Sunday, 8 November 2020

You are gaslighting yourself.

I am a mathematician. Not professionally, but mentally. I'm one of those people who had an affinity with numbers and logic from a very early age, which led eventually to a degree in maths and a career in IT. I understand that a lot of what seems bleeding obvious to people like me is opaque to many people. (This is not to be boastful: we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and Lord knows there's plenty I don't understand, like football and small talk and not making people want to punch me.) But I honestly did not appreciate until this week the extent to which obvious mathematical truths are complete mysteries to such a huge chunk of humanity.

Of course I'm talking about the cursed election. You may have seen these graphs:

Those graphs are evidence of something highly suspicious happening. Clearly and obviously, to anyone who understands numbers. That has nothing to do with what they're measuring. If they were graphs comparing the performance of two brands of dishwasher, they'd be suspicious. If they were exchange rates or share prices, the financial regulator would be demanding an explanation from the banks involved, and actively considering raiding those banks if such explanation was not forthcoming. The idea that those numbers are not suspicious is just preposterous. I shan't bother explicating why; one thing I've discovered this week is that those who can't already see it will determinedly continue not to. But the evidence honestly couldn't be much clearer. And yet the dominant claim, repeated all week throughout the world's media, is that there is "no evidence". Not that the evidence is, on balance, unconvincing, or that it can be explained, but that there simply is none. That so many millions of people are apparently willing to believe such a thing is the most damning indictment I have ever seen of the state of maths teaching.

Now, let's be clear here about what the word "evidence" actually means. It doesn't mean "proof". When a defendant is found not guilty, all the evidence against them doesn't cease to exist; it is still evidence against them, which has been weighed and found not damning. Even though they were not guilty, the evidence against them is the reason why it would have been remiss not to try them in court at all. Evidence is something that is worth looking into.

There are various scenarios that could explain graphs like that. "This is normal; nothing to see here" is not one of them — but that's the one we've been given, again and again, smugly and condescendingly, by people insisting that even being suspicious of numbers like that is a sign of knuckle-dragging stupidity.

But, utterly unsurprisingly, it turns out that the evidence was worth looking into. For instance, Antrim County, Michigan discovered that software had allocated 6000 votes to the wrong candidate. That's not a conspiracy theory; it's not a paranoid accusation by the losing party; it's a fact, verified and confirmed by the election officials. The numbers were evidence that something was wrong, so people investigated the numbers, and found that indeed something was wrong. That's how evidence is supposed to work. It may be that the software was hacked with the intent of fraud; it may also be a mere innocent error. But what it most certainly is not is nothing.

That software, incidentally, is in use in 47 counties. Since we now have proof that it malfunctioned to the tune of thousands of votes in one of those counties, that proof is in turn evidence that it may have done something similar in the other counties. That evidence should of course be investigated. It might turn out that it only miscounted in Antrim and worked correctly everywhere else. That's how evidence is supposed to work too. But claiming that it might have behaved the same way everywhere it was used (which is, after all, what such software is explicitly designed to do) is not crazy, is not sore losing, and is not an attempt at a fascist power-grab. It's an entirely reasonable suggestion. And refusing to investigate it would be insane.

I currently work in financial regulatory reporting. If I were to see numbers like that and not investigate them, I could go to prison. And I'd deserve it.

The graphs are far from the only evidence. Larry Correia set a load of it out here, along with a good explanation of what a red flag is in an audit and what it does and doesn't mean. I recommend reading it if you're interested in the US election.

But, believe it or not, I don't want to talk about the US election.

I've deliberately not mentioned Trump till now, because this isn't really about him — or shouldn't be. Trump will be gone in four years or a few weeks, and either one is the blink of an eye. (Note to teenagers: Yes it really is. Just wait.) Democracy, we should hope, will be with us somewhat longer.

Four years ago, in a context that was different yet ultimately the same, I wrote this:

But to think that that makes the theft of our rights and powers OK is to fall into the usual trap of thinking that democracy is just a decision-making mechanism, and that therefore it is the decision it reaches that matters. But democracy is not primarily a decision-making mechanism. I mean, really, if you were setting out to design a good way of making good decisions, would you come up with democracy? Of course not. Because it's laughably useless.

However, democracy is a very very good civil-war-prevention mechanism.

Democracy works because enough people believe that they will get their way some of the time. Because of that, they are willing to accept the result when they don't get their way — they know their time will come soon enough. It is this general belief spread throughout the populace that has effectively stopped people resorting to violence. This is why not only actual propriety but the appearance of propriety in the electoral process matters so much. This is why it is vital that suspicious events be investigated seriously. This is why investigating events and finding them to be above board is not the same as pre-emptively declaring that they are not worth investigating in the first place. The process matters far more than the result, because the process is the alternative to what our ancestors did. Our ancestors killed each other. In huge numbers. The best estimate of the effect of the English Civil War on Ireland is that about 41% of the population were killed. No, that's not a typo. Over disagreement about who should be in charge of another country.

Personally, I prefer voting.

American ideas have a way of spreading. For a long time, that hasn't happened with their electoral fraud. They have generally had a bigger corruption problem than the rest of the English-speaking world for some reason — just compare the number of entries for the US to those for the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on Wikipedia's list of controversial elections. That is about to change.

Because any tactic that works will be used.

Try and forget about your dislike of Trump for a second. Sure, you want him gone, for whatever reason. It ought to be possible to say so and yet still notice crap like this:

Just a general observation from a foreigner feeling ever more foreign since Wednesday morning: I have spent election night in many countries over the years, and have never seen what I saw on Tuesday night. And I am amazed that even the parochial brain-dead American legacy media could pass off what happened in Philadelphia as normal. Everywhere else the polls close and the riding or constituency counts the votes until they're all done and they have a final 100 per cent result - by 9pm, 11.30pm, 3am, however long it takes. But, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, they suddenly stop counting and everyone goes home until late the following morning to start counting the boxes that have shown up under cover of darkness.

And everybody on ABC, CBS, NBC pretends this is perfectly normal.

If that were to happen in a British election, we'd regard it as completely mental. I'd expect every candidate to protest — not on the grounds that they suspected their opponents of nefarious shenanigans, but for the more basic reason of seriously, what the utter fuck? This is just not how one does elections.

Until this week.

