Travel

The Travel Map

I always feel a bit short changed by the interactive travel maps you can fill out on the internet. I’ve spent weeks travelling through exotic locations such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia, with just the faintest of splashes of colour to show for my efforts. My mate goes to St Petersburg for the weekend, and he’s half way done to completing the entire thing. At least the US, Mexico and India added a decent amount of green to my globe.

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But as interesting as it is to look at maps where you’ve been, it’s far more exciting to look at a map to plan where you’re going. I’m getting on a little bit, so my days of roughing it are drawing in. But before I hang up my backpack and settle for luxury cruises around the Med and the Fjords of Norway, I want to get a few more trips in. Truth be told, there are some destinations which have already passed me by. I don’t think I have either the energy or sufficient desire to take on China anymore. The same for Brazil and Russia.

Then there’s a bunch of countries that I would absolutely love to visit, but which are likely to be out of bounds for the foreseeable future. Iraq and Syria are top of that list. And then there are those countries, headed by extremist regimes, which are hopefully out of bounds on only a temporary basis. You know the sort. Iran, the Philippines, Israel. And the USA…

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But enough of what I have visited and what I won’t visit. And more about what I will, or at least hope, to visit. If I can add all the green bits on the second map to the green bits on the first map, I’ll be a happy chappy. Later this year, Mrs P and I intend to visit Romania and/or Bulgaria for a cheap and cheerful autumn vacation. But we have grander plans for next year. I have an urge to visit Vietnam, hopefully in March.

It’s long been a temptation. The idyllic beaches, the thick green jungle, the hustling cities of Ho Chi Minh and Han oi and the old imperial cities of Hoi an and Hue. Plus a ride or two on what is often referred to as the Reunification Express. There’s also a certain appeal in being able to respond to anyone offering an opinion on Vietnam with, ‘You don’t know, man. You weren’t there.’

If things go well, we might even be able to get back to Mexico City at the end of next year. Mrs P would like to go to a beach while we’re there. I’d rather not. So I need to come up with an acceptable alternative if I am to avoid a ten hour drive to the Pacific Coast. I rather think I have. A short break to Havana, Cuba. Which is another destination that I’ve wanted to add to my ‘Been To’ map for far too long.

We like to plan ahead, Mrs P and I. So for 2020, health, money, political stability and Fukushima allowing – Japan has been pencilled in. This is Mrs P’s choice. But I think it’s a good plan. I’d like to be there to Further in the future, it would be nice to see something of  Indonesia and Namibia. It is, frankly, insane that I’ve not yet been to either Italy or Greece. And I would love to spend a little time in Jordan, Iceland and Georgia. There are just so many places to see. And only one lifetime.

Even if I manage all this, and I think with only a little luck that I’ll actually manage more, then there’ll still be a big South American sized hole in my map. But I have a plan. I’ll need somewhere to travel to when I’m retired in Mexico in about 20 years time. Colombia, Chile and Argentina, I’ll get to you yet. I promise. Or at least, I promise to try. Then, and only then, will  it be time to join Steve Cotton on one of his cruises. If I’m nice, perhaps he’ll wangle us an invite up from steerage to the civilised parts of the vessel…

 

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35 thoughts on “The Travel Map

  1. Kris says:

    The biggest downside to the travel map is when you’ve been to Toronto or New York, your travel map shows most of North America. If you had to visit each state and provinces individually, most maps would be whiter. Additionally, flying in Eurasia is cheap compared to just getting to Europe from N.A. Canada and the US covers a lot of ground, and has extreme geographic differences from of end and side to the other. That said, I’ve had my fill of the US, and plan on returning to Europe next year, as well as seeing some of the few places in Canada I’ve missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My big splodge of green for the US would sure be diminished. For a start, we can whitewash that big Alaska bit. I’d have coloured in New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nevada, California, Texas and Florida.

      Like

      • Kris says:

        I have been to or through at least 26 of the state’s in mainland US. Some of that while driving to Mexico, where we lived for 5 years.I have been to all of the provinces in Canada, but never to Newfoundland, and in Europe, just the area around London, all over Portugal, the area from Fuengirola to Malaga in Spain, and Shannon Airport in Ireland. The sole excursion to South America was a one week jaunt to Cartegena, Colombia, known as the Miami of South America.

        Hoping that I can get a few more year’s of travelling in before I get too old.

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  2. You may not like Trump, but in no way is the U.S. under an “extremist regime.” Sheesh!!! If the exact same policies were delivered by someone as smooth as Obama, yeah, there’d be some disagreement, clearly. But no one would call it extremist. It’s just that Trump is a loudmouthed, crude blowhard that makes people think he’s more extreme than he is.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where we think it’s extremist to allow Islamic hate preachers while prosecuting folks who post stupid and tasteless dog videos on YouTube.

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    • You may not like Trump, but in no way is the U.S. under an “extremist regime.” Sheesh!!!

      My pesky Russian alter ego, Garislav Denneski, inserted the USA into the list. But I did give this some thought, before pressing ‘Publish’. How do we define extremism? The US operates a capital punishment system, which seems a bit extreme to us Europeans. And the capital punishment system does rather seem to operate on a racial basis. Then there’s an elected homophobe in the White House. Far too many creationists throughout government and society to permit entirely rational decision making. An environmental policy that seems determined to wipe out the human race. I could go on.

      Then there’s all those white supremicist ‘no-go zones’. The extra judicial executions that occur on the streets of almost every city. De facto government policy to legitimize and normalize sexual assault, rape and paedophilia. The acceptance of mass shootings and virtually unchecked gun ownership. A highly corrupt one party dictatorship, where nepotism is the order of the day. Is any of this controversial? For sure, I am being deliberately provocative. But still, I am extremely confident that I could build a better case to demonstrate all these points than you could to demonstrate…

      Where we think it’s extremist to allow Islamic hate preachers…

      …that this occurs in the UK. The key word, of course, is ‘allow’.

