If gates are left open, people will walk through them

This, from Brendan O’Neill, is worth a read:

[T]he political elites cannot come out and say ‘We no longer want Britain to be a democratic sovereign nation’. So they developed a pseudo-progressive language to describe and justify their weakening of British sovereignty. They claim to be post-borders. They argue that the nation state is over. They say any defence of the nation is nationalism, and nationalism is dangerous. They insist that in a globalised world it is futile to try to erect borders against flows of people or goods or capital, and so on. And they seem ignorant of the message that their anti-borders, anti-nation political myopia sends to both the British people and the world at large. It tells British people their views don’t really matter, certainly not as much as cleverer people in Brussels. And it tells the world that Britain is a pretty porous place, not really that keen on protecting its borders. That it is a post-country, effectively, beholden to external influence and flows rather than being assertively, democratically sovereign. Perhaps now we might think about the kind of message this self-denuding cult of post-nationhood sends to more confident nations like Russia.

Indeed, we should not be surprised that a nation whose political and intellectual elites continually say ‘We are post-nation and we are open to the flows and fluxes of the globe’ might also find itself more open to the opportunism of states that have scores to settle here. After all, we effectively said: ‘We have no borders.’

I have to say, having seen over the last few years acts of despicable violence carried out on British soil by people who were in every meaningful sense foreigners (and in some cases unequivocally so), I find the outrage over Russians running about killing people a little…inconsistent. If Putin were a little less pasty and a bit more Muslim, I doubt we’d be making such a fuss. I’d find all this tough talk over Russia a lot more convincing if we’d not been so pathetically weak in every other area of national security, protecting the public, and looking out for our long-term interests.


Thanks to Trump, North Korea is talking

Well fancy that:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has hosted a dinner for senior South Korean delegates – the first time officials from Seoul have met the young leader since he took office in 2011.

The South Korean president’s office confirmed the meeting shortly after the delegates’ arrival on Monday.

The 10-member team is in Pyongyang for talks partly aimed at restarting dialogue between the North and the US.

Relations between the Koreas have warmed following last month’s Olympics.

In an unprecedented move, the South Korean delegation includes two ministerial-level envoys – intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong.

During the two-day visit, the South Korean group will focus on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of the North’s nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the US and Pyongyang.

A couple of months ago we were told Trump’s rhetoric on North Korea and juvenile tweeting was bringing the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon. Turns out bitch-slapping Rocketman has given him pause for thought.

This subject came up on BBC news this morning, and a discussion took place between the presenter and guest that went approximately as follows:

Presenter: Doesn’t this show that talking is more productive than threats?

Guest: Well, in all honesty I think Donald Trump has forced the North Koreans to resume talks.

Presenter: Really? But…

Guest: Yes, I think this is down to Donald Trump.

Presenter: But don’t you think it has more to do with the tightening of sanctions, and the UN?

Guest: Yes, but it was Trump that tightened the sanctions and brought the issue of North Korea to the UN to begin with.

Presenter: Oh. Really, but don’t you think…

Guest: Yes, really, I know it’s an unpopular view, but I think the reason North Korea is now cooperating is because of Donald Trump.

Presenter, looking as though she’s eaten a turd: Okay, well moving on…


A Brace of British Brownshirts

A few years ago, when I was roaming the wilds of the planet with various oil companies, I was sat with my sister, who is a journalist, pitching ideas for a story at her. I could have directed her towards umpteen utterly scandalous situations, but each time she said:

“But what’s the British angle? For a British publication, there has to be a British interest in it somewhere.”

Flicking open The Guardian yesterday, it seems establishing a British angle is a lot easier than I thought. Consider this article by Natalia Antonova (yes, she of “survivor” fame):

From Britain to Ukraine, the far right is thriving on shared emotion

And what better person to delve into the British national psyche than “a Ukrainian journalist and playwright based in New York”?

While reports of Britons being recruited by Ukrainian neo-Nazis to fight in a war against Russia appear to be somewhat exaggerated – two men hardly constitutes some sort of far-right stampede to the eastern edge of Europe – this is a good time to remember that hate is on the upswing, and to think of it as a localised phenomenon is to miss the bigger picture.

Two unnamed men hardly constitutes anything, but is more than enough to justify running the author’s garbled opinions in The Guardian. British angle, indeed.

Members of the Ukrainian and the Russian far right are willing to riddle each other with very many bullet holes over such issues as the legacy of the second world war, and who the real heroes were. Ask them about abortion, however, or feminism, or migration, or antisemitism, or LGBT rights, or human rights in general, or, for that matter, government transparency and accountability, and suddenly these mortal enemies will seem more like good buddies who had a little tiff over history and national identity but will happily join forces to oppress whoever gets in their way, should the current conflict come to an end.

