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.

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.

On that Wire-Tapping Claim

Well fancy that:

Post-election communications of Donald Trump’s team were swept up in an “incidental collection” by intelligence agencies, a Republican lawmaker says.

Having had his claims that his communications were being monitored ridiculed by all and sundry, and the BBC telling us over and over that his accusations were unsubstantiated, we now find out that Trump was actually having his communications monitored.

Sure, his communications might be collected “incidentally”, but they have nonetheless been collected. That somebody is killed in the collateral damage of an air strike on a military target doesn’t mean they have been murdered in cold blood, but it does not make the person any less dead. Naturally, this story has disappeared from the BBC’s front page and is now buried in the US news section. The Narrative must be maintained, and truth and impartiality be damned.

Security or Protectionism?

New flying rules are afoot:

The US has announced a ban on large electronic devices from cabin baggage on passenger flights from eight Muslim-majority countries.

Bombs could be hidden in laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.

Well yes, they could be. Which is generally why everyone has to go through that pantomime of taking out all electronic items and scanning them separately. Or doesn’t this actually work?

The nine airlines affected are Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The cynic in me thinks this is less about security and more about hobbling Middle East airlines which are cheaper, cleaner, better, and have nicer staff than airlines operating out of the US.

The UK is due to announce shortly a similar ban on certain flights.

Which is good news for British Airways, no doubt.

[A]viation security experts were alarmed by an incident in Somalia last year when the insurgent group al-Shabaab smuggled an explosive-filled laptop on a flight out of Mogadishu, blowing a hole in the side of the plane.

Somalia. On Daallo Airlines, whoever the hell they are. But this might be a concern:

A suspected suicide bomber on a Daallo Airlines flight was originally meant to be aboard a Turkish Airlines plane, Reuters cited Daallo’s CEO Mohamed Yassin as saying. A separate report claimed the blast had come from explosives hidden inside a laptop.
The majority of the passengers on the bombed Airbus A321 flight were scheduled to fly with Turkish Airlines, but were redirected after the Turkish carrier cancelled the flight due to bad weather.

I’m a bit concerned about Turkish Airlines. They have done an impressive job of becoming a very good, high-profile airline offering flights practically everywhere through an airport which I’ve been told is excellent…but at the same time, as I wrote here, Turkey’s state security services might have been severely compromised. If so, their national airline makes for a ripe target indeed. I sincerely hope this is not the case because, regardless of what I think about Turkish politics right now, plane bombings is something we really need to see eradicated.

The problem is, aircraft security has been so badly handled what with so many senseless, arbitrary rules applied inconsistently across airports and jurisdictions and the ubiquitous security theatre seemingly designed to make passengers docile and compliant rather than safe, trust in the authorities is pretty low these days.

Jamil al-Qsous, a former Jordanian aviation security official, told the Associated Press news agency that the ban meant “one less headache” for security agencies.

And for the passengers? Who cares about them? Presumably they will be invited to fly with a different airline, an American one, onto which they can bring their electronic devices. Yeah, it’s all about security.

The FBI and Political Campaigning

Until the news of some Irish terrorist dying this morning displaced it, the BBC once again ran an anti-Trump opinion piece as its main story of the day:

After a bit of grandstanding on the part of the top members of the House Intelligence Committee and a warm-up act from National Security Agency head Mike Rogers, Mr Comey led with the big news of the day.

“I have been authorised by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” he said.

That there is an investigation isn’t exactly breaking news – the BBC’s Paul Wood reported on it in early January – but official acknowledgement is a significant development.

Well, yes. Some of us are wondering when all those making noises about Russia and the 2016 Presidential Election are going to put up or shut up. So far it’s been nothing but rumour, innuendo, and hearsay. We’ve not even been told exactly what Russia is supposed to have done and the mechanism by which this is supposed to have unduly influenced the election. I’d have thought this would be a good starting point before anyone worries about “links” between “individuals associated with the Trump campaign” and the Russian government. But this isn’t so much an investigation as a political campaign.

The fact that his investigation first began in July, during the heat of the 2016 election campaign, will likely leave Democrats howling. They will contrast Mr Comey’s wide-ranging comments on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server with his until-recent silence surrounding the Trump-related inquiry.

I am sure many people have noticed the contrast between the FBI’s treatment of Hillary over her email server and the noise being made over Trump’s alleged connections to Russia. Only it won’t be the contrast the BBC thinks it is.

Mr Rogers also said that the intelligence community stands behind the declassified report it issued in early January that concluded that the Russia government attempted to influence the US election in a way that helped Mr Trump’s candidacy.

