Shameless hypocrisy and the cult of fantasy

Well you do have to hand it to the republicans. If you are going to tell a lie or con someone, better to go for the big con. And so we have their tax plan, that will give billionaires a massive tax cut, yet put up the taxes on middle income Americans (after a brief interlude of 4 years). At the same time it will blow a massive hole in the US government budget, causing the deficit to skyrocket.

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A pair of liberals (Jeff Sessions and some chicken little called Paul Ryan) spread fake news about the dangers of deficit spending

Exactly how much higher the US deficit will rise to is unclear, some say $1 trillion another report estimates $1.7 trillion (against a current deficit of $440 billion, so a doubling or quadrupling of the deficit). Suffice to say this makes a mockery of the GOP mantra throughout the Obama era. We were told, from the very first days of the tea party that their objection to Obama was because he was black because he was spending way too much money and threatening the health of America’s finances. Several times they threatened to shut down the federal government because they refused to raise the US debt ceiling. Now blink and they’re saying well bolix to that, my new Gulfstream ain’t going to buy itself.

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Of course, this is hardly a huge surprise. For Republicans the deficit has long been a political football. They’ll use it against the democrats when they are in power, then spend like a sailor on shore leave afterwards. The five most recent Republican presidents have all run deficits, generally worse than their democratic predecessor, with Reagan being the worst offender (although Trump/Pence will almost certainly now exceed him) and Bill Clinton being the only recent US president to return a significant budget surplus.

Obama did indeed run up some large deficits, which means he stands out from other recent democratic presidents (who ran much smaller deficits, or ran a surplus). But he was dealing with one of the worst recession in ninety years, a crisis which was the fault of the Republicans and their mismanagement of the banks. He certainly didn’t bring this deficit down nearly as quickly as he should have, that is true. But in his defence he did try to cut spending and proposed some tax increases, but the Republicans fought every step of the way.

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Tax cuts to the wealthy have consistently had the opposite effect republicans claim

Now the GOP will no doubt claim, oh but this will stimulate the economy and create loads of jobs, which will then increase tax revenue. Well firstly there is very little evidence to prove that these supply side economics actually works, indeed if anything the evidence suggests the opposite is true. The economy is like an orchestra. Lots of different factors come together to make it work. You need inward investment, a reliable energy source, a stable political system, an educated workforce, access to foreign markets, etc. Although one must note Trump’s proposed protectionist measures will likely impact on a number of these and could well restrict economic growth.

And when we say the economy is like an orchestra its perhaps better to look on it as more like a school band. It succeeds in battering out a tune, not because of the idiot in the back out of sync with the rest of the band, but despite him. But the GOP, like the parents of this spoilt little brat, filter out all of that and assume the band’s success is all down to their little darling’s ill timed and out of tune musical torture.

But even if we give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, the level of growth that would be necessary to reduce the deficit is pretty significant. Do the maths and you’ll see that US economy would have to grow by a rate of 30-50% over 5 years (6-10% per year!) to cancel out this deficit. That would require a level of economic growth equivalent to China or Ireland in the 2000’s, which is simply not going to happen. Especially when you factor in the impact of the baby boomer retirements, which will pull tens of millions of taxpayers out of the work force and then claiming their retirement benefits.

What about cutting spending? While the GOP don’t mention it in these tax plans, its almost certain when these colossal deficits become evident massive spending cuts will have to follow. Indeed, this might be the whole point of the tax cut, because it will give them the excuse to basically sell of the US federal government (to themselves!). Well the flaw in this plan is, like I said earlier, Obama tried that, but the only things with enough zeros behind them that could be cut and make a difference to the deficit are things like defence spending or retirement funding. And those are the very sacred cows the GOP won’t cut. Obamacare, for the record, was set up to be revenue neutral (it costs money but by making workers healthier and more productive it should cancel out its own impact on the deficit).

Cutting out whole government departments (as the GOP proposes) on the one hand, won’t cut the budget enough and secondly will leave key economic sectors effectively an unregulated wild west. The financial crisis, the collapse of ENRON and various other scandals of the G. W. Bush era showed the dangers of such deregulation (and again most of Obama’s deficit was run up repairing the damage from these crises). So budget cuts of this kind would cause more harm than help. Its the equivalent of setting your house on fire in the middle of a blizzard in order to keep warm.

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But anyone looking to debate Republicans on this issue is wasting their time. We need to recognise the fact that American conservatives aren’t a political movement any more (they’d need these things called “policies” first!) they are basically a cult. A cult of angry people who’ve concluded that solving the problems that make them angry sounds like a lot of hard work, so instead they’ve placed the comforting lies of their demagogue leaders above facts and decided to go urinate in a ballot box. This is not strictly speaking a right wing phenomenon (Corbyn’s supporters in the UK, Sinn Fein in Ireland, etc.) but it has certainly taken over the political right to a much greater extend.

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Trump the brilliant business man managed to lose money in the one industry where the house always wins!

Indeed, so much so that it wouldn’t be accurate to call American conservatives Christians anymore either. Many even go so far as to suggest they’d believe the word of Trump over the words of Jesus. This is a cult that is openly anti-intellectual and hostile to facts of any kind.

Consider the fact that Trump now claims things he was caught on tape saying never occurred. There’s phenomenon with US shootings, going right back to Columbine High, where every time a shooting occurs, conspiracy theories flood the internet, often leading to the victims of said shootings and their families being harassed and threatened by pro-gun activists.

Now the problem with these fantasy cults is that they are entirely self destructive and self defeating. As the woes of the brexiters demonstrate the aren’t going to get to have their cake and eat it. They will almost certainly leave the UK worse off than it was prior to brexit. And longer term, the likely outcome will be either the UK rejoins the EU (on not nearly as generous terms as it now enjoys) or the UK probably breaks up. For anyone who voted for brexit as some sort of protest against the Tories, well firstly you’re an idiot and secondly for the next two decades the priority for the government (whether its labour or the Tories in power) will be brexit and dealing with the fallout afterwards. Meanwhile your local public services will wither and die, your local hospital will close….or be sold off to some American multinational. You essentially voted to be ignored even more than you were being ignored before.

And the second problem, as Trump demonstrates, is that while these demagogues can’t fulfil their outlandish promises, they can use their time in office to feather their own nests and do a few favours for those who helped them into power, as these tax cuts and a number of Trump’s political appointments demonstrates.

As with the brexiters, any angry Trump voters who voted for him so that those pricks in Washington will pay attention to the forgotten America. Well you’re a moron. And now you’ll be ignored and forgotten even more. And the likely outcome of your decision is national bankruptcy. Which given how massively dependant many mid-west (and generally Republican voting states) are on federal spending will spell disaster, as many in these states are reduced to penury.

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The only socialism in America, aside from tax cuts for billonaires, is liberal voting states propping the economies of republican voting states

In short, voting for “populists”, or the cult of fantasy as we should really call them, is the equivalent of the chickens voting to put the fox in charge of the hen house, just because he promised to built a wall around the hen house and make the wolves pay for it. This begs the question, what happens with this process runs its course and the lies of the cult of fantasy are exposed and the followers realise they’ve been had.

