Parkland School is turning into America’s Grenfell Tower

Last week’s shooting at Parkland School in Florida is turning into America’s Grenfell Tower:

Driven by rage and grief over one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history, students from across the country were taking action in hopes of pushing their lawmakers to rethink their positions on gun control, even as the Florida State House rejected a move on Tuesday to consider a bill that would ban assault rifles.

From California to Florida, teenagers walked out of classes, stopped traffic and made stirring speeches calling out their elders for inaction.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed last week, traveled on Tuesday to Tallahassee, the state capital, to call for an assault weapons ban. The direct appeal to the Legislature follows protests outside schools, social media appeals and national television appearances.

It is understandable that students who’ve survived a school shooting and seen their friends killed should be angry. But being a victim of trauma doesn’t in itself make someone knowledgeable of the legislative process or even the subject at hand. The American media has shamelessly got hold of these kids and, rather than helping them, has coerced them into attacking the NRA and Trump administration. It might make good television but a bunch of angry teenagers isn’t going to add much to any national debate on gun control, even if they have been on the wrong end of a firearm. Here’s what one had to say:

“The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us,” she said. “And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.”

“They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence — we call B.S.!” she continued as a chorus of supporters echoed her. “They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun — we call B.S.! They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars — we call B.S.! They say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred — we call B.S.! That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works — we call B.S.!”

She wiped her eyes aggressively. Then, she urged the people in the crowd to register to vote — and to give their elected officials “a piece of your mind.”

Here’s another:

Tyra Hemans, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, brought a poster featuring the word “ENOUGH” to a funeral for one of her classmates on Friday. She said she also wanted to deliver a message to President Trump.

“I want our politicians to stop thinking about money and start thinking about all these lives we had lost,” she said. “I want to talk with him about changing these laws.”

This is all very touching and I’m sure their parents are very proud, but the best thing these kids can do is get this incident behind them as quickly as possible and move on, seeking professional counselling if necessary. What they shouldn’t do is allow themselves to be catapulted onto some pedestal by the likes of CNN and used as a club with which to bash Trump, because this is a fight they’re not going to win.

We saw this after the Grenfell Tower fire, when victims – and half a million other people who were also in the tower, or knew someone in it, or were nearby, or had been to London once – were seized upon by political lobbyists to attack Theresa May’s government and promote Corbyn’s Labour. Traumatised, angry people who should never have been on TV were shoved in front of a camera and encouraged to make ludicrous demands and hurl wild accusations at Tories. What should have been a compassionate but serious response to a terrible incident was hijacked and turned into an absolute circus.

The situation in America is slightly different, though. Those who exploited the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire got away with it because the Tories are piss-weak and the British people, particularly Londoners, can be relied upon to wring their hands in enough numbers that slapping the protesters down and carrying out a proper investigation would have spelled political disaster. And the demands of those allegedly representing the victims were, when it comes down to it, more looting of the state coffers for their own benefit. Nobody in Britain is going to protest that with any great vigour as the last two decades have shown.

But these kids in America have decided to go after the gun lobby, particularly the NRA. Now the reason the NRA is so powerful is because it has three million members all of whom voluntarily pay an annual fee in return for the NRA doing exactly what it does: represent their interests in Washington and the state capitals. If you were to believe American liberals or the average Brit, you’d think the NRA is powerful because gun manufacturers give them money which is used to bribe Republicans who then vote against the direct wishes of ordinary Americans. This is a handy narrative, but it is demonstrable nonsense. In reality, the Republicans listen to the NRA because the organisation represents millions of gun-owning Americans who each have a vote and will use it if they believe their rights are under threat. The reason that gun control is such an intractable issue in the United States is not because of the intransigence of the NRA, but the intransigence of its three million members. Going after the NRA is an exercise in shooting the messenger.

