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Aug 192017
 

The simplistic recitation of what happened in Charlottesville last Friday was that a bunch of fascists organised a protest against the removal of a town statue of Robert E Lee and a counter-protest was organised by anti-fascists. The fascists had a perfect right to peacefully protest (although given their ideology, cringing in their basements in shame would be more appropriate), and the counter-protesters were almost inevitably present – arguably with also a right to be there (peacefully).

The protests turned violent, and on Saturday a fascist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protester killing one, and injuring 19.

Who was to blame? Well before I add my opinion to the pile of opinions out there, let’s take a look at some of the others that have come out since the attack :-

  1. Trump initially sought to blame “all sides”, then went back on his word, and then rolled it forward again. Such decisiveness. But blaming “all sides”? So in other words, the victims of terrorism are to blame as well as the terrorists? You could be generous, and assume that he intended to blame all sides for the general violence, but not to call the attack on anti-fascists terrorism was unforgivable.
  2. Early on, some fascists even tried to claim that the terrorist attack was perpetrated by anti-fascists to blacken the name of fascism. Unfortunately I cannot find a source for this, although I recall it being mentioned (perhaps an entry on the Stormfront site which is currently unavailable to unregistered users). This was a fore-runner of the next part of the “blame game”.
  3. “But BLM/Antifa are terrorists too”. Victim-blaming; even if it were true (I’ll come back to that), the only terrorist attack at Charlottesville was perpetrated by a fascist with anti-fascists as the target. Besides which, the majority of the counter protesters were not members of BLM or Antifa; students, church groups, local residents, hell anyone with half a sense of decency could have been there opposing the fascists.
  4. The deceptive use of the “Alt-Left” label. There is no equivalent of the alt-right on the left; the left have a pretty consistent attitude towards racism. Using the “Alt-Left” label implies that the counter-protesters were members of the lunatic fringe of the left. For a start, whatever you think of the old hard-left (communists and the like), they certainly aren’t new or “alt”in any way. And secondly, many of the counter-protesters were certainly not part of the far left; hell there were probably right-wingers as part of the counter-protesters. I’ve got a low opinion of the mainstream right.

Variations on number 3 above has been common enough online that I have seen it multiple times in my Facebook feed (and elsewhere). Let me emphasise something I mentioned earlier – two wrongs don’t make a right, and there was no BLM/Antifa terrorism at Charlottesville.

Now onto my opinion about who was to blame.

As mentioned before, the only terrorist attack at Charlottesville was carried out by a neo-fascist, and the terrorist attack was the only reason why Charlottesville made a big news story. The counter-protesters were not involved in terrorism.

Now onto the violence. Determining blame here is tricky for several reasons :-

  1. You cannot tell from media reports who was to blame for crowd violence; in particular video footage can be very deceptive especially once it is cut to “sex it up” for the news. When some bozo starts windmilling punches at the fascists, how do we know that he wasn’t hit by a stone thrown by the fascists just before? That could easily be not shown on any video footage. When police forces ask for everyone’s mobile phone video and pictures after a terrorist incident they do so for a reason – they want to see things from as many perspectives as possible.
  2. Reacting with violence to extreme provocation is wrong, but those going out of their way to provoke things are not entirely blameless. Having been on anti-fascist protests myself, I can say that fascists can be extremely intimidating and provoking.

Having said that, there is a school of thought that says that giving a fascist a good kicking is a job well done. Having recently seen a film of what racism seems to inevitably lead to, it is hard to condemn such an attitude :-

Watch that film, and dare say that nazis deserve the protection of the law. At the very least, punching a nazi is no crime. (whatever the law may say).

I have previously used the generic term “fascist” to describe the protesters at Charlottesville, but in reality there was an alphabet soup of right-wing extremists – the KKK, white supremists, neo-nazis, and every other bunch of thugs that are collectively known as “alt-right”. Yes, I said thug. If you scratch the surface of any low-level fascist, you will find a young man who is into violence. What passes for their idiotic ideology is little more than an excuse to justify violence against certain groups.

If you look at listed terrorist attacks in the USA by ideology, 15 attacks have been by left-wing extremists since 1901; 51 have been by right-wing extremists (which excludes lynchings which would bring the figure up into thousands). So which group is the most violent?

Jul 292017
 

There has been a lot of talk about how the USA pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord is stupid in various forms. Stupid enough that many US cities and states are trying to meet their climate accord obligations independently.

