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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

NatWest hints at its own bankruptcy? Saying it might have to exit the stage in the Scottish play

The bank formerly known as RBS, now called NatWest Bank PLC, has announced that if Scotland votes to leave the UK, it will move to London

Britain’s NatWest would move its headquarters out of Scotland in the event of a vote in favour of independence, its CEO Alison Rose said, only days before parliamentary elections there. State-backed NatWest (NWG.L), which until last year was called Royal Bank of Scotland, has been based for 294 years in the Scottish capital Edinburgh.
The reason, something to do with a anti-business culture in an independent Scotland?
“In the event that there was independence for Scotland our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy. And so we would move our registered headquarters, in the event of independence, to London,” Rose told reporters.
This is presumably not meant to be a threat from the majority (c.59%) State-owned bank or playing politics. For a bit of context, the RBS Group changed its name recently to NatWest Group plc with a view to (I presume) burying the RBS brand and plunging a stake through its heart after its unfortunate recent history. NatWest was an English bank acquired by RBS as it ballooned before bursting

I have no doubt that the Chief Executive did not say, and did not mean to say

our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy if we go bust again.‘.

But the latter is what I am hearing. An implicit admission that the bank risks insolvency, and would expect to be bailed out by the UK government at taxpayers’ expense again. The assumption that the bank is at risk of bankruptcy runs through this announcement like letters in a stick of rock.

So England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be the lucky recipient of all these (theoretical) liabilities.

No true Scotsman should fear independence if it means the departure of this fiscal UXB and its liabilities, a chilly modern-day Darién scheme without the disease and bugs.

But why on Earth should anyone in any country want to receive such a cuckoo in the financial nest? It sounds to me that if the bank were utterly worthless, that would be an improvement. Do we need any more evidence of the perils of fractional reserve banking?

Samizdata quote of the day

When Samuel Paty was decapitated in the street in broad daylight for trying to teach his students a civics lesson, the New York Times ran with the woefully misleading headline “French Police Shoot and Kill Man After a Fatal Knife Attack on the Street”. The attack — in which the assassin who had just cut someone’s head off was shot by gendarmes — was awkwardly framed through the lens of liberal America’s anxieties over police violence, and it didn’t get much better from there.

Liam Duffy

The sad story of Scots Wikipedia

Hats off to the Guardian for the pun in this headline:

Shock an aw: US teenager wrote huge slice of Scots Wikipedia

Nineteen-year-old says he is ‘devastated’ after being accused of cultural vandalism

The Scots Wikipedia entry on the Canada goose – or “Canadae guiss” – was at first honest about its provenance. A tag warned: “The ‘Scots’ that wis uised in this airticle wis written bi a body that’s mither tongue isna Scots. Please impruive this airticle gin ye can.”

But, as the author grew in confidence, so he removed the caveat, and continued on his Scots-writing spree.

Now an American teenager – who does not speak Scots, the language of Robert Burns – has been revealed as responsible for almost half of the entries on the Scots language version of Wikipedia.

If you are wondering how a nineteen year old managed to be responsible for creating or editing tens of thousands of articles, the answer is simple:

He wrote: “I was only a 12-year-old kid when I started, and sometimes when you start something young, you can’t see that the habit you’ve developed is unhealthy and unhelpful as you get older.”

Naming no names except my own, that sounds like a few of us here. Ten edits a day, most days, for two and a half thousand days. The work of half his life. The thing that made him special. And now they revile him for it. Believe me, I am not laughing when I call this a sad story.

Believe me, too, when I say I do not want to mock Scots. The Samizdata “Languages” category includes many other posts by me about endangered tongues. I want them to survive and grow. A world where everyone spoke only one language would be a grey place, and one more likely to fall to tyranny. For many a soul living under oppression their knowledge of something other than the majority language has been the one window to freer times or places that the censors could not brick up. Less portentously, I like the vigorous style of Scots. The fact that it is mostly mutually intelligible with English English has been the source of endless arguments about whether it is a dialect of English or a language in its own right. It is a pity that this question has been politicised. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that although Scots was a separate language in the Middle Ages, enough linguistic convergence has occurred to say that nowadays it is a dialect of English. There is nothing wrong with that. It would be equally valid to say Standard English and Scots are both dialects on the continuum of English (and that the group as a whole is called “English” is just a matter of historically familiar terminology, not an attribution of superiority. Brits should remember that if numbers of speakers were the criterion that decided the name of this language we would be speaking American.)

