Not a good week for Britain’s image

There’s actually not very much wrong with this per se:

A company director who fitted a laser jammer to his Range Rover and made rude gestures as he drove past police safety cameras has been jailed.

Timothy Hill, 67, threw the device in a river behind his home in Grassington when he found out that officers had launched an investigation.

Timothy Hill, 67, threw the device in a river behind his home in Grassington when he found out that officers had launched an investigation. But today he was jailed for eight months at Teesside Crown Court and banned from driving for a year for perverting the course of justice.

Now we might quibble over whether using a device to jam a speed camera constitutes perverting the course of justice and whether that deserves a custodial sentence, but what I’ve quoted above doesn’t seem too concerning. Ah, but this is Plod, and he just couldn’t keep his mouth shut:

Traffic Constable Andrew Forth, who led the investigation for North Yorkshire Police, said afterward: “If you want to attract our attention, repeatedly gesturing at police camera vans with your middle finger while you’re driving a distinctive car fitted with a laser jammer is an excellent way to do it.

“It’s also an excellent way to end up in prison. As Hill’s case shows, perverting the course of justice is a very serious charge which carries a custodial sentence.

I suspect the police are as incensed at the lack of deferential behaviour as the laser jammer, and in modern Britain that will do more than anything to bring the full weight of the law down on your head.

“It’s our job to keep road users safe across all 6,000 miles of North Yorkshire’s roads. Mobile safety camera vans are an important tool to do that – they are proven to reduce collisions and they help save lives.

“Drivers who fit laser jammers may mistakenly feel smug about ‘getting one over’ on the police. But we can tell if motorists are using these devices, and we will always endeavour to bring them to justice.”

Perhaps, but Timothy Hill isn’t the only one looking smug here. The public are getting increasingly fed up with Plod harrassing drivers and using speed traps as revenue generators, passing them off as safety measures. Condescending remarks like “it’s also an excellent way to end up in prison” only serve to illustrate the yawning chasm between the police and the public. Bad enough that Forth’s comments were, North Yorkshire police then decided to brag about it on Twitter:

The reaction to this has been absolute fury from Brits and, having crossed the Atlantic and gone viral, disbelief and mockery from Americans. Many people read the above tweet and noted the smug, condescending language from the police and, with good reason, believed this guy was jailed in part because he’d flipped off the police. Now you wouldn’t expect the tin-eared idiots who run the media accounts of British police forces to realise this, but perceptions matter. In the same week, this story did the rounds on the internet:

A teenage refugee who molested and tried to strangle a young woman as she waited for a lift home outside McDonald’s has been spared custody.

Eritrean Filmon Kbrom targeted the lone 25-year-old at 5am on July 18 last year after a night out in Maidstone.

Having urged her to follow him while grabbing at his crotch, the 18-year-old grabbed her by the wrists before trying to throttle her.

But a judge decided that there were exceptional circumstances which enabled him to avoid sending Kbrom to a young offenders’ institution.

He instead imposed a sentence of 19 months’ youth custody suspended for two years.

But Judge Philip Statman was unable to include a condition that he attends a ‘vigorous and intensive’ sex offender treatment programme, as is usually imposed in such cases, due to Kbrom’s basic knowledge of the English language.

Now perhaps the stories in the papers don’t adequately reflect the details in each case, but nevertheless you have millions of people seeing a policeman crowing about jailing a British citizen who flipped them the bird while an Eritrean asylum seeker is spared jail for sexual assault due to his poor English. Does anyone in this shambolic, idiotic government we have realise how bad this looks? Obviously not, because a few days before we had this story:

A teenager who posted rap lyrics which included racist language on Instagram has been found guilty of sending a grossly offensive message.

Chelsea Russell, 19, from Liverpool posted the lyric from Snap Dogg’s I’m Trippin’ to pay tribute to a boy who died in a road crash, a court heard.

Russell argued it was not offensive, but was handed a community order.

Prosecutors said her sentence was increased from a fine to a community order “as it was a hate crime”.

She was given an eight-week community order, placed on an eight-week curfew and told to pay costs of £500 and an £85 victim surcharge.

That’s right: a teenager has been successfully prosecuted for hate crimes for posting rap lyrics on a restricted Instagram account. So how did Plod come to hear of it?