Because what happens when you insist that this is unremarkable, that there's nothing to see here, that this is a correct way of conducting affairs, is that you make it more likely. Half of America have their own reasons for insisting that it's AOK. You don't have to agree with them to prove your hatred of Trump. As long as the British were outsiders looking in, regarding such behaviour as a bizarre foreign American thing, it remained a bizarre foreign American thing. This week, when you declared you were fine with it, you invited it in.

Political parties are full of devious cheating bastards — because they are groups of human beings, so of course they are. Devious cheating bastards will do whatever they can get away with to win — you could look it up. Up till last week, there were things they thought they couldn't get away with in Britain. You are now busily telling them otherwise. You have told them that you're happy for polling centres to have their staff sent home and for tens of thousands of votes to be delivered while they're away. You have informed them that you will avert your eyes from obviously suspicious numbers. You have even told them that you will accuse anyone who does notice obviously suspicious numbers of corruption. The safeguard against this stuff was your refusal to stand for it. And you threw it away.

Any tactic that works will be used. Sooner or later, it will be used against you. Once these practices take hold, they'll be in our elections in twenty years, in fifty years; they'll be entrenched in the elections your grandchildren vote in. They won't even have heard of Trump, but they'll be stuck with this shit. Until they get fed up with it not working, so start killing instead.

Because half our generation eagerly lied to themselves because they disliked one politician, who wasn't even in this country.

Trump didn't do this. You did.

Update, 10/11/20:

The original version of this article contained a third graph. It has since been removed from its original source, so I've removed it from here too.

Monday, 6 April 2020

On the occasion of Boris Johnson entering intensive care.

If you are so dedicated to the grand cause of tribalist politics that you are welcoming the prospect of a child being born to its father's widow, then your soul is fundamentally broken, and your presence is a poison to all who encounter you.

That is all.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Covid-19, lightning strikes, and the nature of risk.

There's this way of measuring risk that's so popular it's a cliche: "You're more likely to be struck by lightning than [insert supposedly unlikely event here]." It's interesting that we're hearing it used less these days about terrorist attacks — in the UK, you have actually been more likely to be hurt by a terrorist than by lightning for some years now, and perhaps, even without looking up the figures, people are intuitively sensing that. That rather annoying thought aside, what I really want to discuss here is the fact that the comparison is a big steaming pile of fallacy.

Because the way the expression is used is always to express derision at the very idea that anyone might worry about such a tiny risk. The logic goes:

The probability of X is lower than the probability of being hit by lightning;
the probability of being hit by lightning is extremely low
: therefore taking measures to avoid X is a stupid waste of time.

But here's the thing. In the Developed World, every tall building has a lightning conductor on top, and so do most of the smaller ones. And every crane. Every car has been designed to protect its occupants in the event of a lightning strike. Aeroplanes are designed to survive lightning strikes. The electrical ring main in your house is lightning-proof. The entire national electricity grid has lightning resilience built in. Scientists and engineers keep researching lightning, so that we can keep improving our lightning-proofing measures. And we teach our children not to shelter under trees in thunderstorms. Apart from that last one, this all costs money — money and time and resources and effort. Our entire society is, at great expense, largely lightning-proof. The reason we've done this is obviously not because it's such a rare event that it's not worth doing anything about.

So the logic is actually:

The probability of X is lower than the probability of being hit by lightning;
the probability of being hit by lightning is high enough that we collectively spend billions on mitigation measures against it
: therefore taking measures to avoid X is a stupid waste of time.

It's even rarer than a thing that isn't rare!

I am reminded of this by the scaremongermongering fuckwits out there still, even now, saying that Covid-19 is not much worse than the flu.

Influenza is a big deal. We research the new strains constantly, so that we can identify which are the ones we need to vaccinate against each season. We develop a new vaccine for those strains every year. We deploy that vaccine to millions of people. We prepare a certain amount of capacity in our hospitals to deal with serious flu cases. We train doctors and nurses in its treatment. We obviously do not do all this because flu is not worth doing anything about.

Again, here's that logic, only even worse this time:

Covid-19 is not much worse than the flu;
the flu is a serious enough problem that we pour massive resources into combatting it
: therefore making all this fuss about Covid-19 is stupid.

It's only slightly more dangerous than a very dangerous thing! Genius.

Part of the problem here is the word "fuss" and its various synonyms — "worry", "panic", etc. These are loaded words, all being used to mean "effort", but with derision of that effort built in. It's true: we don't make a lot of fuss about flu; we don't worry or panic about flu; but we do put lots of effort into fighting it. We just don't think of that effort as fuss or worry or panic, because it's routine. But it's still effort, and using loaded words doesn't create some logical difference between that effort and the effort put into fighting Covid-19.

And of course the other glaringly obvious point is that we aren't replacing flu with Covid-19. We're getting both. This is a new risk piled on top of all the old existing risks we already know about. Very few people do think about the risk of dying of flu — or tuberculosis or hantavirus or an embolism or a car crash or a freak shopping-trolley accident (it happens). What we do think about and take into account in the back of our minds is the risk of dying in general. That risk just suddenly increased, so of course we're seeing an adjustment. And it's not surprising or irrational that that adjustment is so extreme when the size of the risk is currently unknown and unknowable.

Now, there is an argument to be made that, whilst Covid-19 just increased the risk of dying, we have, on the other hand, been steadily decreasing the risk of dying for the last few decades, and so we might rationally offset those two factors: sure, things just got significantly more dangerous, but cancer is no longer a death sentence, you can live a long life with HIV now, and modern seatbelts and airbags are frankly amazing, so maybe this stuff balances out. Thus far, I have heard that reasonable argument from precisely zero people.

And then there's the fatality rate. The scaremongermongers measure Covid-19's badness by its fatality rate, with the underlying assumption, sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit, that those who don't die will be just fine. Sorry, but no. There's a whole world of mostly horrible grey areas between dying and being AOK. Covid-19 causes pneumonia. Pneumonia is nasty. It's very painful. It damages your lungs, usually long-term, often for decades, often permanently. "Recovering" from pneumonia could well mean that every respiratory illness you get for the rest of your life will hit you harder than it would have otherwise — and there are a lot of respiratory illnesses out there. Imagine if, every time you caught a common cold, it turned into a chest infection. Imagine if you got so many chest infections, you built up a resistance to most antibiotics. That's what a significant proportion of survivors are facing. And then some lucky sods can carry Covid-19 completely asymptomatically. It's not all that bad for everyone, but it's a lot more complicated and worse than just putting survival in the "no problem" column.

