Welcome to 2019, and what is sure to be another 12-month bonanza of chaos and misery played out here in the UK and across the international stage. 2019 is the year of the pig in the Chinese Zodiac and so to honour this we go first to President Trump. Over the festive season, The President has been Home Alone in the White House as the US falls apart around him. Since the Democrat-controlled Congress refused to include funding for his infamous Mexican border wall in its budget, Trump has refused to sign it into law, thus putting the whole Federal Government into what is known as Shutdown.
This does not simply mean that the politicians of Washington get an extended Christmas holiday, it affects a great number of vital services. Anyone on the payroll of the federal government has been put on ‘furlough’ – which boils down to temporary unemployment – this includes National Park Rangers, many museum workers, zookeepers and anyone who works for a government agency. Hardest hit is Washington DC itself; technically not a state, all its civic services are run by the federal government so even street-cleaners, rubbish collectors, park keepers and transport workers have all been left out of work and out of pocket. In fact, some 800,000 federal employees have not been paid since the 22nd of December last year.
Government shutdowns are not a new thing, they happen quite often when the different branches of government are at odds and are used by Presidents to guilt trip Congress into fulfilling their wishes – the longer the shutdown lasts the greater the pressure gets, and it becomes a test to see who blinks first. The vast majority of these shutdowns are resolved in less than a week, this one is nearly four weeks old. In fact, as of Saturday (12/01), it is set to become the longest in US history – as Trump would say, he’s doing it “bigly!” The reason this has gone on so long is the enormity of the issue at hand, Trump is asking for £4.5bn ($5.7bn) for the wall from a group of people (Democrats) who detest him and his policy – at least someone knows how you feel Theresa!
Trump is, of course, not backing down either, partly because the wall was his foremost pledge during the election and is in part to blame for his current occupation, but also because, in true American fashion (see Vietnam), he doesn’t know how! In a plot twist literally lifted from House of Cards, Trump is now threatening to use national emergency funding for construction, yes that’s right, the money that’s put aside for saving the lives of everyday Americans in the case of natural disaster or similar – like taking candy from a dead baby.
In more exciting news, or at least it is the for 12-year-old boy inside me, shortly after the new year China landed a rover on the far side of the moon marking the first time anyone has successfully sent anything there! Despite the many manned and unmanned missions to the near side, little is known about the side Earth never sees, but it is thought to be distinctly different to the part of the moon we known. Although a great step for humanity, China’s endeavour does mark a notable power shift down here on terra firma. As America and China tussle over economic supremacy, it is not hard to see the parallels with the US/Soviet space race, with the success of China’s probe being much like the launch of Sputnik in 1957. The intention of the mission is to just science about a bit up there, collecting samples of moon cheese and generally show off a bit. China’s seemingly unstoppable rise to global superpower has left many uneasy due to their somewhat unconventional relationship with democracy, justice, and human rights. If I get ‘disappeared’ overnight, be sure it’s because of that last sentence.
So, at the start of this fresh year, the last of the decade, what is the state of the world? The UK is devouring itself over Brexit while thousands go homeless on the streets, America can’t manage its President’s Bob the Builder style ambitions, China will soon be producing, buying, selling, and arresting everything under the sun, while Putin keeps a cold, calm eye over all of this, with his jar of Novichok readily at hand. Oh, it feels good to be back!
Happy New Year.