Al Franken is an arse, but he shouldn’t resign over this photo

Earlier this week, a judge by the name of Roy Moore stood accused of sexually assaulting a teenage woman in Alabama, the state for which he will shortly run for senator as a Republican. The accusations date back decades meaning we’re never going to find out what happened, but the guy comes across as a slimy bastard at best: he did an interview with Sean Hannity which only served to make him look shiftier, and the comments from his lawyer can’t have helped much. If he had any sense he’d withdraw from the race, and Republicans would back someone less dodgy.

The trouble is, Moore has become the trench in which many Republicans have selected to fight what they see as Democrat hypocrisy, particularly over Bill Clinton. Why should Moore resign over ancient, unproven allegations of sexual assault when the Democrats defended Slick Willie for decades and still wheel him out at fundraisers and election campaigns? The Republicans have a good point, but defending Moore is an odd way to go about it: certainly, I’d not want to be among those defending him. Innocent until proven guilty is an important principle to uphold when dispensing justice, but I am happy to accept a lower burden of proof when someone is merely running for office.

But things took a stupid turn yesterday when former comedian and Democrat senator Al Franken was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a model by the name of Leeann Tweeden when they visited Iraq in 2006. A picture has emerged of Franken allegedly groping Tweeden as she sleeps:

This photo – taken by Franken’s brother – is being held up as being proof of Tweeden’s allegations and a lot of people are now calling for his resignation. The way things are going, they’ll probably get their way.

Now I really don’t like Franken. I didn’t know of him until I saw him question Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, during his nomination hearings and he came across as a deeply ignorant partisan fool. If he resigns it’s hard to see how American politics would be worse off, but to do so on the basis of that photo is stupid. Now it’s clear Franken is an idiot and taking photos like that is not the wisest thing to do. But it was before he was a senator at a time when he was a comedian, or what passes for one these days, and it was obviously meant as a joke. Tweeden is asleep but wearing a flak jacket, and it’s not even clear that Franken’s hands are touching it. It is humiliating for Tweeden, and Franken should have been given a bollocking for it, and perhaps Tweeden’s claim that he forcibly kissed her should be taken more seriously – but to say this photo is proof of sexual assault on the same level as that which Moore is accused of is absolute nonsense.

It’s probably been a long time coming, but America is in the middle of a moral panic over sexual assaults both real and imagined. Unable to deal with it sensibly, everyone is just digging political trenches and lobbing hand-grenades at the other side when this ought to have nothing to do with politics at all. Unfortunately, everything is about politics these days and as such we’re being subject to ever-more bizarre displays of political posturing. The worrying thing is I don’t think we’re anywhere close to rock-bottom yet, and moral panics rarely end well.

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The EU Army

Staying on the theme of a military’s true purpose, the EU is rushing forward with plans to create an army now they’re free of Britain’s long-standing objections:

An EU army moved a major step closer today as 23 member states signed up to an historic pledge to join forces despite warnings it could undermine Nato.

Poland demanded the new organisation not be ‘competitive’ with Nato before signing up to the plan. The agreement is set to be finalised at next month’s meeting of EU leaders.

To be honest, I think there is absolutely no chance any EU army would be competitive with Nato: the latter is basically the term used for an American army fighting off invading Russians (or, more recently, meddling on Russia’s borders) and there is no way in hell any soldier marching under an EU flag is going to fight Russians. They may put on a nice parade as Russia occupies a Baltic State or two in a hastily-agreed ceremony marking “joint sovereignty”, but that’s about it. They pretty much admit as much here:

The EU can also bring its political and financial weight to bear on security challenges, such as the use of development aid in Africa, where Nato has no real foothold.

By which they mean they can document tribal massacres as they occur.

EU officials insist this is not just bureaucratic co-operation, but real investment that will help develop Europe’s defence industry and spur research and development in military capabilities that the bloc needs most.

Under Pesco, EU countries will commit to increase military spending, but not to specifically adhere to Nato’s bottom line of moving towards 2 per cent of gross domestic product for defence budgets by 2020.