The report which was full of woolly innuendo and contained no proper description of what this “influence” entailed, let alone any evidence for it?

The other big revelation of the day was how thoroughly both Mr Comey and Mr Rogers debunked the president-tweeted allegation that Barack Obama or his Justice Department had authorised the wiretapping of Trump Tower.

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration,” Mr Comey said, “I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”

Well, the allegation will only have been thoroughly debunked if their denial is believed. Perhaps Trump wasn’t wiretapped and he made it all up, I’m quite happy to believe that. But if he was telling the truth, could we rely on the FBI in its current form not to mislead the public, e.g. by using an extremely narrow definition of “wiretapping” to sidestep the allegation? There’s been so much bullshit emitted that nobody knows who or what to believe any more.

Indeed, the ability to order such surveillance was outside the powers of any president, Mr Comey said.

Which, as Streetwise Professor noted at the time, is the sort of statement a lawyer comes out with. Sure, Obama did not have the power to authorise any surveillance, but that in itself does not make surveillance of Trump on behalf of Obama an impossibility. As a debunking, it probably only satisfies those who are politically opposed to Trump from the outset. Like the BBC, for instance.

Mr Rogers also dismissed allegations that Mr Obama had bypassed domestic surveillance controls by requesting that British intelligence oversee the operation, noting that the accusation “frustrates a key ally of ours”.

That’s neither here nor there, though: GCHQ would be equally frustrated if the accusations were true. Again, why the red herrings?

Although the FBI case has been open since July, Mr Comey said the effort is still in its early stages.

“For counterintelligence investigations, that’s a fairly short period of time,” he said.

That has to be more than a bit disconcerting to the Trump White House, which has been knocked off course by this Russia story since practically the moment Mr Trump took the oath of office. And while the administration seems intent on cracking down on unauthorised leaks out of this investigation, their efforts are unlikely to succeed.

A one-two punch of those revelations and any new developments in the FBI investigation is likely to keep the Trump team off balance for quite some time.

And finally we’re getting to the real story. This investigation is not about rooting out nefarious Russian plots to throw the US election, it is to ensure the Trump administration is so bogged down in “scandal” that it can’t get on with the business of running the country and, in the hopes of Trump’s political opponents, makes his position untenable. As has been pointed out many times before, this whole “Russia hacked the election” story is simply the one that his opponents picked as the most likely to generate the greatest volume of noise, having tried sexism, misogyny, vote-rigging, and fake news already. Trump’s opponents – the Democrats, most of the Republicans, the media, and anyone foreign – believe that by making as much froth as possible they can spin this into a scandal and plant the idea in the public’s minds that this is the next Watergate. They hope that people will think there is no smoke without fire and gain the impression that Trump is hopelessly compromised and should resign or be impeached, mere months into his tenure. This is why the BBC is running story after story about this, it is merely playing its part as political opposition to Trump.

The interesting question is how effective this will be. These are exactly the same people taking exactly the same approach they did during the election itself, and enough Americans were sufficiently disgusted at what they saw that they voted for Trump anyway. It’s hard to believe these tactics are working any better now. Sure, those who were already opposed to Trump will buy wholesale into this pantomime, but I can’t see anyone who held their nose and voted for Trump to escape the Establishment’s vice-grip on American politics thinking they have not been vindicated.

As has been noted before, the establishment politicians, media, and others appear hell-bent on making America ungovernable in the delusional belief that they can unseat Trump, get their hands on the levers of power again, and everything will go back to normal. They honestly think that it is merely the flesh-and-blood Trump that is preventing them from going back to the cosy status-quo where Democrats did whatever they want and Republicans meekly went along with it through fear the press would call them racist.

But those days are gone, and if Trump vanishes in a puff of smoke tomorrow the social forces that put him there will remain, and they won’t be in the mood to be ignored any more. Sure, half the country might endorse the any-means-necessary approach to securing political victory even if it destroys the nation in the process, but the other half won’t, not now.

But what would happen, [Lawfare blog editor Benjamin] Wittes wondered, if Mr Comey’s FBI investigation is turning up real evidence?

Well, indeed what? Trump’s going to get impeached because “former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort…had ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians”? What’s the end-game, here? If there was serious wrongdoing it would have been described already and evidence provided. If the Establishment and their pro-Obama allies in the various intelligence agencies are going to bring down a sitting president over this kind of nonsense, and the American public accept it, then they deserve everything they’ve got coming to them. My guess is they won’t.

Trump’s Cuts: More Please, and Faster

President Trump’s budget proposal would have a disproportionate impact on organizations in rural and underserved communities.

says The Atlantic under the headline The Real Cost of Abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts.

