The British Retweeting Corporation

Trump ‘shared classified information with Russia’

screams the BBC headline of their main story of the day.

President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information about so-called Islamic State (IS) to Russia’s foreign minister, US media report.

The information, related to the use of laptops on aircraft, came from a partner of the US which had not given permission for it to be shared with Russia, says the Washington Post.

Mr Trump received Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office last week.

Note that this is all being presented as fact. Not until the sixth paragraph are we told:

But the president has dismissed such allegations as “fake news”.

Which is all we get before the BBC’s expert analyst weighs in with:

The fallout from this story could be enormous and not just because there is a boundless trove of Republican quotes over the past year – directed at Mrs Clinton – about the utmost importance of protecting top-secret information.

There is the Russian connection, of course.

The FBI is currently investigating the Trump campaign for possible ties to Russian interests.

This continues for another four paragraphs. Because rehashing unsubstantiated rumours about Trump’s Russia ties is far more important than telling us what actually happened at the meeting, who was there, and what was supposed to have been said. That comes later:

National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters that the story, “as reported”, was “false”.

Some weasel words there for sure, but nonetheless perhaps this could have been given to us earlier?

“The president and foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation,” he said.

“At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. ”

In a statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the point that “the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations”.

In other words, the BBC’s headline – presenting one side of the story as fact – is deliberately misleading.

The Washington Post, which first broke the story, said this did not amount to a denial.

And the spin cycle continues.

The point of this post is not to highlight any anti-Trump bias at the BBC, nor even speculate as to why such endless ‘scandals’ are of interest to British licence-fee payers: I’ve gone over this ground before. It is more to say that, since I’ve been on Twitter, I have noticed that the BBC’s anti-Trumps stories are simply lifted directly from social media, reformatted, and presented as their own reporting. There is absolutely nothing in this latest BBC article which I did not glean from browsing Twitter over my cornflakes this morning. They have offered no added value whatsoever in their headline story.

There is an argument that they are bringing the story to a wider audience who might not use Twitter, but this will rapidly weaken as time goes by and the young folk shun traditional media sources altogether. And also, as I’ve said, why are the British interested in this – especially as headline news?

The credibility of the Washington Post was in tatters long before it broke this ‘story’, and most people on Twitter see this as one lot of bumbling bullshitters making an accusation against another and normal people wishing both sides would stop acting like fucking children and start doing their actual jobs. I find myself wishing the BBC would do the same. Fat chance.


Four Stories for a Saturday

Four completely unrelated stories caught my attention today.

The first:

Michelle Obama has launched a fierce defence of the healthy eating initiatives she championed as first lady.

In thinly-veiled criticism of the policies of the new administration, Mrs Obama told the audience: “This is where you really have to look at motives, you know.

“You have to stop and think, why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you? And why is that a partisan issue? Why would that be political? What is going on?”

You know, perhaps American parents don’t want to be told what to feed their children, adopting the rather old-fashioned view that maybe they are best placed to decide? And perhaps they don’t like being lectured by a woman whose sole reason for anyone knowing her name is that she happened to be the wife of a president whose policies were soundly rejected at the last election. Would it have been too much to ask that she maintain a dignified silence once her husband left office?

While in the White House, Mrs Obama championed the “Let’s Move” campaign, which encourages exercise and healthy eating among young people.

She being uniquely positioned to decide what constitutes healthy eating for millions of people, of course.

The second:

At least 20 people have died after a tourist bus fell from a cliff near the southern Turkey seaside resort of Marmaris.

Another 11 were injured when the driver lost control of the minibus and ploughed through a crash barrier.

Local media said no foreign tourists were among the passengers.

About 40 people were on board, according to Amric Cicek, governor of Mugla province, who suggested the brakes may have stopped working.

But the mayor of Marmaris, Ali Acar, told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet: “I think that the accident was a result of driver error.”

This is a reminder that, for all of Turkey’s recent economic growth and the emergence of a decent airline, its roads remain dangerous places. The government really ought to do something about this, if it can find time.

The third:

Prime Minister of Canada and internet darling Justin Trudeau has shown the rest of the world’s leaders how to do publicity once again – by bringing his three-year-old to the office.