But one thing doesn’t appear to have been mentioned: That the USA made a firm commitment to follow the Paris accords, and then broke that agreement. Which makes the US government oath-breakers – an untrustworthy party when it comes to international agreements.

You can make all sorts of excuses for repudiating the Paris Accord – perhaps it wasn’t in the best interests of the US to take part, or that it was unfair to the US in some way.

But fundamentally, the USA made an agreement and then repudiated it. It is now less trustworthy than it was before.

Jun 172017
 

So there has been a disaster at Grenfell Tower; who is responsible?

Ultimately the government :-

  • England requires that all new tower blocks higher than 30m must have sprinkler systems fitted (in Scotland the height limit is 18m). So for some reason new towers are unsafe without sprinkler systems and old towers are safe?
  • Allowing a tower block to be clad in a flammable material which has been linked to previous serious fires and is banned in the US. It’s use in a residential tower block is at best foolish. A government report as far back as 2000 suggested that “We do not believe that it should take a serious fire in which many people are killed before all reasonable steps are taken towards minimising the risks”.
  • The appearance of council tower blocks is more important (after all they’re next door to rich neighbourhoods) than the safety of residents.
  • The government believes that regulation and red tape are an unnecessary burden on business; to put it another way, the government would rather let rich people get richer than stop poor people being incinerated in their own homes.

There will be an enquiry into the fire, and undoubtedly the government will find someone other than themselves to blame.

But don’t forget that the ultimate responsibility for warehousing poor people in fire traps lies with the government.

Jun 172017
 

The election result is in, and the Tories have failed; specifically they failed to increase their majority and indeed no longer constitute a majority. Yet the alternatives have failed too.

The likelihood is that the Tories will form the next government propped up by the reactionary Unionists from Northern Ireland. We can crow over May not getting her increased majority, but she is still in number 10. Which means more years of Tory misrule.

So what went wrong?

Well we could argue that factors such as different attitudes to Brexit, doubt over the Labour leader’s leadership, etc. But there are two big factors.

Firstly the media lies by the Tory press (which seems to be pretty much most of them). Whilst the press is owned by a clique of super-rich Tory supporters, the good news is that the newsprint industry is slowly fading into irrelevance – no doubt helped by their ridiculous bias. And tasteless journalism – the sort of which led to the Sun being boycotted in Liverpool.

Secondly, and perhaps the biggest aspect is that a large segment of the working class has bought into the big Tory lie – that they support the ordinary working family and small businesses. In reality Tories support the super rich with their tax cuts, and don’t give a damn about the working class. The real working class.

Which is not what most people think of when they hear that phrase; it is not just the horned handed agricultural labourer and the worn out factory worker, but it also includes office workers, lawyers, “knowledge workers”, etc. It is everyone who works for a living, Somehow workers in the Tory heartlands are fooled into thinking that the Tories are on their side.

What the Tory alternatives need to do is to persuade these deluded workers that voting Tory helps only the super-rich, and not by painting themselves a fetching shade of blue (as New Labour did).

Jun 042017
 

Before we get onto the hysteria part of this semi-coherent rant, let me emphasise that last night’s attacks were terrible and that having religious nut-jobs (if that is confirmed; whilst it seems probable it could still be a false flag incident) running around attacking ordinary people on a night out is despicable.

But some of the reactions on #LondonBridge were pretty disgusting; whilst some were posting offers to house people stranded because of the attack, others were leaping to conclusions and demanding some actions :-

  • Many including the orange idiot were demanding the travel ban. Which would stop none of the terrorist incidents perpetrated by domestic muslims; and most of these incidents are by domestic muslims. The main outcome of a travel ban would be to alienate those targeted by the ban, and alienation is the first step on the road to radicalisation.
  • Blaming the whole of islam for the terrorism. With the muslim nurses, doctors treating the injured, the muslim taxi-drivers taking people home for free, the muslim shop-keepers opening up and offering food, drink, and a place to stay, there were more acts of kindness by muslims last night than there were acts of terror. Or are you going to blame all christians for christian terrorism?
  • Bizarrely bringing the Paris Accords into this incident.
  • Demanding action without specifying what action. Action is of course taking place each and every day, but terrorism is extremely difficult to stop.

The only mistake muslim made on the twitter last night was to claim that the terrorists were not muslims; that’s the No True Scotsman fallacy. It would be far more effective to claim that these terrorists are muslim heretics (or whatever equivalent term you would prefer).

