Notes On The News by Gwydion M Williams
Snippets: A new Ukrainian President; the Internet spies on you; Human biology – the ‘caring continuum’; Israel and the USA
As a method of breaking a whole society, bombing tends to fail. As a method of liberating “the people” from an oppressive regime, it is quite ridiculous.
When people are bombed, they tend to identify more strongly with the regime controlling the territory being bombed. Resistance hardens and attitudes get more extreme. This applies particularly in Iraq, where Sunni Arabs have found that the Western promise of Western-style government has meant permanent domination by Shia politicians still resentful of the former rule of the mostly-Sunni Baath Party.
The promise of targeted bombing has been made before and proved unreal. People up close know this:
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday that U.S.-led air strikes on Islamist insurgents in Iraq and Syria had worsened a dire humanitarian crisis on the ground.
“All warring parties in the widening conflicts in the two countries should spare civilians and allow delivery of aid, the Geneva-based ICRC said in a statement.
“‘Years of fighting in Syria and Iraq, the proliferation of armed groups and the recent international air strikes in Iraq and Syria have compounded the humanitarian consequences of the conflicts in both countries,’ it said.”[A]
US policy and the liberal use of bombing has failed before. In 1970, the USA organised the overthrow of Prince Sianouk of Cambodia, believing that his policy of neutrality was stopping them winning the war in Vietnam. When this naturally led to civil war, their policy was to bomb, bomb and bomb again. This turned the Khmer Rouge from a marginal movement with its leaders in exile into a force strong enough to take power when the USA stopped bombing and pulled out. (Dumping most of its allies and showing no shame for this: even today US citizens only ever whine about how tough it was for them, not for the allies they let down or the people caught in the middle.)
Since then, bombing has had few successes. They did manage in 2000 to impose the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, already defeated militarily in minority-Serb areas in Croatia and badly demoralised. This was the end-game, after the USA and European Union had needlessly destabilised Yugoslavia, still prosperous and peaceful in 1991 when the Soviet collapse gave NATO global dominance.
Remarkably, this is classed as a success. Thus Rory Stewart, Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, said in a Prospect interview:
“‘We are going to have to rediscover our confidence by looking at places like Bosnia and Kosovo where we got it right,’ he says ‘and try and understand how we got those things right if we are ever to intervene successfully again.'”[B]
Serbia was in a weak position, because it wanted to be part of the European Union rather than to reject it and make its own destiny. The whole thing could have been handled much better, maybe by admitting Yugoslavia as a whole but on the condition that it must allow referenda for separation once it was a member. What was actually done was an incredible mess, which could be called a victory only because it was hard for Serbs to be whole-heartedly hostile to the USA or the European Union.
Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are basically alien. The West took great pride in destroying the only functional Westernising forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Saddam had tried and failed to defeat the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and invaded Kuwait when he found they were stealing shared oil and pressing him on debts accumulated during the war. The Communist government in Kabul would have readily switched to the West after the Soviet pull-out, as many other ex-Leninists have done. But the geniuses of the New Right let them be destroyed. Stood back when warlord chaos followed, which was the reason many Afghans welcomed the brutal but effective discipline imposed by the Taliban.
Something similar to Iraq applies in Syria. A weak bunch of Westernised exiles were encouraged to refuse Assad’s offer of open elections, which he might have won. Instead they made the impossible demand that he step down, and then let things escalate to Civil War. Except it turned out that the “moderates” are also moderate about fighting a long and bitter war with no chance of an early victory.
“Anyone who has studied Syria from afar, let alone those who go there, know that the fictional ‘moderate opposition’ – supposedly deserters from the Syrian government army – does not exist. Corrupted, disillusioned, murdered or simply re-defected towards ISIS or some other al-Qaeda outfit, the old ‘Free Syrian Army’ is now a myth as ridiculous – and as potent for the Kerrys of this world – as Mussolini’s boast that the Italian army could defeat the British in North Africa. Any Syrian soldier will tell you that they are happy to fight the FSA because these warriors of the ‘moderate opposition’ always run away. It is the al-Qaeda-Nusra-ISIS ‘terrorists’ who fight to the death.”[C]
War favours people with hard inflexible views.