Of course, it’s not the first time the 45-year-old internet-savvy politician has caught global attention.

The liberal politician has been applauded by his supporters for supporting Syrian refugees, marching at a gay pride parade, and openly declaring himself a feminist.

Naturally, the BBC fails to realise that these antics are precisely why much of the world think him a laughing stock.

“So precious … I’m old enough to remember seeing photos released of you and your dad [former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau] when you were little,” one Facebook commenter volunteered.

Would that be the one where he’s being held by family hero Fidel Castro?

If only we were able to get the view on Trudeau from Cuban Facebook commenters.

The fourth:

A Mexican businesswoman who headed a group of 600 families searching for their disappeared relatives has been killed.

Miriam Rodríguez Martínez was shot in her home in the town of San Fernando in Tamaulipas state.

She was known for successfully investigating the kidnap and murder of her daughter by a local drug cartel, the Zetas.

The information she gave the police ensured the gang members were jailed.

A brave, brave woman indeed.

The group she established was part of a wider trend which mushroomed after the October 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

Frustrated by a lack of government help, groups of families began their own searches for people who had disappeared in their areas, taking courses in forensic anthropology, archaeology, law, buying caving equipment and becoming experts in identifying graves and bones.

There are now at least 13 of these groups across the country.

One of the points overlooked by those who oppose Trump’s immigration policies is that the current practice of allowing Mexicans to move to the USA and remit monies back home is that it drastically reduces the pressure on the ruling elites to sort the place out. The USA acts as the safety valve for Mexican governmental fecklessness, and short of an incentive to do anything other than keep themselves wealthy and protected, the country is rapidly becoming a failed state. The fact that relatives of murdered citizens have had to form their own forensic teams because the police can’t or won’t do the job shows just how bad things have got. When the Mexican government started squawking about the wall, Trump should have slapped their president around the face with a strong right hand (or perhaps got Mattis to do it) and put these feckless parasites firmly in their place. Although there is the argument that American drug laws is what has created this situation, but if that’s the case then let’s hear the Mexicans make it.


Trump is presiding over a complete mess

I confess I haven’t followed the stories closely enough to know what Comey said or didn’t say, why Flynn was fired by Obama and re-hired by Trump, who Sally Yates is and what Steve Bannon’s role really was. But what is abundantly clear is that the White House administration under Trump is an absolute clusterfuck.

With the sacking of Comey the screeching from the media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) is at a pitch which I fear may soon be only audible to dogs. Most of it is in relation to Trump’s supposed Russia connections, a story which won’t die because Trump’s opponents know it’s all they have. Yet nobody has produced any evidence of collusion between Trump’s lot and Putin’s lot, nobody has proof that it was the Russians (or indeed anybody) who hacked the DNC’s servers, and every new outrage on Twitter which renews calls for Trump’s impeachment disappears as quickly as it arrives.

It is somewhat annoying that even smart people like Ben Shapiro lend credence to the Russia thing: it is bollocks, and it always was. Putin, being Russian and therefore denied any hand in the victimhood poker game, is a useful bogeyman on which to blame everything from Trump to Brexit. Even the emergence of papers allegedly showing Macron to be less than squeaky clean was blamed on Trump, and there is no shortage of prominent figures – even those who should know better – who believe it.

But Trump has not helped himself, and if his opponents weren’t so busy shrieking about the End Of Days every time Trump so much as sneezes, they would have plenty to criticise. His “repeal” of Obamacare is a complete fudge which will do nothing to solve America’s healthcare problems. He’s flailing about on the Wall. He flipped on Middle East intervention by firing missiles at Syria, and now he’s arming Kurds. He seems to be dealing rather well with China, less so with Iran. His policies are all over the place, and the fact that he has no experience in politics is now painfully obvious. He isn’t playing 3D chess like some sort of Machiavellian  genius, he’s simply out of his depth.

But the worst part is his organisational skills. For somebody who carries a reputation as being a skilled businessman and negotiator, his administration seems to be lurching all over the place with all manner of intrigues and speculation as to who is really in charge of what. I don’t see any problem with Ivanka taking on the ceremonial role of first lady if Melania doesn’t want it, meeting the wives of other heads of state and chatting about kids, schools, and dresses. But to involve her in policy? Give her an office? What is this, Africa? And what the hell is Ivanka’s husband doing in the mix?

