A Short Letter to MP Regarding Donald Trump

Mr Prisk,

I don’t doubt you are appalled by the extent of Donald Trump’s travel ban, and that you also want a good relationship with our trading partners. I also would expect that you have been inundated with constituents demanding a response from you that is stronger than the Prime Minister’s.

As an MP and a member of the Conservative Party you have a duty. To stand up for human rights. And to stop normalising the actions of a bigot.

The Prime Minister is embarrassing herself, the Queen, our country, your party, and you. Stand with many of your colleagues and prove to me and the country that equality, liberty and human rights are more important than party politics or trade.

Condemn the Prime Minister’s weak words. Ask for her to be strong, and bold, as our leaders should be. Ask her to treat Trump’s travel ban like the ineffective, weak and racist document it is, and to prevent an official state visit from him.

Thank you,

Nathan Liu

Why are we all so Homophobic?

This story was originally posted on Medium, on May 23rd, 2015.

When you meet someone, what is important to you?

You slip casually into conversation with a stranger; your small talk tickles their interest and you laugh cautiously — mysteriously — at their jokes. You judge them. You note their lisp, their camp, affectionate body language, their tightly rolled sleeves and their scent. His jaw-line, under smooth tanned skin, is sharp. His posture, suave. He chuckles, his teasing cheekbones transfix, but he knows you’re a straight guy, and you go your separate ways. Moments later, you turn around and notice his familiar dark, slickly styled hair calling for attention above the crowds. He links fingers with his girlfriend. Your synapses flash with surprise: Oh, really?


Sexuality matters. We’re all at least subconsciously curious. We all judge our acquaintances, even our friends. We all want to know who is gay and who is not. We notice, and we care. Most of us don’t discriminate or insult, but we do one unquestionably wrong thing: we define people by their sexuality. We stereotype, offensively, in our heads, and don’t even know or worry that we do. We should be terrified of ourselves because we’re all homophobic, and we all deny it.

I write today not necessarily to praise the progress we have made towards equality in much of the western world, as fantastic as it is. Instead I write because I worry our mindset and our understanding — the things that need to change to spearhead further progress — remain as primitive and as harsh as they were in pre-Civil Rights Era America.

At this point I must clarify, regrettably, that this essay is not going to be some revolutionary driver of change; I have no tangible solution. I believe that addressing our homophobia and changing attitudes is likely the best start we can make in the short term and that is my goal here, but be aware that this is an issue close to my heart — one that I can get angry about, and I may fly off on tangents as uncontrollable as Tory welfare cuts. I’ve grown up my whole life with close family friends who are gay and my best friend at my school was too. Someone being gay is innately normal to me so when someone’s sexuality is the first thing notice I cringe, agonisingly: What are you doing Nathan?

I am compelled to change that.


Understanding what it’s like to be LGBT+ is hard. So is understanding what it is like to be heterosexual, but trying to learn is a good start in revealing what makes us so engrossed in people’s romances. Sexuality is a complex spectrum that no one person could ever accurately draw and it is not my intention to try and do so. Nevertheless, James Casey picks three principles to follow in an amazingly concise, humoured explainer of ‘how not be homophobic’:

Keeping in mind those three traits of sexuality — its complexity, fluidity and individuality — will probably help you avoid a lot of awkward conversations with people on a topic you’re hopelessly and self-consciously ignorant about. Their sexuality is their business; don’t assume you can gauge their interests from it, don’t impose a single sexual identity onto each individual you meet, and don’t make everything worse by putting people into neat, rainbow-ribboned boxes, because you, as a straight person, are in no position to do so.

Most people see gender and sexual orientation as binary, which leads to the stereotypes, but I challenge you to find one straight person without a same-sex crush, celebrity or otherwise. Once we break free from that simplistic view, and realise that everyone is not specifically gay or straight and may fluidly move between them, it becomes easier to empathise.

I understand why there may be confusion here. As a consequence of defining sexuality as something that can change, there is a risk of portraying it as a choice. Many compare gay rights to race rights, which is an easy way of clarifying that we are born with our sexual orientation although what that simile fails to illustrate, is that changing preferences are out of our control too. It is a vexing concept to decipher, so no wonder confused, deluded and unintentional homophobia is built into so many of our subconsciouses.