Whilst the events last night were terrible, it is also important to take them in context – if you were to add up all the deaths and injuries from terrorist incidents they would amount to a small fraction of the deaths caused in London each year by air pollution (estimated at around 9,000 a year). Or to go the other way, one terrorist incident caused perhaps two day’s worth of traffic accidents.

That does not mean we should not take action against potential terrorists, but neither should we over-react and respond with actions that punish the innocent as well as the guilty.

May 312017
 

No, of course he isn’t. The Russian intelligence services would never allow an agent of theirs to behave in such a foolish way; at most he is a useful idiot. But whose antics are getting to the point where the idiot part is outweighing the useful part.

Even ignoring the political shenanigans of doing almost the complete opposite of what he said he would do (decimating public spending on health care is going to come as a bit of a surprise to many of his supporters) :-

  1. Trump allegedly tried to pressure several intelligence agency heads into stopping investigations into the “Russian connection”.
  2. Trump fires the head of the FBI whilst that head was involved in investigating the “Russian connection”; whilst this was allegedly done because Comey’s performance during the investigation of Hilary Clinton’s email situation was sub-par, it looks like an attempt to stop the investigation.
  3. Trump allegedly has private meetings with Russian officials in the oval office where he allegedly calls the former head of the FBI a “nut job” and that his firing takes off the pressure of the “Russian connection” investigation.
  4. Trump allegedly shows highly classified intelligence information to Russian officials in the oval office. Imagine this happening during the cold war era!
  5. Trump in trying to deny the above lets slip that the source of the intelligence was an Israeli agent embedded within ISIS; if that agent survives, he or she is owed a free slap at him.

This all goes well beyond political naivety and well into the realm of complete stupidity. It doesn’t take much sense to realise that interfering with an investigation into the “Russia connection” is a spectacularly dumb move. And releasing classified information and then to top that by leaking the source is criminally stupid and quite possibly treasonous.

May 312017
 

The title is not meant to be taken seriously except as a poke of fun at the notion that border between England and Scotland is set in stone and has always been there. It is essentially an excuse to counteract some of the anti-English propaganda found in films like Braveheart or TV series such as Outlander.  For example, the Battle of Culloden involved Scottish regiments fighting for the British side, and the Jacobite side had several regiments that suffered severely from desertion, plus a small English contingent; it was actually very little to do with England and Scotland, being rather more about religion and restoring the ousted House of Stuart.

But back to the borders …

The map above does not show Edinburgh, but it is on the northern edge of what is shown as Northumbria. The modern border is of course different; very roughly imagine a diagonal between the “Y” of Strathclyde, and a bit north of Bamburgh. The modern border was pretty much defined by the battle of Carham (or Coldstream) in 1018 when two Scottish kings (technically one was the king of Strathclyde) defeated an Earl of Northumbria. Later significant border changes worked out to be more or less temporary in nature.

This defeat (and loss of territory) was accepted by the kings of England partially because it has been alleged that the defacto border reflected the new border – England would have been quite weak in enforcing the “king’s peace” given it’s struggle to survive (essentially it didn’t being eventually conquered by the Normans which were essentially Danes or Norwegians with a French accent).

It is also the case that Northumbria would have seemed a remote part of the kingdom to both the Anglo-Saxon kings (most of whom were originally based in Wessex in the south), and to the Normans who were also distracted with “issues” in France. A case of not bothering when there were bigger issues at stake.

Which may very well have been a contributing factor to the North being somewhat grumpy and inclined towards rebellion; so much so that when Charles I raised his banner in the north to defeat parliament he was seen as a rebel.

So did those Northumbrians see themselves as Scottish after 1018? Almost certainly not, but they may very well not seen themselves as English or even Northumbrian either. The common people were far more likely to put more importance to their pre-medieval clan allegiances, and their medieval feudal lords. And those classified as clan chiefs or feudal lords would have pled allegiance to any overlord or king who was in a position to assist them.

To make things more complicated, the kings of Scotland often held the Earldom of Northumbria (thus were in theory required to swear allegiance to the English king) or Cumbria. Of course as an alternative to paying homage, the Scottish kings were just as happy to invade England – on at least one occasion reaching as far south as Dover.

And no medieval army behaved well on campaign – rape and pillage were considered standard forms of warfare at the time – so it is worth remembering that the English invasion in 1296 did not come in a vacuum. Yes the English behaved terribly in Scotland, but it was standard behaviour for armies at the time – soldiers expected to make money through plunder.