American gun owners probably have a lot of sympathy with these children who intend to march on Washington, but they’re not going to stand idly by while they bawl at congress to remove their gun ownership rights. If necessary they’ll fight back, and hard. The most likely result of this will be to leave the children bitterly disappointed, disillusioned, and exhausted and – once the news cycle has moved on and they’re inevitably dumped by the likes of CNN as no longer useful – feeling exploited to no small degree. If any of them haven’t managed to completely embarrass themselves in a live interview with a serious adult, they’ll have done well. They’ll then have to return home, pick up their lives, and deal with whatever emotional mess they’re left with. The best thing the Democrats and media can do is to leave these kids alone and let them get over this incident however they can, not shamlessly use them as cannon-fodder in a futile battle in their never-ending war against the Republicans and Trump. Ultimately, their parents should be putting a stop to this.

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Is there no limit to the damage wrought by Clinton?

Staying on the subject of Trump:

Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed as “blather” the charges levelled by the FBI special counsel against 13 Russians for election meddling.

Sergei Lavrov said at a major security conference in Germany he would not comment further until he saw “facts”.

According to the indictment:

The 37-page indictment says a group of Russians:

Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name; some visited the US

Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising

Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation

Organised and promoted political rallies within the United States

Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens

Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton

Received money from clients to post on US social media sites

Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram

Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)

Financed the building of a cage large enough to hold an actress portraying Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform

The indictment says those involved systematically monitored the success of their internet posts.

All of the 13 people named were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three have also been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five have been accused of aggravated identity theft. Three companies have also been charged.

This is pretty weak sauce, and if the American election can be unduly influenced by this then the nation is in trouble indeed. And as Tim Worstall points out, the Americans intervened to a far greater extent in the Russian general election in the early 1990s, supporting reforms which went a long way to creating the discontent which Putin capitalised on to maintain his grip on power.

What this is, and always has been, is an attempt to save Hillary Clinton’s face. She lost the election fair and square because she was an appalling candidate, and rather than accept it, her supporters are prepared to wreck already fraught relations with a serious geopolitical rival to spin this ludicrous narrative. The damage this woman has done to the USA is incredible, and still it continues, yet everyone blames Trump. There are people out there, some of whom laughably call themselves conservatives, who believe this latest indictment is proof that Russia is at war with the United States. Yes, there are supposedly serious politicians and commentators calling for war with Russia because they don’t want to face up to the fact that Hillary was a lousy candidate.

Whereas I suppose Putin has found much of this genuinely amusing up to now, this indictment changes things. The individuals named are in Russia and so unlikely to be arrested, but the intent is there. Putin has often accused foreigners working for NGOs in Russia of interfering in politics, shutting down various organisations in the process. He was rightly criticised for this, but it’s hard to see why Russians should tolerate Americans doing political work in Russia if Americans believe disparaging Hillary Clinton on Facebook is an offence worthy of FBI indictment. If Putin chooses to do so he could start making life very difficult for Americans in Russia now, and the American government wouldn’t have a damned leg to stand on. Those who may find themselves languishing in an icy cell on dubious charges of political subversion can thank Hillary Clinton, her insatiable ego, and her thoroughly corrupt supporters for their predicament.

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Trump: doing his job in the only way he knows how

A lot of people, even those who are not reflexively anti-Trump, have taken issue with this:

As far as I’m concerned, my feathers remain unruffled.

Firstly, I think his point is a good one. Whereas the FBI tying itself in knots in Washington D.C. and the blunder of the branch in Florida might seem unrelated, they might not be. When the top levels of an organisation prove themselves to be corrupt, self-serving, and incompetent it usually cascades down through the whole hierarchy. If it’s been going on long enough, and in this case it has, even the lowest ranks are affected. You can see this in any military for example, but also in businesses. There is a reason why the CEO gets hauled in for questioning when a bunch of engineers fiddle emissions tests, bankers launder cartel money, or drillers blow out an oil well. The reasoning is that these events only occur in a culture which as been allowed to develop on the CEO’s watch, and this is absolutely correct. Whenever I have seen poor standards, incompetence, and repeated mistakes made at the lowest levels of an organisation it is rarely an isolated incident, and almost always reflects the culture imposed by the management hierarchy which, in many cases, went right to the top. Now Trump is a businessman and understands this, which is why he’s probably not surprised that an organisation whose chiefs busied themselves trying to swing the election for Hillary Clinton failed to respond to numerous red flags raised in a branch office. The two are symptoms of the same rotten culture, and Trump is right to point this out.