Another thing you've no doubt been hearing is that Covid-19 mainly kills elderly people. This is true, and, not to be callous, but, frankly, after a certain age, whatever you die of, you really die of old age. When she was merely in late middle-age, my grandmother broke her leg and didn't notice, continuing her daily ten-mile walks across the Yorkshire Moors while being vaguely annoyed that the limp wasn't wearing off. In her nineties, she broke her leg and, though it took a year, died. We know this is how life goes, and are generally resigned to it. But perhaps you haven't fully thought through what "elderly" means in the context of Covid-19 fatalities.

You don't suddenly drive off a statistical cliff-edge at the age of seventy. There's a curve. Yes, at seventy, you're at much higher risk. At sixty, not as bad, but still higher risk than a fifty-year-old. And so on. I'm forty-five. I certainly don't think of myself as elderly. But I'm on the curve. I'm unlikely to get away from Covid-19 as cleanly as a twenty-year-old would. I run part of that increased risk that shows up in the stats and gets described with the shorthand term "elderly". Maybe you do too.

I'm not panicking about this. I half hope I catch the damn thing, so I can grow some antibodies and cease to be a danger to my wife. But only half, as it will probably be fucking agony. But this is not panic, it is not fuss, it is not a ridiculous overreaction to nothing much: it is a reasonable response to a rational analysis of something that really is much worse than flu.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

They're just spitting in our faces now.

This is Labour's video about how they support minority groups. They've got quite a lot of racial and religious groups in there. But not Jews. Because of course not Jews.

A couple of years ago, that would have been fine: you can't crowbar every single demographic into a brief advert; no particular reason to put Jews in there. But this comes when Labour's antisemitism is one of the biggest controversies the party has ever faced, when Corbyn and McDonnell have spent a good chunk of the last few years facing and denying accusations of antisemitism, when the Equality & Human Rights Commission is investigating Labour's institutional antisemitism, when Labour MPs are leaving the party and telling the public to vote Tory because of Labour's antisemitism, when some Jewish Labour MPs have been forced out of the party while those that stay require bodyguards at Labour Conferences, when British Jews are leaving the party in droves and preparing to leave the country if Labour get in, when the Chief Rabbi, traditionally a staunchly politically neutral entity, has made an unprecedented foray into politics to plead with the British public not to support the party that is an actual threat to British Jewry. And, even faced with all that, when making a promotional film, when someone suggested (and there's no way no-one suggested) maybe putting a conciliatory message for Jews in there, doing nothing more than including them in their list of minority groups Labour gives a fuck about, Corbyn still couldn't bring himself to do it. The man can't even pretend not to hate Jews.

Perhaps we should admire his honesty.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The gathering storm.

It is not possible to be more assimilated than me. My father was sent to Catholic school during the War in case the Gestapo made it to London, and never really got his Jewishness back. I was born and raised British Christian atheist; I speak no Hebrew, have never set foot in Israel or even in a synagogue, and eat plenty of bacon. By a lot of people's standards, including most Jews, I am not a Jew — I'm not so much Jewish as Jewishish. My Jewishishness has always been a mere bit of trivia, a technicality, something I know and like about my family history, something that matters to me but does not inform my day-to-day life. Until the last three years.

The state of Israel, in its wisdom, qualifies people like me for citizenship. And now we are receiving an object lesson in why that is.

The question of whether I, born and bred British, am welcome in Britain has been too absurd to even ask for almost all my life. For more obviously Jewish British Jews, the same: to have questioned whether they were accepted as part of the British populace was ridiculous in the Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties, in 2010... and now here we are. Large numbers of them have their passports to hand, ready to get the hell out of here. Many have already left. And I see their point, because it's not even about Corbyn winning any more — though he certainly could. Labour are doing quite spiffingly in the polls. This is no splinter faction: about a third of the British public, faced with unequivocal evidence of what that man and his acolytes are, intend to vote for them, want him as Prime Minister. If he loses, those people aren't going away. I've never been one for nostalgia, but, for the first time in my life, I miss the Britain I grew up in. That society, one in which Jews were welcome, is gone and I don't believe it is salvageable. It is impossible to exaggerate my sense of loss. The Jews are no longer welcome in this country.

It is difficult to know how even to approach the enthusiastic antisemitism of the modern Left, that has taken firm root in the Labour Party. I don't believe that any of those who deny its plain and obvious existence haven't seen the evidence, so what's the point going over it all again? Here, at least, are a couple of examples of the bile that Labour's defenders insist is merely "critical of the politics of Israel":

  • At Labour Party meetings, one person was called "a child killer", "Zio scum", "good with money", told "shut the fuck up, Jew" and of course the ever-popular "Hitler was right".
  • A Labour Party member said: "The only reason we have prostitutes in Seven Sisters is because of the Jews". I do have to admit, I'd be very interested in hearing which Israeli government policy this refers to.
  • At a Labour Party conference, a member said US police who killed black teenagers were trained in Israel, because of course no-one kills innocent children without the advice of the experts.

That's what being a Jew in the Labour Party is like these days.

Lord Sachs put it best, I think, when he said that he hadn't known anything much about antisemitism. Being British, it was a phenomenon that, even though he was Chief Rabbi, he just didn't need to know about. And now he does. Since Corbyn came to power, Sachs had to go and read up on the subject and educate himself. Suddenly, almost overnight, being an expert on antisemitism became a major part of the British Chief Rabbi's job. That is both incredible praise for the Britain that was — what other country's Chief Rabbi doesn't need to know anything about antisemitism? — and utterly damning of what the country has become.

Corbyn's cultish acolytes still insist that anyone talking like I am (such as the Labour members and ex-members who provided the above evidence under oath) is part of a joint Tory/Mossad/media smear campaign to keep Labour out of power because they threaten the wealth of the capitalist class. Because nothing proves to the world you're not antisemitic like disseminating a conspiracy theory about money-grubbing Jews controlling the media in order to keep the world's governments in thrall to a sinister agenda. I hope that some of my still-Labour-supporting friends have merely accepted such excuses without thinking them through properly and seeing them for what they are. If you're still reading this far and not scoffing derisively at the Tory stooge yet, please listen.

Please do not vote Labour.