She was charged after Merseyside Police were anonymously sent a screenshot of her update.

The screenshot was passed to hate crime unit PC Dominique Walker, who told the court the term was “grossly offensive” to her as a black woman and to the general community.

So a policewoman was sent an anonymous screenshot and decided to make it all about her. Those wondering where the crime is are not alone. Then on Monday we had this, (the background to which I wrote about here):

A man who filmed a pet dog giving Nazi salutes before putting the footage on YouTube has been fined £800.

Mark Meechan, 30, recorded his girlfriend’s pug, Buddha, responding to statements such as “Sieg Heil” by raising its paw.

The clip was viewed more than three million times on YouTube.

Meechan, of Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, was sentenced at Airdrie Sheriff Court after being found guilty of committing a hate crime last month.

He had denied any wrong-doing and insisted he made the video, which was posted in April 2016, to annoy his girlfriend.

But Sheriff Derek O’Carroll found him guilty of a charge under the Communications Act that he posted a video on social media and YouTube which was grossly offensive because it was “anti-Semitic and racist in nature” and was aggravated by religious prejudice.

I am sure Meechan will crowdfund the £800 within minutes, and whatever it costs him to appeal this ruling, but the point is that a man can be arrested and prosecuted for making a joke, albeit a very stupid and tasteless one, and posting it on the internet. Were it not for the massive publicity surrounding his case and the outrage his prosecution generated on both sides of the Atlantic, I am sure he’d have been given a custodial sentence.

This week, many Brits and Americans have referred to these stories and made the point I made myself here:

The thing that always enrages me about governments is they are doubly shit at performing vital state functions: murdering scumbags go free and innocent people get banged up; police harass citizens over trivial matters while serious crime remains a problem; jihadists are let into the country to carry out terrorist attacks but Canadian right-wing journalists are turned back at the airport and banned for life.

The police are happy to ignore gangs of rapists preying on underage girls and take pity on foreign refugees who sexually assault British women, but make a joke, post “offensive” lyrics, or stick a middle finger up to a speed camera and you’ll be prosecuted and fined or jailed. This might be overly simplistic, but it is a perception that has been created by the British government and, as I said before, perceptions matter. Why? Because of cases like this:

The parents of seriously ill toddler Alfie Evans will challenge a High Court ruling preventing them from taking him to Italy for further treatment.

The family’s lawyers told the BBC that a hearing has been scheduled at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon.

The 23-month-old’s life support was withdrawn on Monday after the court ruled Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital could end his care.

Tom Evans and Kate James want to move their son to a hospital in Rome.

On Tuesday a High Court judge ruled that the family could not take him abroad for further treatment, but that he may be allowed home.

Now I don’t know the details, but these sort of medical ethics cases are fiendishly difficult moral dilemmas, particularly those that require a decision over whether to switch off life support (I remember the Terri Schiavo case well). Regardless of the facts, it is perfectly reasonable for the public to ask why, if the child is condemned to die anyway, his parents cannot seek alternative treatment or better palliative care in Italy. The government’s response, although perhaps reasonable (I don’t know), is cloaked in an air of callous indifference, oblivious to the distress of the parents and ordinary human reaction to the case. Certainly, lining up policemen outside Alfie’s hospital room is appalling optics, but then this is what this post is all about. The Times, a mouthpiece of the ruling classes whose writers look down their noses at oiks who hold opinions on things they’re not clever enough to understand, tells us:

The heartrending case of Alfie Evans has been exploited by groups more anxious to advance a broad ‘pro-life’ agenda than to support a family in desperate circumstances.

By “support a family” they mean persuade them to accept whatever choices the state makes on their child’s behalf, and deal with the consequences. A “broad pro-life agenda” is hardly something beyond the pale in such a case, especially when the alternative, state-approved option is just to let the kid die in a government hospital under police protection. Americans in particular are absolutely apoplectic over this, and see it as a clear example of arrogant, government-employed doctors disliking their expertise being questioned, and supported by judges who believe the state has a greater claim over a little boy’s life than his parents.

Now the criticism in this case might be unfair, but the British government has nobody but themselves to blame for being seen to consist of incompetent, nasty, vindictive, petty, individuals who hold the ordinary citizen in utter, absolute contempt. Theresa May, who exhibited these precise characteristics while Home Secretary and continues to do so as Prime Minister, must shoulder much of the blame for this state of affairs. What a disgrace of a country Britain has become.

