Standing for what, exactly?

Perhaps I am the only one who is skeptical about this:

Women gathered on Westminster Bridge on Sunday to show solidarity with the victims of the London terror attack.

Is that why they were there? Or is that why they said they were there?

Many of the women wore head scarves at the tribute and said they were wearing blue to represent hope.

I’m more interested in why they were wearing headscarves than why they wore blue. Sadly, the BBC doesn’t tell us.

The event was organised by Women’s March On London group which took part in an international campaign to highlight women’s rights on the first full day of Donald Trump’s US presidency.

So it was a political event, then.

Another woman who was there, Sarah Waseem, said the Islam faith “totally condemns violence of any sort”.

Is this what you came to tell us?

She said: “When an attack happens in London, it is an attack on me.

You know, there are some people out there who wish that, in the wake of a terrorist attack, certain groups would not insist on making it all about them.

Women’s rights activist, Akeela Ahmed, who helped organise Sunday’s event said it had been “powerful and sent a clear message”.

She said there had been no speeches and that those attending had been advised to stay for the five minutes then disperse because the group had wanted it to be low key and not disruptive.

A low-key event formally organised and advertised by a political lobby group called “Women’s March On London” and reported by the BBC on its front page.

I may be being a little harsh here, but I think the memory of the victims would have been better served had these people stayed at home.

A Careful Choice of Words

From the BBC:

Violence in Paris over the police killing of a Chinese man has left three police officers injured with more than 30 people detained.

Demonstrators had gathered outside a police station on Monday to pay homage to the slain man.

It’s interesting to note the choice of words here. Had a terrorist killed innocent people the BBC would not have referred to them as “slain”. Instead they would have said they “lost their lives”, as if it were a bus accident. There is also no mention in the article of “thoughts and prayers”.

Nissan goes a-rent-seeking

Oh do fuck off:

Nissan has told the British government to spend £100m to attract component suppliers to the UK or risk the future of its Sunderland car plant.

“This is critical. If we don’t really invest in the supply base it will be a house of cards effect,” said Colin Lawther, head of European manufacturing at Nissan, to MPs on the International Trade committee. “Nissan will not succeed in the future, with or without Brexit, unless the government does something to help us in the supply chain.”

So the British people vote for Brexit and find a gun held to their heads and a demand for £100m of taxpayer cash? How many other companies are going to be demanding taxpayer cash to offset any upset Brexit causes to their business? Do these companies hand over extra tax when things go in the other direction?

Mr Lawther said on Tuesday the current “UK supply base is not competitive globally”, making it more attractive for companies to purchase parts from overseas. “We should put a £100m fund together quickly to repower the supply base to make us competitive and to give flexibility, so that in the end under any circumstances we are in charge of our own destiny,” he said.

How does hosing £100m at a “supply base” make it more competitive? What, precisely, is this money to be spent on?

Nissan itself plans to spend an additional £2bn with UK suppliers — almost doubling the £2.5bn it currently spends on British-sourced parts.

Just one paragraph ago UK suppliers were not competitive. Now Nissan plans to increase its expenditure on them to the tune of £4.5bn. Which is it?

He said the imposition of tariffs would be a “disaster” for Nissan that may cost the company up to £600m but added the group will “honour” its decision to build the cars in the UK, though “if anything materially changes, we will review constantly”.

Sorry, what bollocks is this? I can only assume he’s talking about tariffs on importing cars made in the UK into Europe. Why should this be of concern to the British taxpayer? And how does Nissan Japan (say) manage to import cars into the EU?

He said that the northeastern site, which is Britain’s largest plant and the fifth most efficient car facility in the world, produces two vehicles a minute and uses some 5m parts every day.

It’s the fifth most efficient in the world but they’re shitting themselves over Brexit and demanding the taxpayer prop them up?

Customs checks and other measures that led to supply chain disruption will blow a hole in the Nissan’s management of its Sunderland plant, Mr Lawther told the MPs. “Anything more than six minutes a day downtime on the line is a disaster,” he said. “If you’re talking about hours waiting for supplier parts [through customs], that’s absolutely off the scale.”

