The Irish and Abortion

This amused me:

Just a few short weeks ago the same writer was wailing about Russia’s nefarious influence in European politics and the Brexit referendum. I note the BBC and other British media outlets were not only treating the Republic of Ireland as a British province in their coverage of this referendum – which, frankly, has nothing to do with us – but also actively campaigning for abortion. Apparently foreign interference in another country’s politics is okay provided it’s on the correct side.

What’s also amusing is the manner in which this referendum result has been received by the chattering classes compared to the Brexit vote. As some wag said on Twitter a few days ago, he’s looking forward to finding out whether history has spoken or Russia interfered. You can be sure if the Irish vote had narrowly gone the other way, shenanigans would have been blamed and we’d already be talking about a re-run. But now the vote has gone the way of progressives, the matter is closed forever.

My view on abortion is that it’s a necessary evil, one that’s better legalised than outlawed, so I think the outcome of the vote is in itself a good one. But what it does show is that, contrary to what many claim, abortion is not a fundamental right; if it were, there would be no need to vote on it. Despite what feminists say about having a right to do as they please with their own bodies, this isn’t actually true: abortion is permitted by law not as a right, but with the consensus of the overall society. Rights don’t exist in a vacuum, their existence depends on the surrounding society, or at least those who control it, recognising them. In the case of abortion, rights only exist while a majority, or powerful minority, of people in any given society approve of it. What just happened in Ireland was a reflection of the changed attitudes in Irish society rather than confirmation that abortion is fundamental right. This is why Kamm’s remark is idiotic: if a plurality of the population genuinely believe abortion is murder and the rights of the unborn child paramount, this can hardly be called despotic. He’d be on stronger ground if he said a powerful minority outlaw abortion against the wishes of the majority, but his use of the word “intrinsically” implies otherwise.

Kamm’s approach of the enlightened few knowing what’s best for the plebs is the one adopted in the US, which saw the Supreme Court decide the abortion issue instead of putting it to public vote. Now some argue the only way to make progress is to pass laws forcing the ignorant masses to adapt, but 45 years after Roe v Wade abortion is still a contentious issue in the US. In that respect the Irish did the right thing in holding a vote, although I suspect Irish progressives knew in advance they’d win in a landslide, otherwise they’d never have held it. The British government blundered badly by giving the oiks a vote on Brexit, and you can be sure nobody will make that mistake again.

The way the western world is moving is to hold referenda for those subjects they know will deliver the right outcome, and for the rest just railroad it through via the legal system. This ought to tell us something in future: if a referendum is being held, the ruling classes already know the result will be to their liking. If they’re trying to ram something through the judicial system, bypassing the normal political process – as was the case with the gay marriage issue in the US – you can be sure it’s not popular with the masses. A smart politician ought to be able to make good use of that distinction. Anyone know of one?

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The Arrest of Tommy Robinson

Yesterday the right-wing provocateur Tommy Robinson was arrested for livestreaming the comings and goings outside a British court building where a rape trial involving Muslims was ongoing. Within hours the British government had placed a gagging order on the press, so as usual it fell to Twitter to tell everyone what went on.

The chattering classes are this morning stroking their chins and sternly reminding us that filming outside a courtroom is illegal and Robinson is currently serving a suspended sentence for the same offence. Reporting on ongoing court matters is strictly controlled in the UK in order not to prejudice a trial, and people make a valid point when they say Robinson’s actions could result in a mistrial. At best, he’s been very naive and probably ought to find himself a reliable legal adviser if he’s going to keep doing stuff like this.

