Words from on high

I see this sentiment expressed a lot by establishment types:

The latest salvo by former FBI Director James Comey in his feud with President Donald Trump included the charge that the president was morally unfit and may have obstructed justice.

When asked if he considered Mr Trump fit to lead, the former FBI director said he did not believe claims about Mr Trump’s mental health, but did see him as “morally unfit” to be president.

Perhaps Trump is morally unfit to hold the office of president, but I thought that’s why they have an election in which everyone can pass judgement on such matters. What Comey means is that he and other like-minded people think he is morally unfit, and thus shouldn’t be president.

There are clear rules regarding eligibility to run for elected office – age, nationality at time of birth, criminal convictions, etc. – which are objective and easily verified (or at least, one would have thought so) – but everything else quite rightly is left for the voters to decide. Otherwise it’s not really an election, is it? The claim that Trump is “morally unfit” for office is the flip side of bleating that Hillary was the “most qualified” candidate ever. Despite being demonstrably untrue, who cares? She’s running for elected office, not an appointed position. If qualifications matter – and nobody mentioned them before the 2016 presidential campaign, and certainly not when a “community organiser” was running – then why have elections at all? Why not just appoint the person who ticks the most boxes?

And that’s what Comey’s remarks come down to: they don’t like how the plebs voted, and think only they – being clever people – should get to decide who’s in charge. Fortunately, most people who saw Comey’s interview realise this.

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Teaching the wrong things

This isn’t surprising:

For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force.

There’s a reason for this, but I think part of it might have been missed:

“As we get farther away from the actual events, 70-plus years now, it becomes less forefront of what people are talking about or thinking about or discussing or learning,” said Matthew Bronfman, a board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study. “If we wait another generation before you start trying to take remedial action, I think we’re really going to be behind the eight ball.”

Bronfman is right that 70 years ago is a long time: I was born in 1977 and WWII ended a mere 32 years previously, but I’m no more connected to that event than a millennial is. Where he’s going wrong is thinking “remedial action” is required, which will no doubt consist of reminding everyone what Auschwitz was along with harrowing pictures and dark warnings of a rise in antisemitism. But it’s not Auschwitz or the Holocaust that needs to be remembered so much as what brought them about. Alas, it’s not difficult to see why those lessons have been forgotten. For example:

And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force.

Well, yes. When people are told incessantly that democratically elected governments are by definition virtuous, it might be hard to imagine someone like Hitler could come to power peacefully. Rather than warning of the dangers of an overly powerful head of state, we have elected presidents ruling by Executive Order, deliberately bypassing Congress as his supporters cheer and the media explains it’s best for the country. Instead of a Supreme Court ruling on the law as it stands, we have them making overtly political decisions which the people in power say is what the people want. As the federal government gets its tentacles into every nook and cranny of public life and branches of the state security apparatus attempt to thwart the election and then the presidency of Donald Trump, few seem interested in pointing out that the Holocaust was first and foremost an abuse of state power which cared little for due process or individual rights.

At the site of the Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs, the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation has been developing an interactive memorial plaza, scheduled to open in October. Visitors will use a new app that will, among other things, feature survivors’ recorded testimonies.

In one part of the plaza, train tracks that carried prisoners to the Treblinka death camp will be embedded in the pavement. When visitors step onto the tracks, the app, using geocaching technology, will pull up videos of Philadelphia residents “who were on those very trains that led to Treblinka,” said Eszter Kutas, the remembrance foundation’s acting director.

I’m sure this is very interesting from a historical perspective, but wasn’t the whole point of “never forget” to ensure the Holocaust was never repeated? I’m a lot less concerned that the population is slowly forgetting a terrible event which occurred over half a century before they were born than their being unaware of the importance of things like limited government, freedom of speech, and individual rights in preventing another.

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Too Much To Lose

In the comments of this post, MC makes a good point:

I read something about California recently in which the author described how the state will fine people like him thousands of dollars for a wrongly-laid drain, while ignoring the illegal plumbing of illegal immigrants.