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Community Troublemakers

Via JuliaM, this story:

A former race relations advisor to the police has been charged with a racially aggravated offence.

Judah Adunbi, 64, was arrested at his Bristol home on 18 April and will appear in court next month.

Mr Adunbi was hit in the face with a Taser in January 2017.

Ah yes, I remember that incident and wrote about it here. So what’s this chap done this time?

Mr Adunbi of Easton, Bristol, was charged with a racially aggravated public order offence following an incident at a betting shop in Stapleton Road, Bristol, on 29 March.

Now this is pretty meaningless given how anything and everything is racist these days, but it’s interesting nonetheless:

Judah Adunbi is a founding member of an independent group set up to improve relations between the police and the Afro-Caribbean community.

Ah yes, I recall hooting with laughter at the time of the tasering about that. But there’s a serious point to make here.

One of the many, many things I detested about New Labour was their elevation of various “community groups” and “community spokesmen” as part of their overall embrace of identity politics. Seemingly every other day there was some self-appointed representative either attacking the government or demanding special privileges, almost always at the expense of the general public. Few seemed interested in who these people were or what mandate they had to represent those on whose behalf they claimed to speak, and on closer inspection most seemed to be professional troublemakers and political campaigners whose actual support was miniscule and whose interests were largely their own. Yet New Labour and their Conservative successors welcomed them with open arms and in many instances even enlisted their help with writing policy, and continue to do so. How many of the Grenfell Tower spokespeople actually lived in the tower and have a bona fide right to lobby on behalf of those affected? Did any of the papers do a profile on the man with the Egyptian name who organised the protest against the local council so we could see who he was and ascertain his connection with the tower? Of course not: we’re expected to simply accept the legitimacy of any loudmouth who steps forward and demands to be heard. What’s disgraceful is successive governments have fallen over themselves to appease these people, despite having no idea who they are.

That one of the government’s favoured “community representatives” is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons shows how cack-handed their attempts have been to connect with the population. It’s an absurd way to govern, and there are no signs it’s getting better.

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Incompetence Breeds Malevolence

There’s a good article over at Conservative Home about the Home Office catastrophe involving the descendants of the Empire Windrush. The thing that always enrages me about governments is they are doubly shit at performing vital state functions: murdering scumbags go free and innocent people get banged up; police harass citizens over trivial matters while serious crime remains a problem; jihadists are let into the country to carry out terrorist attacks but Canadian right-wing journalists are turned back at the airport and banned for life.

I  may have said this before, but the reason nobody minds draconian laws and policing in Singapore is because it works: the city is clean, safe, and orderly. What Britain (and a lot of other places) has managed is to have all the drawbacks of an overbearing state but none of the advantages. What appalls people so much about the latest case of people who’ve lived peacefully in the UK for decades being deported is not simply the injustice, which is bad enough. It’s that at the same time we cannot deport lunatic hate preachers from the Middle East with a hook in place of a right hand because it’s against their human rights. Oh, and we need to pay for his four wives and eighteen children, too. I exaggerate, but not by much. If the state is not going to do any good, they at least ought not to do harm.

This is the basis of the Conservative Home article which tries to find out whether the Home Office is actively malevolent or simply incompetent. Their conclusion:

The reality, sad to say, is that the output of the Home Office appears to be a disastrous mixture of both of these problems. A system that combines deliberate obstructiveness, apparently in a last-ditch attempt to massage numbers down by placing illegitimate barriers in the way of legitimate residents, with a blundering inability to administer its own systems and rules reasonable or efficiently, is the worst of both worlds.

The author describes his own experience in dealing with the Home Office on immigration matters (emphasis mine):

Was this incompetence? Undoubtedly; the Home Office’s officials should know its own laws and policies, and it should be able to securely hold basic data. I was dealing at times with supposed professionals who expressed fundamental misunderstandings of even basic aspects of UK immigration policy.

Was it deliberate obstruction? Again, yes; it would be easy and straightforward to cross-check the state’s own data on its own residents at the outset of such cases, but instead the system involves forcing applicants to jump through a lengthy series of hoops in order to extract from the state then resubmit to it the exact same information that it already holds. That is a choice.

