Tinker, no-tailor, socialist, spy?

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So if you believe the right wing media, Corbyn (that’s Corbyn) is a ex-spy for the soviet block (again, that’s Corbyn, as in the guy in the dodgy tracksuit below is a spy). I mean I’m not exactly a fan of his, but this is clearly a gutter press hatchet job.

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Suffice to say, this story fails the basic smell test and sets off the BS meters on several levels. Firstly, intelligence agents are very careful whom they recruit as spies. A bad spy is a dangerous liability who can bring down an entire network. Recruiting anyone is therefore a risk for an intelligence agency, and hence they’ll only do it if there’s a good reason. Which basically means the individual will need to have access to classified information that would be difficult to acquire by other means.

Corbyn at the time was a back bench MP with known hard left tendencies, prone to rebelling against his own party and running his mouth to the media (or anyone else who came within ear shot). Nobody in government was going to give him access to classified information. And if they did, then the really scandal is which dimwitted Etonian moron gave someone like Corbyn access to such information. So there would be nothing he could tell anyone that their agents couldn’t pick up via a subscription to Private Eye.

Agencies will also need some way of controlling their agents, they need leverage. While yes some on the hard left like Corbyn (during Thatcher and Reagan’s reign of error) had some reason to favour the Soviet union, this would be temporary at best. If labour got into power, he’d quickly turn on them, so it would be dangerous to recruit someone like him. More often than not money can be a useful recruiting tool. It was money problems that drove John Walker, arguably the most damaging spy of the cold war, to betray his country. What’s Corbyn going to spend the money on? More tracksuits? Some runner beans for the allotment?

Above all else an intelligence agency will try to avoid someone who is likely to become a liability or blow his cover. Suffice to say Corbyn is last person you’d want to recruit, as his involvement with anti-war protesters would likely mean he was being watched by MI5. And he’s not exactly streetwise. He’s made numerous unforced errors since coming to office, notably as regards labour’s brexit policy. The idea that he could keep something like this secret (keeping in mind that the relevant files in the eastern block have been a matter of public record for sometime) does not sound plausible.

In short, even if Corbyn walked into a soviet block embassy and offered his services they’ve have likely told him to piss off (more than likely because they mistook him for a tramp!). He is not spy material.

That said, the bosses in charge of the soviet intelligence agencies might have one opinion, but their underlings had a different view. One of the damning indictments of the soviet system was how towards the end western intelligence were running rings around them (which of course makes the whole idea that Corbyn spying hasn’t been picked up until now all the more implausible). Largely because most of those working for Warsaw pact intelligence agencies just wanted to keep their cushy jobs (with all of its perks), while those deployed in the west wanted to stay there and live the life of Reilly.

In that context its not difficult to believe a scenario where Corbyn met a Czech diplomat, whom he was unaware was a spy. He had a general moan about Thatcher, which revealed nothing that couldn’t be found in any newspaper at the time. Said agent, under pressure from his bosses to recruit half of London in a fortnight, reported back how he’d recruited Corbyn (and probably half the labour party too) and gotten his hands on classified information (as his bosses would have no means of telling what was or wasn’t classified information, keep in mind this is the 80’s so no google, he could pretty much make up whatever he wanted). Then to add a layer of plausibility, our spy requested a few grand to pay his new contacts off (which he quickly blew on drugs and hookers). As with Corbyn’s decision to meet with members of the Sinn Fein/IRA, it raises questions about his judgement, but its far from proof of any spying.

Certainly what this episode does betray is the totalitarian tendencies of those on the right. They will automatically assume that anyone who criticises them must be in on some sort of conspiracy. That the CND movement or the miners strike were orchestrated by the soviets (actually the soviet’s were if anything very worried about the consequences if such mass movements spread to their own populace, a justifiable fear given how the Solidarity movement triggered the soviet block’s collapse). And anti-gun campaigners must be agents of China or the Bilderbergers (or something).

Of course the irony is that there IS evidence of collusion between government politicians and foreign governments. Only it is Trump and the brexiters who are under investigation.

You know you’re over the target when you start taking flak. You know the right is in trouble when they start spouting the most outrageous lies and falsehoods.

Arming teachers

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So we have another school shooting in America. And Trump and the NRA’s solution? Arm teachers! Because as the graph below clearly shows more guns equals less gun violence (if you’re not seeing that you aren’t republican enough, either have a lobotomy or hit yourself over the head with a kitchen spatula a few times and it will make perfect sense). So what could possibly go wrong?…..well, lots!

