When it comes to free speech, Britain has embraced Big Brother

Frankly, whether Scotland goes or Scotland stays, once-Great Britain is dead. It’s death was a slow-mo, stupidity-driven suicide:

Orwell understood:

Orwell on an unfree society's hatred for the truth

The Bookworm Beat — 9/8/14 Optics edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingThis week, when it comes to the top stories, all is not as it seems. What struck me as I read through report after report, and opinion piece after opinion piece, is that we’re surrounded by a swirl of optics that belie the truth. Evidence to support this statement follows:

College student opts to illustrate optics of rape by toting around a mattress

The mainstream media is filled with a bit of performance art by Emma Sulkowicz, a senior at Columbia. Sulkowicz claims that three years ago, on her first night in the student dorms, a senior raped her. Sulkowicz eventually reported the alleged rape to the college, which opted not to expel the senior, despite the fact that other female students eventually charged him with rape too. Three years after the fact, Sulkowicz, a performance art major, has come up with a senior thesis that, as I said, has garnered a good bit of attention from the MSM:

Beginning this week, Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz has vowed to carry her mattress around at all times until her alleged rapist is expelled from school. The performance, which doubles as Sulkowicz’s senior thesis, instantly went viral and has been splashed internationally across Facebook, Twitter, and even the Today Show as the latest chapter in the ongoing conversation on how colleges handle sexual assault cases.

Sulkowicz, a visual-arts major, says she was raped by a classmate in her dorm bed sophomore year, and when she reported the incident to Columbia administrators they botched the report, the investigation, and the hearing. In April, Sulkowicz filed a Title IX complaint with 23 other students alleging Columbia has mishandled sexual assault cases.

Emma Sulkowicz

The MSM, understandably, is terribly excited by the optics here. Sulkowicz explains:

Over the summer, I was lucky enough to get into the Yale Norfolk Residency, and I worked on a video where I had to move a mattress out of the room. The idea of carrying a mattress got stuck in my head the way a song gets stuck in your head, and I unpacked why carrying a mattress is an important visual for me. I thought about how I was raped in my own bed at Columbia; and how the mattress represents a private place where a lot of your intimate life happens; and how I have brought my life out in front for the public to see; and the act of bringing something private and intimate out into the public mirrors the way my life has been. Also the mattress as a burden, because of what has happened there, that has turned my own relationship with my bed into something fraught.

What’s singularly missing from the articles I looked at (and I looked at 7 or 8) is any information about the rape. Was she asleep in her bed only to wake up to the feel of a knife pressed against her throat (as happened to a friend of mine who sports a large scar on her face that she received when fighting of her attacker)? Or had Sulkowicz invited the alleged attacker into her room and into her bed? Was Sulkowicz drunk or sober? Was her alleged attacker drunk or sober? The only detail Sulkowicz discusses is her claim that the attacker had anal sex with her. It’s still unclear whether they had any consensual traditional intercourse before the senior engaged in an act at which Sulkowicz drew the line or whether it was indeed a stranger rape or a rape without any preliminary consensual behavior.

Another interesting thing about Sulkowicz’s whole rape narrative is that Sulkowicz immediately decided not to report the rape to the police:  “I didn’t report it at first because I didn’t feel like dealing with the emotional trauma.”  Okay, I get that, but you can’t eat your cake and have it — unless, I guess, you’re an American college student.  In that case, you can claim that you were the victim of a genuinely criminal act, but bypass entirely the criminal justice system (which as built-in rights for the accused) and, instead, simply complain to your college.  Then, if the college refuses to follow the usual politically correct path of destroying the male student’s life, you take to the media, so he can again be tried without due process.  

I’m sure something happened that night in Sulkowicz’s bed.  I just can’t escape the feeling that what took place was something called “gray rape,” which boils down to a scenario in which a girl agrees to sex and then, feeling guilty about what she did, later cries rape.  The media, of course, doesn’t care.

The media’s credulity regarding Sulkowicz’s very self-serving claims (after all, she now has a performance art thesis that’s garnered her fame throughout the Progressive world) may come about in part because of the media’s readily apparent statistical ignorance.  After all, the whole “rape culture” (as in “1-in-5 college women will be raped”) is in itself totally untrue:

MYTH 4: One in five in college women will be sexually assaulted.

FACTS: This incendiary figure is everywhere in the media today. Journalists, senators and even President Obama cite it routinely. Can it be true that the American college campus is one of the most dangerous places on earth for women?

The one-in-five figure is based on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and conducted from 2005 to 2007. Two prominent criminologists, Northeastern University’s James Alan Fox and Mount Holyoke College’s Richard Moran, have noted its weaknesses:

“The estimated 19% sexual assault rate among college women is based on a survey at two large four-year universities, which might not accurately reflect our nation’s colleges overall. In addition, the survey had a large non-response rate, with the clear possibility that those who had been victimized were more apt to have completed the questionnaire, resulting in an inflated prevalence figure.”

Fox and Moran also point out that the study used an overly broad definition of sexual assault. Respondents were counted as sexual assault victims if they had been subject to “attempted forced kissing” or engaged in intimate encounters while intoxicated.

Defenders of the one-in-five figure will reply that the finding has been replicated by other studies. But these studies suffer from some or all of the same flaws. Campus sexual assault is a serious problem and will not be solved by statistical hijinks.

Fundamentally, though, statistics and other icky facts just don’t matter to the Left.  What matters is control, something perfectly exemplified in an opinion piece in Britain’s Guardian.  The author, Jessica Valenti, accepts as true the overwhelming horrors of a campus “rape” culture (hyperlinks omitted):

Her performance may be singular, but the deep frustration voiced by Sulkowicz is being echoed by survivors across the United States. Despite increased efforts to curb campus assault and hold schools accountable – the FBI has changed its once-archaic definition of rape, a new White House task force wants answers, and schools like Harvard and Dartmouth have promised new policies – the nation’s university administrators are still failing young people in their care. In the last year alone, 67 schools have had students file federal complaints accusing their own colleges of violating the Clery Act or Title IX.

