Saturday, January 13, 2018

The UK's Troop Cut Proposals Would Leave the Smallest British Army Since Before the Napoleonic Wars

Military chiefs have drawn up a plan to cut the armed forces by more than 14,000
reports the Times Defence Editor Deborah Haynes, thus leaving Britain with its smallest army since before the Napoleonic era.
Military chiefs have drawn up a plan to cut the armed forces by more than 14,000 and combine elite units of paratroopers and Royal Marines to save money, The Times has learnt.

The three sets of proposed cuts presented to Gavin Williamson when he took over as defence secretary from Sir Michael Fallon [were] revealed [in early January].

The proposals — described by a Whitehall source as “ugly, ugly or ugly” — include cutting the army by 11,000 soldiers and losing 2,000 Royal Marines and sailors and 1,250 airmen. The total size of the regular armed forces is about 137,000. The army has a target size of 82,000 but at present it numbers fewer than 78,000. …

Friday, January 12, 2018

Your online history will always come back to haunt you, but only if you are on the right; If you are on the left, it won’t matter at all

Wielding a great deal skepticism (although not enough to mention Donald Trump), accompanies Lara Prendergast's Spectator article, Welcome to the digital inquisition (coupled with a podcast), with his take, Your Twitter history will always haunt you – if you’re on the right:
 … The mob thinks it is an expression of democracy — and in a sense it is, so long as nobody of importance pays any heed to its eternal, moronic fugue and its bedwetting tantrums.

The problem is that people who should know better, i.e., the government, do take it seriously. Perhaps it is because they are right-wingers: they see that 200,000 people have signed a petition against something and assume that they are just normal people, a bit like them. But they are not. They are the same 200,000 liberal-left wank-puffins who sign every fatuous petition got up by or 38 Degrees: they are magnificently arrogant in their presumption that because 0.3 per cent of the population have summoned up the ability to click a button, they must have their way.

 … That’s how it works — a few judicious Googles and almost every-one in the country can be found bang to rights, can be shrieked at and told to resign.

The political right, in general, does not behave like this. It does not become beside itself with fury when someone who has views counter to their own is appointed to a post, which is all that happened in the case of Young. For the left, it is all that matters: if he disagrees with me, he must be vile and thus unsuitable. … the right do not get inflamed in quite the same way.

Your history will always come back to haunt you, but only if you are on the right. If you are on the left, it won’t matter at all. Just hypothetically speaking, I think it is entirely possible that one could be appointed to a senior position within a left-wing party despite having demanded honours for IRA murderers, supported genocidal terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and proclaimed an affection for a totalitarian communist dictatorship in, say, Cuba which imprisons trade union leaders and persecutes homosexuals That’s just hypothetically speaking, mind; I can’t know for sure.

The problem is not the mob, no matter how fascistic and undemocratic its mindset might be. The puffins have every right to tap their little buttons, to scream and stamp their feet, to howl with anguish. The problem is solely the respect given to it. … It is time the right wised up to this and acquired from somewhere the semblance of a spine.

Social media companies have tricked us all: Welcome to the digital inquisition (+ Podcast)

brings us a cover article titled Welcome to the digital inquisition (also called, simply, The Digital Inquisition and, previously, Would You Survive the Digital Inquisition?), coupled with a podcast (see below). The is a must-read accompanying column — Your online history will always come back to haunt you, but only if you are on the right; if you are on the left, it won’t matter at all — while the Spectator cover is drawn by The Times' favorite Norwegian cartoonist, Morten Morland (that's Morten Mørland to you, bud!). 's article starts with reminiscences:
A friend of mine at university had a rule: he didn’t want anything to appear online that might ruin a future political career. On nights out, when photos were being taken, he’d quietly move out of the picture. While we were all wittering away to each other on social media, he kept schtum. Strange, I remember thinking. Why so paranoid?

I thought of my friend when Toby Young started making headlines. … It’s baffling: why is everyone, seemingly, talking about a journalist having to leave a minor government body that nobody had heard of?

The answer is that Toby has become just the latest — and perhaps the highest-profile — target of a new phenomenon: the digital inquisition. It is something that anyone wanting to enter public life can — and should — expect. As my university friend knew, if you happen to be ambitious in the internet age, you must be very careful about everything you say or do online.

