Trump, Schroeder, and Germany

Back in December 2005 I mentioned this story:

Officials including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov presided over the ceremonial welding of the first section of pipe at Babayevo in Russia’s Vologda region, where the Baltic link will diverge from an existing trunk pipeline and head for the coast.

Gazprom has teamed up with Germany’s E.on and Wintershall, part of BASF, to build the pipeline and is looking for a potential fourth partner, although it will retain a controlling stake of 51% in the project.

The onshore section of the pipeline will run 917 kilometres to the port of Vyborg, close to Russia’s second city of St Petersburg. The 1200 kilometre subsea link will terminate at Greifswald in Germany.

This was the Nord Stream pipeline, which –  unlike several other proposed piplelines carrying Russian gas – actually got built and was commissioned in 2011. This pipeline was highly controversial, not least because of environmental objections but because it was seen by some former Soviet states – mainly Ukraine, but the Baltic states also raised concerns – as a means of isolating them politically from western Europe: if Ukraine could be bypassed for gas supplies, who cares what happens to it?

No sooner was the Nord Stream pipeline approved when the chap signing for the Germans, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, left office and became a director in the Nord Stream consortium. As I said at the time:

This stinks to high heaven. Unsurprisingly, the European press has raised barely a murmur over this. Can you imagine the noise that would be made if the US signed an historic deal to export Alaskan crude to China, and George W. Bush took the reigns of the pipeline consortium weeks after leaving office?

It is absolutely appalling that so little noise was made about Schroeder taking this job weeks after approving the project, but in the 13 years since I’ve realised these sort of ethics are par for the course in Germany, and nobody dares criticise. Remember: what’s good for Germany is good for the EU.

In late 2017, Gerhard Schroeder was elected chairman of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Shroeder also remains on the board of Nord Stream, which has been pushing heavily for a second pipeline bringing Russian gas to Germany. In among all the squawking about Putin’s interference in the US election, supposedly killing people with Novichok in Salisbury, annexing Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine, and his forces shooting down civilian airliners nobody seems to be asking quite what a former German chancellor is doing working for him. Instead, we’re all supposed to be concerned that Trump is Putin’s puppet despite no evidence for this and an awful lot to the contrary.

Gerhard Schroeder was obviously employed by the Russians to wield political influence in Europe – particularly Germany – and they seem to be getting their money’s worth. I could barely imagine the outrage if Tony Blair was working for Putin’s government, engaged in back-door efforts to minimise the damage of sanctions and other responses to Russian aggression, but this is Germany so they get a free pass. Until now:

It was Trump’s mentioning the role of a former German chancellor – Schroeder – that pleased me the most. Everyone knows Germany is freeloading off the US for its defence needs, but few realise quite how embedded Germany is with Russia, the enemy they’re asking America’s help in defending against. If this were France people might not mind so much because France doesn’t self-righteously lecture everyone else and posit itself as the world’s arbiter on sound business practices, environmental legislation, and ethical governance. But Germany does all that, and then some, while engaging in the most brazen, self-serving hypocrisy. Fortunately, Trump’s remarks have been picked up in the US:

If you think Trump’s past business connections to Russian figures are troubling, you probably ought to be livid about how former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s has decided to become the chief lobbyist for Vladimir Putin in Europe.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins wrote earlier this year that Schroeder is exactly the kind of wealthy, well-connected, influential figure acting on behalf of Russia that U.S. sanctions are supposed to target:

Germany’s allies and its European Union partners, including the quietly frantic Poles and Balts, can’t quite refer to Mr. Schroeder as a Putin agent nestled in the heart of Germany’s political and business elite. His name doesn’t appear on any U.S. government list. Section 241 of last summer’s sanctions law required the U.S. Treasury to identify the ‘most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs’ behind the Putin regime. These descriptors would seem to apply to Mr. Schroeder but it remains diplomatically impermissible to say so.

