Facebook Feminism

Until somebody decided to shoot up a nightclub in Germany, this was running as front-page news on the BBC’s website:

Fairer pay for women must be backed up by stronger policies at work, according to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

But the firm’s chief operating officer, in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, said the first step is to “start paying women well”.

She chose Beyonce’s empowering Run The World (Girls) as her first song.

This Beyoncé:

It’s one way to become empowered, I suppose.

She said: “We start telling little girls not to lead at a really young age and we start to tell boys [to] lead at a very young age. That is a mistake.”

We do? Okay, I can probably believe that in some countries with cultures we’re encouraged to embrace that little girls are told not to lead, but in the West? Really? Who is saying this, and where? This is bullshit.

“I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead…”

Then you’re an idiot. Not everyone is a leader, just as not everyone is a loyal lieutenant, and not everyone is an essential specialist, and not everyone is an equally important plodder. If you’ve not understood this, you’ve not understood leadership at all.

“…and we should let people choose that not based on their gender but on who they are and who they want to be.”

Oh please. We’ve had women leaders since at least Cleopatra. Who, and where, are girls being told they cannot lead because of their gender? All I see on the webpages of major corporations is how important women are and how proud they are to have a load of them in senior positions. The fact we have a female COO carping at us in the national press ought to tell us that this isn’t really a problem. Whereas it is boys that are being failed by schools, more girls than boys are graduating from college and now lead in such fields as law and medicine, and young men are still committing suicide at a far higher rate than women.

Ms Sandberg made headlines in 2013 with her book “Lean in” about female empowerment in the workplace.

It became a worldwide bestseller, but was criticised by some for being elitist and unrealistic for many women not in her privileged position.

You mean not all women agreed, and cat-fighting ensued? I don’t believe it.

In the interview, she also called for more to be done around the gender pay gap between men and women.

The gender pay gap that Christina Hoff Sommers has debunked numerous times as being a complete myth?

Ms Sandberg admitted she had struggled with self-doubt at Harvard

The BBC’s poster-child for female empowerment and leadership wrung her hands in self-doubt while at America’s top university? Did Katherine the Great doubt herself?

…and recognised that women more than men underestimated their own worth, preventing them from putting themselves forward or asking for a pay rise.

A minute ago everyone was capable of leadership, and we need more women in such positions. Now we find they underestimate themselves. Sorry, but I prefer anyone presuming to be my leader to be a little less wet. Attila the Hun is my benchmark.

“We need to start paying women well and we need the public and the corporate policy to get there,” she said.

Says the woman who made over $18m in 2016.

“Certainly, women applying for jobs at the same rate as men, women running for office at the same rate as men, that has got to be part of the answer.”

As Christina Hoff Sommers repeatedly says, there is nothing stopping women going into higher-paid professions such as engineering and computer programming, they simply choose not to. The women who chose to become engineers are absolutely coining it. I can think of two now, one owns half of Melbourne (*waves*) and another spends much of her life flying around on holiday in business-class (*waves again*).

Following the sudden death of her husband Dave Goldberg, Ms Sandberg described herself a “different” person now.

She found him on the floor of a gym with a head injury after he had suffered a heart attack whilst they were on a weekend away.

Okay, I’ll dial it down a notch here. Losing your husband is catastrophic, and I am all too familiar with its effects. That she’s managed to carry on so well afterwards is genuinely worthy of admiration, and she deserves a lot of respect and sympathy over this.

I still hate the BBC, though.

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Another attempt at normalising polyamory

Via TJ in the comments, the mainstream media has another go at normalising polyamorous relationships. This time it’s the BBC:

Prof Aviram said she found little appetite for marriage among polyamorous groups when she first started her research in 2004 but she began to see a change around 2012.

Prof Aviram believes changing attitudes may be due to wider acceptance of same-sex marriage around the world, making way for new taboos to be broken.

“Perhaps in the 1970s, same-sex marriage was as unimaginable as group marriage is today,” she says.

When same-sex marriages were legalised, some folks warned that it would put the institute of marriage on a slippery slope to mockery and obsolescence. Reading this, they may have been onto something. Of course, for many people this was the whole point.

[28-year-old DeAnna Rivas] suggested to her husband, Manny, that they start experimenting with another woman in 2014.

After the birth of their second child, DeAnna was struggling with depression and felt she could not get enough emotional support from her husband alone.

“I was so unhappy I couldn’t express my feelings to him. I had another part of me that was missing.

“When we met Melissa it just felt right.”

DeAnna, an art teacher, now lives with both Manny and 20-year-old Melissa James; they share incomes, childcare and household duties, and a bed.