This is related to the Hither Green Chavshrine™ and a comment made by The Manc:

It could cause a flash point, but it won’t, because decent law-abiding people have too much to lose to bother getting caught up in something like this.

I’m starting to believe that western societies, once they reach a certain level of wealth and comfort, will start to implode. One of the ways this will happen is the middle classes – who provide the the ruling classes with legitimacy – will have too much to lose to even raise their head in opposition to obvious abuses of state power. Now the masses having a lot to lose is generally a good thing: it stops them taking to the hills and enduring immense hardships while fighting pointless civil wars, for example. But as with most things, there appears to be an inflection point where the population goes from being generally satisfied to being utterly cowed. The state authorities, which by their nature look for soft targets, find it all too easy to threaten the comfortable existence of the middle classes with ruinous fines, reputational damage, and other punishments which overnight could upend their entire lives. By contrast, those who don’t have as much to lose, e.g. illegal immigrants in California or travellers in Hither Green, take a lot more effort for the ruling classes to keep in line.

You see a similar thing happening in large corporations, which interestingly Tommy Robinson mentioned in his recent podcast with James Delingpole. Robinson said the reason there is so little pushback from the masses against the ruling classes over scandals such as the Rotherham and Telford abuses or terrorism is because they enjoy extremely comfortable lives paid for by taking on colossal quantities of debt. This in turn means they are desperate to hold onto their jobs, terrified they may lose it along with their living standards. It’s not that people won’t find another job, but more they won’t find one which pays the same money: the tendency is for people’s lifestyles to expand to match their wages, meaning taking a lower paid job is not an option unless they wish to downgrade their lifestyle. If ever you’ve watched one of those programmes on TV where an expert takes a person faced with bankruptcy and tries to get them back into the black, this is an exceptionally difficult thing to do. But the expenditure which cripples most people is housing; years of government manipulation has forced the middle classes to extend themselves well beyond what is sensible, and people will put up with anything to avoid losing the only job which pays for their home. Managers in companies know this only too well, mainly because they are in a similar situation themselves, and use this leverage in the form of veiled and not-so-veiled threats to obtain compliance from their subordinates. If this goes on long enough, normal management practices are abandoned entirely and this leverage becomes the standard tool. The result is an ubiquity of moral cowardice in the workplace.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the aims of the ruling classes and corporations were separate, but the line between the two is becoming increasingly blurred. Governments have realised they can police people’s behaviour and political opinions by outsourcing it to employers. Whether by accident or design, companies were forced to employ sprawling HR departments to remain compliant with the growing thicket of government regulations, but now serve to ensure anyone who expresses unapproved opinions gets booted from their job. As I’ve written before, what makes the situation worse is you have people on the right queuing up to defend this practice.

In summary, you have the vast majority of the population paying off mountainous debts on their homes, terrified of losing their jobs; you have managers and HR departments using this leverage as a matter of course; and you have those same managers and HR departments increasingly doing the bidding of politicians. If there is a better way of keeping a population cowed short of Gulags and mass murder, I’d be interested to hear of it.

So it’s not surprising the law-abiding in California or Hither Green are being shoved around by the authorities while illegals and travellers are free to do as they please. The shoving around is a feature of the system, not a bug. The other part of The Manc’s comment completes the picture:

The only angry young men we have couldn’t give a shit about this type of thing. It’s not the type of flashpoint that created the 2011 riots.

The only people prepared to take on the authorities are those who have little or nothing to lose by the criteria set by the ruling classes. Until that criteria changes, ordinary people are going to keep finding themselves on the wrong side; until they start voting differently, the criteria won’t change.

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Flash Point

This is the kind of thing that sparks major unrests, riots, and even revolutions:

Flowers left near the site where a burglar was stabbed to death have been branded an “insult”.

Floral tributes and balloons for Henry Vincent, 37, have been repeatedly attached and then removed from a fence opposite a home in Hither Green, south-east London, where he was killed.