Well firstly don’t expect that to happen any time soon. I mean look what’s happened to many cults throughout history. Many literally go down in flames with their cult leader (blaming his enemies for forcing him into killing them all), long after it should be obvious they’ve been conned. It will take sometime for the penny to drop.

I guarantee you, a decade from now the line the Daily Mail will take is that the UK was forced out of the EU against its will. And its economic woes since then are all the fault of the EU and the handful of migrants that are still allowed into the country (who will presumably be forced to go around wearing little yellow stars). Whoever is the poor unfortunate sap of a democrat who has to clean up the massive deficit mess left behind by Trump and co. will be blamed by fox news for the very mess Trump is now creating. Why they will say with nostalgia can’t we go back to those glorious times when Trump was in charge. And why can’t we name some national landmarks after him (because you’ve already named everything after Reagan!).

Its possible that we could see the collapse of the mainstream parties and the rise of some sort of third way, as was seen in France recently. But the electoral system in both the US and UK are more or less designed to make it impossible for any alternatives to the two party system to emerge. So my guess is that the end result of the cult of fantasy is that governments will become ever more extreme, with lurching to the extremes of the right and then the left, getting more authoritarian with every iteration. Meanwhile nothing gets done, nothing changes and the problems build up until its possible the whole system of western style democracy might well collapse. Unfortunately I suspect Putin’s Russia is a template for what we can expect future governments to look like.

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Brexit reality bites

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So before the referendum we were told that there would be no exit bill when the UK left the EU. We won’t be paying a penny. As Boris Johnson put it the EU would be told to “go whistle” for its money. We’d stare Fritz straight in the eye and say nien…..

…….of course what the brexiters didn’t mention is that we weren’t hearing them right. Rather than saying “nein” what they actually planned to say to the EU was “nine“, as in “is ninety billion euro’s ok?“.Once Britain’s rebate on EU assets is taken into account, this will result in a net payment by the UK of £50-60 billion, depending on the breaks…paid in euros btw!

We were told the PM could never agree to this. That there would be rioting in the streets, the tabloids would abandon her (what and throw their lot in with Corbyn?) and the cabinet would resign en-mass. And this morning…..nothing. Largely because the brexiters want the news cycle to move on. They were warned repeatedly that this day would come, before and after the referendum and I mean years before. The truth is most of them merely see brexit as a ladder to further their careers and they understand full well it is an act of national self harm. No matter what happens the UK will be worse off after brexit, that is the unescapable truth.

In these “talks” Brussels holds all the cards. The EU doesn’t have to be nasty about it. As Donald Tusk advised at the start of this process, the mere act of brexit will be punishment enough on Britain (a punishment that was self inflicted by the UK on itself). Sixty million do not dictate terms to a trade block of 500 million, especially when the leadership of said 60 million can’t even agree what it is that they want. Expect similar climb downs on the Irish border and the ECJ in the coming weeks.

And the EU was very clear that this money is not buying the UK a trade deal. What the UK is buying is a choice between a Norway plus model that will grant free access to EU markets, but at the expense of surrendering sovereignty to Brussels, paying about 90% of what the UK currently pays into the EU budget and only very limited changes to freedom of movement. Or a Canadian style arrangement, although that will be incompatible with an open border in Ireland, so some compromise will be needed here, likely by throwing the unionists under the bus.

Its worth nothing that there are two unionist parties in the Northern Ireland, the DUP and the UUP. The UUP campaigned for a remain vote, not because they are a bunch of hummus eating europhiles. But because, unlike the DUP, they aren’t moronically stupid. They understood all too well that Westminster will prioritise English interests over the interests of a couple of bigoted creationists in Northern Ireland. If that means effectively paving the way to a united Ireland, well so be it. So before Arelene Foster has a tissy, keep in mind she is in a mess of her making.

Now a word from the UK’s greatest ally

Indeed there were question marks about who tweeted those 3 racist videos to Trump. I’d guess that would be Trump’s British drinking buddy, Nigel Farage (who has well known associations with the UK far right). He correctly guessed that Trump would re-tweet them, burying the brexit divorce bill story and taking it off the front pages. However Trump’s outbursts and his rebuke to Theresa May should underline the other problem with brexit. In effect, if we follow through with the brexiters plan, the UK is trading sovereignty it shares with EU states and handing that sovereignty into the sweaty palms of Donald Trump. Its not so much a case of the UK becoming the 51st state (that would give the UK voting rights in US elections), its the UK becoming another Puerto Rico.

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Again as always, the brexiters are poor students of history. If they’d paid more attention, they’d know the period from the end of World War 2 to the UK joining the EU was a frustrating time for the UK. Time and again, the UK found its interests being trampled on by a now dominant US. The Suez crisis, numerous proxy wars fought out in commonwealth countries during the cold war and the Skybolt crisis to name a few. The Skybolt crisis did work out rather well for the UK in the end, but it so frustrated them that, according to De Gaulle, this was one of the reasons why the UK wanted to join the EU in the first place.

After the UK joined, the relationship improved, simply because the US needed an ally in the EU clubhouse. Now that the UK is leaving, that abusive relationship of the past is going to resume (much as I predicted would happen back in 2011). I mean can you imagine any past UK PM (assuming the UK voted remain) putting up with Donald Trump in the way Theresa May has had too? The UK has no choice now but to put up with whatever abuse they get from the US, regardless of who is in charge. Meanwhile the French are already positioning themselves to be America’s new best buddy inside the EU.

But we’re going to at least get a great trade deal off the US aren’t we? Well when Trump says it will be “great”, he means for the US. The UK, notably UK farmers and manufacturers are going to get screwed six ways.

So the can anyone who voted leave please explain to me how paying £50-60 billion to get the crap beaten out of us by both the EU and US, risking the peace of the good Friday agreement and ultimately becoming a vassal state of the US, is a good idea. I mean if the brexiters want to get robbed and beaten up that badly, just go to into any pub in Glasgow and tell em how great it is to be in jolly old England….

 

Brexiters want to build a wall at the Irish border and make the Irish pay for it

An extraordinary extract from a radio interview with brexier Kate Hoey, in which she suggested that not only was a hard border a swell idea but that the Irish should pay for it. Many were quick to draw parallels to Donald Trump’s comments as regards the Mexican border.

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Needless to say her words have been noted in Dublin, and like Trump’s, they have simply enraged politicians there and confirmed for them why the British can’t be trusted any more (hence why the EU must insist they pay their bills first and give written guarantees on the Irish border question). It looked like we were going to get an election in Ireland, but the resignation of a key politician means its been deferred for now. My guess is that they want to keep the government going for at least the rest of the year so they can maintain a strong line on brexit.

Now the funny thing here is, Kate Hoey is from the labour party. Like Corbyn she’s from the hard left and sees the EU as an impediment to his/her socialist workers paradise. This is why I’m as skeptical of left wing populists as the right wing ones. Both live in a fantasy world divorced from reality.

