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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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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A hunt for a tall, handsome Welshman

This shouldn’t be difficult:

A mother who cannot remember the name of her daughter’s father is trying to track him down 15 years after their one night stand. Terri Reid says that all she knows is that he was tall, dark and handsome, and Welsh.

This narrows it down to, what? A dozen blokes? Half a dozen? Now if she’d said he was short, squat, and looked as though he’d played over a hundred first-grade matches at the front of the scrum then admittedly the options would number in the millions. But tall, dark, and handsome? You sure he wasn’t Italian?

They met in 2003 in a nightclub in Blackpool, but their union that night in a friend’s flat above a Chinese takeaway led to her giving birth to Channell who now wants to know who her dad is.

Like school on a Saturday.*

The morning after their rendezvous above the restaurant they went their separate ways.

Terri, 32, still lives in Blackpool but cannot remember the name of the nightclub they met in as it has since been knocked down.

I’m not sure that would help in any case. And this is a nice touch:

If you think you are Channell’s father, get in touch

adam.smith@metro.co.uk.

If a little optimistic. Any Welshman who was tall, dark, and handsome and having unprotected sex with strangers in 2003 has likely fathered an entire rugby team by now. My advice is to go and watch a few colts games, try to spot any player that looks like you or him, and see who’s cheering him the loudest from the sidelines.

(* No class)

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A Modern Fire Service

From The Guardian:

The fire service played “no meaningful role” in the aftermath of the ManchesterArena bombing because they arrived two hours late, a review of the response to the attack has found.

Although two fire crews were stationed close enough to the Arena to hear the explosion, they were sent to a rendezvous point three miles away amid fears that there was a marauding terror attack and they would not be safe, the review concluded.

When they eventually arrived at the Arena, more than two hours after Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb on Monday 22 May 2017, the visibly frustrated fire officers were not immediately allowed on to the concourse to help because of communication errors between “risk-averse” officers in charge.

Is anyone surprised by this? Managers obsessing over risk assessments and preventing the rank and file doing the job they signed up for is normal for Britain’s emergency services these days, is it not?

Dawn Docx, the interim chief fire officer of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said she apologised unreservedly for the failures in the previous leadership of the service at the time of last May’s outrage.

She’s interim because the person in charge at the time, one Peter O’Reilly who was on £155k per year, has now retired, keeping his pension with no action taken against him. Why not, I hear you ask?

Asked if any officers had been disciplined for their handling of events, Docx said: “We are very much a learning organisation. We are not seeking to go down a discipline route.”

Andy Burnham said no one individual should bear all the responsibility for failures and no one should be “scapegoated”.

How very modern. Time was, people atop organisations were paid vast sums of money precisely because they were accountable when something went wrong. Nowadays, nobody is responsible and nobody should be “scapegoated”. Yet the vast sums of money remain. Nice work for some, eh? Here’s a little about Docx, who appears to have been named by Microsoft:

Dawn joined GMFRS in 2017. She started her career in the fire and rescue service in her home county of Cumbria, where she specialised in finance, going on to become Head of Corporate Services. From there, she joined North Wales as an Assistant Chief Fire Officer in 2006 and was promoted to the role of ‘Dep’ in 2009.

Specialised in finance, eh? That’ll help when tackling blazes. So who else is on the leadership team of the Greater Manchester Fire Service:

Dave Keelan
Director of Emergency Response

Since 2008 Dave has worked as a Borough Manager in Manchester, as Head of Prevention and Head of Operational Training for the Service, and is currently leading a team investigating the tragic death of Firefighter Stephen Hunt at an operational incident on Oldham Street in Manchester in July 2013.

Okay, he at least sounds as though he knows one end of a hose from another.

Shelley Wright 
Director of Corporate Communications

Shelley holds the only board-level communications role in any Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. She took up her post in October 2010 and has delivered a vision to ensure that local people in Greater Manchester have more access to information about the work of GMFRS and, most importantly, to get safety messages into people’s homes and businesses, improving and protecting lives through awareness.

If no other fire service in the UK needs a board-level communications person, what makes Manchester so different? Who is she related to? Here’s the pic which accompanies her bio:

They’re not even trying, are they?

Gwynne Williams
Deputy Monitoring Officer

Gwynne undertook her training and qualified as a Solicitor in a private practice in 1989. In October 1990 she joined Wigan Council as an in-house solicitor and shortly after began working with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service specialising in the area of Fire Safety.

I’ve gone through the leadership of a number of organisations over the past year, and I notice there seems to be no requirement to have any knowledge or experience of the organisation’s core activities to earn a position.

Andrea Heffernan
Director of Corporate Support

Andrea is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and prior to joining GMFRS worked for KPMG as an Internal Auditor and for a Home Care Charity in Wakefield before joining GMFRS in 1997 as Business Accountant.  She has  worked in a number of roles within the Finance team until she was appointed as Head of Finance and Technical Services in June 2008. Andrea took up the role of Director of Corporate Support in December 2015.