There seems to be no clear hierarchy, no discipline, no organisation. What is most depressing is the influence of James Mattis and Rex Tillerson – both of whom ought to impose precisely those attributes on the administration – is thus far non-existent. This petty infighting, squabbling, poorly executed sackings, and outbursts would never have been tolerated around Mattis or Tillerson in their previous roles.

Trump himself has to carry the blame for this. He should have learned by now to ignore the media and stop going on Twitter. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was actually saying things that were true, but taking to Twitter to praise the mess that is the AHCA just makes him look like the rank amateur that he is. Trump is making the same “overgaming” mistake Milo did, and I wrote about here: he’s used shock tactics to get where he wanted to, but now he’s there he needs to quit with the attention-seeking and knuckle down to the serious stuff. Trump needs to stop campaigning and start governing only, like Obama before him, he seems incapable of doing so. If things keep going like this we’re going to see the likes of Mattis and Tillerson resign in frustration to be replaced by compliant nobodies, and the entire administration turn into something resembling a reality TV show.

It is tempting to blame the media and unreasonable Democrats, and they do have a lot to answer for, but the man in charge is Donald Trump and he is clearly not up to the job. I suspect he will leave office having achieved only one thing of note, which in fairness is the most important of them all: he kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House.


The US to arm the Kurds

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump has approved supplying weapons to Kurdish forces fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the Pentagon says.

Well, why not? They seem to be the only bunch out there that don’t completely hate us. If we’re going to insist on giving people weapons, might as well be the Kurds.

The US was “keenly aware” of Turkey’s concerns about such a move, she said.

Turkey views the Kurdish rebels as terrorists and wants to stop them taking more territory in Syria.

Turkey? Presumably they mean the nation whose president recently said:

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets.”

And whose interior minister said:

“If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow the mind of Europe”

And the same Turkey whose pro-government newspapers say things like this:

President Erdoğan is totally right to compare the situation to a struggle between the cross and the crescent. And so is Minister Çavuşoğlu arguing that holy wars will soon begin in Europe. The refusal by the West to accept the equality of Muslims and Muslim nations is the sign of a clash of civilizations.

If you have decided to clench your fists, you are getting ready for a fight; if you hit, you will be hit back.

President Erdoğan and other government officials are raising their voices since Western governments have aggrieved Turks and Muslims.

Turks are warning one last time. They are asking: “Are you aware that you are playing with fire? What on earth is going on? Are you insane?” The rest is up to the Western governments.

Turkey has chosen sides, nailing its colours firmly to the mast. And now the US is arming its enemies.

Pentagon sources told the BBC that the equipment would include ammunition, small arms, machine guns, heavy machine guns, construction equipment such as bulldozers and armoured vehicles.

And if the threats keep up, maybe a MANPAD or two. Over to you, President Erdoğan.


Making Politics Look Effortful

This article in National Review putting the boot into Chelsea Clinton has some wonderful lines:

Without establishing herself in any field, she segued gently into the realm of the ceremonial job, as though, having skipped entirely the “rising to the top of one’s profession” part of life, it was time to kick back a little, to accept due recompense in the form of board seats (such as the one on the family foundation) and advisory sinecures and other such vapor-jobs, prestige appointments lightly tethered to the vaguest of duties.

Is it too much to expect of a Stanford grad who has two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. that she write her own book instead of calling in a ghostwriter? How hard can it be to produce a volume of stuporous change-the-world banality in the first place? Especially a bad book written with all the verve of the iTunes Terms of Service agreement?

Hillary won’t, of course, run again, because the donor money won’t be there. The donors know that she was looking at a two-inch putt of a campaign and somehow managed not only to miss but to shank the ball into the long grass while screaming about the Russians and misogyny.

Chelsea Clinton is indeed working hard — on the family brand. But like her mother, she makes politics look effortful.

If you don’t like the way a fawning media is preparing the ground for yet another Clinton run at office and have twenty minutes to spare, go and read the whole thing.