This is the first time in my life I've ever presumed to ask such a thing. I might well tell you why I think you're wrong, but I'd never tell you how to vote. And I am somewhat sheepishly aware that I have in the past ridiculed hysterical overreactions to mere election results. In a modern free democracy, all that sturm and drang between the Left and Right boils down to quibbling whether a tax rate should be at 45% or 50%, and frankly everyone should chill the fuck out about it.

But this election is truly different. This is not about policy, the NHS, schools, or whatever, and my plea is not even about Brexit (if you want to stop that, you can vote Lib Dem). This is about the organization of politics against the Jews. And that is something you're either for or against.

This is not a matter of opposing Labour, but of defeating this terrible movement that has taken over Labour, hopefully starting the process that could lead to their becoming a decent Opposition and a party of government once again. That is why the decent civilized Labour MPs have not only left the party but asked the public to vote Tory. Turned out there weren't many of them, though.

This election is the British people's great chance, faced with this venomous claptrap, to unequivocally reject it. And it doesn't look like they have the remotest intention of doing so.

So please. Labour will never abandon antisemitism if it wins votes. Please don't let it win yours.

I'm writing this knowing I'm going to lose friends just for doing so — and that says it all right there, really, doesn't it? A sizeable proportion of British people will want nothing further to do with you if you say that not hating Jews is more important than hating Tories. Well, bye, then. I hope the door hits your arse good and hard on the way out.

I'll let Stephen Daisley finish:

History tells me to look glumly on the prospects that, for once, we might do right by Jews. We don’t always side with their persecutors but we almost never side with them when it matters. If the anti-Semites win on 12 December, their victory will belong to the nexus of complicity, from the people who know exactly what they are doing to those who one day will feign ignorance and deny the role they played.

But these things they should know: Know that you were warned. You were warned and you turned away because the Tories are evil and Labour’s heart is in the right place. Know that Jews pleaded for your help. They pleaded for your help and you offered warm words then worked to put their tormentors in power. Know that you are culpable. You are culpable for what happens next, for every Nefesh B’Nefesh flight that takes off from Heathrow, for how Corbyn’s supporters take out their frustrations when his government begins to falter, for every British Jew who accepts that his countrymen have abandoned him and acquiesces quietly in his new status as civically less than others. Know that you will be remembered. You will be remembered and counted among the plentiful persecutors of the Jewish people and the even more plentiful bystanders. Your children will teach their children not to be like you.

Your children will teach their children not to be like you.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Another open letter to Aer Lingus on the occasion of their laughable reply to my earlier one.

A while ago, I complained to Aer Lingus about their impressively atrocious service. They replied impressively atrociously:

Thank you for contacting Aer Lingus.

I was sorry to learn you were affected by the disruption to flight EI937 on July 19, 2019. Please accept my apologies on behalf of Aer Lingus.

The EI937 was diverted to Dublin due to BHD curfew. Aer Lingus deems this an extraordinary circumstance and wish to invoke Article 5 Paragraph 3 of the European Regulation 261/2004.
regrettably, there is no compensation due.

There are no words. Oh, hang on: yes there are, and they're right here:

Dear Aer Lingus,

I received your reply of 22nd August. It is appalling.

Firstly, my complaint to you contained quite a large number of matters to be addressed — indeed, the fact that you had got so much so wrong is exactly why I was complaining. Your response addresses only one of those issues, and that badly.

You have had an opportunity not only to respond to the points I raised, but to refute them. That you have not even tried to do so, I shall take as implicit confirmation that all my complaints were essentially correct. I did say that the onus was on you to dissuade me of the obvious, that your staff diverted your passengers to Dublin, further delaying an already badly delayed flight by a further two hours, for their own selfish benefit. So thanks for confirming that.

The one thing you have actually addressed is this:

The EI937 was diverted to Dublin due to BHD curfew. Aer Lingus deems this an extraordinary circumstance and wish to invoke Article 5 Paragraph 3 of the European Regulation 261/2004.

As I said in my first letter, I fly a lot, so I'm quite familiar with the "extraordinary circumstances" clause and airlines' fondness for invoking it when it does not apply. I have to say, though, that this is the most brazenly ridiculous attempt to do so I have ever seen. It is impressive, in a way, that you have responded to a letter about how your staff insulted my intelligence by insulting my intelligence. But, admirable though chutzpah can be, I'm not convinced it's the ideal way to run a customer service department. A time and a place, and all that.

Here's Belfast City Airport's published opening hours:

Operating hours: flights may only be scheduled to operate between 06:30 hours and 21:30 hours.  Extensions may be granted in exceptional circumstances to facilitate delayed aircraft up to 23:59 hours.

Now, that is interesting. Because, on the occasion in question, no extension was granted, which implies either that Belfast City Airport decided that the circumstances were not exceptional or that you didn't even ask them for an extension in the first place because you decided that the circumstances were not exceptional. Do you wish to claim some quibbling distinction between "exceptional" and "extraordinary"?

The other point about Belfast City's opening hours is that they are completely normal. They haven't changed in years. They are published. I assume that even Aer Lingus has heard about them. They are, in a word, ordinary: the completely literal opposite of extraordinary. Do your customer service staff really have the sheer nerve to gaslight your customers in this way? Or do they just not know what "extraordinary" means? I find myself hoping that they're merely ignorant, as the alternative is that you're paying them to be obnoxious bastards on your behalf.

But perhaps you wish to claim that "extraordinary" carries some technical legal sense in this context, that I am missing. OK. Well, your own website helpfully doesn't define "extraordinary circumstances" beyond:

Compensation can be claimed where you are delayed in arriving at your final destination by more than three hours and that delay arises from causes within our control (rather than extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided by taking all reasonable measures).

As luck would have it, though, we're talking about well established law here with loads of precedent, so lots of other people, including the courts, have fleshed that out a bit more than you. For example, here's British Airways, one of your sister airlines, apparently:

If your journey was affected by extraordinary circumstances such as air traffic control decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions or security risks you may not be able to claim compensation.

Hmm. It doesn't mention opening hours. Perhaps an oversight?