Owen Jones, one of my journalistic idols, calls homophobia “doomed” in a brutally informative article about just that, our subconscious:

British students who were asked to imagine borrowing a phone from a gay man came up with significantly more words about cleansing in a word-completion task. In another study, Portuguese students were offered either a yellow pencil or yellow disinfecting wipe after the experiment; those who imagined borrowing a phone from a gay man were more likely to choose the wipe…

…But actually the findings intrigued me, because prejudice can only be washed away (if you will) when it is understood.

He more optimistically concludes:

A society free of sexism and homophobia won’t just emancipate women and gay men: it will free straight men, too.

Clearly, studying sexuality is an intricate craft, and we are inadvertently entangled in its convoluted controversy. We are trapped. We are in a dark box of our own misunderstandings, and are too busy looking for a key the that we ignore the unlocked door. We can’t escape until we stop paying attention to what doesn’t matter. We are slowing progress by trying to progress.

How do we stop ourselves? By ignoring it. Maybe we should be defining people how they define themselves. What is someone passionate about? What is important to them? If the answer is food, think of them as a chef; if the answer is family, look on them as a parent; if the answer is sport, they are an athlete. If they want being LGBT+ to determine who they are, then it is fine to care. If not, it is irrelevant.

I asked at the beginning what is ‘important’ when you meet a person. That question was intentionally misguided and I am sure your answer was too. Because the key to shaking our instinctive homophobia is to forget what is important and concentrate on what is relevant.


When you meet someone, what is relevant to you?

You slip casually into conversation with a stranger; your small talk tickles their interest and you laugh cautiously — mysteriously — at their jokes. You judge them. You note their accent, their commanding body language, their perfectly tailored suit. His posture is dignified. He talks briefly about his work; he’s an associate at a law firm, and by his gently withheld smirk you know he’s never been happier. He chuckles teasingly, excited about your common interest in film and buzzing about the future of Star Wars, but he’s busy — he tells you he’s running late for a meeting with a new client— and you go your separate ways. Moments later, you turn around and notice his familiar dark, neatly styled hair above the crowds. He links fingers with his boyfriend. Your synapses flash with surprise: I thought he said he had a meeting?

Beginnings

I’ve never had a new years resolution. I’ve told myself to do this, to do that, to read this, to be that. But I’ve never set myself a real goal or a measurable target. I asked myself why, and came to the realisation that I don’t trust myself enough. I don’t trust myself to finish what I start.

I have neglected my online writing in the past few years, and this blog in particular, the one I pay to upkeep, has stagnated. I’ve never known what it should be about. I don’t like indulging in personal essays, like this. Too often I lack a subject, and more importantly, a question. And I like to see the end.

It’s not that I don’t write often. Spread across my hard drives, in cloud drives and in notebooks, I have words unpublished. Some are fiction. There’s one messy screenplay and about ten beginnings to more. If I look hard enough, I’ll dig up some chapters to a novel or two. These are things I haven’t seen endings for. They are fleeting ideas that seem great in the first few pages and then whittle away to a ‘learning experience’. That makes me feel uncomfortable.

I want to publish more. As a start I’ll be transferring my small Medium portfolio here. I have a habit tracker app with a task to publish here once a week. That’s something else with no end.

I’ll have finished my degree in six months. It’ll be the first time I’ve finished something in years. Maybe then, when my adult life is more free and fully in swing, I’ll stop worrying about all the unfinished projects, the neglected ramblings, websites and hobbies.

I couldn’t decide whether to title this post ‘beginnings’ or ‘endings’. I figured I shouldn’t start a new year with a post about what I fear.

I’m Voting Owen Smith for Labour Leader

I respect Jeremy Corbyn, I believe in most of his politics and think he was the best Prime Minister Labour could offer a year ago. I don’t regret voting for him. This is why I am deeply disappointed to be arguing for the end of his leadership. Whether it is his fault or not, a nasty Parliamentary Labour Party and the media have ended his chances at success, stifled opportunity and destroyed his party. There’s nothing that the membership can do to save what we voted for last year.

I am angry with the Labour MPs who led the coup against him: those who resigned so quickly, those who defied their boss on national television. That is not how a political party should be run, let a lone a credible alternative government.

