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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


As the UK political class is consumed by Brexit and that in the US by the Mueller investigation, things are happening in the world.  Chatting with my brother on the ‘phone this weekend I was amazed to hear that Vancouver has been hit by wildfire smog. So I checked the map. Yes, BC is on fire.

While logging doesn’t help, drought is a major contributor. The coastal ranges of BC where there have been substantial fires are a wet place, a temperate rainforest. These don’t catch fire easily unless it doesn’t rain.

Look south of the border and the entire west is on fire.

It would be wise to act vigorously before it is too late. Brexit here has a major lesson. No country can go it alone and maintain its current level of civilisation and development, we are too interdependent. Alone, you lack many key ingredients that we take for granted, from medicines to electronics, because these are by necessity made (or parts are) somewhere else. The super rich buying up properties in New Zealand as a bolt hole against the catastrophe that is global warming are rich and stupid in equal measure: New Zealand may be ‘safe’ physically, but have they considered where the factories making their medication is? No.

While some politicians in some countries take this seriously, it isn’t where it should be on the agenda – in top spot, with a regular broadcast in the news of CO2 production, as one can get for electricity generation (just one source of greenhouse gases) in the UK for @myGridGB. The reason why this has not happened yet is not one of science communication, but one of corruption and an unwillingness of government to lead.

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Silence is not golden


Today the TUC and CBI, who are not usual bedfellows to say the least, came out once again stating what a disaster Brexit will be for workers and business, respectively.

What we could call the government’s ‘risk management’ documents are now in the public domain and they make grim reading.

Meanwhile, much of the UK press continues to harp on about sunny Brexit uplands. There is no political opposition. So-called conservative rebels are all playing politics and vying for position (with the exception of Ken Clarke). Her Majesty’s opposition does the same. Opposition is provided by the TUC, CBI and individuals, which last time I checked is not how a Parliamentary democracy is meant to function.

Interactions in the necessarily limited (in terms of numbers and types of people) Twitter community demonstrate the predicament we are in.

The Grim Leavers, continue to duck all the evidence, though their numbers seem to be reduced and they are largely confined to ad hominem. They go quiet the moment issues of funding the Leave campaign are raised.

Conservative ministers and MPs duck and dive, often block on Twitter. In the few interviews where they are challenged or at a Parliamentary Select Committee their performance is so poor that in any other employment their employer would likely sack them on the spot.

Core Corbyn supporters, and Labour MPs in general, fail to acknowledge the challenge that Brexit will make the Labour manifesto impossible to deliver and go quiet on this question. Waiting for the Conservative Party to destroy itself only works if you have taken a diametrically opposite position. The Labour Party have not.

The Labour party and many of its members also seem not to understand the difference between income and wealth. The latter is not taxed and can only be taxed as part of a large economic bloc. Social progress is impossible without tackling wealth inequality and income tax cannot reduce this.

So we are here:

1. We don’t have any English political leaders in the two largest parties, the other two parties are too small to make a parliamentary impact.

2. In the absence of leadership, I see little political appetite to revoke the Article 50 notification.

3. One interpretation is that May is giving the Brexiteers enough rope to hang themselves, one task they are excelling at, and then will reverse Article 50 notification. This is wishful thinking, her track record on immigration against all the evidence, suggests that immigration is a key driver for her and one reason why as a Remainer, she has become a Brexiter. Immigration is what defines her as a politician, she is after all the architect of the Windrush scandal. So she has no ‘cunning plan’ and will not revoke Article 50.

4. Brexit is likely to happen, because the UK has done nothing about the Irish Border or the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Brexit will be the disaster predicted before the referendum. A second referendum is possible, but would require a parliamentary majority, unlikely given Parliament’s track record on Brexit and the lack of evidence-based thinking on show.

5. Any transition will require the UK to actually put something sensible on the table rather than tabloid rhetoric. With just seven months to go, there is no sign of anything remotely sensible.

6. Hard times are likely post Brexit – on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

7. The assumption that we can post Brexit re-apply for membership successfully is no more than a guess. I can see a scenario where re-joining the EU will require very major concessions on Gibraltar, Schengen and all our other opt outs, including the financial ones. It is also quite possible that we are not let back in at all, because the continued asset stripping of the UK (people and business) effectively exports unemployment from the EU27 to the UK and boosts their employment and economies. An economy heading south is not a very attractive proposition, when you can do trade deals with, say, ASEAN, whose middle classes outnumber the entire UK population by several fold.

 

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Cold Calls


Cold calls

Still get these, always remind me of the Fonejacker sketch on ‘internet service providings‘.

 

Today’s was on Life Insurance

Call 1 from 07679 547 3865

Me: “I don’t have life insurance”

Them: “Thank you I will get our main office to call” then hang up

 

Call 2 from 029 2168 0599

Them: Life insurance, blah, blah, blah”

Me “I don’t have life insurance’

Them: hang up.

 

Phone carefully switched off after each call, of course.

 

Had I had more time, I would have gone along and requested insurance for not having a life or something similar.

The most aggressive in my experience are the car crash insurance scam, who kept calling me a while back. Having some spare time at home when they called I decided to admit to having had a number of recent car crashes. Unfortunately, when I mentioned the number, 1000, they decided I was not serious and hung up. Must have got a black mark against my name, as they never called again.