EU Claim says:

An ‘extraordinary circumstance’ is a situation in which the airline is not responsible for the problems with the flight. This includes the following situations:
  • Extreme weather conditions during the flight, such as heavy fog or a storm
  • Natural disasters, such as a volcanic ash cloud
  • Strike action by air traffic control
  • Medical emergency landings
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Situations with passengers on board the airplane
Situations which are not seen as extraordinary circumstances are:
  • Technical faults on the airplane
  • Crew shortages or sickness
  • Strikes by airline personnel 

OK, it's not explicitly addressing the normal published opening hours of an airport, but I have to say this isn't looking much like what you claim it is.

How about the European Commission's own published guidelines?

In accordance with Article 5(3) of the Regulation, an air carrier is exempted from paying compensation in the event of cancellation or delay at arrival if it can prove that the cancellation or delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. In order to be exempted from the payment of compensation the carrier must therefore simultaneously prove:
  • the existence and the link between the extraordinary circumstances and the delay or the cancellation, and
  • the fact that this delay or cancellation could not have been avoided although it took all reasonable measures.

Well, that first point is interesting, isn't it? Because your flight was badly delayed before you diverted it to Dublin. The only reason that Belfast City closing affected this flight is that it was already late. So I would be particularly interested to see your proof that the flight was delayed as a result of the airport's closure, as such proof would necessarily reverse time and break the laws of physics.

While I am rather enjoying the opportunity to be sarcastic, let's not forget that I have something genuine to be sarcastic about here. Your staff quite thoroughly ruined my day through their utter obnoxiousness, your customer service team can't even be arsed going to the minimal effort of mentioning any of that in their mealy-mouthed mendacious non-apology, and you're refusing to pay the compensation which you are legally obliged to pay. You are clearly hoping that, if you fob me off, I will give up and go away. Good luck with that.

Yours determinedly,

Joseph Kynaston Reeves

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

An open letter to Aer Lingus on the occasion of their quite dreadful service.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I was unfortunate enough to be on your delayed flight EI937 from Heathrow to Belfast City on 19/7/19, so am writing to complain about the delay itself, the way you made the delay worse, and the way you treated your passengers. I fly twice a week and have very low expectations of airlines, generally putting up with the whole awful experience that you all offer without complaining. That Aer Lingus have managed to do so much so badly in just one flight that I am prompted to write this letter is some sort of perverse achievement.

Firstly, as you are aware, since arrival at Belfast City was over six hours late, I am entitled to compensation under EU regulation 261. Please arrange that promptly.

Your flight was scheduled to leave at 19:20. When the boards in the airport showed that it was delayed till (if I recall correctly) 22:40, I went to find some Aer Lingus staff to ask for vouchers for food and drink. Since you are obliged to provide your passengers with food and drink during this delay, of course I should not have to go searching for them: you should be making an announcement over the PA and seeking out your passengers to provide them with what you are legally obliged to. But no.

Your staff directed me to the Aer Lingus customer service desk. There were only five people in front of me in the queue, yet I reached the front some forty-five minutes later. You had just one member of staff on this desk, dealing with all sorts of different queries. Handing out food vouchers takes seconds. I was "lucky" enough to be near the front of the queue; by the time I reached the front, there were dozens of people in it: unless it sped up considerably, those at the back were going to be waiting there more than two hours.

After I got my food vouchers, I asked your employee which airport my flight would now be landing at, since, as you know, Belfast City has a curfew at 21:30. She told me that it was still scheduled to land at Belfast City. I pointed out that the flight was now planned to take off from Heathrow more than an hour after Belfast City had shut. She replied that it was still scheduled to land at Belfast City and that it was too early to know whether it might be redirected, and that such information would not be known until after take-off. I strongly object to being treated as stupid enough to believe that your flights ever take off with no known destination airport — i.e. with no flight plan. Presumably, whether you have enough fuel is mere guesswork and hope. Does the Civil Aviation Authority know? However, this was not the only ridiculous lie your employee told me.

In light of the unacceptably slow progress of the long queue, and in the hope of improving matters for the benighted souls further back than me, I asked your employee whether she might consider calling any colleagues to help. She informed me that she was the only member of Aer Lingus staff available. This was a brazen lie. I responded that there were lots of other Aer Lingus staff in the airport: two had directed me to this desk, for instance; there were others at gates; others wandering around chatting; some I could see from where I was standing. She continued to insist that she was the only member of staff and absolutely refused to consider getting someone else to help your passengers. I pointed out that people in the queue were going to be waiting two hours or more and asked her whether she thought that was a reasonable way to treat people who are paying for this. She replied "Do you think I like doing this?" Perhaps you could explain to your staff that there is a substantive difference between a customer who has paid Aer Lingus for a service and an employee who is being paid by Aer Lingus to provide a service, and that those two groups are not all in the same boat, equally inconvenienced by your delays. I could not care less whether your staff are enjoying making your passengers' lives difficult, and do not expect them to tell me. And if they are so poorly trained as to tell me, I will not sympathise.

I should not but apparently do need to explain to you that the purpose of providing food and drink to your passengers is to make a bad experience — a severely delayed flight — somewhat less bad. Forcing your passengers to stand in a queue for hours in order to earn the privilege of asking for vouchers makes the bad experience worse. That is the opposite of compensation.

My vouchers, incidentally, had "We regret the inconvenience you have been caused and would like you to enjoy Breakfast with our compliments" printed on them. That is the right sentiment and the right attitude. Perhaps whoever wrote the blurb for your compensation vouchers could explain their thinking to your customer service staff.

Still inexplicably wanting to know where I was actually going, I phoned your call centre to ask. The conversation got off to a bad start when your employee initially insisted that she could not give me any information without the booking reference which is not printed on your boarding passes. I had to explain to her that the booking reference was immaterial to my question as every passenger on your plane would (one can only hope) arrive at the same airport, and of course because I didn't even need to be a passenger to request this information — I could be a friend or family member trying to arrange to pick a passenger up after they landed. Destination airports are supposed to be publicly available information. Quite why your staff would choose to have an argument over their obstructive refusal to disclose that information is beyond me.

Anyway, your call centre employee eventually relented, and, like your airport employee, also insisted that the flight would land at Belfast City — although, unlike your airport staff, she at least treated me with enough respect to believe me about Belfast City's curfew and go and double-check. That she double-checked and still gave me the same information tells me that your computer systems were at this point still showing a destination airport that you knew to be impossible. I would appreciate an explanation of why whoever was responsible for updating your flight plan (and surely this person exists) chose not to record that information on your systems so that even your own staff couldn't access it.