However, there is a lot more going on here and the chattering classes are either deliberately overlooking it or, more likely, utterly unaware of it. Robinson has not been arrested for filming outside a court building, he’s been arrested because he embarrasses the ruling classes. He has been constantly followed, monitored, and harassed by Plod wherever he goes solely because he draws attention to the failings of the ruling classes. In this particular instance, he is making the point that the mainstream media is silent on the issue of Muslims raping vulnerable, underage British girls in northern, working-class towns, leaving it to people like him with iPhones to keep everyone informed. While he’s probably mistaken the lack of media coverage of this ongoing case for self-censorship rather than mere compliance with the law, the wider point is that the media does self-censor and particularly so in cases such as these. The modern British media is merely a mouthpiece for the ruling classes, which is why so many journalists have taken to Twitter to pompously besmirch Robinson and justify his arrest and incarceration. The last thing mainstream journalists want is some pleb without the proper credentials, much less a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, reporting on things they’d prefer went unmentioned.

While it is true that Robinson has committed some sort of offence here, Britain is fast becoming like many authoritarian states in that everyone is committing an offence merely by going about their daily business, and it’s therefore just a matter of who the police choose to arrest. And even if you haven’t committed a crime, the police can arrest whoever they like for wholly imaginary reasons and face no consequences. With the process being the punishment, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve committed an offence or not: if the ruling classes and their minions in uniforms decide you’re a problem, they’ll make your life hell and convince themselves they’ve acted lawfully. We should remind ourselves at this point that nobody rotted away in a Soviet gulag for no reason: there was always a charge attached to their incarceration. The fact Robinson was originally arrested for breach of the peace and later that changed to prejudicing a trial shows the authorities aren’t really interested in what they charge him with provided he ends up behind bars.

Somebody asked on Twitter yesterday why the government is terrified of upsetting Muslims to the point they’re prepared to jail the likes of Robinson. I responded by saying they’re not: the government and their bag carriers are not in the least afraid or Muslims because they pose no threat to their way of life, and are often quite useful in cementing them into positions of power and privilege. What they are genuinely terrified of is the ignorant, white masses rising up and hanging them from lampposts, and the event which triggers this could well be widespread revulsion at what the ruling classes have seemingly allowed Muslims to get away with in towns like Rotherham and Telford. The nightmare scenario for the likes of Theresa May and tossers writing in The Times and The Guardian is not a crazed jihadist bombing a concert or knifing someone on Westminster Bridge but an angry mob of people who look and sound much like them.

Tommy Robinson to some degree represents that angry mob, and even those who don’t like his methods or opinions are forced to admit he has a point: the government is failing massively on many levels, and eventually things will boil over with ugly results. The idiots in government think by chucking him in jail the problem will go away, just as Twitter and Facebook think they can eradicate alt-right opinions by banning users who hold them, as if covering their ears is the answer. History is littered with national leaders who spent time in prison for criticising the previous regime; not that I think Robinson will become Prime Minister, but it demonstrates that rulers who jail those who are inconvenient often don’t remain in charge very long. It’s a sign of extreme weakness rather than strength, and it’s no coincidence that Robinson is being arrested at a time when Britain has one of the weakest yet childishly authoritarian Prime Ministers in living memory.

The next week or so will probably test May’s government more than she realises. The public are already incensed over Count Dankula’s Nazi pug prosecution, and if Robinson is harmed in custody in any way, the ruling classes might find he has a lot more supporters than they thought, and some are ready to step up and take things a little further. The IRA in their successful campaign to bomb their way to the bargaining table were able to rely on an enormous number of people putting money into hats passed around in pubs. Similarly, jihadists are supported in large part by thousands of hands placing notes into bowls passed through the crowd during Friday prayers.

Let’s leave the who, what, and how to one side for a minute, mainly because they’re questions I can’t answer. Instead, let’s try a thought experiment: if hats were passed through the British population asking for money to tackle the problems Tommy Robinson is highlighting, how many people would cough up, and how much money would be raised? I expect if the ruling classes knew the answer, they’d turn white.

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Barack Obama and Identity Politics

There’s an interesting passage in this NYT article on Barack Obama and race:

Though Mr. Obama’s presidency ended up being defined in many ways by America’s reaction to his race, he carefully avoided racially liberal appeals during his original campaign, even taking the time to criticize the purported excesses of campus liberalism. Mr. Obama had begun his national political career with a speech at the Democratic convention in 2004, declaring that “there’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” During his 2008 campaign, to give just one example, he turned down an invitation to Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union, an event Hillary Clinton attended.