For example, Corbyn’s key reason for leaving the EU is that he thinks EU law prevents the re-nationalisation of the railways or power companies. Of course this ignores the reality that most of the UK’s privatised public services are owned by state run quango’s from across Europe. EDF energy for example, is owned by the French government, ScotRail is owned by Abellio (which isn’t a stomach complaint, but a Dutch government owned train company), who also own West Midlands trains. Of course in of itself, this merely makes a mockery of Thatcher’s policy of privatisation. It simply betray’s the fact that what’s actually happening is we are paying other European governments to own our public services for us, because its against the Tories free market religion to do so. But either way, clearly Corbyn and the hard left of the labour party, are as deluded on this issue as the Tories.

As for the Irish border, I heard it suggested by another brexiter how we could have a “seamless” border just like that between Canada and the US. You’ll first notice how they’re no longer holding up Switzerland or Norway as examples (which shows how their position has shifted from the one they took during the referendum), as they understand that given the likely direction of brexit (with the UK outside of the single market and travel area), its simply not possible to have customs arrangements similar to these two countries. However, the Canadian/US border is certainly not “seamless” or unguarded.

For example, consult the train timetable for the Amtrak Maple leaf, and you’ll notice how its held up for an hour to an hour and a half each way at the US/Canadian border. Well having been on that train before, I can tell you that’s about as long as it takes for the border guards to work their way through the train, stamp everyone’s passports and check everyone’s luggage. And that’s actually a fairly efficiently run border crossing, an hour hold up is small compared to the several hours you might spend at some other border crossing’s around the world (for people, it can take days for goods and cargo to clear customs). And this is only because the US and Canada have existing agreements on trade and travel of the very sort that will expire on brexit.

Bottom line, as I’ve discussed previously, if there’s any sort of difference in tariff’s one side of the border or another, the smugglers will try to exploit that (with most of the proceeds going into the pockets of terrorist groups both sides of the border). It is logically impossible for the UK to have a different immigration policy to Ireland (and thus the EU) if we share an open border, as there’s no way for us to stop EU citizens crossing it (we have this thing in Ireland called “a constitution” which gives people all of these “rights“…the brexiters might want to google those terms some time). And a hard border would violate the good Friday agreement, potentially leading to the troubles reigniting (try building up the UK economy post-brexit while London’s under siege again from IRA bombers).

This is what worries the Irish about brexit and why the Irish government is taking such a strong line on this issue. We can see the brexiters, both the Tories and Corbyn, are deluded. They have no clue about the history of the region or the long term implications of what they are doing. They reckon everything’s going to go their way and they can improvise a solution to the Irish border on the back of a fag packet the night before the UK leaves.

Of course, we know that won’t work. We know that tax revenue will take a hit, businesses in the UK will be driven to the wall and the Irish won’t be able to export anymore. And migrants will be crossing over laughing all the way, sharing their experiences on social media as they do so, leaving the tabloid bigot brigade foaming at the mouth. In reaction to these tabloid headlines, the UK government will hastily bring in border controls, no doubt they will claim as a “temporary” measure, that will essentially become permanent….and pretty soon after that the British and Irish army are back to refereeing roadside bombing competitions.

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….and just so we are are clear, no we won’t be paying for your fu*king wall. I’ll let former Mexican President Vicente Fox summarise for me on this issue….

Changing times…or not!

So prince Harry is going to marry American catholic divorcee Meghan Markle….much to the horror of the Daily Mail readers one assumes. I was delighted….until I realised we aren’t going to get a bank holiday for it! Damn! 😦

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Some examples of the tabloid’s fair and balanced reporting on this story….not that they’re racist or anything!

Naturally many have pointed out how they are a mixed race couple (ya I wonder how her family feels about her marrying a ginger 🙂 ). How this is very much this is a sign of the times, how much things have changed. Recall how back in the 1930’s King Edward was forced to abdicate because he wanted to marry another American Divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Well, as I seemed to remember pointing out in a prior post, while the British establishment certainly cringed at the thought of an American as a royal, this was a minor concern. The real reason why Edward was forced out was because he was a goose stepping nazi sympathiser (much like the Daily Mail!). And the British couldn’t very well have one of them on the throne, when it looked like they might be fighting his buddies on the continent in a few years time. That is the real reason why he was forced out, the whole Wallis Simpson affair was really just an excuse.

Yet now today, we have a US ally who is run by a racist puppet of the Kremlin. While the UK government now openly advocates racism and xenophobia towards foreigners. Brexit amounts to undoing many of the things a previous generation fought for. Recall the European court of human rights was Churchill’s idea, and generally considered a key part of his legacy. And he also argued in favour of a European union in some way shape or form.

So really the only thing that’s changed is that the racists and bigots have gotten smarter at hiding their views.

 

The height of hypocrisy

Dave Granlund / politicalcartoons.com

The sex abuse allegations against numerous individuals, most notably Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and senate candidate Roy Moore are very worrying, not least because of how long its taken for these allegations to surface and the manner in which they came out via social media. It is difficult to believe that nobody knew what was going on, it seems to have been a known fact for sometime which nobody thought to like maybe report to someone….such as the police.

This also means that we’ve ended up in a situation where its a bit of a witch hunt, a trial by media (and worst still social media!). There is perhaps a risk of things snowballing with people who are guilty of nothing being swept up in the witch hunt. Hence why I’d take some of these allegations with a pinch of salt. Now that said, one has to acknowledge that the scale and the depth of the allegations against the aforementioned three at the centre of this scandal (notably Harvey Weinstein) does lend one to conclude there’s no smoke without fire.

Even so, given the numerous allegations surrounding Roy Moore, one has to question why is he still in the senate race? Particularly given the massive big deal the republicans made about Bill Clinton’s behaviour. It stinks of hypocrisy. I mean firstly, didn’t the GOP think to vet him before they allowed him to run as a candidate?

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General protocol for political parties is to vet potential candidates, and anyone who even wants to work for a politician, to make sure there’s no skeletons in their closet. And the general protocol upon finding anything like this would be to disqualify said candidate (for the time being at the very least) and tell him to go hire a lawyer and sort this out. Its better for him, and better for his alleged victims, to have this dealt with via the courts, rather than it being aired publicly on the 24 hr news cycle.

And speaking of trial by media, for some elements of the media, notably Fox News (an organisation battling its own sexual harassment allegations), we are seeing the opposite with Roy Moore. With them acting as apologists for a potential sex offender and going after his accusers.

But even so, one has to question how is it that nobody in the Alabama republican party knew about these allegations. I mean he was banned from a mall at one point because he kept creeping school girls out. How did they not know this! One has to conclude they did, but didn’t see it as reason enough to disqualify him. But okay, people screw up, Hollywood definitely screwed up with Harvey Weinstein et al, but at least they’ve taken some action now.

Which brings me to the next point, why is he still on the ballot? Why is the party still backing him? It would make sense for him to withdraw, deal with these allegations and if there’s any substance to them, let him be punished accordingly. If not, well there’s another senate race coming up in the mid-terms in a years time.