      As for Trump, I think he’s a genuinely nasty piece of work. Prejudiced. An actual demonstrable idiot. There’s a question mark over his mental health. A question that he keeps providing the answer to on Twitter. It’s clear to anyone paying attention that he’s not fit to be president of the local horticultural society, let alone the United States.

      But beyond our disagreements on Trump, this does lead to other more interesting debates. When does one avoid travel to a country based on its politics or society? I’d be more inclined to travel to countries with far more despotic regimes than the US. Cuba is a good example – it’s a place that’s obviously on my to do list. To avoid the country would be to the detriment of ‘the people’ who largely have no say in how they’re run. But the US elected Trump. He is odious, to the extreme. And it does matter. I personally wouldn’t visit the US* while Trump is in the White House. Perception matters, and the perception of the US at the moment is at rather a low point. I’d put Israel in the same basket.

      I’m clearly not alone. Tourism to the US started to decline in 2016, but it seems to have rather accelerated in 2017. I’m sure there are more factors than just Trump. But I’d wager he’s a big, perhaps the biggest, factor. A drop of just a few percent costs the US billions of dollars and tens of thousands of JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Or, to put it in more topical perspective, a wall along the Mexican border. And most of the Canadian border. But no matter. Mexico is still paying for that, right…?!

      *Mrs P will have to go alone next Xmas.

      Saludos amigo

      From the UK, which – rather interestingly – is the only country other than Iran where unelected clergy have automatic seats in parliament.

      Like

      • There’s lots to reply to here. First, you intimate in the post that the U.S. currently has an extremist regime, and then you cite longstanding policy (capital punishment) as your top reason for this. If that’s the case, then the so-called extremism is nothing new. Second, why exactly do you think Trump is a homophobe? That’s not exactly non-controversial. You should watch his speech on the Orlando shootings where he pledges to protect the gay community from Islamic terrorism. Second, he had an openly gay businessman (Peter Thiel) speak at the RNC. This was a first. So I’d say that there’s quite a bit of evidence that Trump is not a homophobe.

        As for impugning Trump’s mental health, that’s a pretty Soviet tactic for you to adopt. You do know that such tactics were used against dissidents in the Soviet Union, where they were locked up in mental hospitals. Trump is mentally fine, armchair psychiatrists notwithstanding.

        As for the U.S. vs Cuba, if you travel to the USA, you mostly deal with private business, some of who supported Trump, some of whom didn’t. But in Cuba, everything you do benefits the oppressive state. So your view on the merits of traveling to Cuba vs the USA are completely backward.

        As for the drop in tourism, I’m not going to do a research project for you on U.S. tourism. However, I’d note a couple of things. First, most people aren’t so politicized that politics is high on their list of where to travel. And I think I’d even lump you into that category based on what I know of your past travels. But people do care about cost, and the drop in U.S. tourism coincedes rather nicely with the big rally in the USD that started late in 2014. I’d point you to this chart which shows the peak travel month was late 2014 or early 2015. https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/tourism-revenues. I suspect the USD exchange rate is much more important than politics.

        Finally, I totally support your right to detest Trump. But you shouldn’t confuse your dislike of Trump with U.S. policy, the vast majority of which is the same now as it was under Obama as it was under Bush II as it was under Clinton, and on and on.

        Finally your second paragraph is so full of unsupported, wild assertions that it’s hard to even know where to begin. But how about you naming one “white supremacist no-go zone?” I’m not even sure what that means. And the other assertions are simply too wild to respond to.

        The USA is far from an extremist country, and we have more civil liberties here than you do there.

        Saludos,

        Kim G

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        • Hi Kim,

          There’s lots to reply to here.

          Indeed, but I think this conversation is going a bit off the rails. Not surprising, I guess. We’re covering quite some amount of material in shortish responses. And I’m having to do it between customers, sometimes over several hours, which doesn’t help my train of thought. Ironic, perhaps, given my job. I’m often assuming that you’re making the same assumptions as I, which isn’t always the case obviously. My apologies where I’ve rambled or failed to be as coherent as I’d like. This is a conversation that would probably roll a lot more smoothly, face to face with a cerveza. A smile, wink or twitch of the eyebrows adds so much to a conversation!

          Although, to be fair, I do think there’s a couple of times you might have perhaps picked up on my tongue in cheek comments! When I added the US to my list along with Iran, Philippines I was being mischevious. Even, perhaps, mildly trolling…I thought that bringing Garislav into the conversation might help you come to that conclusion! Also, I was referring to Pence as the homophobe elected to the White House, rather than Trump.

          My initial response on ‘define extremism’ is just to point out that different societies will have different perspectives of what is extreme. The US is a country full of extremes, good and bad, and there’s an awful lot of things in the States that we would consider very extreme in Europe. The death penalty being a good example. And yes, this point applies to America rather than any individual president.

          Finally your second paragraph is so full of unsupported, wild assertions that it’s hard to even know where to begin. But how about you naming one “white supremacist no-go zone?” I’m not even sure what that means. And the other assertions are simply too wild to respond to.</>

          My second paragraph was really in response to this..