Oh please! This Lawther clown must think we’re all idiots. Who compares the downtime on a production line to the time taken for materials to clear customs? He’s either an ignorant moron or he’s deliberately trying to mislead us. Then again, he was addressing a bunch of MPs who by definition are a little soft in the head.

In order to maximise its efficiency, the plant only holds half a day’s worth of stock — leaving it vulnerable to any disruptions further down the supply line.

Then increase that stock to create a bigger buffer. Does increasing the storage of parts, i.e. building an additional warehouse, really impact production efficiency that much? This is not fresh produce we’re talking about here.

Since the agency was founded in 2013, the percentage of domestically-produced parts going into British cars has risen from 36 per cent to 41 per cent.

It sounds as though British suppliers are quite competitive after all. Does any other country supply a bigger percentage of parts? Where is the journalism here?

It’s amazing how often these darlings of British industry, the ones that are held up as examples of Britain’s world-class enterprise, are actually neck-deep in government largesse, isn’t it?

The Alt-Right and Antisemitism

There’s a reason why I don’t think the alt-right is going to become a serious political force. Take this passage, written by a reader and posted at Chateau Heartiste:

Btw, just learned about some interesting studies, posted at the (((NYT)))

Basically they argue that single motherhood weakened mostly the male children, because the sisters in such one parent families perform better in life than the brothers. In normal families, there is no difference or brothers perform better.

In other words, the lack of father harms more the male child than the female child. Therefore if you want to weaken men, push for single motherhood. No wonder jews try to destroy the family in the West, while simultaneously strengthening the family in Israel. There is deliberate push to decrease male influence in western society because jews feel threatened by white males, and by their innate nationalism.

So the next time a woman tells you that there aren’t enough good men, you can answer her: there aren’t enough good men because they were raised by women.

The author is actually making a valid point: feminism’s war on the family and their push for single motherhood is harming boys, and this ought to be discussed more than it is. But look at what gets shoe-horned in there:

No wonder jews try to destroy the family in the West, while simultaneously strengthening the family in Israel.

Jews don’t go in for family values? Single motherhood is the goal of Jewish women? Really? I know what the author is trying to say: American Jews, in general, vote Democrat, particularly Jewish women. Lunatic third-wave feminism has been enabled if not encouraged by the Democrats, and therefore it is the Jews who are destroying American families. But they are looking after their own in Israel.

It’s nonsense, of course. Sure, there will be Jewish women contributing to the idiocy of third-wave feminism just as there are atheist white men, but you can hardly dump the whole movement at the feet of the Jews. And only an idiot with think that liberal American Jews in places like New York are the same individuals, and subscribe to the same politics, as Israelis.

This is just lazy, old-fashioned antisemitism: blaming the world’s ills on “the Jews” and lumping them all together as one bloc. The problem is, you don’t need to go far into the alt-right to find this sort of stuff. It’s a shame because, as I said, the overall point made by the author is a good one. The Jew-bashing sentence added nothing, and will only serve to put normal people off. If this is how the bulk of the alt-right will go about their business, they’re going to struggle to go mainstream. I know I’ve largely abandoned alt-right websites and Gab feeds because of the constant Jew-bashing, although to be fair most is to be found in the comments. I’m sure others have too.

A Inevitable Result of Centralisation

Staying on the subject of parallels between Britain and the US and healthcare:

Many have been angered by a photograph of Mike Pence and an all-male Republican team reportedly deciding whether maternity care should be covered in Donald Trump’s new health insurance plan.

Women’s health and fertility rights campaign group Planned Parenthood expressed their outrage at the picture.

They wrote: “Here’s the picture of the leaders negotiating away birth control, maternity care & abortion. Notice anything?

As usual, the real story is being missed here. “Progressives” in the US pushed through Obamacare which massively increased the centralisation of healthcare provision in the federal government, before which it was more dispersed among the states. Some even suspect, with good reason, that Obamacare was merely a precursor to what said progressives really want, which is a single-payer system and the federal government funding all healthcare in the USA.