Even assuming this money materialises – a big assumption – note what they want to spend it on. Not main battle tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, or heavy-lift aircraft but R&D. I doubt they’ll even manage this: whatever dribble of money actually gets allocated will be swallowed up by sprawling, squabbling bureaucracies with the rest going to French and Belgian defence companies to protect jobs.

To explain this, one needs to understand what this army is really for. The first deployment of an EU army in an action involving a weapon larger than a rifle will be within the EU’s borders and the enemy will be people the EU considers citizens. This is an EU army after all, and its first role is to protect the interests of the EU – and by that I mean the political body that sits in Brussels, rather than citizens of the member states. If they need to go and shoot some uppity civilians to maintain their grip on power that’s what they’ll do, and indeed I suspect that’s what this army is really for.

My only surprise is that Hungary and the Czech Republic signed up to it. You’d have thought they’d see the dangers of this a mile off, but apparently not. Time will tell if they come to regret it.

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The Purpose of the US Military

A few stories have caught my attention over the past day or so, all on the subject of the US military. Here’s the first:

Facing low recruitment levels, the U.S. Army quietly lifted its ban on allowing people with a history of mental illness, self-mutilation and drug abuse to serve in the military – despite warnings from the industry about the risks involved.

The new rules green-light recruits who have bipolar disorder, depression and issues with cutting – a process in which a person takes a knife or razor to his or her own skin – along with those who bite, hit or bruise themselves intentionally.

What could possibly go wrong? Then there was this:

An active-duty service member has received gender-reassignment surgery, the Pentagon said Tuesday, amid ongoing debate over whether transgender troops should be allowed to continue to serve in the military.

Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said the surgery was done Tuesday in a private hospital and was paid for by the military’s health coverage because the doctor deemed it was medically necessary.

Thirdly, this:

A leading organization of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans wants the Department of Veterans Affairs to change its motto because, the group’s leaders say, the words first issued by Abraham Lincoln — “To care for himwho shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan” — are outdated and, more important, they exclude the many contributions made by military women.

“By excluding women,” Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Executive Director Allison Jaslow wrote in her letter to VA, “it … communicates to women veterans that they are unwelcome outsiders.”

If a woman feels that her service is not valued, her sense of deserving mental health care also will suffer. This is not to say that feeling undervalued necessarily leads to suicidal thoughts, but rather that feeling this way can create barriers to seeking support.

Developing a sense of belonging, through specific outreach from VA and by using more inclusive language in its motto and messaging to veterans, would help close this gap.

Okay, what these three stories show is the real purpose of the US military, at least in part – a part which is growing larger as time goes on. One would be forgiven for thinking, as traditionally was the case, that the purpose of the US military was to defend America’s interests against foreign enemies. Even if we’re going to buy into the NeoCon rubbish about spreading liberal values throughout the world by bombing places like Iraq (I confess, I fell for it), you can at least make the argument that bombing places and killing people is what the military is for, even if the causes are somewhat questionable. Whatever you thought of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the military appeared be doing what militaries do: wreck stuff and kill people.

I suppose the US military still performs that role in some capacity, but a large portion of it now appears to have been turned over to something different. In part, the purpose of the military is to serve as a vehicle (one of many) for progressives to enact their deranged fantasies as part of an overall aim of undermining society and the institutions on which it depends as far as possible. Now perhaps I’m wrong in this, but one thing is for sure: the purpose of the US military is no longer fighting enemies in the hope of winning. It may still do so, but this will be in spite of the new direction, not because of it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Obviously America is still keen to go around smashing things up and killing people and they’re not daft enough to think they can do that if they have a load of drug addicts, trannies, and anxious women making up the squads and platoons. So they’ve sort of separated the military in two, from what I can tell: on the one hand you have the military the public hears about which is basically a social welfare program with all its attendant progressive virtue-signalling; on the other hand you have bands of special forces roving around in places like Niger for decades at a time doing whatever they like without the civilian government in Washington having the slightest idea why they’re there (or even where Niger is). The ZMan has talked about this in one of his podcasts, and when he said the government – meaning Congress – has lost all control of the military he is right. But you can be sure that wherever there are American forces in places we’d find surprising, killing people and blowing stuff up, there won’t be many lunatics, transexuals, or women around.

