Monday, October 31, 2016

Pensioner's suicide

Dawn has a grim piece about a Karachi pensioner's suicide after shameful treatment by officials.

ONE can only imagine what it would take for an elderly man to commit suicide. The recent case of one such individual, who had been making the rounds of Karachi’s Civic Centre to obtain pension that he had reportedly not been paid for 13 months, leaves one reeling with anger. His family says he had been making repeated trips to collect what was his due, and the staff that he spoke to made fun of him and his efforts to collect his pension. The resulting depression, according to his family, led him to take the extreme step of jumping off the building, and not the lack of payment. The explanations given by KMC, where the man worked all his life and from where he expected his pension, and by Karachi’s deputy mayor, somehow do not ring true. They claim that pension cheques worth Rs740m “have been readied” and will be disbursed once the Sindh government releases the funds.

Apart from the obvious, what strikes one about this story is how the actions of those officials are now available for the whole world to see and deplore. A few years ago this would not have been the case.

The internet has tied that pensioner's callous treatment to Karachi, Karachi's Civic Centre and KMC, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. It may be too late for him but the world is changing. It could change for the better.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

US stock market PANIC as FBI investigates Clinton!

What's the difference between the MSM and a bucket of horse puckey?

- The bucket.

Was the Iraq war a "Nuremberg" crime?

"Benjamin B. Ferencz was one of the chief prosecutors for the United States at the military trials of German officials following World War II, and a former law professor. In an interview given on August 25, 2006, Ferencz stated that not only Saddam Hussein should be tried, but also George W. Bush because the Iraq War had been begun by the U.S. without permission by the UN Security Council.[54] Benjamin B. Ferencz wrote the foreword for Michael Haas's book, George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes.[55] Ferencz elaborated as follows:
a prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.[56]"

See also:

And Libya? And Syria?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Democrats won’t raise taxes on the middle class—don’t believe it

Our new contributor Jim in San Marcos says:

Just how true is the statement that the taxes for the middle class will not be raised? —They will only tax the rich? Believe that and buy the Brooklyn bridge while you're at it.

If you examine your pay check stub, you will see the full amount paid to you with the Federal and state taxes deducted. Notice that there are other deductions, that are called payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Technically you get them back some time way in the future, so they are not really taxes. The employee pays 6.2 percent Social Security tax and also a 1.45 percent Medicare tax which add up to a total of 7.65 percent. And naturally your employer matches those amounts. In reality, the employee pays the full 14.3 percent: the employer anticipates this as part of your salary before he even hires you.

It sounds great that the employer pays half, but if you think about it, wages are a business expense. When you look at your paystub, you see Social Security and Medicare deductions at 7.65 percent. You’d look at your paystub a little different if it reflected 14.3 percent in payroll deductions.

If the administration decides to raise Social Security and Medicare rates, they can do it and this is not considered raising your taxes. It is only deducted from the first 127K of earnings. I would guess that people earning more than 127K a year have progressed beyond the middle class.

So if you are like me, with all of my 401k deductions to reduce my taxes, I still get hit with 20% income tax. Add on to that the 14.3 percent for SS and Medicare, and we arrive at about 35 percent of my paycheck is eaten up by government deductions and income tax.

Let’s throw in some health insurance, my employer contributes $11,000 a year and I contribute $5,000. I’m not even sick and if I was to get coverage privately, it would be rather pricey. Now if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, guess what? You now have to purchase it on your own, by law. Ask yourself one question: are health insurance premiums in the private sector based on how much you earn, or are they the same for everyone? And the government has a plan for you called Obamacare. If you are too poor to afford insurance, you get full coverage. If you make some decent wages, you can only afford the plans with the high deductible that render them worthless.

Now a couple of weeks before the election, the state insurance boards are announcing new increases in rates for insurers in the following states because of Obamacare. Here are a few of them; Tennessee: 44% to 62%, Pennsylvania: 33%, Oklahoma: 76%, Nebraska: 35%, Minnesota: 50% to 67%, Illinois: 44%, Georgia: 32%, Alabama: 36%, Colorado: 20% and Iowa: 43%.

So let me get this straight, employers don’t have to pay health insurance for workers working under 30 hours. And by God they deserve $15 dollars and hour. So, you end up working two jobs to get 40 hours and are forced to purchase government health care insurance at your own expense.