This is depressingly similar to my own experience of dealing with a French prefecture.

As I get older and become increasingly exposed to the workings of government, commerce, and industry I find myself continually surprised by the levels of blithering incompetence I encounter. Although there are certainly some vindictive people out there, I generally find it is incompetence which induces the malevolence. This is what I wrote about here:

In my wanderings through the land I hear a lot of complaints about somebody’s unreasonable behaviour, normally from a person at their work. It can take the form of angry outbursts, inconsistency, micromanagement, pettiness and a host of others, but the complaints are always the same: why the hell is this person behaving like this? It’s making my life a misery!

Why indeed? I decided to start asking some questions each time I heard this, and most of the time the person in question was in a job they were wholly unsuited for. Their knowledge, experience, or – more often – their character, personality, and temperament was completely inadequate for the position they were in. That’s not to say they were stupid or useless, simply that they were in the wrong job.

I suspect a cursory run through the Home Office would reveal the vast majority of its staff, through experience, competence, or personality, are simply in the wrong job and hopelessly unable to execute their duties to a professional standard. Nothing can demonstrate this better than looking at who is in charge of it now, and who has been in charge in the recent past.

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Out of Touch

This is a revealing exchange:

That immigration has both positive and negative effects is undeniable, even if one takes the position that there is a clear net benefit. That some, many, or most immigrants are good is a reasonable position to take; to say all immigrants are good is just stupid. Check the jails if you want proof there are some real bad ‘uns among those who show up on the shores of any country. Bloom’s statement is therefore not in the slightest bit controversial, and his view on this subject is probably shared by the vast majority, particularly those who are fed up with immigration being spoken about as a black and white issue instead of a policy with obvious trade-offs.

But Kamm believes Bloom’s view is so extraordinary he feels it necessary to respond with an appeal to the wilder parts of his readers’ imaginations to get them to understand it. Now Kamm has over 23k followers and his tweets usually result in multiple likes, retweets, and comments. On most of his pet subjects his followers are positively sycophantic, ganging up on anyone who takes issue with Kamm’s premise, but this tweet managed a total of 3 likes, no comments, and no retweets. I suspect most of them read it, pulled their head back, and said “Huh?”

This tweet offers a useful insight into the minds of Oxbridge-educated, metropolitan establishment types (I believe Kamm typifies the mentality; he is far from alone). Not only do they believe all immigrants are unequivocally good, but they cannot imagine any normal person holding the view that some might be bad, and assume everyone else will see the supposed absurdity as well. We should remember this next time one of their number appears in print, on Twitter, or on TV pontificating about something. They don’t inhabit the same world as ordinary people, and it shows.

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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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The police are not on your side

A few days ago I said in respect of the Chavshrine™ (copyright holder: JuliaM):

If the police had any sense, they’d be all over this before it gets out of hand.

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.

Well, I needn’t have worried: within hours of posting, the authorities swung into action. So did they remove the tributes from the nearby property? Of course not! This being Plod, they came out in favour of the travellers, issuing this statement:

My officers have a responsibility to provide reassurance to local residents so they can go about their daily lives, while also respecting the wishes of family and friends to mark the loss of a loved one.

“They are not there to safeguard or facilitate the laying of floral tributes; we are liaising with the local authority who are considering appropriate management of the floral tributes.

“I do not want anyone to feel intimidated or that they are not being allowed to respond in a dignified way to a tragic death.

“We would urge members of the public to respect the wishes of those who choose to place flowers and other tributes in the area.

In case anyone is concerned this whole fiasco is an exercise in intimidation, don’t worry, Plod has that covered too:

People laying flowers in tribute to a suspected burglar who was fatally stabbed should not feel intimidated, a senior Met Police officer says.

Yes, clearly it’s the people laying the flowers who are feeling intimidated, not the pensioner who knows he can never return home and is now forced to sell his house. And don’t you love the BBC’s language here? “Suspected burglar”, eh? What was this career criminal doing in someone else’s house? Checking for damp?

With the authorities making it quite clear whose side they are on in this conflict, the travellers have decided tributes to their relative’s untimely demise are not enough; now they’re putting up balloons and flowers celebrating what would be his birthday:

Flowers and tributes for stabbed burglar Henry Vincent have been moved from the street where he died to a local community garden.