So at twenty years old this Melissa is apparently mature enough to decide getting into a polyamorous relationship with a married couple with kids is the right thing to do. Here’s my prediction. Within a few years Melissa will be out of the relationship and will either:

1. Angrily defend her past choices, screaming abuse at anyone who questions them backed by a veritable phalanx of middle-aged feminists with green hair and neck tattoos. She’ll double down on the stupidity and learn nothing.

2. Write this off as youthful naivety, deal with it, bury it, and move on. With luck, she’ll go on to lead a normal life.

Manny, 30, says some people are upset by the relationship – a previous employer even threatened to sack him as a result – but others are intrigued.

Can we hear from Melissa’s father, please? Or did he walk out when she was 12, which would explain everything.

If things are going to change, there need to be more role models to show people that polyamorous relationships can last long term, she adds.

Manny Rivas says he “would love for us to be able to get legally married and show people there’s nothing wrong with it, show people you can make it work.

Getting married would show us only that the legal system in the US can be manipulated in the interests of social engineering. What would show people polyamorous relationships can work is an interview with three partners who’ve made it work over three decades and whose grown-up children are normal and speak of a happy, stable childhood.

Oddly, these media puff-pieces praising polyamory are remarkably short on such examples.

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More Fruit & Veg

I see the story about Britain having a lack of seasonal farm workers has been picked up by other news outlets, including the Guardian which declares:

Farms hit by labour shortage as migrant workers shun ‘racist’ UK
A 20% shortfall in migrant workers relied on to pick fruit and vegetables is blamed on Brexit making the UK seem ‘xenophobic’

I guess eastern European migrant workers must have changed since I rubbed shoulders with them occasionally on farms and building sites, because back then they were about as politically correct as Donald Trump.

“The grim reality is that the perception from overseas is we are xenophobic, we’re racist, and the pound has plummeted too,” said John Hardman, director at Hops Labour Solutions, who also estimates a 20% shortage of workers. “We’ve gone with Brexit and that makes us look unfriendly.

Seasonal farm workers rank friendliness of a country highly on their list of criteria? Who knew? It’s bollocks: this Hardman twat is facing extra admin. costs to import his labour and he doesn’t like it, so he’s decided to insult those who brought it about. The Guardian, true to form, has swallowed it whole and slapped it in their headline as if he’s stating an empirical truth.

Hardman said people who thought the shortage of farm labour could be filled by UK workers were “delusional”. He said: “There is no appetite in the UK labour pool for seasonal agricultural work.” The hospitality industry was more attractive for temporary work and unemployment is low in key areas, like Kent, he said.

So start paying wages that compete with the hospitality industry, then. Or will that mean the missus can’t get that new Aga until next year?

What’s strange is fruit and vegetable picking isn’t badly paid. Yesterday I read a load of people on social media, who had never harvested a vegetable in their lives, imply that the workers are paid less than minimum wage. There was no minimum wage when I was a farm labourer, but the hourly rate wasn’t bad, especially if you were a student like I was. And if you’re on piecework you can make way more than the minimum wage, as my Chinese pal Zu found out. And if I’m honest, it isn’t that much hard work: yes, picking potatoes hurts your back and none of it is much fun, but you get used to it. And I was 19 and fit as a fiddle, so who cares? That’s half the fun of being young, you can work like that and get smashed that night, and shrug it all off. It’s a summer job, not a career. Don’t kid yourself it’s similar to mining coal by hand.

And of course, there is always the possibility that you might get promoted, and here I must make a slight confession: I didn’t actually do a lot of vegetable picking that summer*. They stuck me out in the fields for the first couple of weeks, and then one day the bloke who drove around the farm delivering packing materials and crates of ice couldn’t make it in. The farm manager asked if I could do it, told me once what I needed to do, and I just got on with it. Driving a tractor and trailer around was a lot more fun than picking bloody vegetables, so I did a good job of it. I was therefore asked to do it each day for the next week until the regular chap come back, and when he did he’d lost interest so the farm manager just told me to carry on. And that was my job: driving packing materials, ice, and produce around between the fields and the farm.

Having demonstrated that I was (just about) responsible (there were some hairy moments with the tractor) and I was reliable and organised, I got myself a much better job than everyone else. My fellow students didn’t mind because they were more interested in the higher-paying piecework; I was more interested in driving tractors. But to get that “promotion” I first had to turn up at the farm and scrape around in the dirt. Demonstrating reliability and responsibility is essential when starting out in employment, and a farm is as good a place to do that as any. The farm manager wrote several references for me in the years that followed, mainly for jobs in Manchester.