It is this infighting led by vindictive MPs and the media that has lead me to a sad conclusion. If a general election were held tomorrow, I would not vote Labour.

In an ideal world, with a co-operative parliamentary Labour party tolerant of the views of its membership, Jeremy would have longer to prove himself, time that he needs to demonstrate to the wider electorate that his Labour party works for real people suffering under a Tory party that drifts further and further to the right.

That can’t happen while Labour acts so petty.

Fortunately Owen Smith is a good candidate. He stands up for the type of investment that the whole country needs, and the far Left can relate to. He is the only leading politician to be vocally for a referendum on our post EU deal. He already has Prime Ministerial qualities that Corbyn needs time to develop.

Owen’s policies are clear, clearer that Corbyn’s. They are more thoughtful and more detailed and more appealing to the wider country. The media will have a harder time hurting a typical political like Smith, than a rebel like Corbyn, however wrong that is.

And so while Labour are wrong to abuse Corbyn and their own party like they have, and while it was wrong for them to manipulate voting by excluding new members, the only way to save Labour is with Owen Smith as leader.

Smith represents the same hope that made me vote for Jeremy Corbyn. He’s far from perfect, and it pains me to vote for someone who supports our nuclear deterrent, but as this year has proved, Corbyn can’t go on.

Corbyn represented hope for the poor and vulnerable, for students and for the NHS. So does fresh leadership. So does Owen Smith.

Politics and Positivity

I made over one thousand calls last month to voters in America. I was campaigning for Bernie Sanders. ‘Fuck the Republicans,’ one New Yorker began, to my delight. A delegate in Washington couldn’t choose between Bernie and his girlfriend; on caucus day he was travelling to Oregon to save his relationship. And hundreds of people didn’t let me get past the first line of the script. I’m calling from the Bernie Sanders pr…. *click*.

One evening I ignored the campaign’s instructions — don’t waste your time with decided voters — as I chatted for twenty minutes with a staunch Hillary Clinton fan. ‘I used to wear Hillary sweaters in high school,’ she told me, her positivity gleaming, before generously letting me explain why I trusted the socialist champion more than Clinton. She loved Hillary, didn’t see Bernie as a serious candidate, and didn’t understand why our generation is so enthralled by his politics. I didn’t understand how she could feel that way, how she could trust so deeply someone who I am so hostile towards.

This girl, in the deepest, most empathetic and my favourite call of the campaign, paradoxically made me understand why so many people hate politics. We are intrinsically obtuse to each other’s obvious. We are indoctrinated by our environment and blinded to each other’s situations. We have to use all our energy to empathise. For something so important that it decides the price of our groceries, if we go to war, or whether we get a life saving operation or not, it is extremely divided. Everyone is right but nobody agrees.

Politics is impossible. It is daunting to everyone because there is no being right. The closest to being right is knowing the facts. But learning how many immigrants live in our country leads some people to Ukip and some to Labour, some to Trump and some to Sanders.

And by the nature of elections your opinion is validated by the more people who share it. The best team doesn’t win, the most popular team does. It appears to work because it is divisive. Because it is alienating. Imagine if football was the same: Newcastle wouldn’t be relegated with the fifth biggest stadium in the country and Leicester would have had odds far worse than 5000/1.

The elegant answer is positivity. Supporting a politician because you like them and not because you dislike the others. Having an alternative. But to get to this point, there needs to be turnout, trust and solutions. Three things that aren’t yet universal.

Today, to get people to turnout you need them to be angry. You need them to be so disgusted by the Tory’s cuts that they’ll make time to vote Labour. I dream of a system where for people to turnout you need them to be excited. You need to them to be so enthralled by one party’s solutions that they dismiss the other.

In the UK the Liberal Democrats did that in 2010; they excited young people and prevented a Tory majority. In the US Bernie Sanders is still in the Presidential race because young people see a future of hope and equality. Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader out of idealism. We’re moving in the right direction because of aspiration. Ambition is growing where equality is disappearing.

People hate politics because it is evil. I love politics because I see — in tiny glimmers in the corner of my eye — a future where it is not. I hope my generation don’t change as they grow older. I hope that glimmer becomes a spotlight — a spotlight on our potential, hiding negativity and manipulation in darkness. Every criticism needs a positive solution.