So having demanded that people’s healthcare is placed into the hands of a very few people in the federal government, the progressives are now complaining of the impact these people are having on their healthcare. Well, what did they expect?

Here’s what they expected: that those very few people wielding disproportionate influence over everyone’s lives think exactly like they do and, in this particular case, share the same sort of genitals. Better still, it will be they themselves who wield this power over everyone else.

We have a similar situation in the UK with the junior doctors, nurses, and everyone else permanently protesting at the supposedly harsh treatment the incumbent health minister is dishing out that week, particularly if he or she is Tory. They complain that government ministers are clueless about healthcare issues but at the same time vehemently insist that the government remains in charge of healthcare. Their entire existence revolves around living in hope that one day a health minister will turn up and do exactly as they want him to. You can say exactly the same for teachers in Britain too, only exchanging health minister for education minister.

It never occurs to these people when they insist power is centralised in the hands of a few people that one day those people might not be the ones you like. If feminists in the USA don’t like a handful of white men deciding whether or not insurance companies should be compelled to cover pregnancies, they shouldn’t have insisted that this is something to be decided by a handful of politicians in the first place.

Ryancare and Brexit

In the run-up to the 2016 US Presidential Election and the period immediately after it, I often referred to parallels that I thought I could see between the situation in the United States and that in Britain surrounding Brexit. And I think I’ve spotted another one.

Firstly, let me say that Trump has made an utter arse of himself over this healthcare bill: he is supposed to be the master deal maker and he’s now resorting to blaming the Democrats for not supporting what the media are now calling Ryancare. This will reflect badly on Trump, as it should, because he was in charge and he backed it. But other than that, this doesn’t really have much to do with Trump.

From what I can tell, Ryancare was a complete disaster: it didn’t address any of the fundamental problems with Obamacare, nor did it address any of the underlying issues with American healthcare that existed before the Affordable Care Act. If it looked like something thrown together in a hurry for the sake of being able to wave something around as an alternative to Obamacare, that’s because it was just that. The question is why.

If we are to believe the words that come out of their mouths, the Establishment Republicans were vehemently opposed to Obamacare and longed for the day they could repeal it. But if that were the case, they would have spent the necessary time and effort to come up with a viable alternative and presented that to the public loudly and often during those five or six years that they were in opposition and Obamacare was in force. Only they didn’t: for all their talk in the election about repealing Obamacare, when it came to the job of actually coming up with an alternative, they didn’t have a clue. And the reason for this is the Establishment Republicans never had any intention of repealing Obamacare: sure, they liked to use it as a stick with which to bash Obama, but they believed they’d either lose the election and not have to deliver on any promises, or that they could simply fudge their way through if and when they had to. I suspect the Establishment Republicans are terrified at having to come up with a genuine alternative because it will involve hard work and taking on the enormously powerful vested interests that make providing healthcare in America almost impossible.

The irony in all of this is that Trump won the Republican nomination mainly because conservatives in America were utterly fed up with Republican politicians saying one thing in public and then quietly going along with whatever the Democrats had in mind. The Establishment Republicans gave the impression they were in it not to lead and to govern but to enjoy the fruits of high office and the trappings of power, and if that meant staying in opposition but not rocking any progressive boats, so be it. So it’s hardly surprising that a lot of Republicans refused to back the mess that was to be Ryancare, they might be the ones who understand why the mainstream GOP is so detested by its base right now. I am glad this bill has failed because it would solve nothing and further entrench the Republicans as the party that cannot govern properly and can only tinker around the edges of the disastrous policies they inherit from the Democrats. Trump’s failure was to back this train-wreck and stake personal political capital on it instead of ordering the Republicans to go away and do what they should have done years ago: draw up a viable alternative.

The parallel with Brexit is that, just as the Establishment Republicans never wanted to repeal Obamacare and were wholly unprepared to do so when asked, David Cameron’s government was similarly caught out when the referendum went the opposite way it was supposed to. A serious, competent Prime Minister would have put in place a plan for both outcomes, and not get taken wholly by surprise by something they really ought to have considered, if not seen coming a mile off. Sure, I get that he resigned because he didn’t feel he could lead Britain out of Europe, but as the head of government in charge of the country his resignation should have been part of a plan which had been thought through in advance. He wouldn’t have had to publicise these plans in advance, but he ought to have had one, and he didn’t.

