King Conned

From The Telegraph:

German car-makers have “blood on their hands” due to rigging diesel exhaust tests which led to the deaths of thousands of Britons, the Government’s former chief scientist has said.

Professor Sir David King said it was “simply astonishing” that Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler had performed rigged experiments on monkeys and that such duplicity had caused the deaths of large numbers of people in the UK.

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser until 2007, Sir David described being duped into believing diesel capture technology was safe during a trip to a British testing lab in 2004, prompting a policy shift in favour of diesel cars.

I can see why David King is so angry. He used to get paraded around in the Blair years as some sort of high priest of science, his words clung to by the political establishment even when he came up with such idiocy as suggesting ExxonMobil should move Fawley refinery inland to avoid being flooded by rising sea levels. I expect he also subscribed to the same view as much of Britain’s political establishment that Germans, when it comes to industry, can do nothing wrong and we should stand in awe of their brilliance (have a look at how the Remainer press fawns over Merkel and every pronouncement on Brexit from German “business leaders”).

And it turns out he’s had the wool pulled over his eyes. Leaving aside the irony that a government appointee who was instrumental in pushing the climate change agenda should now complain of being misled, there’s a bigger issue here than King’s ego. Sweeping legislation such as that which encouraged millions of British people to buy diesel cars ought to be based on something a little more robust than an individual’s opinion after visiting a lab with seemingly no interest in ensuring what he was seeing was a legitimate test. I suspect King didn’t enquire further because the lab told him what he, and his political masters, wanted to hear; the lab knew in advance what King and wanted to hear, and so rigged the test; and VW simply wanted to flog more cars while keeping politicians happy.

The lesson here is that governments, even ones containing extremely clever folk like Professor Sir David King, are susceptible to being hoodwinked by people who understand the details a lot better than they do, causing them to bring about disastrous policies. The answer is to get rid of positions such as Chief Scientific Adviser and sack politicians who put their beak into places where it doesn’t belong bringing harm to the rest of us.


Fatty and Skinny

During yesterday’s press conference following the announcement of Trump’s clean bill of health, a reporter – who adheres to practically every stereotype Americans have of Brits – asked the following question:

Did you tell the current president about his predecessors’ exercise routine and does this president ask you about how he could follow his predecessors’ example to be as fit as Barack Obama was?

Leaving aside the pointlessness of the question – does he fancy Obama, or what? – there is an age gap to consider. Trump is 71, Obama is 56; when they entered office they were 70 and 47 respectively. That’s quite a difference, although their wives became First Lady at roughly the same age. For some reason, few reporters compare them physically.


Governments and the People

There’s a saying out there, which I’ve come to agree with, which states that people get the government they deserve. A common response to this is that it only applies in a democracy, and I used to agree with this, but nowadays I don’t. Something people often overlook is that even dictators are drawn from the population, as are the people who support and enable them. That a dictator can come to power and run things as he sees fit is itself a reflection, to some degree, of the people over which he rules.

This ties in to what I was saying last week:

The root cause of a country being a shithole is the prevailing culture, and what else is culture but the aggregate behaviour, attitude, and customs of a population?

The reason Hugo Chavez came to power, imposed bone-headed socialism, and ruined Venezuela is because enough Venezuelans were stupid enough to be wooed by the promise of socialist economics. You can’t separate this decision from the general population, as if he was some foreigner imposed by outside forces. Venezuelans allowed this to happen and therefore they must take responsibility for it. This is true even if, which is surely the case, a huge percentage of the population didn’t want it: on aggregate they did.

One of the things which once amused me was the way Russians would speak of the Soviet Union as if it were some outside force imposed on them. The fact that the USSR was largely made up of Russians, many of whom bought into the idea and happily went along with implementing it’s worst aspects, never seemed to occur to them. I’m not willing to give the non-Russian Soviet States a free pass, either. Enough of them went along with the programme to keep it in place; not that this is necessarily wrong – I wouldn’t want to fight a guerrilla war or become a martyr either – but we can’t ignore the fact that, on aggregate, the population chose to cooperate.