The other effect of this split in the military is the increased use of mercenaries, contractors, and foreign troops to carry out what would previously have been done by regular American forces. Proper fighting is best done by tough, young, aggressive men and that doesn’t change just because progressives have filled the military with just about everyone else. One way or another, the fighting will still be done by those who do it best and if that means those who would ordinarily join the army go and become mercenaries, that’s what they’ll do. If the US military is deploying somewhere it will still need fighting men, and if they’ve been forbidden from including them in their ranks they’ll simply hire them on location or enlist their services by other means. But as we saw in Iraq, this leads to even less transparency, accountability, and control over what is being done in America’s name. Occasionally I hear rumblings about the use of contractors and mercenaries, but we haven’t had anything like the Blackwater scandal for a while. I suspect this is because senior people in the military know they are now more dependent on these people than ever before and are keeping a lid on things. Eventually something will go horribly wrong and there will be a public outcry (especially from the SJWs whose policies have brought this about), and everyone will be reminded how the US military operates in practice. Until then, it’s worth remembering that the US military is not what people think it is, and it doesn’t serve the purpose they think it does.

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Ah well, at least he tried!

You’ve got to feel for old Adam Piggott here. He starts off trying to put in place a half-sensible comments policy to eliminate the headcases:

It’s been a pretty massive week on the blog for which I thank all of my readers and commenters, linkers and disseminaters. Something which has started to increase over the last few weeks is an increase in the number of spammers as well as a general change of their tactics.

So here are the rules of the blog as regards to Jews. Feel free to criticize any Jew on their actions and their words just like we would criticize anyone else. Likewise, feel free to criticize Israel on its actions and policies, just like we would criticize any other nation.

But no inferring. No stooping to nebulous half claims of Jewish conspiracy. No attributing actions to the fact that someone is a Jew. And (((this sort of thing))) will get you banned.

And then within a few minutes he gets stuff like this:

Wow you really believe their were death camps?
That means you are super stupid. Your blog is off my list of things worth reading.

And this:

There’s really no difference between cucking to “aborigines,” negroes, hispanics, muslims or jews. It doesn’t make one enlightened to see the problems with some of the groups and pretend there aren’t any with the third. It just makes you a cuck.

And this:

You seem to be speaking with authority on this, so please could you name the death camps. We know there were none in Germany, and if you say Auschwitz I will show you a video of the head curator there admitting to a Jewish documentary maker that there were no mass gassings in the place. If you say Treblinka, i will link to a documentary which sought to prove gassings there but failed utterly. Zyklon B doesn´t even kill humans in the manner they claim (it is harmless in pellet form)

Basically, what happened was that the Allies were understandably eager to show the world that the sacrifice of blood and treasure during WWII was worth it, so they were only too pleased to when the footage of the dead inmates turned up. But rather than explain they had died from disease, etc, they perverted the message to blame the deaths on a deliberate policy of genocide.

This is one reason why I don’t associate with the alt-right, nor read many of their blogs: within three comments you’re neck-deep in a discussion on “the Jews” and whether the Holocaust really happened. Fortunately, he also got plenty of comments like this:

Adam, thank you for taking a public stand on (((this))). The absolute worst thing about the alt-right blogs is the retarded anti-Semitism that is used to justify just about everything under the sun and the way that most hosts either turn a blind eye or encourage it in their comments section. The comments of otherwise useful blogs are so full of fucking garbage that goes from a jewish guy doing something wrong to ((( ))) being the sole focus of the next 50 comments. You’ve lit a beacon of common sense above your door.

Adam’s experience only goes to show how deep the problem runs. Good on him for trying to stamp it out, but I fear it may be an uphill struggle.

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Theresa May, Russia, and Fake News

Yesterday Theresa May addressed one of main issues concerning everyday British citizens. Immigration? Brexit? House prices? Terrorism?