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Firstly there’s the small matter that guns are not some magical problem taker away device. You push a button and the “bad guy” magically disappears like its some sort of computer game. Real combat with real guns in the real world with real people is a little different. Chances are if someone burst in on you right now, even if you had a gun to hand, you’d probably stand there with a stupid look on your face and do nothing. This is basic human psychology and a quite normal reaction to a sudden crisis situation.

And studies have shown that the vast majority of soldiers entering combat for the first time, will not shoot to kill. Typically 80% of them will do nothing, subconsciously aim high, or pretend to be doing something else. Only about 20% will actively shoot to kill. Proper training can counteract these issues, bringing the “kill ratio” up somewhat. Gun advocates claim it brings it up to 100%, but that is dubious at best, 50/50 is more likely, outside of professional armies. Also such training comes at a cost, as there’s been a rise in PTSD since such training methods were introduced.

Indeed, reports from the Parkland shooting indicate that a police officer stood outside the building doing nothing for the first few minutes of the shooting. Some (notably Trump) have labelled him a coward. Actually, his behaviour is entirely consistent with what we’d expect. Indeed, one could argue his actions were completely logical and sensible. Such is the absurdity of US gun laws, we are expecting a lone cop armed with a pistol to run into a building and take on possibly multiple attackers (yes there was only one, but he didn’t know that) armed with assault rifles (and presumably wearing a flak jacket). Trump’s policy amounts to assuming that teachers can magically transform into Rambo and succeed where a cop with a flawless record failed.

Furthermore, even if this was a viable solution, it would simply move the problem. Shooters will just change tactics. Instead of a shooter going into a school, they’ll just set themselves up on a roof top overlooking the school and pick people off with long range rifle fire. Or they’ll go after school buses, or churches, or airports, or football games. What are the NRA proposing, we station armed guards & snipers at every possible public gathering? That we all wear flak jackets and a helmet at all times?

Also it must be acknowledged that teaching is a fairly stressful job. As a lecturer we have it pretty easy next to what school teachers have to put up with. The idea of giving a teacher in such a stressful environment access to a firearm just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

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US teachers report their stress levels. Trump thinks giving guns to people who are “always” or “often” stressed 61% of the time is a good idea

The NRA say, the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Well how about instead we try taking the guns off the bad guys?

The real reason why Republicans oppose gun regulation

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As always in America, gun violence continues and all republicans offer are their thoughts and prayers, as well as disinformation. There’s no way more gun regulation will work they say. The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Oddly enough in a recent shooting (just before Christmas) there was a “good guy” with a gun present who stood by and did nothing until after 40 people got shot. This is in line with the experience of military veterans and what psychologist say is the normal human reaction to a crisis situation. Basically, 80% of people will stand there with a stupid look on their face (even if they have a gun), aim high, or pretend to be doing something else (tending to the wounded for example). This has been demonstrated in numerous studies and interviews of soldiers going into combat for the first time, all the way back to world war 2 (with historical evidence to suggest it has been a constant in warfare since the dawn of time).

This is “good guy” gambit is merely one example of how the right will try to muddy the waters, coming up with contrarian arguments to try and avoid the inevitable conclusions. Take this example from PragerU. Its theme seems to be regulation won’t work and will be a slippery slope to a total gun ban. Or in other words “the dems are coming for your guns”.

The thing is that gun regulation DOES work. We know this because several European countries, and Canada allow the ownership of firearms, but apply strict gun regulations. I think the problem here is that many Americans assume that the UK = Europe and yes the UK has some very strict gun controls, some of the toughest in the world. And the end result is we have some of the lowest gun related crime rates in the world.

By contrast some of our European neighbours are much more flexible on gun ownership, most notably Switzerland and Finland. And there are cultural reasons for this policy. Finland found itself fighting both sides (at different times) during world war 2 and Switzerland found itself surrounded by the nazi’s. Hence a central plank of both nations self defence policy is that every male (and quite a few of the women) has a gun under the bed. And speaking of the Germans, I highlighted before a vlog post from Joerg Sprave about gun regulations in Germany and how they aren’t quite as strict as the NRA would have you believe.