Germany is broken, and beyond repair while Merkel remains in charge and the majority population are steeped in anti-Americanism (which long predated Trump). The best thing Trump could do is disband NATO and create a new defence alliance which countries could apply to join if they wished, and be screened for reliability. Germany – as an independent nation – would then have to stump up for its own defence or take its chances with Russia. This has gone on for too long.


Woman questioned, outrage ensues

This, according to the BBC, constitutes a “Handmaid’s Tale” moment:

Dr Acosta, who is chief executive of the Young Women’s Christian Association, and her daughter had been on a tour of Europe when they arrived back to Texas on Sunday.

“There was a huge line of people,” Dr Acosta said. “We walked up to the customs officer. He lifted our passports.”

Dr Acosta said her daughter was “like velcro” with her as she was very tired after a long flight.

“I was asked if Sybonae was my daughter and I said yes. Then they asked why, if she was my daughter, I didn’t have the same last name.

“I told them I had already established my career and earned my doctorate with my last name Acosta so I had decided not to change it.

“One said I should consider changing my name to reflect that I am her mother.

In some countries – Russia, for example – it is forbidden for a parent to take a child abroad without the written permission of the other parent. This is to stop one parent from just disappearing overseas with the children. As a policy, it’s sound enough, and the expats with kids in Russia soon got used to it. The US doesn’t expressly forbid lone parents travelling abroad with their children without such a letter but:

A CBP spokesperson said: “We strongly recommend that unless a child is accompanied by both parents, the adult travelling with the child have a note from the child’s other parent.”

Dr Acosta says she didn’t have a note from her ex-husband. And she was taken into a separate area for questioning.

Again, rather routine and sensible. And if the mother had a different name from the kid, how are they supposed to know the child is hers? Hence the questioning.

“They thought I might be a human trafficker,” she said.

A CBP spokesperson said: “On December 23, 2008, President Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to combat human trafficking.

“In instances where the relationship of a minor and accompanying adult can’t be immediately determined, CBP may ask additional questions to determine relationship.

A bit of a pain, maybe a little humiliating, but hardly the stuff of dystopian nightmare depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale. But her reaction speaks volumes:

“I proceeded to tell them that they were perpetuating an institutionalised, misogynistic system which required that a woman take her husband’s name. I am furious.” Dr Acosta said.

Oh please. Your daughter has her father’s name. Why? Are you perpetuating an institutionalised, misogynistic system?

Dr Acosta said her “biggest fear” was her daughter would be separated from her.

I doubt that: if you were, you’d not have gone off on a rant about institutionalised, misogynistic systems which require that a woman take her husband’s name: you’d have answered the questions calmly and rationally. You might also have foreseen the difficulties of travelling with a minor who does not share your name, and obtained a letter from your ex-husband.

One Facebook user wrote: “You should be furious. What if she had been adopted or you had remarried? I did not take my husband’s last name either and it infuriates me when people imply I am less of a wife for not changing my name!”

You may do what you like with your name, but if you’re travelling alone with a child whose name doesn’t match yours, expect trouble at borders.

A CBP spokesperson said: “We strive to ensure that travellers are processed fairly and efficiently, as we endeavour to make certain that all individuals attempting entry into the United States do so in a legal and secure manner.”

Handmaid’s Tale, indeed. Shame on the BBC for publishing this crap.


Robin plays Hillary

Ancient readers may remember last year I gave my opinion on House of Cards and wasn’t very impressed:

Somewhere between Seasons 2 and 3 the feminists got hold of the script and effectively made the show all about Frank Underwood’s wife, played by Robin Wright.

The audience, by having it rammed down their throats every episode, is expected to unconditionally accept that Claire Underwood is a brilliant politician, responsible for every success her husband has achieved, desired sexually by every man who meets her, and is easily capable as a president herself (there is a Season 5 on the way).


The eight-episode final season of House of Cards, expected to drop on Netflix this autumn, will focus on Claire Underwood’s career.

The character became the US president at the end of the last season, a position previously held by her on-screen husband.