          Where we think it’s extremist to allow Islamic hate preachers

          Which is a continuation of a previous conversation we’ve had, regarding a video by Watson of Infowars fame. You’ve clearly taken what he said as gospel, or something close to it. My entire point (in those two paragraphs and my reply in general) being this: I could create a video, just as slick and professional as Paul Watson’s, and I could provide clips from YouTube, snippets of news headlines, some official statistics and a few choice quotes to support every single assertion I made. Even the most outrageous ones. Including the ‘no-go zone’ – it’s a bit difficult for me to go look it up right now, but a recent documentary showed a black reporter attempting to enter a small town with a gathering of hardcore white supremacists. He was strongly advised not to try and enter the town on account of the colour of his skin. Should he ignore that advice, the outcome was made explicitly plain. That’s a ‘no-go zone’, right?

          My video would horribly, deliberately, even outrageously misrepresent the extreme exceptions as the rule. Anyone familiar with the US and with any intelligence would rightly call my video BS. I would agree with them, totally. But it’s target audience would lap it up. And frankly, my video would better stand up to scrutiny than Watson’s because I’d craft the wording with a little more guile. If I managed to get a few high profile retweets, perhaps a point or two might even become ‘established fact’. That sort of thing happens, regularly. Thanks to ‘sources’ like Infowars.

          Example: Sweden is the rape capital of Europe, right? I see that assertion all the time, with the official numbers to back it up. And it’s because of the big swathe of immigrants that entered Sweden, right? That Sweden records rape differently to the rest of Europe (various types of sexual assault in Sweden are recorded as rape, which would not be the case elsewhere) is not mentioned. Another pertinent little fact that’s not mentioned – recorded cases started to decline before the arrival of the immigrants, and continued to decline after they arrived. What we are left with is an ‘established fact’ that is entirely BS. But still being shared on the internet. Paul Watson and his ilk specialise in creating content full of unsupported, wild assertions.

          As for impugning Trump’s mental health, that’s a pretty Soviet tactic for you to adopt.

          The term ‘mental health’ covers a rather broad range of ailments. And for sure, you’d want a professional to provide a specific diagnosis to determine ‘what’ and ‘how bad’. Or not, as the case may be. And I might indeed be no more than an armchair psychiatrist, although I promise I’ve had no training from the Soviets or any other communist regime! Is there a variant of Godwin’s Law for the use of the commies?! I may have to get in there and invent one. But anyway. I’ve known a couple of people who turned out to be mentally unwell, and I have to say I didn’t notice a thing wrong. But there have been a couple of occasions, one very close to home, where it was quite apparent that ‘something is wrong’. At the very least, Trump is a narcissist to a degree which could come very much under the umbrella of mental health. Trump might not be foaming at the mouth. But purely from watching and listening to him, his behaviour strongly suggests to me that ‘something is wrong’. But this might well be one of those ‘agree to disagree’ points.

          As for the U.S. vs Cuba, if you travel to the USA, you mostly deal with private business, some of who supported Trump, some of whom didn’t. But in Cuba, everything you do benefits the oppressive state. So your view on the merits of traveling to Cuba vs the USA are completely backward.

          This is a very legitimate debate amongst travellers. How to visit countries with oppressive regimes and support the people rather than the government. Some places it’s easier to do than others. From what I’ve read, Cuba has opened up a lot in recent years – enough to engage in a reasonable amount of private enterprise that benefits the people you stay with and trade with.

          As for the drop in tourism, I’m not going to do a research project for you on U.S. tourism….

          My comment came from an article I’d read. Yes, the strength of the dollar is a factor. I did acknowledge that Trump would not be the sole cause for what was a significant slump for the US last year, at a time when international travel is up. There are other factors beyond And yes, it’s impossible (short of interviewing everyone on the planet, and hoping they’re all honest) to assign responsibility for the slump with any great precision. But while you might understand that he’s not terribly popular overseas, I’m not convinced that you fully appreciate the strength of feeling against him.

          Finally, I totally support your right to detest Trump.

          I do! I really, really do! If only I currently had the facility to insert the ‘How much do you hate the Romans’ sketch from the Life of Brian…

          The USA is far from an extremist country, and we have more civil liberties here than you do there.

          There’s an interesting debate to be had here, too. If a man is so restricted that all he can do is grow rice and sleep in his bed, is he more oppressed than you? What if all he wants to do is grow rice and sleep in his bed?

          Most of us in the UK don’t want to own guns, nor do we want the right to be able to say the first racist thing that comes to mind. But we do like to be able to walk down the street drinking beer without being arrested. So I’m going to call this one in favour of Team UK…!*

          Now, I started this at just before 10am. It’s now gone 3pm. I’d best do some work. But methinks I’m a bit pushed for time for a #TBT post this week!

          *This is one of those comments not to be taken too seriously… 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    • “Where we think it’s extremist to allow Islamic hate preachers while prosecuting folks who post stupid and tasteless dog videos on YouTube.”
      Kim, you single out hate speech from extremist Muslims, but what about the myriad other forms of hate speech out there… much of it from so-called “Christians”? Or is that just covered under the 1st Amendment?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill: Without wanting this to drag on too much, short of incitement to violence, which are justifiably illegal, I believe that hate speech is free speech. However, my point above, to by crystal clear, is that the UK allows one rather virulent form of hate speech (which is legal in the USA) but tracks down and prosecutes someone who made a very tasteless attempt at humor on YouTube. Or, more clearly put, they don’t have free speech in the UK, and prosecute the tasteless in favor of leaving alone the truly hateful. So my point is that the UK gov’t is picking and choosing wrongly in my view. In the USA, hate speech is the price we pay for free speech, a price I think is worth it.

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        • Kim, you have yet to provide any evidence that this is the case. Watson’s video was clearly BS. How on earth can anyone claim the Britain ‘allowed’ entry to an asylum seeker who smuggled himself through the channel underneath a lorry?