I never thought Barack Obama was a typical African American, which is unsurprising given he’s the offspring of a Kenyan father and white American mother rather than the descendants of slaves. Indeed, Obama’s only connection with slavery was that his mother’s ancestors used to own some. But even in his politics he seemed more steeped in the anti-colonialism Marxism of his father than the race-hustling of the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Sure, he no doubt engaged in plenty of race-hustling while a community organiser in Chicago, but that was a means to an end rather than a lifetime obsession. His wife, on the other hand, seemed to be quite the opposite: her thesis was called Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community, which gives you an idea what was on her mind as a young lady. I’ve heard said that Barack was content to date white women before someone nudged him in the ribs and said if he wants a political career he’d better get with the programme and pick a sista, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.

Whatever you think of Obama, his 2008 campaign was not based on identity politics, and a lot of people hoped he’d be a normal president who happened to be black, rather than a Black President. Everyone overlooked Condoleeza Rice’s skin colour because it was irrelevant to her public persona; by contrast, people like Maxine Waters and Kamala Harris have made theirs a central part of who they are, seemingly to the exclusion of everything else. In 2008, Obama knew that if he ran on a black-as-an-identity platform he’d likely lose, and I genuinely don’t think he personally saw himself that way. However, by the time the 2016 election came around US politics had swung completely in the direction of identity politics:

During her 2016 campaign, Mrs. Clinton invoked concepts like intersectionality, white privilege, implicit bias and systemic racism. She warned of “deplorables,” while Mr. Obama once gave a speech arguing that “to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns” was something that “widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.” According to the American National Election Studies 2016 survey, Democrats perceived Mrs. Clinton as more racially liberal than they had perceived Mr. Obama in 2012, when his strategy was not notably different.

So what happened? I think much as though Obama wanted to be a normal president who happened to be black, he felt beholden to the adoring masses of African Americans who genuinely believed he was one of them. When millions of people are shouting “black, black, blackety-black” at you and one of them is likely your wife, eventually you’re going to start believing it. Particularly stupid was Obama’s remark that Trayvon Martin “could have been my son”. The progeny of well-connected Ivy-league graduates is unlikely to get himself shot by a vigilante while roaming the grounds of a gated community in Florida even if he’s black, mainly because he’d never be there in the first place. Obama’s children have nothing more in common with Trayvon Martin than those ghetto kids saying “ah’m Tiger Woods” in 1996 had with their club-swinging idol. But this happened in 2013 during his second term, and it was 2016 when he invited Black Lives Matter to the White House. This was unlikely something 2008 Obama would have done, and probably not 2012 Obama either.

What was obvious is many African Americans, and certainly all the race-hustlers among them, thought Obama was “their” president and he ought to put black issues first. The reality was while Obama was flattered enough to make the right noises, sorting out black America’s issues was no easier for him than it was for anyone else, not that he bothered to try. This is why there’s a sizeable portion of African Americans who think Obama let them down; finally they get one of their own in the White House, but nothing changed. Like with so much of Obama’s presidency, he neither did one thing or the other. If he’d have shunned racial politics entirely and simply been a president who happened to be black, it would have been an enormous arrow in the heart of identity politics. Instead by dabbling in it during his second term and embracing some of the most damaging aspects of black American culture, he allowed every other minority to view the presidency as a vehicle for furthering special interests rather than transcending them. I doubt Hillary Clinton would have centered her entire campaign on being a woman had Obama not left office with the likes of Black Lives Matter believing they had the ear of the president.

To be fair, I think Obama probably lacked the mental strength to shrug off the enormous pressures that came from being the first black president; I suspect anyone else would have succumbed to some degree. But what’s certain is that the Democrats have bought into identity politics wholesale and aren’t letting go, and it’s a matter of time before the rest of the country follows suit. Ironically, that may well be Obama’s real legacy.