Bombing mostly makes them worse.
Huge numbers of young people in the West favour video games that glorify and glamorise war. But for Sunni Muslims living here, it’s quite easy to move on to the real thing.
A society will always include an adventurous minority who want to find something worth dying for. The brief popularity of “permanently incompetent” Trotskyism blighted this for socialism, as did the increasing ineffectiveness of the Soviet Union after Stalin and China’s retreat from Maoism. But for Muslims, the whole thing is in full flow and winning victories. For its enthusiasts, it must seem like Sublime Violence.[D] (Which I’d regard as a stupid combination, but it was the West rather than the Islamists who popularised the notion.)
Joining the regular armed forces is not much of a temptation. Even if you’re white, what’s on offer is a long period of being bullied by social dross, followed by the prospect of a war that is foolish or mismanaged, and maybe left unfinished. But for a lot of Muslims, many of them from families comfortably settled in the West, Islam’s global war against Western values seems like a great adventure.[E]
Note that it’s not just young people. One recent casualty in Syria was a 33 year old who was once an aspiring rapper and basketball fan in California.[F] From rap music to jihad is a logical progression for anyone who isn’t just bullshiting.
Those willing to talk have kept their enthusiasm. Logically there must have been others who got disillusioned, or else found that war is not such fun when you can die, or permanently lose some part of your body that you hadn’t viewed as optional. An intelligent response to doubters would have been to offer such people an easy way back. Demand nothing, and count on human nature to ensure that at least some of them will bad-mouth their former comrades for the British media. Instead, the British government has concluded that the right response is to strip the jihadis of their British passports. For serious fighters, that would be about as alarming as threatening to pelt them with custard pies. While it is likely to solidify weaker spirits, persuading them that there is no safe way back
Of course the basis for ISIS is a wide swathe of Arab Sunni territories across the lands of the ancient Fertile Crescent. Religious Sunni have long been kept away from power in Syria. In Iraq, power moved from Saddam’s secular but mostly-Sunni regime to a gaggle of squabbling religious-Shia parties. And it seems that there is a population of Sunni Arabs with some sort of common identity extending through parts of the artificially-drawn entities of Iraq, Syria, a small part of Lebanon, most of Jordan and the territories of the Palestinians.[G] Dispossessed almost everywhere – the Jordanian monarchy is an import from Medina – and turning to an extremist movement that they can identify with. And which can actually win.
The only efficient force against ISIS would be Assad’s Syria. It was attacked because Israel and the West got spooked by a “Shia Axis” from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It was not actually much of a threat to Israel, given that Palestinians are mostly Sunni. But it was a reason to encourage civil war in Syria, a long-term foe.
In Syria, the policy is still to oppose the only functional secular government and back some weak and mostly dishonest pro-Western elements. People who had ambitions to make their own country like the West find it is too tough and are tempted to get out with enough cash to secure a Western lifestyle for themselves personally. Some have been loyal to the original aims, but not enough.
In Iraq, the carefully designed system imposed by the USA makes it easy for the majority Shia to dominate, and gives the rival parties a strong incentive to be seen as the best upholders of Shia interests. A system of imposed power-sharing of the sort that Northern Ireland has would have been worth a try, or perhaps a strong federal system with a weak central government. But US “think tanks” seem typically to think like tanks: every problem is solvable by money and brute force. Subtlety is mostly beyond them. In any case it is too late now, but a sensible partition of Iraq into its different functional groups might work. But is very unlikely to be tried.
Meantime Turkey seems to be adjusting to the new reality:
“Turkey has welcomed home 46 hostages freed by Islamic State (Isis) in mysterious circumstances, hours after opening its borders to tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds fleeing another advance by the extremist group.
“The captives were seized at Turkey’s consulate in Mosul in early June, when the city fell during a lightning Isis advance across the area. They included diplomats and their children, special forces soldiers and the consul general, as well as three Iraqis who stayed in their country after their release.