It comes after his family marked what would have been his 38th birthday on Sunday by leaving balloons and flowers at the scene in Hither Green, southeast London.

At the request of the police, they left their tributes approximately 100 metres away from the property where he was fatally stabbed by pensioner Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78.

How lovely for those in the actual community who perhaps wanted to use this garden for its intended purpose, which I presume isn’t to honour a dead burglar. A year ago I wrote this:

At the rate they’re going, the British police are going to be awfully surprised when one day in the near future they are called upon to restore law and order and find the population treating them very much as part of the problem.

Judging by the reaction on Twitter, both from the public and police, I’d say that was rather prescient.

I’ve said on many occasions that I don’t know whose side the British police are on, but I am confident it is not that of the general public. This incident only serves to cement that belief. I don’t think the police are on the side of the travellers per se, but this dead burglar situation has made unlikely allies of the travellers and the police in that both see ordinary, native Brits as their adversaries. The police are the enforcement arm of the ruling classes, and for now the interests of they and the travellers are aligned. Should the travellers start causing the ruling classes trouble – as opposed to heaping misery on the plebs – they’d be squashed like flies, but that rarely occurs.

There are some positives, though. I’ve said before the sooner the public understand the nature of the British police and abandon the romantic Dixon of Dock Green image, the better. This farce can only serve to accelerate that process.

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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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Story Changed

From the BBC:

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog is to meet in the Hague and discuss the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

The emergency session was called by Russia, who denies being behind the attack and wants the UK to share evidence.

But the UK government says the only “plausible explanation” is that Russia is to blame.

Yes, this is what the government said from the beginning. They took a sample, sent it off to Porton Down – an indisputable centre of excellence for chemical warfare – who identified the substance as Novichok, which could only have come from Russia. Yup, this is what I remember quite clearly. Oh, hang on:

On Tuesday the UK’s Porton Down laboratory said it could not verify the precise source of the nerve agent used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Ah.

The laboratory, which has previously identified the substance as a military-grade Novichok nerve agent, said it was likely to have been deployed by a “state actor” but said it was not their job to say where it was manufactured.

Right, this is beginning to piss me off. Now Porton Down’s position is perfectly reasonable and doesn’t mean anything in itself – their job was almost certainly to identify the substance not to speculate as to where this particular batch may have been manufactured. But this is not what the public was led to believe. Within a day or two of Porton Down getting involved their name was invoked by government ministers who heavily implied it was their experts who confirmed it almost certainly came from Russia. So where did they get this idea from?

The UK says further intelligence led to its belief that Russia was responsible.

Now this isn’t unreasonable in itself and the intelligence may be 100% accurate. But this is not what we were told. Why is this only coming out now, a month after the event and several weeks after Russia was issued with ultimatums and threats, plunging us neck-deep into a diplomatic row we’ve dragged around thirty other countries into?

To me, there is a big difference between:

Our experts at Porton Down have analysed the substance and concluded it is a nerve agent of the Novichok family, and could only have come from Russia.

and:

Our experts at Porton Down have analysed the substance and concluded it is a nerve agent of the Novichok family. Intelligence sources say it could only have come from Russia.

Whereas I don’t doubt the impartial expertise of the chaps at Porton Down, British intelligence hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory in recent years. What form does this intelligence take? How much was it subject to interpretation? How much political pressure was brought to bear on the analysis? The British government has implied the source of manufacture has been determined by scientific analysis rather than intelligence sources. In other words, they have mislead the public.

Here’s what I reckon’s happened:

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog is to meet in the Hague and discuss the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

The emergency session was called by Russia, who denies being behind the attack and wants the UK to share evidence.

As a member of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Russia has the right to request an emergency meeting of the body.

Among other things, it wants to know what kind of evidence the UK has provided to the OPCW, which inspectors visited the site of the attack in Salisbury, who they met and where the samples are being analysed.

The OPCW expects to receive the results of its own independent laboratory tests within a week.

Until now, everyone has been led to believe the Russian connection was made by Porton Down. The independent testing by the OPCW is likely to confirm the substance is Novichok, but will not be able to say where it was manufactured. At this point, the Russians will ask those at Porton Down “Then how did you know?” Anticipating this, Porton Down has distanced itself from making any Russian connection, forcing the government to come clean.