Oh, the outrage! College is a dangerous place for your daughter! Keep her at home, perhaps in a burqa. Oh, wait. Valenti isn’t saying that last bit. She just wants to control speech more and more (links omitted):

Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously. The legislation, which is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval by the end of this month (his office declined to comment), effectively requires the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no” – or else withholds funding from the nation’s largest state school system.

The legislation additionally clarifies that affirmative consent means both parties must be awake, conscious and not incapacitated from alcohol or drugs – and that past sexual encounters or a romantic relationship doesn’t imply consent. The California bill also, importantly, specifies that “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”.

It seems like a no-brainer to only have sex with conscious and enthusiastic partners, but detractors say the standard “micromanages” sexuality. The truth is that a “yes means yes” policy “helps to create a shared responsibility, instead of the responsibility falling on women to say ‘no’,” says Tracey Vitchers, chair of the board at Safer (Students Active for Ending Rape). Anti-violence activists are clearly excited about the bill, which – if all goes well – could be adopted by more states with large public university systems.

Pardon me for cynicism, but I don’t believe there’s a “rape culture” at college campuses. I believe that there is a “sexually-saturated, morality-free culture” at college campuses, brought about in large part by Progressive pressure on those same campuses to abandon the role of pater familias. Once upon a time, boys and girls lived in separate housing, and they were not allowed to take a person of the opposite sex to their rooms. Even when co-ed dorms first came into being, boys and girls occupied separate floors. Then, that changed so that they occupied the same floors, but had separate bathrooms. Now, they share everything — including copious amounts of drugs and alcohol that numb the smart parts of their brains.

My verdict based on the evidence available: Without more information, Sulkowicz definitely gets an “A+” for performance art and self-promotion. I’ll reserve judgment on the rape claim until there’s a full trial, complete with due process, a defense, and testimony under oath.

Obama — he of the Greek columns — explains that optics are hard

On Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press show, Obama finally deigned to explain why he went on a chortling, fist-thumbing golf game within minutes of announcing to the world that ISIS had decapitated an American citizen, something ISIS proudly filmed and then boasted about in a widely disseminated video. According to Obama, it’s just so hard to remember that the world is watching you. Somehow it’s unfair that the world’s eyes should be on the person who still bears the title of Most Powerful Man In The World, never mind that he’s reduced that power to the point where America’s weight in the world is no greater than any other little tin pot dictatorship’s world power.

Obama’s disingenuous claim that political theater is “not something that always comes naturally to me” unleashed a marvelous outrushing of tweets, some of which focused on his more egregious acts of political theater (faux Greek columns, speeches at the Brandenburg Gate) and others of which focused on his more embarrassing acts of visual ineptitude. Legal Insurrection has assembled some of these tweets.

Here are a few more for your enjoyment and delectation:

 

 

 

 

I’ll also add my favorite umbrella optic:

 

 

New Orleans Commemorates 5th Anniversary Of Hurricane Katrina

We’ve all faced that doorway moment but one just has to believe he could have handled it more adeptly.

Commenting on Obama’s risible statement about his deep feelings on learning of Foley’s death (feelings so deep that he was giggling on giggling on the golf course just a few hours later), Scott Johnson had this to say (emphasis mine):

In this case, the photographs suggest that Obama wasn’t all that choked up about the beheading of James Foley. They document that whatever emotion he felt, if any, dissipated very quickly. On that day, the photographs belied the theater. You might conclude that Obama is something of a phony on a matter of great concern to ordinary Americans. Thus Obama’s irritation.

One is struck both by the falsity and the petulance of Obama’s comments. I think Obama lies even to himself.

I disagree with Johnson’s last sentence, insofar as it implies that Obama, when he speaks of his deep feeling, knows that the opposite is actually true, and that he’s a shallow, self-involved, unfeeling man. Instead, I would argue that, when Obama told Chuck Todd that he was really quite shattered, and simply forgot that mere Americans wouldn’t understand the visuals of a man so sophisticated that he could go from shattered to silly within minutes, he was telling the truth . . . his truth. After all, the first rule of malignant narcissism is that the narcissist never lies. Since the truth is defined by his needs, when he makes a statement in accord with those needs, he is telling the truth or, more accurately, he is telling his truth.

The Gaza optics reveal that at least one of the dead wasn’t an innocent child

Elder of Ziyon examined the case of one of those poor, innocent civilians who died in Gaza as a result of Israel’s “unconscionable” Protective Edge assault. He found some damn interesting stuff too.

The optics of Britain’s dissolution are infinitely worse than the reality

A new YouGov poll makes it seem very likely that, after more than 300 years of being a United Kingdom, England will be disunited from Scotland: A majority of Scots suddenly seem inclined to go it alone as their own nation. Traditionalists who are moved by centuries of union, are horrified to think that they might live to see the day when Scotland and England part ways.

One could argue in opposition that what we’re seeing here is a necessary Scottish “reconquista,” as Scotland shakes off the shackles of a mere few hundred years of joinder with England in order to return to its more natural state, which was almost a thousand years of independence. That’s a silly argument, though.

John Fund makes a more serious and impressive argument when he says that, beneath the “it’s all falling apart” optics of dissolution, a Scottish vote in favor of disunion would be a good thing. Currently, Scotland sends a disproportionate number of Leftist members to the British parliament. Getting rid of them would give Tories (who are vaguely conservative) a majority. Additionally, once unanchored to the British treasury, hard Left Scotland might find it economically unfeasible to pursue socialist policies. Sadly, with the older generations dead and gone, I doubt that there’s any possibility that Scotland could revert to the hard-headed, self-reliant Scotland that gave America and the free world some of her greatest supporters of independence.

Scotland, of course, is banking on its oil revenue to keep it afloat, while England will mourn the loss of that same revenue. Again, though, oil may not be all its cracked up to be. As the Saudi countries show, oil money too readily props up otherwise broken, ineffectual economies. And as Venezuela shows, when a government becomes too socialist and broken, even oil money won’t help.