Warring militias on Russia’s borders don’t share the same social justice goals as a journalist in Brooklyn? Who knew? And note the casual assumption that anyone who opposes abortion is far right, and that a lack of government transparency and accountability is a hallmark of the same group. Because the left are paragons of virtue when it comes to those two things, aren’t they?

As the editors of the anarchist publication Nihilist.li have argued, “the differences between the Kremlin and Ukrainian fascists are tactical – not strategic … Both Russian and Ukrainian far-right groups have the same values and the same political ideal – crony capitalism.”

Good job those two British chaps allegedly went to Ukraine, isn’t it? Otherwise we’d be wondering why she doesn’t harangue some Ukrainians about this.

Ukraine’s problems with the far right are Britain’s problems, are Bulgaria’s problems, are Austria’s problems, and even, ultimately, Russia’s problems.

Eh? Why is it Britain’s concern that there might be far right Ukrainians? In the 2017 UK General Election, not a single far right party stood in any meaningful sense, let alone won. Even if we accept the left’s description of UKIP as being far right, they got wiped out. Is Antonova even aware of the makeup of Britain’s political parties?

In looking for solutions, we should consider the predicament the US now finds itself in – with a blatantly racist president who will reward any far-right group for as long as it sings his praises.

Presumably for reasons of space – or relevance – Antonova doesn’t cite a single one of these far right groups, nor how Trump rewarded them. But she calls him racist, so there’s that.

Reporters from elite publications are regularly parachuted into towns and districts that represent Trump’s “base” in order to file bewildered, slightly apocalyptic reports on how there are millions of Americans out there who do not care that the man they elected thinks there are “both sides” to a conflict involving murderous far-right violence.

Note that the problem here lies not with not bubble-dwelling “reporters from elite publications”, but the ordinary person who doesn’t subscribe to cartoon depictions of the US president.

Even as we continue to combat fake news, it has become glaringly obvious that facts alone won’t reach these racists and cheerleaders for racism – because support for Trump comes from a place that’s wholly different to the place where we compile and analyse facts.

She actually had the temerity to include this paragraph in an article whose entire premise rests on two unnamed “far right” Brits allegedly being recruited by Ukrainian neo-nazis.

Far-right advances across nations embolden the far right in other nations. This trend is likely to continue – and this is why a couple of Britons travelling to Ukraine to fight alongside neo-Nazis is something to take notice of.

Possibly at the editor’s insistence, we’re back to these two Brits again. Remember how often we were told not to worry about tens of thousands of citizens from European countries going to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS? That’s because the real issue is British neo-Nazis flocking to Ukraine in such numbers they couldn’t even form a relay team.

The causes of our current predicament can be debated – certainly a great number of economic and social factors are at play – but what matters is the simple realisation that what binds members of far-right groups can be exploited for good. Shared humanity, the idea of belonging to a common cause – these are the tools we have at our disposal if we wish to adequately address the rising tide of hate.

Somebody actually paid for this guff. True they only paid £90, but still.

To bring this back to Lakoff, what matters right now is not so much what far-right hate groups think, but what their members feel and believe.

Uh-huh. Now perhaps I’m being unfair. There’s no reason why a Ukrainian feminist living in Brooklyn should not be able to understand and write articles about British social issues in a national newspaper, so with that in mind I roamed around looking for what other insights she’s provided on the subject. And then I came across this:



Opinion Presented as Fact

Here’s the BBC’s main headline at the time of writing:

Here’s the actual story:

The US House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat has accused Republicans of amending a memo about claims of FBI surveillance at the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff said Republicans had changed the text after it was voted on.

So it’s an unsubstantiated claim by a political opponent. You wouldn’t have guessed that from the headline, would you? This wouldn’t be quite so bad were the BBC not in the habit of presenting Trump’s claims in deeply skeptical terms, even running whole articles attempting to debunk anything he says. These people are obsessed.


Class snobbery masquerading as feminism

Via Damian Counsell, this video:

What this tells me is that feminism in the UK is very much a class issue (as is pretty much everything in Britain). Here we have two women with northern accents doing a job which puts them neck-deep among Britain’s working class, a job they enjoy. Then we have Sally Howard with a home-counties accent who I expect has a university education in a pointless field and works a non-job surrounded by people who think exactly like her. Well, whaddya know?