I should not but apparently do need to inform you that it is absurdly unprofessional for an airline not to be able to tell its passengers — and, indeed, to give every impression of not even knowing — where their flight is going.

I would love this complaint to end here, but somehow your service contrived to get worse.

Despite your refusal to tell me where your plane was going, I was assuming it would be diverted from Belfast City to Belfast International, as is standard practice. After the flight was eventually belatedly boarded, your pilot announced that it was going to Dublin. This information had of course not been revealed until after all your passengers were in their seats, as it is easier for you to control passengers and more difficult for them to cause you difficulty once they're strapped in. When Aer Lingus are inconveniencing your customers through your own actions, you need to learn that the problem is not that a customer might annoy you by complaining, but that you have given them something to complain about in the first place. The destination of Dublin should have been announced at the gate, if for no other reason than basic politeness. But also, of course, some passengers' friends or relatives were to pick them up at the airport, and many of those people could have driven to Dublin — if you had informed your passengers of the destination when they still had time to contact their friends, rather than after your command to everyone to disable their phones. And there is another reason you should have announced the destination at the gate, which I shall come to.

Your pilot's explanation for diverting to Dublin was that a few other flights had been diverted to Belfast International that evening and that this would, for some reason, cause such severe delays that going via Dublin would be quicker. Belfast International is a half-hour drive from Belfast City; Dublin at least a two-hour drive. Your pilot therefore expected us to believe that, were we to land at Belfast International, it would take more than an hour and a half to get us off the plane, merely because some other flights had landed there that evening. I admit it is possible that he left out some vital detail that could cause this otherwise farcical attempt at an explanation to make some sort of sense. I would very much like to hear that detail.

Your pilot also announced, as is usual but nevertheless wrong in such circumstances, that we should be incredibly grateful to your amazing flight crew for working late to get us to our destination. I see no reason why I should particularly care whether your staff are working late. I know that Aer Lingus are not the only airline guilty of this insulting nonsense, but insulting nonsense it is. To reiterate: your customers are paying for this and are having their leisure time destroyed by you; your staff are being paid while at work. These are not remotely comparable circumstances. Indeed, contrary to the inflated opinion of themselves flight crew like to maintain, it is they who should be congratulating your hard-done-by passengers for putting up with such inconvenience without shouting at them, which would be an entirely reasonable reaction to their treatment. If I were in a restaurant and my food were two hours late, I would not expect to be asked to give the staff a round of applause for working late to bring me my food — and of course no restaurant would be stupid enough to ask me to. Since I was travelling for work, I was in fact working extremely late myself thanks to your delay. Your staff did not congratulate me on my heroism.

These two facts — that your staff stressed to us how late they were working and that no sensible explanation was offered for the diversion to Dublin — lead me to conclude that the reason for flying to Dublin rather than Belfast International was so that your crew could get home to bed, at the expense of further inconveniencing your passengers. Since that is the most reasonable conclusion from the information you provided, as far as I'm concerned, the onus is on you to dissuade me of that.

After landing at Dublin, I was then shocked to pass through Immigration. As luck would have it, I had my passport with me, but I am certainly not obliged to carry it when travelling from one part of my home country to another. There were people on that flight from outside the EU. I shall leave it to them to complain to you on their own behalf, but suffice to say that unnecessarily diverting a domestic flight to a foreign country is an incredibly irresponsible thing to do. I understand there may be occasions where it is unavoidable: this was not one. Your staff had every opportunity to inform your passengers before they were on the plane and it was too late, but chose not to. I know people who are allowed into the UK but not Ireland. For all your staff knew, I was one such myself — no-one thought to ask. Had your staff announced the destination of a foreign country at the gate, such passengers would have had the opportunity to make their situation known, and you could have made appropriate arrangements, such as putting them up in a hotel before flying them to Belfast the next day. That you did not was unprofessional and grossly irresponsible.

Further progress through Dublin Airport was not exactly well organized. Rather than being directed to the bus, I was told to follow a man who was already a hundred yards away and was walking as fast as he could away from me. I move pretty fast, but I lost him, and had to find the bus by luck.

And, after all this, is it really too much to ask that you drive me the two hours to Belfast City on a bus with air conditioning? This may seem a relatively minor problem compared to the litany of obnoxiousness that led up to it, but your bus ride was twice as long as your flight, and it was hot, sweaty, and thoroughly uncomfortable. Your bus dropped us off at the entrance to Belfast City, leaving me to carry my luggage across the car parks to get to the taxi rank. Every little helps.

I reached Belfast City sometime around 03:00 on 20/7/19. Such a massive delay and deprival of so much sleep obviously had a knock-on effect on the rest of my weekend.

As I said at the start of this letter, you are, as you know, obliged to compensate me for your delay. I ask you to compensate me further for the appalling service I received from your staff, who, at every single stage, contrived to make the whole experience unnecessarily worse, particularly your employee at Heathrow, who was obnoxious and who lied twice to my face, and especially for the decision to add an extra one and a half hours to the delay (of a one-hour flight) by diverting to Dublin instead of Belfast International for no good reason.

I await your reply with interest.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Kynaston Reeves


Aer Lingus did reply, with this laughably insulting missive:

Dear Mr. Reeves,

Thank you for contacting Aer Lingus.

I was sorry to learn you were affected by the disruption to flight EI937 on July 19, 2019. Please accept my apologies on behalf of Aer Lingus.

The EI937 was diverted to Dublin due to BHD curfew. Aer Lingus deems this an extraordinary circumstance and wish to invoke Article 5 Paragraph 3 of the European Regulation 261/2004.
regrettably, there is no compensation due.

I've been too busy to respond to this. Until now.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Fear and loathing and the mob.

I haven't blogged in a very long time. I've had plenty of things to say, but can't face writing them in public. The reason, quite simply, is fear.

A lot of us had high hopes of the new media when it was born. Blogging was a revolution as big as the printing press, they said. The barriers to publishing your opinion worldwide became negligible. Experts in all sorts of fields gave their knowledge and commentary to the world. Dan Rather lost his job.

Had Rather knowingly presented false evidence to the world ten years earlier, he'd have got away with it. Instead, hundreds of experts tore his "news" to shreds, for free. And a news media that had held a monopoly on received opinion for decades suddenly discovered that they could no longer control the narrative.

So it comes as no surprise that the old media do all they can to undermine the new.