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Not just corrupt, impotent too

Now there’s a surprise, eh?

The missile that downed a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014 belonged to a Russian brigade, international investigators say.

For the first time, the Dutch-led team said the missile had come from a unit based in western Russia.

All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died when it broke apart in mid-air flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

It was hit by a missile fired from rebel-held territory in Ukraine. Russia says none of its weapons was used.

But on Thursday Wilbert Paulissen, a Dutch official from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), told reporters: “All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.”

He restated the JIT’s conclusion that the plane had been destroyed by a Russian-made Buk missile, adding that it had been supplied by the country’s 53rd anti-aircraft brigade in Kursk.

The bulk of this was known at the time of the incident. There were only three possibilities as to the origins of the missile:

1. Russian forces

2. Russian-backed militias in Ukraine

3. Ukrainian forces

The Ukrainians quickly stated they don’t possess this missile system, ruling out their culpability. My guess was the Russians had, with staggering irresponsibility, given the business end of a Buk anti-aircraft system to some poorly trained militia operating on Ukrainian territory who’d shot down the plane by mistake. However, I believed part of the system was still controlled by Russian forces, who would give the militia the nod to engage any targets. As it turns out, it was operated by Russian forces all along, and it was they who shot the plane down.

At a news conference in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the investigators also showed social media pictures which they said traced the route the missile convoy had taken to reach eastern Ukraine.

Shortly after the incident some investigators online worked out using mobile phone footage and satellite images exactly where the missile had been fired from. Nobody showed any interest, and the silence from what passes for western leadership over this incident was deafening. The Oilfield Expat explains why:

Considering the magnitude of the event, it is remarkable how quickly the world brushed it under the carpet and moved on, particularly the Dutch who lost the greatest number of citizens in the incident. But there are good reasons for this: it suited the interests of European and American politicians to do so.

For those who thought the shooting down of MH17 would prove to be a Lusitania event in the crisis in east Ukraine, proving beyond doubt the nature of the Russian government which the west is facing, it would have seemed unbelievable at the time that barely 6 weeks later Russian armour would be moving en masse into Ukraine whilst EU and American leaders repeat the same empty, lame, and downright pathetic bleating about “de-escalation” that has done nothing but embolden Putin thus far.

It is blatantly obvious in whose interests Obama, Merkel, Hollande, etc. are acting over this Ukraine crisis: their own. And I don’t mean their citizens, or their country, I mean their own personal interests. Any support they may receive from their citizens or corporations is purely coincidental, although in the case of Germany it is clear that Merkel’s interests have been identical to those of certain favoured German companies with large operations in Russia all along. She damned near admitted as much.

This is wholly consistent with these same individuals sucking up to Iran, and now even cosying up to Putin in the aftermath of Trump’s nixing the deal. So much for solidarity with Britain over the Skripal poisoning, eh? But it’s not just cynical commercial interests that caused the disgraceful silence over the shooting down of MH-17, it was also cowardice. There were reports doing the rounds that Putin was visibly shaken when news reached him of MH-17 being shot down, no doubt fearing a serious backlash. However, within a day or two he was back to his usual swaggering self, confident no response would be forthcoming, and the tidal wave of disinformation began. Quite simply, the feckless leaders in the west didn’t want to make any tough decisions. Here’s The Oilfield Expat once more:

In reality, the EU leaders are a bunch of shyster politicians who give a shit about one thing: their political position, and by extension the powers they wield and the personal fortune they amass. Like all politicians, they are a bunch of backstabbing, duplicitous, untrustworthy c*nts who you wouldn’t trust to look after a wet breeze block, let alone guarantee the safety and security of a nation of people they don’t know and give less of a shit about. The Ukrainians have probably worked this out by now, only it’s too late. The Baltic States should also be waking up to reality and realising that they are on their own and always were. There were times when this fecklessness wouldn’t matter so much as the US could be relied upon to step in when required (as they eventually did in the Balkans), but the current occupant of the White House is so out of his depth and so wrapped up in preserving his image that he makes the EU leadership look Napoleonic by comparison. The collective language of this gaggle of incompetents over the Ukraine crisis screams “Oh why did this have to happen on my watch? Why won’t the problem just go away?”