I have said right from the start that Theresa May’s government has handled this affair spectacularly badly. They’ve rushed to judgement for political reasons without getting their ducks in a row. Probably the best thing I can say at this point is that it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

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The tragedy in Kemerovo brings forth a much greater one

There is a story developing in the aftermath of the Kemerovo shopping mall fire which is getting uglier by the day. It concerns this man:

Last week Igor Vostrikov was a successful businessman, married with three young children. Today he says that he has “nothing more to lose” and will fight for justice to be served.
Vostrikov recalls that his wife, Elena, had been “beyond panic” by the time she reached him at around 4pm on Sunday. Elena, who had been in the cinema with Vostrikov’s sister and three of their children ‒ a seven-year-old girl and boys ages five and two ‒ knew that her husband was away in a nearby town, so she initially called her mother-in-law when smoke first began pouring into the movie theater.

But miles away, Vostrikov knew differently. Elena told him on the phone that she was “suffocating,” and he instructed her to get down on the ground and breathe through a wet cloth.

“Why aren’t they coming to save us?” his daughter asked. Recalling the moment when he stopped hearing the voices of his children in the background, he now thinks that they may have already been dead, even as Elena stayed on the line.

“Igor, we are burning here, I love you,” she said. He continued talking into the phone for several minutes, but there was no reply.

By the time Vostrikov arrived in Kemerovo, the death toll was rising. His wife, sister, and three children are among the 64 who have been officially declared dead.

For a man to suddenly lose his wife, sister, and three young children in this way is a level of tragedy I can barely imagine. News reporters quickly picked up on his anger and grief, and his name began to spread around the internet. Most people felt desperately sorry for him.

However, at some point in the past few years, Vostrikov had posted remarks on social media which were supportive of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria, and derogatory towards Ukraine. This enraged Ukrainians online who openly said they had no sympathy with someone who made such remarks, and losing his family in a fire was an act of karma. Now we’re getting stories like this:

I expect this already deeply unpleasant situation will now get even worse.

Among the rather disgusting remarks aimed at Vostrikov was one that had some merit, and that’s the regime which Russians praise for “recapturing” Crimea and putting those uppity Ukrainians in their place is the same one which presides over corruption and dysfunction such that deadly fires in shopping malls occur. It is unlikely you can have one without the other, they are two sides of the same coin. It’s a point I’ve made often in the past, that the characteristics of Putin’s regime that Russians cheer are the same characteristics which make their life harder on a daily basis. Very few see it that way, though.

But the main point of this post is to highlight what an absolute, utter, appalling tragedy this pointless conflict between Russia and Ukraine is. As I said before:

It is well known that civil wars are fought with more bitterness and brutality than those between different peoples, and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine looks to me far more like the former.

Without even trying I can name six people I knew in Sakhalin whose surname ended with the Ukrainian -enko. If I rummaged through my memory banks I could come up with another six. Ukraine and Russia were so intertwined in the Soviet era and before that people would move from one to the other interchangeably. The cultures were so similar that one could move to the other and nobody would know you were an outsider.  Nikita Khrushchev passed himself off as a Ukrainian for years, even though he was Russian. By contrast, Stalin and Beria remained stubbornly Georgian and Mikoyan Armenian. I would bet that if you were to ask a Russian whether they had a Ukrainian grandparent, relative, or a relative living in Ukraine most of them would say yes. Okay, maybe not most, but a lot. The cultural and physical border between the two was all but non-existent for years.

There is no easy dividing line between Ukrainians and Russians, and the origins of this conflict seem to concern how people want to be governed in future rather than by whom, and had little to do with ethnicity, language, culture, national security, or any other excuse that’s been wheeled out by the hardliners on each side since.

A few years ago no Ukrainian would have dreamed of saying a Russian deserved to lose his family in a fire, and no Russian would have gloated on the internet about Russian military victories over Ukraine. The whole thing is so pointless, and the wounds will take decades to heal, assuming they ever do. This artificial driving of a wedge between two peoples reminds me of the way many Scots now see England, despite there being little meaningful cultural differences between the two peoples that an outsider could coherently describe. I’d like to say the relations between Scotland and England are not as poisonous as those of Ukraine and Russia, but I’m afraid I can’t. Ten minutes on Twitter will tell you there are people north of the border quite capable of telling an Englishman his family deserved to die in a fire because of his place of birth or political beliefs.

