Headline News

This is quite an important development, no?

The US Supreme Court has ruled President Donald Trump’s travel ban on six mainly Muslim countries can go into full effect, pending legal challenges.

The decision is a boost for Mr Trump’s policy against travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Ah, but it concerns good news for Trump so is relegated to a minor story on the second page, displaced by such ground-breaking events in the US as this:

I wonder where the story would have appeared had the Supreme Court struck Trump’s law down?

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More on that Irish Border

It should come as no surprise that the BBC’s reporting on this is absolutely abysmal:

Theresa May is under pressure to get an agreement from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on the status of the Irish border when the UK leaves the EU.

The prime minister pulled out of a deal with Brussels that would have kick-started trade talks after meeting fierce resistance from the DUP.

The party said it would not accept a deal which saw Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.

The BBC, along with most of the Remain establishment, is presenting this as if it’s only the DUP which is standing in the way of an agreement between the EU and UK in advance of trade talks. In reality, I suspect a great many Tory MPs, more than a few old-school Labour MPs, and a large percentage of the British population would also object vehemently to Theresa May deciding for herself that Northern Ireland should remain under the jurisdiction of the EU at the behest of the Irish government and their masters in Brussels. Anyone who thinks this is a minor detail being blocked by a gaggle of DUP hardliners really doesn’t understand the issue at all. Or they do, but are spinning it differently for political gain.

I don’t think it’s difficult to see what’s going on here. The EU wants to see Brexit reversed so have chosen the NI border issue as one of several extremely politically unpalatable topics to be resolved before “trade talks” can supposedly start. I don’t for one minute believe actual trade talks will start: what will happen is the EU will secure concession after concession from the hapless May before torturing us with years of bad-faith negotiations aimed at punishing the British for daring to leave, ending in no deal whatsoever. The forerunner to this is demanding Britain puts in place a hard border in NI while at the same time telling us this is unacceptable. You’d have to be willfully blind not to see the game being played: if these discussions really did concern a border with Ireland, there are several options which could be discussed in a mature and sensible manner. Instead we’re getting ridiculously short ultimatums, threats, interference from chancers like Sadiq Khan, and posturing in front of a gullible and complicit media.

I don’t believe the media when they say the two sides were close to a deal yesterday. I don’t think we’re any closer than they were the morning after the referendum, for the simple reason there is no deal to be had. The media peddled this line because they want to pin the blame on the DUP, and force May to choose between them and the EU. She’s damned either way, which is exactly what the Remain establishment want.

Apparently a deal must be reached by the end of the week. If May caves in, she’ll be out of office before Christmas. People are worried about Corbyn but I think I’d rather see that idiot in charge for a brief term (and it would be brief) rather than May crumble in front of every EU demand for the next few years. I don’t think it would ever come to that, though. If May is forced from office over an issue such as this, a solid Leave Tory would likely win the subsequent election (David Davis, putting himself forward as the “Brexit PM), and interfering harpies like Amber Rudd shoved aside.

There is one good thing which will come out of all of this. Regardless of what happens next – even if Brexit gets reversed and the British population is persuaded to stay in the EU – there can be absolutely no excuse for saying they didn’t fully understand the nature of what they were dealing with. Since the referendum in 1975 the British have always complained they were mislead as to what sort of agreement they were getting into. That line of argument ends pretty much now.

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Deepwater Fishing

Bayou Renaissance Man brings us this report:

BEIJING has discovered a major threat to its new aircraft carrier: swarms of deadly jellyfish. Now it’s racing to develop weapons of mass destruction to beat them.

Masses of the creatures can be sucked through the warship’s water intakes necessary for cooling the vessel’s engines.

Once in the cooling vents, they get mashed into a thick, sticky soup.

This blocks the cooling system, causing the engines to overheat and bringing the warship to a halt.

It then reportedly takes days to clear the pipes.

Thus the urgent need for countermeasures.

The new jellyfish shredder consists of a net, several hundred meters long and wide, which is towed by a tugboat ahead of the carrier.

This funnels whatever falls within towards an array of steel blades.

What comes out the other side is no larger than 3cm wide.

The effect is so brutal researchers report the waters the shredder passes through become murky as the jellyfish — and other marine life — corpses begin to decompose. It takes up to a week to clear.