Basically, a career burglar who the authorities refer to as a “traveller”, which is the PC term for a gypsy, died after being stabbed in the chest by the pensioner whose house he was burgling at the time. The overwhelming majority of Brits (and any Americans who read the story) thought this was the best outcome that could possibly have occurred, with sympathy levels at zero (although naturally The Guardian had to publish a column saying it was a crying shame).

Many British people believe burglars go about their crimes with impunity, the police aren’t interested, and if they do get caught they’re either given paltry sentences or none at all and are back robbing and thieving within days. Among other things, this pushes up insurance premiums and some have to pay for expensive home security systems. So when they hear a burglar has been killed, a lot of people are happy about it: they see that justice has been done where the justice system has failed. I have to say, that’s pretty much how I feel too. I’ve been burgled and it’s not nice; at the time, I was in a mental state whereby had I the opportunity and a guarantee I could get away with it, I’d have set the perpetrator on fire and slept well that night.

People were therefore outraged when the pensioner who stabbed the burglar was arrested. Gone are the days when the police used to bring people down the station and take a statement, the modern British police run around arresting people for pretty much anything. This suits them as it means they can take DNA samples and fingerprints, adding to the database they’re so desperate to complete, and with the process being the punishment they can use an arrest to inconvenience those who upset them. And nothing upsets the British police more than someone who didn’t meekly stand by while being a victim of a crime, much less someone who sinks a knife into the chest of a burglar. They think they enjoy a monopoly of force and intend to keep it that way. Thankfully, the public outcry over his arrest led I to his being released; had that not occurred, I’m sure he’d have been charged with at least manslaughter, possibly murder.

What then happened was the burglar’s family and friends – also gypsies – went to the address where he died and covered the fence on the property opposite with flowers, turning it into a sort of shrine. This was almost certainly done to intimidate the pensioner, who hasn’t been able to return home, fearful there may be retaliations:

Many residents in Hither Green have interpreted the large tribute to Mr Vincent as an aggressive act.

One neighbour said they saw a car circling the block while the tribute was being erected, which they believe was an attempt to intimidate locals.

If intimidation was the aim, it appears to have worked. Most neighbours are reluctant to talk publicly for fear of being drawn into a dispute that may not be over.

It is well known in Britain that gypsies are violent, consider themselves above the law, and the police are too afraid to tackle them. Frankly, many British people are fed up with travellers, their behaviour, and what they are perceived to get away with and there was a lot of anger over this flower business. Hence this:

The bouquets have been repeatedly taken down by a man who called it an “insult” to Mr Osborn-Brooks.

A man indentifying himself as Cecil Coley said he first removed the flowers overnight on Monday after becoming “infuriated” by the tributes.

He said: “It was a residential area they were placing flowers on. It was inappropriate, and the guy deserves no tribute.”

If the police had any sense, they’d be all over this before it gets out of hand. They’d have told the burglar’s relatives to fuck off back to their caravan site and if any of them are seen within half a mile of the address, they’ll be thrown in jail. Then they’d have chucked the flowers in the nearest skip. Instead they did nothing, so a member of the public has taken matters into his own hands, infuriated with the situation. You can be sure millions of Brits share his frustration and are applauding his actions.

There is a good chance the gypsies will attempt to resurrect the shrine and then hang around to defend it, which might well tempt a group of vigilantes to get together in large numbers and beat the hell out of them. I suspect then the police will go in mob-handed, but that all depends on who else joins in. I’ve written before about what happens in developing countries when the police let criminals operate with impunity, and show no signs of being on the side of the public. Eventually the mob deals with the criminals, and then deals with the police when they turn up to tackle the mob. There is every chance we could see the same thing here, unless the police get a grip.

