Blog

My blog comprises a collection of articles that may be of interest alongside my portfolio. I have also reposted a small number of articles that are no longer available elsewhere online.

Trump's Last Stand

Politics
America

Day by day it seems more likely that America will wake up in November to the headline, "Joe Biden wins 2020 presidential election by a major landslide".

The Democrats believe it. America's meltdown amid a devastating coronavirus death toll and the cultural crisis brought on by Black Lives Matter seems to have facilitated a climate in which Biden can flourish. Not since Bill Clinton in the 1990s has the electoral map looked so promising. Trump is trailing Biden nationally in key battleground states, and even in traditionally conservative bastions such as Missouri and Texas. Pew Research puts Trump as much as 10 points behind his rival. 54 percent of registered voters say if the election were held today, they would support Biden or lean towards voting for him, rather than Trump.

The problem is, many Republicans now believe it too. According to Pew Research, the share of the American public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plunged from 31 percent in April, during the early phase of the coronavirus outbreak, to just 12 percent. It is notable that only 19 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents now say they are satisfied. Previously, Republican satisfaction had been above 50 percent for almost the entirety of Trump's presidency. Senior Republicans believe that Trump does not understand his base. Some Trump voters now actively dislike him and his antics - enough of them to make a difference. They wanted the second act of his presidency to be more serious, focusing on the Supreme Court and conservative values. Instead, they got all the turbulance that has come to be associated with Trump, and a Supreme Court that has just over-turned Louisiana's hard-line restrictions on abortion. Trump's own psyche is increasingly seen as 'fragile' by his inner circle. Although the election is still some months away, everything seems to be against him.

The president's remaining supporters point out that Trump has been the underdog before. In 2016, Trump lagged behind Hillary Clinton by as much as 10 points in national polls but ultimately defeated her on Election Day. Trump himself is trying to project confidence on his chances of re-election, counting on the support of the "silent majority", in spite of the bleak polls. There may well be new Trump voters to be found among the large number of Americans who do not vote. It is also possible that respondents are keeping their shy support for Trump quiet when speaking to pollsters. Perhaps most importantly, Joe Biden is hardly a political powerhouse of competence and integrity. Many Americans see him as a corrupt, slimey, slightly creepy, and confused old man. They just so happen to prefer the quieter former vice president to the raging, Twitter-symbiote Republican.

In more normal times, presidents seeking a second term typically highlight their accomplishments of the past four years. Trump was banking on America's continuing economic expansion and record-low unemployment, but all of that seems to have been eroded by the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest. His strategy of drawing attention to the obstacles thrown at him by Democrats and the "fake news media" appears to be wearing thin, even among his own supporters.

It is possible that Trump will fight an election in the trenches, holding nothing back, and perhaps even contest the result, but ultimately suffer a massive loss. But even the most ardent Trump critic should know that when it comes to the incumbent president, one should expect the unexpected. There is an outcome far messier than a dirty lost election. Some of the wiser Democrats and nervous Republicans are preparing for this chaotic situation. In the firm belief that he can't win in November, President Trump resigns.

Many Trump-haters would rejoice. "We've won", they'd say, "we've done it". The nasty orange man has finally gone away. A triumph for all that's good in the world. Perhaps their years of anger and frustration were worth it to see Trump vacate prematurely. Schadenfreude. All those protests had worked. Power to the people. Surely Biden has it in the bag now? Don't be so sure.

Donald Trump dropping out of the race may be the only way to turn the tables and transform the state of the election in favour of the Republicans. The momentum of Trump-hate that's powering the Democrat campaign, because it sure as hell isn't the sheer might of Joe Biden, would evaporate overnight. There would be no centre, no core, for the Democrats to campaign around. Millions who might have turned out at the ballot box to get rid of Trump no longer need to, and may just stay at home. All of the heat is instantly taken out of the election. And in that vacuum, the Republicans could rise.

For this reason, some of Trump's most serious supporters are among those keenest for him to drop out of the presidential race. These aren't begruding traditional conservatives that have always disliked Trump but liked what he stands for, these are the Bannonesque ideologues who see the power of full-blown anti-immigration, anti-China, populist Trumpism. If Trump has to go to secure his politics and outlook, so be it.

But they'll have to act quickly and fight hard. Perhaps with Vice President Mike Pence or some other more respected conservative character, they stand a chance. Curiously, there's rumours of prominent Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson being the man, supposedly allying with Donald Trump Jr. in secret. Carlson has attacked Trump in recent months from the populist right, demanding a more aggressive, zero-tolerance approach to Black Lives Matter protests and riots across America. He would certainly make a compelling candidate for many Republicans.