“Concerns about their safety were one of the main reasons cited by Ankara for staying out of a US-led coalition against Isis. Turkey has also refused to let American drones and fighter planes use Turkish airbases for bombing raids on the group…
“The celebrations in Ankara contrasted with desperation at the border with Syria, where up to 45,000 Kurds streamed through eight crossings along a 20-mile stretch of border, opened to allow them to flee an Isis advance. Extremist fighters have seized control of up to 60 Kurdish villages in the area during a two-day campaign, targeting the city of Kobane or Ain al-Arab. If they succeed in taking control, tens of thousands more Kurds could flee into Turkey.”[H]
This suggests to me that Turkey is willing to co-exist with ISIS.[I] It is religious-Sunni, like the current Turkish government. It makes problems for Kurds, who are therefore less likely to make problems for the Turkish state. If Turkey was once friendly to Israel, this is more or less ended now. And while Turkey is the one power that could plausibly invade and try to restructure Syria, they are very unlikely to try it. The West has failed to properly accept Turkey, still shut out of the European Union. They might think that Western decline and a massive re-alignment of global forces wouldn’t hurt them any.
“By concentrating so much on civilian casualties, and assuming that the civilian costs of war are the most important aspects of war, we actually diminish our understanding of the phenomenon of war. We strip it of its most important aspects: why it is being fought, how it is being fought, why one side is winning and the other is losing, or why there is a stalemate.
“Perhaps the most fundamental falsehood about civilian casualties is the belief that because civilians are not active combatants, they are merely onlookers who do not contribute to the war effort of a country, internal faction, or transnational movement. This is not the case. Civilians are almost never just bystanders. This is especially true in modern states with tightly integrated economies and participatory (whether democratic or authoritarian) political cultures, structures, and wartime mobilization efforts. Civilians work in war industries. They keep the civilian economy of a nation at war going.”[J]
That’s the view of one former US Congressional researcher. Not a person of great influence, but what he says would make sense of a lot of what the USA has been doing, if he has blurted out what a lot of other people are thinking.
The defect with such thinking – as with the famously cynical works of Machiavelli – is that it thinks about politics without thinking about the long-term results. (And admiration of Machiavelli is widespread among the New Right.) The government of Florence in which Machiavelli served soon failed and was replaced by the Medici dynasty. Cesare Borgia’s power faded rapidly after the death of his father the pope. Machiavelli’s dreams of a unified Italy got nowhere at the time. It happened eventually because both France and the British Empire favoured it. The idealism of Garibaldi got sidelined and the result was a weak state that was replaced by the first Fascism under Mussolini.
I assume that those who either say or think we “pay far too much attention to civilian casualties” would not also say that 9/11 was entirely legitimate, or apply it to the current beheadings of Western journalists and aid workers by ISIS in Syria. Maybe they really don’t see the connection: I’d not accuse them of knowing what they are doing. But if you actually listen to what the Islamists are saying, they make a strong connection and use it to justify themselves.
As of 30th September, demonstrations over the 2017 elections have escalated to a general protest. No one seems to see that it is utterly unlikely that Beijing will back down.
The issue is over the election of the next Chief Executive. Everyone will have a vote, but Beijing is insisting that candidates be vetted, allowing them to veto any candidates who might demand more than Beijing was ready to concede. Really, what else would you expect? There have been enough cases over the last quarter-century of regimes trying a small relaxation in response to protest, and then losing control.
In many of those cases, the outcome was something utterly different from what the original protestors were hoping for. The two big successes were South African and the various Soviet-dependent states of what was once Mitteleuropa, Middle Europe.
South Africa owes its stability to the existing and continuing power of the African National Congress, and to the presence for the most critical years of Nelson Mandela as a leader of enormous prestige. And the fact that he made a commitment to respect a lot of white privileges in exchange for a peaceful transition. The biggest danger is splits between the various African peoples, most likely Zulus against the rest. But the ANC has so far contained this.
The Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles and the three Baltic republics are within Mitteleuropa as normally defined.[K] All of them moved on smoothly once Moscow stopped trying to rule them, though Czechs and Slovaks rapidly split and some people worry about what’s now happening in Hungary. Romania – half in and half out of Mitteleuropa – is doing OK. Bulgaria, wholly outside, was doing OK but currently faces a little-reported crisis that may get resolved by new elections in October. Croatia, counted as part of Mitteleuropa, never the less elected an extremist government that fought a wholly avoidable war rather than compromise on the borders that Tito had drawn, which were unfair to Serbs.
Beyond Mitteleuropa, there has been general chaos and decline, with Ukraine suffering continuous economic decline and now fragmenting. Something similar is entirely possible if the current regime lost its grip.
Beijing seems to have drawn the lesson that any compromise with major protests is a mistake. Elsewhere, it has led to escalating demands and mostly the collapse of the compromising government. The elected government of Ukraine had been riding out the crisis, but when in February they tried a compromise, this was followed quickly by a coup by the opposition.
If Hong Kong defied Beijing and got away with it, this would be an example for the rest of China. Where protests in China have succeeded, they succeed because they go after local leaders, who maybe deserved it in the eyes of Beijing and can certainly be sacrificed as needed.
Anyone who thinks that Hong Kong’s economic importance makes a crack-down unthinkable is not thinking very clearly. Hong Kong was much less important than Shanghai before 1949, and has returned to that position. Hong Kong prospered because Mao chose to leave it as the main link between China and the capitalist world. Had he simply closed the border, the place would have collapsed very quickly. That’s also why Thatcher handed it over – it was and remains utterly dependent on the rest of China.
What’s happened since Deng’s opening-up is the increasing growth or restoration of other links, especially in Shanghai. Hong Kong no longer has the same importance. It is being integrated back into the Chinese norm.
Hong Kong is now following a common politico-economic pattern – an area in relative economic decline opts for political radicalism. This is equivalent to bluffing on a weak hand while playing cards. It seldom succeeds. And it seems that most mainland Chinese either don’t know or don’t care.[L] Some are hostile to Hong Kong, seeing it as privileged people asking for more.[M]
It’s also significant that Taiwan has refused to be lured by any promises of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. They keep their own army and police and Beijing has to rely on their goodwill. It is also unlikely that anything much would change if Beijing did crack down hard on Hong Kong. Taiwan isn’t that Western in its outlook: one of its former elected Presidents who flirted with separatism is now in jail on a corruption charge. Former top leaders in Europe and the USA never go to jail, no matter what they have done.
Hong Kong citizens should also note that the West has repeatedly backed protests that backfired on the protestors. The Arab Spring led to civil wars, the decay of government, and a rise of Islamism rather than the liberalism that the initial protestors were after. Whether this is viewed as sabotage or a simple lack of realism is hard to say – probably a mix of both. The key point is that Western advice has repeatedly proved lousy.
‘Let justice be done, even if millions of innocents suffer’.
To the best of my knowledge, no one at all has ever said this. Liberals will on occasion say ‘Let justice be done, though the heavens fall’. (Sometimes in Latin, though it seems to date just from the 17th century.)[N] But I think they say that because they’re confident that the heavens won’t actually fall on them. They show a broad inability to learn that even the most excellent cause must be advanced with due thought about the likely side-effects, reactions and problems.
‘Civil Rights’ in the USA were utterly bungled. Rather than integrating Afro-Americans into the wider society, it has left them still functionally segregated, and often in favour of continuing separation. The fact that they now vote means that some Afro-Americans join the elite and there can even be a black President. But it’s significant that the entire mainstream Afro-American population, descendants of the former slaves, has wholly failed to produce anyone who could be seriously considered as President. Obama’s origins are wholly different: his mother was a radical white woman who married a Luo from Kenya. It needed an utterly untypical background to produce an Afro-American who was plausibly Presidential. And he’s looking to be a fairly ineffective President whose main achievement will be the long-overdue Health Care scheme (assuming it survives).