It is a sad reflection on the state of Scots that nobody stopped “AmaryllisGardner” for five seven years. Scarcely anyone seems to have questioned him. I cannot help thinking this fiasco would never have happened if linguists and the penumbra of people who are “into” languages had not been so down on prescriptivism. After all, if there truly is no correct or incorrect way to use language, our laddie’s version of Scots has as much claim to be right as the one they speak in Glasgow.

I am an anti-prescriptivist myself when it comes to daily life. It is wrong to sneer at anyone for their local mode of speech, and still worse to beat it out of them as was common in the past. The variety of any language that has become the standard did not do so because of any intrinsic superiority; it was mere chance. Nonetheless a command of standard English can unlock doors across the world for children in Barlanark, as it does for children in Brixton or Beijing. Fortunately children are good at picking up more than one language and code-switching between them.

Meanwhile, in debate I will continue to extol both languages and Wikipedia as splendid examples of spontaneous order. They still are. Most of the time.

The Anglosphere and our present discontents

Contemplating the riots/demonstrations of the weekend (statues defaced and pulled down, police officers assaulted, social distancing ignored, etc) I ask myself about the extraordinary power of events a thousand-plus miles away in the US to excite supposedly “spontaneous” reactions here in the UK. And yet if, say, French police get all heavy with yellow-jacket protesters, I don’t recall marches of demonstrators in front of the French embassy. Or nor do I see this if or when there are problems in Germany, Italy or Spain (racism is a thing in these countries, after all).

Ironically – and this must drive those of a pro-EU frame of mind nuts – it is still North America, with its rawer culture and politics, its legal similarities to the UK (for good and for ill) that resonates, even in the minds (for want of a better noun) of the sort of folk going on BLM demos. What goes on in France, Germany or Italy tends not to have the same grip on the mind. The Atlantic is wide and the Channel is narrow, but in every other sense, it is the other way around. To that extent, then, the Anglosphere lives, even in the hearts and minds of the far Left.

And even with the lockdowns, there is the same focus in large part on what the US is doing or not doing, rather than say, what our continental European neighbours are up to. One reason for this is that those who want to sacralise the National Health Service face the uncomfortable fact that even in more socialist Europe, healthcare isn’t a state, centrally planned system, but rather more decentralised, particularly in Germany.

Dear Japanese Government: fuck off

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan aims to change the way Japanese names are written in English by putting the family name first, the same way they are written in Japanese, in a triumph for conservatives keen to preserve traditional ways in a fast-changing world. Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama proposed the change to Cabinet ministers on Friday and the government will now study how to implement it, the top government spokesman said […] Foreign Minister Taro Kono raised the suggestion in May saying foreign media should write the prime minister’s name in the traditional way – Abe Shinzo.

Shinzo Abe can fuck right off, because that is not correct when using English. Follow your own heathen customs when using Japanese, old chap, but no government gets to decide how English is used, that sort of bullshit only happens in France and Japan 😛

Some things need to be remembered

I was walking down a London street today and came upon a reminder that the reason Donald Trump is visiting the UK is not entirely about current affairs. And whatever you think of him personally, it is worth remembering why he is here.

Elections have consequences – and so does arranging that they don’t

There’s a Snoopy cartoon that starts with Linus telling Violet he is running away from home. “I know a joke about running away from home”, says Violet. “A boy at a street crossing tells a friend he is running away from home. ‘Then why are you waiting here?’, she asks. ‘I’m not allowed to cross the street without permission.’, he explains.”

“That’s a riot”, replies Linus sourly, gazing down at the kerbstone on which he is standing.

Winning a referendum, electing a president – with hindsight, we can see these were not so much victories as winning the right to fight. They did not force the deep state to obey – they forced the deep state to fight. While some crudely expressed their entitlement (“The Electoral College should ignore the outcome” or “Just declare him insane”, and “Hold another referendum” or “It was only advisory”), more professional liars began a longer-term strategy to undo what was voted.