Back in June I wrote an article on an outfit calling themselves The Figment Project which appeared to be a gaggle of middle-class New Yorkers passing themselves off as artists while helping themselves to taxpayers’ money which they spend, at least in part, on jollies for themselves.

I note from their annual report that The Figment Project draws funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Perhaps if these funds were allocated properly, i.e. towards genuinely deprived communities instead of middle-aged Burning Man enthusiasts living in Brooklyn, then they would not now be facing the axe under Trump’s new budget. As I said in an earlier post on people passing themselves off as artists:

[T]here is a section of society out there which is not completely stupid (but not particularly bright either) who lack the talent, work ethic, and self-discipline to enter into professional or corporate environments and so attach themselves like parasites to the genuine arts world in order to give themselves some sort of identity.  The problem with the arts world – as opposed to say, law, engineering or music – is there is no quality control: anyone can tag along, dress up in costumes, get drunk, take some photographs, and claim they’re an “artist”.

What worries me is the degree of control and influence these people have over the overall arts world (including taxpayer dollars), and how they distort the image the public have of genuine, talented artists.

It seems finally somebody is doing something about it. Good.

What are the police for?

Back when I lived in Nigeria it was fun on slow afternoons to browse the news reports online. A lot of them were unintentionally amusing (see here, for example), but some gave an idea as to the regularity with which vigilante mob-justice is seen in the country. It was not uncommon for a newspaper report into some alleged crime to end with words to the effect of:

A mob formed, and the miscreant was beaten to a pulp.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, consider this report:

A police corporal, Olufemi Ajayi, was yesterday set ablaze in Ayete, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, by an irate mob, after he allegedly shot and killed a commercial driver at a checkpoint.

Ajayi, who is attached to Igboora Police Station, allegedly shot the victim, Mr. Emiola Kolade, after a minor argument.

Kolade died in a hospital in Igboora.

An eyewitness, Alhaji Salau Adele, said: “It all started at one of the many illegal checkpoints on Idere-Ayete road, when the corporal flagged down the driver and demanded a bribe. The driver gave him N100, but the policeman said the money was too small and refused to accept it.

“This led to an argument between the two. We heard a gunshot later and the driver was found injured on the ground. The policeman tried to escape, but he was caught.”

It was learnt that the policeman was beaten and set ablaze by the mob.

Let me take a step back from Nigeria for a minute. Back in early November I wrote a post on the matter of Swedish policemen resigning by the lorryload in which I wondered to whom Hillary Clinton would turn to enforce the law in American cities should she be elected (now a redundant question, thankfully). In the comments underneath “Duffy” made the following remark, which hitherto had never occurred to me:

Here’s what many people often seem to forget. Police are there to protect us from criminals. But they are also there to protect the criminals from mob justice.

When I thought about this comment later on, I realised that in the absence of a justice system that is seen to be working, the mob steps in. Then last week I came across this article:

We have often suggested that, if we wish to know what is coming politically, socially, and economically in jurisdictions such as the EU and US, we might have a look at countries like Argentina and Venezuela, as they are in a similar state of near-collapse (for the very same reasons as the EU and US) but are a bit further along in the historical pattern.

Such a bellwether was seen in Argentina recently. Although the event in question is a very minor one, it is an illustration of the social tipping point—the manner in which a government loses control over its people.

Briefly, the events were as follows: Two men on a motorbike cruised a posh neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, seeking opportunities for purse-snatching. The pillion rider dismounted and snatched a purse from a woman. Bystanders saw the act, ran down the thief before he could re-mount the motorbike, and knocked him to the ground. Other onlookers (very possibly fed up with street crime caused by economic hardships) joined in. In a fury, they beat the thief senseless.

A policewoman managed to calm the group and handcuff the thief. Twenty minutes later, police assistance and an ambulance arrived.

Furious neighbours complained bitterly that the police had protected the thief but are generally doing little to protect law-abiding citizens.

It’s not quite Nigeria, but it’s heading in that direction. The entire article is worth reading, particularly its description of the 6-point process which leads to such incidents occurring.

Around the same time we had this comment thread at Mr Worstall’s in relation to the UK:

The State’s “legal protection” benefits the middle classes and prosperous working classes far more than the wealthiest.

In the absence of a State the wealthiest could easily afford to hire whatever protection they needed – they did, after all, do this for centuries and even millennia before “States” started to appear with their “legal protection”.