How do you raise taxes on the middle class when you move them to a lower class? Donald Trump can end some of this misdirection on the middle class by getting rid of Obamacare. Raising the minimum wage just insures that corporations move overseas. The minimum wage has never been a wage to elevate people above the poverty level; it has been an entry level wage for employers to train new employees.

Where to from here? I hope we end up with Donald Trump as President. He isn’t a politician, and this is what has Washington DC worried. IMHO he is what the country needs to get back into the groove of being a major power. Obama was nothing more than a tourist with an unlimited expense account for visiting foreign countries. The era of  “Obama the tourist” needs to be retired.

Jim's Note:

Normally this blog doesn't take political positions and I don't apologize for not being politically correct. But I feel it necessary to take a stand. The news organizations of this country have selectively decided to hide "The Great Depression" that we are in, and sugar coat the present economic conditions to sway the election.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: A Look At Luka

JD's latest Friday selection...

Luka Bloom is the younger brother of Christy Moore and is, in my view, every bit as good as his more famous sibling.

Here is a selection from his excellent back catalogue, the first one featuring Sinéad O’Connor-

And two songs with his brother-

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Drownded on Titanic

Part of a gravestone at St Mary's church, Tissington. It records the death of Frank Richard Allsop aged 43, a saloon steward on the Titanic.

Mr Frank Richard Allsop, 43, came from Devon England. When he signed onto the Titanic he gave his address as Obelisk Rd, Southampton (elsewhere recorded as Woolston, Hampshire). His sister, Mrs H. McLaren was a stewardess on the ship. 

Frank's death is recorded on his father James' gravestone as his body was not recovered. 'Drownded' seems to be a dialect word, never particularly common although I've heard it a few times.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Three art teachers

JD' offers this tribute to those who educated him in art:

The gentleman in the video is Harvey Sklair (talking to his nephew) and you can see a few of his paintings on the walls. He was the art teacher at my school and I have never forgotten him even though it was 60 years ago. And here is his potted biography and it sounds about right, matching my recollection of him -

I had been meaning to do this for a while so today I put the name Harvey Sklair into Google and there he was! It is such an unusual name that I felt sure that the all seeing eye of the Google would find him. He was my art teacher in my first two years at grammar school. I've never forgotten him because he was completely different from all the other teachers. He had a large beard and wore a corduroy jacket or a leather jacket. But it wasn't just his appearance that set him apart from the other teachers.

He didn't 'teach' us, he encouraged us to find inspiration within ourselves although I couldn't articulate it in that way at the time. He coaxed the ideas out of us and guided us in the right direction. And that is what education is or should be about. According to the OED the word 'education' is derived from the Latin "e-ducere" meaning to "pull out" or "to lead forth"  -

Rather than fill our little heads with information, he would encourage us to do things. I can remember, among other things, making lino-cut prints by carving line drawings into lino, (all those very sharp cutting tools! - horror of horrors! Would that be allowed today?), making papier mache models and painting them, making a copy of Magritte's Empire of Light, which Magritte had painted only two years before I copied it!. And there were many other similar projects and new ideas. But then he left and in the third year art had to be dropped; that is to say, art was one of the 'fringe' subjects and deemed to be of lesser importance than more 'academic' subjects. We were allowed one 'fringe' subject only so it was a choice between art, music, woodwork and something else. I chose woodwork because I thought it might be more useful - I still have the bedside table I made. (More horror of horrors - we were allowed to use a lathe, carving round table legs. Again, would that sort of thing be allowed today?)

So Harvey Sklair left a very strong impression on me and, I suspect, on all who were taught by him. As I recall there were more than few at my school who produced some really inventive and skilled works of art. 

And then the real world intervened and I went off to earn a living and it was many years later that I returned to 'art school' in the form of part time drawing and painting classes run locally.