Two years later, we have reached stage two: as with Harvey Weinstein, everybody knows – and everybody knows the insiders always knew. In the US, there was no collusion, just a lot of cheating to pretend there was. In the UK, May and collaborators lied (quite a lot) to get the power to tell us we can run away from the EU just as soon as the EU gives us permission. In the US, the media’s collusion story is over. In the UK, all the papers are talking about who will succeed May. And all that means is, the deep state can be made to stand and fight.

– If you can frame a president, and the only price you pay for failing is that you didn’t succeed, then (to paraphrase the Brighton bomb terrorists) Trump has to be lucky every time; the deep state only has to be lucky once.

– If no vote is so solemn, so pledged to be decisive before and after by government and opposition, that its decision can’t be delayed forever, then votes don’t control what the deep state can do; the deep state controls what votes can do.

It’s been quite an education, watching it unfold. But they’ve had to be just a bit obvious to get here – so now they can be made to stand and fight.

“The night before the Nazi-Soviet pact was announced, I dreamed that the war had started. It was one of those dreams which … reveal to you the real state of your feelings. It taught me .. that I should be simply relieved when the long-dreaded war started.” (George Orwell, ‘My Country, Right or Left’)

In Britain, it begins with a fight for the soul of the Tory party. Some of us used to point out that our hate speech laws were not imposed on us by the EU against our rulers’ will – that May loves them, that Corbyn adores them, that Brexit was only ever going to be the start. Now we have been taught the worthlessness of establishment promises. We know there is no Brexit without a leader who wants it – and deselecting MPs who don’t. The struggle we hoped to start sometime has become the unavoidable fight of today – and we have some very angry allies.

In the US, it begins with a fight for consequences. The usual suspects intend to show that fitting up Trump has no consequences, but being un-PC has grave consequences. Trump can drain the swamp now or drown in it next time – and he has quite a lot of evidence.

The deep state, the establishment, the ‘experts’, the people who know best – they will fight. It’s our achievement (helped by their errors) that they will have to. I don’t know who will win, on either side of the pond, but

“for myself, I am an optimist; there does not seem much point in being anything else.” (Sir Winston Churchill)

What I do think is that politics tomorrow will not be like politics yesterday – that in a deep sense, what the deep state has done has already had consequences.

Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Rightly not trusting our leaders to deliver on their statements (there were, IFUC, no promises about leaving the EU from Mrs May), the Sage of Kettering and I have left the EU in that recently, we have visited our nearest escape hole, the Channel Islands. A fleeting visit, one day in each, but we have seen a future, and it works, more or less. For our more distant readers, Jersey and Guernsey are ‘Crown Dependencies’, historically part of the Duchy of Normandy, owing allegiance to the British Crown but not part of the UK. The UK government has arrogated to itself the overlordship of the islands, holding responsibility for foreign affairs and defence (well, sort of, as we shall see), but the two Bailiwicks are otherwise independent jurisdictions with autonomy in most areas, crucially taxation, and are outside of the European Union, albeit within EU Customs arrangements, allowing them to trade with the EU. Here, they say, the Queen is the Duke of Normandy, although monuments refer to ‘la Reine’. She is the only Duke I can think of married to a Duke. Whether or not they can simply declare independence is constitutionally unclear, but with Labour dangerously close to power, they might be advised to make some plans.

→ Continue reading: Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Death to English!

As part of my homework for this, I read, and have carried on reading since, a book by David Crystal entitled English as a Global Language. I’m enjoying it, and I especially enjoyed this (on page 90 of my paperback edition):

International politics operates at several levels and in many different ways, but the presence of English is usually not far away. A political protest may surface in the form of an official question to a government minister, a peaceful lobby outside an embassy, a street riot, or a bomb. When the television cameras present the event to a world audience, it is notable how often a message in English can be seen on a banner or placard as part of the occasion. Whatever the mother tongue of the protesters, they know that their cause will gain maximum impact if it is expressed through the medium of English. A famous instance of this occurred a few years ago in India, where a march supporting Hindi and opposing English was seen on world television: most of the banners were in Hindi, but one astute marcher carried a prominent sign which read ‘Death to English’ – thereby enabling the voice of his group to reach much further around the world than would otherwise have been possible.