I suspect this was the intention long before Spacey quit the show amid allegations he’d been having affairs with young men who may or may not have been wholly enthused with the idea. I’ll not bother watching it, especially now Spacey has gone – one of the few in the show who could act. By contrast, and as I said before, Wright wears the same arse-hugging style of dress or skirt in every shot, manages a single facial expression throughout the entire series, and for each pivotal scene the only thing that changes are the words being spoken.

I can imagine that Season 5 will be a liberal fantasy of what a Hillary Clinton presidency would have looked like, minus the corruption and deteriorating health. I can see why there’s a market for this, and no doubt the media will be gushing with praise at a season which “shows us what is possible”, but I can’t imagine any men will be watching it. Not any that know how to use a torque wrench, anyway.


Mexico on a Cliff-Edge

The western media have had relatively little to say about Mexico electing an openly socialist president on Monday, other than to gloat at this aspect of his campaign:

Mr López Obrador was scathing in his criticism of US President Donald Trump during his campaign, something that analysts say won him extra votes from Mexicans angry at the insults Mr Trump had aimed at Mexicans.

The media have yet to acknowledge the catastrophe hard-left policies have brought about in Venezuela, in part because they were busy cheering on Hugo Chavez in his early days; it’s going to be interesting what mental gymnastics they perform covering this new guy in Mexico. Note that this has received very little coverage:

More than 100 politicians in Mexico have been killed since September in the lead-up to the country’s election this Sunday, and more than 13,000 Mexicans have been killed since January.

100 politicians murdered in the run-up to elections? I think this warrants a sturdier description than “a campaign marred by violence”, as the BBC puts it. Contrast this with the sneering which takes place when Russians go to the polls and put Putin back in office.

The fact is, Mexico is a failed state in a low-level civil war, and has been for some time. The ruling classes have reached an understanding with the drug cartels that if the former get left alone to run the capital, the latter can have a free reign everywhere else. Trump gets this, which is why he railed so hard against Mexico during his campaign, much to the annoyance of the country’s president and former president who like many others were not expecting a White House incumbent to speak the truth so bluntly.

Trump also realises how this is linked to both NAFTA and immigration. Mexico does very well out of being able to build stuff using cheap labour and flog it to the United States, as well as shift on goods imported to Mexico for the sole purpose of ending up over the border. While it may bring the costs of goods down in the US, it’s had the effect of destroying industries and employment – especially in industries which regulation has  made prohibitively expensive in the US. By relocating to Mexico, a company can halve its costs and avoid US regulations. Everyone wins, except those who’ve lost their jobs thanks to people in Washington DC and New York who would despise them if they knew they existed. And it was they who voted for Trump by the million.

The immigration issue is more serious, though:

Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said Tuesday that migrants from all over the world who decide it’s “a necessity” have a “human right” to migrate to the United States.

“Soon, very soon, after the victory of our movement, we will defend migrants all over the American continent and the migrants of the world who, by necessity, must abandon their towns to find life in the United States,” Lopez Obrador said during a rally in the Mexican city of Culiacán, reports.

For decades successive Mexican governments have relied on the leaky border with the US to avoid undertaking desperately-needed reforms in their own country. So long as the US can provide economic opportunities for Mexicans who support their families with remittances, there is no incentive for the Mexican government to run the place competently. In effect, a porous border and lack of immigration enforcement in the US acts as a pressure relief valve for Mexican idiocy, but it’s placing an ever-increasing cost on the US which cheap gardeners and docile maids are no longer able to offset.

Trump understood this way back in his campaign, hence the refrain about building a wall. For all those wailing at him, few acknowledge the appalling mismanagement that has gone on in Mexico from one generation to the next, but the election of Obrador is going to force this into sharp focus. If this new chap starts enacting hard-left policies as he’s promising, the numbers pouring over the border will increase exponentially regardless of whether the Mexican government is encouraging it or not. I think we’re going to see attitudes to illegal immigration in the US harden yet further, and in a few years Trump’s current stance might look almost liberal. The call for a proper border, perhaps with deployment of the military, will get louder until it’s impossible to ignore. I’d  not be surprised if this becomes the biggest political issue in the US by the 2024 presidential election. It’s ironic that the election of one of Trump’s biggest critics on immigration might well be the one most responsible for finally getting his wall built.


