The difference between

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-44098760

I was going to post something about coding, software development, the process of writing what we have come to call ‘applications’ but which I, for 35 years have always called ‘computer programming’.

And then I came across this story on the BBC News – a site which is still lifting the pennant of true journalism above a mired pond of fake news and skewed ‘content’ by sites which claim to be reporting events but have hardened into a carapace of advertising click delivery and baiting.

Tessa Jowell has just died, succumbing to brain cancer.

John Bercow, who was my M.P. when I still lived in England and is now The Speaker of The House of Commons, delivered this living eulogy to Tessa a few weeks ago.

I am proud to be an American.  In fact I describe myself, accurately, as a British American since my new government are prepared to look the other way and allow me to retain my British Citizenship even though The Pledge that all new US citizens swear, hand raised (it’s unclear why), includes the wonderfully non-vernacular “I reject and abjure all princes and foreign potentates”.

I look at our Congress and the current maelstrom of knife-twisting invective and I find it hard to believe there are any left serving The People who could deliver such an erudite and germane delivery under circumstances where the weight of emotion was dragging at the corners of everyone’s eyes, quite visibly.

My hope is that, in time, we Americans will seek out people to be representative rather than reprehensible.  Where intellect is desired because we want leaders who can think through rather than blast through, who can build bridges rather than walls, to find common rather than scorched ground.

Right now it all seems like some kind of bleak game of Reversi.

 

See John Bercow’s marvelously dignified tribute by clicking on this link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p064wqyw/44098760

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LARTs and flags n stuff

Let’s travel together back in time a couple of weeks…

So, then, in a flash of official paperwork and the tired eyes of a government official at the edge of a compulsory furlough I became a US Citizen.  A tortuous path of stacks and stacks of forms requiring me to repeatedly detail every country I’ve ever visited since before cable TV and expound on intricacies like marriage dates of wives long since divorced.

It was slightly unnerving to hand over my precious ten year Green Card in exchange for a rather pedestrian sticky label in which my allocated seat number for the Citizenship Ceremony had been written in black Sharpie.  We filed in, the ‘guy’ pronounced my middle name, “Paul” wrongly no less than twice before getting it right, a feat I didn’t think possible, had some speeches and then we all stood and took the solemn oath and pledged allegiance to our new national flag and the republic for which it stands.  It was, as they say here, freaking awesome.

It was the culmination of a day of remaining calm after my morning appointment for the compulsory immigration interview and US Civics test. I had about a twenty minute wait after I arrived, glowing and inwardly panicking before my name was called.  With barely one foot inside the tiny office I was told not to sit and remain standing whilst I swore to tell the truth.  Thankfully that was the last time anyone from the USCIS or State Department have ever given me that kind of penetrating glare.  Oath of Truth done, we reviewed the information on the official forms, seemingly corrected some minor date issues (they got the chronology of my first and second wives reversed) and then after a few subtle conversational questions to make sure I was on the level we went on to the Civics test.  Which I aced.

After a bit of computer prodding I was told that I would be recommended for citizenship but reminded that I would not be a citizen until I had a chance to complete the Oath Ceremony.  “There’s an Oath Ceremony being held here this afternoon if you’re able to attend”.

So I did.  What’s more my wife and my daughter were able to be there with me too as I became an American.

Now, a few weeks later, my US passport has arrived and my voter registration has been enabled so I get to have my say next week, for the first time in the US, on some key things like mayors and propositions and other such ephemera.  Just like everyone else…

Extract from a letter to a British friend

It’s odd for me to cast my mind back to England. British TV programmes that people rave about on Facebook are a mystery to me; British weather forecasts seem shockingly cold (it was 0c in the UK last Friday whilst we walking around in shorts and 32C sunshine). It’s weird how your memory can’t remember if you had to wear a jumper in May in England. Then of course there’s the fact that I no longer say “jumper” to talk about a “pullover” since a “jumper” is a little girl’s school dress. The same language, used differently. I get annoyed about UK prejudices toward America and American misunderstandings of British ‘ways’. I would say it makes me mad – but then that does not make sense here where you must instead say “it makes me cross”. Mad people are…well, crazy people…although, confusingly, crazy people are cross. It’s a wonder I manage to understand a word people say sometimes.

It was a long letter…sometimes saying “no” nicely requires it.

This is how a fair trial works…

  1. We all listen to a litany of things about how you did / didn’t do it.
  2. Twenty-four hour news hacks (the kind we would not invite to watch our dogs) give the accused emotive nicknames and spout undiluted vitriol in great gushing splashes against our screens.
  3. All the circumstantial evidence means we just know you did it.
  4. We bay and crow in true lynch-mob style.
  5. The jury go away and look at the actual proof of guilt versus innocence.
  6. They come back and say, based on the evidence you’re innocent.
  7. We do not have an alternative verdict in the USA of “not proven”.
  8. So, quite rightly, you are free.
You see, this is how justice works.  We do not kill people just because we’re ‘fairly certain they did it and besides, they totally acted like they did it’.  We condemn people when there is proof that is so compelling that there is no doubt at all that they did it.

And then we kill them…after a suitable number of double-checks to make sure we got the decision right the first time.  Even then we sometimes kill people for crimes they did not commit or let them out just in the nick of time after their life has rotted almost from view.

This is the crux of the problem.  You can’t give that life back.

 We no longer storm the courthouse and string a screaming unfortunate from a tree limb or streetlamp.  We realize that mob justice is no justice at all, not even if it piques a sense of revenge that must be avenged.  We defer to a proxy of twelve people whom we have determined are good enough to make a fair decision based on what they have seen and heard unsullied by the quality of TV graphics and dramatic on-the-hour soundbites.  When they decide, we allow them to decide for us all.

This is…civility.  This is…how things must be.

Even a man rent on a rack and broken by the spasms of electricity and beatings will not always tell you the truth.  Find the facts.  Show them to our diligent dozen.  Allow perspectives of guilt and innocence to be ascribed.  Even allow lies – as long as we allow the lies to be shown as such.

Short dresses and inexplicable hot body contests make you seem weird, cold, callous or bizarre but they do not prove you a killer.  A knife, a gun, bullet wounds, ligature marks, broken bones, photographic evidence:  these work.  But when there is no proof…then the case is not proved, even if it makes you want to scream MURDERER or write letters of protest and when the case is not proved then you are innocent and you are free to slither or crawl or trot on high-heels in a go-go skirt because that is what freedom means.

The victim is still a victim…however she died, she did.