 … Tweets never grow old or die: words published years ago can be reposted, fresh as the day they were typed. Remarks from one context can be republished in another.

 … Social media companies have tricked us all. They have lured us into thinking we can lower our guard online and talk candidly as if to friends. They have coaxed us into blurring personal and private worlds in the name of free speech. We have been led to think our comments are ephemeral when nothing could be further from the truth. Tweets are dashed off, then forgotten about — only to be discovered years later by anyone with a bone to pick. We live in a confessional age and are encouraged to reveal all our inner thoughts. What’s not encouraged, so much, is to reflect over whether we would be prepared to stand by everything we have said in the future.

 … Anthony Scaramucci … said that ‘gotcha’ politics is dead. He soon learnt otherwise.

‘Gotcha’ politics has not died. It has evolved. Unedited thoughts have never been easier to publish — or find. For my age group, most of our lives have been captured online. By the time anyone born in the new millennium starts to enter public life, there will be masses of images of them and words by them on the internet.

It’s no surprise that younger people have started to use technology that offers more privacy as the default. Apps such as Snapchat and Telegram use messaging that self-destructs — or at least pretends to. … This week Kensington Palace announced that Meghan Markle had closed all her social media accounts. It’s highly unlikely though that there won’t be a record of everything she’s said, somewhere.

 … One might have dared hope that, in an era when the capacity to snoop is almost limitless, we would learn to be more forgiving of the failings of others. Instead, the mood is ever more nosey and censorious.

 … The advent of social media therefore sets a new bar for anyone wanting to enter public life: the trail you leave online will now be used to judge your character. Is your profile clean enough? If not, forget it. Indiscretions, youthful or otherwise, are now immortal sins. This will delight the bureaucratic class, who find it far easier to beat away outsiders or rebels who aspire to a career in politics. This new state of play will also deter anyone who doesn’t fancy having their life pored over, their reputation trashed.

The internet dream was that the web would create a more open society. It wouldn’t really matter what you said because everyone would feel more liberated. The opposite has happened: increasingly, people are nervous about what they say online for fear of future rebuke. Far from making everyone feel free to speak their minds, the internet has made many of us terrified of self–expression. …

More Outstanding News from the Continent of Free Health Care: unprecedented cuts to cancer care because of a chronic shortage of specialist nurses at one of Britain's leading hospitals

A chronic shortage of specialist nurses at one of Britain's leading NHS hospitals is forcing bosses to consider making unprecedented cuts to cancer care.
At the Times of London, Health Editor Chris Smyth has more outstanding news (cheers for the link, Maggie) from the continent of free health care:
A leading NHS hospital is delaying chemotherapy for cancer patients and those who are terminally ill face cuts to their treatment because of a chronic shortage of specialist nurses, according to a leaked memo.

Andrew Weaver, head of chemotherapy at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, which treats thousands of patients from across the region, said in a memo to staff that treatment was being delayed. He also warned that the number of chemotherapy cycles offered to the terminally ill would have to be cut because of a lack of staff trained to deal with medication. The centre has a 40 per cent shortfall in nurses on the unit that administers chemotherapy.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, has acknowledged that there is a "short-termist" approach to staff planning…

Related: The Bright Future of European Health Care:
Britons Face Longer Waits Along with Rationing of Treatment

Almost £1 billion of the NHS budget goes to waste each year,
says Britain's top nurse, because patients fail to turn up for appointments

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Obviously, Thousands of Irish Teens Need to Be Hauled to Court for Their Own Good and Put on Sex Offender Lists

More than one in 20 Irish secondary school students has sent a naked picture or video of themselves to a stranger online
reports Aaron Rogan in the Times, meaning that — if laws are to be taken as literally, and as blindly, as in certain American states — for their own good, as well as the good of society, thousands or even tens of thousands of Irish youths (female as well as male) need to be taken to court and have their lives destroyed by being put on sex offender registries.

Remember that for the sake of "protecting children," the authorities would (not without reason) go after people who, among other things, manufacture and disseminate child pornography. In American cases, this has led to a Pandora's Box where teens (young as well as older, i.e., fully formed, teens) are often charged with disseminating child porn by usually sending naked photos of… themselves (!) to a single classmate that they are, or that they want to be, romantically (or at least sexually) involved with. (Cheers for the link, Maggie.)