Alas no, she instead spoke about fake news being spread by Russians:

Theresa May has accused Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media in an extraordinary attack on its attempts to “weaponise information” in order to sow discord in the west.

The prime minister spoke out against “the scale and nature” of Russia’s actions during an address at the lord mayor’s banquet, saying it was “threatening the international order on which we all depend”.

If the international order can be upset by fake news being planted in the media, it doesn’t say much about the international order, does it? But the reason fake news gains so much traction in the west is twofold: firstly, major news organisations are flatly refusing to cover serious issues affecting millions of ordinary people, thus giving the (correct) impression that the news is carefully managed by the political establishment. This then leaves the floor clear for nefarious parties to come in and talk about these issues unopposed. Secondly, trust in the mainstream media has fallen to rock-bottom because people have finally realised they are also in the business of peddling fake news, and now consider the difference between them and the likes of RT to be one of degree not form. The mainstream media and the politicians they pander to have only themselves to blame, but they are so lacking in self-awareness they can’t see how much they’re projecting. Consider this statement for example:

“It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the west and undermine our institutions.”

How many fake news stories regarding Donald Trump does the BBC peddle, then? Just last week it was complicit in the fake story about Trump dumping the fish-food into the pond all at once, and relies mainly on unsubstantiated Twitter posts in its initial reporting of a story. And how much airtime did the BBC give to the non-story that was the Paradise Papers? Consider too this post from Rob Fisher at Samizdata:

Leaving aside the question of whether the state has a role in telling broadcasters what news they can broadcast (it does not), let me take a quick look at the front page of the BBC News website right now.

Here is my translation of the pertinent headlines (stories that are political I have marked in italics, and neutral stories I have omitted):

– Big companies like Apple should pay more tax.

– Tax avoidance is wrong.

– Lewis Hamilton should pay more tax.

– Bono should pay more tax.

– Rich people should pay more tax.

– The state should control who has guns.

– Mugabe wants his wife to take over from him.

– Plastic is bad and greedy people are destroying the planet with it because they are greedy.

– Global warming is still really real and only states working with the UN can save us.

– Trump is being mean to Turkish people.

– Trump wants Japan to help defend against North Korea.

– People were kidnapped in Nigeria.

– A writer used politically incorrect language.

– A woman who was rude to Trump got fired.

– People who voted for Trump probably regret it.

The idea that the BBC is an impartial reporter of the news contrasting with RT’s politically-motivated propaganda is laughable. So is this:

Listing Russia’s attempts to undermine western institutions in recent years, she said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.

Whatever damage Russia has done to western institutions is eclipsed by that carried out by the political establishment of which Theresa May is very much part. True, the Russians might not succeed in destroying western society but they won’t have to: the likes of Theresa May will manage that all on their own, cheered on by the mainstream media while ordinary people are ignored, belittled, insulted, threatened, and imprisoned.

If the western democracies were as resilient as May is making out, RT’s output wouldn’t matter. Russia presented far more of a threat during the Cold War, and there were more than enough people in the west working in Moscow’s interests, and yet we survived intact. May knows this, and so does the entire political and media establishment. Politicians want someone to blame for the divisions in society that they have caused, and the media want to silence a rival outlet that doesn’t play by the same rules as they do, i.e. by refusing to cover stories that are politically inconvenient. The sooner May is booted out and the mainstream media goes bankrupt, the better. RT might peddle crap, but they are not the biggest problem Britain faces, not by a long shot.

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The Myth of the Petrodollar

In the comments beneath this post, Bardon remarks:

But there is another complexity here the Kissinger instigated Petrodollar.

The US economy would collapse overnight if this mechanism stopped, hence they need the Saudis and they need that Aramco IPO on Wall Street. BRICS are anti petrodollar and are working very hard to undermine and replace it, its the kind of stuff that starts wars.

The systems is such that non oil producing countries that want to buy oil must buy it in US$. So lets say Greece wants to buy Kuwaiti oil, it will do this in US $ which is neither the currency of the seller nor the buyer, meaning that it has to have US$ in the first place.