Optics and truth when it comes to American economic health under Reagan and Obama

I’m crowd-sourcing here. A Forbes opinion piece makes a compelling argument that Obama’s recovery economy is much stronger than Reagan’s was, with a better stock market, better corporate health, and better labor participation. I suspect jiggery-pokery here.

The argument I would make, and that many in the comments to that same article make, is that the stock market is propped up by government-printed money that doesn’t have actual wealth backing it; that the labor market is worse because more people have dropped out of the labor force and because the majority of jobs created are part-time or low pay; and that the federal debt and deficit mean that, to the extent we’re completely overextended, even the slightest economic tremor could trigger a massive economic collapse that will make 2008 look like the good times in retrospect.

I would value your input on this one. Both collectively and individually, you guys are better at economic data than I ever will be.

The Left tries to reframe our expectations

Teacher affirmationIn September 2011, I wrote a post about the way teachers constantly present themselves as the hardest working, most underpaid people in America.  I have a great deal of respect for teachers and, to the extent I deliver my kids to their care, I want them to be decent, knowledgeable, skillful, hardworking people — and that’s not something that can be had for free.  Nevertheless, I don’t see them as the martyrs that they see looking back from their mirrors.

I touched upon that subject again just this past September, after I’d gotten deluged by Facebook posts from teacher friends, all of them reminding us in a cute way that no one works harder in America than a teacher or for less money compared to their work output.  Again, with all due respect for teachers, I think many people, including the troops, would quibble with this.  I contrasted the Democrats’ deification of teachers and compared it with their denigration of doctors, something expressed obliquely through Obamacare.  Doctors train for years in their profession, work heinous hours, and truly hold people’s lives in their hands — and Obamacare is intended to increase their work load and cut their compensation.  My conclusion was that socialism prefers propagandists, something that teachers are perfectly situated to do, over providers.

And speaking of socialists and the way they value different categories of workers, Daniel Hannan has written about the British deification of its National Health Service, a system that is above reproach.  It’s not above reproach because it’s so wonderful, mind you.  It’s above reproach because no one is allowed to reproach it.  Hannan notes that there are two classes that speak well of the system:  those who work in it or are ideological supporters of socialized medicine, and those who are loudly grateful to have received decent treatment from it.  Hannan makes two points about this second category.  First, they’re amiable followers of the more strident ideologues.  Second, their gratitude that the system works is itself an indictment of the system’s myriad failings:

What of the wider constituency? What of the undoctrinaire people who say, with conviction, “the NHS saved my grandmother’s life”? Well, to make a rather unpopular point, she was saved by the clinicians involved, not by Britain’s unique prohibition of private finance in healthcare provision. In a country as wealthy as ours, we should expect a certain level of service. We can be grateful to the people involved without treating the whole process as a miracle.

When else, after all, do we become so emotional? Do we get off planes saying “I owe my life to British Airways: they flew me all the way here in one piece”? Of course not: that’s what is meant to happen. Our assumption doesn’t insult the pilots any more than expecting a certain level of competence in healthcare “insults our hardworking doctors and nurses”. On the contrary, it compliments them.

The elision of the “hardworking doctors and nurses” with the state monopoly that employs them is what allows opponents of reform to shout down any criticism. People who complain are treated, not as wronged consumers, but as pests. People who argue that there might be a better way of organising the system are treated, not as proponents of a different view, but as enemies.

Naturally, the above passage made me think of the obeisance we’re expected to pay to America’s teachers.  The demand that we recognize what wonderful martyrs they are is a tacit acknowledgment that too many of them are government drones who are, quite rationally, milking a system that gives itself up for milking.  This doesn’t mean we should denigrate teachers or take them for granted, but there’s a strong element of a “methinks we all do protest too much” mindset when it comes to the ritual demand that we acknowledge that teachers are society’s new martyrs.  After all, as Hannan said, they have a job to do and they should be doing it.

Incidentally, while Hannan doesn’t address the issue of teachers, he does point out that our being bullied into expressing exaggerated surprise and appreciation when there’s competence in a public sector area isn’t limited to Britain’s NHS.  His other example is the UN, which you all know I believe is one of the most vile, evil, antisemitic, child exploitative, anti-American, money-wasting institutions on earth, as well as a few other institutions that, coincidentally, are also usually anti-American and antisemitic:

Any organisation that is spared criticism becomes, over time, inefficient, insensitive, intolerant. It has happened to the United Nations. It has happened to the mega-charities. It happened, for a long time, to the European Union (though not over the past five years). The more lofty the ideal, the more reluctant people are to look at the grubby reality.

Cheers to Hannan for stating that, while the Emperor isn’t precisely walking around naked, his clothes are scarcely the golden, bejeweled garments that his sycophants claim he’s wearing.

Paul Weston — “I am a racist”

Defending what is good about your country is racist.  So is describing Islam and its cultural and political practices.

Regarding Islam, let me be clear that this is not the same as the antisemites making things up about Jews, as they have since time immemorial.  Instead, what we know about Islam comes from the Muslim world itself:  from their concrete (and bloody) acts, from their media, from their speeches, and from their houses of worship.  They are open about what they are.  It is we who bury their true nature under platitudes and lies.

Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, and Stirling Castle (comments are on now)

Today’s port was Greenock, which is the gateway, not only to Glasgow, but also to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs (a national park area), and Stirling Castle. We mostly skirted Glasgow, and went straight for the pretty stuff.

The driver/guide on out tour was a chatty fellow who knew his history and had a large number of musical selections he’d gathered together to play as background music for the various points of interest. It took me aback at first, but then he played so many recordings I liked that I started writing down the bands’ names. As much as I liked the music, I also liked his attitude, which was to try to make the experience as rich as possible.

When we went to Loch Lomond, most of which was invisible due to rain and mist, our guide not only played “Loch Lomond” for us, he told us the story behind the song. According to our guide, the song’s lyrics date back to the Jacobite uprisings that came to a bitter, bloody end in 1745/1746.