Here in Ireland (shudder), teens sexted with complete strangers!

Which brings to mind perhaps the best single sentence on the matter ("Charging a teenager for taking a nude selfie means the state is charging the supposed victim [!]—an absurd result that the legislature can't have intended when it passed [the] child pornography statute"), which comes from Glenn Reynolds: "It’s absurd to say that teenagers aren’t mature enough to engage in [sex online], but are mature enough to be treated as felons if they do."
A survey conducted by Marina Everri, a social psychologist from the London School of Economics and head of research at Zeeko, a start-up backed by University College Dublin, revealed that 7 per cent of Irish secondary students had sent a nude or semi-nude image or video of themselves to a person they met online. A sexual selfie had been sent to a stranger online by 10 per cent of boys compared with 4 per cent of girls. The percentage of pupils rose from 3 per cent in their first year to 15 per cent in their sixth year. The study surveyed 3,231 secondary school pupils, made up of 1,408 females and 1,823 males from 30 schools.

Thirteen per cent had sent a nude or semi-nude image or video and 15 per cent had shared or shown a friend an image that was sent to them. Boys were more likely to send sexts, with 17 per cent having sent a nude or semi-nude photo or video compared with 9 per cent of girls. Dr Everri said that the trends were broadly in line with similar countries but highlighted the need for more education for Irish children about the dangers of their behaviour online.

“Teenagers are curious about sexuality and using digital devices. We know the boundaries for being offline and online are continuously blurred for them now so when they explore their sexuality it is happening online as well,” she said. “We need to consider the content so that we know if it is videos, semi-nude pictures or just sexual flirting through text. Before creating a moral panic we need to recognise that sexual behaviours online and offline are different because an image can be shared and stay around pretty much for ever. Children need to be made aware of that.”

Dr Everri said that the increase in sexting should not be considered alarming because it was a new form of teenagers fulfilling development tasks and needs that were previously carried out offline. “Texting, sharing videos and photos, encounters with strangers and looking for strangers online to meet offline respond to adolescents’ need to expand their social network outside of their families,” she said. “However, there is a need for education programmes that teach adolescents how to critically assess the content and potential risks.”

The research showed that secondary school students were aware of the risks about sexting, with 76 per cent saying that being careful about the photos and videos they put online was a serious or very serious consideration.

The research also looked at bullying and aggressive behaviour online. It found that 20 per cent of students claimed to be victims of cyberbullying, which has remained stable in recent years. The survey also found that 49 per cent of secondary school students had spoken to strangers online and 16 per cent had met someone they first spoke to online.

The government has set the age of 13 as the minimum for children to be allowed to open social media accounts.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Which U.S. president was the one who “never listened to anyone, always thought he was smarter than every expert in the room, and treated every meeting as an opportunity to lecture everyone else”?

By the looks of his New York Post article, Charles Gasparino doesn't seem to be too convinced (thanks to Stephen Green) that Donald Trump's mental state is something to be unduly concerned about:
One thing we don’t have to worry about is the economic sanity of President Trump.

In fact, it’s safe to say that the current president, for all his temperamental flaws and petty insecurities, makes his tightly wound predecessor, Barack Obama, look like a raving madman when it comes to showing sense on economic growth. Armchair psychiatrists are having a field day diagnosing the president’s mental state from afar, especially after his increasingly bizarre tweeting, but the market says otherwise.

Consider: The United States had one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world — so high that companies (and jobs) were fleeing to places like Ireland. That’s why it was perfectly sane to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent as Trump just did, and presto: Corporations are announcing plans to hire more workers, and the economy, which was expected to slow after seven years of weak growth, is heating up. The markets are predicting that growth with their surge.

Likewise, regulations have been strangling businesses for years while making it difficult for banks to lend to consumers and small business. Trump went out and hired perfectly sane regulators who basically pulled the federal government’s boot off the neck of the business community.

It was described to me as a de facto tax cut by one business owner that gives him leeway to hire more people. A major win for the working class.

And since so many of my fellow journalists are at it, let me do a little psychoanalysis of what an economically insane person might do as president.