Firstly with a regular visit to the DLI Museum in Durham where the teacher was Linda Birch who was and still is a professional artist and illustrator. She produced, among other things, the designs for Oliver Postgate's "Bagpuss" and "The Clangers" You can read more about her here-

 Then I used to go to one of the attic rooms in the Laing Art Gallery where Cheryl Hamer was running a painting class. Again, a professional painter who has a painting in the Laing although I cannot find any reproductions of it. This is as close as I can get-

I have been very fortunate in having had three very good teachers of art and I have absorbed a great deal from each of them for which I am very grateful. Whether I live up to their standards or not is debatable but that is not the point. The end product, i.e. the painting, is not important, it is the process which matters. To become fully absorbed in the act of painting, forgetting all else, is an act of prayer a meditation. During those few moments of intense concentration the painter becomes the painting, the painting IS the painter, merged into one.

That way sound a bit airy-fairy or just plain silly but it is a reality. I have tried to explain it elsewhere a few years ago- "I was drawing a picture of a vase of daffodils. My subconscious took over completely to the point where the class tutor (Linda Birch) said she was going to demonstrate some technique and I wanted to get up and watch but I couldn’t move, so ‘locked-in’ was I in the process of looking at and drawing the subject before me. That was a very weird experience and it has me searching for some way of explaining it."

 Did I learn anything? Yes! Did it do me any good as a painter? I don't know -

Just a little chapter on my long journey (meander?) through life.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Our national shame

New Labour in its pomp was guided by the likes of Peter Mandelson, now (like so many) a bought-and-paid-for EUrocrat. Here he is with some other Brits, simpering in the presence of billionaire Oleg Deripaska. They are almost clutching themselves with excitement.

They may kiss Deripaska's bottom, but President Putin doesn't:

The video is a treat - watch Deripaska lie about having signed an agreement, be effortlessly called on it and called up front, then like a sulky schoolboy try to take the pen with him, only to be schoolmastered by the President.

Where do we Westerners have politicians who can do that?

Now it may well be that Mr Putin is not a nice man. But remember Churchill's saying, "The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet." To dominate a pack of wolves you have to be a wolf. Has Putin enriched himself? He would probably not be taken seriously by his lupine underlings if he hadn't. But do you doubt that he works for Russian national interests, as well as his own?

This week's Private Eye - a formerly independent magazine that now appears to have taken editorial "lines" on e.g. Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn - features on its front page paired photographs of US President Obama and Presidential candidate Trump, dubbed "HOPE" and "GROPE" respectively. This tempts us to ask, what became of the hope represented by Obama - and by Bill Clinton?

Yes, the American econo-political machine has its own juggernaut course, just like the British one. Yet remember Kennedy and FDR: there is a period at the start of incumbency, especially when the nation is in crisis, when a new leader could potentially cut free of his handlers and appeal direct to the people to support significant reforms.

In 2009 I (along with millions of others) hoped that President Obama might sort out the crooked financial establishment; instead, it has sorted us out. And as for President Clinton, doubtless Congress and the Senate threw various spanners in his designs, but why exactly did he feel he had to repeal Glass-Steagall as one of his final acts before leaving office? I also hear that he earlier instituted welfare reforms that made life much harder for many vulnerable people; are there not times when the President can refuse to sign?

As with the EU referendum, in America Presidential election campaigns encourage both halves of the nation to hate and despise each other, and then we wonder why the people are not happy. And it's all Punch and Judy. "Grope," indeed. The bien-pensant media tell us what to think, and how to vote, and if we don't do as we're told there's an endless post-vote campaign to tell us we were wrong. But the big problems are not sorted.

I never thought we'd have anything to learn from the Russians.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Prime Numbers

JD has put together "A miscellaneous collection of 'misfits'; by which I mean musicians who defy categorisation, which is why I love them!"

Slim Gaillard:

Louis Prima:

Willie Dixon:

George Melly:

Marion Harris:

Cab Calloway:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Brexit - the issue has been decided