During the war, he said, two Scottish soldiers who had ended up in England were trying to make their way home again. Unluckily for them, they were caught. The British gave a particularly cruel order — one was to die, and one to be released, with the soldiers themselves responsible for making the choice. They drew straws, and the man who drew the short straw wrote a farewell note to his companion in arms:

You take the high road (i.e., you walk upon the earth),
And I’ll take the low road (i.e., I’ll be buried in the ground),
And I’ll get to Scotland before you (i.e., spirits travel fast).
But me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

If the guide’s story is true, it’s a very sad song . . . but a very beautiful one too.

The guide also told us that Scotland’s unofficial national anthem is “Flower of Scotland,” which was written in 1967 to commemorate the Scottish victory over Edward II’s English forces at Bannockburn in 1314. (The official anthem, of course, is “God Save the Queen.”) As you can see, it’s scarcely a celebratory song, as it mourns the loss of Scottish greatness, and vaguely hopes that Scotland can rise again:

1. O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen.
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward
To think again.
2. The hills are bare now,
And autumn leaves
Lie thick and still
O’er land that is lost now,
Which those so dearly held
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
To think again.
3. Those days are past now
And in the past
They must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again!
That stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
To think again.
4. O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen.
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward
To think again.

There are many voices that think that the buoyant “Scotland the Brave” would be a more suitable unofficial anthem. I have to say that, speaking of anthems qua anthems, “Scotland the Brave” is more suitable. But in terms of modern day Scotland, there’s a lot to be said for a vaguely mournful dirge. I won’t repeat what I said in yesterday’s email about Scotland’s antisemitism, but you just can’t see a brilliant future for a country that’s dependent on oil, sheep, and the welfare state.

Before I get more into what we saw today, I have to admit to being massively conflicted about Scotland particularly and the UK generally. Whenever I’m in these places, I feel as if I’m where I belong. I love the look of the places, the sound (I really like Celtic music), the art, the history, the accents, and the ordinary people I meet on the street. I even like the way these places smell. Whether I’m in Scotland or a Wales or the English countryside, there’s this indefinable green, flowery, fresh smell that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.

Having said that, I hate the fact that the UK has flooded itself with Muslims, raising the strong possibility of a majority population that has values antithetical to everything that is British; I hate the way the welfare state has leached away British values and backbone; and I hate the ascendency of anti-Israel and antisemitic feelings throughout the whole of the UK (and Ireland too).

The UK, from Scotland on down, fundamentally lacks vitality. All of this means that, when I’m walking around glorying in a place that feels like my spiritual and aesthetic home, I can’t decide whether I’m the equivalent of someone foolishly in love with a dying consumptive (very Bronte-ish) or if I’m the equivalent of someone even more foolishly in love with a wife-beater — and I’m the wife.

But back to today’s tour….

From Loch Lomond, we made a rest stop at a tourist trap, except that it turned out to be a tourist trap with a difference. All around the building there were sheep, lots and lots of sheep. And ducks and miniature ponies. Despite the rain, we were charmed with the animals.

It got better when a sheep farmer from Lombardy who is studying sheep stuff in England (and I’ve completely forgotten the scientific term for “studying sheep stuff”) did a herding demonstration with his border collie, a former world herding champion. There are few things funnier than watching a border collie effortlessly herding a quacking, flapping group of ducks hither and yon.

If you’re a fan of the movie “Babe,” you probably remember that, at the end, when Babe the pig has proven his herding abilities, the farmer says to Babe “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.” It turns out that “That’ll do” is the universal herder command to these border collies. Absent that order, they’ll never stop herding until they or the animals they’re herding drop from exhaustion.

From sheep, we wended our way through the beautiful Trossachs, Scotland’s first national park. The Trossachs are like a microcosm of the best of Scottish nature: meadows, mountains, forests, ferns, heather, sheep, cows, and wild flowers, especially fireweed, a brilliant purple flower that brightens the landscape.

I’ve always heard that the Inuits have more than 20 words for snow, since its so omnipresent in their lives. I have to believe that the Scots must have at least that many words for green. I’m sure I counted 20 or more different shades of green as we drove through the countryside. Additionally, Scotland has more than 31,000 lakes, and we were lucky enough to see at least a few as we drove by.

Our ultimate destination was Stirling Castle, a renaissance castle that James V, father to Mary, Queen of Scots, built when he married the French Mary of Guise. After the 18th century debacle that was the Jacobin uprising, the British turned the castle into a military base. That means that the castle’s interior was stripped of every sign that it was ever a royal castle and it suffered some hard usage along the way.

The Scottish agency charged with historic sites decided to do something interesting, since the castle was a mere shell. It spent ten years and millions of dollars recreating what the interior would have looked like when it was just built.

When Stirling was officially reopened in 2011, it had undergone a second renaissance. Its walls are hung with tapestries, the ceilings are painted with brilliant colors, and the gray stones have been smoothly plastered — all of which would have been the case during its heyday.

The tapestries are actually a work in progress, as the Trust is using original weaving techniques to create identical copies of the “Hunt for the Unicorn” tapestries currently on display at the Met in New York. Well, not precisely identical. Rather than being faded, as the originals are, these copies are in the vibrant colors the original tapestries once boasted.

From Stirling, we abandoned country roads and took the motorway back to the ship. This drive took us through Glasgow.

In my mind’s eye, Glasgow is frozen in the 70s — a broken-down Victorian city. Although I saw only a little of it from the motorway, I might want to revise my viewpoint. There were many Victorian buildings, but most looked renovated. There was also also sorts of modern buildings, including high(ish) rises, that were obviously built within the last 20 years. It brought home the fact that, while Edinburg is the capital, Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city.

Tomorrow, on to Dublin. No tour tomorrow, so we’ll have a longer, albeit less structured day. I’m looking forward to visiting a city that has so much Georgian architecture. I like that look. I’m also looking forward to hearing a lot of Irish accents. The Celtic accents — Irish, Welsh, and Scottish — fall pleasantly on my ears.

Lerwick (Shetland Islands)

I was without Internet for three days, so apologies to everyone whose comments piled up. And now to my most recent travel post:

We spent a lovely day today driving around the largest of the Shetland Islands. I’ve always loved the Scottish landscape, and the Shetland Islands are like Scotland on steroids.