They want the status, salary, and trappings of power that come with the position but don’t want to take the decisions and carry the responsibility that comes with it.

At the time of the incident – and not much has changed, at least on one side of the Atlantic – the western leadership was not only corrupt, but impotent too. The results of the investigation will only serve to illustrate this fact.

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Qualifications

From the BBC:

A former Georgia lawmaker and author has taken a major step towards becoming the first ever African-American female governor of a US state.

If elected in the deeply conservative state, Ms Abrams would become the first woman and the first person from an ethnic minority to lead the southern state.

Well, she’s certainly ticking all the diversity boxes, but what’s she actually done?

It was in Georgia where she made her mark with a number of historic achievements.

She became the first African American female valedictorian of her high school before earning her undergraduate degree from Spelman College. She also received a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a law degree from Yale University.

Ms Abrams was first elected to the Georgia state House of Representatives in 2006, and would later become the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly as well as the first African American to lead the state’s House of Representatives.

So her achievements are basically being African American and female.

She has been considered a rising star among her party’s progressive wing, taking centre stage at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

She gave a rousing speech on economic inequality, drawing on her own experience, and strongly backing presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

I’d have thought backing the candidate who lost an unloseable election would count against her, but that’s just me.

Ms Abrams won the support of Mrs Clinton, who recorded a robocall – an automated telephone call with a recorded message – for the former state House minority leader ahead of Tuesday’s election.

So she’s got the support of the person who lost that unloseable election.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and California Senator Kamala Harris – who are all viewed as possible 2020 presidential contenders – also threw their support behind Ms Abrams.

National organisations including Planned Parenthood, MoveOn and EMILY’s List have also endorsed Ms Abrams.

And the backing of hard-left lunatics.

Aside from her political work, Ms Abrams has written eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery.

Finally we get some actual achievements. Whether they’re enough to sway the good people of Georgia is another matter, though. No doubt when they plumb for the Republicans, racism and misogyny will be to blame.

A number of women battled for and won their Democratic Party mid-term bids in Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas, highlighting the strength of female candidates in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

In Texas, Democratic candidate and former Dallas County Sherriff Lupe Valdez became the first openly gay Latina nominee for governor in the state’s history.

Another candidate with a laundry list of diversity credentials, but no achievements of note. Not even a single, solitary, romance novel – unless the BBC is neglecting to mention it.

Also among the winners was political newcomer Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot, who won a Kentucky primary for a seat in the US Congress.

Okay, this is better.

“It’s more, this time, this climate, right now,” Ms McGrath told CNN before her win against Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. “It’s very clear that people are looking for more women.”

I’d save that remark until you’ve won the seat, madam.

The US currently has six female governors.

Yes, I recall one called Sarah Palin. What did the BBC and their fellow travellers think of her, again? Funny, nobody made a big song and dance over Nikki Haley being the first female Indian-American governor, either.

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An Inquiry in Name Only

In June last year, after the Grenfell Tower fire, I wrote:

I was just a kid in the 1980s when we had that seemingly endless series of disasters: Piper Alpha, the Herald of Free Enterprise, the King’s Cross fire, the Marchioness, the Clapham Junction rail crash. These were catastrophes of enormous consequence with all the emotional and human aspects of the Grenfell Tower fire, yet we did not see third-world style mobs whipping up anger and making ludicrous demands, nor perpetual adolescents demanding the government be replaced by one headed by a bunch who’d just lost an election. Sensible heads prevailed, inquests were held, genuine lessons were learned, and the rules changed so they didn’t happen again. In those days the adults were in charge.

Yesterday I read this:

Relatives of all 72 victims will be given the chance to commemorate loved ones during the [Grenfell Tower fire] inquiry.

