Trump vs Sweden

As much as I would love to discuss the pros and cons of different compilations of Swedish crime statistics, I think people are in danger of not seeing the woods for the tress here.

Even if immigration led to more crime – and that is far from certain – it would still be worth it because the moral imperative overwrites the risk. Right wingers ask us to tolerate far higher levels of risk all of the time in favour of their pet causes.

Compare an America where we have sensible – read: any – gun control to the America we have now. But we put up with the America we have now because of the (ridiculous and anachronistic) principle of the Second Amendment. Far more people die from loose gun laws that allow mentally ill people or people on no fly lists to buy guns than from immigration. There were 15,809 homicides by firearm in America in 2015, against the 14 deaths by Islamic terror (and in deathly cross pollination these were killed by legally purchased firearms.) There were 15,809 homicides by firearm in America in 2015, against the 14 deaths by Islamic terror (and in deathly cross pollination these were killed by legally purchased firearms.) This is their version social justice, far more deleterious than that held on the left and yet ours is supposedly “societal suicide”.

It is especially egregious that people tolerate one but not the other because America destabilised the Middle East with its foreign policy. Why is it that the same Americans who are so quick to take credit for the glories of their country, are the same to deny any responsibility at all when it does something bad – and all the while lecture us about “accountability”? I believe it’s “My Country Right or Wrong”, not “My Country When It Suits Me”. And yet we who would wish to bear the burden are decried as snowflakes, while those who shirk it with hysteria and hyperbole idealise themselves as modern day, rugged frontiersmen.


Trump, the Constitution and the Real Threat to National Security

The man daily wipes his arse with the constitution.

In a White House meeting today Donald Trump stated that he would “look into” supporting law enforcement agencies who seized the assets of those it suspected of criminal activity. This is despite the clear unconstitutionality of the action. And I quote Article XIV, Section I: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. Funny how those who bray most about their love of the constitution know least about it.

Let us not forget that he thinks “torture works”. Do not worry though; he will not start using it. Not because it goes against the Eighth Amendment but out of deference to his Secretary of State, the reassuringly named James “Mad Dog” Mattis. (I will stick with the Butcher of Fallujah, thanks)

It is also worth pointing out that his now confirmed pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, has spent her whole career privatising state education and diverting funds – and nubile young flesh – to religious chartered schools. It was by adopting this strategy that she hoped to “advance God’s kingdom” at the expense of the separation of Church and State as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The man simply does not know enough to care about the Constitution.

What he does have is this weird fetishisation of the Second Amendment, so common among the GoP. People with severe mental illness can now buy guns with no issues. Leaving aside the paradox of invoking the inviolability of the constitution to defend an amendment to it, is it not gross that of all the amendments it is this one that the GoP grandstand on? Especially when so many rights are curtailed in the name of the War against Terror; a terror which is dwarfed by garden variety gun violence, and is in many way exacerbated by it.

There were 15,809 homicides by firearm in America in 2015, against the 14 deaths by Islamic terror (and in deathly cross pollination these were killed by legally purchased firearms.) In just the last 72 hours there have been 108 gun related deaths. You tell me which is the threat to national security?

Britain’s Problem With Islamophobia; or Three Times the Daily Mail Lied About Muslims This Week

That’s three times now: three times this week that the Daily Mail has been forced to issue a retraction over inaccuracies in its reporting of British Muslims.

And I hate to spoil it for you, but these were not nice confected stories about British Muslims of the sort conducive to harmonious society. They were not reporting that Muslims favourite sitcom was the Vicar of Dibley, for instance. Nor were they were reporting that they secretly really want to own a dog.

No, what they mis-reported betrayed more of a Czarist secret police approach to life in a multiracial society.

Firstly, you will remember the family – the Mahmoods – that was stopped from boarding a plane to the United States to go on holiday to Disneyland. Katie Hopkins wrote that this was a mere pretext – for God knows what – and for good measure, in another article, followed this up by accusing one of the sons – Hamza – of creating a Facebook page promoting extremism. It turns out that he was not responsible for this. Hence the Daily Mail settling on £130,000 damages and meekly publishing an apology and retraction on the MailOnline at 12 in the morning on Sunday.