Since leaving university, Howard has worked as a “charity publicist, copywriter and media consultant for Oxfam GB”, authored “a socio-sexual travelogue investigating Indian sexuality from the open carnality of ancient Hinduism, via the repressions of the Raj, to modern-day Delhi rape uprisings”, and freelances as a “travel and lifestyle journalist” and “investigative and social trends journalist.” Sadly Howard’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t tell us what school she went to, because I suspect it would be a posh private one: her whole profile reeks of upper-middle class privilege bankrolled by a wealthy father.

What strikes me about the hectoring, condescending, dismissive tone adopted by Howard towards the two walk-on girls is how old-fashioned she appears. For all her talk about “outdated” practices and her doubtless conceit that she exemplifies modern women, she sounds for all the world like the harridan wife of a hen-pecked vicar in the 1930s lecturing the lower-classes on morals and the virtues of good housekeeping.

There’s a reason for this: scrape away the virtue-signalling, underlying politics, and competition for sex, and we’re left with good, old-fashioned class snobbery. It’s always been there, and probably always will be. The only thing I don’t understand is how the two northern lasses remained so calm and polite.


Bookshops in Nigeria

From the BBC:

Thousands of people across social media have been posting about Nigeria’s literary heritage after a journalist asked acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie if there were any bookshops in her country.

Journalist Caroline Broue asked Adichie if people read her books in Nigeria. Adichie replied, “They do, shockingly.”

Broue then asked: “Are there any bookshops in Nigeria?”

The author of Americanah and Purple Hibiscus replied: “I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question.

I’m not sure why it should reflect poorly on French people that a solitary journalist asked if there were bookshops in a country where the traffic lights barely work and you can’t drink the tapwater.

I confess, I don’t recall seeing any bookshops in Nigeria, but I daresay they exist. The closest I got to one was a book stall in the corner of the waiting area of Port Harcourt airport, which was stocked in its entirety with religious books, self-help manuals, and combinations of the two. Titles like God and Your Business and Success Through Worship were typical, and something the expats noticed was if you saw someone reading a book it was a good bet that it was the bible.

Some wished to remind people of Nigeria’s literary heritage, by citing writers and poets such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ben Orki.

I don’t see why French people should know these authors any more than a Nigerian should know of Johnny Hallyday. Perhaps a journalist should have known better, but then…well, she’s a journalist, isn’t she?

But the question ‘are there bookshops in Nigeria’ was not about that. It was about giving legitimacy to a deliberate, entitled, tiresome, sweeping, base ignorance about Africa. And I do not have the patience for that.

One solution is to stay well clear of ignorant foreigners, particularly those invited to ask questions at cultural evenings hosted by the French government. I don’t suppose anyone forced her to attend.


Severe weather is nothing new

I’m currently reading a book which contains this section on the farming conditions in Devon in the second half of the 19th century:

[I]n 1879 it simply rained without ceasing throughout the whole of the summer, turning much of the English countryside into a desperate, oozing mire. It continued to rain until the end of 1882, causing an epidemic of pleuro pneumonia and liver rot in sheep, while the crops collapsed in the fields. The middle of the decade was marked by severe droughts and catastrophic frosts. S. G. Kendall, the West Country yeoman farmer who kept a detailed diary of the weather, vividly describes the year 1879 and the following five years of appalling summers. The persistent rain that summer, he wrote, was accompanied `by a damp, dark, cold atmosphere which struck a chill almost into one’s bones, bringing ruined crops with widespread devastation in their train … We had no barley crops at all that season on heavy soil’, and the wheat ‘turned blighty and black and seemed to shrink back in a different way yet not dissimilar to the barley two months earlier’.

Another diarist, George Rope, describes the floods that summer: ’23 Aug. Began cutting tolavera – slightly sprouted as it stood – from continual rains for the last fortnight. The wettest season since 186o and similar, but not so cold – about two-thirds of the hay and clover spoiled – and a large quantity carried away by floods – on 22nd July we had the greatest flood I can ever remember.’ He goes on to describe cows drowned, houses flooded, and how people had travelled by boat from farm to farm.

At the end of 1879 Kendall wrote: ‘This dismal, wet, dark, never-to-be-forgotten year is now at an end; may the coming eighties bring with it better luck and greater good fortune.’ But 1880 was if anything worse – bad weather and disease carried away five million sheep in England; and 1881 brought fresh disasters including a blizzard lasting forty-eight hours. G. E. Mingay, who has chronicled the weather during this period in his Rural Life in Victorian England, summarizes the continued disastrous weather thus:

The following summer was wet, and 1882 had a very wet autumn so that little wheat could be sown. The summers of 1885 and 1887, by contrast, were dry, with shortages of roots for the stock … the early nineties saw fresh disasters. The great blizzard of 8-13 March 1891 brought twenty-foot snow drifts to parts of the West Country, and claimed over 200 lives on shore and at sea. The farmers suffered great losses of livestock – some sheep were blown over the cliffs into the sea – as well as devastation in orchards and woodlands. The summer of 1891 also produced a wet harvest, and 1892 and 1893 brought very severe droughts. In [the West Country] hardly any rain fell between February and July 1893, and there was almost no grass for haymaking. On the heavy land the harrow marks of April could be seen right up to harvest. Then came a most bitter and persistent frost in the winter of 1894-5, when drifts of snow from six to fourteen feet deep covered the ground for weeks.