Trying to determine who invaded whom first is pointless not just because the conflict disappears into murkier periods of history, and because smaller scale “wars” (raids) probably occurred nearly constantly. The Scottish borders were a place of nearly constant raiding back and forth until at least the 17th century – there was even a special legal system in force in the borders (not that it helped much), and “real wars” were often raids on a larger scale.

So yes it is possible to argue that Edinburgh is English (and a great way to start an argument), but more importantly this all illustrates that nations are created and not natural. Someone from Berwick-Upon-Tweed could reasonably claim to be English, Scottish, Northumbrian, or even Bernician. If you look closely at history, you can actually see that nation-building happening with kings re-enforcing the notion of nation in order to protect their centralised power against magnates with ambition to replace them.

Just because nations are artificially created does not mean that they are meaningless, but it doesn’t do any harm to remember that they are artificial and that people on the “wrong” side of the border are different only in that some ruler from the distant past declared that they were different. Most national borders get fuzzier as you look closer at the people living near those borders.

May 232017
 

I woke up this morning to the news of the Manchester bombing this morning; learning about what was going on from a forum that had attracted some of the more rancid members of the far right. Who were busy blaming this atrocity on all muslims, but also on Syrian refugees; all this of course before anyone knew any facts because facts are irrelevant to the bigoted far right.

And a particularly nasty piece of work has labelled the victims “sluts” and “whores” (I’ve linked to a site that discusses his comments in order not to give him any extra ad revenue).

Now I am not in the habit of being sympathetic to any religious group – they all believe in imaginary friends. But they’re people and in many cases my fellow countrymen, so when a gang of pathetic little chickenshit cowards labels all muslims as terrorists, it is time to call them out on their bigoted bullshit.

Yes the evil scum who set off the bomb was a muslim; one born in Britain and not a Syrian refugee.

But :-

  1. It is almost certain that some of the 60 ambulances that attended were crewed by a muslim or two.
  2. It is almost certain that some of the police who were there helping people out were muslims.
  3. It is almost certain that some of those who opened their homes to accommodate stranded
  4. Some of the taxi drivers who turned off their meters and offered free lifts to those stranded were muslims.

Of course Mancunians of all faiths and none rallied around and helped out, but as muslims were being painted with the terrorism brush, it seems reasonable to highlight that many of those helping out were muslims.

May 012017
 

With an election coming up it is time to try and persuade those who do not vote to get out there and vote. One of the main reasons people give for not voting is because none of the candidates are inspiring enough. Well it is all very well waiting for a candidate that inspires you, but you could well be waiting for a very long time.

Probably the second biggest reason for not voting is that with the first past the post system, there are places where voting for anyone other than the leading candidate is seen as a wasted vote. Nothing could be further from the truth! In almost every “safe” seat, if everyone who didn’t vote for the leading candidate all voted for an agreed alternative, then the seat could easily go to that alternative candidate. For example, the Arundel and South Downs constituency was won with 32 thousand votes in a constituency of nearly 100,000 – easily enough to overturn the Tory majority.

As to tactical voting: It can be summed up by selecting the candidate you would most like to lose (such as the Tory candidate), and picking the candidate most likely to defeat them.

Anyone can find out the last few election results (and a whole lot more) at http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/. Just look at the last few elections and vote for the second placed candidate (providing that’s not a Tory or a UKIP candidate of course!). And don’t keep punishing the Liberals for breaking their promises; they don’t break their promises any more than the others.

Of course this may mean you are not voting for the candidate you want, but under the present voting system it makes more sense to vote against the candidate you dislike the most. Yes this is crazy, but so is using a voting system first used in the medieval era!

Apr 302017
 

Short answer: NO!

One of the infuriating things I come across is the notion that final salary pension schemes are generous; it seems that a generation of Tory propaganda has persuaded people that such schemes were wildly over-generous and completely affordable. Of course many of those doing the persuading are taking advantage of those “generous” pension schemes.

What it is easy to forget is that many of those final salary pension schemes collapsed because successive governments turned a blind eye to the private sector looting pension scheme surpluses and panicking when the surpluses turned into deficits. In other words when pensions were profitable they were affordable, but whenever a company suddenly had to contribute more than it expected they were suddenly too expensive.

Now don’t get me wrong – with increasing life expectancy there are problems with funding pension schemes, and we can decide that they are too expensive, or not. But if a pension scheme was perfectly reasonable in the 1970s, it doesn’t suddenly become overly generous in the 21st century.

As it is, we have “decided” that rather than share wealth out amongst the working-class, it should be kept in the hands of the already wealthy.

Of course we could always decide to revisit that decision and spend more time thinking about it.

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