Hey, there! Anthony boy!

First this from the BBC:

Large banks are getting ready to relocate out of the UK early next year over fears around Brexit, the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has warned.

Writing in The Observer, its boss Anthony Browne also says smaller banks could move operations overseas by 2017.

“Their hands are quivering over the relocate button,” he wrote. Most banks hadbacked the UK remaining in the EU.

Mr Browne also said the current “public and political debate at the moment is taking us in the wrong direction.”

Hmmm.  The BBC is reporting on an article written in the Observer by one Anthony Browne who is scaremongering over Brexit.

Next, via the comments at Tim Worstall’s, we have this article at the Daily Mail:

Banks and Tory MPs last night dismissed as ‘nonsense’ dire warnings that financiers will move their business abroad due to Brexit.

Anthony Browne, head of the British Bankers’ Association, sparked fury yesterday by saying smaller banks could react to the uncertainty by moving operations overseas within weeks.

And then:

Mr Browne – a former journalist for the BBC…

Ah, now it becomes clear: the pro-Remain BBC is reporting on a pro-Remain article written by a former BBC journalist.  Odd that the BBC didn’t mention the connection, isn’t it?

They really do think we are stupid, don’t they?

Owen Jones: Gays are Mentally Disturbed

This is an odd thing for Owen Jones – an openly gay journalist – to write:

[Author Matthew Todd] identifies a number of problems that most gay men, if they were honest, would at least recognise: “Disproportionately high levels of depression, self-harm and suicide; not uncommon problems with emotional intimacy … and now a small but significant subculture of men who are using, some injecting, seriously dangerous drugs, which despite accusations of hysteria from the gatekeepers of the gay PR machine, are killing too many people.” He lists a disturbing number of gay friends, acquaintances and people in the public eye who struggled with addictions and took their own lives.

The statistics are indeed alarming. According to Stonewall research in 2014, 52% of young LGBT people report they have, at some point, self-harmed; a staggering 44% have considered suicide; and 42% have sought medical help for mental distress. Alcohol and drug abuse are often damaging forms of self-medication to deal with this underlying distress. A recent study by the LGBT Foundation found that drug use among LGB people is seven times higher than the general population, binge drinking is twice as common among gay and bisexual men, and substance dependency is significantly higher.

Hasn’t it traditionally been the religious nutcases that insist homosexuals are mentally disturbed and in desperate need of help?  Now it’s Guardian journalists.  We live in strange times.


This amused:

Film director Ken Loach has criticised the current crop of TV period dramas for indulging in “fake nostalgia”.

In response to a question about Downton Abbey in a Radio Times interview, Loach said: “This rosy vision of the past, it’s a choice broadcasters make.

Loach said nostalgic dramas were “the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate”.

Allow me to translate that for you:

How dare those awful oiks watch things they enjoy rather than the artistic masterpieces I am paid handsomely to create with taxpayers’ money!

As an additional point, Downton Abbey must seriously grate with the BBC chiefs.  The BBC was always considered the global leader in “costume dramas” and in theory it is they who ought to have spotted the opportunity for Downton Abbey and reaped the millions its extraordinary success has generated.  But that fell to ITV, their bitter rivals in the ratings wars, who are dependent on getting eyes on the screen rather than simply lifting billions from British owners of television sets on threat of imprisonment.

Not Funny

This is a never ending problem, isn’t it?

Around 200 people walked out of Amy Schumer‘s show in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday when she called Donald Trump a “orange, sexual-assaulting, fake-college-starting monster,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The paper claimed Schumer was met with loud booing about halfway through the show when her jokes switched from raunchy topics to more topical matters, including gun control and the upcoming presidential election.

Artists, actors, writers, comedians – and I use those terms charitably – of a left-wing bent cannot resist the temptation to use their popularity as a platform to sound off on politics.  The result is usually tedious in the extreme.  Take this by way of example:

During her show, she asked a Trump supporter to join her up on stage so he could explain why he was voting for the GOP candidate. The audience member responded that he was voting for Trump mainly because he didn’t trust his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

People paid money to go to a comedy show and found themselves in a political Q&A session.  No wonder there was booing.

This comes from living in a bubble.  I am sure Schumer’s hilarious jokes about Trump go down a storm among some audiences, i.e. those who share her politics to the letter.  They then take their show to the wider world and find nobody is laughing.  I remember when Chris Rock first burst onto the scene with Bring the Pain, which was fresh, pithy, and hilariously funny mainly because he was providing an insight into black American culture that had never been described in such terms before.  Fast forward a few years and he’s on stage saying “Barack Obama!  Barack Obama!” and his audience is going wild.  This isn’t comedy it’s politics, and it only works if your audience shares your political view.

Not that you can’t make money out of it.  John Oliver seems to do extremely well out of telling sophisticated, educated Europeans and Democrat-voting Americans how thick Americans are.  But he’s preaching to the converted: they’re not laughing because he’s funny, they’re laughing because he is telling them what they want to hear and allows them to feel smugly superior.  A decent joke shouldn’t depend on who you want to win an election.

