of Syrian refugees as jihadis who “want to kill us,” as one reader named Josh tweeted me, are unrecognizable to anyone who spends time with these refugees…

Note the numbers in the Kristof piece: an average of 92 gun deaths a day in the US.