Mass protests, riots, and revolutions, often start with something minor, a seemingly insignificant event that the authorities initially overlooked but symbolised deep grievances within the population who decided this was the event which would galvanise them into action. The Arab Spring was started by the Egyptian government removing flour subsidies. The Syrian Civil War grew from protests over the detention and torture of a bunch of teenagers in a provincial town. One of the few protests which genuinely worried the Russian government was after a man was prosecuted for the death of some high-ranking official who had recklessly driven into him; millions of people felt the injustice and were angered at the manner in which the ruling classes flout the law. I’m confident the next time Russia’s government is overthrown, it will start with something mundane.

It’s the job of a responsible government to not let these grievances fester, and to identify potential flashpoints and intervene to snuff them out before they turn into something serious. As with most things, Theresa May’s government and what passes for a police service are failing in their duty miserably, leaving the British public feeling increasingly ignored, insulted, and bullied while certain protected groups are free to do as they please. If they don’t get a handle on this situation developing in Hither Green quickly, the burglar might not be its only casualty.

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Victim of entitlement or diversity?

This is an interesting story:

A SYDNEY barber says he’s distraught and unable to sleep after a woman took legal action against him for not cutting her daughter’s hair.

Sam Rahim, who runs a barber shop in Hunters Hill Village in Sydney, said he was devastated when he was taken to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission after refusing the woman’s request on the grounds of being unqualified.

Just before Christmas, a woman came into his shop and asked him to cut her daughter’s hair, according to Nine News.

When he tried to direct her to a salon up the road, she stormed out in anger.

“The reason we rejected it is because it is a barber shop,” he told Today this morning. “I only specialise in cutting men’s hair. I’m not qualified to cut females’ hair. That’s pretty much it. I’m surrounded by hairdressers.”

He said when women come into the shop he just points them to the nearest hairdressing salon. “They are literally a 20-second walk away.”

The woman took her complaint to the Human Rights Commission, claiming he breached anti-discrimination laws and embarrassed her daughter.

So did this woman not realise that a barber is not the same as a hairdresser, and cutting men’s hair is a lot different from cutting women’s? Is this an example of modern entitlement culture? Or is there something else going on?

In a statement to the Nine Network, the complainant claimed Mr Rahim never said he was unqualified to cut women’s hair.

“A claim has been brought against Hunters Hill Barber Shop in the Federal Circuit Court for an alleged breach of the Sex Discrimination Act. The basis of the claim is that the barber shop refused to simply run the clippers through my daughter’s undercut, because she was a girl.

“I indicated to him that I did not need him to style, cut or trim the rest of her hair, which is styled in a ‘bob’.

“Mr Rahim’s explanation was that he wished to keep his barber shop for boys and men only. He never said he was not qualified to cut women’s or girls’ hair, as he has incorrectly reported to the media.

Hmmm. Could this be a diversity issue of the type that now has lowly bollard suppliers thumbing through Sunseeker yacht catalogues?

Over-entitled, permanently aggrieved suburban mother versus member of a protected class. Good luck disentangling that one, Australia!

(What the barber should have done is put the No. 1 head on the clipper and given the little brat a French Foreign Legion cut. Viz had a gag along these lines with One Cut Wally.)

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The Defenestration of Kevin Williamson

There’s a big fuss going on in the US right now over the decision of those running The Atlantic to fire the writer Kevin Williamson, who was only recently hired. This came after several days of liberals calling en masse for his sacking because in a recent podcast he had said he thought abortion should be illegal, and women who have them be treated the same as anyone else who commits homicide. He then went further and said they ought to be hanged.

Note that he didn’t say all women who have had an abortion should be hanged. He was simply arguing that abortion should be made illegal, and when it is illegal, women who have abortions should be charged with homicide. As a conservative position this is rather unremarkable, but these days expressing views which Obama held in his first term makes you a Nazi in liberal circles. His remarks about hanging women who breach any future laws on abortion were clumsy in hindsight, but he was speaking on a podcast not writing policy.

Anyway, liberals smelled blood in the water and screamed blue murder, and The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg fired Williamson:

The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of how his especially violent belief conflicts with the “values of our workplace.”