If the petrodollar system collapsed and remember the US could not even touch the sides with supplying oil to meet market demand, and no one buys it in US$ anymore then the demand for US$ would stop and it would absolutely tank overnight. Iran can’t wait to sell it in anything other than US$ and it looks like the BRICS nations are a likely taker, so they had better be quick in stopping Iran making any trades.

This theory is frequently brought forward to explain geopolitical developments involving the United States, and while others (Mr Worstall, for example) has dealt with it in the past, I might as well do so again.

The reasoning goes something like this. The US needs to ensure a demand for its currency, and therefore insists all oil around the world is sold in USD. If a country were to switch to selling oil in euros or another currency, the USD would nose-dive and destroy the US economy. The reason the US deposed of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi was because each were about to start selling their oil in euros or gold. This theory even beats “wars for pipelines” into second place as an explanation for American foreign policy, and it is a persistent one. Sadly it’s not just the preserve of cranks on Zerohedge, I’ve actually had an MBA graduate insist that a country trading oil in euros presents a serious threat to US financial hegemony. And here’s a recent article in The Huffington Post telling us:

Non-Dollar Trading Is Killing the Petrodollar — And the Foundation of U.S.-Saudi Policy in the Middle East

It’s nonsense of course, and here’s why. According to this site, the value of oil traded is $1.7 trillion dollars per year. Looked at another way, oil production was about 97m barrels per day in 2015; let’s call it 100m making 36.5bn barrels a year. Assuming a sale price of $100 per barrel, annual production is worth $3.65 trillion dollars. Assuming $60 per barrel, it’s worth $2.19 trillion dollars. The exact number doesn’t matter, we’re just after an order of magnitude here.

Now according to this site, total foreign exchange (FX) transactions are valued at $5.1 trillion dollars per day. Trade in USD accounts for a whopping 88% of that, i.e. $4.49 trillion per day. According to another site, total FX was $5.3 trillion per day in 2013 of which USD trades accounted for 87%, i.e. $4.6 trillion per day. Again, we only need orders of magnitude here.

So, the demand for dollars driven by oil sales equals around $2-3 trillion dollars per year. Meanwhile, the overall demand for dollars equals around $4.5 trillion dollars per day. From these figures alone one can conclude that the currency in which oil is traded makes no difference whatsoever to the value of the USD. Reasons for going to war and bringing about regime change vary, but it is unlikely anyone would do so to protect one-three-hundredth of its currency demand.

So what would happen if a country switched to selling oil in yuan or euros? Well, those who hold USD would go to the FX market and buy yuan or euros at the prevailing rate and then use them to buy the oil. No need for any wars when you have a large and functioning FX market. You’ll notice that those peddling the myth of petrodollars driving American foreign policy never go into details of how all it is all supposed to work. There are good reasons for this.

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Why Trump is fond of Putin

This is hardly surprising:

President Vladimir Putin feels insulted by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Donald Trump has said after meeting him briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

“You can only ask so many times… he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” the US president said.

Mr Putin later dismissed the allegations as “political infighting”.

The US intelligence community has already concluded that Russia tried to sway the poll in favour of Mr Trump.

President Trump has refused to acknowledge a reported assessment by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.

You don’t actually need to trust Putin an inch to believe he is telling the truth that he didn’t try to swing the outcome of the US election. None of this passed the smell test from the beginning, and the whole think reeked of an effort to explain Hillary’s catastrophic loss and an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. I always suspected Putin found all of these accusations highly amusing; other than the usual shit-stirring that Russia’s spy agencies have been involved in since the Soviet times, exploiting divisions in US society to sow chaos as part of their zero-sum rivalry with America, I very much doubt Russia had any involvement in the US election. For one thing, it’s never been explained why Putin would have preferred Trump to Clinton.