The day started out a bit stressfully. Normally, we just get off the ship and go through customs and immigrations — assuming the port even requires that. Lerwick does require those things, but it has a problem, which is the fact that the ship doesn’t simply dock at Lerwick. Instead, it anchors offshore and people go aboard on tenders (about 130 passengers at a time). Immigration insists on vetting all the passengers at once (about 2,000), so immigration agents come aboard the ship when it anchors. Every passenger who wishes to go offshore has to pass through immigration before getting a tender ticket.

The technical arrival time in Lerwick was 10:00, but the Immigration vetting started only at 9:00. Worse, the ship wanted to vet first those who had bought one of its tours, which we had not. We nudged and bugged them, though, saying that we had a tour too, and ended up being amongst the first in line. We whipped through immigration, got our boarding passes for the very first tender, and landed on Shetland soil at 10:10. Whew!!

Our tour guide, Grant, was waiting for us. From that moment on out, it was a perfect day. Well, not quite perfect. The fog was thick for most of the day, so we couldn’t see many of the magnificent vistas the island offers. But we got a lot of breathtaking near (as opposed to far) views. Additionally, the kids and I were just thrilled with the cool, moist air.

So, here’s what I can tell you about our almost perfect day. The Shetland Islands are the United Kingdom’s northern-most islands and are a part of Scotland. For centuries, they were sleepy little isles, known for wool and fish. That changed with the North Sea oil drilling in the early 1970s. From then on, the economy boomed, with Lerwick going from small village to small city.

There’s an ebb and flow to oil, but when the boom is on, as it is now, so many laborers come from all over the UK that they’re oil companies lodge them on floating motels. When the boom ends, most of these laborers leave, but enough stay behind that the island’s population steadily grows.

Having said that, the Shetland Islands still have more sheep than people, and have vast swaths of nothing at all but sheep and heathery land. The nature there is sooo beautiful. Every landscape involves water, whether it’s a stream, a loch (lake), or the North Sea itself. The land is lush, but austere. There are few trees. The ancient Picts cut so many of the trees down that the remaining seas couldn’t withstand the North Sea winds and storms that can sweep the islands.

What’s left is pasture land, which is lush, but not twee (i.e., not cutsie or Disney-esque). Despite their northern location (way, way north), the Shetland Islands benefit from the Gulf Stream, so they get water, not snow. Every vista shows one rolling green hills delicately touched up with small yellow, purple, or white flowers. Walk close to a pasture, and the sweet smell of heather wafts upwards.

Our guide, Grant, grew up on the island, and was able to tell us about every area he passed. Heck, he waved to most drivers we passed, since he knows so many people on his home island. When we drove West in a mildly successful effort to avoid the fog, he kept calling for weather updates about the island’s southern end. I knew that. What I didn’t know was that he was calling his mother for that info!

In addition to knowing the island, Grant had the most lovely Scots accent. He explained to us that this was his second language (English with a strong Scots accent). His first language is a Shetland dialect that has a strong Norwegian component. This reflects the fact that, until about 500 years ago, the Shetland Islands belonged to Norway. Before that, they were Danish. And before that, going back to a Bronze Age times, they belonged to the Celtic Picts. We kept asking Grant questions, partly for info and partly just to hear him speak.

People with only one day ashore go to the Shetland Islands for four things: the natural beauty, the Shetland ponies, the puffins, and the archeological sites. We got to see all four. I’ve already made an inadequate effort to describe the natural beauty, so I’ll abandon any further efforts on that subject and touch instead upon the rest.

Shetland ponies look like fat, shrunken horses. They’re sturdy beasts, with bad tempers, who used to be taken down into coal mines and worked in the darkness until they died. In Shetland, they hang out in green pastures, and get petted by tourists. We were fortunate that it was just the four of us fighting to scratch the ponies’ ears. Periodically we’d see entire buses full of people (40 or so) cluster around three or four ponies.

The ponies are right on the roadside. Outside of the main roads into Lerwick, these roads are small. Most of the ones Grant took is on are one lane with periodic passing areas so that cars coming from different directions can pass each other.

Wherever one looks on these roads, one sees sheep dotting the fields. Most are shorn by this time of year, but we were fortunate enough to see a few puffy, unshorn sheep, as well as several lambs, which are rare by July. I regret to say that, despite the fact that the lambs were adorable, I did not feel guilty about having lamb for dinner. As I said to the kids, “Lambs are cute and delicious.”

The puffins are surprisingly foolish looking, and quite endearing, little birds. They live on cliff-side nests, so one usually see them from afar. We were fortunate that several had waddled up to the fence right next to us. Even Grant, who grew up a few miles from the puffin area he showed us, had never seen them so close, so he took some pictures too. They’re small, black-and-white birds, somewhat roly-poly, with bright orange feet, and yellow beaks that are a little wider and flatter than parrot beaks. They are quite amazingly photogenic.

And then there’s the archeology. We went to a site that was occupied by Picts, then early Vikings, than Medieval Vikings. All that remains are stones, but there are enough to give you a complete feeling for a Pictish wheel house. These were round, windowless, stone houses that had a shell built around them, equally round and windowless. One can actually go into the remains of one of the wheelhouses. It is cozy or claustrophobic, depending on your point of view. At 5 feet tall, I was the only family member who didn’t feel that the ceiling, had it still existed, would have pressed down upon me.

Aside from its archeological interest, the site was lovely. The stone walls are shored up by lush grass hills, and the stones are covered with pale green moss. The combination of sea, grass, and weathered stone was a feast for the eyes. I took way too many pictures. When I’m back and have winnowed them down, I’ll share them with you.

Both kids felt that the Shetland Islands were the best day of the cruise. I agree. I loved the way Skjolden looked, but I felt best in the Shetlands.

As always with these trips, I felt conflicted about liking it so much. Scotland is very hostile to Israel, and the Scottish Church recently came out with an official Church statement that skipped being anti-Israel and went straight to anti-Semitic.