The inquiry will look into all the deaths – including one victim who died in January, having been in hospital since the blaze.

Five others were remembered on the inquiry’s first day, which began with a 72-second silence in memory of those who died.

They include artist Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy, Denis Murphy, Joseph Daniels and Mohamed Neda.

I don’t see anything wrong with taking a few minutes to reflect on the dead at the opening of an inquiry into a disaster such as this. But once those few minutes have passed, the cold, impersonal business of finding out what happened, how it happened, and why should commence free of emotions and political posturing. Is that occurring now? No it’s not, and it looks as though it’s more soap opera than inquiry:

Families are being given as long as they want to tell the inquiry about their loved ones through a mixture of words, pictures and videos.

Survivor accounts are important as they can provide key details such as how fast the fire spread, and what difficulties they faced in evacuating. Also, the correspondence between the residents and housing association will be vital to the inquiry. But talking about loved ones with pictures and videos without limit? Is this an inquiry interested in discerning facts, or a memorial service?

What’s happened is obvious: an entire industry has sprung up around the Grenfell Tower fire with the dual purpose of securing public monies for key individuals and furthering their political aims. They have managed to gatecrash what should be a sober, professional inquiry and turn it into a grieving session after which no doubt they’ll put considerable pressure on investigators to point the finger at their opponents, i.e. the Tories and any company with deep pockets. They’ve been allowed to do this because the political classes no longer have the personal courage to face down a baying mob of chancers and insist on due process being followed.

Given that Sadiq Khan is in charge of London and Theresa May in charge of the whole country, it’s hardly surprising we’re no longer capable of holding an inquiry into a disaster without the whole thing turning into a circus. We really are missing some adults, aren’t we?

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When the Unserious meet the Serious

This:

is more an indication of the intellect and general knowledge of British MPs than a criticism of the Israeli ambassador. Whether or not you agree with the IDF’s use of live rounds and accept Hamas’ claims of the number of dead and that some were children, shooting people with rifles under those circumstances is hardly the epitome of an unmeasured and indiscriminate military response. Machine-gunning them would be a lot worse, strafing them from the air even more so. When the Russian army took Grozny in 1999-2000, this is how they went about it:

The Russian strategy in 1999 was to hold back tanks and armored personnel carriers and subject the entrenched Chechens to an intensive heavy artillery barrage and aerial bombardment before engaging them with relatively small groups of infantry, many with prior training in urban warfare. The Russian forces relied heavily on rocket artillery such as BM-21 Grad, BM-27 Uragan, BM-30 Smerch, ballistic missiles (SCUD, OTR-21 Tochka), cluster bombs and fuel air explosives. (The TOS-1, a multiple rocket launcher with thermobaric weapon warheads, played a particularly prominent role in the assault). These weapons wore down the Chechens, both physically and psychologically, and air strikeswere also used to attack fighters hiding in basements; such attacks were designed for maximum psychological pressure.

This was the result:

If asked, perhaps the Israeli ambassador would cite the above as an example of what he thinks “unmeasured and indiscriminate” looks like. More likely, though, he’d have referred to Russia’s bombing of Aleppo in 2016:

The effects of Russia’s bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo — destroying hospitals and schools, choking off basic supplies, and killing aid workers and hundreds of civilians over just days — raise a question: What could possibly motivate such brutality?

Observers attribute Russia’s bombing to recklessness, cruelty or Moscow’s desperate thrashing in what the White House has called a “quagmire.”

But many analysts take a different view: Russia and its Syrian government allies, they say, could be massacring Aleppo’s civilians as part of a calculated strategy, aimed beyond this one city.

The strategy, more about politics than advancing the battle lines, appears to be designed to pressure rebels to ally themselves with extremists, eroding the rebels’ legitimacy; give Russia veto power over any high-level diplomacy; and exhaust Syrian civilians who might otherwise support the opposition.