What I’m saying is not so much to heap blame on a population for the state of their government, but rather to stop ourselves absolving the people of any responsibility whatsoever. To varying degrees, the people are responsible for how they are governed. There might be some exceptions – perhaps Iran under the Ayatollahs? – but I’m struggling to think of a single case where the government of the day was vastly, unrecognisably different from the collective population. I’m not talking about individuals, they can and do differ wildly from the government, I’m talking again about the aggregate.

Actually, I can think of exceptions: countries under colonial rule. It’s hard to argue that colonial governments were reflective of the populations they ruled over, which is why the countries changed so drastically once the colonialists left. Then again, a lot of the locals went along with that programme, too.

In summary, I find it rather too easy to claim governments and people are entirely separate, absolving the latter of any responsibility whatsoever. We might find things improve if we stop giving out free passes to whole populations, even if they live under dictators. Individuals, however, we should still take as we find them.


Stating the Obvious

Once again the BBC is running a story on Trump as headline news. Are those protests still going on in Iran? Do we know yet why some dude in Las Vegas shot around 600 people? Has Germany formed a government? Secondary concerns, apparently, to:

US President Donald Trump has reportedly lashed out at immigrants in a foul-mouthed Oval Office outburst.

Oh. But now we’re here, let’s take a closer look.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Mr Trump told lawmakers on Thursday, according to the Washington Post.

Frankly, I ask this question on a daily basis using precisely that terminology. The only difference is I ask it rhetorically because I already know the answer: it’s contained in the question.

But first let’s note the BBC’s use of the term “foul-mouthed” because Trump said “shithole”. All of a sudden this ultra-modern organisation, which cheers each act of destruction visited on aspects of our culture it deems “outdated” and signs up to every virtue-signalling progressive fad, is clutching its pearls because Trump said “shithole”. This in an age when the words “fuck” and “cunt” are the staple of seemingly every scriptwriter.

Secondly, this meeting was closed and Trump’s remarks leaked. It’s not as if he said this during a press conference, and personally I’d prefer presidents to speak freely and frankly in such discussions using terminology which is wholly appropriate than couch their language in ever-shifting politically correct terms because the permanently offended might get upset.

But what’s most amusing is the reaction on social media. Not from the left, they’re a lost cause; I mean from so-called conservatives. They’re busy wringing their hands, denouncing Trump for his blatant racism, looking absolutely no different from the Democrats and still wondering why Trump got elected in the first place. Trump’s comments are pretty innocuous to anyone who is not a deranged anti-Trumper or a fully paid-up member of the media or political establishments. He’s asked the question millions of people across America and Europe have been asking for years, waiting in vain for their leaders to do so. And now he has, and the reason his opponents have gone apoplectic is because they know how much this will resonate with ordinary people they wish didn’t exist. That, and they wish to virtue-signal in order to keep their places in what they think is polite society.

The fact is some countries are shitholes, and calling them such is not racist. Hell, I’d even go further and say the reason they are shitholes is precisely because of the people living in them. The root cause of a country being a shithole is the prevailing culture, and what else is culture but the aggregate behaviour, attitude, and customs of a population? This doesn’t mean any individual from a shithole is to blame, or you should judge them according to the place they’re from. As I said here, you should take individuals as you find them, but that ought not to stop you labeling a place a shithole and placing the blame squarely on the population as a whole. People say the reason East Germany was a shithole was because of communism, but that only prevailed because the Stasi had 100,000 workers and approximately 400,000 informants. If you have half a million people willing to absolutely fuck-over their fellow countryman for personal gain or ideological gratification then yes, that place will be a shithole. Blaming it on abstract political arrangements such as communism, as if it were imposed from a clear blue sky with no involvement from the people themselves, is comforting but it fails to address the root cause of the problem. And as I said in my infamous post on Nigeria:

The problem these decent people have is that they are vastly outnumbered by those who are not.  For every Nigerian who is honest, well-mannered, and diligent you’ll find a hundred whose only goal is to get some money whilst expending the minimum amount of effort possible.  If they can use personal connections, lies, or trickery in lieu of learning a useful skill and applying it, they’ll take that option every time.  It’s a numbers thing: if 50% of Nigerians were more like 10% of them, the country would be okay.  And that’s the fundamental problem of Nigeria summed up in one sentence: way too many dickheads.