The exact laws vary country to country, but in general terms gun ownership is allowed, but owners have to go through extensive background checks. You need a license and the gun must be registered on a firearms database (linked to the licensee). Regulations are usually very strict in terms of how the gun may be stored (generally locked away in a gun safe, with the ammunition stored separately in another location) and how both gun and ammo are transported (almost no chance of anyone getting a concealed carry permit, unless you work as a body guard or something). Some countries also take ballistic data from guns (so if you use it in a crime the police will very quickly know whose door to come knocking on).

And there’s also a level of bullet control. In most European countries you can’t just walk into a store and buy ammo. You’ll need to show ID and a record will be kept of the sale (meaning any attempt to stockpile ammo in advance of a spree shooting has a good chance of being detected, prompting a visit from the police). And generally the more dangerous the gun or ammo, the stricter the regulation. So while yes the average Swiss man might have an assault rifle under the bed, he might not have any ammo to feed into it . And if he’s one of the few who does, it will be in a shrink wrapped package….and the cops are known to carry out random inspections of those from time to time.

Finally, there is no real automatic right to bear arms in Europe. Owning a gun is seen as a privilege granted to law abiding citizens who have some valid reason to own a gun. And this privilege is conditional that you stick to the rules. Break the rules or start acting like an asshole (e.g. the Trump supporters showing up to political rallies and trying to intimidate people with guns) and the cops will have you’re guns off you so fast your head will spin.

Now all of that said, the rate of gun related violence and deaths in countries like Switzerland and Finland (or Germany) is certainly higher than in the UK. No matter how well you regulate, more guns = more deaths. But its a fraction of the rates we see in the US (10.54 per 100,000 in the US, against 3 in Switzerland, 1.97 in Canada, 1 in Germany and 0.23 in the UK).

So it would seem logical that if you want to vastly reduce the level of gun violence in the US, why not try regulating guns first? Well this is the crux of the point I’m trying to make. Republicans fears isn’t that gun regulations won’t work. Their fear is that they WILL work.

Let’s imagine a scenario where the US imposes strict gun regulation, much like in Canada or Europe. And let’s assume that the rate of gun deaths drops to the same levels as in those countries, which would mean a reduction of between 70-80%. What happens next?

Well no longer can the GOP use the rallying cry “the dems are comin for you’re guns” to get a few million votes each election. Guns will no longer be such a political hot potato, the dem’s will have no reason to ban them. After all I don’t see Trudeau north of the border planning on banning guns or sending the Mounties door to door to disarm people (as the GOP will have you believe would happen if the slightest gun regulation were passed). Yes, he might tighten up a few reg’s the Harper Adm. repealed, but that’s about the worst he’ll do. Of course, this also means that GOP candidates, particularly in “rust belt” swing states will now be much more vulnerable to defeat by democrats. And they won’t be getting a few billion a year from the gun lobby anymore. So all in all hardly good news for them.

But more worryingly, in response to this drop in gun deaths, Americans might say to themselves, well gee that was easy, we just passed a few reg’s and the problem largely took care of itself. Maybe we should like try that with something else. Like healthcare? Or regulating the banks a bit more closely? Blink and next thing you know they’ve turned the US into the United States of Europe. Suddenly billionaires have to pay this thing called “tax” and can’t act like total dick’s anymore and expect to get away with it.

This is the real reason why republicans and conservatives will fight gun regulations. Because they don’t want to face a scenario where regulations are shown to work. That’s actually the slippery slope they are really worried about. So when Republicans offer their “thoughts and prayerswhat they actually mean is that they see those killed in these shootings as collateral damage, human sacrifices on the altar of their neo-liberal ideology.

And gun owners need to realise that they are being used and they will be discarded should the political winds change. Its worth pointing out that many of the strict gun laws in the UK (or Australia) were enacted not by leaf eating liberals but by conservative right wing governments. Because faced with the choice between regulating guns or banning them completely, most neo-liberal politicians will opt for the total ban option and toss the gun lobby under the bus, once they’ve outlived their usefulness.

So NRA members need to understand that should the public mood in the US ever shift, they are in serious trouble. They GOP will discard them just as easily as they dismiss the tens of thousands killed by guns annually. They will push for a total ban, as they will not want to run the risk of gun regulations being shown to work.

And of course the same applies to any other lobby the GOP are currently backing, coal miners for example. If there’s one person you should never trust its a politician who will see bodies being carried out of a building and resolve to do nothing about it.