The Clinton girl gave me hope. She was how I aspire to be and what I hope everyone will become. She welcomed my love for Bernie, and her genuine positivity for Hillary, to my surprise, made me feel good about an election I’d previously seen as driven by hate.

Before everyone can like politics, we have to stop arguing, and start talking.

 

Requiem for a Banner Ad: Content Blockers as a Force for Good

If we want writers to make great work, vloggers to challenge our wit and then inventors to create new places for us to praise and critique them, somehow we need to pay. They need incentive because working for free is exploitative. We pay our politicians to change our countries and the immensely charitable Gates Foundation was born out of the richest businessman in the world. But in an internet-centric world, where the newspaper watches over its grave we forget this because information is free, entertainment is free and charity is easy.

Adverts paying for the web has become so normal that we believe it is the right way to pay creatives and journalists. Pre-roll YouTube ads and expanses of shiny banners over, under and on top of the news are part of our lives. And most people hate them, especially on the mobile web, where such ads can obscure most—if not all—of the content.

Unsurprisingly the publishers are the first to complain when people begin blocking such eyesores. There has been an uproar as iOS 9 brings content blockers to iPhone and iPad users, speeding up load times and making great content shine, but Nilay Patel of The Verge, in an article titled “Welcome to Hell”, claims that blocking ads means the “pace of web innovation will slow to a crawl” and at the bottom line, lead to the “death of the web”. PC Mag—within a shocking mobile web experience smothered in popovers and banners—have a similar sentiment, arguing that “users will eventually wonder why their favorite website died before finding another set of content to plunder.”

I may be no expert in web advertising and owning a monetised website—I have done neither—but I have worked on and read the business plan of a media startup, I have been paid to write on the web, and I spend so much time reading the words of the heavyweights in tech media that I feel I have a solid grasp on these recent debates. I can say with confidence that The Verge and PC Mag are wrong.

Ad blockers will force innovation. The web is here to stay; it isn’t going to die anytime soon. People need it, people live for it, and the job opportunities it has created are so invaluable our governments will not allow it to fade.

When such adverts stop making money we will be forced to imagine new ways of bringing in revenue; we will be respecting content more than ever. Ad networks like The Deck encourage minimal, informative ads and blogs from Daring Fireball to MacStories encourage sponsorship and membership with perks. I respect this, and I doubt I am alone.

The business of Content Marketing implemented by Buzzfeed and Vice to name just two, makes content become the advert. Articles and videos produced with companies pay well and are entertaining and informative. They sit alongside real content, aren’t garish, are effective, and easily avoided by the suspicious.

Crowd funding is threatening YouTube advertising, as viewers are frustrated by 30 minute pre-roll ads they always skip. Patreon encourages small time creatives to make more content by opening themselves to donations. The more someone donates, the more videos they make and the more perks particular fans can receive.

Within Snapchat, sponsored filters fund the company and are fun and engaging. They are not annoying or obstructive of the app’s core functions. Reddit Gold allows users to remove already inconspicuous adverts for a small subscription fee, and gives them perks on the site and discounts from other companies.

The best thing about the above warriors against traditional advertising: they are responsible. They treat writers and artists and users well.

Every criticism or think piece written recently have shared a trait. They ignore the fact that advertising only works if they have engaged readers. Irresponsible, ugly, intrusive adverts that slow their website down will turn away the people they need to pay their wages.

Years ago, pop-ups were the bane of working on the internet. Browsers began clamping down on such invasive ways of grabbing our attention, so much so that they are almost eradicated today. The same can and has to happen to the banner ads of 2015. Be responsible: innovate.

The state of Android tablets: Google need to either fix their injured tablet platform, or let it die

The Middle Ground on Android Tablets:

Only one [tablet optimised feature] remains in Android Lollipop: the ‘UI Framework for creating great tablet apps’ that was released in 3.0.  Now, the default Android home-screen has literally no tablet optimised elements, everything acts the exact same as if it would on a smartphone, just larger.

I’m not sure if it is the lack of interest in Android tablets that keeps developers from producing tablet apps in line with their iPad counterparts, but if the platform is to improve Google need to lead with example; right now they’re doing the opposite.

iPad sales are falling, however, so maybe letting Android tablets die is not as sad as it may first appear.

