THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "United States" Feed

A new age?

It has been a while. My life has been filled with family, friends and festive fun as I hope, gentle reader, has yours. Even this, the first post of 2017, is something of an accident. A young photographer friend of mine responded on Facebook to President Trump's inaugural speech as follows;

Now I am genuinely confused. How do you eradicate an idea unless it's made from bricks?

I replied but soon realised my post was not Facebook material. So here it is for your review and correction. Please let me know in the comments how you would change or add to my draft plan for POTUS to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to the USA . 

  1. You begin by naming it. [Done, in the Inauguration speech].

  2. You stop making excuses for it.

  3. You deport its supporters and ensure proper screening of future immigrants from the countries where it is rife.

  4. You publish a threat list of such countries; naming, shaming and withdrawing all aid from them and restricting their citizens' travel to the US until they qualify to be de-listed.

  5. You ensure Saudi Arabia – the heart of Islamic darkness and Western civilisation's most important current enemy – is on that list.

  6. You allow citizens of threat list countries to trade freely with yours so that their isolation is only political. Trade is always good and almost never the legitimate concern of government because countries don't trade — their citizens do.

  7. You override all "Green" opposition to allow free enterprise to open every oil field, fracking site and nuclear plant it can on US and US-friendly territory to make your country energy independent and weaken the Arab oil states on the threat list.

  8. You lean diplomatically on its sources of funds (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Iran, the EU — which funds Hamas in Israel).

  9. You arm the West's only ally in the region — Israel — to the teeth and back it loyally in eliminating with extreme prejudice the enemies who threaten it.

  10. You purge its cultural Marxist allies and apologists from US academia — there is no reason to fund treason from taxes; let them sell their indoctrination in the free market if they can.

  11. You equip and train special forces and deploy drones to kill anyone who practises or promotes it.

  12. You cease aid to any country or body (e.g. the UN) that provides support to it.

  13. You announce that you will never intervene in a threat list state militarily to facilitate regime change. No more overthrowing one Arab fascist to make way for another. In making this announcement you acknowledge that President Putin was right to support the recognised government of Syria rather than back first the rebels who proved to be Al Qaida and then the rebels who turned out to be ISIS. You announce your intention to seek President Putin's advice in future such situations.

  14. You close the UN nest of vipers in NYC (and redevelop the land as Trump-branded condominiums to help recover some of the millions wasted on funding US enemies there for decades).

  15. You deploy a fleet in the Mediterranean to sink the smugglers boats, kill the smugglers and land any illegal migrants you may rescue back to their port of embarkation. You order that fleet to destroy any ports still allowing smugglers to operate after having given them fair warning.

  16. You ask President Putin to deploy the Black Sea fleet on a similar mission.

  17. You insist that freeloading parasites like Germany and France pull their weight in the defence of Western civilisation by putting troops in harm's way alongside Americans and Brits where necessary and paying their NATO dues of 2% of GDP (including arrears back to its foundation) or lose the protection of the US nuclear umbrella.

  18. You ignore as irrelevances anyone who finds the above shocking because there is no question the majority of the American public will support all of it.

Today the Free World has a leader who has the balls to do it and "Mad Dog" Mattis in charge of the US military. US "liberals" may be trembling histrionically today but the terrorists they have succoured around the world should be genuinely afraid.

The Enlightenment West is as powerful as it chooses to be. All it has to do is quit the self loathing political correctness and believe in itself again — as its despised  "ordinary" people have never ceased to do. You may say the above programme is not libertarian and you would be right. It is a plan for the US as currently constituted, not as I would wish it to be. In a libertarian America, for example, there would be no state funding of universities and so it would be up to their owners to decide whether to employ Marxists and other enemies of the Enlightenment - and up to students and their families to decide if they want to pay for an anti-Western education that equips them for nothing productive.

In the meantime, drain that swamp, Mr President. Gentle reader, please discuss. 


The Infants Still Crying Wolf

You Are Still Crying Wolf | Slate Star Codex

I have said my piece on Trump for now but the worldwide wets of the special snowflake meltdown just can't give it a rest. Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex is trying to administer some soothing facts to them. Good luck with that. Here's how he addresses their anguished cry of "racist!!!" for example. 

Trump made gains among blacks. He made big among Latinos. He made gains among Asians. The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.

Nor was there some surge in white turnout. I don’t think we have official numbers yet, but by eyeballing what data we have it looks very much like whites turned out in equal or lesser numbers this year than in 2012, 2008, and so on.