My get out of jail free card, courtesy of brexit

An interesting ruling has been made by the Irish supreme court which has some far reaching implications.

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Basically, an Irish citizen, who ran a business in the UK but is now back in Ireland, is being pursued by the British for non-payment of tax. As I mentioned in a recent post, its not uncommon for business owners to dodge payment of VAT or raid the company pension fund and get away with it. So this is a rare case of one of them being held to account (presumably because he didn’t go to the right school).

Anyway, the British applied for a European arrest warrant. However, said tax dodgers lawyers argued the defendant cannot be guaranteed a fair trial in the UK as he will lose his civil right part way through the process (due to brexit) and thus he cannot be extradited. Well the judge agreed and to be fair he does have a point, given the contradictory positions coming out of London, which includes withdrawal from the ECJ and ending the 4 freedoms of the EU on April 1st 2019 and even withdrawing from the European convention of human rights (or walking away without any agreement at all).

Of course the legal implications of this ruling is that effectively every Irish citizen living in the UK now has a get-out-of-jail free card. I could go down to London tomorrow and go around the museums, smashing national treasures with a hurley, then take a crap in one of the Queen’s fountains, kick her Corgi’s, shoot a swan, etc. So long as I could make it to a ferry port or airport and get back to Ireland before they issue an arrest warrant (or if I did get arrested, absconded while on bail) then I’m home free.

Naturally this hardly good news (particularly given that are some less than law abiding Irish people, who don’t particularly like the Queen…nor the brexiters!). It should be noted that the Irish government opposed this ruling (for what should be obvious reasons) and were supporting the extradition case. But it highlights the consequences of the legal minefield the UK is about to stray into post-brexit and the chaos that could ensue.

Because when Theresa May says “brexit means brexit”…then repeatedly fails to clarify what that means. Well what’s going to happen is that what brexit means will be decided not by the UK parliament, nor even the EU, but by judges, customs officials and lowly civil servants in the four corners of the world. Without a clear agreement in place and with the UK taking a contradictory position (get free trade, but ending the four freedoms), its left to these people to use their own judgement, which can lead to unpredictable results.

For example, take those European health and safety laws the brexiters love to hate. Well without those laws on the statute books and with no agencies to replace them and provide regulatory oversight, companies can no longer use “compliance with all European safety standards” as their defence when being sued in court. Also there are liability limits in many cases for civil law suits, even when negligence can be proven (this  is why you don’t see $2.8 million payouts over a spilt cup of coffee in Europe). So in theory, such caps on payouts could disappear and it would become a lot harder to defend against civil suits, which would see insurance premiums soar. And recall, its not just a simple matter of the UK bringing in new laws. The injured party might be in Europe (or worse America!).

And to give perhaps a more specific example, with the UK withdrawing from the European nuclear regulator on April 2019, who is going to regulate the countries nuclear power plants? There’s a risk that they might be forced to shut down and Hinkley C mothballed. And again, this is not a decision the UK parliament will get to make, it will be made by HSE inspectors, insurers or company boards. Also, what if there were to be a problem with Hinkley C, e.g. let’s supposed the French screw up somehow (as has happened with a few recent projects) or there’s an accident and the British try to sue them or prosecute EDF executives. Will the French allow that? Well maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Will a French judge allow their extradition? Who knows! Let’s just say I’m glad I live at the opposite end of the country.

Or let’s suppose a French local politician decides that henceforth British cheese is banned because it contains dangerous ingredients (English milk). Or he insists it’s labelled “du Fromage Roast beef”. What are the producers of British cheese supposed to do?

Yes, there are legal ways to settle these issues. The tax dodger’s case has now been referred to the ECJ (who may overturn the ruling). The Irish government is already talking about a new post-brexit extradition treaty. Trade disputes can be resolved via the WTO. However, this is not a case of flicking a switch. Such cases take months or even years to resolve (so our tax dodgers case may simply time out, or a company caught in limbo might go out of business). New treaties can take equally long to draft and sign. And it requires good co-operation from both sides for such negotiations to run smoothly. If the UK follows through on the brexiters plan, which is basically to undertake brexit negotiations in bad faith, then you can forget about it.

This is the real danger that the brexiters are missing. They could find themselves stuck in a legal quagmire and it won’t be easy to get out of it. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to Google “how do you roast a swan?”.