          Have you ever looked to see if the UK prosecutes Muslims for hate speech or inciting violence? Have you ever looked into the facts and figures regarding detentions and deportations from the UK? These would be key to coming to the conclusion you’ve drawn. It would make Watson’s narrative, which you have adopted, a little difficult, would it not, if the facts of the matter showed that Muslims are regularly jailed for hate speech, no? It would make it equally difficult if the facts and figures showed that people arriving from India, Nigeria (with large, but not majority Muslim populations), Pakistan and other muslim majority nations made up the majority of detentions and deportations (for a variety of reasons) rather than alt-right visitors? Which is exactly the situation…

          https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1518569/islamic-preacher-argues-with-police-officer-in-birmingham-city-centre-screaming-allahu-ackbar/

          https://news.sky.com/story/hate-preacher-jailed-for-telling-children-to-join-is-11057290

          https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/06/anjem-choudary-jailed-for-five-years-and-six-months-for-urging-support-of-isis

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-19883828

          I could fill the page up with links. I could fill up even more with examples of hate crimes against Muslims. With people like Watson around to add to spike in crimes after terror attacks, is this surprising?

          You still haven’t refuted my assertion that the current US regime is legitimising and normalising rape, sexual assault and paedophilia. And my assertion, silly as it is, remains more credible and with stronger supporting evidence than yours…

          but tracks down and prosecutes someone who made a very tasteless attempt at humor on YouTube.

          Did you ever look into this story beyond the tabloid headline? As is usual, there was more to the case than that reported by the tabloids. The key part being that the court determined that it wasn’t a tasteless attempt at humour. It seems clear that if that was the case, he would not have been convicted. In the context of his far right leanings, and the manner in which he had used this video to drive traffic to other offensive material, he was deemed to have deliberately created the video with the intention of being offensive and to raise the profile of similarly offensive content.

          I still have reservations about the case, and I appreciate that you will still disagree with the conviction entirely, but its important to note that he hasn’t been jailed for a joke.

          All said and done, and regardless of rights of free speech, I do think that far more people in the world should exercise their right to shut up. Myself included, probably! So having said all I’ve got to say on this subject, sometimes more than once, I guess now is a good time to lead by example..!

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        • Hola Gary!

          You write, You still haven’t refuted my assertion that the current US regime is legitimising and normalising rape, sexual assault and paedophilia.

          Those are wild assertions. It’s not my job to refute them, but your job to support therm. When you do, please clarify exactly what you mean by “current US regime,” since we have many levels of government here.

          As for the guy with the dog video, I personally don’t believe there’s any justification for prosecuting him in any free society. Of course whether the UK qualifies as such is open to question. And I’ve read about the story across multiple media, so I don’t think I’ve got it wrong.

          My view, and where we may fundamentally disagree, is that I think prosecuting so-called “hate speech” is an infringement on free speech right. And I believe this not because I like hate speed. I don’t, and I’ve been a victim plenty of times. But I think it’s a very slippery slope for elected officials to be determining what’s “hate speech” and what’s OK. As for hate preachers in the UK, I’ll do some research.

          Saludos,

          Kim

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        • Those are wild assertions. It’s not my job to refute them, but your job to support them.

          The various sex scandals, along with the responses offered by Trump and his people. The endorsement of Roy Moore in spite of very serious allegations made against him. Allegations that Moore didn’t feel comfortable enough to take up with his accusers in a court of law. Then there was the attempt by sections of the ‘Trump friendly’ press to wash this off as ‘normal’, ‘acceptable’, ‘they should have been grateful’. Yet still Trump ultimately endorsed him. If we are working to the same sort of standards that Watson has settled on, I feel I could make a case to support my assertion.

          I don’t need to be told the situation is far more complex that I have implied. Nor that I am misrepresenting the situation. But…if your assertion is true, then it follows that mine is equally true. I’m simply pushing back on what I feel is an appalling, misleading and inaccurate narrative by Watson that you have repeated a few times.

          As for the guy with the dog video, I personally don’t believe there’s any justification for prosecuting him in any free society. Of course whether the UK qualifies as such is open to question. And I’ve read about the story across multiple media, so I don’t think I’ve got it wrong.

          That’s fair enough. But on the last point, you really need to be reading the judge’s statement, and that has not been widely reported in the tabloids. If I weren’t on such a shoddy internet connection, I’d try and find it again – I looked it up a couple of weeks ago. He was quite clear that that he felt the motive of the video creator wasn’t simply ‘for humour’, but for the purpose of driving traffic. You might disagree with the judge, as many clearly have done. But it is important to make the distinction here – he was found guilty because the video was deemed NOT to be a joke.

          My view, and where we may fundamentally disagree, is that I think prosecuting so-called “hate speech” is an infringement on free speech right. And I believe this not because I like hate speed. I don’t, and I’ve been a victim plenty of times. But I think it’s a very slippery slope for elected officials to be determining what’s “hate speech” and what’s OK.

          I totally respect your view, and I don’t entirely disagree with it. But the areas we agree on come with caveats. I think free speech works very well in the US and is worth defending. And I do share your concerns over who would decide what is and what isn’t acceptable. I would would like to think that if the government over stepped the mark in the UK, they’d be in trouble. It’s a perfectly fair argument to suggest I’m naiive.

          But I still think that what works well in the US, will not automatically work well in the UK, or elsewhere for that matter. And vice versa. Different histories, different cultures, different issues, different expectations etc.

          Hope you’re having a good day amigo. And are you ever going to share your hit list of ‘must-visit’ countries?! Apart from Mexico, of course…!