I guess this was another reminder that there is a vast chasm all across Europe between the people and the ruling class. The people think they have a democracy, but they don’t. The ruling class is the upper class and, ironically given that they’re the upper class, they’re hard Left. The people that this arrogant, antisemitic upper class governs are mostly “I neither know nor care, provided you give me the benefits and hand-outs I’m now addicted to” people. The leadership is malevolent; the masses are rather nice sheeple.

Today is a much-needed restful “at sea” day. Tomorrow is the West coast of Southern Scotland. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say.

No wonder Britain lost her Empire and is now busy losing her nation

About a week ago, I told you that I was going to see a play called Black Watch, which purports to be an “even-handed” homage to Scotland’s famous Black Watch regiment.  The Black Watch was much in the news (in the UK) during the Iraq war, because one unit suffered some painful losses when they manned an outpost at America’s request.  In addition, the Black Watch was absorbed into a larger military bureaucratic entity, which ended it’s long run (starting in about 1729) as a stand-alone fighting unit.

Since the Black Watch opened in 2007 in Scotland, reviewers have raved about the play.  Here are some sample reviews that the National Theater of Scotland assembled from a variety of British and American publications after the play’s original 2007 run:

This is not only an urgently topical piece about the sort of conflict soldiers have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the changing nature of warfare and about the morality of fighting; it is also a superb, multi-faceted political and social drama. It explores the male psyche with sympathy and wit. And in John Tiffany’s outstanding production for the National Theatre of Scotland, it becomes a blistering piece of physical theatre – by turns comical, visceral and, surprisingly, lyrical.

[snip]

What a relief, at last, to have a play about the Iraq war that doesn’t lecture us, with the ghastly smugness of hindsight, on what we all know already: that this war was muddled and ill planned, and that its political leaders were culpably naive, if not downright dishonest.

[snip]

. . . this soldier’s viewpoint is a blast of fresh air. And not once in two hours do you remember you’re watching actors. You think you’re watching Scottish squaddies, square-bashing, on ops, “on the pish” – the energy and conviction of the ensemble is astonishing.

[snip]

Put simply, it’s essential that you see Black Watch . . . it’s among the most compelling theater pieces you could wish to see. And weep for, in a sense. The production from Scotland’s National Theater is a magnificent one, and its awesome reality and humaneness will overwhelm you.

[snip]

[Black Watch] arrives like a blazing redeemer . . .  a necessary reminder of the transporting power that is unique to theater. Other narrative forms . . . could tell the story that is told here. But none could summon and deploy the array of artistic tools that is used with such mastery and immediacy. Every moment in Black Watch seems to bleed from the previous one in an uninterrupted river of sensations.

You get the idea.  Fabulous writing, acting, and admirable objectivity (the last of which, entirely coincidentally, of course, leads inevitably to the conclusion that the war in Iraq was irredeemably evil).  My concern was that, even if the play was even-handed, I would get hacked off at poncy actors prancing around pretending to be soldiers.

Having seen the play, I can say that my fears were realized and that all the other reviews were wrong.  It seems that being a Leftist means that you have very low standards.  Before I say what was wrong with the play (and there’s a lot to say), let me say what was right:  The actors were really Scotsman, so they weren’t faking the accents.  Also, it was indeed a very physical play (to the point of mawkish, foolish, stupidity), but the actors hit their marks every time.  They were very professional as they ran, pranced, frolic, and danced around the stage.  The actor who played the sergeant did an incredibly good imitation of Basil Fawlty, only with a Scots accent.  I don’t know if that was his intention, but he sounded exactly like this, when it came to pitch and cadence:

That’s enough about the Black Watch’s merits. Let’s get to the bad stuff. Contrary to the slavishly loving reviewers, I found the plot thin and predictable, the characters uninteresting, and I must have missed any real humor or serious emotion.  The play’s writers were able to skimp on all these features (which tend to appear in good plays), because they wrote the play in shorthand.  It was, in essence, a dog whistle play.  At varying times, the characters made derogatory remarks about the war and Americans, and Leftists were expected to respond appropriately, understanding which lines were meant to inspire laughter and which to inspire tears.

I was not alone in feeling that the play lacked a certain something (such as wit, insight, or character development). The physical layout of the play has the audience sitting in bleachers on either side of the theater, watching the play on the stage below as if watching a basketball game. This means that, when you get too bored or simply weary from watching the actors run about, you can lift your eyes and observe the people opposite you as they watch the play. It didn’t take one of those FBI specialists trained in reading faces to realize that many in the audience were bored. At the end, the actors, despite the sweat they poured into the play (and they did work hard and knew their lines) got just one round of applause. Then the hard-Left San Francisco audience bolted. The plot was that bad.

And was it even-handed? Well, in a way. It did not present the soldiers as baby-killers. Instead, it presented them as babies getting killed because of evil politics involving Westminster and America. That was the simplistic reduction of the Iraq War.

But the worst thing of all was Leftist approach to portraying soldiers sympathetically.  The play claims that the dialogue is based upon interviews with Black Watch soldiers returned from the war. If that’s the case, the mighty British Empire and the mighty military that once supported it have truly hit the point of no return.

The eight or ten soldiers who appear as characters in the play have lines that show them to be utterly ignorant, gullible, shallow, obscene men one step away from mental retardation. Maybe that’s the truth about the modern British military.  Indeed, the play makes it seem as if that was always the case.  I have my doubts.  My favorite WWI book, The Great War and Modern Memory, comments frequently on the fact that, while obscenities (which flow freely in the play) were an integral part of troop talk, WWI was an extraordinary literary war. The lowest private could quote the Bible, Bunyan, Shakespeare, and even Shaw with fluidity and comfort.  These guys were too dumb to quote Playboy jokes.

But again, maybe that’s what the British military has been reduced to, given the overall state of education in Britain.  Or it could be a libel.  In America, for example, we know that, John Kerry to the contrary, America’s troops are better educated, on average, than ordinary Americans. They may have the shallowness of youth, but they are not stupid to the point of cretinism.