And here's the voting data. Not that facts ever got in the way of their identity politics hatred and division campaigns before, right?

IMG_0705

If they weren't making people hate each other by falsely accusing people of hating each other it would be funny. God knows it's all I can do to keep from hating them.


Is normality now unelectable?

I have never favoured the view that elected officials need be just like us. Ideally, given the scope of the responsibilities of those leading what is regrettably the most powerful and dangerous force in our society, it is desirable that they be unusual.

Most importantly they would (unlike most of us) find economics interesting.  Or at least they would be prepared to give it — as a scientific attempt to analyse human behaviours — primacy over how they would like to think the world should be. Angela Merkel with her "primacy of politics over economics" just reminds me of Douglas Adams' marble sculpted teacup held in the air by the superiority of art over physics. Without the laugh.

Scientific detachment, a non-corrupt desire to serve the public, a healthy sense of inadequacy to a task never yet successfully undertaken and a humble awareness that, even ignoring wars, government is the leading non-natural cause of death. These should be differences enough. We are not entitled to expect our politicians to be moral paragons. Indeed I think it would dangerous if they were.

Many a normal man has lusted after an attractive woman when his social commitments and/or hers dictated otherwise. And, let's not be sexist here, vice versa. Some are too moral to act on their desires. Some are not brave enough and call their cowardice morality. Few are vulgar enough to share them with third parties. Even fewer are near live microphones if they do. So I don't really understand the fuss about the Trump tape. Neither his vulgarity nor his undiplomatic openness about his fleshly desires were anyway in doubt.

I therefore think he was unwise to apologise for it because he has now accepted a higher standard of behaviour than he is likely to have lived up to generally given his colourful sexual history.

People are driven to power, fame and fortune very largely because they give access to more and more attractive sexual partners and (as Rupert Murdoch demonstrates) for longer. As long as all partners are consenting adults, there's no particular harm in that. Anything lawful and non-violent that fires the ambition of the productive is good, whether it's the desire to bed a looker, own a Picasso or fund a cure for AIDS. Without such ambitions the successful would all retire quietly on their first million and most great endeavours would falter.

If there is a moral dimension to it, it says as much of the sexual partners attracted by power, money and fame as it does of those using it to attract. It certainly does not speak of the moral superiority of one sex over the other as a chap I know who moved jobs because of a female supervisor's demand for sexual favours as part of his appraisal would attest.

Trump has the same appetites and attitudes as America's favourite president, JFK. President Kennedy however used the FBI to bring women to him and had the G-men threaten them with dire consequences if they told. Bill Clinton idolised JFK and strove to emulate him. The FBI being unwilling it was up to Hillary Clinton to threaten Bill's women with consequences. I do not say she approved of them, but she seems to have been a knowing and thorough accomplice after the repeated seedy fact. Nor does she seem to have thought Bill's behaviours disqualified him from office. She has, as the lawyers say, no locus standi on this issue. 

It is in our interests for our political leaders to be flawed. We no longer expect them not to have smoked weed, committed sexual indiscretions nor held silly views in their youth precisely because a Cromwell — true to his Puritanical principles — will get you into far worse trouble than a leader who can picture himself in the place of your tempted, weak self. As we are about to find out with a prig of a vicar's daughter in Number 10.

There are lots of reasons not to vote for Donald Trump. His utter ignorance of economics, for example. His lack of affection for either (it's hard to tell) the truth or reality, for another. But this story teaches us nothing new or surprising about him.

 


Political geometry

I know from the blogs I have been following during my purdah that the liberty-minded continue to despair and with good cause. Our government still knows no boundaries to its power and has no hesitation about interfering in the minutiae of our private lives. But there are some good omens, in my view.

Bill Clinton, or rather his spin doctor in the 1990s, pioneered the concept of "triangulation"; taking "your own" voters for granted and talking mainly to those on the other side. It worked well for him and has succeeded elsewhere. Tony Blair acted Labour but talked Tory. So much so that many on the Left hate him more than they hate some Conservatives. David Cameron's every public utterance seems directed, flirtatiously, to Polly Toynbee.

I always felt triangulation was morally wrong but could not work out how it might be opposed. Normal, decent humans glance at political headlines and half listen to sound bites. Who can blame them? Life is both short and full of distractions. Joe and Jane Public buy triangulation even though (or perhaps because) it is so far from the principled approach of "conviction politicians" aka scary bores. In a well-functioning democracy, where the role of government is limited, their trust should not get them into trouble. There is no shortage of geeks and bores who want to take care of the tedious stuff.