Secondly, people are complaining about the timing of Trump’s comments. Well, that’s probably a feature, not a bug. The reason Trump got elected was because people saw he didn’t care about tact, nuance, and subtlety. They saw a blunt instrument who appeared to be on their side and liked it. If there was any other Republican in the White House he’d have been grovelling to the liberal mob from the moment the echoes of the shots died away, responding to every criticism by making promises he has no business making. That Trump can be relied upon not to do this is precisely the reason he was elected. Now it would be nice if the Republicans could have proposed someone who could stand up to the Democrats and media without being a complete asshole, but no such candidate was forthcoming and American political culture has ensured it probably never will. So we’ve got Trump and I reckon that on balance your average Republican voter would rather see their president upset a few liberals with poorly-timed remarks which appear self-serving than cave to their enemies’ demands as his predecessors did time and again.

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What doesn’t work on Corbyn also doesn’t work on Trump

Following on from the failed efforts to shame Corbyn, I present to you this:

Trump’s opponents believe if they keep throwing out revelations about his womanising past, the voters will wake up and realise they’ve elected a sleazeball. They’re as deluded as the people who think front pages of The Sun detailing Corbyn’s friendships with Communists and terrorists will make a difference to his poll standings.

Ever since I can remember, long before he became involved in politics and even before he hosted The Apprentice, Donald Trump had a reputation as being a womanising New York billionnaire playboy with a preference for east European models whom he’d marry and then cheat on. There are pictures of him in the early nineties at parties with Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty with women hanging around them like flies. His reputation was well known before he ran for president, which is why the Access Hollywood tapes didn’t do as much damage as his opponents hoped.

It’s not that the voters didn’t know about this side of Trump’s character, they just didn’t care about it enough to stop them voting for him. Pointing out the same thing over and over in the hope that people will suddenly change their mind will never work, and this as true for Trump as it is Corbyn. Like the Conservatives, the Democrats have the answer to Trump staring them right in the face: don’t be insane. Like their British counterparts, they can’t seem to grasp the solution either.

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School Shootings and American Society

A couple of tweets from me in relation to the latest school shooting in the US:

It is understandable that in the wake of something as horrific as a school shooting, there are calls to “do something”. When you have tens of millions of people all calling for something to be done, it is tempting to pretend that what can be done is simple. Take this idiot, for example:

It’s not my intention to re-hash the difficulties of addressing American gun crime in this post, I believe I adequately covered them here. Instead, I’ll engage in a little speculation as to what other factors, aside from America’s gun laws, might be causing the rise in these sort of shootings.

From what I can gather, the profile of a school shooter seems to be a rather weedy, angry, young white male who doesn’t have many friends, can’t get laid, and thinks the whole world is against him. Rather than running around trying to ban middle-aged Oklahoma hunters from buying rifles, we’d probably be better off trying to figure out why these lunatics feel so alienated and how to spot them before they go and shoot up a school. I’ve been reading reports that the FBI received multiple warnings about this latest idiot, but didn’t do very much. Perhaps it’s very difficult to intervene without grossly infringing a citizen’s rights, but I’d be more inclined to cut the FBI some slack if they weren’t expending considerable efforts in trying to unseat the president having failed to scupper his election campaign. If there is one area worth spending serious time investigating, it’s how to identify disaffected young men in advance of them shooting up a school.

Why these losers feel the need to shoot up a school is perhaps more complicated, but the reasons probably can’t be decoupled from contemporary American society and their place in it. Western education systems have become almost entirely feminised, benefiting girls at the expense of boys. Boys are continually told they are a problem, and what used to be passed off as ordinary boy’s behaviour is now treated with drugs. I’ve seen people on social media speculating as to whether the over-prescription of drugs might be a factor here; rather than blame the drugs as a cause, I’m more inclined to think a society which feels the need to pump boys full of drugs to control their behaviour might, in other ways, be creating monsters. Correlation rather than causation, in other words. In an increasingly sexualised society where girls are encouraged to put out while still in school and amateur porn is easily accessible and suffers no shortage of volunteers, awkward young men might feel the pains of rejection even more than they did in previous generations. Perhaps a society in which people gain instant fame for achieving nothing of note drives it, in part? Maybe these boys don’t take kindly to being called racist simply for being white, or told they are basically rapists just because they are male. The number of overlapping and interconnecting reasons might run into the dozens.