Bayou Renaissance Man adds:

I’m afraid the deliberate destruction of marine life to accommodate the ship is characteristic of attitudes towards nature in, not just China, but most of Asia.  The prevailing attitude in many of the countries and cultures there seems to be that nature exists to serve human interests. If it doesn’t, it must be tamed, reshaped, or removed until it does.

There are some folks in my industry who concern themselves with the design of subsea equipment, basically kit that we stick on the seabed to aid in the extraction of oil and gas from the reservoir. In shallow waters, such as those in the North Sea, they have always had to design them such that trawler nets can pass over them without becoming snagged (I heard one story from decades back that a fishing vessel snagged its net on a pipeline, turned the winch on max, and promptly sunk sank itself). In deep water, which is anything over about 600m, this hasn’t been a concern as the nets don’t go down that far. However, I heard a couple of weeks ago that a Chinese fishing ship operating offshore Angola passed its nets over some equipment a mile down.

I get the impression we’ll soon be shown that Africa’s environment, like so much else in the world, is a concern only of wealthy, middle-class white folk who are chiefly troubled by the activities of other white folk. This would explain why you don’t hear much mention of Chinese fishing boats in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series.

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Welcome to Britain

On Friday I flew into Exeter Airport, which is a field with a windsock and a flat-roofed shed serving as a terminal building. You can fly there direct from Paris once per day on a Dash 8 turbo-prop operated by Flybe. It takes just over an hour, and should you want to get from Paris to Exeter, it’s ideal. According to Wikipedia, Flybe is based out of Exeter which surprised me a little. Exeter doesn’t seem the sort of place you’d base anything out of.

Anyway, what struck me as I entered the queue for passport control was the number of posters threatening passengers with prosecution, fines, and jail. There were several of them, each instructing people on what to do and what not to do in the cajoling, hectoring language so beloved of English-speaking authoritarian bodies. Nowhere did I see a sign which suggested people might actually be welcome; perhaps those are only to be found in refugee centres? I would have taken a photo but that, of course, was also forbidden.

These posters appear to me like open sores on the flesh of a badly wounded society, and they really grate. I’ve not noticed them as much abroad, but that could simply be because they’re not in English and so I gloss over them. Australia certainly goes in for over-the-top, nagging signage: there’s one beside the baggage carousel in Melbourne airport warmly greeting passengers by telling them using a mobile phone while waiting for their bags constitutes a criminal offence.

That said, I suppose the welcome visitors to the UK receive in British airports is at least honest: with the country having elected as PM the very embodiment of a threatening, bullying “security” poster at a regional airport, they let everyone know what sort of place they’re entering.

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More on Damian Green and the bent ex-copper

Giolla Decair makes a good point regarding the porn supposedly found on Damian Green’s laptop:

As they were thumbnails that’s almost certainly in the browser cache ( who the hell deliberately saves thumbnails). So based on thumbnails no evidence that any porn was actually watched just that some porn sites were browsed and the thumbnails cached, given modern browsers sometimes pre-fetch pages it might not even have been that many pages/sites browsed. Again given it’s thumbnails a typical page could easily have 100 thumbnail images so if there’s pre-fetching going on you could be talking about having browsed just a handful of pages without having fetched a single thing.

This is worth keeping in mind when listening to the arguments from some people that surfing porn while at work is a sackable offence and because this guy is an MP and works for us, it’s in the public interest and he should be fired. Leaving aside the fact that it is not the job of ex-policemen to act as any employer’s HR department particularly ten years after the event and having retired, it’s not clear-cut this will be a sackable offence.

Firstly, having evidence of visiting porn sites on your company laptop does not mean you were surfing porn at work. I suspect most people in this situation were away on business without a personal laptop and used their work machine to visit dodgy sites back at the hotel at night. Unless the timestamp on the files can be matched to Green’s working hours, the offence is more one of using a company laptop for visiting prohibited websites. This already puts us in a grey area insofar as HR is concerned.

What websites are prohibited? Anything not work related? Okay, so how many people have been fired for visiting Amazon on a work laptop? Visiting anything deemed to be pornographic or with “adult content”? How is that defined, exactly? I suspect these matters are decided on a case-by-case basis and if HR get wind of anything untoward they haul the employee in and ask them for an explanation before telling them to pack it in. If they’re going to be fired, the number of sites visited, the visit duration, the regularity of the visits, and the content of the pictures will all form part of HR’s decision over what action to take. If there are a dozen thumbnails that the browser cache stored when the user inadvertently opened a site he probably shouldn’t have, he’s probably going to be sent on an IT awareness course rather than being fired. Even if he’s looked at porn, they’ll have to show it happened during work hours if they want to fire him for anything other than a breach of the IT protocols.