And:

Police forces are relatively modern. Under Good Queen Bess, for example, if you were wealthy your only chance of getting around London without being set upon by pickpockets and cutpurses was to surround yourself with an armed retinue. State protection came in maybe under Robert Peel but it’s not the wealthy who benefit most from it. The very rich still have bodyguards. The police drink tea in their huge office buildings.

And:

The rich would sort out their own guards if the State left the scene. It’s the low income communities which most benefit from the Rule of Law. Bring in effectively policing to a pit village in Durham and kick out disruptive children from schools and those who want to get on in life have a chance. Take the State away and a local strongman and his gang will take over.

And:

In my experience of a few years living in a village with lots of City fat-cats, they get better policing because they hire private security instead of relying on the public sector police who exist primarily to protect criminals from their victims.

My point in all of this, in case you were wondering, is that for policing to work a critical mass of ordinary, law-abiding people across both the middle classes and working classes must see them as being on their side against the criminals. Not necessarily on their side per se, just on their side against the criminals. It doesn’t really matter what the rich think, they can hire their own security and/or lobby government to have the police look after their interests as first priority. It is the masses that need to be kept on side.

Clearly this has failed in Nigeria. It has failed in Argentina, and the results in either case weren’t pretty. When London descended into rioting in 2011, the police stood by idly as property got trashed and businesses destroyed. When I saw this happening I wondered who the police were actually serving, because it sure as hell wasn’t the ordinary citizen. The comments at Tim Worstall’s, although perhaps not representative of Britain as a whole, suggests there is some disagreement as to whom the police actually serve. If this attitude is reflected in the broader population there could be trouble brewing.

It’s worth keeping this in mind when looking at the United States, too. Over the past few years there has been an increase in rioting: firstly that connected with the shooting of black folk by policemen, later the election of Donald Trump, and more recently people with unpopular opinions speaking at universities. More and more often the police are standing by idly as property gets destroyed and people’s lives put at risk.

If the police in Britain and the USA want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches. The criminals might want to urge them to get on with it, because the mob is probably closer than they think.

Two Allegations, No Evidence

Reporting on Trump’s allegations of wiretapping, the BBC says:

The Republican president, who faces intense scrutiny over alleged Russian interference in support of his presidential bid, made the claims in a series of tweets on Saturday.

He offered no evidence to support his allegation that phones at Trump Tower were tapped last year.

Perhaps the BBC could have also mentioned that there is no evidence to support the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, either. So we’re looking at two sets of allegations, neither of which have been backed up by evidence.

But it’s interesting to look at the allegations in each case. When Russia was accused of “hacking” the 2016 election a lot of people asked, quite reasonably, “What exactly do you mean by that?” Nobody came forward and gave a clear answer to this question. Two or three months after the allegations were first aired I still don’t know what, specifically, the Russians are supposed to have done. That’s why Trump’s reaction has largely been “WTF are you on about?” His opponents attacked Flynn who got fired on the spot, probably for bullshitting his management rather than breaking any laws or ethical codes. They’ve had another go against Sessions, with the media spinning like fury to portray the Attorney General as having lied under oath. As Streetwise Professor explains, he did no such thing:

The entire Sessions imbroglio smacks of scumbag lawyer tactics. The Unfunny Clown, Senator Al Franken, asked (in a convoluted way) a very narrow question (which was related to an even narrower written question in a set of interrogatories) about Session’s interactions with the Russians. Sessions answered the question–which was not an unconditional query about contacts with the Russians, but which related to very specific types of contacts and discussions. Franken and the Democrats then accused Sessions of perjury because the Senator (and then-Attorney General designate) had met with the Russian ambassador to the US on two occasions. Asking a narrow question, and then claiming the answer was a false response to a broader question (that was not asked) is a sleazy lawyer trick.

It is a certainty that were there any hard evidence of allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 election and links between Trump and the Russian government they’d have been plastered all over every news channel and newspaper long ago. As things stand they haven’t even been able to get the allegations properly specified. This is why Trump has been able to impudently wave them away, although the daily media storm will certainly be hampering his ability to do his job.

Perhaps Trump thought that if this is the way things were going to carry on in Washington then he’d sling some mud of his own. Perhaps he pulled the allegations of Obama wiretapping him out of his arse, but even if that is true he has at least had the brains to accuse his opponents of something specific and verifiable, rather than woolly concepts such as “influence” and “possible links”.

And despite the lack of evidence, the reactions themselves are telling a story. As SWP notes in the same post:

I will just mention one fact that strongly supports the veracity of Trump’s allegation: namely, the very narrow–and lawyerly–“denials” emanating from the Obama camp.