It’s tragic. How the hell did it come to this?

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Воскрешение

This morning I woke up to news that:

Yulia Skripal, the daughter of ex-spy Sergei Skripal, is improving rapidly and no longer in a critical condition, says the hospital treating her.

The BBC understands from separate sources that Ms Skripal is conscious and talking.

However Mr Skripal remains in a critical but stable condition, Salisbury District Hospital said.

Doctors said Ms Skripal, “has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day”.

Which comes as a bit of a surprise. A couple of weeks back we were told that this was a “weapons grade” nerve agent (as opposed to the sort you hand around at parties) and multiple times more deadly than sarin. Since then we’ve had the policeman who was exposed walking out of hospital, and now one of the principle victims is sitting up in bed, probably complaining about NHS food.

On Wednesday, police said the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at the former Russian spy’s home in Salisbury.

Forensic tests show the highest concentration was found on the front door.

From what I can tell, the nerve agent was smeared on the door handle of the Skripals’ home. As a way of exposing someone to it, this seems risky. What if it washed off in the rain? What if the target wore gloves? What if a visitor turned up, taking the bulk of the poison away with them, and you end up killing the wrong person? Now I don’t know anything about murdering people, let alone with nerve agents, but there’s no denying this job was botched. Neither of the intended victims is dead and one seems to be making a reasonable recovery.

The whole thing sounds rather amateurish to me, something you wouldn’t normally associate with FSB assassins. Now Russians do botch jobs: if you’d have hired a chap to fix the electrics in a flat in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 2007 chances are he’d have shown up with a carrier bag containing some ancient tools, two of which were lump hammers (the second one is his screwdriver), and a couple of weeks later you’d open up the junction box to find a fork in place of the fuse. But when it comes to knocking off political opponents at the behest of the president, Russians tend to get the job done properly. So it’s all a bit strange.

In addition, as I’ve already made pretty clear on this blog, I haven’t yet heard a plausible theory as to why Putin would order this hit and this method would be used. Various theories might work if it were one or the other, but the two combined leave us mainly with complex conspiracies which claim to know the inner workings of Putin’s mind and portray him as some kind of villain from a Batman film.

Now here’s what worries me. The BBC said the police are interested in speaking to Yulia Skripal once she’s well enough to answer their questions. Well yeah, I bet they are. But are they more interested in hearing what she has to say or making sure whatever she says fits the narrative the government assembled long before she woke up? You can be sure that whatever she says, the public will be told nothing that will make the government or police look bad.

I don’t believe governments and police departments engage in complex conspiracies from scratch, starting with a blank piece of paper. But I do believe they would burn whole neighbourhoods to the ground to cover up their own incompetence, or maintain a narrative once they’ve set the ball rolling in a particular direction. We are now in the middle of a full-blown diplomatic crisis with Russia into which we’ve roped several other countries, and it is still escalating. Now we find one of the two key persons is able to talk for the first time, perhaps shedding vital new light on what happened. Let’s face it, nobody has the slightest idea what she might say. Could we not have waited a little bit?

I know there are people out there who think any delay in issuing accusations, threats, and ultimatums would have “played into Russia’s hands”, but they seem awfully blasé about this whole thing. Contrast this with when MH-17 got shot down and Putin was visibly shaken, until he realised that what passes for EU leadership was not about to jeopardise business opportunities in Russia just for the sake of a couple of hundred dead passengers, and Obama might have to make a decision. Then they launched an absolute whirlwhind of disinformation, knowing full well they were culpable. This time they seem content with straight-faced denials and heavy sarcasm. They’re acting like they know full well they had nothing to do with it and at some point Britain and its allies are going to have egg all over their faces.

Of course I might be wrong, but I believe I’m justified in thinking the British government would stop at absolutely nothing to ensure this doesn’t happen, the truth be damned. I hope Yulia Skripal has a decent lawyer present when she talks to the police, one that is representing her interests and not the government’s. Who is representing the public’s interest in all this is anyone’s guess.

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