The fact is we know nothing about the files Damian Green allegedly had on his laptop, and it is simply untrue to say that any such pictures would immediately result in dismissal from a regular job. This is a hatchet-job, and Theresa May needs to make it her personal mission to destroy the life of this ex-copper who is attempting to bring down senior members of her government. If she doesn’t, this sort of thing is going to become the norm; I’d rather see a bent ex-policeman doing a fifteen year stretch than have the entire political system further undermined. However they go about it, they need to make an example of him.

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Damian Green, the Met, and the BBC

From the BBC:

A former Scotland Yard detective has told BBC News he was “shocked” by the amount of pornography viewed on a computer seized from the Commons office of senior Tory MP Damian Green.

Neil Lewis examined the device during a 2008 inquiry into government leaks and has not spoken publicly before.

He said “thousands” of thumbnail images of legal pornography were on it.

I think this says far more about the Metropolitan Police and the BBC, who are running the story on their front page. One thing that was blindingly obvious about the Leveson Enquiry was that the practice of policemen dishing up gossip on prominent people to journalists was widespread and well-known, but the political establishment and their supporters needed an excuse to try to break Rupert Murdoch’s media empire so they grabbed one where they could.

That we now have ex-policemen engaged in selling information – none of which concerns illegal or even immoral activities whose exposure serves the public interest – and the likes of the BBC are falling over themselve to publish it only confirms what most sensible people already knew. Any government worth its salt would come down on this ex-policeman like a tonne of bricks, give the Met a thorough and public dressing-down, and revoke the BBC’s charter.

If the Theresa May’s Tories are too piss-weak to do this then perhaps they deserve to be gossiped about. It’s about all they’re useful for.

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Trump: worse than ISIS

Two stories from the Telegraph. The first:

US diplomats have dropped plans for Donald Trump to conduct a visit to Britain in January amid a war of words between the two countries’ leaders.

Mr Trump, the US president, had been penciled in for a ‘working visit’ in the first month of 2018 to formally open America’s new London embassy.

The trip, a scaled down version of a state visit with no meeting with the Queen, was intended to allow Mr Trump to come to the UK while avoiding the mass protests a full state visit would likely trigger.

The second:

Proposals to offer extremists including returning jihadists taxpayer-funded housing and help into work are a “fundamental error” amounting to bribes to potential terrorists, it has been claimed.

The Home Office is looking at a new strategy to reintegrate extremists that could even see them propelled to the top of council house waiting lists if needed.

Under pilot schemes being looked at, police and local authorities would assess extremists formerly investigated as suspects by the security services to see what danger they pose and what it would take to help reintegrate them into society.

It appears that the US president retweeting videos deemed racist is enough to bring MPs onto our television sets calling him “evil” and to motivate enough Brits to protest his planned visit such that it gets cancelled. Meanwhile, those who have actively and gleefully taken part in some of the most evil savagery the world has seen in quite some time will be allowed to enter the UK permanently and avail themselves of goods and services funded by the ordinary taxpayer.

I don’t know if those protesting Trump are the same people happy to give jihadists council houses as part of their “reintegration” into a society they were never part of, but I am certain that there is a large overlap. Whoever they are, this cohort seems to be doing a good job of setting the agenda as far as media and politics go. This in turn raises the following question: are these people acting with a sizeable backing of the British population?

If not, and they keep going in this direction, eventually they’ll end up hanging from lamposts with their flesh carved off.

If they are, and the British people are actually on-board with this, then the country is absolutely, well and truly, down-the-road fucked.

Either way, this will not end well.

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A Shambolic Study of Unpaid Work

Via Twitter I came across this report which attempts to tell us that women actually do more work than men:

Across all world regions, women spend more time on unpaid care work than men. On average, women spend between three and six hours on unpaid care work per day, while men spend between half an hour and two hours. If we consider the sum of paid and unpaid work, women tend to work more than men – on average, 2.6 extra hours per week across the OECD.