This is more than mere "what if" political speculation, and increasingly seems to be the nuclear option for the Republican Party. It's clearly possible, perhaps even likely. If Trump knows that he can't win, and that resigning would throw the entire nation into a new, unpredictable political disarray, one that could secure his legacy, I certainly wouldn't bet against him doing it.

Liberty Prevails

Politics
Coronavirus

It appears that after his life-threatening hospitalisation with coronavirus earlier in the pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's thinking changed considerably. Gone was the bumbling whimsey of the tousle-haired old Etonian. The reigning doctrine was one of 'safety first', cemented as he announced the effective closure of the British economy in March and a national lockdown, to be enforced by heavy-handed policing.

Declaring the easing of the lockdown this week, Johnson has gone further than many expected. Pubs, cafes, cinemas, museums, resturants, holidays, haircuts, and more are all due a triumphant return from July 4th. The business-inhibiting 'two-metre rule' has been relaxed to a more liberal 'one-metre plus', a move which hands responsibility to businesses to assess the specific risks in their premises and take appropriate measures. Even the 5pm coronavirus press briefings have come to an end. The British public is at last trusted to determine risk for itself. Johnson told MPs;

Our principle is to trust the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks, remembering that the more we open up, the more vigilant we will need to be.

Guidance, rather than instruction, is now the principle. The Prime Minister's step-change could not have come soon enough. The sense of ease on the Tory benches was palpable, although the remaining elements of the lockdown remain a source of discontentment. With the UK having experienced the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe, such decisions are understandably difficult. Having said that, the evidence of the value nationwide lockdown, especially when weighed against the long-term economic impact, is still in question.

The understandable concern now is that infections may rise. Johnson declared there would be localised lockdowns to clamp down on specific outbreaks and he claims he would not hesitate to reimpose the national lockdown if the rate of infection rose alarmingly. The Prime Minister clearly feels more comfortable announcing freedoms rather than restrictions. This approach is more true to his natural political instincts; a laissez-faire philosophy around social issues and antipathy towards bureaucracy. He's talked of the "freeborn people of the United Kingdom", who "live in a land of liberty" and have "freedom-loving instincts". These aren't the words of an authoritarian. This Prime Minister was always reluctant to implement the lockdown in the first place, and it will take a major setback to change his mindset once more.

The truth is that coronavirus, much like the annual flu season, is now an unavoidable part of our lives. For now, liberty prevails, measured by the common sense of individuals to determine the amount of risk they are willing to take for themselves. Naturally, people will be responsible for their own mistakes. The Tories will undoubtedly be blamed for those mistakes, along with the other sins they are chastised for, rightly or wrongly. People have always had to take risks with their lives on a daily basis, be it when crossing the road or hurrying down a flight of stairs. Infectious disease isn't going anywhere, and a new pandemic could just as easily be around the corner next year. For all but the most elderly and vulnerable, life must go on.

Britain Must Retain the Last Vestige of its Empire in Africa

Politics

The international court of justice ruled last year that the tiny but strategically important British Chagos Islands must be given to Mauritius, itself a former British colony. With 116 votes in favour and six against, the UN general assembly endorsed the court’s findings. Britain was given a deadline of November 2019 to surrender control. In a rare, albeit small, act of assertiveness on the international stage, the British Government has refused to comply with the ruling. Months later, the UN secretariat declared the end of Westminster's rule over the Chagos Archipelago while drawing up a new cartographic plan of the Indian Ocean. Britain argues that both the court ruling and UN motion are not legally binding, and remains resolute about its sovereignty over the colony, which dates back to Napoleonic times. The Foreign Office has said the islands would remain in British custody until they are no longer needed for defence purposes.