An insane president would threaten a significant tax increase immediately upon taking office following a financial crisis, and then eventually impose one on individuals and small businesses still in recovery.

He’d impose job-crushing regulations on these same businesses as unemployment rose. He’d put a cumbersome mandate on businesses that upends the entire health care system just as the economy was finally turning a corner.

A really insane president would blow nearly $1 trillion on a stimulus plan with little planning and direction, wasting much of the money on boondoggles (see: Solyndra) and then laugh at the lack of “shovel ready” jobs created. He’d then try to spread his delusion to the masses, telling them to ignore historically low wage growth, anemic economic growth and the massive amount of people who dropped out of the work force because the stock market rallied, thanks in large part to the Fed printing money instead of his own fiscal policies.

Is Barack Obama crazy? No, but his post-2008 economic policies were. …
Speaking of which, Donald Trump is regularly called a self-absorbed bully, while Barack Obama is unfailingly depicted as a modest gentleman. What, then, to make of a U.S. president called “one of the most narcissistic, self-absorbed people [a British Prime Minister had] ever dealt with”?
What, then, to make of a leader who “never listened to anyone, always thought he was smarter than every expert in the room, and treated every meeting as an opportunity to lecture everyone else”?

David Cameron’s former director of strategy has said Cameron thought Barack Obama was one of the “most narcissistic, self-absorbed people” he had ever encountered, despite the pair’s once notorious “bromance”.
Thus writes Nadia Khomami in the Guardian (cheers to Instapundit).
Steve Hilton, one of Cameron’s closest advisers before the pair fell out over immigration and Brexit last year, made the comments during the latest instalment of his show, The Next Revolution, on Fox News.

Discussing Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury, Hilton said any claims by elitists and the establishment that Donald Trump was mentally unfit for the presidency came second to Trump’s promotion of a pro-worker, populist agenda on immigration, infrastructure, trade and the fight against China.

He went on to emphasise the shortcomings of Trump’s predecessors, adding:
“My old boss, former British prime minister David Cameron, thought Obama was one of the most narcissistic, self-absorbed people he’d ever dealt with.
“Obama never listened to anyone, always thought he was smarter than every expert in the room, and treated every meeting as an opportunity to lecture everyone else. This led to real-world disasters, like Syria and the rise of Isis.”
But the real world did not matter to the elites, Hilton said.
“For them, it’s all about style and tone, not substance and results. Donald Trump offends the elites aesthetically, like a piece of art that’s not to their taste.

“They can afford to do that because they live in a world of booming neighbourhoods, delightful hipster eateries and everyone they know employed in the virtual world of the knowledge economy. They don’t see what’s going on in the actual economy. Whatever his mental state, [Trump] has achieved more for working Americans in one year than his predecessors did in eight, or 16, frankly.”
Hilton’s comments contradict reports of Cameron and Obama’s “transatlantic bromance” in office. The two leaders were often pictured together playing ping-pong or golf, eating or watching a basketball game. …

Monday, January 08, 2018

Feminism has gotten progressively crazier over the years to the point that that most rational people—even most women—now find it grotesque and want nothing to do with it

Merriam-Webster’s 2017 word of the year was “feminism”
writes Benny Huang, and it ain't
difficult to see why. The year began with anti-Trump Women’s Marches, picked up speed with the installation of the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street, chugged along with the release of the Wonder Woman film, and finished off with #MeToo.

 … Given feminism’s innocuous dictionary definition it’s a wonder that it doesn’t have more adherents. According to a 2013 YouGov poll, large majorities of both sexes reject the feminist label. Only 23% of women and 16% of men described themselves as feminists.

An interesting wrinkle: The poll also asked if respondents believed in political, social and economic equality between the sexes (Merriam-Webster’s first definition) without using the word “feminism” and found 82% in favor. The obvious inference to be drawn here is that a majority of Americans believe in feminism—or at least in Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word—but don’t want to be called feminists.

Clearly, feminism has an image problem.

But why? One possible explanation is that feminism is a movement and, like most movements, it has a cadre of opinion leaders who interpret it for the rest of us. They decide what equality means and if you don’t agree with them they will revoke your feminist card.