The Callaghan government fell on 28 March 1979 because it lost a motion of no confidence by one single vote (310-311), as a result of which the Prime Minister quite correctly advised HMQ to dissolve Parliament. That was a 0.16% margin of votes cast.
Had the same number of MPs (621) voted in the 2016 EU Referendum and the split been 48%/52% the government would have lost (or won) by a margin of 25 votes. Many issues have been determined by smaller margins in the House of Commons - here are a few just since the last General Election*:
Date Time Subject Turnout Majority Margin %
20 Oct 2015 18:52 Opposition Day — Tax Credits 616 22 3.57%
26 Oct 2015 21:13 Finance Bill — New Clause 7 — VAT on Sanitary Protection Products 596 18 3.02%
19 Jan 2016 16:16 Education (Student Support) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 — Prayer to Annul — Replacing Student Grants with Larger Loans for Students from England 599 11 1.84%
19 Jan 2016 16:16 Opposition Day — Student Maintenance Grants 602 14 2.33%
25 Apr 2016 21:26 Immigration Bill — Unaccompanied Refugee Children: Relocation and Support 572 18 3.15%
28 Jun 2016 14:30 Finance Bill — Schedule 19 — Multinational Enterprises — Publication of Country by Country Tax Strategy 571 22 3.85%
"My policy is to hold a renegotiation and then a referendum. That is what we promised in the manifesto and then to abide by what the British public say." PM David Cameron, 19 January 2016. "This is a decision that lasts for life. We make this decision and it is probably going to be the only time in our generation when we make this decision" - PM David Cameron, 23 Feb 2016.
It is time for "those who know better" to decide whether they believe in democracy at all.


* Data from - clearly there is a date error around 19 Jan 2016 but the general point stands.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dreams of Bloomsbury at Charleston House

‘Come out and climb the garden path,
Luriana Lurilee,
The China Rose is all abloom
And buzzing with the yellow bee
We’ll swing you on the cedar-bough,
Luriana Lurilee’

From Charles Isaac Elton’s ‘A Garden Song’

I remember the dizzying chimes of this poem from when I first read Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’, where the stanza sways through the consciousness of a group of intellectuals dining in the flowing light of the lighthouse. I was 14 years old and quite unaware that this poem would stream through my mind many years later, as I ambled the blooming garden paths of Charleston Farmhouse.

Charleston is the house museum of the Bloomsbury group’s country retreat in East Sussex, and to this day it looks as if its radical tenants are about to clatter through the door with easels and ink pots. In the dawn of the 1900s, the gifted sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf (neé Stephen) became part of an eclectic circle of modern painters, writers and free thinkers, who oscillated around their avant-garde home in Bloomsbury. This new group, named the ‘Bloomsbury set’ was a radical backlash to the oppressive wake of the Victorian era. Bell, trained to classical ideals at the Royal Academy, broke free of restrained British art which largely clung to limpid realism and narrative symbols. In her paintings she defied symbolism and the Victorian taste for sombre colours, creating a new visual language of Post-Impressionism in England. With her sister, modernist genius Virginia Woolf, a new freedom was unleashed on Edwardian society.

There were many fascinating ‘Bloomsberries’, such as Duncan Grant, exquisite painter and ‘pacifist anarchist’, Maynard Keynes, crucial economist and first chairman of the Arts Council, Roger Fry, who brought Picasso and Matisse to an astounded British public and Clive Bell, Vanessa’s husband and art critic. All of these visionaries, together with Bell and her children, stayed at Charleston over the years, making it a hothouse of art, ideas and bohemian living in the 1900s.

The first glimpse you have of Charleston is its ochre gable, rising with a stately yet rural simplicity from the South Downs, its violet grey windows of the attics gleaming like a painter’s eyes to the landscape.

As you enter through the door trailing with heavy fuchsia, you pass not just through a threshold but into another world. You are submerged in the greatest appreciation of the senses, with an aging gilt mirror throwing your reflection into a painted room, with Vanessa Bell’s whimsical flowers blossoming in chalk paints on the window reveal, Persian rugs trodden by bohemian feet, flowers dancing jealously outside the sash window with walls lined by portraits of the Stachey’s and a fireplace painted in gaudy circles which, if thought about, would seem to jar yet bring the whole room into a state of avant-garde suspension. As you leave the room your eye is caught by a Duncan Grant mural of an acrobat falling languidly through the heights of the circus, his wan limbs raised with a sense of hedonism against the night…

You are led through, as if by hand, like an exquisite game of blind man’s buff, imagining Vanessa composing a still life on the lavishly painted dining room table, a beautiful ceramic form by Quentin Bell throwing dots of light across the ceiling and falling towards paintings of a cat curled up in pleasure by Duncan Grant and quirky porcelain plates collected by the ‘Bloomsberries’ on their travels. Then up, up, as if pulled by spirit along the womb-like corridors to the bedrooms, with the most magnificent light streaming in from the misty Downs…