Whatever the reasons, young men growing up to be very unsure of themselves and seemingly unable to handle the world around them is a real phenomenon, and in fairness has probably existed since Cain reached his teens. What we can say is that the behaviours we’re seeing from young men, at least in America and the west in general is different – and I’m not just talking about school shootings. Apparently young men aren’t interested in forming relationships as much as they were, and a substantial number uninterested in sex altogether. A lot of them, to put it bluntly, are an absolute bunch of wet nappies.

The other day I came across this article:

Most American parents hit their little children. And most believe that they are doing something both effective and right.

But they are wrong.

The scientific case against spanking is one of those rare occasions in which, over a span of 50 years or so, a scientific controversy actually gets resolved, as various programs of increasingly rigorous research converge upon a consensus conclusion.

And, you’ve guessed it, research has shown that spanking does in fact increase children’s stress levels, as well as their risk for a host of future psychological problems.

Well, perhaps this is what the data shows, I don’t know. But do children and yound adults have fewer psychological problems than in the days when they were spanked at home? It doesn’t seem like it. And here:

Spanking Children Promotes Antisocial Behaviour and Slows Mental Development

We’ve got articles confidently asserting that spanking makes kids antisocial and prone to violence written by people congratulating each other on having outlawed the practice. At the same time we’re all wondering why teenagers are running around massacring their classmates. If I’d written articles like this, I think I’d have had the self-awareness to maybe tone down the celebrations a touch.

I’m not trying to say that spanking kids will stop them shooting up their school when the pretty girl in class turns him down for a prom date. What I’m saying is that societies, and human behaviours within them, are incredibly complicated and can’t be reduced to simplistic, politically-driven soundbites such as “deadly gun laws” and “the spanking debate is over”. Part of the reason why school shootings are likely to be a regular feature in America for quite some time is that too many people will want to engineer society in the hope of eradicating them while failing to acknowledge the damage they may have wrought through decades of similar social engineering. The way things are heading they’ll end up tightening the laws on people with mental illness buying guns, but expand the definition of mental illness to include anyone with thoughts they don’t approve of. This will lead to further alienation and frustration, while the genuine psychos slide unnoticed through all the noise on the radar.

What they need to do is to put all their efforts into identifying the handful of youngsters who will go so far as to shoot up a school, and leave everyone else the hell alone and stop wasting valuable resources cajoling, bullying, and threatening them into political submission. They won’t though, so the shootings will continue.

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Ill-Judged

Two recent court rulings in the US have caught my attention. Here’s the first:

A federal judge has blocked President Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, saying the administration’s justification was not “legally adequate.” Under DACA, which Barack Obama created via executive order, young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children can apply for legal protections.

The judge in Tuesday’s ruling called Trump’s DACA decision “arbitrary and capricious,” and noted that while the administration had claimed that DACA’s implementation by Obama was unconstitutional, Trump’s tweets about revisiting DACA suggested that he thought the president was well within his right to use executive authority this way.

What the judge is effectively saying is that Barack Obama was quite within his rights to implement the DACA program via executive authority, but Donald Trump is not permitted to allow the program to expire using that same executive authority.

Many people, myself included, thought Obama’s use of executive orders to bypass congress set a dangerous precedent, because future holders of the office may not be quite so benign (as if Obama was). Happily, certain judges in the USA have found a solution to this problem by only granting executive authority to presidents they approve of.

This isn’t the first time a judge has blocked Trump on DACA. In January, a federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration to again start accepting DACA renewal applications. Tuesday’s ruling goes farther, saying that the Trump administration must start processing new DACA applications.