The Duke of Wellington famously said of his military that, compared to the French conscription system, which “brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth — the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.” Watching Black Watch, I wondered whether modern Britain’s military has managed to sink below the level of being the scum of the earth, to the point at which the troops are irredeemable.

Having voiced that terrible libel against the British troops, let me hasten to add that I know from reading about the Iraq war during the war, that our troops felt a fair measure of respect for their British colleagues. Either our troops were being polite, or the Black Watch grossly maligns Britain’s military class. I suspect that our troops were being honest and the play libelous, but (sadly) Britain has changed so much in the last thirty years that anything is possible.

RIP to the late, very, very great Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher dismissing personal attacks

I was living in England in 1981 and 1982, so I was there for the coal miner riots and the Falkland War.  Since I was at a Northern University, the official posture of every student there was that Maggie Thatcher was evil.  I kind of admired her then, and I greatly admired her later.  This is the obituary I wrote for her at Mr. Conservative:

The indomitable Margaret Thatcher is dead at age 87, after having suffered a stroke. Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She got elected after promising England that she would end the socialist hold over the British economy and, despite fierce opposition, that is precisely what she did.

Thatcher was absolutely sure of her convictions – she knew that Communism was evil; and that British socialism, a soft form of Communism, was simply a slow-moving evil sapping away the will and moral fiber that had once characterized the British people.

As is always the case when people who have been dependent on government benefits suddenly have those benefits pulled out from them, violence ensued. Thatcher was unmoved, and delighted in the fact that the British adopted the Soviet nickname for her: “The Iron Lady.’ She knew she was right, and she was not going to back down. She relished battle.

Thatcher on socialism

When, in 1982, Argentina attempted to take over the Falkland Islands, a small British governed island chain off its coast, Thatcher unflinchingly sent battleships off to war to take those islands back. The British, even those who hated her economic policies, cheered her on and celebrated what turned out to be a swift victory

Thatcher was the daughter of a conservative grocer and his wife. They raised her to believe in herself and in the fact that others had the right and the ability to be equally self-confident and self-sufficient. In the Thatcher family, dependency on government wasn’t just an embarrassment; it was a destructive force that had to be fought at every turn. This belief guided Thatcher’s entire career. Thankfully, her education at Oxford was in science and then law, so she was not indoctrinated in the leftism that was already then infecting Western liberal arts education.

Thatcher also had a wonderful gift for pithy sayings that readily encompassed serious conservative political thought. Small wonder that she and Ronald Reagan, whose presidency overlapped with much of her time as Prime Minister, delighted in each other so much:

Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.

To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.

Because she understood socialism so well, she had the gift of prescience, predicting the socialist future with remarkable accuracy:

The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.

Margaret Thatcher was a great lady, with the highest degrees of moral courage and political conviction. For a short, but golden time, she was able to stop Britain’s miserable slide into socialism. Although her control over Britain ended in 1990, it is her death that truly reminds us how rare her courage was, how difficult her conservative gains were, and how easily they were lost. All that’s left of Britain now seems to be embodied in an ugly, mean-spirited Leftist carpetbagger who seeks to destroy America as he and his kind have succeeded in destroying Thatcher’s Britain.

When it comes to guns, we need to follow the Left’s example: personalize, personalize, personalize

Defending your home against a break-in is about as personal as it gets.  The following email is a good example of taking that personal principle, then expanding to a narrative about a single third party, and finally discussing the broader policy implications that affect all citiziens (h/t Earl):

A LESSON FROM HISTORY:

You’re sound asleep when you hear a thump outside your bedroom door. Half-awake, and nearly paralyzed with fear, you hear muffled whispers. At least two people have broken into your house and are moving your way.

With your heart pumping, you reach down beside your bed and pick up your shotgun. You rack a shell into the chamber, then inch toward the door and open it…

In the darkness, you make out two shadows. One holds something that looks like a crowbar. When the intruder brandishes it as if to strike, you raise the shotgun and fire.

The blast knocks both thugs to the floor. One writhes and screams while the second man crawls to the front door and lurches outside.

As you pick up the telephone to call police, you know you’re in trouble. In your country, most guns were outlawed years before, and the few that are privately owned are so stringently regulated as to make them useless. Yours was never registered.

Police arrive and inform you that the second burglar has died. They arrest you for First Degree Murder and Illegal Possession of a Firearm.

When you talk to your attorney, he tells you not to worry: authorities will probably plea the case down to manslaughter.

“What kind of sentence will I get?” you ask.

“Only ten-to-twelve years,” he replies, as if that’s nothing. “Behave yourself, and you’ll be out in seven.”

The next day, the shooting is the lead story in the local newspaper. Somehow, you’re portrayed as an eccentric vigilante while the two men you shot are represented as choirboys. Their friends and relatives can’t find an unkind word to say about them. Buried deep down in the article, authorities acknowledge that both “victims” have been arrested numerous times.

But the next day’s headline says it all: “Lovable Rogue Son Didn’t Deserve to Die.” The thieves have been transformed from career criminals into Robin Hood-type pranksters.

As the days wear on, the story takes wings. The national media picks it up, then the international media. The surviving burglar has become a folk hero. Your attorney says the thief is preparing to sue you, and he’ll probably win.

The media publishes reports that your home has been burglarized several times in the past and that you’ve been critical of local police for their lack of effort in apprehending the suspects. After the last break-in, you told your neighbor that you would be prepared next time. The District Attorney uses this to allege that you were lying in wait for the burglars.

A few months later, you go to trial. The charges haven’t been reduced, as your lawyer had so confidently predicted.

When you take the stand, your anger at the injustice of it all works against you. Prosecutors paint a picture of you as a mean, vengeful man. It doesn’t take long for the jury to convict you of all charges. The judge sentences you to life in prison.

This case really happened.

On August 22, 1999, Tony Martin of Emneth, Norfolk, England, killed one burglar and wounded a second. In April, 2000, he was convicted and is now serving a life term. [See link below, explaining that he only served three years, but has had to go into hiding.]

How did it become a crime to defend one’s own life in the once great British Empire? It started with the Pistols Act of 1903. This seemingly reasonable law forbade selling pistols to minors or felons and established that handgun sales were to be made only to those who had a license.