Tory MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham Daniel Kawczynski has been a passionate advocate of the government's position, and argues that the Chagos Islands are the "perfect strategic military outpost in a sensitive region". Located within striking distance of east Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia, the Chagos Islands have become indispensable for NATO's armed forces. The largest of the islands, Diego Garcia, was lent to the United States for use as a military base in the early 1970s. In 2016, Britain extended the rent-free lease of the base to 2036. The Chagos Islands also contain the most eastern British military base in the world. Amid rising tensions between India and China, it is essential that Britain maintains these military outposts. There is legitimate fear among Tory MPs that if Mauritius does gain control of the islands, they will lease them to China, with whom they have had close diplomatic relations for decades. A British loss of the territory effectively green-lights Chinese expansionism across the whole of the area. As Britain turns its back on the European Union, where not one EU country supported its case at the UN, it is vital that Britain stands by its American and Australian allies, both of whom have a great deal to lose due to the threat from China.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's 1960 'Winds of Change' speech acklowedged that the Conservative government could no longer prevent the process of decolonisation begun by the Labour Party. By the time of the Lancaster Conference in 1965, it had become clear that Britain wanted to relieve itself of the Mauritius colony. That year, the government declared the Chagos Islands to be part of the newly formed British Indian Ocean Territory, along with the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches, which were returned to Seychelles in 1976. Mauritius gained independence in 1968, three years after the Chagos Islands were separated, and therefore Mautitius itself has never held sovereignty over them. After 40 years of independence, Mauritius is attempting to overturn a legally binding international treaty, which they agreed to of their own volition. The UN's declaration, unlike Mauritius's agreement with Britain, is not legally binding, and is highly unlikely to hold up in an international court. The claim of Mauritius is effectively a fabrication, based on little more than Chagossian discontentment, geographical proximity, and Chinese pressure.

The cause is not helped by the Left in Britain undermining the government's position. Around 30 Labour, Liberal Democrat, and SNP MPs have now signed a letter calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to surrender control of the territory.  They claim that the government's refusal to do so is "arrogant and jeopardises our credibility on the world stage". This week, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth spuriously linked the UK's continued control of the Chagos Islands with the Black Lives Matter movement, which he said "remind us of our deep concerns as to historic wrongs in relation to race and slavery...The continued occupation of the Chagos Archipelago inscribes itself in these historic wrongs". The statement was a clear exploitation of ongoing racial tensions in Britain in an attempt to implicate and damage the government's stance. Those who believe that British overseas territories are little more than shameful and antiquated colonial relics, which ought to be given away as expeditiously and discreetly as possible, are overlooking major security concerns.

The UN's actions thus far may have stalled, but there will be further attempts to force Britain out. Anglo-American military strength is dependent on the retention of the Islands, which enables NATO to have a forward position across the whole of the Middle East, and the Indian sub-continent. As the worldview of the Anglosphere become increasingly opposed to that of China, it is vital that the British Government continues to put security first. The Empire may be gone, but some of its fragmented remnants have a crucial role to play in the days ahead.

Apple to Transition from Intel to Custom Silicon

Apple
Technology

At its annual Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) on June 22nd, Apple announced it will transition the Mac to its own custom silicon. It had long been rumoured that Apple was planning to end its long-standing collaboration with Intel Corporation and would begin making its own chips to power a new generation of Macs. This upcoming series of desktop-class 'Apple Silicon' will be the same as the chips that drive iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. Apple claims this will allow them to deliver "industry-leading performance and powerful new technologies" across the Mac lineup.

With over a decade of experience, Apple's successful silicon design team has been building and refining Apple systems on a chip (SoCs). The result is a fully scalable architecture custom designed for devices that lead the industry in unique features and performance per watt, and makes each of them best in class. On the Mac, this will enable industry-leading performance per watt and higher performance GPUs, allowing app developers to make even more powerful pro apps and high-end games. Access to Apple technologies such as the 'Neural Engine' will make the Mac a compelling platform for developers to use machine learning. The move will also create a common architecture across all Apple products, making it far easier for developers to write and optimise software for the entire Apple ecosystem. Critics will now find it difficult to maintain the argument that Apple neglects the Mac.

The transition is set to take place over a period of two years, and is something buyers will undoubtedly take into account when considering a replacement to their current device. Apple says it will continue to release Intel-based Macs until the transition to its own silicon is complete, and those legacy Intel devices will continue to be supported in MacOS updates for the foreseeable future. Investors will be pleased to see Apple removing its reliance on the external Intel Corporation, which in recent years has flagged in terms of release punctuality and chip performance, to an internal operation that has been class-leading for many years. In addition, without the need to purchase chips with a mark-up from an external company, Apple's manufacturing costs will likely go down. Whether or not this saving will be passed on to consumers is as yet unknown.

The move indicates that Apple's centre of gravity, one which has for some time focused on mobile technology, is working towards a more centralised model. Macs containing Apple silicon will be able to run iPhone and iPad apps natively, and though it was not mentioned, it is clear that a wider convergence of technologies is taking place within the company. Even the upcoming iOS14, iPadOS14, and MacOS Big Sur, show major signs of increasing similarity. The transition to Apple silicon is among the biggest and most fundamental changes to the Mac, and sets a new, competitive standard for performance and chip-design across the industry.