Even the best sort of cause will fail if people pursue it without regard for the likely results of their own actions. 1960s radicalism was highly successful in liberating the sort of people it first flourished among: the mostly-white Anglo majority and people who could aspire to a middle-class life-style even when their parents had been part of the industrial working class. For people outside of this rather broad category, the results were much more mixed and sometimes quite disastrous. In Britain, trade union militancy was pursued without regard for the likely results, and the actual result was Thatcherism. A very real possibility of Industrial Democracy had an excellent chance of overcoming the normal conservative resistance to anything new. But it was either ignored or actively opposed by most radicals, who had an unrealistic notion that if they sabotaged the most feasible reforms, something much more to their tastes would result. In the same spirit they opposed and finally defeated Incomes Policy, which was an imperfect system but which would certainly have prevented the gross expansion in the incomes of the elite that has actually happened.
‘Democracy’ has become a word used vehemently but inconsistently by the Western news media. It has been narrowed down to apply just to competitive electoral politics based on a general adult franchise. Older concepts such as Direct Democracy or Participatory Democracy don’t get mentioned.
Being able to criticise your government and maybe replace it is very different from being able to actually control it. On the whole, reassuring lies sell better than unpleasant truths.[O] And the media have a consistent right-wing bias, meaning they can influence which lies are believed and which truths get ignored.
In real politics, the order of evolution is mostly Custom, Order, Law, Broad Citizenship, Popular Elections, Open-ended politics, Participation. (Custom is something very different from law. It is not consistent and not open to be reasoned about. And is not supposed to change, though in practice it does.)
And note that ‘democratic’ need not mean “nice”, particularly from the viewpoint of foreign countries or later generations. For instance the legalisation of homosexuality in Britain was done by the elite in parliament and would probably have been rejected if put to a referendum. Switzerland was and is very democratic, but very slow to extend voting rights to women. Likewise France, where it only happened in 1944.
The democratisation of politics in the 1830s in the USA led to slavery being enshrined as a positive value in the US South, where all the voters were white. The extension of the vote to one-seventh of adult males in Britain in 1832 led to a strong assertion of Puritan values. In both cases, these were values resisted by the old elite. And something similar happened in Iran in 1979: the Shah’s regime was Westernising and in favour of female rights, while elections showed that hard-line Islamists had the support of the majority.
Broadly, be careful and think about what you are doing.
The recent referendum was used in England as a good opportunity to remind people that Scotland used to be a Tory stronghold:
“Little more than a generation ago, in the 1950s and early 60s, the union could not have been more secure. The Scottish Unionist party (only becoming the Conservative party in Scotland in 1965) had won a famous and overwhelming victory in the general election of 1955. The SNP at the time was but an irrelevant and eccentric sect rather than a mainstream political party. Indeed, despite the mythology of Red Clydeside, Scotland had voted mainly for the Tories in the 1920s and 1930s. The Labour landslide victory of 1945 can be seen as an aberration in that context.
“The memory of the collective British sacrifice of the second world war lived on for the postwar generation in comics, books and films. The empire, in which the Scots were so fundamentally involved, started to dissolve with the independence of India in 1947. Yet, contemporaneously, the welfare state was established and soon became the new sheet anchor of the Anglo-Scottish union. Nationalisation of key industries further strengthened the idea of a British-wide collective economic enterprise.”[P]
Thatcher smashed all that and turned the Conservative into a mostly-English party, with a small survival in Wales. But even before Thatcher, there was some momentum for devolution.
There was also no solid obligation to let it be voted on. The USA had used referenda to push settlements of freed Afro-Americans in Africa into independence, but it was not considered relevant for the Confederate secession. In fact even the seceding Confederate states mostly did not have a popular vote on the matter: they had Constitutional Conventions in which a majority of delegates were originally elected to avoid secession, but were persuaded to switch.