What the Dickens are they up too

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I’ve long accused the Tories of trying to take the UK back to the Victorian era. However, already the UK is starting to resemble a Dickensian novel, where the poor are downtrotten and robber baron fat cats run amok, unchecked by government.

An Englishman’s home…is his landlord’s castle

Consider a recent report, which described how one third of those renting property in the UK are living in homes that fail basic health and safety standards. And more often than not it is those on lower incomes that are the most likely to experience these problems. Why don’t they report these rogue landlords? Because given that UK laws favour the landlord, nothing generally happens, other than you getting evicted.

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Some examples of the appalling conditions UK tenants are forced to put up with…and still pay rent!

Should you ask, well why don’t they just go out and buy a home? Well because you’d need money for a deposit first. And one of the consequences of Tory policies over the last few years is that many UK workers are now chronically insecure financially, literally living pay cheque to pay cheque. A quarter have serious money troubles. Food banks use has continued to rise, indeed they’ve seen a 45 fold increase (yes 45 times higher) in use since the Tories came to power.

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Usage of food banks, has increased every year since the Tories have been in power….

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….primarily driven by low income and benefits sanctions

And its not as if there are homes out there that could be rented (or sold), indeed large numbers of UK homes are currently unoccupied, over a 100,000 have been empty for ten years or more. And tens of thousands of luxury flats in London are also being built, to lie empty.

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The fact is that there’s a housing crisis in the UK because back in the Thatcher era, the UK stopped building social houses and sold off most of its stock. While the labour government did try to do something, they didn’t really try hard enough (remember there was a boom, housing seem to be taking care of itself, they didn’t understand it was all just a bubble). Now we’re returning to the normal state of affairs. And given that the only people who can afford to buy homes are those with well paid jobs, or spiv’s and speculators, who see homes as merely gambling chips in a casino, the end result is the dickensian mess we see in the UK housing sector, something Grenfell tower merely highlights.

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UK workers have seen their income decline and are one of only three countries where people are still worse off than they were prior to 2007…and the only one worse is Greece!….

And even those with mortgages might be in trouble. To cope with the financial crisis quite a number of people switched to interest only mortgages. But now they are being warned they might not have the capital to pay off the mortgage, meaning they could face eviction.

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….and Greece is set to solve its deficit problems before the UK!

Life on the streets

And spare a thought for those who are homeless already. One undeniable fact, since the Tories came to power, the number of rough sleepers has increased. Which is again not surprising given the state of the housing market and the finances of many in the UK. But also given the horrible mean and degrading way the Tories are now running the welfare system. We have people facing sanctions, for no apparent reason, or even for simply attending a funeral, often because benefits officers have a perverse incentive to issue them.

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And the Tory response to all this? Far from trying to make things better they are literally playing their favourite game of kick the beggar. Increasingly the homeless in the UK are facing harassment, by for example councils robbing their blankets and clothes, playing loud music to get them to move on, or buying them one way tickets to no where.

And they show no sympathy for those on benefits, indeed they are practically dancing a jig over their plight, seeing it as class revenge for voting for labour (much like how Trumps tax policy is essentially class revenge on the working class for Obama).

Raiders of the lost pension fund

And unfortunately it will come as little surprise to learn that at the same time the directors at Carillon were running their company into the ground, while awarding themselves large bonuses for doing so, they were also skimping on the company pension scheme. This is a theme that is becoming increasingly common across the UK, a failing companies run by managers who see their employee’s hard earned retirement cash as their personal piggy bank, to be raided any time they feel like it. After all, that Rolls ain’t going to buy itself.

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Carillion bosses ignored a growing pension’s deficit and still paid out dividends to shareholders….and bonuses to themselves

And its not just pension funds. Its not uncommon for the government, be it the local council, inland revenue or customs and excise to be the ones to pull the plug on a failing company, usually for non payment of taxes (business rates, VAT, employee’s PAYE, etc.). Libertarians sometimes cite this as an example of how the big bad evil government crushes businesses. But its a contrarian argument that amounts to advocating legalised theft. After all employees of the firm will have seen their salaries deducted (to cover tax and pension contributions) and customers will have paid VAT and trusted the firm to pass that money on, only for the boss to put it in his pocket. I mean if you or I took money out of the company petty cash box and left an IOU in its place, how many seconds before we’d be fired and the cops called?