A few people said that the yoof cannot be expected to work on farms because they live in cities, and can’t get there. Well, I didn’t live in Pershore either but surprisingly those who run multi-million pound labour-intensive farming operations have thought of this and provide accommodation on the farm. Where do Guardian readers think all the Romanians and Bulgarians live? In the nearest Travelodge? The accommodation was pretty good, a shared room in a catered residence. A few others lived in fixed caravans nearby. I was 19 for God’s sake, who cares what the accommodation was like? But then I’d been an army cadet and done boarding school, so perhaps I was less fussy.

As I said yesterday, it’s why I enjoy articles about farming: almost every word is written by somebody who’s never done a day of it in their life, and that includes the commenters.

* Trust me though, I have picked a shit-load of new potatoes by hand.

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Laurie Penny is not a nerd, and never will be

This caught my attention yesterday:

For those who might not know, Laurie Penny is a feminist journalist and author who studied English at Oxford and has appeared on the BBC, Channel 4, and in the New Statesmen, Guardian, and Morning Star almost always to express her political views. She is extremely outspoken and loves both stirring up trouble and getting attention, including writing about her polyamorous lifestyle in a national newspaper. The Daily Telegraph called her “”without doubt the loudest and most controversial female voice on the radical left.”

Does this sound like a nerd to you? No, me neither.

There was a time when to be a nerd you had to be good at science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM) to the detriment of everything else. Or at least you had to be more interested in these subjects than most other people were, which made you socially inept as a teenager. Given that I studied maths, physics, and chemisty for A-level, did a Mechanical Engineering degree, and have (sort of) worked as an engineer for most of my career, believe me when I say I know what nerds are.

Nerds can be women. My first girlfriend back in university was a nerd, one of those one-in-million geniuses who could understand calculus without being taught, was blind as a bat, and if she spilled a glass of water the next thing she’d do was step in it by mistake. I knew another female nerd here in Paris, some maths whizz who worked for one of the international finance groups and numbers excited her. Wander around the geoscience department of a major oil company and you’ll see plenty of female nerds, although they are outnumbered by the men. The geologists are the most weird of all. They wear cargo pants and lumberjack shirts and take two-week holidays to go and visit an outcrop somewhere.

Being a nerd is about personality, which drives what you study. Nerds pay obsessive attention to detail, which suits STEM subjects where accuracy is more important than creativity. This is why nerds never really grow out of it. The engineers I work with are no longer the awkward teenagers they once were, but they still engage in the same hobbies. A colleague and friend of mine is from Malaysia, has a PhD, and wears glasses. His hobby is building amplifiers the old fashioned way using valves. Sometimes the stereotypes write themselves. Another colleague, a Venezuelan, heard about this and the two of them built one together. Both of them are around forty. Other engineer friends of mine are obsessed with whatever kit and equipment is associated to their hobby: biking, skiing, sailing, music. For them fiddling with the kit is three-quarters of the fun. Me? I have been known to build Airfix models as an adult and if I had the time and space I’d build a model railway. And I play the banjo. Enough said? I think so.

So why would an obvious non-nerd like Laurie claim to be one? Simple: in the modern world nerds are successful (once they grow up) and nerds are one of the few female groups who genuinely don’t need looks to gain attention, recognition, and progress in their careers. By claiming to be a nerd, Laurie is implying that she is highly intelligent and is respected in a field which requires a lot of hard work and dedication to enter. She says this in order to offset the physical disparity between her and the models, something nerds of both sexes do. Laurie is intelligent, but nobody would call a polemical feminist writer with such a craving for attention a nerd. Except herself, when asked to stand alongside a bunch of models.

It cannot be ignored that nerds tend to get well-paying jobs in stark contrast to those who study sociology or gender studies. Whatever it is nerds have, employers like it. Also, TV shows like Mythbusters and The Big Bang Theory repainted the nerd as an eccentric with a certain charm. The combination is to make the adult nerd somewhat endearing in terms of character and overall station in life (with the caveat that there are limits to the nerdiness). By calling herself a nerd, Laurie is attempting to portray herself as a loveable eccentric whose idiosyncrasies and quirks will be overlooked in light of her superior intellect and high-standing among like-minded peers.

Naturally, there are men falling over themselves to validate Laurie’s claims in the replies to her Tweet, probably thinking it will get them laid, but she’s not a nerd and never will be. That title is bestowed upon you by others, not awarded to yourself whenever you need a cutesy persona.

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Aspiring journalists should ignore Oliver Kamm’s career advice

Staying on the topic of Macron, Putin, and Russia Today, Times columnist Oliver Kamm had this to say:

I believe that Oliver Kamm is an excellent writer and fully deserves his slot at the Times, but let’s not pretend he got there wholly on merit: he is the son of a famous publisher and equally famous publisher/translator, his maternal grandfather founded the Times crossword, and he is the nephew of BBC correspondent Martin Bell. Kamm giving young journalists career advice is a bit like Chelsea Clinton telling aspiring writers how to get a piece in Variety magazine.