The first substantial case of voting for independence was Norway separating from Sweden in 1905, breaking an incomplete union that had existed since 1814.[Q] And it happened because Norway was ready to fight and Sweden decided it was not worth it. The next big case was 1933, when Western Australia tried to secede from the Australian Federation but was ignored.[R]
The period after World War Two saw a much greater number of referenda, with colonial empires being wound up and some small island populations deciding to remain linked to the colonial power. But no general right of a vote on secession has ever been established. Catalonia is due to have a vote on 9th November this year, but Spain has no intention of conceding independence if Catalonia demands it.
In the UK, there were devolution referenda for Wales and Scotland in 1979, following a Labour Party promise when they needed Nationalist support for a parliamentary majority. Both failed. Wales panicked and voted 4 to 1 against. The Scottish vote was lost because the ‘Yes’ vote was less than 40% of the electorate, even though it was 51.62% of the vote. This was a special additional requirement, widely criticised at the time, and not repeated since.
By 1997, things had changed. Wales voted for devolution by a small majority. In Scotland, it was won three-to-one.
The latest vote was decided by the votes of the over-55s – each age-group below that had a majority for independence. And it was still only 55 to 45, not safe at all. Another vote in 5 or 10 years time is almost certain. Or sooner if the UK votes to leave the European Union but Scotland has a majority for staying.
The next time round, the Scottish Nationalists should make an absolute pledge that old people in Scotland would never be worse off than those in England. (Or at least no more worse off, assuming there is currently a gap based on greater English personal wealth.) Fears over pensions were the biggest issue for No voters.[S] But even without this, feelings of a common UK identity must be fading.
Leaders must be judged by the actual results of their rule, not just what they set out to do. Sometimes disagreements over their aims obscures just how bad they were at achieving those aims. Hitler’s main contributions to history were to cause the death of some 9 to 11 million non-Jewish Germans, lose East Prussia and massively discredit White Racism. (Someone should point this out to the current crop of neo-Nazis.) The outcomes were all very much contrary to his intentions, of course, but that’s what can happen if you push your luck.
For Thatcher, perhaps the most long-lasting result of her rule will be to have shattered Great Britain. It already seems that the settlement she was persuaded to impose on Northern Ireland will bring long-term victory to the IRA / Sinn Fein. Not at all her intention, of course. But in politics, you are supposed to be able to figure out that sort of thing. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t get a lot of warnings.
“American respondents didn’t have fantastically high ‘ideal’ or ‘estimated’ CEO pay ratios compared to their international peers, yet top US CEOs are paid far more than those in other countries. In the US, people think a CEO would ‘ideally’ earn 6.7 times what an unskilled worker would make, but they think those CEOs do earn around 30 times than worker’s pay… and the average CEO actually earns more than 350 times that pay.”[T]
Which doesn’t stop them voting Republican. The Midterm Elections this November are likely to see the Republican Party strengthen its position and maybe get control of the Senate: it already controls the House of Representatives. Like I said earlier, being able to criticise your government and maybe replace it is very different from being able to actually control it. Even most Democrats would no longer dare to call for a return to the highly successful New Deal policies that won the Cold War and which brought the American Dream closest to reality in the 1950s. That’s the bad side of 1960s radicalism: even people on the left see government as threatening and hostile whatever it tries to do.
The current recovery has helped only the richest 10% of US citizens, especially the richest 1%. They’ve been getting the lion’s share of any increased income since the 1980s: for 2009-2012 they have gained faster than ever, while the rest of the population have lost.[U] Lots of people dislike this, but most of those who protest would regard a re-expansion of state control of the economy as something too terrible to be contemplated. So they will continue to lose.
It’s also not that great an idea to campaign for the “99%” against the “1%”, because far more people think they belong in the elite than actually do. A mere million dollars would only put you in the top 4% in the USA. More than 2.3 million is entry-level for the 1%.[V]
Ordinary US citizens are despondent, yet remain incoherent. “According to polling… the bottom has fallen out of the American dream for a whole lot of people. Only 42 percent of Americans still believe in it today and it’s not getting better.”[W] Yet how many of them would join a Trade Union? Or even accept that Trade Unions could serve as a good balance against the power of the rich?