Yet it would appear company bosses can basically do the same thing without consequences. Indeed, one of the favourite tactics of the infamous Kray twins was to buy up failing businesses (usually pubs or nightclubs) and basically run the business into the ground, not paying any tax (VAT on alcohol being a large part of any bar’s turnover), buying booze in the front door on the company accounts, then selling it out the back door for half the price. Then when their line of credit ran dry, they just walked away (or burn the place down for the insurance money). In effect that seems to be how a number of UK companies are now run. If the Kray’s had simply done what they did on a larger scale, say bought a chain of elderly care homes and run them into the ground instead, they’d be in the house of lords by now.

And not only is it often left to the state to pick up the pieces when a company fails, but by the time they send in the bailiff’s there’s usually nothing left, so the exchequer is left out of pocket. A bill the honest tax payers are forced to pay. So when I say libertarians are advocating theft, its ordinary taxpayers who are getting their pockets picked. And the costs of these bailouts are starting to mount. Many councils now report they are on the verge of bankruptcy. A recent audit revealed that the UK’s pension protection fund (PPF), set up as a sort of insurance policy against some sort of economic crash bringing down multiple pension funds at once is now basically insolvent, owing more than its assets to the tune of £104 billion. Or about 2.5 EU exits.

Exit through the wingnut shop

And how goes the Tories snake oil cure to all ills? Well a recently leaked report shows that no matter which way you cut it, the UK will be worse off.

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Of course the brexiters said, that’s nonsense, why this report didn’t analyse the deluded crack smoking fantasybespoke” trade deal they prefer. An option, that the EU more or less ruled out, when it set the ground rules for the UK trade negotiations and the terms of any transition. Brussels was unusually blunt and to the point on this, something that you’d assume would set off the brexiters into a massive foaming at the mouth tirade (given that it essentially means the UK will lose all influence over the EU, yet still have to pay into EU coffers). But the day after this announcement the pro-brexit papers barely mentioned it (which like the brexit bill, should tell you they’re going to just roll over and accept it).

Indeed, while the EU took almost no time to agree its position on the terms of any post-brexit trade deal (it took 2 minutes to pass), Theresa May has still not set out her position and the government still hasn’t got its flagship plagiarise all those EU laws we campaigned against great repeal bill passed.

Oh, and Boris now wants a bridge over the channel, even thought that’s basically a logistical impossibility (it was one of the options considered in place of the channel tunnel, but quickly dismissed as unfeasible). And it was joked a few months back that the DUP would be looking for an extension of the Giant’s causeway to Scotland. Well no, but they do want a bridge to Scotland now. Yes, reality in the UK is starting to outrun satire.

At this point, you would think it would be a slam dunk that Corbyn’s going to be elected to power by a Tony Blair style landslide. In fact you’d wonder why he isn’t going around number ten with a measuring tape working out where he’s going to put his stuff.

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Labour do lead in the polls, but not by much

However, there’s two problems with that. One, he’s a tool, who can’t even get his own party to support him, let alone the country. And secondly, the Tories are kept in power by a large body of “swivel eyed loons”, to quote one Tory MP, who “….are mostly elderly retired men who do not have mortgages, school-aged children or caring responsibilities….”.

So unfortunately, don’t expect the Tory train wreck to stop any time soon, not until the country’s fallen completely off the tracks, which will be all Corbyn’s and the labour party’s fault (not forgetting migrants), of course.

Rather a waste of time

TV anchor veteran, Dan Rather has come out of retirement and now has a show on the Young Turks network. I think its interesting he chose to do this via the new media of the internet rather than via the TV news. Then again, this highlights the problem with the media in the US. The mainstream news media, in particular the TV news is too formulaic and anxious to avoid addressing controversial topics. While Trump complains about “fake news” (which is more the product of his supporters) and “bias”, the truth is the mainstream media are simply not tackling him or his minions effectively, but instead they are giving his propagandist the oxygen they need to survive.

Of course the accusation against Dan Rather (or the TYT, or many other left wing media outlets online) is that he’s biased against the alt-right. Which is true, but you kind of have to be these days. There’s a big difference between being biased but sticking to the facts, compared to being biased and lying, distorting the truth or just plain making stuff up (like Breitbart or the Daily Mail). The motto of the Trump presidency, if the state of the union speech is anything to go by would be “it is in fact possible to polish a turd“.