This is not to excuse what the IDF are doing on the border with Gaza (although personally I don’t see they had any other option). It is merely to point out that British MPs accuse Israel of unrestrained and indiscriminate brutality only because they are utterly ignorant of what the genuine article looks like, even when there are recent examples of it. Either that, or they’re lying.

Whichever it is, it comes as no surprise Russia refused to take them seriously over the Skripal affair. You don’t have to like anyone’s policies or behaviour very much to realise the world is rapidly dividing into politicians and nations that are serious, and those that are not. Russia and Israel are clearly on one side; MPs like Wes Streeting are very much on the other.

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The Twin Gambles of Saudi Arabia and Iran

Based on recent posts, some readers may get the impression that I am somewhat skeptical that Barack Obama deserves his Nobel Peace Prize, and I’d like to correct that. I think it was thoroughly deserved, for reasons implied in the following tweets:

Now to be fair this was a complete accident on Obama’s part, but by showing America’s enemies he was not to be feared while undermining its allies he somehow managed to get Saudi Arabia and Israel cooperating with one another on security and regional politics. Since then, Bahrain and the UAE have joined in. However you cut it, this is an impressive achievement even if it was wholly unintentional; for that alone he deserves his Nobel.

I suspect what’s happened is the civil war in Iraq that followed the disastrous toppling of Saddam Hussein, the rise of ISIS and the Syrian civil war, and the nastier elements of the Arab Spring (including the rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood) have shaken a lot of sensible Arabs into accepting some uncomfortable truths. Chief among them is the fact that it’s not Israel that is their greatest threat but the opposite side of the Sunni-Shia divide. For any Sunni, that makes Iran-sponsored Shia their gravest enemy.

For years it was Saudi Arabia, via its sponsorship of Wahhabist madrassas throughout the Muslim and non-Muslim world which was the main driver of radical Islamic terrorism, and many people quite reasonably asked why the US didn’t bomb Riyadh in the aftermath of 9/11 instead of Baghdad. The simple and honest answer was that the production from the Saudi oilfields was so essential to the functioning of the entire world (not just the US) that under no circumstances could it be interrupted. The second answer was that, backward and autocratic the ruling family was, the alternative was likely to be very much worse. Authoritarian strongmen always use the excuse of keeping the headcases from taking over to justify spending decades in power, but in the case of the Saudi ruling family it was probably true. A lot of Saudis supported the Taliban, thinking their way of governing was how things should be, and considered the house of Al Saud too liberal. Osama bin Laden’s biggest gripe with the US was that it stationed troops on Saudi Arabia’s holy sands before and after the Gulf War. He fell out with the Saudi government when they turned down his generous offer of defending Saudi with an army of lunatic jihadists he’d recruited in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, preferring instead to use the American army.

It is said that for a long time the Saudi rulers would whisper to western diplomats pushing for reforms words to the effect of: “We want to, but we can’t right now or we’ll have a revolution. We need to move slowly, and only when ready.” These words might have been self-serving much of the time, but they were surely based on truth. Any attempt to really crack down on the financiers of radical elements in Saudi would have likely instigated a coup, although this doesn’t excuse the government spending billions exporting Wahhabism around the world. I’m tempted to believe there was some sincerity in their words because the new guy in charge, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is pushing through rapid and sweeping reforms aimed at weening the country off oil dependency, liberalising the society, and sidelining conservatives who preferred things as they were. Mohammed bin Salman has judged – rightly or wrongly, we’ll find out soon enough – that the majority population is ready to move away from tightly controlled, theocratic, Wahhabist rule and towards something resembling Kuwait or Abu Dhabi: hardly a liberal paradise, but a giant step in the right direction nonetheless.

This contrasts greatly with Iran which was in some ways the polar opposite. Rather than having a government that wants to reform but cannot because the people are hotheaded lunatics, the Iranians have a sensible population ruled by an ultra-conservative theocratic government which keeps a boot on their necks. If the Saudi government would have fled the country at any point over the past 15 years, the country would probably have fallen to extremists. Had the Mullahs done the same thing in Iran, it would likely have shifted very much towards liberalism. Despite both being sponsors of terrorism around the world for decades, it is this difference between the two countries now that is crucial, and explains why Saudi is being feted and Iran a pariah.