The relationships are subtle, of course. A lot of people could have said that they got a good income without needing a union. But unions kept wages high for large blocks of workers, which meant that employers who didn’t face a powerful union still had to pay good wages to get good workers. When the unions weakened, this weakened the position of all wage earners.
That’s the USA. Not much better in the UK, sad to say.
“The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports.
“Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East.
“But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent…
“This additional ‘tribe’ is the most enigmatic and, surprisingly, is related to Native Americans…
“Pigmentation genes carried by the hunters and farmers showed that, while the dark hair, brown eyes and pale skin of the early farmer would look familiar to us, the hunter-gatherers would stand out if we saw them on a street today.
“It really does look like the indigenous West European hunter gatherers had this striking combination of dark skin and blue eyes that doesn’t exist any more,’ Prof Reich told BBC News…
“‘Hunters and gatherers get vitamin D through their food – because animals have a lot of it. But once you’re farming, you don’t get a lot of it, and once you switch to agriculture, there’s strong natural selection to lighten your skin so that when it’s hit by sunlight you can synthesise vitamin D.'”[X]
So the classical racist idea of blond blue-eyed ‘Aryans’ never actually existed. What we have is a result of race mixing and skin lightening due to farming.
The party of the new President of Ukraine is likely to win the Parliamentary Elections due on 26th October. Polls also suggest that the neo-Nazi Svoboda have lost a lot of support and will fail to reach the 5% threshold for seats. Still, people are often reluctant to admit support for extreme parties, so it may turn out otherwise.
The neo-Nazi militias failed to distinguish themselves in the actual fighting. This would be typical of neo-Nazis: dangerous as street thugs but not in a real war. The original Nazis were no different: they had to slaughter their own street-thugs and co-opt the regular armed forces in order to become formidable. In Ukraine, the Azov Brigade with its swastika-like symbol of the “wolfsangel” got badly defeated in the last days of the fighting.[Y] They say it was regular Russian forces, of course.
Neo-Nazi elements may have done some mass killings of unarmed people in hostile areas: Russian media are reporting this.[Z] Western media have mostly ignored the entire neo-Nazi connection. They speak vaguely of ‘Russian propaganda’, but don’t present any hard facts to counter the supposed propaganda. Only occasionally is the neo-Nazi connection admitted.[AA]
There is also a “deafening silence” regarding the tragic shooting-down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. At the start there was much publicity and attempts to blame Russia, at least indirectly. Now things have gone rather quiet, apart from one interim report that says little. Probably the main conclusions will not happen for months, by which time public attention may have shifted.
From early on, I thought and said that the claim that the internet could not be controlled by state power was nonsense. If the USA had been able to get solid control, they might have been able to use it to encourage those rebel movements they approved of, while undermining the rest. But internets depend mostly on fast connections that governments can control when on their territory, or even passing through to a server under foreign control.
It’s also a remarkably useful way of spotting networks of dissidents. I’ve no hard information, obviously, but it is now generally agreed it has been done where the government is strong and determined. And I can speculate as to how:
Police get the communication records of some known dissidents, by tapping their communications or by using some cooperative burglar to break in and steal the data. Or by including a spy function in some attractive free download. They could then find:
Known dissident A communicates with B, C, D, E, F, G and H.
Known dissident K communicates with D, G, L, M, N, O and P.
Known dissident Q communicates with E, G, N, R, S, T, U and V.
So G is a prime suspect, in touch with all three known dissidents, who otherwise have little in common. D, E and N are also good candidates. The rest can be filed as mere friends of dissidents, but can be matched if they also communicate with some other known dissident.
Stage two would be to find out who G, D, E and N communicate with. If G and E communicate, that raises E’s profile. If E also communicated with H and P, that makes them worth investigating. There would also be new names, people not in touch with A, K or Q but in touch with at least two out of G, D, E and N.
(Real links and friendships would be much more numerous and complex, of course. But computers are wonderfully good at ‘data mining’, extracting interesting facts from a mass of dull facts in a way humans can not. Governments have their own experts, and can also hire people who’d do anything for money.)