Enshrining the Impossible into Law

Most people know by now that California is a giant, open-air asylum run by the most deranged of the inmates, so this story shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  For background, California passed a law requiring handgun manufacturers to get each weapon to stamp identifying information on bullet casings when shots are fired to make it easier to solve crimes. Now this may sound sensible on the face of it, were it not for the fact that the technology to do this doesn’t exist. However, when gun rights advocates challenged the law on this basis they didn’t reckon on the insanity of the judges:

Writing for six of the justices, Associate Justice Goodwin Liu said impossibility can sometimes lead courts to excuse a failure to comply with a law, but it can’t be the basis for invalidating it.

Yes, that’s right: a law being impossible to comply with does not make it invalid. The ghost of Joseph Stalin is currently kicking himself for not thinking of that one. So if California’s benighted rulers decide to outlaw gravity, residents arrested for remaining stubbornly attached to the ground may only plead for clemency in sentencing; arguments that humans cannot fly and gravity is real will fall on deaf ears.

What this is, of course, is an attempt to circumvent the 2nd Amendment by making it impossible for gun manufacturers to produce weapons that are legally compliant. It’s rather cunning if you think about it, sort of like saying people are free to own a car but only one that uses no fuel and emits no form of pollution. I suspect this attempt will fail, but it’s a warning to the rest of America – and everyone else – of the mindset of the ruling classes.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The media on both sides of the Atlantic is getting all giddy over a young Latina who will be the Democrat candidate for a New York congress seat. As the BBC reports:

A millennial candidate has shaken up the US Democratic Party by defeating the incumbent congressman for his seat.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated political veteran Joe Crowley, 56, on Tuesday night in their party’s congressional primary in New York City.

She led a progressive campaign, supporting universal healthcare, tuition-free college and criminal justice reform.

Following Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s win, Merriam-Webster tweeted that socialism emerged as their top search item.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and I think we’re going to see more of this. As the ZMan pointed out, if you import a lot of people from Latin American cultures pretty soon you’re going to get outbreaks of Latin American politics. Ms Ocasio-Cortez sounds in many ways like Hugo Chavez, promising lots of free stuff while making a big deal about her humble origins:

One of the many new female faces joining US politics this year, Ms Ocasio-Cortez is a Bronx-born Latina, a community organiser and educator from a working-class background.

A community organiser, eh? Where have I heard that before?

Now Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist politics might be daft, but Americans are going to have to take her seriously anyway. A lesson the British political classes ought to have learned from Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpectedly good showing in the last general election is that waving your hand dismissively and saying “Ha, socialism doesn’t work!” doesn’t work any more. People think by pointing to the failures of the Soviet Union they can undermine a candidate’s socialist policies, but you might as well point to the Ming Dynasty for all the relevance that has to a Millenial. To counter someone like Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Americans are going to have to be smarter than Theresa May was when she ran against Corbyn. That means acknowledging that, while her solutions might be insane, she is probably highlighting genuine concerns among her supporters. One of  the few things Corbyn’s detractors are willing to admit is his fans do have genuine grievances, not least a housing market which has been utterly rigged to benefit those older than them.