Now the GOP will probably claim, oh but we can’t exclude him from the ballot, same way we couldn’t stop Trump (who has spent millions covering up his sexual misconduct). To which my response is bunk. There are rules and by-laws within all political parties through which a candidate can be forced out (rule 9 of the republican party for example). Quite apart from the obvious nuclear option – cut off his funding, refuse to co-operate with him, endorse his opponent and make it clear that if he is elected he will be bared from joining the republican caucus in the senate. The very fact that they aren’t doing any of this (nor did they do it to Trump) suggests that republicans are okay with a potential paedophile as a senator.

And the fact Roy Moore’s polling numbers haven’t dipped suggests that pedo’s are welcome in Alabama. Again, as with Trump, evangelicals are making a mockery of their own supposed belief’s.

But to be honest, I’m not really that surprised. For it just goes to prove that republicans don’t believe in anything, not god, not conservatism, not free markets (given how they’ve crapped on all of these principles over the last twelve months). In truth the GOP and its supporters are now simply a tribe, a cargo cult.

Their only goal is to win and win by any means necessary. Not because they want to do anything positive. They just want to win so they can satisfy their own warped egos. They have no big ideas, no plans to change anything, other than to pass a few bills favourable to those who will bankroll their campaigns. And if winning means electing a sex offender as president, or as a senator, then so be it.

Brexit….or how to lose friends and alienate allies

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After six rounds the brexit talks are stalled. The Irish, frustrated with hearing Theresa May say one thing, Dave2 another and Boris something else, are threatening to veto any attempt to move onto trade talks unless they get a written guarantee of no hard border. Donald Tusk has given May a two week ultimatum to get Dave2 to pull his finger out of his butt and make some meaningful offer on the three core issues, citizens rights, trade and the divorce bill. Dave2 however argues that its all the EU’s fault. The EU he says is putting politics over prosperity, the UK has compromised enough now its the EU’s turn.

Well the thing is that the entire brexit enterprise amounts to putting politics over prosperity. And furthermore, the EU’s counter argument is that they have to stick to their guns, the short term hit they’d take from the UK leaving without a deal, would pale in comparison to the long term implications, both economic and political, of allowing the UK to gain an unfair advantage over its former EU partners. Never mind the political implications of failing to get an agreement on citizens rights and the Irish border.

And ultimately an uncontrolled brexit without a deal would hurt the UK more than the EU. A Dutch parliamentary investigation (and the Dutch have been among the most pro-UK of the EU nations) put this at a cost of up to 4% of GDP for the EU….although they also said the UK would take a +18% GDP wallop (ouch!).

I think there’s a failure of the brexiters to realise what sort of damage this whole process is doing to the UK’s reputation as an honest broker. Some of those who you would normally count as the UK’s friends in the room (such as the Irish and the Dutch) are becoming increasingly sceptical and critical. And this is all a consequence of broken promises, magical thinkingfrom the brexiters and unguarded comments from unruly ministers (given May’s complete lack of control over her own government). And from what I’m hearing from those abroad, they are looking on with increasing scepticism and are rapidly losing respect for the UK and its citizens.

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How the Brexiters see themselves…..

For example, this week a Tory minister stated that the Irish were only making a big issue about the border because the Taoiseach was coming under pressure from Sinn Fein (thus trying to make a dog whistle connecting the Irish government to terrorists). Suffice to say this went down like a lead balloon in Dublin. Varadkar despises Sinn Fein and won’t go near them with a barge pole (well other that to whack them over the head with it). And frankly with his Jerryness set to retire soon, I don’t think Varadkar could care less what a soon-to-be-pensioner thinks. So if you’re wondering why the Irish came out of the boxes fighting this week, this is what happens when a PM loses control of her ministers and they start making off the cuff the remarks to keep the tabloids happy.

And the message from the brexiters is hardly consistent. They’ve flip flopped more than John Kerry at a beach footwear convention. As James O’Brien at LBC has pointed out the message from the brexiters has constantly shifted and contradicted itself. For example, one of their core mantra’s going right back to the referendum itself was that they could rely on the Germans and Angela Merkel to pressure the EU to grant the UK a favourable trade deal for the sake of German industry. But this week they’ve turned a full 180 degrees and been arguing that Merkel’s difficulty is the UK’s opportunity. Sufficient to say, if you think such lunacy is going unnoticed around the world, think again.

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…….How the rest of the world sees them now

Let me put it this way, suppose a used car salesman sold you a motor, offered you a guarantee, but then when the car broke down after just a few days and he refused to pay you back, how would you feel? If a fed days later he offered to do you a great deal on an nice little runner, would you take him up on it? Probably not. The brexiters seem to think they can screw the EU over, refuse to pay their bills, make unreasonable demands. Then the day after brexit expect to be able to do business with the EU as if nothing has happened.

And they seem to be assuming that the rest of the world don’t have access to this thing called “the internet” and thus won’t realise what sort of incompetent arseholes they behaved like while negotiating with the EU, how they reneged on past UK commitments and promises. And that these other states (Canada, China, Australia, etc.) will then trust the British at their word and lavish them with gifts and a trade deal that puts them at a disadvantage too. Well no, that’s not how the world works. You develop a reputation for being disingenuous, as the UK is doing, then that label tends to stick. You’ll be lucky if anyone offers you any sort of deal at all.

I used to work in an engineering consultancy and there were some potential clients we won’t work for. Why? Surely the customers always right? Well not when he’s a pain to work with and keeps sending you bouncy cheques. And similarly there were contractors in the city whom we would never give work too. And I mean we’d ship people in from overseas or even get someone from Dublin to do it, rather than give the job to them. Why? Because they made such an awful mess of a previous job that frankly even if they offered to do the work for free, it still wouldn’t be worth our while having them on site. This is the consequences of developing a bad reputation. Nobody will do business with you, not at any price.

As a result, the UK is increasingly coming across as a nation of spiv’s and Arthur Daley types. In fact that’s not even accurate. Arthur Daley was at least street wise, what we’d call a cute hoor back in Ireland. The brexiters are not. They are a bunch of out of touch, upper class twits who have lived their entire lives in a home counties bubble. They are the sort of people who go to Paris or Rome and get conned by a street grifter (hate to break it to you Boris, but there’s no such thing as a wallet inspector, I don’t think he’s coming back)….which probably explains their hatred of everything European.

You do wonder if they should slip a line in the great repeal plagiarise EU law bill to change the national anthem of the UK to either the theme song from Minder or only fools and horses. It would be a more accurate representation of how the rest of the world sees the UK post-brexit.

News roundup

I have been away on business for a couple of weeks. I thought it would be useful to do an update.

Bloody pathetic woman

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Prior to the election Theresa May promised to be “a bloody difficult woman” in pursuit of brexit negotiations. I recall joking that given her behaviour during the election (basically hiding from public appearances and avoiding TV debates), her strategy would probably actually involve locking herself in the loo for the duration of talks and waiting for the EU to push a favourable agreement under the door.