But first, Clive Bell’s library, with worn copies of ‘Intimacy’ and great hardbound collections of Byron which match the elegant sensuality of the nude drawings that hang above his painted bed in the next room…. The Bloomsbury group are renowned for their adventurous affairs and new romantic boundaries, a motif which playfully dances through the décor. Each everyday object is turned into an objet de plaisir, being either playfully obliterated with paint or produced by the artists at Omega Workshops. The house is a complete piece of art, sculpture, and in fact living. I think the most beautiful thing about Charleston House is not just how its quirky inhabitants mastered their paintbrushes, but actually how they mastered the art of life; loving, freely and with great abandon in all things.

I would like to return to the dreamy blooms of Charleston’s garden paths with the end of Charles Isaac Elton’s poem, borrowed via of Virginia, who swings back to us on the cedar-bough…

‘Swing, swing on a cedar-bough!
Till you sleep in a bramble heap
Or under the gloomy churchyard tree,
And then, fly back and swing on a bough, 
Luriana Lurilee’

by Catherine Beaumont


‘A Garden Song’, Charles Isaac Elton
‘Among the Bohemians’, Virginia Nicholson
‘The Angel of Charleston’, Stewart MacKay
‘To the Lighthouse’,Virginia Woolf
‘Vanessa Bell’, Frances Spalding

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Good enough for China

From aeon comes an interesting piece on what in China is referred to as chabuduo - close enough.

Chabuduo implies that to put any more time or effort into a piece of work would be the act of a fool. China is the land of the cut corner, of ‘good enough for government work’.

In our apartment in central Beijing, we fight a daily rearguard action against entropy. The mirror on my wardrobe came off its hinges six months ago and is now propped up against the wall, one of many furnishing casualties. Each of our light fittings takes a different bulb, and a quarter of them are permanently broken. In the bedroom, the ceiling-high air-conditioning unit runs its moisture through a hole knocked in the wall, stuffed with an old cloth to avoid leakage, while the balcony door, its sealant rotted, has a towel handy to block the rain when it pours through. On the steps outside our door, I duck my head every day to avoid the thick tangle of hanging wires that brings power and the internet; when the wind is up, connections slow as cables swing.

The apartment is five years old. By Chinese standards, it’s far better than the average.

Read the whole thing - it is a fascinating alternative slant on China as a global industrial powerhouse. It may be an industrial powerhouse, but perhaps there are growing pains too. Severe ones if this piece is any guide.

‘There’s a Tianjin-level explosion every month,’ a staff member at a national-level work-safety programme told me, asking for anonymity. ‘But mostly they happen in places that nobody cares about.’ Careless disasters are buried all the time; when a chemical plant exploded in Tangshan in March 2014, a friend there told me of the management’s relief after the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went missing the next day, swallowing up all other news and making sure nobody but them noticed, save for 13 widows.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Is software getting worse?

An interesting piece in The Register asks Is Apple's Software Getting Worse Or What?

Comment For over a year, Apple's software has been the subject of more derision than might be expected for a company of its size.

Developer Marco Arment took Apple to task early last year, arguing that OS X (recently rebranded macOS) is full of embarrassing bugs and that the company is trying to do too much on unrealistic deadlines.

Arment subsequently disavowed his post because of the widespread media attention it received. But there was blood in the water and the feeding frenzy has continued at Apple's expense, at least in part because controversy, manufactured or not, drives online traffic.

It continues to this day. On Tuesday, one fiction writer – who asked us to keep him anonymous – voiced his dissatisfaction, eliciting agreement from a few others. "I just need things that work, and that I can rely on working," he lamented. "I say this with the utmost regret, sadness, and no small sense of betrayal: Apple doesn't seem to make those things anymore."

The comments suggest it isn't only Apple churning out buggy software in the rush to add bells, whistles and intrusive data-trawling within excessively tight timescales. How many users want the bells and whistles anyway? 

"I just need things that work, and that I can rely on working". So do I and on the whole we get it, but have we reached peak software utility for home users? One comment which chimes with me is this.

little to do with apple

The fail fast fix fast mentality of software development is insane. (Have worked with software dev teams for 16 years now). Sounds fine if you are working on some new thing. But should not be used on core products. Whether it is apple (not a customer so can't say from personal experience ), Microsoft struggling with their updates, MANY others as well.