Republicans and sane Democrats (if there are any left) are going to have to come up with policies to address certain problems ordinary people have, especially feelings of alienation and isolation from an elite ruling class. This stuff is the bread-and-butter of populists and basing a campaign around it is a good way to get elected. In this regard, Ms Ocasio-Cortez is not too different from Trump who tapped into such resentment and suddenly found himself in the White House. The worst thing Republicans can do is ignore where her supporters are coming from and scoff airily about socialism as a concept. Given most American politicians are multi-millionaires and Washington D.C. functions like an imperial capital, hoovering up every loose dollar, redistributing billions along political lines, and enriching the ruling classes in the process, many young Americans might be forgiven for thinking socialism is what they have already so a little more can’t hurt. They’re wrong of course, but a proper case needs to be made as to why. Unfortunately, the American right are as firmly entrenched in the status quo as the left, and presenting alternatives, e.g. a smaller federal government and increased localism, would require a level of introspection and reform they’ve been unwilling to undergo in generations. This is a major reason why the likes of Ms Ocasio-Cortez can find a willing audience.

However, there’s another side to Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign:

She says she decided it was time her New York City district was represented by a young progressive woman of colour after watching the election of Donald Trump as president.

She described her congressional district in an interview with US news outlet Mic during her campaign. “Our median income is around $47,000 a year, we’re about 70% people of colour,” she said. “We’ve had the same representation for a generation.”

Embracing identity politics seems to be the direction in which the left is heading in the US: if you’re black, you vote for a black person. If you’re Latin American, you vote for a Latin American. This is actually how it works in most of the world, i.e. you vote for the person with whom you share an ethnicity. Europe and the US are notable exceptions, but that is rapidly changing. If Ms Ocasio-Cortez believes Latin Americans in the Bronx should vote for her because she’s Latina and this view becomes widespread, eventually white people are going to vote for white candidates. In a generation, a candidate being an old white man might be his greatest asset rather than the liability it is now.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez has burst onto the political scene waving the dual flags of socialism and identity politics. I suspect it will be a matter of time before the Democrats are completely consumed by both, and the America right had better be ready to deal with it.


Harley-Davidson and Tariffs

There’s an irony here which has largely gone unmentioned:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday slammed Harley-Davidson Inc (HOG.N) after the motorcycle maker said it would move production for European customers overseas to avoid retaliatory tariffs that could cost it up to $100 million per year.

Trump said he has fought hard for the company and was surprised by its plans, which he described as waving the “White Flag.”

Harley-Davidson, the dominant player in the heavyweight U.S. motorcycle market said earlier on Monday it would not pass on any retail or wholesale price increases in the EU and instead focus on shifting some U.S. production.

So, Harley-Davidson doesn’t like tariffs and will re-arrange its operations to avoid feeling the consequences of them. Fair enough, but:

With an economic recession causing sales of all motorcycles to slide, with even Japanese manufacturers like Honda Motors (NYSE:HMC), Kawasaki, and Yamaha overestimating demand, Harley’s delicate financial condition couldn’t afford the discounting the oversupply was causing. Despite the Japanese bike makers offering to help Harley make it through the crunch by giving it technological assistance and providing tens of millions of dollar in loans to keep it going, Harley instead chose protectionism and petitioned the Reagan administration in 1982 to raise tariffs.

As it had been since the 1940s, Harley-Davidson was the U.S. bike industry, being the lone American bike maker left in the market, although Honda and Kawasaki did have a single plant each located in the U.S. But with Harley’s global market share slipping, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha had hurt Harley’s business, and advocated a tariff hike. Reagan ended up raising the tariffs from 4.4% to 49.4%, though the rates were to fall by a set amount each year thereafter, with their removal or extension decided after five years.

The article goes on to suggest the tariffs on Japanese motorbikes didn’t save Harley-Davidson, but it did give them a much needed shot in the arm.

However, Harley-Davidson staged a dramatic recovery, with sales rising so fast that after just four years it petitioned the government to lift the tariffs, saying it no longer needed protection, making this a simple success story of targeted trade protection.

I don’t know if Trump is aware of the history of Harley-Davidson and tariffs; if he is, it might explain why he’s rather annoyed with them.