Oliver Kamm personifies the metropolitan, pro-European elite which flourished under New Labour and, if their comments around Brexit are anything to go by, are wholly out of touch with the rest of the population. His remark about Russia Today is more reflective of the snobbery that is rife in such circles than a condemnation of Russia’s media outlets.

Let me be frank: RT peddles pro-Kremlin propaganda and they have all sorts of cranks and idiots invited on to speak. They routinely engage in misinformation campaigns, and the one they embarked on following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was particularly despicable. I am not here to defend RT’s content or editorial policies.

But are the likes of the BBC any better? Or CNN? Actually, yes they are. But the problem is the likes of Kamm believe the BBC, CNN, and the others are paragons of virtue, whereas I would say that there are serious shortcomings with all of them, particularly their obvious bias when it comes to any given issue. Is the BBC’s relentless anti-Trump coverage any better than RT’s pro-Kremlin output? Probably yes, but there’s not a whole lot in it. And RT never pretends to be impartial, unlike the BBC. And that’s what gets me: the metropolitan media elite lack the self awareness to realise that they are guilty of the same charges they level at their competitors.

What is also telling is that Kamm appears to think the editorial credibility of a particular outlet is all that matters when building a career in media. Of course, one would hardly expect somebody who was parachuted straight into a national broadsheet to understand this, but some clue would have been nice. Working for an outfit like RT would be valuable experience for anyone wanting a career in media: regardless of their editorial policies, their production qualities are top-notch and I suspect they cover the non-controversial stories with as much professionalism as any other station. You might as well tell young engineers not to work for BAe because they supply cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Of course, what Kamm means is that by working for RT a young journalist would find themselves shunned from those who occupy the London media bubble, not shut out of the entire global industry. What if the young journalist was Russian, for example? A Russian friend of a friend works for RT in London, and was sent to Paris to cover the anti-capitalist protests last year. Was her career suffering? Didn’t look like it. Should a young Portuguese journalist avoid RT because they might find themselves shut out of the London-based media as a result? For a bunch who are forever wailing about Brexit and sucking up to the Europeans, these metropolitan elites are really quite parochial and can’t see past the M25, let alone beyond Europe’s major cities.

And while we’re on the subject of credibility, Oliver Kamm was and still is an ardent supporter of Tony Blair and New Labour, hopes that Macron will govern in the same vein, and believes that the “liberal interventionism” characterised by Blair, i.e. bombing third-world nations in order to bring peace, is something to be advocated.

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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.

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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.

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The Fate of the Transocean Winner

Credit where it is due, Tom Lamont writing for The Guardian has done some splendid reporting here covering the fate of the semisubmersible drilling vessel Transocean Winner, which ran aground on the Hebrides last year. It is very long, but well worth a read.

I was pleased to see that, while the author reasonably writes about the environmental and societal issues surrounding shipbreaking, he resists any temptation to go off on a rant about fossil fuels or global warming. It is refreshing. It’s how journalism should be done.

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Getting it Wrong on Russia

Back in February I lamented the fact that finding sensible commentary on Russia is difficult because when it comes to that particular nation, people’s views fall into one of the following two categories:

1. Russia is America’s number one enemy, they rigged the US election in order to install their puppet Trump, they are hell-bent on taking over Europe by force and they must be confronted in Syria.

2. Russia is absolutely no threat to Europe, Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia and the annexation was perfectly above-board, they have been forced to launch a war in Eastern Ukraine because of Western plans to encircle them, they are directly threatened by NATO and they have shown us all how things ought to be done in Syria.

A recent article in The Spectator is a good case in point:

What amazes me is that if you bring up Russia in America and Europe today, people react the way academics used to back in the 1930s if one criticized Stalin and his purges. Fifty to 100 million died in the gulags, and lefties the world over turned a blind eye; now you say one nice thing about Putin and you’re toast.

That is true, and worthy of discussion.

Towards the late-1980s, the Soviet ambassador to Athens befriended my father, the coldest warrior of them all, and convinced him that all Gorby wanted was to conduct business with the West. He also reminded him what Georgi Arbatov had told dad when he had been a guest of the government during the Moscow Olympics of 1980: the greatest danger Russia faced was not America and the West but the 40 million Muslims within the Soviet Union.