I can't say I'm happy that Rather was sacked. Cynic though I am, I believe in redemption. Everyone should be given a chance to recognise that they were wrong and to improve. To be fair, Rather preferred to double down, do-you-know-who-I-am-ing like a dowager duchess. And, of course, lying to the pubic when you work in the news is a bit of a big deal. TV being what it is, he probably had plenty of money put by. But a livelihood is still a hell of a thing to lose. Rather was fine, of course. But most of us wouldn't be. What better threat to wield than loss of livelihood? It was the successful test case that set a horrific precedent. If the new media can take the scalp of one of the most influential men in America, what chance does some schmuck from Coventry have?

So it comes as no surprise, sadly, that the old media have so enthusiastically embraced the new model of enforcement: public shaming by the social media mob.

I'm not going to waste time discussing whether Danny Baker is a racist, partly because anyone with the remotest acquaintance with his career over the last forty years knows damn well he isn't, but mainly because that's not even the point, and, there being so many other victims of this same vindictive spiteful shit, he's not even the point. Right now, the media, old and new, contains literally millions of people picking apart and analysing the details of a simple glib unsophisticated joke. Why? Because the stakes are so fucking high, that's why.

The question isn't one of guilt; it's about process and punishment. The Labour movement was founded, above all else, on the need to protect people from capricious punishment by their employers. Still today, we have idiot libertarians spouting the mantra that a private company should be free to employ or to cease employing anyone it chooses for any reason, as if providing someone's ability to live — and thereby wielding the power to destroy their life — carries with it no responsibility whatsoever. The power to destroy livelihoods is huge, and it is that massive imbalance of power that led to the creation of the Labour movement, who rightly stopped bosses sacking their minions for getting uppity, for not voting the way they were told, or for being female and married, and who gave those minions the power to appeal such life-changing decisions.

And now here we are. The "progressive" identitarian Left that grew out of that Labour movement aggressively campaigns to get people sacked, with no due process, no impartial judgement, no right of appeal: just the angry mob, the Horde of Squealing Shitheads that is Twitter. Then, when they succeed — which they usually do — they gleefully crow over their victim and, of course, their victim's dependents. I'm pretty successful, but, if I lose my job, my kids will lose their home. No matter what you might think of my opinions, is that not taking things a bit far? Apparently not: I've yet to see evidence of the mob experiencing any moral qualms. The New Left are using the threat of destitution and poverty as a weapon to enforce ideological compliance, right down to having the correct approved sense of humour. And they're somehow proud of this, of what they're doing to the world.

Well, fuck that. I don't want to live in that world. And, sooner or later, its cheerleaders will realise that they don't want to either. Saying something that some other people don't like will eventually happen to them all — how can it not? And, whilst I may believe in redemption, they will find that my sympathy well has run dry that day.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

What's wrong with Black Panther.

[There are a few mild spoilers in this. They were all either in their respective films' trailers or in their first few minutes or are frankly trivial and don't matter, so nothing major. Don't read if you don't want to risk it.]

Superman is the dullest of all superheroes. He's just too damn super, forcing the writers to come up with yet another way for a bad guy to get hold of some of the frankly implausible amounts of weaponized kryptonite that are lying around, again and again and again. The writers themselves realised this pretty fast, which is why every subsequent superhero is markedly less super and pointedly vulnerable. Until Black Panther.

The opening of Black Panther tells us about the African nation of Wakanda, built on huge deposits of that old favourite of scientifically illiterate comicbook writers, magic super metal (in this case, apparently, "vibranium", but really, who cares?), which makes absolutely any plot device possible, because it is so super it's magic. The Wakandans have built their civilization on this stuff and make their amazing tech out of it and even weave it into their clothes. This makes them an entire nation of Supermen. Which makes them dull.

For a plot to be engaging, there needs to be jeopardy. It doesn't have to be physical: in a romantic comedy, boy meets girl and they proceed to utterly fail to get together for most of the movie. We have to believe that there's a real chance that Harry and Sally won't end up together, or where's the entertainment? In disaster movies, some of the main characters die, so there's always a chance our favourite will be one of them. In a sport film, we have to think the athlete might lose — and Rocky did. In action films, we have to believe the people we're watching are in danger.

Of course, with CGI and so on, that's getting harder and harder to do. Jackie Chan does it by sticking out-takes at the end of his films, in which we get to see him fuck up and even injure himself, so we know he and his stuntmen really do the stunts we see on screen. That knowledge invests us in what we're watching. Prachya Pinkaew has taken the same approach, to great effect. Dan Bradley is a master of putting actors in the middle of insane action and pulling the audience in after them using sheer inventiveness — getting a cameraman to jump off a roof being my personal favourite of his moments. It doesn't really matter whether it's the actors or the characters in danger. It just matters that we believe in the danger.

With superheroes, this is doubly important, because they're going to spend most of the film being super. This is why Iron Man starts with Tony Stark bleeding to death. Thor starts with his hammer being taken away; Thor: Ragnarok starts with it being destroyed. Captain America starts out as a wimp. Dr Strange starts out by being crippled. Ant Man opens with Scott Lang being punched in the face and bleeding. Peter Parker gets bullied at school. The Incredibles starts with every superhero having to go into hiding from a public that hates them. It is important to establish early on that these characters are capable of being beaten and hurt.

Black Panther starts with a James-Bond-type scene in which it is made abundantly clear to us that this hero is never going to get hurt. He jumps out of a plane without a parachute, lands safely, and then ignores being shot at point-blank range with a machine-gun. In case we thought it was only him who can do this stuff because we hadn't paid enough attention to the introductory spiel about the magicsupermetal, his sidekick Okoye joins in. Soon enough, we see Wakandans thrown hundreds of yards through the air onto rock or tarmac, caught in explosions, etc, and shrug it all off. Wakandans can all do this. An entire nation of Supermen.

This is a real blind spot with the writers, Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. One of the things the Wakandans have invented using magicsupermetal is a universal remote control for all vehicles: chuck it onto a car or a plane or whatever, and someone back at base can do the driving using the interface of their choice. This is meant to impress you with the Wakandans' astounding technology, and it succeeds — but it also means that the driver in the car chase is never in any danger: they're not even there. Contrast that with Jason Bourne smashing his way through the Lefortovo Tunnel and limping away afterwards.