 

Double glazing? Happily for them I live in a house with no windows, seems to work every time.

 

New kitchen? I live in a tent.

 

Problem with my windows computer? I ask about how one can remove viruses effectively from… …glass.

 

One can of course try to block them, but they always come back and it seems to pay to spin them along with something literal/fantastic.

 

On a more serious note, such scams need a real deterrent in law, because there is always one fool. After all, some years ago we received an e-mail from one of the managerial departments in the Univeristy soliciting interest in PhD students funded by the Nigerian Petroleum Board. So far so good. Reading the short description of the funding, research expenses were a miserable $3 million. The fact that such rubbish was forwarded to academic staff angered some colleagues, though my view was don’t get out of bed for less than $100 million.

 

The good news is that Fonejacker style replies will definitely get you blocked for a year or two, and it is quite entertaining.

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An entirely predictable change


Past UK governments worked hard to bring the EBA and EMA to London, because of their knock on value to the wider economy, and two sectors in which the UK has some weight. The genius of Brexit has resulted today in the obvious: both are leaving London. The EMA goes to Amsterdam and the EBA to Paris.

I still wait for:

(1) A single piece of evidence that Brexit will provide the UK with opportunities.

(2) An admission of error from those who have publicly stated that the EMA and EBA would not be leaving London. Perhaps David Davis might step up first?

 

 

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This week a Health and Safety missive arrived in our inboxes. It requested that in the light of the Grenfell disaster, all fridges related to the appliance that caught fire should be checked – some quite detailed info regarding make, models etc.

 

However, nothing about cladding… …and many of our university buildings are clad. One would have thought that given the level of fire risk in a Biosciences building such as ours (pretty high due to the lab work undertaken) that a first step would be to disseminate the risk, or lack of risk, of fire jumping between what should be contained areas via the cladding.

 

If one was a cynic, one might compare this focus on the appliance as part of an organised disinformation campaign, orchestrated from the upper echelons of government to propagate a particular narrative, through a myriad of channels.

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Other than self-indulgent and stupid gits who go on about ‘getting back control’, I have yet to hear a single coherent argument in favour of Brexit.

If there is one, I would love to hear it.

Now that Theresa May has Triggered Article 50, with the acquiescence of Jeremy Corbyn, we can make predictions with a degree of certainty.

  1. Theresa May will go down as one of the three worst Prime Ministers in History. The arguments will be whether she is worse or better than Neville Chamberlain and David Cameron.
  2. Jeremy Corbyn will go down a the most inept leader of the opposition, for not fighting tooth and nail (regardless of Parliamentary majority) against the vision of one of the three worst British Prime Ministers.
  3. The economy will shrink. News comes in dribs and drabs and doesn’t make the front pages. Use your eyes and brain and you see the jobs getting ready to go. European Medicine Agency with 900 key jobs in London is planning its departure. It is important for the biotechnology and Pharma sectors. Over 5-10 years you can count the knock on effect in the 1000s, if not 10,000s of highly skilled, well paid jobs. Use the classic economics multiplier of 4-5 and just one sector leads you to economic depression.
  4. Financial sector and associated services are busy setting up offices elsewhere so as to retain passporting rights.
  5. The government has a series of documents that look at the effect of Brexit on diverse sectors. One has been leaked, indicating that around 40,000 nurses will leave by 2026.

So why the obsession with Brexit and the volte-face by a good many Remain supporters in the Conservative Party, including the Prime Minister? One reasonable explanation is that Brexit has all to do with the Conservative Party and power.

In this respect, job pretty much done.

The opposition is dead. Jeremy Corbyn cannot lead a Labour Party to anything other than ‘opposition’, due to his lack of opposition to Brexit itself. He has long been a Leaver, regardless of the importance of the EU and the ECJ in safeguarding the rights of workers, including equal pay, Health and Safety. Safe to say that despite the noise made by his supporters and Momentum, they are Socialist-free.

The UK has no full separation of powers. Unlike in the US, where the architects of the American Revolution continued the logic of Cromwell’s revolution by separating the executive, legislative and judiciary, in the UK, these are still very much intertwined. Brexit will lead to more executive power. So we effectively head for a one party state, with a tolerated, but weak opposition.

Might there be another reason too? If we consider the staunchest supporters of Brexit, before and after the referendum, they have one thing in common: they either don’t pay much tax or they are extremely sympathetic to those that do not pay their way. Aaron Banks, Lord Rothermere and so on. Boris Johnson, who was whingeing about having to pay US tax (he holds dual citizenship). This is entirely consistent with the concept of a low wage, tax haven economy. Also known as a corrupt shithole.

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On Brexit and Theresa May


At a primary school during break 28 children are playing a peaceful, if somewhat idiosyncratic ball game, with a ball bought by the 6 oldest kids.

Theresa has recently joined the school. She is not happy and and screams from the edge of the game “LISTEN”.

27 kids stop playing and look at Theresa.

Theresa “We will play My game NOT yours”

27 kids resume their peaceful game.

Theresa screams “I will take my ball away”.

But it isn’t her ball, so she goes off to sulk.

Next day she isn’t at the school. The 27 continue their game, developing it, as they mature.

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