Similarly, another libellous allegation against a Muslim had to be retracted. Some time ago, the Daily Mail reported that the head of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, refused to condemn ISIS. The statement was retracted this week with a full apology.

Also retracted this week was the headline and accompanying story “Isolated British Mulims so cut off from rest of society they see the UK as 75% Islamic”. This was an egregious misreading of Dame Casey’s report into integration. It turns out that this was just one class of primary school children. The same point was made in the Daily Express and the Times, and duly retracted.

I am sensing something of an agenda here.

We have to be honest that there is a real, demonstrable problem with Islamophobia in this country post-Brexit. And I really hate the word. It is the left’s counterpart to the way the (non actually anti-Semitic) right conflate any and all criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Of course criticism of Islam is not de dicto Islamophobic. Go down the pub with me on a Friday night and you will soon get a sense of that (I’m also great at parties).

I would argue that there is a hardness to much anti-Islamic sentiment that cannot be solely attributed to ideological or intellectual distaste. It’s not the same as racism, granted, nor would I wish to make such a facile point. But I do not see how this precludes comparison between the two. What the Islamophobe shares in common with the racist is the same essentialism: the same shallow belief that what they observe cannot change and evolve as a part of the natural world or humanity like themselves, but is instead fixed, grey, immutable.

Christianity used to be the far more violent and intolerant of the religions in medieval times – just ask the Cathars or the conversos (hint: this is not possible). But it changed. Of course the tenets of Islam determine the parameters of its future development, and in many important ways these are different from Christianity, but it too can change.

I am deeply suspicious of this glib talk of “incompatible” cultures – or better/worse yet “clash of civilisations.” The very same was said of the Irish and their Catholicism well into the twentieth century. Now they are on “our” side.

And we can see similar transitions in our lifetime. It was considered unproblematic in the 1970s to talk of an Iberian culture, as distinct from an Anglo-Saxon culture, that was “authoritarian, patrimonial, Catholic, stratified, corporate and semi-feudal to the core”. It seems comical now. Now who is to say that Iberia did not develop in spite of this, but the fact is that the significance of its culture was grossly overstated. Culture is not fixed.

The people who blare the most about the cultural legacy of the west betray a lack of faith in one of the most distinguishing features of “the West”: our humanist and Enlightenment roots. Things like the power of reason to overcome superstition and brutality, individualism, the perfectibility of man, and the existence of universal values and truth, mean nothing. They do not look at a Muslim as a fellow autonomous man invested with the germ of human creativity, but as something belonging to an entirely different subjective and moral universe.

And is it any surprise we think like this when we have a media which frankly shit stirs and plays up our worst fears?


New Hampshire Primaries: Has America Now Jumped the Shark?

I don’t want to sneer. Truly, deeply I do not want to sneer. But then again I’m a socialist from the mean dinner tables of North London, with Jewish roots to boot, so allow me some latitude: it’s kind of my jam.


Now I’m not one of these people who cling to these unflattering clichés about America, such as them having no sense of irony. On the contrary, I think much of American comedy is bold and uncompromising, and makes ours looks moribund in comparison.


Nor do I think that their stupid are particularly more stupid than ours – it is to be noted that we do just barely better than them in the international league tables for literacy and numeracy. I do however, think that their stupid are far more numerous, far more flagrant and just plain more dangerous than ours.


A lot of this is down to the poor provision of state education in the country; lack of access to higher education; the lack of a social safety net which makes it hard for many household to contemplate anything other than survival; a completely market driven media which is a) so completely shorn of regulation as to be virtual disinformation – much of Fox programming is not actually classified as news programming by the network, but entertainment – and b) without the public provision which makes more esoteric, enrichening, and commercially unviable programming possible; a culture of long working hours which makes it difficult to stay up to date with current affairs – this is the same American model Tory Atlanticist traitors like Liam Hunt want for Britain; a hyper-masculine, hyper-militarised culture which places little value by intellectual feats compared to physical ones (star athletes are rewarded with medals, whereas honour students are not); and a climate of anti-intellectualism based on a deep-rooted folksy abjuration of formal learning in favour of “common sense” (oh would that Paine were still around today).