I don’t know if right-wing comedians do the same.  I expect they do, but they don’t get allotted the same airtime on the likes of the BBC and regular columns in newspapers.  I also expect right-wing comedians would be hounded out of the studio by a baying mob of the Permanently Outraged if they broached any subject which was even remotely controversial, i.e. immigration.  I suspect a lot of this has to do with state funding, with any budding artist or comedian needing to pass a strict political test before being commissioned.

If this keeps up, the arts in the west is going to look like that of Enver Hoxha’s Albania after a decade or two.


After Twitter dropped all pretence to impartiality by banning prominent right-wingers while giving free reign to those whose politics they approved of, a new service launched itself called Gab which hopes to be the same thing only with no censorship.

I never joined Twitter mainly because I couldn’t for the life of me see why anyone would want to write something in 140 characters instead of penning War and Peace on a blog, but there you go.  I also signed up only to find “desertsun” was already taken as a username, and so threw my toys out of the pram.

Anyway, I’ve signed up with Gab mainly to get the username I wanted on Twitter.  Maybe Twitter will collapse or disappear up its own arse and Gab will take over, I don’t know.  I won’t be writing anything substantial over there, but I might make comments on other’s posts.  So if anyone is interested, I am here.

Reluctant Defence

One of the most frustrating things about living in Russia between 2006 and 2010, and thus having somewhat of a clue about things over there, was getting into arguments with people outside Russia in which I found myself defending Vladimir Putin.  My views on Putin are fairly well explained on this blog: I thought he did a pretty decent job between 1999 and 2007, although the bar was set ludicrously low (which his why his actions in Chechnya and elsewhere get overlooked).  And I thought he should have stepped aside in 2008 and ridden off into the sunset rather than flipping to Prime Minister and back to President again four years later.  I’ve explained why here.  Since 2008 I think Putin has taken Russia in very much the wrong direction and continues to do so, and you couldn’t possibly count me as one of his supporters.

But nevertheless I found myself defending him, leading people to think I was some sort of shill, and this was infuriating.  Whatever Putin did or didn’t do, living standards for almost all Russians improved massively between the time he took office and 2008, and possibly beyond.  The wealth (if not necessarily the wages) of ordinary Russians increased several times over, allowing them firstly to buy a car, then renovate their apartments (starting with double glazing), then buy some half-decent clothes, then buy a non-Russian car, then go on foreign holidays, and in some cases buy a dacha or second apartment.  When I first went to Russia in 2004 I saw mainly Russian cars clogging up the roads in Moscow.  When I last went to Russia in 2012 Russian cars were very much in the minority in Saint Petersburg.  And nobody has lived in a Russian apartment block in the last ten or fifteen years without violently cursing the endless crashing and banging noises as yet another neighbour carries out a programme of remont on their property.  Albeit starting from a very low base, Putin’s initial term coincided with ordinary Russians becoming more prosperous than any time in the country’s history.  The wealth wasn’t just for the oligarchs.  I found myself having to make this point quite often to foreigners.

But more often I found myself defending Putin of the charge that he is a dictator, and I still do.  Nobody sensible denies that Putin crushes any potential opposition in its infancy, runs Russia like a personal fiefdom for he and his mates, and anybody who treads on his toes even slightly ends up in an icy prison cell or fleeing abroad with whatever cash they can carry in a suitcase.  He is authoritarian and has little respect for the democratic process and goes out of his way to subvert it, but this doesn’t make him a dictator.  The difference between him and the likes of Colonel Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Fidel Castro is that there are genuine elections in Russia and for the large part they are free and fair.  Yes, there is a lot of meddling and manipulation going on, and opposition parties are roughed up and chucked in jail before they can even come up with a name for themselves, but nobody denies that even without all this Putin and Yedina Rossiya – the ruling party – would not win hands down.  Indeed, the biggest mystery to me was why Putin thought it worth gaining a reputation of being anti-democratic by fiddling elections to win 90% of the vote when free and fair elections would have seen him win 75%.  My guess is old habits learned at KGB school die hard, and it’s in the nature of these guys to crush all opposition, even if it is pathetically feeble.  It’s hard to tell exactly how much without a functioning media and free elections, but Putin is undoubtedly popular among a majority of Russians and he rules – however badly – by popular consent.  My fview has always been that this needs to be acknowledged, and the reasons why properly understood, in order to deal effectively with Putin and Russia, and dismissing him as a dictator in the same vein as Bashar al-Assad or the Kims in North Korea is simply wrong and unhelpful.  So I end up jumping into arguments to defend him, which I’d really rather not do.

“Why is he rambling on about this, and when is he going to get to the point?” I hear my readers ask.  I’m getting to it.