Jeremy Corbyn is the Politician the World Needs

Our country has a problem. People don’t care about politics because politics is a mess. It’s a club of elites breaking promises and hurting the people who really keep our country and its cultures alive. People are disengaged, they don’t care, they’re apathetic.

Jeremy Corbyn, someone who was obscure just a couple of months ago, will change that. If he were elected Prime Minister, the country would begin to—for the first time in a long time—represent us. It would represent the people of our country fairly. The United Kingdom would be a democracy again.

In this Labour leadership election we have the chance to put a man who will do things no politician has ever dared to do before into the running for the highest office of our country.

Jeremy Corbyn is favoured by 2015’s Ukip voters, Green voters, SNP voters, distrusting Tories and young people. And old people, and the middle class, and businesses who need well educated people from all walks of life.

Every child born should be born with equal opportunities. It shouldn’t matter if they have good parents or bad parents. Whether they are unhealthy or healthy, black babies or gay babies. Those born in the North should be the same as those born in the South.

They deserve choice, and fair, free education.

They don’t deserve to worry about being in poverty even if they work hard.

They can’t live their lives in fear of nuclear weapons.

They shouldn’t suffer because Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump are selfish and bigoted.

But they are. That’s how our country works. Finally we can change that. The Labour leadership election is a once in a lifetime opportunity to empower someone who truly stands against austerity and against the plague of inequality.

The right wing are panicking. The press are panicking. Much of the Labour party are panicking. Because everything they know—the corruption and undemocratic nature of our supposedly ‘developed’ country—is being put at risk by a 66 year old man with the biggest heart and the strongest drive of anyone in Westminster.

It might be a risk. Because Corbyn as a Prime Minister is idealistic. But is there anything wrong with idealism?

Corbyn can engage those distanced from politics. Nobody else can. Without him, the House of Commons remains to hurt those in need: the working people who drive our country.

He’s our only chance. Our one chance.

Take it.

Labour Supporters and Members, vote Jeremy Corbyn from the 14th August and spread the word. 

The Shadow Cabinet Are Killing Labour

Harriet Harman in the Guardian, recounting the shadow cabinet meetings preceding the controversial welfare bill that the opposition party didn’t oppose:

“What I did was listen very carefully to the shadow cabinet about what we should do about it.” There was a show of hands. “Eight people wanted to just abstain, 11 wanted to have a reasoned amendment and abstain, and four wanted to vote against.” She decided to abstain with the amendment, but says she could not have won anyway. “There was never going to be a right answer, because the only right answer was not to have the Tories in government and not have the flipping bill in the House of Commons.”

This is a shocking revelation. Less than 20% of Labour’s heart wanted to vote against the welfare bill. It wasn’t Harman on her own; it was a collective decision to betray Labour’s core principles.

Labour’s cabinet would likely look very similar under any of the leadership candidates with the exception of Corbyn’s democratic one. By voting for anyone except Corbyn, I worry I’ll be endorsing a cabinet that will make Miliband’s mistake: not being a real alternative.

You can’t win without trying.

Backing up Your Computer is Illegal in the UK

Law is a confusing thing, especially when it’s written by a government who seem to lack common sense.

Last year UK Copyright Law was clarified and rewritten, allowing for burning CDs into programs like iTunes, something that most already thought was legal. Recent legislation, however, has reversed that ruling.

TorrentFreak sought a comment on the changes:

“It is now unlawful to make private copies of copyright works you own, without permission from the copyright holder – this includes format shifting from one medium to another,” a spokesperson informed us.

iTunes is illegal. But it goes further.

“…it includes creating back-ups without permission from the copyright holder as this necessarily involves an act of copying,” we were informed by the Government spokesperson.

In reality, it is unlikely that people with backups of their computers, and thus their music libraries, will be prosecuted, and neither will those burning CDs on their home computers. Nevertheless these laws are a worry as there remains potential for unreasonable lawsuits to arise and people who don’t know any better avoiding doing what is imperative to using a computer safely and efficiently: backing up.

Indeed, streaming services from Spotify to Apple Music to YouTube are all replacing our need for locally stored music, so as long as the UK’s confused legislators don’t try to stifle competition in that space, perhaps we shouldn’t be making too much of a fuss of their poor wording.