Which naturally leads me on to the US primaries, where one cannot move for being raked in the face by an egregious fallacy. [Hyperlink to sideshow Bob walking into rakes.]


Trump and self-finance


One of the principle reasons for people supporting Trump is that he is free of the influence of the maligned “elite”. One yokel who had just voted for Trump was recorded by the Guardian as saying that he did so he was not “owned by anyone”.


What people seem to forget is that Trump himself is part of the elite. The man boasts, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.” In so doing he shows himself as showing the same contempt for the democratic mandate that characterises the elite.


So in order to obviate the problem of the undue influence of large corporations, we’ll just vote them in directly. That’s like a Nazi conspiracy theorist voting in a Zionist.


Socialist taboo


One would think that if someone were seriously perturbed by the corporate hijacking of American democracy that they would vote for a candidate such as a Bernie Saunders who has campaign finance reform as a central plank of his bid.


But that would be to ignore the huge and irrational stigma of socialism in the US.


Has been remarked just how brave z move it was of Bernie Saunders to describe himself as a socialist. Or rather “democratic socialist.” And therein lies the rub.


Why the qualification? How jarring would the phrase “democratic nationalist” sound?


And yet nationalists don’t have to make reference to this. Indeed, it would appear to be superfluous for a nationalist standing in a democratic election to stick that in there.


But is socialism any more inherently authoritarian than nationalism?


Yes, there has been a link between socialism and authoritarianism in the past, but socialism has been implemented in a democratic context enough times now for it not to have to distance itself from it. I don’t see European or American nationalists having to distance themselves from the iniquities of the Cold War juntas, which is odd when you think how complicit they were in them.


Democratic governments such as that of Allende’s Chile, João Goulart’s Brazil and Árbenz’s Guatemala were overthrown by militaries that were heavily subsidised by the US. Even as late as 2002 an attempt was made to overthrow Hugo Chavez’s administration in a coup. In fact the US did far worse at the US School of Americas, drilling the death squads of the region in the latest methods of state terror under the euphemism of “counter insurgency tactics”. The Republican administration of Reagan went so far as to ignore the express prohibition of Congress and fund the gruesome Contras of Nicaragua. And how was this achieved? By the proceeds of weapons sold to Iran – an activity which also banned. A clear case of liberty at home being subverted to close it down abroad.


This is not to mention the countries outside Latin America. The Egyptian Army that overthrew the only elected government in its history was the recipient of $10 million per year from the US government, and just this week Obama has proposed to remove restrictions on funding that have been put up after the event.


Unfortunately, the taboo of socialism will be enough to undo for Bernie Saunders, much as it has often done in far less right wing European countries who are happy to enact socialist practise, but often under the menacing portmanteau of social democracy. The sheer weight of stultifyingly ill-informed public opinion – the ballast of popular anti left-wing sentiment – will ensure this.

Hamasexuality? The Sun and Homophobia in Britain and the Middle East

Great front page on the Sun on Wednesday, concerning Crispin Blunt’s admission that he uses party poppers. Well great for fans of alliteration, though utterly execrable for the rest of us. See if you can identify which adjective here is totally superfluous?


“The gay ex-minister confessed during a debate on Government plans to outlaw the legal high, often used to boost sexual pleasure.”


You wouldn’t say a straight ex-minister, or black ex-minister. Only makes sense when you realise that this is connecting into a very well-worn discourse that views homosexuals as deviant hedonists.


It’s slimy, underhand and insidious.


What a load of old guff about British values. We castigate Russia for its illiberal anti-gay propaganda laws (an injustice, for sure) and yet totally forget about Section 28 which was around until last generation despite our vastly better circumstances and much longer tradition of democracy.


There are two inferences that we could draw: firstly, that Russia is not far off the curve and, more broadly, countries should be allowed to develop “organically”, free of Western interference– a boon to authoritarian proponents of “sovereign democracy”. Wrong. Prejudice should be confronted wherever it occurs, even this happens to be in communities aligned against imperialism – my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. It’s this attitude which has led to the lamentable state of Islam in this country at least – though conversely it is one which has saved us from the fate of the more principled French… for now.


