Thursday, 28 January 2016

Oregon 'Militia' Killing

Sadly, it looks like the very stupid situation in Oregon will be resolved in the traditional American way, with a hail of bullets.
US police say they have arrested the leader of an armed militia which has occupied a wildlife refuge in Oregon, with one person killed in a shootout. 
Ammon Bundy and four others were arrested during a traffic stop. One person was injured. Three others were held in separate incidents. 
The militia occupied the refuge on 2 January to support two ranchers jailed for setting fire to federal land. It says the government has taken land illegally from ranchers for decades. 
Other members of the group were reportedly still at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, where the FBI was setting up a cordon around the perimeter. 
Only ranchers who own property in the area will be allowed to pass. Journalists have been leaving the scene following advice from the FBI it was no longer safe to stay. 
Oregon Public Broadcasting "was told by FBI that we were on our own - essentially stuff is going down and we need to move," tweeted John Sepulvado.
People being killed, even American fundamentalist bampots, is generally sad.

I'm not sure there are any 'good guys' or winners here, between the imbecile 'freedom fighters' and the bloodthirsty government storm troopers.

In an odd way, both sides are right. The 'militia' are idiots; the US state is an out-of-control, repressive monstrosity.

An apology to the nations of Norway and Sweden

Yesterday, in my post on Alexandra Mezher, I confused Sweden and Norway, not once but repeatedly.  I could explain that this happened because just before the post I was pondering this blog's unsettling popularity in Norway, and had been about to post a whimsical musical clip featuring the Norwegian band DumDum Boys just before I read about Ms Mezher's terrible death.

But the real reason is that I am stupid.

So here's the song.  It's called Englefjes.

It's by DumDum Boys.

Who are from Norway.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Alexandra Mezher

This is, of course, completely horrible:
The mother of the young social worker who was allegedly stabbed to death by a 15-year-old asylum seeker at a shelter for refugee children today spoke of her anguish as the family blamed Sweden's migration crisis for her death. 
Alexandra Mezher, 22, was working alone with ten youths aged between 14 and 17 when she was attacked at the home for unaccompanied young refugees in Mölndal, near Gothenburg. 
She later died of her injuries in hospital. Chiméne Mezher, 42, today told how she had lost her 'angel', as a close cousin said: 'It is the Swedish politicians' fault that she is dead.'  
Sweden is one of the main destinations for refugees and migrants entering the EU and police warn they cannot cope with the tide of migrant-related crime.
The Mail et al have been quick to bang their drums to a very predictable tune.  But I think Ms Mezher - who wanted to help refugees - deserves more than to become another right wing tidbit, a poster-girl for Europe's violated womanhood (even though her family was actually from Lebanon).

She obviously didn't think we should be stopping refugees from coming here.  She worked with them to try and help them recover from the trauma of what they had endured - which included being separated from their families.

It is unspeakably tragic that she died, violently, at the hands of one of the people she was trying to help.  It is disgraceful that she was left alone on a night shift at the centre.

It is also disgraceful that Sweden has had to take in so many refugees while other countries try to avoid sharing the load.  Sweden has the highest number of asylum seekers, per capita, in the OECD.  Last year, according to the Mail article, it accepted 160,000 new refugees.

In contrast, Britain has a TOTAL of 116,000 refugees (as of 2014).

And bear in mind that Sweden's population is 9.5 million, about a seventh of Britain's.

Sweden is doing more than its fair share in addressing this crisis.  So was Alexandra Mezhert.  David Cameron - and most other European leaders - desperately tried to avoid doing their bit.  Cameron, you'll recall, has pledged to take 20,000 Syrian refugees.  Over five years.

It is possible Alexandra Mezhert would be alive if other European counties had not tried to avoid taking in their own share of refugees - because then Sweden would not have been so desperately over-extended that it left a 22 year old woman alone on duty at night.

And keep in mind there is not one victim at the centre that night.  There were eleven - Ms Mezher and the ten youths she was supervising.  It has been said the killer is a fifteen year old boy from Somalia.  It is hard to imagine how much horror he, and the others at the centre, must have endured in their short lives.  The effect this has had on them.  The loss of their families.  The issues and mental illnesses corroding their minds.

Ms Mezher understood, and wanted to help.  European politicians stood back and did nothing, and contributed to her death.

It will be a travesty if this tragedy was allowed to become another 'reason' for refusing refugees.  A more appropriate response would be for European countries to agree to take their fair share.  Honour Alexandra Mezher by trying to help, not smashing the door closed.

Good Grief (Global Warming Edition)

So, Michael Bastach deigns to Share His Branes with the rest of us, gravely informing us that without el Nino's help, 2015 wuld not have been the warmest year on record:
Last year would not have definitely been the warmest on record without an incredibly strong El Niño warming the Pacific Ocean, according to analyses done by two climate scientists.