I can only assume the author cites the opinion of his Dad’s mate because he believes it is true. It’s clearly bollocks. The greatest predictable threat to Russia in the 1980s was a nuclear war with America; the greatest unknown threat turned out to be the collapse of the USSR. Presumably the author thinks the words hold true today, but even that’s a tough sell. Considering their numbers, Russia has encountered very little trouble of the Islamist variety from Tatars, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Ingush and other Muslims from the former Soviet Union. The obvious exception is with the Chechens but their push for independence and the two subsequent wars were driven as much by nationalism as Islamism (and the Chechens have always been troublemakers from Moscow’s point of view). Over time the Chechen separatists became out-and-out Islamic terrorists, but they don’t represent the biggest danger to Russia. And it’s worth pointing out that a lot of the hardcore fighters in Chechnya were foreigners, and that the most feared “Chechen” fighters who joined ISIS seem to be ethnic Russians who converted to Islam.

Either way, Russian and former-Soviet Muslims are not and never were the greatest danger facing Russia. If we want me to say what I think that is, I’d go for the insistence of its leaders to concentrate power around themselves, weaken institutions, crush any opposition, and leave no succession plan making chaos more likely each time the regime changes every generation or two. Couple that with a populous and resource-hungry China on its distant borders.

One hundred years ago, after the Tsar’s murder, westerners thought of Russia as a savage, benighted land yearning to become a second America. That was a crock, if ever there was one. Russians are a spiritual people who yearn to connect with Christ, not Wall Street.

I don’t think this chap has spent much time in Russia or around Russians. It would take one to be willfully blind not to notice how much rampant consumerism, paid for with credit cards and bank loans, has gripped Russians. A few text messages passed between family members at Easter doesn’t change that.

After the collapse of communism, America committed its greatest mistake until the Iraqi invasion 11 years later. Instead of listening to George F. Kennan, a Russian expert and diplomat extraordinaire, and to Richard Nixon, who both advised helping the new state financially as well as politically, Uncle Sam heeded neocon siren voices and encircled Russia via Nato.

And just like that, we get the full, unalloyed, Kremlin take on things. It’s hard to know where to begin. The Americans did attempt to help Russia financially and politically: they poured in billions to stop the country from collapsing completely, secure its nuclear weapons, strengthen its institutions, and get a grip on an AIDS epidemic among many other things. As things turned out the economic advice was extremely naive in that they didn’t anticipate the degree to which Russians would murder one another while transforming their economy, but that can hardly be blamed on the Americans. Sure, there was a lot of asset stripping, theft, and other dodgy practices being carried out by individuals, some of whom had state backing, but to say the Americans didn’t try to help Russia after the collapse of the USSR might as well be taken from Putin’s Top Ten List of Things to Blame on America.

What annoys me about these sort of articles is they assume Russians themselves have no agency, as if they bear no responsibility for their own situation, and are always at the mercy of the US. To counter this, I’ll refer to this post from 2007 in which I list the business-related murders in the first part of 2000 alone, a decade after perestroika. Did Americans tell them to behave like this? No. This is simply how Russians behave, American advice or not.

And this:

Uncle Sam heeded neocon siren voices and encircled Russia via Nato.

Oh please. Again, this is straight out of the Kremlin book of propaganda. The Nato expansion was more about a bureaucratic organisation wanting to increase its headcount and footprint more than a grand strategy to encircle Russia. Had America wanted to destroy Russia in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, they would have done so. As I said here:

By historical standards Russia, as part of a collapsing empire which had been defeated after a long and often bloody struggle against an ideological, military, and political enemy that remained strong, got off awfully lightly.

Now I will concede that some Nato actions – the bombing of Serbia, for example – might be construed as offensive and give Putin & Co some cause for concern, but the idea that Nato represents any sort of threat to Russia is laughable. I am quite sure that the Russians themselves don’t believe it either, no matter how much they repeat it for political purposes.

Neocons then doubled down on their folly by convincing an idiotic president and his poodle Tony Blair to invade Iraq. A trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of dead later, not a single neocon has been jailed or tried for their crimes. But Putin has been demonised by those same neocons and their networks, and by newspapers such as the Mexican-owned New York Times.

So the idiocy of the Iraq War makes Putin off-limits for criticism? I agree that the neo-cons have no moral ground on which to criticise Putin, but it doesn’t make them wrong. Not that I think they are right either, but the premise is daft.

The Nato expansion into the former Soviet block is now being called a ‘tragic mistake’ by those of us not taken in by neocon propaganda. There was bound to be an authoritarian backlash in Russia as a result.

And there we have the Russians’ lack of agency again. Incorporating the Czech Republic into Nato in 1999 simply forced Putin to embark on aggressive, anti-western policies in 2007.

And then there is the monstrously corrupt privatisation, sanctioned by a drunken Yeltsin. (Chelsea fans and other beneficiaries in London and New York should put up a statue of the drunk. Swiss and Bahama-based bankers pray for him daily.)