What he means is that employees at The Atlantic didn’t want to work with someone who held Williamson’s views, just as Google employees demanded management fire James Damore when they learned he held different opinions to them. Naturally, demented liberal feminists stepped forward to exaggerate, misrepresent, lie, and try to convince people they would actually feel unsafe around Williamson:

Such is the level of political debate in the US these days.

I don’t have an awful lot of sympathy for Williamson, however. People call him a conservative but I think at this stage it’s fair to ask any influential American who’s worn that label for more than 10 years what exactly they have conserved. From what I can tell, they’ve ceded so much ground to liberals they might as well stop pretending they’re anything else. Most Republican politicians would much rather be Democrats, and much the same could be said about the likes of Williamson: it goes without saying he was a “never Trumper” and would rather see Democrats running government than a Republican he doesn’t like. They made a decent living from saying stuff that was a little to the right of liberals, but never so far they’d upset them and be excluded from polite company in whichever metropolitan coastal city they reside. Ben Shapiro’s another one who’s done well at this, dismantling lunatic lefty arguments but making damned sure he doesn’t stray too far off the reservation and get tossed off any list of invitations. Consider the serious, right-wing concerns that any ordinary American conservative might have and see how many people outside the Alt-Right are actually speaking bluntly about them, and not just skirting around the issue with so many caveats and contradictions they might as well not have kept quiet.

The problem Williamson has, and this will catch people like Shapiro too, is the Overton window is narrowing at such an alarming rate that even opposing abortion can now get you hounded from your job by a baying mob of lunatic women and castrated men making ludicrous claims they’re being threatened with violence. Jeffrey Goldberg obviously has no balls, or is an idiot, or perhaps both, but if you build an entire career – as Williamson did – which is dependent on people like that, and consists mainly of keeping a close eye on not offending lunatics who despise you, then I can’t say I have much sympathy. Perhaps if he spent less time bashing Trump supporters he’d have seen this coming?

The real concern here is that a baying mob of lefty lunatics are expanding the scope of who they can hound from a job. It started in academia, now it’s moved onto journalism. It’s already creeping into tech. How long before this becomes commonplace, with anyone who expresses perfectly reasonable political views suddenly finding themselves fired from their jobs, and perhaps blacklisted from their industry? A lot of people are defending Goldberg and The Atlantic on the grounds that a private company should be able to hire and fire anyone they like, but we’re on dangerous territory. What are these blacklisted people supposed to do for a living, then? Others defend the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube closing accounts of those with unapproved opinions, many of which are quite benign but fall foul of the self-appointed moral guardians of the left. Sure they’re private companies, but so are banks, insurers and electricity providers. How long before the wrong comment online causes a howling mob to descend on your health, travel, or car insurer, who suddenly pulls coverage? Or you find your credit card frozen? What options do wrong-thinkers have, short of starting their own company providing every kind of service they could ever want? And how long before everyone reading this blog is a wrong-thinker?

Something’s gone badly wrong, and liberal rent-a-mobs have found a way to seriously screw with the lives of those with different opinions while the government sits back and says “nothing to do with us”. Even if those mobs turn violent, as we see every time a “controversial” speaker is invited anywhere, we get the same line. We also get a lot of conservatives and libertarians defending the right of employers and service providers to fire someone or close their accounts when lunatics like Antonova bombard their email inboxes and Twitter feeds with unhinged rants like the one above, which makes me wonder if the right has grasped the gravity of the situation and where it could lead.

I don’t know what the solution is, and government intervention will only make things worse, but they could at least get out of the way. Having tens of millions of people in protected, unionised government jobs or working in taxpayer-funded organisations who are able to mobilise and demand CEOs of private companies clobber their political opponents is something which probably ought to be addressed. Otherwise I don’t really know, but I can see there is a problem and I’m confident in saying it won’t end well.

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Friendships and Politics

The ZMan makes an interesting observation related to socialising and politics:

In my youth, it was possible to have cordial and even friendly relations with people in the Progressive cult. I spent many hours debating my lefty friends over drinks, about the defects of various central planning schemes.