Changes in the US Supreme Court

The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the US Supreme Court aged 81 has sent liberals into meltdown, with some reacting as if he’d committed high treason. The reason for this is Donald Trump gets to nominate his successor, and he’s likely to choose someone conservative. That the Supreme Court is seen as divided between conservatives and liberals, and such importance is placed on what sort of judge is appointed by a sitting president, strongly suggests that it’s simply another political branch of the government rather than an impartial arbiter of the law. Indeed, a lot of liberals are now worried the balance of the Supreme Court is going to lean towards those who interpret the constitution faithfully, as opposed – presumably – to those who imagine what the document’s authors would prefer were they around today.

This most recent session of the Supreme Court has been interesting, but also rather worrying. Two cases – Janus v. State, County, and Municipal Employees and Trump v. Hawaii – were ruled 5-4, and when you read  the dissents it’s clear some judges are simply political operatives. The two worst offenders are Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both appointed by Barack Obama. Janus concerns the practice of forcing all non-unionised public sector workers to pay union dues regardless of membership, on the grounds that non-members receive the benefits negotiated by the union. It’s long been the case that unions have used these funds to campaign politically, almost always on behalf of the Democrats, and now the Supreme Court has ruled the compulsion unconstitutional. Here’s what Elena Kagan said in her dissent:

Basically, she’s dissenting not on the grounds of law and constitutionality but because public sector unions, on whom the Democrats are dependent for funding, will now lose money. The best that can be said about this is it’s at least refreshing in its honesty. Here she is again in the same dissent:

That’s right: the Supreme Court should not strike down “citizens’ choices” which are unconstitutional (i.e. illegal), and the First Amendment was supposed to make governing easier and help public sector unions.

Trump v Hawaii concerned the so-called Muslim Ban, a term Trump’s opponents used to convince people that the temporary restrictions he placed on people from 6 countries with no functioning government (Iran excepted) was motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. Never mind that citizens from Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – the three countries with the largest Muslim populations – were not affected, the mud was slung and it stuck, and it appears even Supreme Court judges bought it. The SCOTUS ruled – sensibly – that restrictions on immigration falls within the constitutional authority of the President regardless of speculation as to his motives, but Sonia Sotomayor – the self-described “wise Latina” – dissented:

Reading Kagan and Sotomayor’s dissents in these recent cases reminds me of Andrew Adonis, the mate of Tony Blair who was appointed to the Lords and is now vociferously campaigning to overturn the Brexit vote. All three are intellectual lightweights appointed in turn by intellectual lightweights, and none appears to fully grasp the positions in which they now find themselves. And this is the problem with liberals and the left in general: to people of this bent everything is political, it never stops being political, and their political goals must come before anything else be it the law or the expressed will of the people.

So now it’s been established that the Supreme Court is merely a political debating chamber, Kennedy’s resignation and the looming prospect of a conservative replacement puts things into a whole new perspective. As the BBC says:

Shortly after Mr Kennedy announced his retirement, Supreme Court analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted that “abortion will be illegal in 20 states in 18 months” – an indication that he believes Mr Trump’s nominee will join a majority in reversing Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision legalising abortion throughout the US.

Anti-abortion advocates have been trying to scale back the broad constitutional guarantees of the Roe decision in the decades since, and now – without Mr Kennedy on the court – they could be poised for a breakthrough.

The problem the US has with abortion is, unlike in most European countries, they didn’t permit the practice by following the normal legislative process. Instead of a political party running on the platform of allowing abortion and implementing the legislation once in office, they simply got the Supreme Court to declare it a constitutional right – and they did the same thing with gay marriage. They took this route because they knew full well any politician running on a pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage ticket would likely lose, so the ruling classes implemented it via the courts. Only now we’re discovering these so called fundamental, inalienable rights are heavily dependent on how 5 people on the 9-body Supreme Court think, and when the judges change so do the rights. Which proves, if this were in any doubt, that rights do not exist in a vacuum and must ultimately be upheld by individuals who come with their own prejudices and biases.