And it's not just physical jeopardy they fail to convey. Black Panther has a love interest. Is she interested in anyone else? Nope. Does she not love him back? No, she obviously does. At first, she seems to think their getting together would be a bit inconvenient. I don't think this fooled anyone.

There are precisely two points in the film in which any of the good guys are in any real danger: when Black Panther has to ritually abandon his powers for a few minutes to have a fair fight. In both cases, the person in danger is Black Panther himself, and we know he's going to be fine because the film's named after him and was preceded by a trailer for Infinity War with him in it.

I like the character. I like Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o and the rest of the cast, especially the criminally underused Winston Duke. I just wish I could have believed for one second that everything might not work out just spiffingly for these people. But I couldn't.

Friday, 29 September 2017

On punching Nazis.

The problem with Fascism is not political.

There's been a lot of debate (well, "debate") lately about whether it's OK to punch Nazis, because apparently that's the kind of world we live in now. Those lovely people in Antifa, of course, say that it is — and, helpfully, define "Nazi" as "anyone I've just punched". Saves a lot of confusion, that. My experience in the mires of the Web tells me that plenty of people who are nowhere near as extreme are still staunchly in the Nazi-punching camp. I despair.

Such people are well-intentioned, of course. Who wants to see the rise of Nazism again? What decent person doesn't wish someone had killed Adolf Hitler in, say, 1928? Surely beating him to death before he really got stuck in would have done the world a favour. Surely.

There are a couple of problems with this. Firstly, and most obviously, punching Nazis isn't a new idea. Some Germans actually thought of it in the 1920s, and gave it a go. In other words, the only reason we're even discussing whether punching Nazis works is that punching Nazis didn't work.

But it's the second problem I want to talk about.

The problem with Nazis was not their antisemitism. It wasn't their economic policy — as a free-marketeer, I'm full of criticisms of it, but nations are often run by people who are wrong. Hundreds of nations had bad economic policy at the time, but most of them were not problems in the way Germany turned out to be. The problem with the Nazis wasn't their social policy, or their nutty racial theories (I say "nutty", but they were shared by rather a lot of the planet's respectable scientists at the time), or even their invention of [shudder] the communal holiday camp. The Nazis could have believed everything they believed and just been bastards. That's not a compliment, but it's not one of history's greatest evils either. Bastards are with us always.

What tipped the Nazis over the edge from bastards to... well, to fucking Nazis was their belief in the rightness of the use of violence against their enemies. Antisemites who use the word "yid", who complain about the International Jewish Conspiracy™, and refuse to have Jews round to dinner are annoying in all sorts of ways, but are not on remotely the same planet as slaughtering six million innocent people.

In the alternative universe where European Jews systematically round up and kill six million innocent Aryans — even Aryans who believe they are the chosen master race and Jews are inferior and the root of all the world's problems — the Aryans aren't the bad guys, and the Jews aren't heroes. That universe's Holocaust is every bit as wrong as our own. The ongoing argument about whether National Socialists were really Socialists is immaterial: what they did would still be evil if done in the name of Liberalism or Conservatism or David Icke's lizard people or preferring The Stones to The Beatles. The underlying reasons don't matter. It's the replacement of civilized argument with violence that matters.

Now, I'm not a pacifist. I'm not anti-war — especially not the war fought to defeat and destroy Nazi Germany. The proud Nazi-punchers like to compare themselves to the Allied forces who stormed Normandy and claim that they're just doing the same thing: using violence against Nazis. Apart from their bizarre aspiration to turn our societies into Omaha Beach, I wonder how far they're willing to strain that logic. If you burn down a house with a family inside, aren't you just doing what the RAF did when they dropped incendiary bombs on German cities? Surely, as long as the parents are on the wrong side, it's OK to incinerate them and their kids. Right?

Well, there are wars and there are wars. War has reasons and it has aims, and it is by them that we must judge it. The aim of the Allies in World War 2 was pretty clear: to prevent the wholesale destruction of European civilization and its replacement with the Fourth Reich, accompanied by the mass slaughter of hundreds of millions of humans. We like to tell ourselves that we fought the Nazis to defeat their ideology, but did we, really? All of their ideology? Well, no, obviously not. The Nazis gave food and shelter to the unemployed and the homeless. They opposed Catholicism. They opposed global trade and Capitalism. They believed private enterprise should work for the good of the community, not for profit. They believed the state should provide healthcare. They controlled food commodity prices through a quota system, just like the EU. The Nazi policy of "creating" employment through massive state-sponsored infrastructure-building schemes is popular with Labour, the Conservatives, and Barack Obama. Antisemitism is, sadly, a bit of a vote-winner these days. Even the improvement of the race via the forced removal from the gene pool of inferior specimens is a horribly popular idea to this day, and involuntary sterilisation of the mentally unfit was state policy in Sweden into the 1970s. You may note that, deplorable though that was, no-one went to war with Sweden over it.

There are people on the Right who delight in producing lists like this to draw attention to the myriad ways in which the Left agree with the Nazis, and thus to imply that the Left are Nazis. I am not one of them. The point I'm making is quite the opposite: that a lot of Nazi policies were actually OK, and that agreeing with them on some of these points is perfectly respectable. I disagree with most of them, but not enough to go to war over. Most of it was just wrong or misguided or inefficient or a matter of opinion, not evil. Most of it. But the small core that was evil, well... it was everything.

The reason we had to fight the Nazis, the reason that they represented an existential threat, was not any one of their preferences within the realm of politics, but their belief about what that realm should encompass, about what politics itself should be. They didn't just reject democracy — which is bad, but not necessarily all that bad. They didn't just reject the principle that the strong have a duty to protect the weak — a principle with less of a historical pedigree than we might like to think. No, they inverted it: they embraced the principle that the strong have a duty to destroy the weak — and, of course, that the good should destroy the bad. Once they'd done that, the definitions they came up with for "strong" and "weak", "good" and "bad" were immaterial: the results were going to be just as evil regardless, and any society they built was going to be a hell. In their early days, it was street brawls; once they got power, it was genocide; but they're just two points on the same continuum: if you start with the principle that the former is right, you're on the path to the latter. Of course their target was the Jews — it's always the Jews — and of course it wasn't only the Jews — it never is. But the Nazis would still have been evil, and it would still have been necessary to destroy them, had they picked on someone else.

If, for instance, they'd taken to the streets to punch Nazis.