The Firearms Act of 1920 expanded licensing to include not only handguns but all firearms except shotguns. Later laws passed in 1953 and 1967 outlawed the carrying of any weapon by private citizens and mandated the registration of all shotguns.

Momentum for total handgun confiscation began in earnest after the Hungerford mass shooting in 1987. Michael Ryan, a mentally disturbed man with a Kalashnikov rifle, walked down the street shooting everyone he saw. When the smoke cleared, 17 people were dead. The British public, already de-sensitized by eighty years of “gun control”, demanded even tougher restrictions. (The seizure of all privately owned handguns was the objective even though Ryan used a rifle.)

Nine years later, at Dunblane, Scotland, Thomas Hamilton used a semi-automatic weapon to murder 16 children and a teacher at a public school. For many years, the media had portrayed all gun owners as mentally unstable, or worse, criminals. Now the press had a real kook with which to beat up law-abiding gun owners. Day after day, week after week, the media gave up all pretense of objectivity and demanded a total ban on all handguns. The Dunblane Inquiry, a few months later, sealed the fate of the few sidearm’s still owned by private citizens.

During the years in which the British government incrementally took away most gun rights, the notion that a citizen had the right to armed self-defense came to be seen as vigilantism. Authorities refused to grant gun licenses to people who were threatened, claiming that self-defense was no longer considered a reason to own a gun. Citizens who shot burglars or robbers or rapists were charged while the real criminals were released. Indeed, after the Martin shooting, a police spokesman was quoted as saying, “We cannot have people take the law into their own hands.”

All of Tony Martin’s neighbors had been robbed numerous times, and several elderly people were severely injured in beatings by young thugs who had no fear of the consequences.
Martin himself, a collector of antiques, had seen most of his collection trashed or stolen by burglars.

When the Dunblane Inquiry ended, citizens who owned handguns were given three months to turn them over to local authorities. Being good British subjects, most people obeyed the law. The few who didn’t were visited by police and threatened with ten-year prison sentences if they didn’t comply. Police later bragged that they’d taken nearly 200,000 handguns from private citizens.

How did the authorities know who had handguns? The guns had been registered and licensed. Kind of like cars. Sound familiar?

WAKE UP AMERICA; THIS IS WHY OUR FOUNDING FATHERS PUT THE SECOND AMENDMENT IN OUR CONSTITUTION.

“…It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” –Samuel Adams

If you’re curious, here’s more information about Martin. Please note that the challenges against him came about because the state hadn’t given him permission to defend himself.

Eco-friendly homes more expensive than promised

I think Al Gore must have been behind this eco-friendly housing subdivision, because it’s making money for the rich and screwing every one else:

Residents promised cheaper bills to live in a multi-million pound eco-friendly ‘homes of the future’ complex say they will have to move out after being hit with sky-high electricity charges.

The Pavilion Gardens complex in West Bowling, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was heralded as being the most environmentally-friendly in the county when it was completed in July 2011 at a cost of £5.6million.

Residents were told their electricity bills would be £500 cheaper than average because the houses are super-insulated with biomass boilers for heating and solar panels for electricity.

But just 18 months after moving in, many residents say they have been hit with massive electrical bills almost double the annual average and they can’t afford to live in the properties.

Read the rest here.

Green — it’s the color of the wheelbarrows full of money the scammers are weeping over as they head to the bank.

 

England’s welfare state is a victim of its own success

It’s no wonder Brits, contra Obama, want out of the EU.  Aside from exerting nit-picky control over every aspect of British life, the EU makes it virtually impossible for Britain to stem the endless tide of immigrants coming in, legally or not, and immediately getting public benefits that are not available to the Brits themselves.

Here are two articles and a video regarding that problem.

First, a woman talks about living the lush life on her benefits.

Second, some fed-up Brits raise their voices in protest song:

Third, a shy, unlikely voice emerges to oppose, not just the welfare state, but the lies that the ruling class tells about the welfare state.

People are violent even without guns

(I find that I’m too thrifty not to get the most mileage out of my writing.  People who get my newsletter — and if you don’t, you can fill out the subscription form to the right — will have seen this post already, but I couldn’t resist a slightly wider audience for it.)

I wrote the other day about the extraordinary violence in England, a level of violence that increased dramatically after the Labour Party outlawed almost all guns.  After reading that post, a friend send me a link to an article by Tom Gresham, writing at the Tactical Wire.  Gresham’s article bounces off of Bob Costas’ inane little homily asserting that Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, would be alive if guns were outlawed.  After pointing out the most obvious fact, which is that Belcher could easily have killed Perkins with his bare hands, Gresham gets to the heart of the matter, which is the way the anti-gun Left abuses data.

Arthur Fellig photo of suicide 1936Gresham first tackles Costa’s claim that, even if guns aren’t used to kill innocent bystanders, they drive suicide rates.  Gresham has one word to demolish that argument:  Japan.  Japan’s laws almost completely prohibit guns.  Nevertheless, says Gresham, “the suicide rate in Japan approaches (sometimes exceeds) twice that of the U.S. No guns in Japan, but twice the rate of suicides of the U.S., which has perhaps 300 million guns.”

Gresham also points to a stunning statistic about America, one I hadn’t known.  In the 20 years since most states passed laws mandating issuance of concealed carry permits to qualified applicants,”the murder rate in the United States has fallen dramatically.”

We now have three interesting facts:  (1) Mostly gun-less Japan has twice the suicide rate of America; (2) mostly gun-less Britain has almost five times as much violent crime as armed America, a rate that increased dramatically when Britain banned most weapons; and (3) when American states enabled law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, gun crime decreased, rather than increased.

Lion lying down with lambWe’ve talked before at the Bookworm Room about the fact that correlation is not the same as causation.  Those three facts taken together, though, indicate that it’s reasonable to assume a connection between guns and violent crime.  The connection, though, isn’t the one the Left wants us to draw, which is that guns increase the violent crime and suicide rate.  Rather, the connection is that an armed society is one that sees fewer violent crimes and fewer suicides.