For so long as Parliament or Congress consists mainly of wily, unprincipled sneaks seeking to show a half-listening public they "care", however, we are easy prey for rent-seekers, lobbyists and narcissistic celebrity chefs. The politicians and those lobbying them have a freer hand the more triangulation hollows out our political parties. There are decent-sized fishing clubs with a greater membership than the once glorious Conservative Party. When I was born they had three million members but they stopped publishing their numbers in 2014 when they were down to 150,000. The Labour Party became so small that "entryism" returned. The hard Left now have their feet firmly under the party's table.

I think triangulation is beginning to fail precisely because of this "hollowing out." I have two arguments for this. Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump.

The faithful of the Republican Party have been complaining for some time about "Republicans in Name Only" (RINOs) and launching groups like the Tea Party to change its direction. The RINOs blundered on disdainfully, still confident no Tea Party member would ever vote Democrat. Now American conservatives have - as American conservatives will - reached for their gun. And the name on their piece is not Glock, but Trump. The GOP's bemusement as he rolls on regardless of his gaffes shows how they miss the point. Their voters are saying "Talk to us. Listen to us. Stop ignoring us. Or else..." His bizarre rants and the way he attacks people almost randomly; certainly without regard for political correctness or opinion polls shock the RINOs. They are meant to. Their rabbit-in-the-headlights horror is precisely their electorate's goal. If Trump makes it into the Oval Office every conservative leader is going to have to focus on making the GOP turn to face its traditional voters. And if he doesn't, the same. What he means for the rest of us remains to be seen, but he's a win win for Conservative America.

Mandelson_3262707b

The same logic applies to Corbyn. My Labour voting relatives up North see Blair as a traitor and class enemy. He's no posher than Corbyn of course - and he's a hell of a lot cleverer. He's no less inclined than Corbyn to favour the fleas over the dog - as witness the growth of the public sector payroll and the way its average income passed that of the private sector on his watch. Not to mention all the stealth taxes that raised as much as the whole of income tax on the day New Labour was elected. But they are only reading headlines and hearing soundbites, remember? Blair rubbed them up the wrong way. On purpose. And they don't like it. He paraded John Prescott on a leash as his pet member of the Northern working class - the very people who founded the Labour Party and still believe they own it. But they were not fooled. They believe that Peter "ooh Guacamole!" Mandelson is his true friend. Are they wrong?

Blairites whingeing about Corbyn making the party unelectable miss the point. They don't want an unelectable idiot like Corbyn, but - more than they want an immediate Labour government, they want a leader who doesn't condescend to them. Corbyn is the brand name on the baseball bat they are waving at the LINOs heads. Judging by the snootiness of Pat Glass, Shadow Europe Minister, yesterday they are not taking it seriously yet. Those in the Westminster bubble don't yet realise that calling names doesn't work any more. Like advertising, it is so pervasive that it has faded into the background and can easily be ignored. 

The good people of Sawley are more likely to remember Glass couldn't be bothered to check where she was before swearing never to return there than that yet another bubble-dweller called them bigots.

My first reaction to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was to rejoice that they are now unelectable. My second reaction was to realise it takes the pressure off the Conservative Party to stop talking pointlessly to Polly and recover its connection with its voters. My third reaction is to welcome the imminent return of adversarial politics from distinctly different political perspectives. I want to see politicians as opposing barristers pleading their cases to the jury that is us. The British people successfully steered their government for years as if it were a tank. They alternately accelerated or decelerated the left and right tracks. As they were only allowed steering inputs every five years or so, it was clumsy but over time it worked.

To try yet a third metaphor it is time for the boxers in red and blue trunks to return to their corners and pay attention to their coaches. I think it will happen and that's my ground for optimism. Dear readers I have missed your inputs so please let me know where I have erred.


If I had a hammer

 

...I would be hammering The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and the BBC for bombarding me with nonsense about the late Pete Seeger's 'idealism'. Even his ideological chums over at the New Republic acknowledge he had been a Stalinist stooge.

He and his musical colleagues sang anti-war songs in 1939-41 because, in the Soviet Union, Stalin had decided that an alliance with the Nazis was a good idea; and the order to support Stalin had gone out to every Communist Party in the world; and Pete Seeger was, in those days, a good Communist. And so, he picked up his banjo and leaned into the microphone, and his vocal warblings and his banjo plunks were exactly what Stalin wanted to hear from Pete Seeger.