Of course, those who don’t want very much to change in US politics are aghast at this:

This says less about how much Trump trusts Putin than how little he trusts branches of his own government. And who can blame him? Both the FBI and Department of Justice disgraced themselves during the election with regards to Hillary Clinton, and Obama spent eight years politicising other branches such as the IRS. Moreover, Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” have been met with ferocious opposition from what people call the Deep State, or (a term I prefer) the Permanent Government, i.e. those who have done extremely well from the status quo and for whom Trump represents an existential threat. Is the CIA part of this? Of course it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Trump could probably get a warmer reception walking into a branch of the Russian government in Moscow than an American one in DC. I’d even go so far as to say parts of the American government represent a far greater political and even mortal danger to Trump than Putin does. If you were Trump, who would you believe? Putin – who at least doesn’t pretend to have America’s interests at heart – or known liars in the American government who have sworn to remove Trump from office using fair means or foul? That’s a tough one.

Then there’s this from Andrew Neil:

Let me take a guess. Perhaps Trump has realised that the entire American political establishment wants him gone and is doing everything they can to undermine and remove him; half the American electorate has gone into meltdown and, a year on from his election, are calling him a white supremacist Nazi when they’re not screaming at the sky; and supposedly intelligent and educated foreigners, particularly Europeans, are acting in a spectacularly immature manner over Trump while their own countries descend into chaos. Standing out from all this is Putin who, for all his faults, is remaining reasonably calm, acting like an adult, and not throwing around childish insults. Little wonder Trump is taking him more seriously than anyone else.

The lessons that ought to be drawn from this are that if you demonise your own president and try to bring him down, he will take his friends where he finds them; and if you insist on acting like a child, the adults in the room will ignore you and talk among themselves. Thus far, the reaction seems to indicate the exact opposite.

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Get rid of May, let Rees-Mogg run

More trouble for Theresa May:

Priti Patel’s future in Theresa May’s cabinet is uncertain after new information emerged about two further meetings with Israeli officials.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said her departure seems “almost inevitable now”.

The international development secretary apologised for an unauthorised meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in August, while on a family holiday.

The first thing May needs to do is fire Patel this morning and not replace her: why Britain needs an international development secretary I don’t know. Overseas aid goes mainly on enriching those who own Audi and Mercedes dealerships in kleptocratic third-world shitholes, and the entire department should be closed down without delay. Whatever slivers of worthwhile activity got performed under Patel’s supervision can be handed to the Foreign Office, where it belongs.

I must say, I’m finding this self-destruction of the Tories quite amusing. They really are good at it, aren’t they? A year or so ago they were sitting pretty with a hefty majority with no credible opposition and all by themselves they’ve descended into a bickering, squabbling, undisciplined rabble lacking a majority. However you cut it, that’s pretty impressive, even for the Tories.

Of course, this is what happens when you put a clueless authoritarian like May in charge. I confess, I initially had some hopes she’d turn out all right but I didn’t know her personally and was not involved in her being made head of the party, so don’t blame me. Now she’s been Prime Minister a while it’s blatantly obvious she is miles out of her depth and lacks any of the personal or organisational skills to manage a cabinet, let alone run a country. The senior Tories must be held accountable for this: to apply a phrase from the Harvey Weinstein fallout to May’s character and incompetence “everybody knew”, and Corbyn’s polling suggests the public are doing just that.

So May has to go, but nobody knows when or who will replace her. Several people have suggested Amber Rudd, but she is basically May without the charm, personality, wit, humour, and respect for individual liberty. If May goes and Rudd gets in, I reckon I’ll go home and vote for Corbyn just so the Tories learn the lesson of their stupidity good and hard.

The trouble is, political parties are experiencing the same problems most large organisations are. They’ve become obsessed with identity politics, shoving all sorts of unsuitable people up the ranks based on their skin colour, religion, or sex and rewarded blinding loyalty and conformity over competence, ability, and principle. Bright young sycophants have been encourage to join up and those who show sufficient deference to the hierarchy and time their backstabbing to perfection are propelled into cabinet or shadow positions having never held a position of any real responsibility or accountability their entire lives. What we’re seeing in British politics is simply a subset of modern human resource management in large organisations. What did we think would happen?