Mohammed bin Salman has gambled that the Saudi population is ready for reforms; the Ayatollahs are gambling they can keep ignoring Iranians’ demands for them. I suspect this will determine the shape of the Middle East over the next generation, rather than the outcomes on proxy battlefields in Yemen, Syria, or elsewhere. Obama backed one horse, Trump has backed another. History will show who was right.

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Europe and Iran

Amid all the wailings over Trump binning Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, this part made me laugh the most:

Mr Khamenei told the crowd that Iranian officials “want to continue the nuclear deal” with Britain, France and Germany, but added: “I do not trust these countries either.”

He continued: “If you could get guarantees from them in such a way that they can be trusted, no problem then you can continue.

“If you cannot get such a strong guarantee from them, and I see it very unlikely that you can, we could not move and continue like this anymore.”

The Iranians are not stupid and know full well the Europeans’ sole interest in Iran is as a lucrative market for their leading businesses. When Macron says he hopes to “keep working” on the nuclear deal, what he means is he wants to somehow keep the place open for French companies to go in and make hay, having strangled them with regulations on their home turf. They’re not in the least bit interested in whether or not Iran develops nuclear weapons or spreads terrorism around the Middle East, but they pretended they were in order to get Obama to lift the sanctions. Now they’re pretending the US withdrawal from the deal doesn’t matter, which is dishonest in the extreme: this was always a US deal which other countries simply piggy-backed on for business reasons. The Iranians know this, and they also know that if the US imposes sanctions the Europeans will fold like a cheap suit as soon as the US Department of Justice or Treasury Department starts growling.

The Iranians probably have a grudging respect for Trump’s outspoken manner and stubbornness, even if they don’t like him. I suspect they hold Obama and the various grovelling European governments in utter contempt.

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Impotents Ignored

This comes as a follow-up to this post:

MPs have threatened to issue Mark Zuckerberg with a formal summons to appear in front of parliament when he next enters the UK, unless he voluntarily agrees to answer questions about the activities of his social network and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Damian Collins, the chair of the parliamentary committee that is investigating online disinformation, said he was unhappy with the information the company had provided and wanted to hear evidence from the Facebook chief executive before parliament went into recess on 24 May.

This would be the Damian Collins who was elected by 32,000 people in the constituency of Folkestone and Hythe. Commenter Ottokring had this to say about him:

D Collins is my local MP and is an utter c*nt.

Right.

“It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country,” Collins wrote in a public letter to Facebook. “We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but, if not, the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.”

What are they going to do, wait for him at Heathrow arrivals? Could they come across as any more impotent if they tried?

The digital, culture, media, and sport committee has repeatedly invited Zuckerberg to give evidence but Facebook has sent more junior executives to answer questions from MPs.

Which is what this is all about: MPs believe they are important enough that none other than the CEO should appear before them to answer questions.

Facebook declined to comment on the possibility of a formal summons. In theory, Zuckerberg could be found in contempt of parliament if he refuses one.

When Rupert Murdoch and his son James resisted appearing in front of a select committee in 2011, it was speculated that potential punishments could include “fines and imprisonment”.

In reality it is likely that, at worst, the punishment for ignoring such a summons would include an arcane process resulting in little more than a formal warning from the House of Commons.

At which point Zuckerberg starts sharing MPs’ Facebook Messenger histories.

MPs have debated making it a criminal offence for potential witnesses to ignore formal summons to select committees, following attempts by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley to avoid answering questions.

I expect this debate ended rapidly when someone asked: “Can Iraqi MPs summon Tony Blair?”

“It’s a hard job for parliament to make a foreign national come,” said White. “What’s the Serjeant at Arms going to do? Patrol all the ports and airports to see if he’s coming in?”

Precisely. This is empty posturing, but that’s what the government does best these days, isn’t it?

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