During the second of the US Presidential debates that took place last Sunday night, one of the moderators repeatedly asked Trump whether he had ever kissed a woman without permission.  Trump initially just talked over the question and ignored it but the moderator asked again and again whether Trump had kissed a woman without permission, and persisted until Trump said “No, I have not”.  Several viewers picked up on this, with the one I follow being Ben Shapiro:

Ben Shapiro is no fan of Donald Trump (or of Hillary Clinton), but he – and others – could see that this was a deliberate set-up by the moderator to get Trump to deny something specific so that a media shit-storm would follow the next day when evidence miraculously emerges to the contrary.  And sure enough, that is exactly what has happened: the New York Times has led with a story about how Trump groped two women and now that’s all the media are talking about, including another allegation that he leered at a 10-year old girl.  Funny how quickly those intrepid reporters at the NYT managed to get these women on the phone and the story written a day or two after the debate, isn’t it?  It’s almost as if they had it prepared in advance.

Another Twitter user, Luke Thompson, gets it right I think (read from bottom to top):


The second from top is the clincher: nobody is assessing the stories.  The whole point is to get an allegation out there and run it so many times that it becomes the established truth.  I make no excuses for Trump’s behaviour, and I am sure that some or most of it is true and he did engage in groping, kissing, and other stuff that some or most women might not have wanted.  He’s going to have to defend himself on that score.

What I object to is the blatant, coordinated mission by the media and whoever is encouraging them to set up a Presidential candidate in such a manner using a supposedly disinterested “moderator” in the debate as a key actor in the process.  It is an absolute disgrace, not so much for what they are doing but the brazenness with which they are doing it.  The establishment figures that are behind this – Democrats, the media, wet Republicans – clearly hold the population in such utter contempt that they think they can wheel out half a dozen allegations of assault – some of which supposedly took place 30 years ago –  at this stage in the campaign using such tactics and everyone will be fooled by it.

I think this is going to backfire badly.  As I said in a previous post, you don’t need to be a Trump supporter to be concerned about this, and I believe a goodly number of decent America are already reluctantly defending Trump and prepared to vote for him just to ensure this kind of condescending stitch-up by the political and media establishments doesn’t pay off.  A lot of Americans have realised that if they allow this sort of behaviour to go unpunished in the polls it will be deployed against any future, decent Republican candidate who threatens the cosy status quo the elites have built for themselves.

I think this is the first election in which social media is properly laying bare the corruption which lies at the heart of American Presidential elections.  Via Bayou Renaissance Man I came across this post at Conservative Tree House about Hillary’s polling figures.  Short version: the company which ran the poll is a paid-up member of the Clinton election campaign.  Whether this is true or not – and I have no reason to think it isn’t from what I have read – the fact that it is not only believable but wholly unsurprising that makes it so bad.  If a blogger with a couple of hours to spare can reveal such manipulation, it means the people behind it aren’t even trying to cover their tracks.  They assume the people are too stupid to notice, or if they do they are powerless to do anything about it.  The contempt is staggering.

Right from the start of the primaries for the party nominations this election campaign has seen no end of these sorts of shenanigans (remember the coin tosses?).  The Russians will have been following events with a keen interest, and now they have all the ammunition they need to defend themselves against charges that the ruling elites control the media and force them to do their bidding.  Comparisons between Russia and America are often silly, but it is going to be increasingly difficult after this election for the US to criticise Russia in regards of their treatment of the media and their own election irregularities.

I am sure millions of ordinary Americans are watching this with absolute horror, disgusted at the way their institutions are being corrupted in order to maintain the ruling elite’s grip on power.  Like me defending Putin when I feel it is necessary, I think there will be a lot of Americans who find themselves in the unenviable position of defending Trump when they’d really prefer that they didn’t have to.

Russia and the USA: Converging in the S-Bend

In the comments of my most recent post on Trump, regular commenter and fellow blogger Alex K. spots an interesting similarity between Russia and the USA:

In the late 1990s, people who posted about the Clintons deserving pink (prison issue) undies and the MSM being leftwing through and through sounded like boring whiners unloading their loserdom into cyberspace. Losers or not, apparently some of them were right, but it only became obvious to me during this campaign how incredibly corrupt HRC always was and how the US media is capable of lying. They are catching up with Putin’s state media the way they play fast and loose with facts and work up fits of hysteria.

I noted this partly because I came across another unsavoury similarity between the two nations, also in a blog comment, over at David Thompson’s:

It doesn’t matter what you do. You are the object, not the subject. Consistency on the side of the rule-makers is not only not required, it would get in their way.
I knew we were doomed back about 1980 when I heard an account of a small meat-packer who got in trouble with OSHA (US Federal Occupational Health And Safety). Their inspector noticed the removable cleaning hatch on the packaging line, and told them the presence of the hole in the machine was a violation. Shop owner replies that the Cal-OSHA (California state equivalent) inspector had insisted on the hatch. Too bad, violation, pay up and weld it closed. “But what about Cal-OSHA? They’ll fine me and make me re-install it.” “Not our problem.”

There is a paragraph near the end of John Mole’s I was a Potato Oligarch where the Moscow police department orders him to install bars in the window of his restaurant’s kitchen as a security measure, only for the fire department to fine him for those very same bars.  Of course in Russia this was a deliberate scam to keep the income via bribes or fines flowing and in the USA it is simply bureaucratic incompetence paired with callousness, but the result is the same for the end user.

It’s hard to see how either country is moving in the right direction.