Personally, I’d like to see May booted out and Jacob Rees-Mogg take over the leadership and call for a General Election next spring. Sure, people would go into absolute meltdown over Rees-Mogg but I’d like to see him run anyway and put his candidacy to a vote of the people rather than the chattering classes who thought Blair was a good Prime Minister or Corbyn isn’t that bad. I reckon there’s a good chance he’d win despite the squawking from the media and government employees, and even if he didn’t I think it’s important the country at least gets asked the question. Nobody thought Trump would win and everyone wanted Hillary, right up until they actually got asked.

So let Rees-Mogg run, and see what happens. If he’s voted in, good. If not, at least the electorate can’t complain when Corbyn or a Cameron-Blair II gets in and the state of British politics sinks even lower.

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More Fake News

Yesterday morning I saw a headlining story on the BBC about how Donald Trump had tipped a whole box of fish food into a pond full of carp, heavily implying he lacked the patience or intelligence to feed them slowly with a spoon as he was supposed to. I ignored it as the usual anti-Trump bollocks from the BBC but I wish I’d screen-grabbed it because it later disappeared. However, CNN’s coverage remains online:

Trump feeds fish, winds up pouring entire box of food into koi pond

The moment happened as Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed to lunch. The leaders were escorted to a dining room that overlooks a koi pond at Akasaka Palace.

As an aide clapped loudly, Abe and Trump tossed spoonfuls of fish food into the pond. Then, with a look of enjoyment, Trump quickly poured his entire box of food into the pond.

Most major news sites have a video of the incident, including CNN and The Independent – which uses the caption:

Mr Trump upends the fish food into the collection of precious koi carp as Mr Abe looks on and smiles

Dozens of news outlets relayed the story and Twitter piled in, with most using a graphic like the one below:

This was the graphic the BBC used, with a similar caption, before the story mysteriously disappeared. So why did they pull it? Because it was fake news of course:

Moments before, Shinzo Abe threw his entire box into the pond and Trump simply followed suit, and all of this can be seen in the unedited clip. But major news channels like the BBC and CNN decided to go with a carefully edited clip which showed Trump looking foolish, and ran it on their front pages. Someone, somewhere in these organisations are quite deliberately making these decisions, abandoning all pretence of impartiality and accurate reporting. What’s amusing is this sort of stuff gets exposed within hours in the modern era, yet still the mainstream media behaves like this and insists they are bastions of truth and knowledge. It’s why Trump’s “fake news” remark was so effective and why the term has become so widely used. I suspect it’s also why Iranian authorities view anyone who work for such organisations with deep suspicion and throw them in jail as political subversives. If they showed the slightest capacity for self-awareness, they’d be addressing these practices immediately.

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Twitter Troubles

Thanks to this, Twitter is in full-on damage control:

US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account briefly vanished on Thursday but has since been restored, the social media company said.

An employee deactivated the @realdonaldtrump account, it said, clarifying that it had been their last day in the job.

The account was down for 11 minutes and Twitter is now investigating.

Now part of this is quite amusing, and I confess had someone done it to Obama I’d be chuckling away. But it’s actually quite serious:

Firstly, the employee is an idiot. Sure, he might gain some street cred with his lefty mates and have liberals fawning over him for a day or two, but Twitter could (and probably should) clobber him for this. “But it’s my last day!” doesn’t provide immunity from sabotage or malicious acts; sure, you can bare your arse on the way out the door but if you were to start interfering with a customer’s account in any other business you’d be in deep shit. Of course, there is also a reasonable argument that perhaps Trump shouldn’t be on Twitter at 3am shooting his mouth off and all presidential communications ought to go through proper, secured channels – but this is Trump, and I can understand why he wants to bypass the mainstream media that openly colluded with his opponent during the election.