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  3. Hola Gary!
    I have a couple of thoughts. First, whatever “legitimization and/or normalization of sexual abuse, pedophilia, etc” might be occurring is not institutional, e.g., not something promoted by the gov’t here. There are serious penalties for all. As for Trump, yes, he’s had lots of sexual escapades and affairs, many of which are shameful. I feel particularly sorry for Melania. However, it would appear that these sordid affairs are among consenting adults. And before you shoot back with the Hollywood Access tape, remember, he said (some variant of) they let you do it. So not, that wasn’t sexual assault, despite the media’s overtime efforts to misconstrue it. As for Roy Moore, that’s a very cloudy situation. I’ve read a ton on both sides and the only conclusion I can come to is that Moore is probably some kind of scum bag, but may not be as guilty as his accusers allege. In any case, he didn’t win, so you should probably take that as a positive. I do.

    On PJW’s video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h45n1CSetiM, just to make sure we’re talking about the same one), I went back and looked VERY CAREFULLY at the first 3:30 of the roughly 7 minute video. Everything Watson says is completely true and verifiable. I didn’t go beyond because I figured if he was telling the truth in the first half, the second half wasn’t likely to be suddenly lie-filled. (Thanks for making me do this, I’m now more confident in his veracity.) If you want, I’ll email you the file where I took notes, and made reference to the links wher things were reported by other media.

    Now, is PJW promoting a viewpoint? You bet. So yes, it’s slanted. But it is not wrong, and I’d argue that it’s less slanted than the BBC, which seems to have gone full “state propaganda” these days, what with selective coverage, leaving important facts out, etc., etc. So, no, I’m not going to accept a total dismissal of PJW out of hand. And I’ll note that his general viewpoint is corroborated by many other sources. I know you don’t like the right-wing view of things, but it’s a valid viewpoint, certainly as valid as the left-wing view. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in between. If nothing else, I try to be open to the views of both sides and to understand where they’re coming from.

    As for Count Dankula, I just don’t think it’s a good idea for Scottish Judges to be the ultimate arbiters on what’s a joke and what’s not Right? If someone’s freedom hangs on this, it’s a pretty shaky ground. And regardless of whether Dankula was trying to drive traffic or not, his point was totally misunderstood by the judge. (Yes, it’s possible.) His GF thought the dog was the cutest thing possible. The core of Dankula’s joke was to train the dog to do something disgusting and hateful to sort of “prove” the dog wasn’t so cute after all. So Dankula’s point is that Nazis are abhorrent, a view I’d reckon the Scottish judge shares. So why the conviction of a crime? Answer: free people shouldn’t have to explain their jokes to a judge. By the way, said judge said “context doesn’t matter.” But any comedian will tell you that context is absolutely everything when it comes to a joke.

    So, as an aside, now that it comes out that Porton Down says they have no idea who made the Novichok, you still believe Theresa May? And the fact that the story keeps changing? Apparently now the poison was put on the Skripal’s door? By the way, this guy has a very good list of questions (now 50) about the Skripal investigation which remain unanswered. http://www.theblogmire.com/20-more-questions-that-journalists-should-be-asking-about-the-skripal-case/

    And do you not think it’s damaging to the cause of international institutions that May has acted as she has? If nothing else, her absurd haste? I don’t have any illusions about the Russians, but I do see a big risk in falsely accusing them, and I think it’s a risk that many have totally forgotten.

    Anyway, thanks for the ever-civil debate, by the way. You are a true champ!

    Saludos y saludos a Mrs. P.

    Kim

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    • Hi Kim,
      I’m now on a train, with terrible connectivity and using my iPhone. So this time I will be brief! I don’t dispute anything you say regards Moore etc. But that I don’t disagree is kinda my point!

      Watsons video. The very first chap. Watson claims we let him in and gave him asylum. This implies the UK had a choice. Indeed, this is key to Watsons entire narrative. That the UK chooses to let in terrorists. In fact, Ahmed evaded security at Calais and smuggled himself into UK. He was not let in. The UK is signed up to various international treaties. He was, or claimed to be, a minor. The UK was obligated to go through due process. Are you going to argue that we should not apply due process? This is not simply a ‘slant’ to fit an agenda. It is gross misrepresentation of the facts. It is, put simply, a lie.

      Why does Count Dankula hang out with some of the worst racists and anti semites?

      There’s nothing from recent developments with the Salisbury attack that contradicts the UK governments position. I agree that some statements could have been better worded. Indeed, the most recent developments seem to substantiate Mays allegations.

      It’s always good to keep asking questions and to hold governments accountable. But question 3 is silly. The government haven’t claimed to have determined culpability. Those key words…’Highly likely ‘.

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      • Hola Gary,

        In fact, Ahmed evaded security at Calais and smuggled himself into UK. He was not let in. What you write is absolutely true, and reported in the media as such. But the key thing is this: despite warnings from the Italian police, he was permitted to stay. And more importantly, he was apparently not closely enough monitored to prevent him from detonating an explosive on the Tube. Meanwhile, the gov’t is expending resources tracking down trivialities such as Count Dankula. That is PJW’s broader point, and it’s correct.

        As for your assertion about Skripal, Boris Johnson lied repeatedly when he said that Porton Down assured him the Russians made the toxic agent. And the fact that the official story keeps changing also proves the gov’t is at least being sparing with the truth. Even if correct, the British gov’t has done itself no favors in its slipshod handling of this affair.

        Yes, Putin is evil and must be countered. But if we want to claim to stand for values in the West, then we should stand for those values. I don’t think anyone can make a sensible case that having followed an established procedure, using international institutions would have jeopardized any British interests. In fact, Britain violated the CWC and various other treaties in its treatment of the Russian diplomats. Was the danger of those diplomats remaining in Britain for a few more weeks or months so great that protocol (which the British had already agreed to) had to be violated? How are we better than the Russians if, when push comes to shove, we totally abandon our values and act like them? These are very legitimate questions.