Reading Between The Lines

Somebody on Twitter trawled through adverts for housemates in the Washington Post and noticed several of them required potential applicants to pass a political test:

I found something profoundly depressing about that advert. Here we have a group of women, most likely with degrees from high-ranking universities, probably all of them right-on feminists and as politically correct as they come, and no doubt enjoying promising careers in the capital. On the surface their lives sound like fun, but the manner in which they go out of their way to say – in an advert – what a fun bunch of gals they are makes me pause. It’s almost like they are trying too hard, as if they think they’re the women from Sex and the City, or something. Note the admission of drinking quantity rather than quality, and singing badly. Oh, the larks!

I’m going to be cruel here and take a stab at the real situation. Here you have three or four absolute bitches, all of whom are backstabbing and scheming their way to senior management positions overseeing process-driven functions in pointless organisations that are solely dependent on government largesse. If they don’t already, each will fit the description of “power skirt” in a few years and will introduce policies which ultimately cost their employers a lot of money and get awards for doing so. They’ll all be middle or upper class but will think they are down wiv the masses because they voted for Hillary, and will never have met a Trump supporter in their lives save for the well-built, handsome lawyer one of them fucked one Friday night after a drunken cocktail party. She thought he was very arrogant and “it could never have worked” but she didn’t shut up about him for the next three months.

They are earning good money but the prices in DC mean they have to houseshare, which none of them will actually like but they are pretending to. As soon as they can afford it they’ll move out and rent an overpriced hovel where they’ll live alone. And that is likely how they’ll stay for their entire lives, unless you include the cats they’ll purchase for company when they pass forty. For my guess is right now they are “concentrating on their careers” and in the few hours they’re not working they are engaging in pointless political posturing (e.g. by joining the seemingly endless stream of protest marches that take place in their city), getting drunk, and generally behaving in a way that will put off any half-decent man of husband material. As I said here, most men settle down with the woman they will eventually marry in their late twenties, usually with women a couple of years younger than they are, i.e. in their mid-twenties. Any woman who thinks she’s going to start looking for decent husband material in her thirties is in for a rather rude awakening as she discovers almost all of it has been taken already by women who got their priorities straight early on.

I’d bet that none of the women referred to in that advert has a steady boyfriend that they’ll still be with in five years time, and right now they believe they can have it all: the career, the social life, and – later – the rich husband and the family. Or maybe not: perhaps I’m completely wrong about all of this.

But what I would do if I were thinking of renting that spare room is to find out why it is suddenly available, get in touch with the person that vacated it, and ask them what it was like living in that household. Take a notepad, because I reckon there would be enough material for an entire book.


Obama’s Arctic Ban Overturned

Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at reducing restrictions on oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic in order to “unleash American energy”.

reports the BBC.

It could undo a ban put in place by Barack Obama in order to protect swathes of the ocean from development.

A ban put in place via executive order in December 2016 is one of many pieces of legislation Obama petulantly signed in his last hours in office mainly to hamstring his successor. In other words, reversing the ban will take us back to the end of last year. Was America a vast wasteland where any human peaking out of the ash piles would be picked off by giant, mutant pterodactyls? No.

It is debatable how much income might be generated by a reversal of Mr Obama’s order. Worldwide prices for oil have dropped in recent years, with a review by news agency Reuters finding the amount of money oil companies spent in the central Gulf of Mexico’s annual lease sale dropped by more than 75% between 2012 and 2017.

Perhaps Trump, unlike Reuters and BBC journalists, is aware that the oil industry is cyclic and the period in question mostly covers a downturn.

David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a non-profit conservation group, said: “The Trump administration’s hasty move today toward expanding offshore oil drilling … defies market realities and is as reckless as it is unnecessary.”

If it defies market realities, i.e. nobody is going to drill in these waters anyway, then what’s the problem? How can it be both reckless and unnecessary? Alas, thanks to the BBC’s policy of quoting environmental groups’ press releases without scrutiny, we don’t get to find out.


Tillerson on Iran

Rex Tillerson on Iran:

“An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and to take the world along with it,” Mr Tillerson said.