Doing such a procedure a few dozen times would reveal the links and also eliminate the non-dissident friends of dissidents. Avoid bothering the sort of people who are sometimes turned from neutrals into foes by heavy-handed police methods, if classical methods are used.
Police can then arrest those who look like weak links. And reveal enough knowledge to falsely suggest an informer. They might tell K “we know that D, N and P are also dissidents, while L, M and O are just friends”. That might help make K a real informer and pass on extra details, and so on.
“Biology has long struggled with the concept of altruism. There is now reasonable agreement that its purpose is partly to be nice to relatives (with whom one shares genes) and partly to permit the exchanging of favours. But how the brain goes about being altruistic is unknown. Dr Marsh therefore wondered if the brains of extreme altruists might have observable differences from other brains—and, in particular, whether such differences might be the obverse of those seen in psychopaths…
“Their conclusion is that extreme altruists are at one end of a ‘caring continuum’ which exists in human populations—a continuum that has psychopaths at the other end…
“Some biologists regard psychopathy as adaptive… Dr Marsh’s work suggests that what is going on is more like the way human height varies. Being tall is not a specific adaptation (though lots of research suggests tall people do better, in many ways, than short people do). Rather, tall people (and also short people) are outliers caused by unusual combinations of the many genes that govern height. If Dr Marsh is correct, psychopaths and extreme altruists may be the result of similar, rare combinations of genes underpinning the more normal human propensity to be moderately altruistic.”[BB]
It may indeed be random variation. But you also have to explain why ‘bad genes’ do not get eliminated. Another unconnected piece of research gives a clue:
“They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality.”[CC] And found it, naturally enough. But what I found more interesting was that “debaters” – people who make serious contributions – scored slightly above average for all of these qualities except narcissism, where they were marginally below average. People who favoured chatting were average except for narcissism, where they averaged above average, naturally. “Non-Commentators” were below average on all counts.
This suggests to me that bad qualities may be overdoses of things that can be positive in small amounts. Maybe we’d be better off if we could curb the extremes, but we can’t entirely do without those things. And if there were multiple genes involved – as there are for height – then the random sorting of genes would produce unwanted extremes.
Say there were ten independent genes each tending towards psychopathy: getting just three or four might make a strong and confident character who was still moral and considerate. Ten genes for narcissism might mean three or four make for someone chatty who usefully passes on news, but is not unduly self-obsessed.
Other studies have shown that psychopathic types are found disproportionately in business and finance.[DD] A good reason to regulate them – and in practice. only state regulation will actually curb such characters.
Is Israel about to lose a lot of its friends in the USA?
“A decade ago, Brog reports, ‘As if out of nowhere, a block of fifty to one hundred million friends of Israel were poised to enter the national debate and safeguard the U.S.-Israel relationship for generations to come.’
“Today, however, Brog describes a significant reversal. As more and more evangelicals learn the facts on Israel-Palestine (Brog calls such information an ‘anti-Israel narrative’) they are dropping their unconditional support for Israel.
“While evangelical support for Israel has often been attributed to their theology, Brog’s article indicates that the significant factor in the shift is learning the true situation in Israel-Palestine.”[EE]
Which means that Israel would be wise to get a final settlement before US support becomes lukewarm, and before they find that most Palestinians have joined ISIS and are no longer interested in anything except war.
Sadly, I expect current foolishness to continue to the bitter end.
[K] [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitteleuropa] and [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grossgliederung_Europas-en.svg]
[N] Fiat justitia ruat caelum. If it was a genuine Classical Roman saying, it had a very different meaning for them. See [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_justitia_ruat_caelum] as at 30th September.
[O] There’s a nice cartoon about this at [https://www.facebook.com/AlterNetNews/photos/a.206928327506.133239.17108852506/10152351127577507/?type=1]
[AA] [http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/08/30/preparing_for_war_with_ukraine_s_fascist_defenders_of_freedom] and [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11025137/Ukraine-crisis-the-neo-Nazi-brigade-fighting-pro-Russian-separatists.html]