This idea that every culture is equal and basket cases that have been that way for centuries without the slightest homegrown improvement are somehow unlucky, and to hold them to any kind of standard is racist, has pervaded every nook and cranny of western culture. Only people aren’t buying it any more, and those people vote. Trump is merely recognising that, while his establishment opponents prefer to banish any such thoughts from the political discourse. Which is why they lost, of course.


Renaming Roads

This is actually a neat bit of provocation:

Washington DC has renamed the street the Russian embassy sits on after a murdered Russian opposition politician.

The city council voted to rename the street outside Russia’s embassy complex after Boris Nemtsov, who was shot outside the Kremlin in 2015.

A statement from the council said the decision to honour the “slain democracy activist” passed unanimously.

It might seem a bit petty to some, but the murder of Boris Nemtsov was appalling. True, five Chechen men (who else?) have been jailed for it, but I doubt even Russians believe it was their idea, assuming they even had anything to do with it. There’s not much anyone can do about it, other than:

His daughter, Zhanna, travelled to Washington DC in early December to advocate for the name change.

Well, good for her. Nobody sane thinks the US should start dropping bombs on Moscow over this, but if they can rename a street at the behest of the murdered man’s daughter and annoy their political enemies? Well, why not?

Frankly, I think this practice should become more widespread. We could rename the road on which the Argentine embassy sits Falkland Islands Avenue, the street which houses the Zimbabwean embassy Ian Smith Street, and the location of the French embassy White Flag Drive. What’s not to like? Suggestions for others in the comments, please.


Chelsea Manning and the British Army

I’ve written before about Chelsea Manning, and more recently I wrote about how the US military is now the a vehicle for progressives to enact their deranged fantasies.

Via Twitter I came across this article written by someone who went through basic training with Bradley Manning, as she was then called. It’s worth reading in full, but the following excerpts give a flavour of what sort of character she was:

Every recruit had the same packing list with the same items in that green duffel bag. They all weighed the same amount. Whether you were 6’4” or 5’4”, male or female, all recruits had to carry their own weight. Understand, that no one breezes through this exercise – everybody hurts, everyone drops their bag at least once, and everyone pays the price for it, including myself. During this exercise, Manning’s problem wasn’t that she was too small or not strong enough. The problem was, she quit. As the rest of the platoon faced one way, gritting their teeth and baring it, whispering words of encouragement to each other, she stood at an about-face the opposite direction, and said she simply could not pick up her own bag.

For the trainees of Charlie 82d, the sound of Chelsea Manning’s voice may forever elicit the two words so commonly overheard from her during her six weeks: “I can’t.” In our comparison of memories over the years, fellow recruits in C Co. have confirmed for me: when the going got tough, Chelsea said, “I can’t.”

At the end of the field exercise, that holdover was walking up to groups of us, offering to sell us candy for $20 a package. We all knew to keep our distance from him – he was untrustworthy, he was in trouble, and he was only going to get you in trouble too if you associated with him. And yet, Chelsea Manning bought a package of M&Ms from him for $20. I remember that scene, because Manning was not quiet about it. She was practically bragging out loud that she had contraband candy. At six weeks into basic training, it just wasn’t worth it, and yet that scene has stayed with me all these years, because for Manning, it somehow was worth it. Maybe by then, she thought she had nothing else to lose.