Well I was sort of right. Her solution to dealing with the EU was to go to Brussels and turn on the water works. And the EU “conceded” something to her, just to get this blubbering wailing mess out of the room. Of course they didn’t really concede anything, they simply agreed to talk privately among themselves about what a potential transitional trade deal would look like, which they’d already agreed to do prior to the summit, the only difference was they made this public, giving May the illusion of having won some concession when in truth she’d won nothing.

And the early results of those talks aren’t encouraging for the brexiters. It pretty much states what we’ve long been telling them. You’ll have to pay the exit bill. A trade deal will take a considerable period of time to negotiate, not only long after March 2019 but probably extending past the next general election (leaving the country in economic limbo for a considerable period of time). Access to the EU market in any form will mean accepting all of those pesky EU rules they despise on the UK statute books. Plus we’ll either need to hire several thousand new civil servants to administer and regulate those rules or pay the EU a few billion to do it all for us….oh and you’ve a month to make a decision, so no pressure!

Oh and the latest word from the WTO regarding the UK’s future trading relationship isn’t positive either. The UK could face charges as high as 10-50% hit on the cost of its exports after March 2019, not just to the EU but to a host of other countries the EU has existing trade deals with. Yes, we could do a deal with the US, ditch EU rules. But you’re assuming that all the companies who are trading with the EU, who will then instantly lose access to their customers in the EU (as they will no longer be in compliance with EU rules and thus their products will be banned from the EU), can simply wave a magic wand and find new customers in the US and establish a supply chain to those customers on the other side of the Atlantic…and do all of that over night.

Of course the problem for the UK is that there is now an open civil war ongoing in the Tory party. Micheal Fallon, a May supporter has just got taken out, so in return she took the opportunity to take out leave supporter Priti Patel (although to be fair, suggesting international development aid should be given to the Israeli army for use in occupied territories the UK doesn’t recognise Israeli control over is a sackable offence for a minister in any circumstances).

In order to get the compromises the EU wants one or both of the main leadership candidates, Dave2 (the person whom the media tycoons have chosen to lead the party) or Boris have to basically take a big bite out of a shit sandwich (if you’ll pardon the bluntness of my language), because May’s already eaten all the crusts. They would have to sign off on paying the EU tens of billions of pounds (having promised in the referendum the UK would be £350 million a week richer), they’d have to accept some level of freedom of movement, recognition of the ECJ and likely leave northern Ireland half in and half out of the rest of the UK. Either of them does any of this and they can rule out wining the post-May leadership contest. And yet she can’t sack them and put someone more complaint into their jobs. So in short, the UK has become ungovernable .

Hindu fascism

Should you wonder what possessed Mrs Patel to go to Israel without authorisation, try to overturn a long standing UK (as well as US, EU and UN) backed position on the occupied territories and then propose her department give UK development aid money to the Israeli army. Well we need to get past the idea that racism and bigotry is something that only white men are responsible for. The crisis in Myanmar and the persecution of a Muslim minority (by Buddhists under Aung San Suu Kyi) being a case in point. Unfortunately a significant number of Hindu’s, such as Mrs Patel are also fanatically islamophobic to an extend that makes Nigel Farage sound like a moderate.

Now naturally I’m not saying all Hindu’s are bigots, but certainly some are. And while I’d like to say its few on the fringes (who’ve probably made the mistake of reading the Daily Mail), in truth were are talking a fairly significant number of them. The BJP, the ruling party in India, at present, is very much anti-Muslim and more than a little racist. Indeed they are basically an Indian version of UKIP.

Their policies have included such highlights as knocking down Muslim temples (leading to massive riots that killed thousands), trying to introduce astrology as a university degree, arguing that some ancient Hindu civilisation we’ve never heard of once existed (and even conducted nuclear tests) and professing a belief that cow dung can cure cancer. They also want to stop tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, which they argue is a Shiva temple (its a mausoleum for a Muslim emperor’s wife)…..Just to reiterate, these nutters are running India and have access to nuclear weapons (well if they put the astrologers in charge of missile guidance we’ve nothing to worry about I suppose!).

And Hindu fascists have also been very quick to find common cause with other similar groups around the world. More than a few thought that India was on the wrong side during World War II, notably Savitri Devi a British fascist and Hindu convert, who is revered by both Hindu extremists and the alt-right to this day. I’m going to take a wild guess and assume Mrs Patel kept didn’t mention this little fact of history to her Israeli hosts.

Catalatrophy

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The Catalan crisis is a crisis not so much due to the Catalan’s pursuit of a referendum (assuming any referendum had the proper checks and balances, e.g. the need for a full majority, i.e. 50% of the voters to back it, they’d have probably lost it), but the conservative government in Madrid’s refusal to allow it and the brutal crack down before and after.

They’ve now likely just succeeded in convincing many Catalan’s that Madrid can’t be trusted to stay out of the regions affairs. By suspending the regional government they’ve left Catalonia with two choices, full independence, or direct rule from Madrid. And by making martyrs of the leadership, they’re just going to provide a totem for independence supporters to rally around.

And there is history here. The reason why Ireland isn’t part of the UK is because of events during world war one (a war which had nothing to do with Ireland, yet we got dragged into it) and the crackdown by the British after the Easter rising. Both events convinced the Irish that even with the proposed home rule we’d been promised London simply couldn’t be trusted not to meddle in Irish affairs. And hence we were better off outside of the UK, regardless of what economic price we had to pay to get that independence. This is not far from were Catalonia is now.

Hence while the sensible solution would be to hold a proper poll on the matter, something the left wing parties in Madrid have been proposing for sometime I might add, the window of opportunity where that could settle the matter has probably now passed. Up until recently the assumption was that (as noted) such a poll would go against the Catalan independence movement, while now its 50/50 either way. Also even if such a poll were held and even if it was a firm No vote, I don’t think the Catalan independence movement will pack up and go home. Having been beaten up by the cop’s they aren’t going to give up until they get what they want, so in essence Madrid has radicalised them. And its only a matter of time before some hot head starts setting off bombs. As JFK said “those who make political change impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.

And some of those bombs will be going off in Brussels, for the EU very firmly backed Madrid when they should have stayed neutral. This pro-Madrid stance was probably what emboldened Madrid enough that they felt comfortable sending in the riot squads. The EU’s reasoning has been that they don’t want to encourage other separatist movements. However my suspicion is that all they’ve succeeded in doing is guaranteeing that if Catalonia does separate from Spain it will be a messy breakup of Spain and that the other independence movements around Europe will now be emboldened to carry on regardless. In short the EU has made life more difficult for itself not less.

So clear the solution here, given the impossibility of a pig headed Spanish PM changing course, is for the EU to act. They should put in place a contingency plan for what to do if a country who is an EU member breaks up. If Catalonia must leave the EU (as suggested) then so too must Spain (as the conditions on which it entered the EU have now changed as well). Or both are allowed to transition into EU members. If that offends Madrid, then tough. Otherwise Brussels could find itself facing violent attack from separatists from across the continent, which would create a crisis that makes brexit look like a storm in a tea cup.

