Thursday, 30 June 2016

Body count

So we're finally going to see the Chilcot Inquiry about a hundred years after the British military fought its bloodiest, most costly battle ever. The coincidence made me think about how many British people the British state was prepared to sacrifice in the furtherance of diplomacy by other means, in the early 20th Century and the early 21st. The contrast is jaw-dropping:

19,240 British personnel killed on the first day of the Somme, 179 in the Iraq War between 2003 and 2009 and 454 in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015. There are may other considerations, like how many enemy combatants and civilians our state is prepared to kill, but the drop in British military casualties is astonishing.

I'm not drawing any conclusions from the figures, although explanations range from the size of an effective fighting force shrinking, because weaponry has become more deadly, to the move from fighting against powerful, well-equipped states to asymmetric warfare against weak states and insurgent groups, to The Better Angels of Our Nature idea that we're just becoming less violent over time.

I suspect that more than one of these factors (and some others I've not thought of)* play a part in explaining the huge discrepancy. But there's one other fact which makes me think there might be something in the Better Angels explanation. That's the fact that, although the scale of the slaughter in World War One was staggering, it wasn't the bloodiest conflict in British history, if you think of the casualties as a proportion of the national population:
Although more Britons died in WW1 than any other conflict, the bloodiest war in our history relative to population size is the Civil War, which raged in the mid-17th Century. A far higher proportion of the population of the British Isles were killed than the less than 2% who died in WW1. By contrast, around 4% of the population of England and Wales, and considerably more than that in Scotland and Ireland, are thought to have been killed in the Civil War.

*Update - I should also have mentioned another obvious difference - that Britain was one of the major players in World War One, but was America's junior partner in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even the American deaths (4,486 US personnel killed in Iraq and 2,345 in Afghanistan) add up to less than half the body count of that one day on the Somme.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

That dreadful cad

After Brexit, hoped elderly members of Nigel Farage's fanbase, Britain would go straight back to the 1950s. And judging by the way Nicholas Soames has started talking, that wish has already been granted in spades:
Appalling ghastly performance by that dreadful cad Farage in the European Parliament
Cads and bounders - still made in Britain.

You silly sods

We're in the middle of a national crisis, directly triggered an incompetent government which is leaderless, divided and clueless.

Fortunately we're a democracy. There is an opposition. There is an alternative.

Unfortunately, the alternative seems to be the Judean People's Front's Crack Suicide Squad:
Corbyn spoke to heckles of “resign” from his own side, and taunts from the green benches opposite. Dennis Skinner, the veteran Labour MP for Bolsover, shook the leader of the opposition’s hand as he entered the chamber and made a “V” sign at other backbenchers.

Why has everybody in the country formerly known as Britain suddenly decided to embrace their inner idiot? Am I the last person to realise that it's National Facepalm Week?

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Friended by Fascists

"Congratulations, Britain!" say Europe's Fascists. They, like Bob, have Felt Our Pain:

Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence

Bob is not free, or so he thinks. On the contrary, he considers himself to be very oppressed. Because there is a certain kind of people that he doesn't like, and they... exist. He's not free to kill them or otherwise remove them, thus he's not free at all...

...death threats or "liberation" is optional. Whining about how the open existence of other people in itself infringes on one's freedom is enough.
TV Tropes

Hans... are we the baddies?

Friday, 24 June 2016

Well, that just about wraps it up for Britain

For heaven's sake Britain, what were you thinking? Even when Donald Trump, a living orange public information poster, created by the Universe to warn people what happens if you listen to ignorant, lying demagogues, started circling the corpse like a vulture with bad hair, you still didn't get it, did you??

Hope you're looking forward to the next Scottish Independence referendum.