So why wasn’t she weeded out? The article explains:

In 2007, the U.S. Army was habitually failing to meet its monthly recruiting goals; the application standards relaxed and a great cross-section of humanity ended up reporting for duty that warm October at Fort Leonard Wood. In the company, there was a 17-year-old who had enlisted with a waiver, and there was: a 42-year-old mother of three who was terrified of needles; a new grandmother to a brand-new infant granddaughter; and a former coffee distributor in South America in his mid-thirties who everyone still called “Grandpa.” One recruit ironically named “Goesforth” went AWOL within 48 hours of arrival, deserted the military, and was never seen again. One recruit in fourth platoon had been homeless before he joined, and another had blown his entire first university semester’s tuition on OxyContin before he dropped out and enlisted. One recruit was a Mexican citizen who was willing to go to Iraq and fight for the United States in exchange for expedited citizenship. Another was a female with dual German/American citizenship who was so short, the German Army wouldn’t take her, so she joined up with the Americans instead. Charlie 82d had dads in their mid-thirties, and it had dads not yet old enough to buy beer. My platoon had a single mom who had been working as a an exotic dancer before she raised her right hand and took the oath; another had married young, got divorced and wanted to get as far away from her Ex as possible.

Does this sound like an army which intends to win battles any time soon? Alas, it seems we’re no better in the UK:

The Army is launching a £1.6m advertising campaign to demonstrate it can “emotionally and physically” support recruits from all backgrounds.

The radio, TV and online adverts seek to address concerns potential soldiers might have about issues, including religion or sexuality.

They ask: “What if I get emotional?”, “Can I be gay in the Army?” and “Do I have to be a superhero?”

This sounds less like an army than a social welfare programme to accommodate the most fragile of Britain’s population.

In one, a Muslim soldier explains how the army has allowed him to practice his faith.

Was there ever a time when it didn’t?

These are not the kind of recruitment adverts most people would probably expect from the Army.

The emphasis is on the emotional rather than the physical, a sense of excitement, and the usual images of military hardware.

Some will see them as a sign the Army has gone soft by focussing on people’s worries. They will question whether it’s another sign of pandering to political correctness.

Well, yes. They will also, like me, ask how this army intends to fight anyone in future.

But like most large organisations, the Army wants to be seen as modern and a reflection of the society it represents.

What was I saying about the purpose of modern militaries? It’s nice to see my views confirmed by a national broadcaster.

That means an emphasis on being open to all – regardless of gender, race, religion or class.

And ability, I’ll wager.

It fits in with the head of the Army General Sir Nick Carter’s mantra of “maximising people’s talent” regardless of background.

But he also insists that combat ethos and fighting power remain the Army’s priority. These adverts just might not give that impression.

Who to believe, eh? Then there’s this:

Last month, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson blocked an attempt to drop its longstanding “be the best” recruitment logo and its crest logo.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the the Army was considering changing the phrase after criticism it was “dated, elitist and non-inclusive”.

The British military is a bit like the Church of England: in order to arrest collapsing numbers in recruitment and attendance respectively, they have abandoned all pretence to discipline, standards, and seriousness – the very things which attracted people in the first place – in favour of progressive identity politics. It’s good to see the new Defence Secretary, himself a former soldier, is pushing back a little and so are others:

Colonel Richard Kemp – the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who served in the in the Army until 2006 – said while the adverts were aimed at a number of minority groups, they missed out the Army’s core recruitment pool.

“I think what the army needs to do in order to deal with its recruiting problem is not to specifically appeal to minorities – of course, the more people from all parts of society who join the better.

“But it’s even more important than that to fill the army up with people who want to fight and want to be soldiers. And this, I don’t think, will do that.”

Instead, he called for the Army to focus on retention problems and deal with its “impenetrable” application process and the “horrific bureaucracy” surrounding it.

Major General Timothy Cross, who retired in 2007, said the Army was “really struggling” with recruitment and should not be trying to be “jolly nice to people”.

I suspect it’s too late, though. Like every other western institution, the British military has been captured by a cabal of its worst enemies who are well on the way to destroying it from within.

Army research also found its crest – depicting crossed swords, a crown and a lion – to be “non-inclusive” and recommended replacing both with a union jack with the word “army” in bold underneath.