Not so Trumped up charges

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The first charges in the Mueller investigation into Trump’s Russia connections have been made and needless to say the reaction from him and his supporters has been similar to the reaction you’d get from a toddler whose hand you caught in the cookie jar, a combination of bawling and counter claims against his sister, or in this case Hilary.

There are allegations made that suggest Hilary may have gotten funds from a pro-Putin source and certainly there’s some smoke here, but not necessarily a fire. It should be noted that it is a known tactic of Putin to secretly give money to his political opponents, usually through back channels and anonymous allies, such that the opposition don’t realise what’s going on, only to then to allow this bombshell to be leaked to the media at a time when it is most inconvenient to those opponents. That he would play the same trick with Hilary would hardly be a surprise.

However, even if the worse case scenario was true, Hilary knew about this money, well two wrongs don’t make a right. Trump’s still in trouble, he can have the cell next to her. It is deeply ironic how everything he’s accused Hilary of, Trump and his administration have now also done. He’s had his own email scandal, his own Benghazi. Yet the GOP have launched no investigation, they are too busy investigating Hilary.

To draw an analogy, its like seeing a mafia don being dragged into court and on the way in he passes a hot dog stand and randomly accuses the owner of that stand of not paying his taxes. And as a response the federal grand jury suspends his case while they launch an investigation into the hot dog stand owner’s tax affairs. And again, its the sort of behaviour that one regularly sees play out in corrupt African dictatorships.

Perhaps more worryingly is Trump’s warmongering towards Iran and North Korea. Its been suggested that he might launch some sort of attack against these countries in order to deflect attention from the Russia investigation, which does actually sound plausible. And that’s very worrying because the likely consequences of such an intervention are unlikely to be pretty serious. Tens of thousands of dead and the destabilisation of the world, probably leading to a stand off between the US on one side and China and Russia and their allies on the other sort of serious. All to massage the ego of one guy.

Paradise papers

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The latest paradise paper leaks are oh so predictable. Some time ago I read a book called Treasure Islands about the offshore industry and many of the very mechanisms discussed in the book are identical to what these leaks reveal. I’m sorry but this is news only to the blind and naïve.

It also explains why when the brexiters threaten to turn the UK into a tax haven post-brexit, the response from Brussels is to start howling with laughter. As author Nicholas Shaxson puts it “the largest tax haven in the world is in London”. Most of the dirty work of tax avoidance actually takes place in offices within London itself. Offshore on the tax havens, they’ll have a few lawyers and officials to sign documents and that’s it. And to be fair to the UK, Delware in the US and Luxembourg in the EU means there are equivalent operations within both the US and EU.

It would be all too easy for the EU, UK and US to simply ban all financial trade with this regions, or slap some sort of financial transaction tax on all such activity. Or worse, adopt tax and salary transparency laws (meaning everybody’s earnings and tax payment records become public, meaning it’s very easy to work out who is paying their taxes and who is on the fiddle allowing tax dodgers to be easily caught). The fact is that it is an open secret that, as one billionaire put it “only the little people pay taxes”. The rich can avoid them not because there’s no way to shut down tax havens, but because the politicians are too scared to open that can of worms and try to do something about it.

Sparkling hypocrisy

In the US, the land of the free ain’t so free. You can’t for example buy Haggis, because the FDA says its unsafe (and if the brexiters have their way, those FDA rules might well apply in the UK too). Nor can you buy a kinder surprise. And fireworks are banned in some US states. Okay, fireworks are actually dangerous, but even in elf n’safety obsessed UK we’ve seemed to find a way of regulating that to a point that’s acceptable. But no so US states still say, no fireworks, they’re too dangerous, even sparklers are banned…..But a semi automatic rifle, oh they are perfectly safe! Go figure!

A matter of education

Before the EU referendum farmers were warned that subsidies would likely go, that they’d face the risk of rising costs, being cut off from the EU markets and losing access to seasonal workers from the EU. Well now we’ve seen how a cliff edge hard brexit and a sudden imposition of high tariffs could cut off that market access (and as noted earlier its not as if they can just pick up the phone and find someone else on April 1st 2019 who wants to buy several hundred tons of cheese). Farmers costs have risen rapidly and they are worrying signs that immigration controls could cut off access to seasonal workers, raising questions as to how they are going to harvest their crops post-brexit. And this is not just a problem for farmers, it will impact on food prices as well.

And inevitably a report has now come out suggesting farm subsidies should be scraped. They point to New Zealand as a model for British farming, ignoring the fact that New Zealand has a tiny population where their costs are lower and their farms are massive. The small holdings of the type we see in the UK either don’t exist or don’t produce the same things as we do (most smaller farms are vineyards producing wine or grow fruits….not a really an option for UK farmers!). The NHS was also warned that it would face staffing shortages, which again predictably are starting to come true.

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One has to question where brexiters are maybe a little thick. And actually since you mention it, polls do show a link between education and which way people voted in the referendum. Those with a high level of education voting largely remain, those with no education beyond GCSE’s were the most likely to vote leave.

So now you know what happened to the farmer who didn’t pay attention at school. He voted for brexit, lost his farm and ended up as a poor cotter on the estate of some laird with no healthcare or pension in his old age.

The centenary of violence celebrated

The wheel of violence that has ground over the middle east for decades rolls on. While ISIS looks like its now more or less beaten, fighting has broken out between the Kurds and the Iraqi government forces around the oil rich town of Kirkuk. The Kurds (some 30 million strong) are the largest ethnic group in the world without a homeland of their own.

So we can see how this cycle of violence will just continue, the Kurds get radicalised, they start a four way war with Turkey, Iran, Iraq and what’s left of Syria, who btw are also starting to turn on the US backed free Syrian forces. 5,306 days since G. W. Bush declared mission accomplished, the fire he lit in the middle east continues to burn and it will likely continue to do so for decades more.

Indeed, strictly speaking it wasn’t G. W. Bush who lit the fire in the middle east, but the British. One hundred years ago a UK diplomat made the Balfour declaration, something that was recently celebrated in Israel, as they see it as the first acceptance of Israeli statehood. To be honest, its not the sort of thing I’d celebrate. As you are celebrating a hundred years of violence, which has seen more than a few Jews as well as Muslim’s killed btw.

And the thing is that what the British were proposing to do was use the Jews as their colonial stooges. A long standing British policy of colonisation was to drive out any disloyal locals, steal their land and “plant” some convenient lackies on that land, who were generally people they wanted out of the UK for some reason or another (the convicts sent to Australia, the Presbyterian’s in Northern Ireland, the Puritans in North America).

And it wasn’t even the local Muslims whom the British were worried about. At the time they were fighting world war one (where Germany was backed by the Turks and a number of other actors in the region) and the middle east was a key battle ground, given the Royal Navy’s dependence on oil. The first unit of British troops deployed overseas during world war one went not to Belgium but Basra to defend the oil fields. And the British, all too aware that post-war they’d face competition from their long standing rivals the French, wanted someone in the region loyal to them, rather than the French. So in essence Israel is celebrating how they became pawns of the British Empire.

