Will Trump nudge the Doomsday Clock?

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Doomsday ClockIn the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (9 December 2016), Seth Baum, executive director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute offers an discomforting, though measured, account of "What Trump means for global catastrophic risk."

"Global catastrophic risks are those that threaten the survival of human civilization. Of all the implications a Trump presidency has for global catastrophic risk—and there are many—the prospect of him ordering the launch of the massive US nuclear arsenal is by far the most worrisome. In the United States, the president has sole authority to launch atomic weapons."

If Trump were to order an unwarranted launch, it could be stopped only by disobedience of military personnel, whom he could then replace.

Aside from planning to either persuade or disobey the president, the only way to avoid nuclear war is to try to avoid the sorts of crises that can prompt nuclear launch. "The United States has long been too dismissive of Moscow’s very legitimate security concerns regarding NATO expansion, missile defense, and other encroachments. … Trump’s unconventional friendliness nonetheless offers a valuable opportunity to rethink US-Russia relations for the better. On the other hand, conciliatory overtures toward Russia could backfire. … Russia could become aggressive."

There is a risk that Trump’s defiance of democratic norms and institutions may make the US government itself becomes authoritarian—and many of hius supporters seem to favour that. "Already, government officials are discussing how best to resist illegal and unethical moves from the inside, and citizens are circulating expert advice on how to thwart creeping authoritarianism."

An authoritarian US government would be a devastating force," Baum says, weilding "overwhelming military and intelligence capabilities to even more disastrous effect."

Trump tends towards an isolationist mercantilism that would have the United States look out for its unenlightened self-interest and nothing more. This would have "important implications for catastrophic risk," that would risk, "putting the world on course for another major war, this time with deadlier weapons." On the other hand, globalization has its own risks of rapid economic destabilisation.

"Climate change will not wipe out human populations as quickly as a nuclear bomb would, but it is wreaking slow-motion havoc that could ultimately be just as devastating. Trump has been all over the map on the subject, variously supporting action to reduce emissions and calling global warming a hoax."

"Just because election-winning politicians have been of a particular mold in the past, doesn’t mean the same kind of leaders will continue to win. Likewise, just because we have avoided global catastrophe so far doesn’t mean we will continue to do so."

Meanwhile The Bookloft‘s photo offers some light relief.

Blue House blues

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South Koreans MPs reflected the national will when 230 of the National Assembly’s 300 members voted yesterday in a secret ballot to impeach the President, Ms Park Geun-hye, on accusations of influence-peddling, abuse of power, dereliction of duty, and other faults.

This victory for opposition parties and independents also relied on dissenters from the ruling Saenuri party to reach the required two-thirds majority. As The Economist notes, "today’s proceedings were remarkably civil and swift. MPs queued to cast their votes; many photographed their marked ballot papers to share on social media with their constituents. The atmosphere outside the National Assembly, where protesters had gathered, was festive in the run-up to the vote."

Blue House

The Constitutional court has six months to decide whether there is sufficient actual evidence of wrongdoing to justify the President’s permanent dismissal, but a prolonged power vacuum would be harmful and a quicker decision is expected. Meanwhile the Prime Minister, Mr Hwang Kyo-ahn, becomes by law the interim President. If Ms Park is dismissed, there must be a fresh Presidential election within a further two months. The Prime Minister’s role is largely symbolic, real power being with the President. Now Mr Hwang has an opportunity to step up. Ban Ki-moon has been mooted as presidential candidate for the Saenuri, but it is uncertain whether he could be ready if there were an early election.

Meanwhile Ms Park will endure a solitary and wintry residence in the Blue House, Korea’s equivalent of the White House. She has made apologies, but they have not been enough.

Rejoicing with northern hills

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On Thursday 8th December 2016, my local church, St Philip’s O’Connor welcomed Bishop Matt Brain, ministers and guests for the induction of Martin Johnson as its 11th Rector.

With Martin, we welcomed his wife Susan, and daughter Jemma. (Martin and Susan also have a son, Thomas, who lives interstate.)

We had long parcticed “Hills of the North”, which Martin had requested. I took some dodgy photos from the very back of the church, where I was ensconced in the choir seats as a bass—too far from the action for proper indoor photography.

Photos

After the processional entrance and opening greetings, Army Chaplain Sarah Gibson presents Martin
(who had previously also been an Army Chaplain)

Induction of Martin Johnson

Bishop Matt brings Martin to us, and leads in prayer
Induction of Martin Johnson

The three Parish Wardens welcome Martin,
after which Martin and the people make promises to God and each other.

Induction of Martin Johnson

The symbols of ministry.
Induction of Martin Johnson

Folks ready to present the symbols.
(Two young people are hidden from the camera!)

Induction of Martin Johnson

The symbols are presented

Induction of Martin JohnsonInduction of Martin JohnsonInduction of Martin JohnsonInduction of Martin Johnson

Archdeacon Erica reads Martin’s licence
Induction of Martin Johnson

As Bishop Matt presents the licence to Martin, we are ready to applaud loud and long.
Induction of Martin Johnson

The Rector of St Philip’s prepares to lead his congregation in prayer.
Induction of Martin Johnson

Parish Warden Rosemary, and Chair of Parish Council Ian, welcome Martin.
Induction of Martin Johnson

The service

Evening prayer, Second order, A Prayer Book for Australia.

Ministers:
The Right Reverend Dr Matt Brain (Presiding and Preaching).
The Venerable Dr Erica Mathieson (Archdeacon).
Chaplain Sarah Gibson, Australian Army.
The Reverend Linda McMinn (Area Dean).
The Reverend Robin Moore (Deacon).
Jemma Johnson and Jack Adams (Readers).
Denise Manley JP, Dr Rosemary Knight, Roger Sharp (Parish Wardens).
Ian Cousins PSM, Chair of Parish Council.
Visiting clergy and guests.
Choir and musicians, directed by Colin Forbes.
Parishioners of St Philip’s,
and especially … the 11th Rector of St Philip’s, the Reverend Martin Johnson.

Readings:
Isaiah 7.10-14, Luke 1.26-38.

Music:
Lo! he comes with clouds descending. Charles Wesley (1707-88).
O breath of life, come sweeping through us. Elizabeth A. P. Head (1850-1936).
Psalm 98, setting by Rosalie Bonighton (Cantor: David Tscharke).
J.S. Bach. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, from cantata Herz und Mund und That und Leben (BWV 147). English words, R. Bridge.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus. Charles Wesley, 1707-88.
Hills of the North, Charles E. Oakley (1832-1865) and Martin Shaw (1875-1958).
Colin Forbes. The St Philip’s Fanfare.

Induction of Martin Johnson