But despite all this, and despite Twitter on some measures being little more than a giant playground, it is still a large and influential public company and this latest incident says a lot about how it’s run. One would have thought that anyone with admin rights over accounts – particularly those belonging to people like Trump – would be put on gardening leave the moment they submit their resignation. At the very least, they should have their admin rights pulled. There’s also the question over who is given these admin rights; it appears Twitter doesn’t distinguish between the accounts of high-profile and ordinary people, and a lowly administrator can make changes on everyone’s accounts. I bank with NatWest, but I’d hazard a guess the person who picks up the phone to unblock my card or help me set up a direct debit wouldn’t be able to access the accounts of any celebrities or billionaires who banked with them; they’d have their own account administrators, who would be vetted more thoroughly.

Unfortunately for the Twitter management, this isn’t the only time they’ve been accused of running the company like a students’ union rather than a blue-chip tech corporation. Last week they made the decision to pull all adverts from accounts owned by Russia Today, thus endorsing the rather wild view that such adverts may have swung the election for Donald Trump. Not only is this ludicrous political posturing – Twitter is full of adverts from dodgy regimes, the latest I am seeing is from Saudi Arabia attacking Qatar over Yemen – but RT has responded by saying they were approached by Twitter in the run-up to the election:

RT was thereby forced to reveal some details of the 2016 negotiations during which Twitter representatives made an exclusive multi-million dollar advertising proposal to spend big during the US presidential election, which was turned down.

Do I believe RT unconditionally? Hell no. Do I think it plausible, even likely, that Twitter approached RT at that time in order to secure millions in advertising funds? Yes I do. Do I think the Twitter management would cynically ban RT a year later in order to pander to Democrat politicians? Yes, I do. Even if the Russians are making this up, it doesn’t make Twitter look good.

This has not come out of a clear blue sky, of course. During the election campaign Twitter stood accused, with good reason, of shadow-banning conservative or pro-Trump accounts, i.e. hiding them from people’s news feeds without telling them. Many people believe, again with good reason, that Twitter’s enthusiasm for banning people tends to be directed mainly at those whose views don’t align with prevailing progressive orthodoxy, and liberals are free to hurl abuse with gay abandon in a manner which would get a conservative suspended. As ZMan pointed out in one of his podcasts, Twitter and other social media sites actually brag about how many people they’ve silenced, how many accounts they’ve shut down, and how they are committed to protecting people from the wrong sort of opinions. This sounds very unlike a business interested in making money and a lot more like a bunch of people with an aim to control narratives for political and social purposes.

Finally, you have the farce which is the blue check-mark. Originally it was a good idea, used to verify that an account appearing to belong to someone famous was actually administered by that person. Anyone can sign up to Twitter claiming to be Ryan Giggs, but by verifying accounts with a blue tick users would know which one was officially his. But somehow this morphed into a system whereby even obscure people whose views align with Twitter staff get a blue check mark while world-famous people they don’t like are denied. Julian Assange, for example, has not been verified even though it is clearly him (he puts a blue diamond after his name to highlight this). Now you might not like Assange or agree with him, but he’s definitely someone whose account ought to be verified as belonging to him. Contrast this with a chap called Ben Spielberg who I picked at random: he has less than 10k followers (Assange has over 500k) and seems to be known mainly for running a blog focussing on civil rights and occasionally writing for the Huffington Post.

Equally controversially, Milo Yiannopoulos was unverified by Twitter, i.e. they removed his blue check-mark for reasons unknown back in January, before he got booted off altogether. If the verification was genuinely an indicator of an account-holder’s identity as Twitter claimed, they would not threaten to withdraw it as punishment for expressing forbidden views. I suppose if you inhabit an ultra-liberal Silicon Valley bubble then all of this might seem perfectly acceptable and give you a sense of smug satisfaction you’re improving the world. But when all this is added up, it is clear Twitter is not run by adults nor managed in the vein of a serious, multinational corporation. Their increasingly opaque policies, particularly those to do with breaches of code of conduct and suspension of accounts, are more akin to those of an off-topic message board on a gaming forum or a personal blog than a tech giant with the ear of governments.

What Twitter’s investors make of this is anyone’s guess but I’m with ZMan on this: the smart money got out of there a long time ago. How long Twitter can keep this up will be interesting to watch.

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