The focus has been shifting towards faster delivery of lower quality stuff because they believe they can just fix it later. Though in many cases later never comes because they move onto something else new and shiny.

It is possible of course to release things often but it requires more care than just doing it.

Too often agile is used as an excuse to ship faster and not need quality control.

Windows 10 seems to be turning into the largest scale agile fail in the history of software.

Companies like apple and MS have absolutely no excuses each having 10s of billions of dollars in the bank.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Velvet Violins

JD introduces "a selection of virtuoso violinists, some of whom you may know and some you will not":

NoCrows Crowswing (Steve Wickham)

La Feria de Manizales (Lizzie Ball, violin; Graham Walker, cello; Ivan Guevara, piano)

Dave Swarbrick

Sharon Corr

Jay Ungar

Rachel Bostock

And a post about violinists would not be complete without Grapelli and Menuhin

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Bruges Group meeting

"Brexit: Winning the Peace - Charting a new course" - meeting on Monday, 3rd October 2016
Dickens Conference Room, Birmingham & Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS
Some notes:

The first speaker was Professor David Myddelton. He said that the EU referendum was a political choice, not an economic one, and went through 6 points on his agenda for us:

1. Complete the process of withdrawal from the EU
2. Make free trade deals
3. Replace the EU's Common Agricultural Policy and fisheries policy with our own
4. Get control of our borders and immigration
5. Withdraw from the European Court of Justice
6. Restore the sovereignty of Parliament

He noted that when in Opposition, both Margaret Thatcher and Jeremy Corbyn had been pro membership of the EU. He also regretted that the Office for Budget Responsibility had been silent during the Referendum campaign, when its founding purpose in 2010 had been to stop economic lying. He said that if anyone were to be foolish enough to try to rerun the Referendum they would get the "biggest raspberry" ever from the public. He cited PWC's campaign forecast that real GDP would rise 29% by 2030 if we stayed in the EU, but 25% if we left: the price seemed well worth it.

He reminded us that Edward Heath had been in favour of ever-closer union, but between a small number of nations with similar living standards. Widening membership militated against this, causing strains between richer and poorer countries. The EU could not survive without reform. He quoted Hume on free trade and how he (Hume) looked forward to it increasing the wealth of other countries also - "even the French".

The Professor sketched out some ideas for reform:

1. The UK to join with other countries outside the EU, e.g. Denmark and Sweden, to form an "EDU" - a European Democratic Union.
2. The EDU to entice other EU countries to join then: Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland.
3. The EU divided nations along several lines: North-South, democratic-authoritarian political cultures, poor-wealthy. We should not put up barriers to the "free movement of labour", but that is what the movement should be about - so perhaps we could have some system for work permits, like the Visegrád Group.

In his view, the Prime Minister's idea to import all existing EU laws into British law, as a temporary measure, was a good one, giving us time to modify them as best suits us.

Next up was Breitbart editor/writer James Delingpole. He noted that after leaving the EU we will still have a framework of regulation, since we will be trading under WTO rules. But we will be able to make our own trade deals more quickly and efficiently, compared with the EU which takes on average 7 years to agree a deal.

He revisited June 24th - his "happy place" - recalling how he had gone to bed the previous night in despair, especially since Nigel Farage was quoted as saying he thought Remain had "just edged it" - and woken to the scarcely-believable news that Leave had won.

So, since all the EU Establishment including "Christine "Ronseal" Lagarde" were united in saying the market would crash, he bought shares, focusing on ones with "British" in their names. He made £500.

What had we learned?

1. After most of a lifetime feeling like an outsider, he had realised "We are the majority."
2. The Establishment elite does not represent us. Remarkably few of the well-breeched and well-educated were on "our" side, despite being landowners, aware of our nation's history and so on. Yet they couldn't clearly explain why they were on favour of Remain - they had no principle or ideology. They were like those ancestors who had wanted to treat with Napoleon, whatever might then happen to the rest of England.
3. The problem of the Remainers was not going to go away. Now it was an attempt to muddy the waters with a newly-minted distinction between "soft Brexit" versus "hard Brexit" - a distinction which, his Google Trends researches told him, was first made by... the BBC.