Why people spend time worrying about Vladimir Putin and the Russian army is beyond me. They’ll win without even getting out of bed.


Oprah, where art thou?

In the Coen brothers’ magnificent Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? long-time incumbent Mississippi governor Pappy O’Daniel is lagging in the polls to a newcomer named Homer Stokes in the run up to an election. Stokes’ campaign is centered around the theme of “sweeping the state clean” and on his tour around the towns and villages he brings with him a midget who carries a broom.

Later on, with O’Daniel facing certain defeat just days from the vote, one of his campaign staff makes a suggestion:

“We could hire us a little fella even smaller than Stokes'”

I was reminded of this film when I read this:

Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globeson Sunday night prompted wishful calls for the star to run for president — and two of the TV icon’s close friends told CNN that Winfrey is “actively thinking” about seeking the Oval Office in 2020.
Why not? President Donald Trump proved that a celebrity with no political experience could run for the highest office in the land and win.

True, Donald Trump is a TV celebrity who won the presidency but his election was an aberration, a protest vote against what people saw as a corrupt and self-serving political establishment which was taking them for granted. It wasn’t a result of some desire among Americans that they wish to be governed by TV celebrities from now on, even if some clearly do.

The Democrats are probably too dim to work this out, though. So far their response to Trump has matched that of the Republicans for denial-based stupidity, pushing the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harries up a list headed by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (who will be 79 on election day in 2020). Like Pappy O’Daniels advisers, they may just be daft enough to think copying the opposition’s gimmick is the way to win the presidency. I’m hoping they are.


The Abolition of Arrestable Offences

I’ll start this post with a short conversation between Ben Sixsmith and me which took place yesterday:

One of the worst pieces of domestic legislation passed under Blair was the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which abolished the concept of an arrestable offence. Up until then, there were categories of offence for which specific powers of arrest existed (or not): arrestable, non‐arrestable, and serious arrestable offences. These categories were introduced by the Criminal Law Act 1967 to replace the ancient term felony. They were then updated by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which defined an arrestable offence as:

1. An offence for which the sentence is fixed by law; i.e. murder.
2. Offences for which a person 18 years old or older, who had not previously been convicted, could be sentenced to a term of 5 years or more. This constituted the vast majority of offences, including [rape][theft]], serious assault, burglary and criminal damage.
3. Offences that were listed in Schedule 1A of the Act, which contained a long list of offences that do not attract a 5-year sentence but were considered to require the powers an ‘Arrestable Offence’ designation confers. Examples included possession of an offensive weapon, ticket touting and driving whilst disqualified.

It is worth noting that with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 police powers of arrest increased significantly from the Criminal Law Act 1967, and the 1984 act was itself amended several times to increase these further. Nevertheless, the idea that only certain offences could result in an arrest remained on the statute books. This is probably why for years many visa forms have asked this question (the one below is from a Russian visa application):

The question supposes that people aren’t arrested willy-nilly for trivial matters, but following New Labour’s aboliton of the term “arrestable offence” with the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, it’s an assumption that is no longer valid. Consider this tweet from whom I assume is a lawyer:

Can you imagine the person concerned having to explain on a visa application form why he was arrested? He will also have had his fingerprints and DNA taken, which (I think) will remain on record for life (even if only at the local police station). He will also face the choice of either lying on application forms or risking being automatically rejected for telling the truth, all because Plod is drunk on their powers of arrest.

Of course, this is a feature, not a bug. The police know that anyone arrested will have to spend a lot of money, exert a lot of time and effort, suffer a loss of reputation, and face a lifetime of administrative difficulties even if they are wholly innocent. What’s more, Plod can make arrests with impunity (the two who arrested the person for liking a Facebook post should be fired immediately, along with their superiors). Nowadays securing a conviction is unnecessary: the process is the punishment, just as it was in the Soviet Union.