The author  appears not to realise that the person he is praising and his entourage are the prime beneficiaries of this monstrously corrupt privatisation. Does he think Putin and Roman Abramovich are enemies? But again, note how a drunk Russian presiding over a corrupt privatisation programme from which ruthless Russian gangsters benefited is something to be blamed on foreigners.

Of course, there is a reason for all this nonsense, and it is contained in a paragraph near the start of the article:

I’ve recently been reading rather a lot about RT. My friend, the film director James Toback — who directed the greatest movie of all time, Seduced and Abandoned — tells me it is the only news channel he watches in New York. I may be biased against the BBC and American networks because of their hypocritical claim of impartiality (as impartial as Saudi clerics judging a Jewish smuggler), but I love RT as it doesn’t do fake news. And, unlike American broadcasters, it has a sense of humour.

Russia Today doesn’t do fake news? Right.

The author has made the same mistake most people do when commenting on Russia: they have (rightly) understood that the Western, mainstream media is wrong, biased, or both and stumbled across Russia Today. They have then, for reasons unknown only to themselves, abandoned all skepticism and accepted without question what they see and hear from the Kremlin-run channel. I have noticed a similar thing with some of my friends on Facebook: they have realised that the BBC is unreliable and so start posting quotes from Zerohedge, as if they are any more truthful.

The idea that perhaps the situation with Russia is complex, each issue must be viewed separately, and the truth lies somewhere between the BBC/CNN and RT escapes most contemporary commentators. Perhaps Putin isn’t benign, but maybe he’s not quite like Saddam Hussein either. Sure, Russia might have legitimate concerns over Nato’s behaviour, but that did not compel them to embark on land-grabs and launch an insurrection in East Ukraine. There is some middle ground here, but boy do I feel like I’m ploughing a lonely furrow through it.

(As an aside, some advice for the author after reading this passage:

And speaking of girls, at our last summer party, towards the end, when I was well fuelled, I met Olga, a very pretty Russian who works for Russia Today. Olga has perfect manners, something her male counterparts are not famous for, and is well spoken and graceful. Even the MoMC thought her too good for me when they met at my birthday party.

For those of us who have spent time in Russia, few things come across as more nauseating than a middle-aged Western man, having encountered a Russian woman for the first time in his life, telling people about it.)

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Decline and Fall, BBC Version

Good grief, the BBC doesn’t half peddle some shite. This is from an article entitled How Western civilisation could collapse:

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter.

So individual liberties suffer when the economy performs badly, eh? How do we explain the Blair years, then? And we’re always being told how Obama rescued the economy, yet social tolerance deteriorated markedly. If we’re sticking to the bicycle analogy, this article has gotten off to a wobbly start.

Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group.

Is this what happens in a recession? Some examples would be nice. But I suppose there’s no need: if it’s on the BBC, it must be true.

Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

I’m glad the lefties at the BBC have finally figured out that a functioning economy is essential to stop us descending into a chaotic, authoritarian, basket-case. If only they’d extend this awareness to Cuba and Venezuela we’d be getting somewhere.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end.

They have? Civilisations have collapsed due to the economy not growing? I suppose the Soviet Union might count but they had, erm, a rather particular approach to their economy which might not apply to us.

Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse.

Imagine how good this article would be with examples to support such bold assertions of fact.

What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

Oh, they’re talking about mass immigration! Now it all makes sense! Actually, no, they’re not. This is the BBC.

Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. According to findings that Motesharrei and his colleagues published in 2014, there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification.

Presumably his computer model rejected political stupidity as being too obvious a cause. And when he tried to enter ethnic hatreds as a factor his Twitter account reported him to the police.

The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognised path to potential doom, especially in terms of depletion of natural resources such as groundwater, soil, fisheries and forests – all of which could be worsened by climate change.

With the possible exception of Easter Island, where has this ever led to the breakdown of society? It seems that this is “widely understood and recognised” only by those who for some perverse reason yearn for it to happen.

That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own, on the other hand, came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour.

Boilerplate Marxism came as a surprise to a researcher looking at human societies?

Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour.

Well, yes. Marx was forever telling us this was imminent over a century ago. Did it ever happen?

The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top 10% of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined.

Sorry, what? What have greenhouse gases got to do with dissatisfaction over wealth allocation? Is that really at the forefront of the minds of those eking out a living on a rubbish dump in Lagos?

Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day.

Things have improved, then: the metric used to be $1 per day. Must have been the roaring success of international socialism that brought about the change.

For both scenarios, the models define a carrying capacity – a total population level that a given environment’s resources can sustain over the long term.

Are they still talking about economic growth here? Or have they abandoned that entirely? I’m not sure. If the former, they’re making the fallacy that Tim Worstall makes part of a living pointing out, that of believing economic growth must involve the consumption of more resources. Which is bollocks. If not…well, they’re peddling Malthusian nonsense and Ehrlich’s utterly discredited Population Bomb. Apparently this passes for noteworthy research at the BBC.