Women spend more time on unpaid care work than men. Okay, but what about other sorts of unpaid work? You know, stuff like mowing lawns, clearing gutters, painting sheds, unblocking drains, changing car batteries, assembling wardrobes, replacing loose slates, bleeding radiators? Or does the report only take into account care work when looking at unpaid work? Indeed it does. All that unpaid work done by men just gets ignored (incidentally, I raised this with the author on Twitter, and got no reply.)

It is therefore not surprising that the factors driving change in female labor supply – whether they are improvements in maternal health, reductions in the number of children, childcare provision, or gains in household technology – all affect unpaid care work. Because time allocation is gendered in this way, female participation in labor markets tends to increase when the time-cost of unpaid care work is reduced, shared equally with men, and/or made more compatible with market work.

So changes in technology, healthcare, and societal expectations have changed in ways that primarily benefit women, and they’ve used the spare time to go off and work. Yet somehow they’re still crushed under the patriarchal yoke.

With this said, an obvious question remains: why do women perform a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work in the first place?

Why do men spend a disproportionate amount of time doing unpaid maintenance work on the family home?

As we discuss below, although time-use should be a choice, evidence shows that social norms play a large part in determining gender roles and consequently, gendered time-use.

Men and women split the household tasks between them, each taking those they’re best at? Who knew?

In 1890, only 24% of US households had running water. In 1900, 98% of households in the US washed their clothes using a scrubboard and water heated on a wood or coal-burning stove. It is not hard to see then why in 1900, the average American household spent 58 hours per week on housework. By 1975, that figure had declined to 18. Progress in labor-saving consumer durables in the household has thus been another factor contributing to the rise in female labor force participation, especially in early-industrialized countries. Of course, this is feasible especially because women – both in 1900 and now – take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid domestic work.

Greenwood et al. (2005) present evidence for this by calibrating a quantitative economic model to show that the consumer goods revolution – which, as we can see in the chart below introduced washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other time-saving products – can help explain the rise in married female labor force participation in the US.

So basically, women’s lives got one hell of a lot easier thanks to technological improvements. Rather than sitting back and enjoying their free time as any man would have done, they demanded to join men in the labour force. That’s fine, I have no problem with that: why shouldn’t women have careers? What I don’t understand is why they are now complaining about doing more work than men.

Some argue that there is a “natural” distribution of gender roles, with women being better suited to domestic and child-rearing responsibility and men to working outside of the home. Such assertions lack compelling evidence and more importantly, perpetuate a status quo that limits the choices available to both men and women.

Several thousand years of observing how household tasks are divvied up voluntarily between couples doesn’t constitute compelling evidence, I suppose. Or do these people think the man of the house orders his wife to feed the kid while he fixes the hole in the roof against against her will?

Instead, it is known that social norms and culture influence the way we see the world and our role in it. To this end, there is little doubt that the gender roles assigned to men and women are in no small part socially constructed.

Well, yes. Society being the result of humans interacting with each other over centuries or millenia, this is hardly surprising. A study of human behaviour which ignores societal norms and culture is of questionable value.

And while it is possible that socially-assigned gender roles emerged in the distant past, our recent and even current practices show that these roles persist with the help of institutional enforcement.

Presumably the millions of men and women in happy, cooperative partnerships are all under the influence of this “institutional enforcement”.

Social norms and culture are clearly important determinants of female labor force participation. So how can social norms be changed?

So western women, having suddenly found themselves with an abundance of free time, joined the labour force to work alongside men. If we take into account the unpaid care work women do at home, and ignore all the unpaid work men do, women work slightly more than men. Therefore we must change society.

In the context of ‘private’ family life, social norms across the world have long dictated that women should perform unpaid care work – taking care of children and elderly parents, making meals, doing laundry, maintaining family relations – while men engage in market work.

I’m beginning to see where the idiots who dreamed up this homework got their ideas from.

Rather, the hope is that with sustained social change, neither women nor men will be obliged to make decisions about time allocation on the basis of their sex.

Only when we have reshaped society will men and women be able to do the household tasks they want to.

If this is what passes for research at Oxford University these days, they might as well merge with the old poly.

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More in Trump’s Twitter Trolling

Polkamatic makes the following comment under my post on Trump’s Twitter trolling:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it. And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

This deserves a proper response. Let me take this part first:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it.