Well, perhaps. Take the region with it, maybe. The world? I’m not so sure. This is neither the time nor subject for hyperbole.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Tillerson said a review, which he had announced in a letter to Congress a day earlier, would look at the whole US policy towards Iran – taking in not only Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear deal but also its actions in the Middle East.

This is sensible. Obama’s deal with Iran stank to high-heaven and should have been torn up the day after Trump’s inauguration.

He accused the country of “alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilising more than one country at a time”.

Which has been the case since 1979.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining US interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel.”

Okay, but perhaps the US would do well to re-evaluate some of those interests. Why is the US so preoccupied with what Iran is doing in Yemen, for example? Sure, it’s engaged in a proxy war with Saudi but why should America be dragged into it? And Syria? Well, I’ve said enough about that already.

As part of a long list of charges, he criticised Iran’s involvement in the Syrian conflict and its support for President Bashar al-Assad.

Look, I’m no fan of either but Iran has every right to support Bashar al-Assad. This is none of America’s business, they should concentrate on defending their clear interests, not engage in woolly moral judgements about who is supporting whom.

America has tried policing the Middle East and it has been an utter disaster, they really ought to quit. Iran is a threat to US interests for the reasons Tillerson has cited, but by including issues in which the US interests are unclear serves only to provide ammunition to those who think Trump’s administration has been captured by neo-cons baying for war.

Everyone knows what Iran is like, we don’t need any more accusations or statements of the obvious. Just state clearly where and how they are in direct conflict with American interests and take firm action in those areas, and leave the rest well alone.


Different Era, Different War, Same Mistakes

Via Adam, Breibart has an interview with a former American soldier on the manner in which the United States is conducting itself in war:

“My First Sergeant, Tommy Scott, and myself, we led a heavy weapons company in a violent province in eastern Afghanistan,” he recalled. “It seemed like the enemy was always one step ahead of us, and we discovered why. Through the aid of a counter-intel team, we uncovered twelve spies operating on our base. These were Afghan laborers that were hired by the U.S. government to serve as translators and other workers to support us so that we could focus on combat operations.”

What’s incredible about this is the exact same thing was happening in Vietnam: huge numbers of the South Vietnamese employees of the American military were spying for the Viet Cong. Either due to negligence, incompetence, or ignorance the American officers would nonetheless talk openly in front of them, often even sharing sensitive information with their supposed allies. In one chapter of his book About Face, David Hackworth tells of how he transformed an army outpost he took over, which included the installation of a sauna. He made a point of conducting his briefings in there because it was the only place he could be sure there were no Vietnamese present.

There was another amusing anecdote in Robert Mason’s Chickenhawk, his memoir of being a Huey pilot in Vietnam. He tells the story of being told by a superior officer to pick up two kids of around twelve years old who were loitering around nearby and fly them back to base for interrogation, as they were suspected to be spying for the Viet Cong. He duly did, noticing the kids in the back – who had obviously never been in a helicopter before – were staring intently out of the doors. The two were released almost immediately because, well, they were kids, and got flown back to where they were picked up. Mason then made a wry comment about how even though the Viet Cong didn’t possess any aircraft they were nonetheless able to conduct a full aerial reconnaissance of a major American base.

It seems some things never change.


Pointless Anger at the UN

From the BBC:

Syria war: Anger after Russia vetoes resolution at UN


Russia has vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have condemned last week’s alleged chemical attack in Syria and demanded that Damascus cooperate with investigators.

The resolution was presented by the US, UK and France, who reacted angrily to Russia’s decision.

It was the eighth time Russia has protected its ally at the council.

Why is anyone angry at this? It was an absolute certainty that Russia was going to support its ally Assad and veto any resolution, if anyone was surprised – let along angered – by this then they ought to be fired immediately for being so unimaginably stupid that euthanasia becomes a serious consideration.

There’s no point being angry at Russia: they have made it clear they support Assad and either don’t believe he used chemical weapons or don’t care that he did. And there’s no point in being angry at their wielding a veto, this is what all the permanent members do when their allies are ganged up on (justifiably or not).

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned Russia’s action: “You are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death,” she said.

So what’s new? If you don’t like how the system works, then change it or walk away. All this latest resolution has done is provide an opportunity for people to go on a jolly to New York and to demonstrate how useless the United Nations is. Again.