If the carrying capacity is overshot by too much, collapse becomes inevitable.

This seems to rely on a model of society which is analogous to an engine draining a fuel tank.

That fate is avoidable, however. “If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory,” Motesharrei said. “But we cannot wait forever to make those decisions.”

So the answer is increased political control over society with fewer choices and rationing. And we must act now. I bet you didn’t see that coming.

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities.

The oiks won’t do what us experts think they should.

“The world will not rise to the occasion of solving the climate problem during this century, simply because it is more expensive in the short term to solve the problem than it is to just keep acting as usual,” says Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School.

Those pesky citizens don’t want to respond to our doom-mongering by impoverishing themselves.

“The climate problem will get worse and worse and worse because we won’t be able to live up to what we’ve promised to do in the Paris Agreement and elsewhere.”

In other words, the Paris “Agreement” wasn’t.

While we are all in this together, the world’s poorest will feel the effects of collapse first. Indeed, some nations are already serving as canaries in the coal mine for the issues that may eventually pull apart more affluent ones.

Venezuela? Zimbabwe? France?!

Syria, for example, enjoyed exceptionally high fertility rates for a time, which fueled rapid population growth. A severe drought in the late 2000s, likely made worse by human-induced climate change, combined with groundwater shortages to cripple agricultural production. That crisis left large numbers of people – especially young men – unemployed, discontent and desperate.

“Likely” made worse by human-induced climate change. Uh-huh. Anyway, poor governance, poor infrastructure, and a population with nothing to do but breed caused problems. Note that Israel – right next door – didn’t suffer the same fate.

Many flooded into urban centres, overwhelming limited resources and services there.

A rural society, then. Naturally, this is relevant to the West.

Pre-existing ethnic tensions increased, creating fertile grounds for violence and conflict.

Eh? What ethnic tensions? This may come as a surprise to the BBC, but the war in Syria is largely between the government of Bashar al-Assad and those who oppose him. It’s not Muslims v Christians v Kurds, is it?

On top of that, poor governance – including neoliberal policies that eliminated water subsidies in the middle of the drought – tipped the country into civil war in 2011 and sent it careening toward collapse.

Oh right. So insofar as there was appalling governance it was actually that which constituted sensible economics which caused the problems. And of course it was the drought which brought Syrians onto the streets in armed rebellion against the government, not decades of living under a corrupt dictatorship and the torturing of a bunch of teenagers by the regime’s secret police.

In Syria’s case – as with so many other societal collapses throughout history – it was not one but a plethora of factors that contributed, says Thomas Homer-Dixon, chair of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada

Nobody thinks civil wars happen because of one thing. But if we’re going to list factors which led to the Syrian civil war, perhaps we ought to focus a little more on the regime of Bashar al-Assad and not so much on “neoliberal polices” regarding water subsidies?

Homer-Dixon calls these combined forces tectonic stresses for the way in which they quietly build up and then abruptly erupt, overloading any stabilising mechanisms that otherwise keep a society in check.

Which in the case of Syria was a ruthless and highly authoritarian government. Sort of like the one half these lunatic environmentalists want to foist on us. With them in charge, of course.

The Syrian case aside, another sign that we’re entering into a danger zone, Homer-Dixon says, is the increasing occurrence of what experts call nonlinearities, or sudden, unexpected changes in the world’s order, such as the 2008 economic crisis, the rise of ISIS, Brexit, or Donald Trump’s election.

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? Never mind civil war and depletion of resources, the real danger to society lies with citizens voting in ways not approved by the enlightened elites who peddle this crap. And the election of Donald Trump in a free and fair US presidential election is exactly like a murderous medieval Islamic cult seizing lands across the Middle East and slaughtering anyone in their path. In fact, the two are so similar I don’t know why we even bother to differentiate any more. We should just call them TRISIS.

The past can also provide hints for how the future might play out.

Well, yes. More so than Motesharrei’s bloody computer models at any rate. Hence my call for examples.

Take, for example, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

I won’t quote the whole lot, and I have no idea if the BBC has got any of this right, but the lesson seems to be that large empires are hard to maintain. How this is relevant to any Western country in 2017 is beyond me.

The Empire tried to maintain its core lands, even as the army ate up its budget and inflation climbed ever higher as the government debased its silver currency to try to cover its mounting expenses.

Eventually, it could no longer afford to prop up those heightened complexities. It was fiscal weakness, not war, that did the Empire in.