And there is a further cruel irony to the Balfour deceleration. This British policy of both divide and rule (which one of the reasons for the violence and bigotry in India I referred too earlier) and planting of loyal supporters on someone else’s land was greatly admired by the nazi’s. In essence what they were doing in Eastern Europe was simply trying to copy what the British had been doing for centuries in other parts of the world (in a slightly crueller way, but same basic principle). So that’s hardly the sort of thing we should be celebrating, least of all the Israeli’s.

And so this wheel of violence will not only roll onwards, but we literally have some in the region celebrating its centenary.

La la brexit land

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Post-brexit, the UK now has lower growth than Italy and a higher inflation rate than Sweden

I happened to catch the movie La La Land recently and it occurred to me that the brexiters seem to inhabit more of a fantasy world than the characters in the movie. A fantasy world that should have by now been shattered as the cold hard realities of brexit sink in. An interesting Guardian article here about the folly of the brexiters and how all of their promises have come to nothing. Which is exactly what everyone told them would happen before the referendum.

The brexiters promised “new and exciting trade dealsin “emerging markets (what on Pluto?), which they could sign up to quickly. The EU, faced with the prospect of losing trade with the UK would agree to let us have our cake and eat it. The Americans under Trump would lavish gifts upon us, some even envisioned British Empire 2.0, with the UK at the heart of a new trading hub to rival the EU, US and China.

Well its becoming obvious now that any new trade deals, even those with the US, Canada or Australia will involve long and protracted negotiations, not least because the UK simply doesn’t have the staff to negotiate these deals in any sort of a hurry. And with a 220% tariff imposed on Bombardier imposed by supposed UK ally Trump, even despite the direction and personal intervention of the PM, its clear that the US will (surprise, surprise) put its own interest first.

And who is the white knight riding to Bombardier’s aid? It would appear to be Airbus (no doubt acting with the blessing of the EU). Although its worth noting they are taking a 50% stake in the company for which they will not pay a penny…..which is kind of metaphorical for the whole brexit process. The Brexiters get themselves into an awful mess and the Europeans lend them a rope with which to help themselves out of the quagmire….for a price!

Certainly the UK can get a trade deal with the US or its other trading partners reasonably quickly, if you don’t mind conceding heavily to the other side. Or in other words if you’re okay with the idea of UK farmers being driven to the wall, chlorinated chicken, growth hormones in beef or GM grains being sold on supermarket shelves unlabelled and the NHS ending up owned by US HMO’s.

And a key step in the UK’s future post-brexit trading relations is to rejoin the WTO. The brexiters have assumed that this will merely be a formality, they can just self-invite themselves along to the first post-brexit WTO meeting, joining on the same quota terms as the UK currently enjoys via its EU membership. However, that position has been rejected by several WTO member states, including the US, New Zealand and Canada. So it would appear Empire 2.0 is a non-starter.

But then again, why should anyone be surprised. If you represented these governments wouldn’t you try to negotiate the best position possible, particularly as for all three countries it is their farmers who would stand to gain the most (or lose the most) from any WTO quota agreement with the UK, farmers who represent a key political demographic. Its ironic how so many neo-liberals, such as the brexiters, who talk a lot about rational self interest can fail to appreciate that others will put their interests first and the UK’s second.

But we’ll be able to grow more food after brexit, the government says (although in the same breath the minster in question also said we would import more, so obviously he doesn’t understand the concept of supply and demand), right? Utter tripe” is the response from farmers, who live in the real world and understand that with their costs going up and likely to prove difficult for them to hire staff, not to mention trade deals that will see them wiped out, the opposite is more likely.

And the brexit talks are deadlocked because the UK is intentionally playing brinkmanship with the EU. The assumption is that German industrialists worried about the implications of a hard brexit with no deal will put pressure on the EU to back down and allow the UK to cherry pick what it wants. However the actual word from German industry is that they don’t want the integrity of the single market threatened by the UK being allowed to cheat the rules. And they are already advising any firms doing business with the UK to start preparing for a hard brexit. Which, to be fair, is the sort of thing you’d expect a German trade body to say (the Germans are well known for their dislike of unfairness and wanting everyone to stick to the rules, if you don’t believe me try to give away a free train ticket at a German railway station sometime!).

Now I suspect that behind the scenes one or two CEO’s of the companies directly in the firing line (e.g. Airbus, BMW, the financial services industry) are having a quiet word with the EU and Angela Merkel to try and limit the damage to themselves of a hard and messy brexit. But given the UK government’s position at the talks, the best way for the EU to cushion the blow would be to offer a carrot to these companies to relocate out of the UK, as is already starting to happen.

And the EU has to represent everybody, one man’s loss from brexit will be someone else’s gain. For example, UK based car makers, who are already laying people off, will see their tight Just In Time manufacturing process ruined by any sort of border controls at Dover and facing potential tariffs on exports back to the continent. But there’s plenty of companies with no UK manufacturing bases who will do rather well out of this. And even those that will suffer the worse, such as BMW (who own Mini and have a stake in a number of other UK car makers), can simply scale back production in the UK (sacking thousands of British workers in the process) and move production to Europe.

The airline industry will also be severely effected by a hard brexit. Already the bankruptcy of Monarch makes the UK owned airline functionally extinct (BA are already registered in Spain and Easyjet are applying to become Austrian). Certainly those airlines based in the UK will face disruption, regardless of where they are registered (which includes Ryanair). But its unlikely to bankrupt them, they’ll just sack a load of UK based staff and move their main hubs to European airport. I don’t know, maybe the Brexiters never realised it but airplanes can fly!

Indeed, another interesting story, Easyjet recently teamed up with Lufthansa to try and take over the Italian national carrier Alitalia, one of the world’s most in-efficient and incompetently run companies. Yes, they could have used the same money to rescue Monarch and buy it for a fraction of its current value. But instead they decided, in the context of brexit, Alitalia looked like a better deal.

So in short the people who are going to get royally shafted by a hard brexit, isn’t the EU, its UK workers, in particular those on lower incomes. Much as was predicted and warned about prior to the referendum. So it begs the question, why are the brexiters still committed to a policy that clearly isn’t going to work? Given their public school education and decades of xenophobic bigotry they’ve been exposed to in their little privileged home counties bubble, that they didn’t realise any of this would happen prior to brexit is perhaps understandable (although not forgivable). But they have no excuses now, they have literally been told to their faces (or been laughed in their faces) by the EU and foreign governments that their clever little plan is a deluded fantasy. So they have now got no excuses.

One is forced to assume its one of two possibilities. They really are that stupid. A bunch of idiotic black knightesque morons who think that if they never give up they can never lose. Or alternatively, they know their plan isn’t going to work, but they don’t care. To them chaos is a ladder, the whole reason why Boris, Davis and Liam Fox are pursuing it is solely for the goal of career advancement. They don’t care how much of the country they have to burn down to get to the top in the process.