Often, one side or the other would get mad, but it was rarely personal. People get hot in political debates, mostly because we are social animals. Conflict with people inside our group vexes us. It makes us uncomfortable. That was the thing. Liberals and non-liberals could operate in the same peer group.

That changed instantly with the 2000 election. All of my lefty friends and acquaintances went insane overnight.  They hated Bush with the intensity of a fanatic. The wars made it impossible to have a discussion with the Left, outside of things like the weather. Granted, many of us were naive about the lunacy of the neocons and what they were planning, but the Left’s opposition was never more than shrieking madness.

Something I have noticed is how many people these days subject their friends and even family to political tests, and this is true for both the left and right. Part of the reason why politics is so divisive now is because people use it as the basis for pretty much everything, including who to be friends with. We’ve somehow managed to stumble into a sort of totalitarian society whereby absolutely everything is political and the political comes before everything else.

When I was in Australia I met a chap through a friend who was an avowed communist. I became friends with him on Facebook and every now and then he posts something related to some glorious revolution or other. But here’s the thing: he’s a decent guy, and good father, and does a good job or raising his family. He is sociable, responsible, and likes making things out of wood and going camping. He’s the sort of guy you’d want as a neighbour. If I were to disown him because of his political opinions, it would make me a bit of an arse, frankly. Yes, I know that, taken to the extreme, his political preferences would result in mass murder and Gulags but that’s not happening right now and it’s not likely to. He doesn’t see his views as leading to that any more than a capitalist believes his views will inevitably result in slavery. We’re not in any danger of reaching either extreme, so why pretend we are? For the sake of good social relations, it’s better to just ignore his political opinions and get along with the guy.

I have another friend here in Paris who is decidedly left wing and we bicker over politics quite often. I even tease him by calling him a communist. But again, he’s a splendid father, runs a fine household, and isn’t calling for anything which could remotely be considered extreme. And politics aside, we have a lot in common. I think he’s mistaken in some areas, in others he has a point, but what it mainly comes down to is a difference of opinion. Just as two people watching the same film will reach different conclusions as to its merit, two people looking at a social or political problem will differ on how it should best be solved. There’s no point in taking it any further than gentle bickering or the occasional robust exchange, because it’s simply not worth it. I’d rather judge the guy by his character – how he treats me, his family, and his general behaviour – than his politics. If he were out on the streets campaigning for a policy which would seriously harm me or anyone else, or was in a position of power where he could enact such a policy, then it might be different. But while he’s just a regular guy shooting the shit, it really doesn’t matter.

I’ve found it helps to try to find common ground, such as agreeing on the problem and differing only on the solution. If you really don’t agree with what someone is saying, often gentle mockery works better than argument or evangelism. But somehow western society has got to the point where people can’t stand to be around those with a different political outlook, and it’s pathetic. Politics shouldn’t be that important when choosing friends, whereas character should. And tempting though it is to say one defines the other, it’s simply not true. Dingbat lefties can make good friends and free-market libertarians can be absolute dicks. It comes down to the individual, not their political tribe. It’s time people remembered that.

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Death Threats in a Land of Suppressed Speech

This is interesting:

Count Dankula is the chap who has been prosecuted in Scotland for teaching his dog to effect a Nazi salute, as I wrote about here. Now I suspect the “death threats” were nothing of the sort (similar to Cathy Newman’s complaints about receiving “death threats” after her car-crash of an interview with Jordan Peterson), or were not credible. But nowadays someone tweeting “get in the sea, you idiot” will have Plod on television speaking sternly about “death threats” provided the recipient belongs to a protected class and the sender is just some oik. There was a time when the police used to be able to differentiate between credible death threats and some idiot mouthing off, but nowadays you’d be impressed if they could tell a nerve agent from a travel agent.