I’m slightly surprised that a city’s fire brigade needs a director of corporate support. I ought to be surprised they’ve handed overseeing the provision of technical services to firemen to an accountant, but I’m not.

To their credit, Greater Manchester Fire service hasn’t filled its webpages with endless screeds on the importance of diversity, but a search brings up plenty of documents pandering to the idea. This “inclusivity strategy” document (.pdf) contains a particularly illuminating line (page 9):

Since 2003 we have fundamentally changed what we do and we are no longer a purely responsive service waiting for emergencies to occur.

This was written in 2012, and we can probably assume things have developed such that the word “purely” can be deleted from the above. It would explain why, when an emergency did occur, you didn’t know what to do. Still, lessons learned, eh? I’m sure Peter O’Reilly mulls them over every day, when he’s not figuring out how to spend his amassed earnings and generous pension.

(Thanks to reader Morteen for the heads-up on this.)

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The British police should be avoided at all costs

This is sort of a follow-up to my previous post. Over the past week, the good folk on Twitter have posted three things which ought to leave British citizens in no doubt as to the nature of the police forces which rule over them:

This state of affairs would not matter so much were real crimes not a problem in the UK. The trade-off in having oppressive laws in Singapore, and a police force willing to enforce them, is that violent crimes and crimes against property are extremely low. Now crime might be dropping overall in the UK (not that I trust the government figures), but knifings and acid attacks are a weekly occurrence in London, young girls are being groomed and raped en masse in various cities across the country, and every few months some lunatic Islamist pulls off an attack and we all light candles. Regardless of what the actual crime figures show, the perception among the public is that serious crimes are not being dealt with while the police, who are always moaning about a “lack of resources”, are engaged full-time in monitoring people’s speech and arresting anyone who utters unapproved opinions. A year ago I wrote:

[F]or policing to work a critical mass of ordinary, law-abiding people across both the middle classes and working classes must see them as being on their side against the criminals. Not necessarily on their side per se, just on their side against the criminals. It doesn’t really matter what the rich think, they can hire their own security and/or lobby government to have the police look after their interests as first priority. It is the masses that need to be kept on side.

If the police in Britain … want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches.

I already think we are well on the road to many British people considering the police part of the problem, merely another branch of the criminal classes to be avoided at all costs. I keep hearing that the “rank-and-file” don’t buy into this crap and it is foisted on them by politicians and upper management, but this doesn’t explain the almost gleeful manner in which ordinary policemen and women go about enforcing these Orwellian rules. There is plenty of room for a bobby on the beat to turn a blind eye or refuse to report actions which will obviously result in a gross miscarriage of justice and perhaps that happens, but I read about far too many instances like this:

A van driver was arrested by a group of police officers after challenging them because they were parked on a double yellow line. Andy Mayfield, 53, was held in custody for 12 hours and strip searched under anti-terror laws after he started filming the cops, who were parked illegally outside their own police station in Ashton-on-Ribble, Lancashire in January. He was detained under the Terrorism Act and submitted to a rigorous questioning at the Newton Heath terrorism centre in Manchester before eventually being released.

I think it’s high time British policemen were shunned from polite society, particularly those in the higher ranks, unless they have unequivocally demonstrated whose side they are on. The default approach to a policeman should be that afforded to a bouncer at a Manchester nightclub, someone to be avoided except when absolutely necessary and even then contact kept to an absolute minimum. The day policeman cannot arrest ordinary citizens on trumped-up terror charges and expect to interact with normal society afterwards is the day they will start to change. But while the middle-classes support this stuff and engage with policemen on supposedly equal terms, rather than demand those responsible are fired on the spot, things will only get worse.

I will not ever call for policemen to be lynched by a mob. I would not ever condone policemen being lynched by a mob. But I suspect there will come a point in future where, if I see a mob lynching policemen, I will walk on by having seen nothing. If the police don’t wise up soon and change course, there is even a chance I’ll stop and watch. I doubt I’ll be alone.

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If gates are left open, people will walk through them

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

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

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

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

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Putin’s Motivation

I’ve read a few places speculating as to what Putin’s motivation for trying to kill Skripal might be, and a common one is this (the whole thread is very good and worth a read, it’s just this bit I take issue with):

Ever since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested, tried, and jailed everyone in Russia got the message loud and clear that Putin’s hold on power was not to be challenged. When I lived in Russia 2006-10, it was an established fact that you didn’t mess with the FSB, and Putin ruled supreme. Since then, we’ve seen the assassination of Boris Nemtsov and the arrest and constant harassment of Alexei Navalny – both prominent critics of Putin and potential political challengers.

Putin is undoubtedly facing threats from within his circle and those just outside it, some of which he may not even know about. But anyone who fancies their chances will know beyond doubt that should they challenge his rule, they will be arrested and thrown in jail or killed. The idea that Putin had Skripal killed in order to send a message to Russians that opposing him is high risk is nonsensical: that message has been well understood by any Russian with a pulse since at least 2008, and it didn’t need reinforcing, and certainly not in a way which causes a diplomatic rift with Britain. If Putin did order this hit, it wasn’t for this reason.

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