One would think the lesson here is for governments to limit their size and spending and not debase their currencies. But the BBC doesn’t want its readers to reach this rather obvious conclusion and goes back to climate change doom-mongering. But before they do we get this rather bizarre history of the oil industry:

So far, modern Western societies have largely been able to postpone similar precipitators of collapse through fossil fuels and industrial technologies – think hydraulic fracturing coming along in 2008, just in time to offset soaring oil prices.

Eh? Here is a chart showing the oil price between 2008 and 2017:

The collapse in the oil price in 2008 game as a result of the global financial crisis stymieing demand, not hydraulic fracturing making oil production cheaper. Fracking only really started to play a role after the second collapse in 2015 – again caused by weak demand – when America became (theoretically) self-sufficient in oil production due to the new technology. But according to the BBC, fossil fuel production and hydraulic fracturing is what has kept Western civilisation going the way of the Roman Empire.

Which makes me somewhat of a hero, doesn’t it? Finally, a use for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Tainter suspects this will not always be the case, however. “Imagine the costs if we have to build a seawall around Manhattan, just to protect against storms and rising tides,” he says.

A minute ago we were being told about historical precedents and the Roman Empire. Now we’re being asked to imagine ludicrous future scenarios.

Eventually, investment in complexity as a problem-solving strategy reaches a point of diminishing returns, leading to fiscal weakness and vulnerability to collapse.

I have no idea what that means, sorry. Was this article even edited? Perhaps with their £3bn per year guaranteed income, times are tough at the BBC.

That is, he says “unless we find a way to pay for the complexity, as our ancestors did when they increasingly ran societies on fossil fuels.”

This is what happens when you use a 2008 version of Google Translate when writing articles.

Also paralleling Rome, Homer-Dixon predicts that Western societies’ collapse will be preceded by a retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands.

You mean immigration will reverse? When?

As poorer nations continue to disintegrate amid conflicts and natural disasters, enormous waves of migrants will stream out of failing regions, seeking refuge in more stable states.

This doesn’t sound much like people retreating to their core homelands. It sounds pretty much like present day Europe.

Western societies will respond with restrictions and even bans on immigration; multi-billion dollar walls and border-patrolling drones and troops; heightened security on who and what gets in; and more authoritarian, populist styles of governing.

Expert academic solemnly predicts the future by stating what is already happening.

“It’s almost an immunological attempt by countries to sustain a periphery and push pressure back,” Homer-Dixon says.

So less of a “retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands” than staying put with the fruits of their labour and keeping invading hordes at bay.

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”

Well, yes. It was partly recognition that a wealthy elite are running the show for themselves at the expense of the majority that delivered victories for Trump and the Brexit campaigners.

Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national.

Presumably this explains the rise of Black Lives Matter and the left-driven identity politics.

Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid.

A better description of the left’s reaction to Trump becoming president is hard to find.

Europe, with its close proximity to Africa, its land bridge to the Middle East and its neighbourly status with more politically volatile nations to the East, will feel these pressures first.

They’ve been feeling them for quite some time now. Only so-called leaders are in – what was that word you mentioned earlier? – denial.

The US will likely hold out longer, surrounded as it is by ocean buffers.

And with Trump at the helm, building his wall.

On the other hand, Western societies may not meet with a violent, dramatic end. In some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper.

Indeed. Unless we start hanging our current crop of politicians from lamp-posts (the French may use guillotines if they so desire), this is quite likely.

The British Empire has been on this path since 1918, Randers says, and other Western nations might go this route as well. As time passes, they will become increasingly inconsequential and, in response to the problems driving their slow fade-out, will also starkly depart from the values they hold dear today.

“Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode,” Randers argues.

He is right about the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western societies disappearing, but it has nothing to do with inequality. What will cause it is something the BBC and its supporters refuse to even discuss.

“Democratic, liberal society will fail, while stronger governments like China will be the winners.”

Then shouldn’t we be pleased that Trump is Hitler?

Some of these forecasts and early warning signs should sound familiar, precisely because they are already underway.

I want this guy’s job.

Western civilisation is not a lost cause, however. Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development, Homer-Dixon says.

Alternatively, we could just shoot those who are calling for a carefully-managed Utopia grounded in “science” and “extraordinary leadership” and let people get on with their lives. It seems to have worked pretty well so far.

Even as we weather the coming stresses of climate change, population growth and dropping energy returns, we can maintain our societies and better them.

Particularly if we ignore rubbish like this.

But that requires resisting the very natural urge, when confronted with such overwhelming pressures, to become less cooperative, less generous and less open to reason.

If we abandon our natural urges, we can live better lives. How very Soviet.

“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

Here’s my suggestion: allow British citizens to keep their money in their pockets instead of forcing them to shell out £3bn per year for the BBC to publish garbage like this. A more humane gesture I cannot imagine at this juncture.

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