He had thought there was no hope, what with so many people having become clients of the State. When Jo Cox MP was murdered he had though it was over; but "real people" weren't swayed so easily by events as focus and policy groups might think. The People - the Demos - had spoken and made the right decision.

Last up - or first, as the other two had spoken seated - was Charles Moore. He, too, referred to the hard vs soft Brexit pseudo-debate and quoted a worker at his hotel: "It's got to be divorce."

He told us that Mrs Thatcher had begun to resist the EU in the late 1980s but was told, "This is the way the world is going." It was a ratchet effect. She had realised that EMU would make Germany the supreme power. Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum campaign hadn't succeeded, but politically it had stopped EMU.

The EU was not simply a market, but a "single regulatory regime."

Our national division over the EU referendum needed to be healed; we had to "widen the tent" and Mrs May, who had been "a tepid Remainer", was well placed to do this.

Now, the ratchet effect was in the other direction. Other nations would also wish to leave. Leaving the EU was "the only game in town", as Mo Mowlam had said to him (though he had disliked it) re the Good Friday Agreement.

In questions after, Professor Myddelton was sanguine about Brexit technicalities; he respected Christopher Booker's expertise but noted that the EU gave itself licence when it wished. He was similarly relaxed about global regulatory frameworks such as TTiP and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. An audience member involved in defence raised his concern about our relationship with the EU's military.


My feeling was that the glow of post-Brexit delight has not yet faded sufficiently for the experts to focus on the implications and the national and global issues we still face as we come out of the eye of the financial hurricane. The sovereignty question is, for me, not merely about principle (though that is vital), but about enabling us to begin considering how to restructure our warped and vulnerable economy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Two Trumps

Here are two interesting attempts to ease Donald Trump into some kind of explanatory narrative.

Firstly we have Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams who sees Trump as a master persuader.

Economies are driven by psychology. If you expect things to go well tomorrow, you invest today, which causes things to go well tomorrow, as long as others are doing the same. The best kind of president for managing the psychology of citizens – and therefore the economy – is a trained persuader. You can call that persuader a con man, a snake oil salesman, a carnival barker, or full of shit. It’s all persuasion. And Trump simply does it better than I have ever seen anyone do it.

Secondly we have James Williams who sees Trump as an undeserving master of clickbait attention seeking.

Trump is very straightforwardly an embodiment of the dynamics of clickbait: he is the logical product (though not endpoint) in the political domain of a media environment designed to invite, and indeed incentivize, relentless competition for our attention. In fact, Trump benefits not only from the attention and outrage of his supporters, but also that of his opponents. So you already are, in a sense, ‘voting’ for Trump every time you click that link to see what zany antics he’s gotten himself into in today’s episode. (Yes, I am aware of the ironic implications of the previous sentence for this article as a whole — more on that shortly.)

Of the two I find Scott Adams more convincing, but that’s mainly because I tend to find him moderately convincing anyway. At least he seems to think through his ideas and tries to remove personal biases.

Yet if the election turns out to be close then presumably both Trump and Clinton are master persuaders and both are master clickbait populists. There is no significant predictive power to either position. One goes with them or one doesn’t. It is merely a matter of taste yet the feeling persists that it shouldn’t be.

However - try this from Adams. To my mind this is genuine insight - not a common feature of the Trump Clinton battle.

Pacing and Leading: Trump always takes the extreme position on matters of safety and security for the country, even if those positions are unconstitutional, impractical, evil, or something that the military would refuse to do. Normal people see this as a dangerous situation. Trained persuaders like me see this as something called pacing and leading. Trump “paces” the public – meaning he matches them in their emotional state, and then some. He does that with his extreme responses on immigration, fighting ISIS, stop-and-frisk, etc. Once Trump has established himself as the biggest bad-ass on the topic, he is free to “lead,” which we see him do by softening his deportation stand, limiting his stop-and-frisk comment to Chicago, reversing his first answer on penalties for abortion, and so on. If you are not trained in persuasion, Trump look scary. If you understand pacing and leading, you might see him as the safest candidate who has ever gotten this close to the presidency. That’s how I see him.