This is not ruling on matters of law, this is blatant political sabotage. Note the judge’s references to Trump’s tweet. Since when has the personal opinion of the president been a factor in whether the actions of his predecessor were legal or not? The judge has passed this ruling as a matter of personal preference, confident he will have the backing of millions of people, the law be damned.

Here’s the second ruling:

On Monday, a New York judge awarded $6.7 million to graffiti artists who sued the owner of buildings they defaced because he tore down the buildings.

Federal Judge Frederic Block ruled against Long Island developer Jerry Wolkoff, who had permitted the “artwork” on his property, known as 5Pointz, for decades, stating that Wolkoff was not sorry he had painted over the graffiti in 2013, torn down the buildings in 2014, and begun construction for two 40-story residential apartment buildings in 2015. Block said the penalty he assessed would not have been so exorbitant if Wolkoff had waited for the judge’s permission and demolished the art 10 months later than he did; that would have allowed artists to retrieve their paintings from the buildings.

Apparently graffiti artists have greater rights to a building in New York than the owner.

Block was seemingly impressed with the aerosol artists; in November, during the trial triggered by a lawsuit from the 21 aerosol artists, he gushed abut how works produced by the artists “spoke to the social issues of our times.” He also stated that the “respectful, articulate and credible” artists testified about “striking technical and artistic mastery and vision worthy of display in prominent museums if not on the walls of 5Pointz.”

And there was me thinking judges were appointed to adjudicate on matters of the law, not serve as art critics.

Block said, “Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant. He was given multiple opportunities to admit the whitewashing was a mistake, show remorse, or suggest he would do things differently if he had another chance. … Wolkoff could care less. As he callously testified.

Why should somebody who has altered his own property, breaking no laws, be repentant?

The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened. The mutilated works were visible by millions of people on the passing 7 train.”

Apparently the price of paint carries weight in the law. Who knew?

Block also asserted, “The shame of it all is that since 5 Pointz was a prominent tourist attraction, the public would undoubtedly have thronged to say its goodbyes during those 10 months and gaze at the formidable works of aerosol art for the last time. It would have been a wonderful tribute for the artists that they richly deserved.

Okay, that’s enough of that.

In recent times we’ve heard western journalists and politicians express outrage over judges being “replaced” wholesale in places like Russia and Turkey, particularly after they’ve thwarted some nefarious government scheme or other. In many parts of the world, the idea that a judge is some impartial arbitrator of the law and not just some servant of the ruling classes is preposterous (the Russian film Leviathan made this point rather well). This is why the outrage over judges being replaced is often more muted in the country concerned; the people simply view it as another round of shuffling the political pack. But westerners get all hot under the collar because they think judges are above politics, and serve as an an essential restraint on politicians’ actions.

The two rulings I refer to above suggest the USA might be well on its way to becoming more like the third-world than a beacon of law and order. To be honest, this is probably nothing new: the Supreme Court’s decision over gay marriage was a naked display of judges deciding not what the law actually said, but what they thought progressives wanted it to say, something that Antonin Scalia captured rather well in his dissent. We also had the pantomime last year of regional judges declaring Trump’s immigration policies unlawful, using bizarre and unprecedented justifications.

The one thing that prevents American judges being replaced in the manner they are in much of the world is the preservation of the notion that they are disinterested arbiters of the law and not engaged in politics or activism. For whatever reason, some of their number seem rather keen to demonstrate otherwise. I don’t know how deep this runs, but I think we’re already in dangerous waters. If my mythical despot should seize the reins of power, he will likely waste no time sacking judges likes these in large numbers, and a whole load of others to boot. The problem is, the current actions of these so-called judges will make such a move reasonably easy to justify. Wherever this is leading, it won’t end well.

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What shall we do with the dunken sailors?

Staying on the subject of deluded millenials:

Nikki Walsh, 24, and boyfriend Tanner Broadwell, 26, decided nearly a year ago that they were tired of working.

“How can we live our lives when we’re working most of the day and you have to pay so much just to live?” Walsh, who booked time-share tours for a living, said to The New York Post.