I’m posting this mainly to counteract the view of a rather dim BBC presenter who, the other day on television, opined in the context of global warming that “the weather is definitely getting more extreme”.


Popular Videos

The ZMan has written a post on YouTube personalities which can be summed up as:

The people watching and enjoying her work, are very different people from anyone I know.

ZMan is also not alone when he says:

Until recently, PewDiePie was unknown to me, despite his having 59 million subscribers. He is the #1 YouTube personality.

I was absolutely staggered when I heard about PewDiePie’s popularity, and I mentioned it to a colleague. His eyes lit up and he said, “Oh, that’s nothing: check out this video!”:

At the time of posting, this had been viewed a staggering 144,109,815 times. The shorter version has been viewed 128 million times.

Occasionally I stop and wonder if I’m living on the same planet as everyone else.


The Nature of Government

Anyone remember the case of Cliven Bundy, a rancher in Nevada who led an armed standoff against government agents over grazing rights, and whose son later occupied a national wildlife refuge in protest?  Here’s what the BBC said at the time while telling us how racist he was:

First Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was protesting against government attempts to round up cattle he was illegally grazing on federal land, wondered whether blacks were “better off” under slavery.

Illegally grazing, eh? Sounds clear-cut. But here’s what the BBC are saying now:

The four-day standoff happened in April 2014 near government-owned land outside Bunkerville, 80 miles (130km) north of Las Vegas.

Law enforcement officials tried to remove Mr Bundy’s cattle, saying he owed more than $1m (£737,000) in grazing fees on US Bureau of Land Management property.

Hundreds of armed supporters rallied from across the country to keep officers off Mr Bundy’s ranch.

The Bundys argued that the government lacked the constitutional authority to control the land where his cattle fed.

Why the change in tone? Because of this:

A federal judge dismissed all charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his two sons and another man on Monday after accusing prosecutors of willfully withholding evidence from Bundy’s lawyers.

You can almost hear the disappointment in the BBC studios. But what is most remarkable about this story are the judge’s comments:

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro cited “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” in her decision to dismiss all charges against the Nevada rancher and three others.

“The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated,” Navarro said.

Navarro said Monday it was clear the FBI was involved in the prosecution and it was not a coincidence that most of the evidence that was held back – which would have worked in Bundy’s favor – came from the FBI.

Here’s a second opinion:

“In this case the failures to comply with Brady were exquisite, extraordinary,” said Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. “The judge exercised tremendous patience.”

“Either the government lied or [its actions were] so grossly negligent as to be tantamount to lying,” Napolitano said. “This happened over and over again.”

That this is allowed to happen is an absolute disgrace. Heads should be rolling at the FBI and lengthy jail sentences handed down, but of course they won’t. Why? Because too many people are happy with such blatant abuse of government power, especially when it’s brought to bear against their perceived ideological enemies, and the Deep State protects its own. I wonder which camp the BBC’s reporters fall into?


More Trumpian Twitter Trolling

A couple of months ago I said this about Trump’s tweeting:

What really gets me is the disparity of effort. Master trolls don’t hang around writing screeds online, their role is to throw petrol on a fire and walk away, leaving everyone else to waste days or weeks fighting each other. In Trump’s case, he can tie up tens of thousands of his enemies’ manhours and get them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by retweeting a video, an action which takes less than a second.

Last night he tweeted that he was some sort of genius, and naturally the BBC ran it as front-page news. What amused me most was this paragraph:

Perceived slights, insults and questions about his intelligence. If Donald Trump’s recent Twitter feed is any indication, these are the topics on the president’s mind as he settles in for the night and when he rises in the morning.

Given the daunting tasks facing the administration and Congress in the coming weeks, some of his allies and aides at Camp David may view the president’s concerns as misdirected.

Trump spends a few seconds boasting about himself on Twitter. The media then spends thousands of manhours reporting on it, ignoring anything of importance that might be going on in the world. In the course of doing so they suggest Trump’s efforts should perhaps be focused elsewhere.

He really is trolling them, isn’t he?