The nature of this opposition is of course up for discussion. The very laudable values that we espouse can easily be connected to the injustices that we perpetrate abroad, so that the two become inextricable. Simply put our Enlightenment ideals come to be seen as instruments of imperialism to the extent that not only are reactionaries empowered in their non-western domestic context, but discussion is precluded altogether. It is in precisely this way that the foreign policy IS linked to terrorism. The key here is to quietly empower advocates abroad where we can, while avoiding the moral grandstanding and talk of “clashes of civilisation” which undermine them.


I think the second one is to take this is an injunction to improve ourselves; for this to be a clarion call that cuts across the strangely soothing cacophony of jingoism and self-satisfaction.


Anyway, oafs do so like to have their cherished, prurient prejudices confirmed – just as, admittedly we liberals like to “sneer”. It’s an uncanny simulacrum of intelligence for them, bless.

Corbyn, the Conservative Sneer and the Freedom of Unspeech

The outrage over Jeremy Corbyn’s not singing the national anthem is just the latest example of the pathologically entrenched conservatism of the British media. This phenomenon grows so egregious, so palpable by the day that it has drawn mention in America of all places, that bastion of uncorseted misinformation. Respected commentators Paul Krugman and Jon Schwartz discuss this in their most recent articles.

The right are so apt to cry foul when there is outrage over something they have said – to sanctimoniously disparage it as elitist “sneering”, or “political correctness” – yet here they are raining down fulmination for something somebody has not said. It is beyond parody.

What is worse is the lack of support from within his own party.

His appointed Shadow Foreign Minister, Catherine West, expressed the concern that:

“for many people… singing the national anthem is a way of showing that respect. I think it would have been appropriate and right and respectful of people’s feelings to have done so. I think so, yes [he should have done].”

Such wet, pusillanimous cant. Other “people’s feelings” be damned, what about his? What about such things as integrity?

Why should Corbyn dignify the same mawkish and brutal illogic which tells us to hail the mere fact, in this most prosperous of ages, of our monarch outliving others as though it were some kind of achievement – such obsequiousness would make even a Republican blush; and that “our boys” buffeted by overwhelming technological sophistication and complicit in the terrorisation and exploitation of a prostrate civilian population with no question, are somehow “brave”.

He’s totally entitled to his pacifism and the espousal thereof, without being shrieked at for being “disrespectful”, in the same way right wing commentators perpetually gripe about.

And how telling are the terms on which he is dismissed: a tramp, scruffy, not “electable”. So sayeth the self-appointed anti-establishmentarians of the Murdoch right. And yet it is thought that sneering is the preserve of the left!

Farage’s Farrago: Notes from the Swivel Eyed Lunatic Fringe

Nigel Farage’s shameless co-option of the South Yorkshire child abuse scandal has dragged his party to new demagogic lows.

Farage is beyond the pale here – if you pardon the pun. “Political correctness” has not caused the horrific child abuse in Rotherham.

People are responsible for their actions – or lack thereof. The right bang on about this and yet they do not seem to want to apply it here. If people are so squeamish around notions of ethnicity they should not be social workers. Likewise, if they have twisted the idea of an engagement against the dynamics of discrimination to be mean that other ethnic groups cannot be reproached, that is on their heads. This is a grotesque caricature of what people refer to as “political correctness”.

If we are going to go about the insane, inane business of dismissing political stances on the damage that an erroneous reading of them results in, how about the anti-immigration violence your party could be said to give legitimacy to? The discrimination which destroys so many lives in our country’s inner-cities?

Just giving people carte blanch to be bigoted is not going to help things, either. There is cause to think that it will make matters worse. If we make it acceptable to indulge our prejudices and “common sense”, we will end up with a skewed picture of abuse and an inefficient distribution of resources towards an imagined type of perpetrator. This would make suffering more likely in the long run, but of course when you are busy making hay politically you are not bothered about this.