"In those days" Really?! In an interview in 1995 he said;

I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it.

Of course he backed off a little in his enthusiasm for Uncle Joe Stalin. Gosh darn it, he even wrote a song;

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe
He ruled with an iron hand
He put an end to the dreams
Of so many in every land
He had a chance to make
A brand new start for the human race
Instead he set it back
Right in the same nasty place
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast)
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Do this job, no questions asked)
I got the Big Joe Blues . . .

That was in 2007 so Seeger may have been the last to notice that Stalin "ruled with an iron hand". I was living in Russia at the time and - trust me - the news had been out there for a while. He may also have underestimated his ex-idol's achievements. The world before Stalin may have been a "nasty place", but the world after was not "the same nasty place". The nastiness bar had been raised. Maybe, if you are inclined to see totalitarian power as a chance to make "a brand new start", it's best not to look to you for moral judgement?

Mark Steyn, before Seeger's death, commented drily on Seeger's propensity to be on the side of anyone at war with America at the time, but to recant later.

I can't wait for his anti-Osama album circa 2078

Mr Steyn also pointed me to the concise dismissial of Pete Seeger by James Lileks;

"'If I Had A Hammer'? Well, what's stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they're about a buck-ninety, tops."

That's rather Tom Lehrer's point in the video above, of course; "Ready. Aim. Sing".

I also found a highly-critical article by one of Seeger's fellow-leftists;

Who the hell was Pete? He came from a distinguished family of musicians and academics afflicted with self-conscious class-consciousness; his father, Charles Louis Seeger, although from an old Puritan patrician line, joined the radical Industrial Workers of the World in the 1930s, a form of ostentatiously slumming solidarity that predicted much about his son's future. Pete was a professional musician from a young age, Harvard dropout, assistant to folk archivist Alan Lomax, and dedicated political activist. He knew everything about folk music, except what it is.

No rebel then, our Pete. He was as in mindless a thrall to his parents' ideology as the most conventional Tory of the Shires.

The biggest smile I got from the Seeger tributes today was at the Leftist New York Times leaping to his defence by claiming that he had criticised Stalin “at least as early” as 1993. It rather reminded me of the moment a Russian colleague was asked by a client to whom he had complained of "Western exaggeration" about Stalin how many he thought he had killed. When he answered "no more than a couple of hundred thousand", the client paused meaningfully before saying "so that's OK then?"

Trust me, I know idealism when I see it - not least because I am old enough to be painfully self-aware. Idealism was far down the list of Pete Seeger's problems - some way below his lousy voice, poor musicianship and spoiled rich kid leftism. Tom Lehrer was, if anything, far too kind.


Remembering 9/11

There are no more words to say. This image - by Ira Block, the lead tutor at the photographic course I attended in NYC earlier this year - says it all for me today.

Here's to the memory of those who fell and to the families who still suffer the consequences. And here's to finally understanding that sacrificing liberty in pursuit of security is just to hand freedom's enemies their victory. God bless America and guide her leaders from their wrong-headededness.


'Never go through life saying you should have'

 

This is what we have lost in Britain; I fear forever. The Welfare State has convinced many of us that we are not the answer to each other's problems. Yet in America, as I saw in Moore OK on my recent tour, the first instinctive reaction to a crisis is still 'what can I do?'

The men in this video are ordinary blokes. Working stiffs. The kind of people my condescending metropolitan friends believe unable to run their own lives without constant government 'help'. The call went out for boats and they turned up in their hundreds. At their own expense. At the risk of their own lives.

They didn't ask if it was their problem or what the governement was going to do. They didn't ask what approved group the people they helped belonged to, or what approved thoughts they might have. They acted on their best instincts, and their only reward is that - as they say in the video - they had the best day of their lives; the day of which they can most be proud.

Not for them, existential angst. They know what their lives are for.

Nearly five hundred thousand people were evacuated by boat in less than nine hours. I had no idea that it happened until I was sent this film today. Yet it was the greatest seaborne evacuation in history; bigger even than Dunkirk. Like Dunkirk, it wasn't ordered by anyone. It wasn't funded by force. People needed help and other people responded, at their own willing risk. It's utterly magnificent.