Image credit

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Red Queen's Brexit race

Here's this blogger's obligatory post on how I've decided decided to vote in the EU referendum tomorrow (I'll be voting to stay). It's not chiefly because I think that the Leave campaign has told more and bigger fibs than the Remain side. It's not even the contemptible racism, xenophobia and scapegoating being encouraged by politicians playing the migrant card.*

I'm mainly pro-Remain because (as I've mentioned in passing before) Brexit would mean the UK wasting years duplicating things we already have in place.

The Leave camp makes a lot of "yuge" Trumpian boasts about how the UK could negotiate a series of "winning " deals, which may or may not come to pass (given that we'd lose the clout of being part of a trading alliance of 500 million people and would, like Switzerland and Norway,** still have to abide by many of its rules, I'm pretty sceptical that a bit of The Art of the Deal-style hustling would fill the gap). But what we do know is that a lot of that deal-making activity would be squandered in simply renegotiating 100+ trade deals we already have in place. Why would you want to move to a place where you had to keep running just to stay in more or less the same place, if you had an alternative?

'Now! Now!' cried the Queen. 'Faster! Faster!' And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.

The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, 'You may rest a little now.'

Alice looked round her in great surprise. 'Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!'

'Of course it is,' said the Queen, 'what would you have it?'

'Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else— if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.'

'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'
Through the Looking-Glass

Sorry guys, this time the status quo is an option.

*Not to mention the patronising faux concern for worried working-class Brits. Those politicians deliberately aggravating the migrant panic know that the people who feel that their jobs, services, or communities are threatened by migrants, or by people who look different are badly informed (believing, for example, that 31% of the population are immigrants, when it's more like 13% and that Black and Asian people make up 30% of the population, when it's actually around 11%).

Educated, informed people labelling such easily-corrected wrongness as "legitimate concern" aren't being respectful - quite the opposite. They're treating members of the public as if they're not just wrong - which is no shame, as we all get things wrong from time to time - but as if they're mentally or emotionally incapable of processing the truth. It's not respectful to know that somebody is wrong, but encourage their delusion. It's treating them like children you've taken to Santa's grotto - you, the grown-up may know that the jolly man in red is really that Mr Timms from number 39, disguised in a cotton wool beard, but you tell the kids that he's Father Christmas from the North Pole, because they're only kids and it's just a bit of fun. But the voters, by definition, aren't children and this vote isn't just a bit of fun.

**A good example of a country which is both prosperous and outside the EU, although the prosperity may have more to do to the Norwegians having invested their North Sea Oil windfall wisely than the supposed advantages of being outside the EU (not to mention the fact that Norway's Nordic neighbours which are all EU members, also enjoy enviably high standards of living).

Monday, 20 June 2016

Demagoguery and deceit

As Donald Trump makes another one of the countless absurd claims he’s made during his campaign (this time, following what happened in Florida last weekend, we’re to believe Barack Obama supports ISIS), on the other side of the Atlantic potential future Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to stoke voter immigration fears. Now, his campaign is assuring fellow Britons that a vote to Remain in the European Union will see Turkish migrants flooding across the border.

Neither of these claims are true. It should go without saying that the president of the United States takes no pleasure in a man massacring 49 of his fellow Americans in Orlando, while the chances of Turkey ever joining the EU are slim to non-existent. All the same, these two politicians are popular – immensely so – because they’ve discovered they can reach the top simply by inventing their own versions of the truth. For various reasons, not only are they getting away with cooking up their own “facts,” but Trump and Johnson are as a result of their fabrications gaining new supporters all the time. He didn’t use the term in his Temple speech, but there’s a name for what Marty Baron was talking about: post-truth politics.

The danger today is that the most unscrupulous of politicians, figures with a real contempt for the electorate, are the ones most likely to exploit voters in the post-truth era. Enter Donald Trump and the Leave campaign. Trump and Leave, headed up by Boris Johnson, are but products of this new system, pushing bigger and bigger fibs and always finding there are zero repercussions for deceiving the electorate – not when the media and the voters fail to sufficiently hold them to account.
Writes Brogan Morris. No further comment needed.