Obama and his surrogates–notably the slug (or is he a cockroach?) Ben Rhodes–harrumph that Obama could not unilaterally order electronic surveillance. Well, yes, it is the case that Obama did not personally issue the order: the FISA court did so. But even if that is literally correct, it is also true that the FISA court would not unilaterally issue such an order: it would only do so in response to a request from the executive branch. Thus, Obama is clearly implicated even if he did not issue the order. He could have ordered his subordinates to make the request to the court, or could have approved a subordinate’s request to seek an order. Maybe he merely hinted, a la Henry II–“will no one rid me of this turbulent candidate?” (And “turbulent” is a good adjective to apply to Trump.) But regardless, there is no way that such a request to the court in such a fraught and weighty matter would have proceeded without Obama’s acquiescence.

And from the BBC:

FBI director James Comey has rejected Donald Trump’s claim that his predecessor, Barack Obama, ordered a wiretap of his phone before he was elected US president, US media say.

Mr Comey reportedly asked the US justice department (DOJ) to publicly reject Saturday’s allegation, according to the New York Times and NBC.

He is said to have asked for this because the allegation falsely insinuated that the FBI broke the law.

The DOJ has not commented.

US media quoted officials as saying that Mr Comey believed there was no evidence to support Mr Trump’s allegation.

From an FBI director this is a startling rebuke of a sitting president and Mr Comey will be under pressure from Democrats to voice it publicly, the BBC’s Nick Bryant reports from Washington.

The mainstream media is reporting unnamed “officials” relaying the words of the FBI director which amount to a “startling rebuke” of Trump. If the allegations are untrue, why all the cloak-and-dagger stuff?

Ask yourself, who seems to be responding with the more convincing demeanour: those accused of having “ties” with Russia, or those accused of illegally wiretapping Trump?

More Meddling from Obama

A month ago I said this:

For the Democrats to move on and rebuild themselves into a credible party of opposition they need to distance themselves from the Obama era and his many of his policies, and carry along as many of his supporters as they can in the process. For as long as Obama is spouting off from the sidelines this will be very difficult to achieve, mainly because his supporters will listen to him rather than the Democrat Party.

Via Bayou Renaissance Man comes this Daily Mail article:

On Tuesday, former Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that Obama is indeed getting closer to making his public reappearance in politics.

‘It’s coming. He’s coming,’ Holder said speaking to reporters. ‘And he’s ready to roll.’

 According to the family source, Obama was at first reluctant to assume the role of leader of the opposition.

‘No longer the most powerful man in the world, he was just observing Trump and not liking what he saw,’ said the source.

‘He was weary and burned out after eight years in office. But Valerie [Jarrett] convinced him that he didn’t have any choice if he wanted to save his legacy. And, as usual, he bowed to Valerie’s political wisdom and advice.’

Spurred on by Jarrett and Michelle, the ex-president has come to embrace his role as the leader of the opposition against Trump, whose policies he loathes and whose presidency he considers illegitimate.

‘He is going to use his immense popularity with the half of the country that identifies as liberals and progressives,’ said the Obama family source. ‘Millions of Americans are energized and ready to take to the streets to oppose Trump, but they need to be organized and have their anger focused and directed.

It’s all a bit third world, isn’t it? The former President spouting off from the sidelines, desperate to save his “legacy”, and believing the country can’t possibly function without his input. If the Democrats don’t get a grip on him soon, it’ll be difficult to know what role they serve (other than peddling rumours about Trump and Russia).

And speaking of the third world:

Michelle hired Los Angeles-based interior designer Michel S. Smith, who designed several rooms in The White House during their residence, to decorate the Kalorama home. Smith will also decorate the Obama’s new home in Rancho Mirage, California.

The friend said that Valerie and her signature enormous totes are going to be packed and ready to go for shopping sprees with Michelle from their native Chicago to Paris and the Far East, including Shanghai.

‘They feel like they have had some great trips while in the White House, but were always working and being herded around,’ said the source. ‘Now they are planning to travel together – home to Chicago, to Paris and Shanghai, and shop to their heart’s content.

‘The Obamas both love the Kalorama house and are making it their own,’ continued the source. ‘They have plans to build a pool on the grounds. And they are almost certainly going to wind up buying the house from Lockart in the next few years.

‘They are also planning to have a house in Hawaii, as well as in Chicago, where the Obama Presidential Library will be built. But Kalorama, where the Washington action takes place, is going to be home base.’

Although one would expect a former US President to be richer than most, purchasing prime real estate and jetting around the world on shopping sprees might raise a few question as to where this money came from. When the world’s media praised the Michelle Obama for “showing grace”, I didn’t realise they were referring to Grace Mugabe.