Now I don’t know why Dankula is raging so much about this – maybe he thinks he’s done enough martyrdom and it’ll help with his sentencing if he’s seen denouncing it? – but he needs to realise it’s out of his hands. If this death threat is real, it won’t be sent out of concern over the fate of Mark Meechan, but of free speech and what its curtailment could mean for life in Britain. It might come as a surprise to Britain’s ruling classes, perhaps even Meechan himself, but there might be people out there willing to fight and possibly die to ensure citizens are not sent to jail for telling jokes.

This is a serious matter, and if the judge didn’t carefully consider the full potential implications of his ruling then he’s remarkably stupid. Those responsible for Meechan’s conviction are the government, police, and judiciary. Traditionally, if anyone were to disagree with how these organisations conduct themselves they could campaign to have them changed, but if they can jail people for saying the wrong things then this is no longer an option. So what are people left with? Well, they could hoist the flag and start slitting throats. But we’re not there yet, not quite anyway.

Like I said, I doubt this death threat is credible but the Sun’s headline ought to have sparked a conversation as to what form political protest will take in a society where someone can be jailed for teaching a dog to salute. It doesn’t seem as though anyone in power has thought about this, and it’s taken the judge quite by surprise. I’m sure he’ll be quite safe, but if Britain continues down this road of arresting and charging people for unapproved opinions, sooner or later the death threats will start becoming real, and later they will stop being mere threats. Nobody wants that, and the solution is for the government and the imbeciles that work for them to stop this madness now, before it’s too late.

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Zuckerberg says no? Good.

At some point when I was living in Nigeria they had one of their frequent “petrol crises” where for some reason there is a shortage of petrol in the filling stations. These are usually caused by strikes, sabotage, or plain old incompetence (see the third item in this post, for example). This particular crisis got bad enough that the government started getting concerned and commissioned some functionary to look into it. Rather than tackling the root causes, which would have been absolutely impossible, the functionaries started hauling in the foreign directors of western oil companies and subjecting them to lengthy harangues which were televised. I caught a few minutes of a European I knew being asked the most stupid of questions by a Nigerian lawmaker who looked about fifteen years old. It was an exercise in grandstanding on the part of the Nigerians and humiliation on the part of the directors. Of course, it didn’t help the petrol crisis one whit, but it was good politics. Many Africans like seeing one of their own ritually humiliate a white man, even if they’ll be substantially poorer the next day as a result. See Zimbabwe, or where South Africa is heading, for example.

I was reminded of this exercise in political posturing a few years later when the Labour MP Margaret Hodge headed up the kangaroo court known as the Public Accounts Committee. This awful woman would drag hapless executives before her and denounce the tax avoidance measures their companies had employed, even though they had broken no laws and were in most cases acting well within the spirit of the law. Her ignorance of the subject she was presiding over was on full display, and she was also a staggering hypocrite: the family firm Stemcor, from which she draws her fortune, uses much the same tax avoidance measures as those she was denouncing. The whole thing was a circus designed to whip up anger from the left against “big business” while covering up the many failings of British politicians, primarily getting spending under control. I was not only disappointed that Britain should have fallen so far as to adopt the practice of political bullying I saw in Nigeria, but also that none of the executives had the balls to stand up, denounce the whole thing as a show-trial, and call out Hodge on her hypocrisy.

This is why I was happy to read this story a couple of days ago:

Mark Zuckerberg has come under intense criticism from the UK parliamentary committee investigating fake news after the head of Facebook refused an invitation to testify in front of MPs for a third time.

Was he obliged by law to do so? No, he wasn’t.

Zuckerberg has been invited three times to speak to the committee, which is investigating the effects of fake news on UK democracy, but has always sent deputies to testify in his stead.

Which is sensible. If Facebook must answer specific technical questions to a committee of MPs, it may well be that the CEO is not the best person to attend. Note what’s being complained about here: it’s not that Facebook ignored the invitation, just that Zuckerberg didn’t come in person. In other words, this gaggle of MPs from a country which can’t even secure its borders (unless a “far right” Canadian shows up at Stansted) and prosecutes people for internet jokes thought they were so important that one of the world’s most prominent billionaires and an American citizen should drop everything and come to participate in what is likely to be a kangaroo court.