Government scientists declared 2015 to be the warmest on record in early January, reaching 0.87 degrees Celsius above the 20th Century average. But scientists admit some of that warmth would not have been possible without El Niño — a naturally-occurring warming event.
From here, Mr Bastach argues that, perhaps - because of margins of error and so forth - 2015 wasn't really the warmest year on record, really, not properly, because even though discounting el Nino, it might not have been the hottest year, because he doesn't want it to be.

This leads him to say all sorts of silly things, like "NASA and NOAA were heavily criticized for claiming 2014 as the warmest on record when they were so unsure."

A proper commentator would have taken the opportunity to explain why, in fact, the criticism was not justified, and how margins of error work, and why it doesn't really matter when almost all of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century, because it is the trend that matters.

Of course, he doesn't do that because his goal is to make people think, "Hmmmmm ... maybe it wasn't so hot last year after all."

Probably, we'll see people suggesting that climate peaked in 2014 and 2015 was really cooler, inspite of being hotter, and marks the start of a new cooling trend.  Only, because scientists were only 38% sure 2014 was the warmest year at the time, it probably wasn't, and so on, so forth.  All the way back to 1998.

Which was also a massive el Nino year, of course, but I think that fact might be conveniently overlooked.

If George Orwell lived today, he'd be penning a novel called 199, in which Hot = Cold.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tree Frogs Return From Extinction

The Tree Frog, declared extinct for a hundred years, is back.  And it wants revenge.  Perhaps.

Quite what the fuss is, I do not know. I imagine it wouldn't be that difficult to put a frog in a tree, if you had the urge to.
A group of scientists, led by renowned Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju, has rediscovered the frogs and also identified them as part of a new genus – one step higher than a species on the taxonomic ranking. 
Not only have they found the frogs in abundance in northeast Indian jungles, they believe they could also be living across a wide swathe of Asia from China to Thailand. 
“This is an exciting find, but it doesn’t mean the frogs are safe,” Biju said, adding that he hopes the discovery leads to more awareness of the dangers of unfettered development to the animals. 
The frogs were found at high altitudes in four northeast Indian states, underlining the rain-soaked region’s role as a biodiversity hotspot.
Still, I welcome back the mighty Tree Frog, and hope this bodes well for the rediscovery of other supposedly extinct species such as Mastodons, dinosaurs, and David Bowie.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

British Polling

The still invaluable Jeremy Wells at UK Polling Report has offered us some You Gov London polling.

It's worth noting London was one of the areas where the pollsters generally got it right (another was Scotland, rather annoyingly).

Polling companies have been making adjustments to methodology polling companies have made following the election debacle; I wonder if this means the London polls are now all wrong.

CON 37%(+2)
LAB 44%(nc)
LDEM 4%(-4)
UKIP 11%(+3)
GRN 2%(-3)

London mayoral voting intentions:

KHAN 45% (Labour)
GOLDSMITH 35% (Conservative)
WHITTLE 6% (Who?)
BERRY 5% (Sadly, not a fruit)
PIDGEON 4% (Sadly, not a bird)
GALLOWAY 2% (Sadly, not a human)

Assuming the polls are at least a wee bit accurte, there is still no sign of the must-trumped 'Corbyn Collapse.'

Sweet Baby Jesus Wept: The Mail

Unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail has been having a fine old time with the horrible accounts emerging from Cologne.

What better way of stirring up bigotry and hysteria (the Mail's stock in trade when Kim K is not showing us her arse) than running dozens of stories about Muslims molesting European women?

Even better when it is being claimed that the perpetrators are asylum seekers, ungrateful refugees repaying German generosity by sexually assaulting and robbing vulnerable women?

Today the Mail reached a pinnacle of irresponsibility, running a story headlined, "18 Cologne sex attackers were asylum seekers". The implication is pretty clear - 18 people charged with sexual assaults were refugees.

The juxtaposition is pretty clear, leading the reader to think, reasonably, that 18 people who committed sex attacks at Cologne have been revealed to be asylum seekers.

Only, no-one has actually been charged with a sexual assault in relation to the events on New Year's Eve.

So far, 31 people have been arrested.  As the Mail admits, far down the article, "None of the 31 has been accused of specifically committing sexual assaults, the aspect of Cologne's disturbances that attracted most public outrage at home and abroad."

So the 18 "sex attackers" were - based on what they have been charged with so far - likely thieves and brawlers.

But let's not miss a chance to smear refugees and drum up a bit of hate, eh?

This whole story has been horribly exploited by the neo-fascist right.  Social media has been brilliantly manipulated.  Rumours and unsubstantiated claims have been spread, supposed conspiracies exposed and continual conflation of any Arab or North African involved in criminality with 'refugees' .

It is depressing - though not entirely surprising - to see the Mail following this lead with such gleeful insouciance.

Power without responsibility, and all that.