        Freedom entails a cost, and some of that cost is letting the bad guy get away. I don’t like it, and I presume you don’t either. But look at Soviet era Russia. Moscow was one of the safest cities in the world. Why? They simply locked up any and all who looked even mildly suspicious. That seems to be where the West is headed, and I personally oppose that.

        And where’s the manhunt for the perpetrator of the Skripal murder? Where are all the CCTV tapes? As far as I can tell, not even a single perpetrator has been identfied, yet we somehow know who the mastermind is? This simply doesn’t cut it in terms of evidence. And “We can’t think of anyone else so it must be the Russians” is a totally laughable position.

        Unfortunately, all this Russia-baiting is making the world far more dangerous than selection Russian assassinations, if that’s what we’ve indeed seen here. And that’s the root of my objection to all of this. The greater evil is being perpetrated against the lesser. Finally, why are we so sure that MI6 didn’t kill Skripal? This kind of thing happens all the time, and frankly, May’s and the Govt’s reaction certainly look a lot like a cover-up. Certainly their explanation is (so far) an evidence-less conspiracy theory.

        Saludos,

        Kim

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        • P.S. From what I can tell, Count Dankula is a scumbag. My defense of his free speech is not any kind of endorsement of either the merits of his video, nor of his worldview. I don’t like Nazis but I think they should be free to march in America. The more exposure people have to their beliefs, the less those beliefs will seem compelling, in my view. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And only allowing freedom for “nice” or non-controversial speech is not free speech. You can say anything nice and noncontroversial anywhere you want, including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. It’s just the definition (and who’s doing the defining) that changes from place to place.

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        • The more exposure people have to their beliefs, the less those beliefs will seem compelling, in my view.

          I think that works better in theory than in practise, and there is a very sound argument to be made to suggest that isn’t true. And plenty of history to back that argument up. Recent history included, and some of it is rather topical to the rest of this conversation. People voted for Brexit for a variety of reasons. But don’t underestimate the number of people who voted to leave the EU because they don’t like Muslims. Nor Indians. Nor people with brown or black skin in general. Don’t be surprised if this made a decisive difference, although it’s unprovable. And this despite the fact that leaving the UK will mean more ‘of that ilk’.

          Now how did this become a factor in the referendum?

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        • P.P.S.
          If the British police had spent a fraction of the money tailing Ahmed that they have spent keeping Julian Assange a political prisoner in London, the guy would never have been able to detonate a bomb on the Tube. This is also implicit in PJW’s video, and is a pretty inescapable conclusion.

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        • And where’s the manhunt for the perpetrator of the Skripal murder? Where are all the CCTV tapes?

          They are all being examined. Some clips have been released. But this is the basis for the Russian/conspiracy theory arguments. Of course there are questions to be answered. If there weren’t, I might then be concerned of a government conspiracy. But using these unanswered questions, especially at this stage, as ‘evidence’ or to even throw doubt on the subject is just creating a conspiracy theory by speculation.

          Yulia’s cousin gave a statement on Russian TV yesterday. She was flanked by the two men who murdered Litvienko in London. What does one make of that?

          We are going to continue to disagree on this subject. But whilst there is a lot of speculation involved on both sides, the history, the pattern, the Russian response and the evidence all point firmly towards the Russians. Indeed, it points at a very specific lab. Boris being an idiot is nothing new and not something that comes as a surprise.

          May’s and the Govt’s reaction certainly look a lot like a cover-up.

          I don’t think you realise just how uncomfortable this is for the Conservatives. There is so much Russian money of dubious origin in their coffers and in the various ionvestments of numerous high level MPs. Frankly, they would rather wish it were almost anyone else.

          Certainly their explanation is (so far) an evidence-less conspiracy theory.

          I disagree. But having said that, I’ve read enough historical documents to know to keep an open mind.

          Unfortunately, all this Russia-baiting is making the world far more dangerous than selection Russian assassinations, if that’s what we’ve indeed seen here.

          Again, Putin is more akin to a gangster than a president. Does he know when to stop? I doubt it. Perhaps pushing back now, for this, is the least dangerous option. Rather than waiting to push back later, when there is a war machine on the move. Because at some stage, someone will have to push back. That is certainly my line of thinking.

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        • Gary: you write “But using these unanswered questions, especially at this stage, as ‘evidence’ or to even throw doubt on the subject is just creating a conspiracy theory by speculation.

          No, no, no!!! Pointing out that a government has reached conclusions without the most rudimentary of actual evidence is not a “conspiracy theory.” It is the actual opposite, namely demanding that a proper investigation be done and the truth revealed via actual evidence. Sheesh! If you simply want to believe whatever cockamamie story the gov’t cooks up, then there’s no point in even discussing this.

          But I don’t view you as immune to facts and logic; quite the contrary.

          Remember, my point isn’t “The Russians are innocent.” My point is no one knows at this stage, and to jump to a hasty conclusion that threatens world peace is itself a rash and irresponsible act.

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        • And as a by the by, and where we will (I think) share common ground – Syria. Collecting evidence and connecting Russia to the Skripal incident in Salisbury is much easier than assigning responsibility to a gas attack in a devastated war zone where any sort of investigation is rather hard work.

          There also needs to be some correlation between the burden of proof and the consequences we choose to apply. With Salisbury, the response has been entirely diplomatic. The message has been that we are pretty sure what they are up to, we’ll not let it pass without comment, we don’t trust you, we’re limiting the business we do with each other and frankly we want less to do with you.