The reason he didn’t have a plan, and nor did anyone in the Conservative party, was because they were happy with the cosy status-quo which provided them with wealth, power, and privilege. For all their sniping about X, Y, and Z our Establishment politicians knew that those on the opposition benches and in the ivory towers of the EU were really their partners in crime in this great conspiracy to stitch up the public and keep the gravy train rolling. Which is exactly how the Establishment Republicans see the Democrats, and vice versa.

The only problem is, the citizenry, at least in part, has now woken up to it and is seeing how the game is played. Hence Brexit and hence Trump, and now the Establishment politicians are letting us all know who their real enemy is: us.

Chap Hop

Via this piece in The Federalist, I came across this video of somebody taking the piss out of British DJ Tim Westwood via the medium of posh rapping, otherwise known as Chap Hop. I rather like it.

(For those who don’t know, Tim Westwood is the white, middle-class son of an Anglican Bishop who made a career for himself in the world of rap, hip-hop, and RnB partly by changing his accent.)

Yet More on the Wiretapping of Trump

About ten years ago, back in the days when I was flying between Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Moscow (a flight of 9 hours) in economy class, I was involved in an altercation with a stewardess of either Aeroflot or Transaero, I don’t remember which. I was with my good pal and colleague Andrei and we’d just boarded and put our hand luggage in the overhead locker when the stewardess came to us and demanded we hand over the bottle of vodka we had brought on board. Andrei and I said we didn’t know what she was on about, and she told us she’s seen me in the airport putting a bottle of vodka into my backpack which I then brought on board, and this is not allowed. I protested vehemently and swore that she must have been mistaken because I did not bring a bottle of vodka on board and I most certainly didn’t have one in my backpack. She stopped short of insisting I open my backpack and let her inspect the contents, but the kerfuffle was enough to attract the attention of the senior steward. He listened to the stewardess and then turned to me, and once again I swore on all that is holy that I did not bring a bottle of vodka aboard. This seemed to satisfy him and he told the stewardess to drop it and leave us in peace. She went away absolutely fuming. Your humble blogger is not a pathological liar and he was indeed telling the absolute truth when he said he did not smuggle a bottle of vodka aboard the flight.

I did, ahem, smuggle a bottle of rum aboard, though.

I was reminded of this little incident when I read Streetwise Professor’s take on the Trump-Obama-Wiretapping accusations (I’ve linked to this before):

What Obama and his minions (and the Democrats and many in the media) say is likely to be correct, strictly speaking, but fundamentally misleading. In contrast, what Trump says is often incorrect, strictly speaking, but captures the fundamental truth.

When I said I’d not smuggled aboard a bottle of vodka I was, strictly speaking, telling the truth but my words were fundamentally misleading. The stewardesses accusations, while incorrect, captured the fundamental truth.

(Before I go any further, I might as well explain: Andrei had a mate who had a mother who worked at the airport and could get a bottle of something around the security check and hand it to him in the departure lounge. Fortunately Andrei prefers rum to vodka and so I was able to lie with a straight face. I don’t take any moral high ground here, but then I wasn’t looking for any: I was simply trying to make it through 9 hours of an internal flight across Russia in economy class. Andrei, being utterly shameless as many Russian men are, immediately called for the stewardess when we were airbourne and asked for two glasses, a bottle of Coke, and a lot of ice. Fortunately we got a different stewardess or I’d have died in my seat.)

Anyway, where was I? That’s right, the Trump wiretapping. I didn’t mention this at the time, but I found the GCHQ response to Trump’s claims to be rather revealing:

GCHQ rejected the allegations as “utterly ridiculous”. The unusual move by the agency to comment on the news came after Mr Spicer cited claims first made on Fox News earlier this week.

A GCHQ spokesman said: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense.