Case in point—during last January’s Women’s Marches, organizers excluded a group of Texas-based feminists because of their pro-life stance. The organizers had to enforce orthodoxy, you see, and their orthodoxy is so narrow that it would exclude the famous suffragette Susan B. Anthony if she were alive today. I can only conclude that the continued legality of killing children in the womb is a nonnegotiable precept of feminism. Get with it or get out.

The cadre’s interpretations have gotten progressively crazier over the years to the point that that most rational people—even most women—now find feminism grotesque and want nothing to do with it.

Here are two examples from just the past two weeks that illustrate some of what ails feminism.
  • A topless feminist by the name Alisa Vinogradova bum-rushed the Vatican’s nativity scene on Christmas Day in an attempt to steal the baby Jesus. Thankfully, she was stopped by guards. Vinogradova reportedly screamed “God is a woman!” and had the same slogan painted on her back. She belongs to FEMEN, a feminist group whose stated goal is “complete victory over the patriarchy.” Her attempted theft was a protest against the Catholic Church’s teachings on contraception and abortion.
  • Huffpost editor and self-described feminist Emily McCombs tweeted that her two New Year’s resolutions were “cultivating female friendships” and “banding together to kill all men.” She has since deleted the tweet in a lame attempt at a coverup. She will nonetheless keep her job because bloodthirsty misandrist rhetoric is fashionable among feminists.
Both of these examples illustrate the oppositional posture that has come to define feminism. Feminists are recognized more often by what they’re against than by what they’re for.

In the first example, Alisa Vinogradova was raging against feminism’s eternal bugaboo—religion. But most women don’t perceive religion as an oppressive force. …

The second example indicates that today’s feminism is at least as anti-male as it is pro-female. If it weren’t, Emily McCombs would be drummed out of respectable feminist circles. The fact that she hasn’t been tells me that feminist opinion leaders think comments like hers are cute and funny.

Killing men! Ha! Ha!  

Miserable wretches like Vinogradova and McCombs are the reason feminists can’t get even one quarter of American women to call themselves members of their movement. Feminists are perceived as a small group of discontented women revolting against one thing—family life, with “family” defined in the traditional sense.

Feminists hate religion because it is the guardian of the family. They hate men because they are women’s partners in the family enterprise. And above all, they hate children and wish to maintain the legality of killing them in the womb because children complete families. Feminism, at least in its modern incarnation, is grounded in hate and violence.

While their hatred of family life may be regrettable it is not inexplicable. There has always been a tension between women’s career aspirations and their roles as wives and mothers. Women who wish for careers must often put families on hold while they accumulate the proper education, a process that, depending on the field, can last into a woman’s thirties. …

In short, some women harbor resentment against the family because its obligations fall disproportionately to them. Feminist doctrine blames “the patriarchy” for this state of affairs though nature is the more likely culprit. Women have always played a more active role in perpetuating the human race and they always will. It’s not fair it’s just reality.

Feminists cannot accept this reality so they rail against the big-S “System” that they believe was created by men to keep women down. The feminist ideal is to liberate women from the traditional family model so that they can be themselves. Think of Gloria Steinem’s adage “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” That’s feminism—women doing it on their own without the strictures placed on them by the family unit. If they need a support network they should rely on other women.

It aggravates feminists that so many women still like to wear the nuclear family’s straightjacket. What woman in her right mind would want to be tied down to home and children?

Plenty, actually. Among women with minor children, 56% wish to stay at home. Even among women who don’t have minor children, 39% prefer the homemaker role.

Clearly, many women find value in the traditional family which has many benefits not the least of which is the harmony it brings to the sexes. When men and women are united in marriage and later in the raising of children they are yoked together in a mutually beneficial partnership. The two roughly equal halves of the human race rely upon each other for their daily needs and to provide for the children, the weakest and most vulnerable of our society. Neither side can afford a battle of the sexes and for the children it can be traumatic. A truce is therefore declared, not just in the home but in society at large.

This truce cannot survive feminism because feminism encourages the female component to forgo obligations in favor of selfish desires. It foments acrimony between men and women and between woman and their children. It spurs both men and women to withdraw to their own separate bunkers while children are left to fend for themselves.

Even as we wrap up the most feminist year on record the movement still struggles to gain credibility among the population at large and even among the demographic it professes to help. Feminism has an image problem and it is entirely feminists’ fault.