Never let anyone tell you that humanity is so defective that 'kindness' must be enforced. When someone says that, it says nothing about humanity and everything about them.

H/T an American friend.


Barackading the Manning

Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison – live updates | World news | theguardian.com.

The Guardian suddenly seems to be my newspaper. Soon I will have to take back all those Guardian reader and Guardianista jibes over the years. Or perhaps not. At the moment it's doing a good job of covering the civil liberties crisis in America and the British state's toadying complicity. 

For example, it's reporting the swingeing sentence on whistle-blower Bradley Manning. I think the ACLU best sums up my own opinion on the subject;
...a legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, the Icelandic MP associated with Wikileaks, makes the killer point though;
...no-one has been held accountable for the criminality exposed in the documents for which Manning is standing trial - except him.
As modern statists continue to replace the rule of law with the rule of men that's not exactly surprising. Those walking free committed their crimes in the service of the state so of course they will not be prosecuted.

If the rule of law applied; if there was a brave prosecutor to say "Be you never so high, the law is above you" then the story would be different, but that's not the reality of the post 9/11 West. Manning's punishment is not for any harm he may have done to intelligence assets, but for letting the supposed owners of the state in question - the American people - know what it was doing in their name. So much for accountability.

Stories such as this that give the lie to the statists' deliberate blurring of the distinction between people, nation and state. Any notion that "the state is us" is ridiculous. It's a massive power centre that is supposed to be accountable to us, but which lashes out violently at any of its people naieve enough to behave as if that's true. Recently, the British state has even been caught boasting to the American state about how unaccountable its agents are. 

I suspect there has also been a pretty good (and incredibly hypocritical, given the American state's usual posture on sexual diversity) attempt to smear him. He has been made out to be a social cripple, a sexual deviant and a general nut job. This is what any of us can expect if we incur the wrath of the servants who think they are our masters. Is it any wonder I erupt when purveyors of horrific tosh emerge from behind the skirting boards to tell us these gangsters have "far more moral legitimacy" than private citizens?

Bradley Manning is a good servant of the American people. He was a bad servant of the American state. He knew the risks he took in blowing the whistle and he blew it anyway. Don't let a state that tells you - when it suits its purpose - that your colour, creed or sexual orientation are irrelevant then use sexual and other smears to mask the courage of what he did.

Live free or die

New Hampshire BearCat Opposed; Marine Colonel Peter Martino Claims 'We're Building A Domestic Army' (VIDEO) (UPDATED).
It's been a while since I had the energy to post more than once in a day, but I can't resist commenting on this gem. Please compare and contrast this gentleman's cheerfully robust approach with the limp response of British citizens to state salami-slicing of our liberty. Here speaks a free man.
 
He is Pete Martino, a retired colonel in the US Marines. He was speaking at a council meeting in Concord, New Hampshire on a proposal to equip the police there with an armoured vehicle. This story has already hit the news because the local police chief named legitimate protest groups as reasons he might need such equipment. Fortunately, someone leaked his proposal document to a civil liberties organisation. Col. Martino is articulate, frank and funny. I loved his comment that he told his kids 
...there's always free cheese in the mousetrap...
That's a lesson our entitlement-crazed fellow-citizens could usefully learn.

Those who mock American democracy because of the low turnouts in Presidential elections should note the active local democracy here. Would any British council or any other organ of the state hold a hearing like this on a line item of public expenditure? Please note however the left-liberal Huffington Post's attempt to discredit Col. Martino by pointing out that had been fired by a British defence contractor. Apparently he spoke out on its underbidding for a US embassy security assignment for which it was allegedly not equipped.

If only more of us had 'form' for such principled behaviour. Without courageous whistle-blowers such as Bradley ManningEdward Snowden and whoever leaked the Concord armored car proposal, America's current civil liberties debate would not be taking place. It is certainly shocking that the US government has been caught out implementing nation-wide surveillance on the scale of East Germany's Stasi. It is certainly shocking that, if Col. Martino is right, it is trying to circumvent the US Constitution's rule against troop deployments on US soil. But at least, thanks to the whistle-blowers, there's a discussion. If America goes down the road to a police state, its people will have approved it.  Will the same be true in Britain?

If we are ever to speak as freely again as Col. Martino does here, a useful first step would be to afford total legal protection to whistle-blowers. Revealing a crime or abuse of state power should never have negative consequences. That would put us ahead of the USA on civil liberties and might begin to reverse our long slide into authoritarianism.