Crystal dates the rise of English, from a merely big language among other big languages to its current status as the clear front-runner for global linguistic hegemony, from the immediate post World War 2 period. I recall noticing the phenomenon some time in the 1960s, when, in Youth Hostels in continental Europe, I observed conversations between groups of Europeans (not all of them Scandinavians, by the way) in their teens and twenties, not one of whom (I have a pretty good ear for accents) was speaking English as his or her first language. Interesting, I thought. And having become interested in where English seemed to be going, I became interested also in where it had come from.

The global English story is more complicated than just the matter of educated non-Anglos communicating by means of standard English, and Crystal seems to me to tell it very well, with lots of maps and historical details of how English spread in this or that particular place.

Crystal himself is anything but an English linguistic triumphalist. He lives and works in Holyhead, in North Wales, North Wales being the part of Wales where the Welsh language is strongest. Although Crystal is a major figure in linguistics and in English teaching, I have been unable to discover how fluent he is in Welsh. But as an academic whose basic tool is the English language, he entirely gets why English has gone global. It’s just so useful, for communicating with other people.

Melvyn Bragg on England’s verbal twins

Whenever I learn of a book about the history of the English language, then provided the price is not too steep, I tend to buy it. Only this month, I bought another such book. Although short, as promised, this one looks like being very good.

You may recall learning about how some Normans conquered the English speaking rulers of England in the eleventh century. 1066 and all that. You may even know something of the bit of the story of English that most fascinates me, which is when, in the late fourteenth century, English, in England, conquered Norman French as the language of those ruling England.

That I like wallowing in this story is why, when I was today looking for something to read while answering nature’s call, I noticed in and picked out from my large and disorganised book collection The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg, to rediscover what he had said about this particular moment in the history of English.

→ Continue reading: Melvyn Bragg on England’s verbal twins

The 20th century saw the state getting bigger and bigger, and thus the citizen getting smaller and smaller

In NZ, the UK or Australia, one may own a rifle or shotgun, but it has to be locked in a cabinet when not in use. Thus, it is of no use for a sudden life or death situation. A twelve bore which is locked in a steel cabinet will not save you when you need it.

I must say I find it odd that in the UK, NZ and Oz it is legal to own guns for all reasons except self-defence, which is the most basic and obvious reason to own one. It was not always like this, but the 20th century saw the state getting bigger and bigger, and thus the citizen getting smaller and smaller.

The one part of the UK where ownership of a pistol for self-defence is still legal is Northern Ireland, but even that is for the convenience of the state. They found that builders, contractors and other suppliers of goods and services to the state were refusing to work for them any more, as they were targetted by the IRA. The only way the state could get its jobs done was to allow these people to own a pistol and a small amount of ammunition (25 rounds I believe). So there is no general right to be armed in self-defence even in NI, it is just something the state had to allow for its own survival.

The NI situation is something which is never talked about, however. About 10,000 people in a population of 1.5 million carry a pistol for self-defence. Carried across to the mainland, that would be 400,000 armed citizens. The powers that be don’t want the peons getting any ideas above their station.

JohnK making some very cogent points on Natalie’s article here on Samizdata.

US Navy: Penis in sky drawn by jet trail was ‘unacceptable’

A display of ‘airmanship‘, the sort, but not the pattern, that was needed in Operation Taxable on D-Day, appears to have fallen on ‘stony ground’ as it were, it looks like a pilot will be having a hard time.

US Navy officials have said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that one of their pilots used a jet’s contrail to draw a penis in the sky.

What else could, or should, he have used? Wider reaction is mixed:

Ramone Duran told the Seattle Times newspaper: “After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing.”
But one householder told KREM 2 she was upset about having to explain to her children…

However, the good news is that the Brylcreem Boys beat the Yanks to it:

In August this year, an RAF fighter pilot drew a 35-mile penis on radars monitoring skies over Lincolnshire, England.

Just wondering if they did that in the Cold War, and what the Soviet spy trawlers reported back.

Photo credits: ‘jon’, and, of course, the Secretary of the United States Navy.