It’s just so unfair.

“Most of the work you do goes to your home. There has to be another option,” she added.

She has a point: house prices are ludicrous, almost everywhere.

So the Colorado couple sold all their furniture and their SUV and purchased a 49-year-old boat in Alabama to live on and eventually sail the world in.

Twenty minutes on a sailing forum would have told them that you would never, ever buy a boat that old unless you had a lot of money and only wanted it for some Sunday afternoon fun in good weather.

The couple moved onto the 28-foot boat, which was in the marina of Tarpon Springs, a town on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and lived there for months with their two-year-old pug, Remy, while they stocked up on food and supplies.

The article didn’t mention whether they spent much effort getting the boat sea-worthy and honed their sailing skills. These would seem equally important as getting in food, in my humble opinion.

“We were pretty prepared,” Walsh said, of gathering items to last them for their planned trip to the Caribbean.

You probably don’t want to be going sailing in the open sea “pretty prepared”. Did they even have any experience?

Nearly two days into their venture, the couple’s boat capsized in a channel of water called John’s Pass.

“We thought the channel was where we were going, but it wasn’t,” Walsh told the Post, telling the publication they were armed with GPS and paper navigation charts.

All the gear, no idea.

“We started freaking out because waves were coming, and it was tossing our boat back and forth,” Walsh recalled.

An unusual situation to find oneself in when sailing, I suppose.

Broadwell was at the rear of the boat, holding onto Remy when the trouble hit.

Other than the boat capsizing, we don’t actually know what happened.

Local boat captains say the sandbars often shift in John’s Pass, the Post reported.

Do shifting sandbars cause boats to capsize?

Before abandoning ship, Walsh said they grabbed some clothes and important documents, as well as things for their dog.

“I also grabbed Remy’s food and just about everything he needed,” said Walsh. “He doesn’t deserve to go without his favorite toys.”

This whole thing reads like it’s taking place in about three feet of water in a boating pond down at the local park.

Walsh admitted she and her boyfriend, who used to drive for Uber, were “new to sailing.”

Frankly, they’re lucky they’re alive to tell the tale. When I was sailing during the time I lived in Melbourne, I used to frequent some of the sailing forums and read a few books on the subject. One thing I quickly learned was that there is an enormous difference between pleasure sailing (which is what I did) and covering long distances in the open sea or ocean. I was surprised to learn that all boats leak, and leak badly: if you’re going sailing in rough waters for any length of time, expect to be cold, wet, and miserable. I also learned that you need to have a lot of experience to do proper sailing, which you build up by doing shorter day trips in different weathers and environments, then a few overnight trips, learning as you go for months or years before you attempt to take to the open seas. I absorbed all this information and promptly decided I’d stay well clear of ocean sailing. Have our two heroes learned the same lesson?

However, the couple, who has been left with just $90 in cash, no jobs and no boat insurance, say they are still hopeful for their world-sailing plans and have started a GoFundMe begging people to help them “not give up on [their] dreams.”

I’ve just checked the GoFundMe page: at the time of writing they’ve raised over $14k, no doubt thanks to national press coverage.

The pair are seeking $10,000 to rescue the ship, which sunk off the coast of Madeira Beach, FL. Walsh said raising the boat alone will cost at least $6,700.

Leaving $7k with which to refit the boat, head for the high seas, and promptly sink again. Giving these idiots money borders on criminal negligence.

Though the pair seem down and out, they still plan to “buy or salvage another boat” at some point and “try try try again,” Walsh writes on the GoFundMe.

“You only have one life. Why spend it doing what you don’t love. Money isn’t everything!” Walsh told the Post.

Money isn’t everything, says the couple who blew thousands on a boat they didn’t know how to sail, learning nothing in the process. I don’t think they’re quite as hard-up as they think they are.

“We have a lot of family helping us, but it’s hard when you’ve lost everything,” Walsh told The Post from Jacksonville, where the couple is staying with loved ones.