I doubt Roe v Wade or the gay marriage decision is going to be overturned during a Trump administration, but those in full-blown panic mode have only themselves to blame. If you choose to be ruled by appointed judges instead of elected representatives – which all those who supported these two cases did, at least in part – you can’t complain when new judges come along and make decisions you don’t like. I can see this is going to plague American politics for decades to come, and Presidential elections will become more important for the candidates’ potential Supreme Court nominations than for their actual policies. Indeed, it could be argued many conservatives voted for Trump in 2016 purely to stop Hillary packing the Supreme Court with liberals (aside from Kennedy, Ruth Bader Gingsburg  is 85 years old; if Trump wins a second term, he’ll almost certainly get to nominate another).

What the US needs to do is clamp down hard on activist judges, and refrain from putting people in the highest courts who use their position to achieve defined political outcomes rather than interpret the law. For all Trump’s faults, his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to  the Supreme Court seems to be an inspired one in this regard. The trouble is, as I’ve already said, for the left – and probably a few on the right as well – everything is political, and the courts are simply another weapon to be deployed in the struggle to achieve political goals. I expect much misery will have to be endured before Americans realise the importance of an impartial, non-policised judiciary again.

(If anyone is interested, my thoughts on the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision as I wrote them at the time are here.)


Oliver Kamm and Fake News

Times columnist Oliver Kamm likes to accuse others of propogating fake news. Here are some examples:

The thing is, Kamm works for The Times, which is a real news outlet. The likes of RT and seemingly any organ which represents views outside the M25 merely peddle fake news. Which brings me to this tweet:

Evil, eh? You can actually feel the moral preening. Now two things occurred to me when I saw the photo of the crying girl. The first was that she looks much like any toddler you see in the aisle of a supermarket on a Sunday morning; she could as well have been wailing over not getting an ice cream as being cruelly separated from her parents by Trump at the US border. That should have given journalists pause for thought. The second was that I knew – just knew – within 24 to 48 hours the entire story would unravel and we’d find the media had been lying to us, aided and abetted by the likes of Oliver Kamm. And whaddya know:

The father of the Honduran girl who became the face of the family separation crisis has revealed that he still has not been in touch with his wife or daughter but was happy to learn they are safe.

Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, 32, said that he had not heard from his wife Sandra, 32, who was with his two-year-old daughter Yanela Denise, for nearly three weeks until he saw the image of them being apprehended in Texas

In an exclusive interview with, Hernandez, who lives in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, says that he was told on Wednesday by a Honduran official in the US that his wife and child are being detained at a family residential center in Texas but are together and are doing ‘fine.’

‘You can imagine how I felt when I saw that photo of my daughter. It broke my heart. It’s difficult as a father to see that, but I know now that they are not in danger. They are safer now than when they were making that journey to the border,’ he said.

Denis said his wife and daughter were never separated by border control agents and remain together.

Turns out, not only was this photo (and others) highly misleading but the policies being described as “evil” were in place throughout the Obama administration. Nobody who has observed the media since Trump’s election should be surprised by this; I write this post only to serve as a handy reference next time Kamm accuses someone else of peddling fake news. They’re all as bad as each other.


Lunatic Asylum

I don’t know if this is true:

If so, it’s insane. Firstly, domestic violence is an extremely complex issue at the best of times, so much so that police in every country avoid it like the plague. By its very nature it is something to be handled as locally as possible, preferably by other family members  or the immediate surrounding society. Failing that, local authorities and police are the next-best placed to intervene, then the national government who one would hope understands the societal nuances surrounding domestic relations in whatever country we’re talking about. The idea that the US government is in a position to evaluate claims of domestic violence in Guatemala is ludicrous.

But that’s not all. If the conditions for asylum have widened to women who are “unable to leave their relationships” you might as well do away with the borders altogether. There was a time when wealthy, organised societies granted asylum to those fleeing war, famine, and appalling persecution; now it appears to include women who’ve made poor relationship choices (one wonders if men fleeing punitive alimony payments can also seek asylum in the US). Any society taking this approach is not going to remain wealthy and organised for very long, after which it won’t be in a position to take in asylum seekers of any sort. Perhaps that’s why Trump’s administration is looking to change it?