          This is a world away from deciding to launch a military attack on Syria based on substantially less evidence. Raining missiles and bombs down on Syrian – and potentially Russian – forces is a dangerous game to play. The burden of proof for launching a military attack should always be much higher.

          That said, what is happening in Syria does, I feel, support my assertion that the West needs to push back against Putin. If this was a gas attack by Assad, then the Russians do share some responsibility. Because it won’t have been the first time, and the Russians are enabling Assad’s continued existence.

          Methinks, if we’d dropped far fewer bombs on the Middle East over the last 60/70 years, we’d have far fewer problems today.

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        • I totally agree with much of what you write here. Except that I think it’s very unlikely that Assad used the chemical weapons, for such use runs totally counter to his interests. Rather it would seem to me that the USA is being manipulated by the rebels in order to come to their aid. But whatever is going on deserves much more thorough investigation before raining bombs on the ally of a nuclear power. I spent much of yesterday in a funk due to the horror of the situation.

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        • If the attack had been with Sarin, then there might be a stronger case against Assad. I think it’s equally possible that either side might use chlorine gas. And based on everything I’ve read thus far, the best verdict I could offer is ‘I have no idea’.

          This is an extraordinarily dangerous game ‘we’re’ playing. Certain people seem to be almost enjoying it. I do rather wish Obama were still in the White House. Or, frankly, HRC. There’d be a lot more caution and diplomacy. And a lot less John Bolton.

          Liked by 1 person

        • No, no, no!!! Pointing out that a government has reached conclusions without the most rudimentary of actual evidence is not a “conspiracy theory.”

          Hi Kim, sorry for taking a while to reply.

          I don’t dispute that the evidence required for a conviction in a court of law has not yet been presented. For a start, one must identify the assassin. I do dispute that the government’s case is ‘evidence-less’. Even circumstantial evidence can be presented in a court of law. Indeed, circumstantial evidence can be key in obtaining a conviction. We do, after all, both live in countries operating systems where the requirement is set to ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ as opposed to ‘beyond any doubt whatsoever’. There is an abundance of both circumstantial and direct evidence in this case. More is needed, I grant you.

          Detailed reports from Russian defectors, who have thus far apparently proven reliable, has shown that the substance was developed in Russia, and has been further developed in a specific Russian lab with assassinations in mind. Putin has stated that traitors will be killed, and to trust him. He has a history of killing off former spies. Russia’s state media has all but confirmed the hit was of Russian doing, albeit with a safe degree of cryptic wording. Etc etc etc.

          We also approach this with very different bias’. I am clearly more trusting of the UK government than you! But that shouldn’t be read to mean I implicitly and unquestionably believe every word that comes out of Whitehall. Far from it. I also have no idea how Litvinenko’s killing was covered in the US. I imagine far less than it was here. I have no idea how much you looked into it. If it wasn’t something you were that interested in, it’s a story well worth examining. There is plenty of context to be taken from that killing and the current attempted assassination. Both those ‘alleged’ killers are now politicians, rising through the ranks under Putin. And they get wheeled out when British events hit the headlines. It is hard </>not to draw conclusions, and I think they are the conclusions Russia would like us to draw.

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/06/alexander-litvinenko-and-the-most-radioactive-towel-in-history

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/19/alexander-litvinenko-the-man-who-solved-his-own-murder

          And I would also argue that there are conspiracy theories being creating here. I guess that’s normal, these days. It’s also a tried and tested method to make best use of ‘unanswered questions’, even though I’d frankly expect at this stage for most of those questions to be currently unanswered. I know that your intent when looking at every angle is one of seeking answers rather than creating them. But the ‘alternative narrative’ is doing much the same thing, in a similar way, with a very different intent. And I say this because…

          Remember, my point isn’t “The Russians are innocent.” My point is no one knows at this stage, and to jump to a hasty conclusion that threatens world peace is itself a rash and irresponsible act.

          I hold the opinion that it is already an inescapable conclusion. It’s much like the dead body of a grass in a Sicilian jail being found at the bottom of the stairs. With all the chaps at the top declaring he tripped. Possible, I guess. But…

          If it turns out that I’m wrong, and that the No.10 is indeed covering up an MI5 or MI6 hit, then I’m going to look at the moon landing, flat earth theory and 9/11 in a whole new light!

          But the most important thing, in my opinion, is in pushing back at Putin before it is too late to do so. This is a major diplomatic incident. There are financial consequences. There is a high degree of unity in the response. One can only hope that Putin assesses the situation and re-evaluates his approach further down the line. That he realigns his ambitions with a greater degree of caution. Had we done nothing, I suspect that Putin might be encouraged to be even more ambitious than before. This is how things normally work.

          There are all sorts of areas where there could be potential confrontations and flashpoints between the West and Putin, and my greatest fear would be that the West pushes back when the situation is not in the diplomatic field but on the battlefield. The Baltic states are an obvious one. Syria is another. There will be others. Because that has the potential to be catastrophic.

          I well understand your concerns over the dangers of confronting Russia over this. But, for the reason I’ve just given, I believe inaction is likely to be far more dangerous in the long run than inaction.

          Written from the comfort of my office, hoping that all works out well in the end. And where one does not think that you are a conspiracy theorist! Well, not yet anyway….!

          🙂

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        • Gary: Good points all. I did look up the Litvinenko murder a few days ago. The key difference between the reaction of the British gov’t then and now is that then, the British gov’t followed all reasonable procedure, and took a year and a half to investigate what had happened before sanctioning the Russians. Was it ever proved that the Russian gov’t did it? No, though two Russians were pretty closely tied (inextricably actually) to the crime. But by the time the investigation was done, a lot of damning facts had been well-established, and they were more or less incontrovertible.