Uh-huh. When you get to the bottom of these stories of millenials who are suffering from poverty or some other catastrophe, you almost always find a paragraph alluding to a wealthy, middle-class lifestyle which likely contributed to the situation they’re in. Lost all your money through raw stupidity? Never mind, friends and family can step in and help out. The genuinely poor rarely have this option, which is why they have to weigh their decisions a lot more carefully. Their misfortunes also tend not to get covered in the national press.

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America is even luckier than I thought

Back in September I wrote:

Given how easy it was in hindsight to wrest the presidency from the grasp of America’s complacent political elites, we should perhaps reflect on how fortunate we are that it was a 70 year old multi-millionaire New York playboy that stumbled upon the gaping hole that led straight to the levers of power.

Consider for a moment who might have got in. What if it had been a young, charismatic unknown who harboured greater ambitions than Trump and a far more ruthless streak that appeared on stage and said all the right things?

Somebody far worse than Trump could have trodden the path he took to power, and Twitter outbursts and trannies in the military would be the absolute least of our worries. Hillary really could be in jail instead of flogging her book of excuses, and the leaders of Antifa and BLM lying in hospital contemplating life in a wheelchair. If you think the decency of the American people and the robustness of the political system would prevent such an outcome, think again. In an era of Executive Orders, a weaponised IRS, politicised appointed judges, and a president with a pen and a phone, there’s an awful lot resting on the decency of Trump. Now there’s a thought.

Now let’s consider the state of affairs implied by the infamous Nunes memo:

Perhaps this is hyperbole, so let’s look at what National Review has to say:

[The memo] does make a persuasive case – pending any detailed rebuttal by its partisan Democratic critics – that flimsily-corroborated Democratic Party campaign opposition research succeeded in influencing law enforcement to spy on a U.S. citizen involved in the political process at the height of a presidential campaign. That may not be an enormous scandal in size, but it is, if true, a scandal.

And Streetwise Professor:

But one thing that this entire sordid episode has demonstrated is that the bureaucracy generally, and the intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies in particular, consider themselves an independent power, a co-equal–superior actually–branch of government, the Constitution be damned. Trump is deemed the usurper.  Indeed, it is clear that many senior members of the FBI, DOJ, and the intelligence community considered it their right to intervene in the election in order to prevent Trump’s election, and failing that, to kneecap his presidency. And virtually all of the political class in the US is on their side. This is the real Constitutional crisis.

This is not the end.  This is at most the end of a beginning. For the acknowledgement that the FBI and DOJ–and the Obama administration–used under false pretenses a dossier paid for by a political campaign and assembled by rabid partisans to obtain permission to spy on an American just raises other questions. Who other than Page was spied on? Were their names unmasked? What use was made of the information obtained from the Page surveillance? By whom?

So far, Trump’s response to the combined efforts of the DoJ, FBI, Democratic Party, and apparently Barack Obama to derail his presidential campaign has been rather benign, preferring to let the wheels of justice turn slowly, assuming they’re turning at all. What few people are willing to acknowledge is that, if Trump were a lot more ambitious and as dangerous as people say, he would have a handy excuse to start rounding people up and throwing them in jail by the hundred, if not thousand.

When malevolent authoritarians take charge of a country, they often need to fabricate a reason to start arresting their political opponents en masse. Consider the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey which, whether it was genuine or not, handed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the perfect excuse to jail thousands of opposition figures including politicians, journalists, judges, and military personnel replacing them with steadfast loyalists. Sure, this is mostly banana republic stuff but then so is what is going on in the USA. What else to call it? Imprisoning or murdering political activists is a lot harder to justify if they aren’t actively conspiring to overthrow a sitting president, or scuttle their election campaign using illegal methods. Once it’s been demonstrated that they are…well you’re taking your chances on the decency of the man at the top. Consider this:

How do you think Putin or Erdogan (or even Macron) would react to a challenge like this? If the FSB were brazenly threatening to bring down the Russian president, having been caught red-handed trying to stop him getting elected, heads would be rolling, the prisons would be rapidly filling up, people would be fired, and loyalists installed before the week was out.