The creeping powers of police arrest may have started before Blair, and things weren’t looking good before the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (a student was arrested before it came into force for calling a police horse “gay”), but it was under New Labour that it was cemented into law and encouraged. I have not been able to find statistics on the increase in number of arrestable offences during Blair’s time in office, but I would be surprised if it were less than tenfold. Now the British police take a positive delight in arresting ordinary citizens for minor “offences”.

What makes it more depressing is that this appalling rise in authoritarianism happened in full view of the public, many of whom were cheering at the time. I’ve been arguing for some time that the sooner the British people wake up to the nature of their police forces and start treating them accordingly, the better.


See also this from my friends at Samizdata.


More Trumpian Twitter Trolling

A couple of months ago I said this about Trump’s tweeting:

What really gets me is the disparity of effort. Master trolls don’t hang around writing screeds online, their role is to throw petrol on a fire and walk away, leaving everyone else to waste days or weeks fighting each other. In Trump’s case, he can tie up tens of thousands of his enemies’ manhours and get them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by retweeting a video, an action which takes less than a second.

Last night he tweeted that he was some sort of genius, and naturally the BBC ran it as front-page news. What amused me most was this paragraph:

Perceived slights, insults and questions about his intelligence. If Donald Trump’s recent Twitter feed is any indication, these are the topics on the president’s mind as he settles in for the night and when he rises in the morning.

Given the daunting tasks facing the administration and Congress in the coming weeks, some of his allies and aides at Camp David may view the president’s concerns as misdirected.

Trump spends a few seconds boasting about himself on Twitter. The media then spends thousands of manhours reporting on it, ignoring anything of importance that might be going on in the world. In the course of doing so they suggest Trump’s efforts should perhaps be focused elsewhere.

He really is trolling them, isn’t he?


Standing Firm

Well how about that?

North Korea has reopened a vital line of communication with South Korea, raising hopes of a diplomatic thaw days after Kim Jong-un said he would consider sending his country’s athletes to next month’s Winter Olympics, to be held just south of the border.

Hours after Donald Trump again baited the North Korean leader on Twitter – this time with a boast about the size and efficacy of his nuclear button – Pyongyang said it would reactivate a telephone hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom at 6.30am GMT on Wednesday.

For those of us who have managed to avoid going into meltdown, this isn’t tremendously surprising. The North Koreans have turned sabre-rattling into a fine art, threatening its neighbours whenever its economy is nosediving and it needs more foreign aid, or it senses a weakness in the loose coalition of countries against it, primarily the USA. With George Bush tied up with the War on Terror and Barack Obama being piss-weak, the last 15 years have been relatively unworrisome for the North Koreans, giving them the opportunity to develop the nuclear weapons they are now waving around. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that were the US to show weakness and lack of resolve at this point, the weapons development would increase in parallel with the rhetoric as the regime sought to extract maximum concessions from its neighbours.

This is why I don’t think Trump had much choice other than to state clearly that any nuclear attack by North Korea would result in a massive retaliatory strike that would annihilate his regime and half his people. After 15 years of permissiveness and dithering, it was time for some stiffness and resolve. Now there may be much to criticise in Trump using Twitter to convey this message, but I am certain the normal diplomatic channels are conveying the same sentiment. That said, Trump’s tweeting might also serve another purpose: it shows very publicly that he is serious, without his words being filtered into vague guff by some state-department press-release full of generic words like “concern” and “unacceptable” and “consequences”. A politician broadcasting exactly what he thinks is not a bad thing in a world where it’s hard to know what a politician thinks even after a lengthy career in office.

So Kim Jong Un has done the only sensible thing left open to him: back down. We’ll have to wait and see whether this is the start of a new era of North Korea being relatively benign, but I’m hoping it is. If so, we can be sure everyone will line up to say this is despite Trump’s bellicose approach, not because of it.

This is why I made this rather smart-arse comment on Twitter this morning:

I don’t know whether those wringing their hands are simply virtue-signalling, jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon to show how sophisticated they are, or if they genuinely believe the self-serving appeasement adopted by Western leaders since the end of the Cold War will keep them safe. Either way, I’m rather glad such people are uncomfortable. It’s about time they were.