This is obviously true: Trump seems to spend as much time trolling the media as he does anything else. Is this appropriate for an American president? Personally I don’t think it is, but then I also believe it’s a moot point.

If Americans wanted a president who acts in a presidential manner, then they ought to have left the door open for such a candidate to step forward and get themselves elected. Instead, the media and political establishment decided they would back the Democratic candidate regardless and carry out a complete and utter character assassination of the Republican candidate. I remember when Mitt Romney ran against Barack Obama: he was called a Nazi, a religious fundamentalist, a misogynist, and a tax-evader. He then spent the entire campaign mumbling apologies, explaining himself, and reacting to every media revelation his political opponents aired. Sure enough, he lost by a mile. Had Jeb Bush won the Republican nomination in 2016, the same thing would have happened to him and we’d now be listening to President Clinton screech at us from our TV screens.

I’ve said it many times on these pages, Trump is a symptom of the malaise in American politics, not the cause of it. The reason you have an egotistical asshole in the White House is because the media and political establishment made it impossible for any decent non-Democrat to win a presidential election. Any Republican candidate who would have behaved in a presidential manner in office would never have got close to the White House, he’d have been destroyed by the media using every dirty trick in the book to bring him down. This didn’t work on Trump because he simply didn’t care, had his own money, owed nobody anything, and refused to apologise.

My post was simply to point out that Trump figured out the media’s role in American politics and rather than reacting to every story they put out about him, he plays the tune while they dance. And let’s be honest here: if he wasn’t doing this, and he had settled into the role and was doing his level best to do his job in a highly professional manner, the media would still be pumping out one anti-Trump hatchet-job after another, wailing about Russia and calling for his impeachment. Anyone who thinks the media, political establishment, and Democrat supporters would allow a Republican president to quietly get on with the job at hand is absolutely deluded.

And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

As I said in the original post, the people screaming about Trump are preaching to the choir. Part of the reason Trump was able to shrug off the media attacks during the election campaign was because millions of Americans had come to believe they are interested only in political campaigning and are hence highly selective about the stories they choose to cover. The diminished influence of the MSM was laid bare when, against all their dreams and predictions, Trump won and Hillary lost. If there was ever a time for self-reflection and recalibration, that was it. Instead, they’ve just trebled-down on the hysteria and hammered the point home they’re partisan hacks with no interest in reporting objective truth.

Is the public interested in a tawdry spectacle? Well, it certainly provides plenty of Twitter-fodder but the likes of the NYT, WaPo, BBC, and CNN are not tabloids: I am sure most Americans would prefer it if they started reporting the news properly instead of pasting up headlines regarding who said what about Trump on Twitter. Now maybe the MSM is enjoying healthy profits by pursuing this approach, but my bet is they’re losing money hand over fist.

On another note, I don’t think Trump’s method of communication is part of some overall grand strategy, I think he’s just doing what comes naturally to him. But regardless of why he’s doing it, the effects are substantial. I don’t know why he retweeted the videos that Britain First put up but it caused all manner of journalists, celebrities, and politicians to vent their outrage at what they see as his endorsement of a racist party. This has had the knock-on effect of:

1. Highlighting the rank hypocrisy among Britain’s political and media establishments. Jeremy Corbyn is a long-standing supporter of the IRA and Hamas, anti-semitism is rife across the British left, people with blood up to their elbows are welcomed with open arms, yet Trump retweeting a video from Britain First is deemed beyond the pale.

2. Exposing who is thinking what in Britain’s supposedly Conservative political circles. I wouldn’t expect any Conservatives to endorse Trump, but if they’re queuing up behind Labour politicians and left-wing media loudmouths in calling him “racist” and “not welcome in Britain” and “irresponsible” then they’re doing everyone a big favour. I suspect much of the British public couldn’t care less about Trump’s tweets and when they hear he’s posted something on a subject their own political classes refuse to address, they’re probably quite glad. I haven’t seen the videos in question (I generally find this sort of thing on Twitter to be presented in a wholly misleading context), but if the political classes think Trump tweeting videos of Muslims allegedly being violent and murderous is something that will horrify the public, they’ve not been paying attention.

3. It is now confirmed that retweeting does indeed equate to endorsing. Expect the trolls to have some fun with this over the next few weeks.

Trump’s tweets are often filled with infantile posturing, but the reaction to them is stuff that will fascinate historians and social anthropologists for years to come.

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