          That is totally not the case here. Personally, I think it’s reasonably likely that someone either in or close to the Russian gov’t did it. But that’s no excuse for not doing a proper investigation, in line with Western tradition and values.

          Even if Scotland Yard finds a culprit and has enough evidence to indict, it’s highly unlikely that Russia would extradite such a person to the UK for trial. That’s exactly what happened in the Litvinenko case. UK requested extradition of the alleged perpetrators and Russia said, “No.”

          That would be likely the same response this time. But I still think it’s important for governments to follow their own protocols. Otherwise they risk looking thuggish and illiberal.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Western tradition and values

          I meant to ask this a while back….in the context of the current topic, when did these ever actually exist, other than in theory?

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        • Oh, I don’t know. Maybe during the Nuremberg trials. Maybe when the CWC was signed. Maybe even during the Litvinenko investigation when the UK at least spent a year and a half assembling a case before acting. But yes, your basic point that these values are endangered, I fully agree with.

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        • Did you see many Allied war criminals at Nuremberg?! Don’t get me wrong, I do get your point. And plenty of good things have been done. Etc. But our history is liberally littered with instances that would be very much at odds with these values. I would be surprised if I couldn’t find at least one significant example for every year, or perhaps every couple of years, going back to the beginning of last century. But don’t ask me to! I just don’t have that much time…

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        • Well, of course! But we should try, shouldn’t we? And certainly leaders who puff up their chests and declare a fight for “Western Values” should at least not make a mockery of them.

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    • There’s a risk in accusing the Russians, regardless as to whether the accusation is false or warranted. But I remain of the opinion that Putin is responsible and that not pushing back is even more dangerous. Have you seen Putins interview where he stayed, quite explicitly, ‘traitors will kick the bucket. Trust me.’

      But I’d rather they would all grow up.

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  4. Kris says:

    That’s the thing about Trump supporters. They will leave no stone unturned to back him, and throw a blanket over all of the indiscretions. He covers his bigotry by having a few tokens around him, and that makes up for his sexism, homophobia and racism.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What you write is absolutely true, and reported in the media as such. But the key thing is this: despite warnings from the Italian police, he was permitted to stay. And more importantly, he was apparently not closely enough monitored to prevent him from detonating an explosive on the Tube. Meanwhile, the gov’t is expending resources tracking down trivialities such as Count Dankula. That is PJW’s broader point, and it’s correct.

    So you agree that Watson is lying then? We can’t be both telling the truth. Because this is pretty black and white, and the case Watson is making is strongly underpinned by his assertion that they are all ‘let in’. He’s not simply ‘telling half truths’. Or missing bits out. He’s just plain lying.

    Hassan was, by all accounts, an orphaned Iraqi minor. So…send him back where? And you’d be happy to see the UK breaching international agreements by doing so?

    Kim, I’ve given some pretty detailed rebuttals to the points Watson is making, based on fact and available for anyone to look up: Muslims are imprisoned for hate crime, just the same as anyone else – there’s no preferential treatment as Watson suggests. He’s lying.

    The police don’t simply ‘track down trivialities’. They are obliged to investigate all reported crimes, reported by members of the public, including the Nazi dog guy. Are you suggesting that the police start picking and choosing what they can be bothered to respond to?

    The vast majority of police resources, which Watson doesn’t seem to mention, spent on pro-actively monitoring web activity is in tracking down terror cells.

    The UK singles out alt-right for detention and deportation? Whilst giving Islamic hate preachers a free pass? Sure, if you ignore the tens of thousands of Muslims who are detained, deported or have their visa applications rejected. If you do take what really happens into account, then Watson’s deliberate implication is in fact just another lie.

    Did we impinge on their freedom of speech? No, the UK deported them. Freedom of speech doesn’t come into it. Was that unfair? They came to speak with a certifiable racist with dubious intent. Like many before them, for similar reasons, including Muslims, they were given their marching orders. We’re not responsible for the freedom of speech of foreigners.

    American media sent people to the UK to interview Tommy Robinson? He says that to make it sound equal to what the alt-right guys were doing. And I’m sure you realise this is utter BS. CNN et al have correspondants based here permanently. I would want to see some pretty good evidence that any of them sent someone here from the US for the specific reason that Tommy Robinson wanted to be interviewed. Watson is lying again.

    The UK hosted the Saudis. They are a distasteful bunch, to put it mildly. They are also a vital trading partner. We can have reservations about their visit. But at least May wasn’t pictured holding onto a glowing globe. And besides, how is this really relevant to the topic? Other than he is trying hard to paint a picture – ‘the UK loves Muslims, all Muslims, especially the criminal, terrorist and homophobic muslims’ and has thrown this in there for ‘evidence’. It’s evidence only of Watson’s lack of journalistic integrity.

    If Julian Assange was released…If Julian Assange gave himself up….If kids had their school meals taken away….if we cut down on fire engines or libraries. Also, if we stopped investigating and prosecuting rapes, we can provide greater resources for murders. This is a nonsense argument, of course. Distribution of resources is an issue in every society, but in the grand scheme of things, the cost to the taxpayer of Assange etc is not what is stretching the UK’s resources.

    There’s a whole host of other lies, half truths and misrepresentations in that video. I’ve highlighted a number of key ones, and they are demonstrable lies. No ifs or buts. How many do you need before you question the integrity of the creator and the veracity of the content?

    None of this means that everything in Watson’s video is entirely false. All good conspiracy theorists (and that is Inforwars speciality – even their raison d’etre) include a dose of reality. None of this means that there are serious issues that the UK has to deal with regards immigrants from certain countries. None of this means that mistakes aren’t made.

    But Watson is bullshitting.

    Like

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