The trouble with much of the mainstream media is that they will, in the interest of “balance” present both sides of an argument on issues where there is really no argument. e.g. on climate change. To draw an analogy, it would be like you going to the doctor, but then in the interest of “balance” we bring in some homeopathic woo pedaller and have him give his opinion, then make you flip a coin as to whose going to get to treat you.

And debating the alt-right is generally a pointless exercise. As this vlog post points out, the entire tactic of alt-right debate is to control the conversation and shutdown it down. They know the other side has facts on their side, so they’ll try to take the ball away and stop the game. In essence they aren’t fight fair because they don’t have to.

The right’s political philosophy is a fantasy, which is often self contradicting and openly hypocritical. It survives only on a suspension of disbelief. To draw an analogy, imagine you’re watching the latest star wars film and after the first hour we stop the film, bring on Neil deGrasse Tyson who proceeds to give a 2 hour lecture (during which you can’t leave nor look at your mobile phone) highlighting the scientific inaccuracies in the film, as well as giving away lots of spoilers to the 2nd half of the movie. Or we send Richard Dawkins into a kinder garden to read out the scientific proof that there is no Santa Claus. That’s how a liberal spouting “facts” sounds to someone on the alt-right. They will simply ignore you (and hate you for it), but will latch on to any myth or comforting lie the alt-right “debater” can squeeze in. That essentially is why debating them or giving them air time is a waste of time.

unpleasant-truths-vs-comforting-lies

Indeed, they’re doing a re-run of Babylon 5 right now on one of the UK TV back channels. For those unfamiliar with the series, its 3rd season covered the rise to power of a authoritarian regime on earth and its ere to see how for example they had a kellyanne conway type describe how to use “alternative facts“. Or how the B5 version of Trump gets implicated in a massive criminal conspiracy, but rather than accept the evidence, his supporters ignore it and suppress those trying to uncover the truth.

Thus its increasingly falling to the new news media to do the sort of investigative journalism that the TV channels used to do. For example, Vice news have an interesting piece out about North Korea’s rocket program. There’s been some disquiet among engineers about major advances the North Korean’s have made over the last year or so in their rocket program. As I mentioned in a prior post, space flight isn’t easy, it takes a lot of experience to be able to build a reliable rocket system. It is implausible to say the least that the North Koreans have made such advances without outside help.

Vice news highlights the fact that Ukraine’s rocket industry has suffered in recent years and cuts in a US program intended to keep rocket scientists employed (no doubt Trump keeping his bosses in Moscow happy) might have sent a number of unemployed rocket scientists Kim Jung-un’s way, although the Ukrainians perhaps rather predictably blame the Russians for helping North Korea. Either way, its an important story the mainstream media appear to have missed. And it suggests that the long held assumption that the North Koreans lack the capability to hit the mainland US with a missile might not be true anymore, or for much longer (and that Trump’s pro-Russia policy might be helping the north Koreans!).

Although, that said, any land based ICBM’s in North Korea are well within range of US and South Korean aircraft and could be destroyed on the ground long before they can prepare them for launch and fire them. This is the whole reason why the UK abandoned development of its land based ICBM’s in the 60’s as it was understood that they simply couldn’t protect such missiles from a sneak air or submarine launched cruise missile attack. So Kim is wasting his time developing a weapon system that’s of questionable strategic value.

On the other hand we see a resurgent old media in the form of some newspapers who appear to be rediscovering their history of investigative journalism. Case in point the President’s club debacle here in the UK, where a “charity” auction for rich members of the old boy’s club turned out to be grope fest for dirty old men. On the one hand, its not surprising. If you ever wonder why some “gentleman’s” clubs are men only, its because of what goes on inside those clubs is decidedly not a female friendly activity, as the Profumo affair revealed. So the only thing really surprising, is that they weren’t a little bit more discreet and actually got caught. But again, it highlights how we have to rely on the likes of the FT (hardly a bastion of liberal sentiment) to report on such things, as the TV news have simply ignored issues like this (or indeed issues such as gender pay equality).

Unfortunately, much of the new and old media are wasting their time. Many of the FT’s fat cat readers for example couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Given that most Trump supporters put Dan Rather and TYT into the “liberal media” box some time ago, nothing they say is going to change anyone’s mind about Trump. Until we can find some way for truth to trump lies and myths, its a case of the truth being out there, but nobody cares.