The chair, Damian Collins, said it had become more urgent the Facebook founder give evidence in person after oral evidence provided by the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie.

The MP said: “I think, given the extraordinary evidence we’ve heard so far today, it is absolutely astonishing that Mark Zuckerberg is not prepared to submit himself to questioning in front of a parliamentary or congressional hearing, given these are questions of fundamental importance and concern to his users, as well as to this inquiry.

Who the hell is Damian Collins? Has anyone ever heard of him? The most noteworthy thing on his Wikipedia article is this:

It was revealed Collins claimed £4,440.90 over three months in rent for a house in London, despite declaring that he already owned a home in the capital. In his defence, he claimed the property belonged to his wife and was “too small to provide accommodation for my young family, and even if that was not the case, as a new Member of Parliament I wouldn’t be able to claim any accommodation allowance against the mortgage on the property.”

So this small-time grifter who was elected by 32k people in the constituency of Folkestone and Hythe is astonished that Mark Zuckerberg, who presides over a multi-billion dollar international business enterprise providing a service with literally billions of users, won’t come in person to answer his questions? Do British MPs start out with this over-inflated idea of their own importance, or does it build up over time?

“I would certainly urge him to think again if he has any care for people that use his company’s services.”

So if an American CEO of a giant corporation doesn’t come and grovel before a parliamentary select committee, and instead sends (possibly more suitable) deputies, some obscure backbencher will issue veiled threats in a national paper? Let me tell you something, Mr Collins: given the choice of keeping Facebook or keeping you, 100% of British people would keep Facebook. Nobody would give one solitary fuck if you were cleaning the insides of wheelie-bins by this time tomorrow.

MPs are likely to take a still dimmer view of his decision after he ultimately agreed to testify before Congress in the US.

Note to British MPs sitting on a select committee: you are not the US Congress. I wonder, do other countries get to do this? Can an MP from rural Uzbekistan demand the CEO of Glaxosmithkline attend a grilling over public concern surrounding Sensodyne toothpaste? Probably not, no. So why do British MPs think they can order foreign CEOs to appear before them?

The company’s head of public policy, Rebecca Stimson, said in a letter to Collins: “Facebook fully recognises the level of public and parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position to answer your questions. As such, Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available.”

Both men, Stimson wrote, “report directly to Mr Zuckerberg and are among the longest-serving senior representatives in Facebook’s 15-year history. Both of them have extensive expertise in these issues and are well placed to answer the committee’s questions on these complex subjects.”

Exactly. Collins and his mob have absolutely no right either legal or moral to demand the appearance of Zuckerberg in person. This is pure vanity on his part, driven by delusional levels of self-importance. He should resign immediately, not just for making highly inappropriate comments which make Britain look like a banana republic, but for making me defend Mark Zuckerberg.

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Quelle Surprise

This amused:

“This is astonishing!” say people in the responses underneath. Sure, a French-Bulgarian academic studying liberal arts in Paris in the 1970s turning out to be a die-hard lefty working for the communists is just incredible, isn’t it?

Now I have no idea who this woman is and perhaps she did or said things which had everyone believing she was a loyal follower of Hayek, Adam Smith, and Ayn Rand but I doubt it. Shit, even today it’s a fair bet most academics on Paris’ left bank are hardcore lefties if not out-and-out communists mourning the day the Eastern Bloc collapsed.

What will be interesting is whether these revelations will see her hounded out of polite society. I highly doubt it. She’ll be given a sympathetic interview with softball questions and with a smile and an airy wave of the hand the entire thing will be dismissed as happening a long time ago and it was all a bit of a giggle anyway. I doubt this will dent her social and professional standing one jot, at least in the west. The Bulgarians might think a little differently however, especially those who lost family members at the hands of the Bulgarian communists.

Whatever the case, she ought to be grateful she only collaborated with the security services of a brutal communist regime since the age of 30, and wasn’t a teenager working a telephone exchange when the Nazis were in town.

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