I suspect the head honchos in the FBI, DoJ, and other branches of the “permanent government” or Deep State believe they can count on the loyalty of their members to oppose Trump on all fronts, sabotaging any attempt to bring about reform. If so, this puts them on dangerous ground. Trump is meeting resistance only because the people concerned feel safe to mount it; if they saw a few senior people being dragged away at the end of a gun and a new boss they don’t know immediately telling them to get in line or else, the resistance would melt like snow in the spring. How many activist judges or defiant mayors would remain once a few of their number had been arrested and replaced in the middle of the night, their families cast into the street? But they know Trump isn’t going to have anyone jailed or shot, so they act with impunity.

For anyone doubting whether Trump could conjure up a band of loyalists ready to do his bidding consider this: James Mattis inspires a loyalty and following which nobody in Washington could even hope to match. If he called on some former colleagues to take over as head of the FBI, DoJ, and any other branch of the government they’d crawl over hot coals to do so, and do exactly what they were told from thereon. Not that I think Mattis would go along with such a programme but again, we’re relying on the decency of Trump and his key staff members. Anyone who thinks Trump & Co. couldn’t find enough willing servants to do their dirty work should they want to is deluded. Hell, I’d bet 90% of those praising Obama would switch allegiance in a heartbeat if promised greater pay and prestige under a new regime which wasn’t taking any prisoners.

In my previous post, I made the point that the state of US politics in 2016 left the door wide open for some seriously nasty bastard to take charge. Now we’ve learned that the winner was not only handed a government structure thoroughly corrupted and open to obscene manipulation, but he was also provided with a rather tempting excuse to engage in a massive purge which would see hundreds of senior government figures in prison for life. Americans ought to be on their knees praying in gratitude that the person who stumbled into this was a billionaire New York playboy in his seventies with a supermodel wife and a penchant for tweeting and playing golf. Instead, most people seem to be labouring under the impression it was the worst outcome imaginable. This is why they might not dodge the next bullet quite so successfully. If they don’t, they can’t ever look back and say the warning signs weren’t there.

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The Undoing of Rose McGowan

It was the New York Times interview with the actress Rose McGowan that first brought Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour to the attention of the general public last October (it was common knowledge in Hollywood circles). This is why I had a vague idea who she was when I saw the video below, filmed during a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in New York:

The person who yelled at her is a transsexual woman who appears to have a rather dubious history of her own. Naturally, this being 2018, the organisers of the women’s march, the event where deranged women turn up in DC wearing pussy hats to scream en masse at Trump, have denounced McGowan and she is now becoming persona non grata:

So last week McGowan was a feminist heroine, a survivor of sexual assault and leading the fight against the Patriarchy. But having not taken any shit from a bloke in women’s clothes who stood up and abused her at her book signing, she’s now an outcast.

Here’s my view: these people are fucking insane. I have some sympathy with McGowan – the lunatic who accosted her should have been turfed out on her ear – but look at her reaction and overall demeanor, best seen in this video shot shortly after the incident:

She’s turned up to a book signing wearing what looks like gym kit, or an outfit she loafs around her flat in. She’s slouched in her chair able only to express anger littered with profanity, coming across as a moody adolescent who’s decided to copy TV portrayals of ghetto thugs when telling her parents she doesn’t want to clean her room. And people actually turned up to listen to this?

People are tempted to point to Harvey Weinstein and say this is what is wrong with Hollywood. Alas, I think the problems go way deeper, and have spilled over into whole swathes of the media and even politics. It is quite something to watch whole swathes of an advanced country go collectively insane.

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Opinion Presented as Fact

Here’s the BBC’s main headline at the time of writing:

Here’s the actual story:

The US House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat has accused Republicans of amending a memo about claims of FBI surveillance at the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff said Republicans had changed the text after it was voted on.

So it’s an unsubstantiated claim by a political opponent. You wouldn’t have guessed that from the headline, would you? This wouldn’t be quite so bad were the BBC not in the habit of presenting Trump’s claims in deeply skeptical terms, even running whole articles attempting to debunk anything he says. These people are obsessed.

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