“They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

At the time I thought “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”. If they weren’t hiding something, why break with precedent to comment? And why the outraged language? A simple denial would suffice, no? Commenter “Nemo” makes this remark at Tim Worstall’s:

GCHQ’s statement was a classic public sector equivocation that looked like a denial as long as you didn’t actually read it. Reduced to its salient points it said:

‘We were never asked to wire-tap the President-elect.’

So the US Government Party only had to ask for intel acquired at GCHQ’s own volition.

And as another commenter notes on the same thread:

“Wire tap” is indeed shorthand. It does however give an out, in the sense that they can say they weren’t wiretapped – and it would be true, technically, if you don’t make the sensible conclusion that Trump is using it as short hand for generic surveillance.

I say all this in response to a comment that Polkamatic left under my own post on the subject yesterday (his comments are more than welcome, by the way, as are everybody’s):

Trump claimed unambiguously that it was Obama who was targeting him with surveillance. How is this even remotely the same thing?

To which David Moore replies:

Do you think that in making that claim Trump meant that Obama was the one in the van with his ear to the headphone?

And also:

The Streetwise Prof was bang on the money with this one. Trump was, loosely, right and the Democrats/Media have been playing a game of semantics.

Indeed. Now I don’t credit Trump with some Machiavellian genius such that he chose his words carefully to entrap his opponents. I think he knew, probably from his own supporters inside the NSA, FBI, and CIA that his communications were being monitored one way or another and just hurled out the accusation against Obama to be annoying and, perhaps, get them panicking and off-balance. Whether he intended it or not, he’s now got the FBI Director, most of the media, and a whole load of others backtracking furiously. That’s not a bad effort for a single tweet.

The Price of Winning

Sometimes I wonder what the hell people really want:

A “medal at any cost” approach created a “culture of fear” at British Cycling, says former rider Wendy Houvenaghel.

The Olympic silver medallist accused the organisation of “ageism” and having “zero regard” for her welfare.

British Cycling subsequently admitted it did not pay “sufficient care and attention” to the wellbeing of staff and athletes at the expense of winning medals, an approach Houvenaghel attested to in her BBC interview.

Houvenaghel, 42, spoke to BBC Sport during its State of Sport week, which on Thursday examines the issue of athlete welfare versus a win-at-all-costs culture.

A government-commissioned review, headed by 11-time Paralympic champion Baroness Grey-Thompson, into safety and wellbeing in British sport, is due to be published imminently.

It is expected to recommend significant reforms designed to improve the way athletes are treated by governing bodies.

Okay, right. But I remember years ago Britain was spectacularly crap at sports, damned near all of them, and we reached a particularly low point at the Atlanta Olympics 1996 when we won a single, solitary gold medal. One of the reasons offered for why British teams and individuals did so poorly at sport was that we didn’t take it seriously enough, we lacked professionalism, and we did not have the ruthless, win-at-all-costs mentality that others, particularly the Australians, seemed to live by. The government decided that this was not good and Something Must Be Done.

So they hosed money at the Olympics, particularly at those sports where Britain stood a good chance of winning medals in the future, one of which was cycling. With the money came professional coaches, many of them pinched from Australia, and the adoption of highly-professional training regimes aimed solely at delivering medals and securing victories. And it worked: Britain finished 4th in the medal table in Beijing, 3rd in London, and 2nd in Rio de Janeiro. We also saw a British rider win the Tour de France in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 as Team Sky practically dominated those years. Whatever we once were, British cycling is now a serious force to be reckoned with, and similar stories can be found elsewhere, particularly in those niche sports which for which decent funding makes a big difference and which deliver easy medals at the Olympics. No longer are we a nation of bumbling amateurs who believe taking part is all that matters and winning not really all that important.

Until today, that is. Now it appears that winning medals at any cost is unacceptable, particularly if sexism is involved, and our athletes have been treated unduly harshly. So here’s my suggestion: defund all efforts to win Olympic medals immediately and let these sports go back to people doing it for fun. If we get laughed at for finishing behind Latvia in the medal table, then so what? At least we know everyone will be happy, including the taxpayer.