Hyperloopy

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hqdefault (1) Musk gives a technical briefing on his latest big idea

I recently looked at the hyperloop system proposed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk and highlighted a number of problems with the proposed system, notably its likely very high costs, the technical challenges involved in building it, the barf enduing ride and the safety issues. Recently vlogger Thunderf00t (aka Phil Mason) paid the hyperloop prototype track a visit and I thought it would be interesting to review some of his findings.

Firstly he noted that several of the brackets on the hyperloop system are absent and levelling rubber pads have been used here and there to prop up the brackets that remain. He also got out a thermal imaging camera and noted a temperature variation between the top and bottom of the tube. I suspect these two factors are related. Basically the tube is buckling due to the differential…

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Game of Thrones review: Jumping the shark

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One of the features of the Game of Thrones TV series, based on the J.J. R Martin’s novels, that I find most interesting is its attempt to create a medieval high fantasy, but one grounded in a bit of realism. A flaw often made within fantasy settings (such as the Tolkien novels, the D&D gaming system of Gray Gygax or computer games, notably the World of Warcraft series) is to a failure to consider the consequences if you start to introduce magic or dragons into, say a medieval world.

For example, as this vlog post from Shaduniversity points out, if you end up in a world with dragons or wizards who can melt castle walls (or dimensionally travel inside them) then, unless a counter measure can be created (e.g. blocking dimensional travel, defences capable of resisting such attack), castles become pretty much useless and nobody would bother to build them. Similarly if an army has to face off against dragons or spell wielding wizards, it would be suicidal to do so using the sort of tightly packed infantry formations commonly used during the medieval period. And magic would have an impact on the economy, to the point where the feudal system wouldn’t really work any more. In short a medieval high fantasy world with magic won’t exist, because this ignores the essential reasons of how the medieval world worked.

GoT and J. J. R. Martin’s books do attempt to try and address this by toning down the magic element a lot (spell casters are so rare many doubt they even exist), aiming more for “low fantasy rather than high fantasy genre. However, that said, the GoT series has kind of gone off on the odd tangent which I feel which does kind of let itself down, particularly in the latest series.

How to loose allies and alienate your subjects

Let’s start with a major plot hole, how is Cersei still on the throne after blowing up the great Sept of Baelor with a large numbers of the nobility inside? A feudal society is held together by its religion, so such a blatant attack on the church, as well as the nobles and the common folk, would generally guarantee immediate overthrow. Part of the role of the church is to get the peasants to accept their place and not roast the nobles on spits (as did happen more than a few times in our history when the church was unable to restrain them). Even if Cersei could pin the blame on some outside force, in medieval times people interpreted misfortune as proof that the divine mandate rulers relied on had been withdrawn.

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Sometimes the peasants can be revolting in more ways than one!

So if something like that ever happened in an actual medieval society, there would be a massive uprising shortly thereafter. But Cersei could just put that down with army right…..which army would that be? Medieval rulers did not maintain large armies, they might have a few hundred knights, maybe a thousand or so men at arms at most. This was kind of the whole point of the feudal system. Without all the labour saving technology later societies enjoyed, it required massive amounts of manpower to harvest crops, manufacture goods and keep the wheels of the economy going.

Instead rulers looked to the nobles to administer their lands and raise troops for them, with each noble typically commanding a few dozen to a few hundred full time troops, as well as being able to raise larger armies from among their peasants on a temporary basis as and when needed (and usually only on a seasonal basis). In short, feudalism was just a giant protection racket, which the church legitimised.

This has two consequences, firstly raising armies is expensive, simply because by taking people away from the fields you are making labour more expensive, which means everything else in the economy gets more expensive, which means sooner or later a ruler runs out of coin to pay them (and no, a foreign bank isn’t going to be able to bail them out, as the issue here is we are trying to defy the laws of economic gravity).

And secondly if the nobles withdraw their support, that ruler is screwed. The nobles (the made men in our medieval world) wouldn’t support Cersei in this a scenario because she’s broken the code (you can’t kill your fellow nobles, they’d worry she might have them killed on a whim as well). They’d also fear the consequences of their own people rebelling if they backed her. And, all to aware that her goose was basically cooked, why back a lost cause? Better to sit on their hands and do nothing and then pivot behind whoever comes out on top later. This happened time and again throughout medieval history. Most of said rulers military strength will simply disappear (or worse turn on them in the middle of a battle) along with most of their finance.

And to make matters worse in a large city (such as King’s Landing) they’d rely on local militia (basically the medieval equivalent of community support officers) to keep the peace, who would not be reliable in a scenario such as this (most would join the uprising and the rest would stay out of the mob’s way).

So balance of probability is that in such a scenario, there would be an uprising, she’d lose control of not only the city but the entire country and while she could barricade herself in the Red Keep, that would be a risky strategy as she’d be trapped when her enemies showed up. So her best option would be to flee.

Meanwhile the nobility would rally around some obvious challenger. And in GoT that likely be the surviving Tyrell’s or the Dornish houses (incidentally, a major plot hole in season 7 being how they can go from having an army of at least 100,000 one episode to both armies vanishing the next) who would advance on the capital, picking up allies as they went and arrive to essentially find it an open city. The Queen would facing a toss up between being handed over to them on arrival (then executed), killed by her own guards (fun fact, one of leading causes of death for Roman emperors was to be killed by the Pretorian guard, there’s been plenty of Kingslayer’s throughout history) or hunted down afterwards.

In a high fantasy setting, where the ruler is for example a powerful magic user, or perhaps a dragon rider (such as Daenerys) then they can get away with things a normal medieval ruler couldn’t do, simply because overthrowing them isn’t as easy. However, even they would be limited in what they could get away with as they would be bound by many of the same limitations as any feudal ruler. This actually something that GoT did cover rather well in the 5th and 6th series where Daenerys tried to do the right thing in Meereen, but soon found that this wasn’t an easy thing to do.

Right to rule

A significant plot hammer element of series 7 was establishing Jon Snow as the rightful ruler of the Iron throne, presumably because he ends up on it at the end of season 8. Because the person with the best credentials always ends up on the throne, don’t they?….ummmm…no!

As this BBC article discusses, ya he might well have the most credible case, but as its experts also point out that might not matter diddly squat in a medieval world, where possession is 9/10 th’s of the law. The Lannister’s and Baratheon’s have almost no credible claim, yet they’ve been on the throne for 7 seasons and there’s plenty of similar examples in history.

Take Queen Matilda. After the white ship disaster killed her brother she became next in line for the English throne. Her father went out of his way to ensure her succession won’t be challenged. He arranged a strategic marriage, got all the lords and nobles to pledge to her….only after the king died those pledges were broken before rigamortis had even set in and his bastard brother Stephen of Blois, a French noble who barely spoke a word of English, ceased the throne. That said, William the Conqueror’s claim to the throne was also fairly dubious.

As I mentioned above, the likely outcome of Cersei’s actions in series 6 (if the Lannister/Baratheon’s had managed to last that long, i.e. the nobles hadn’t ousted them after the red wedding) would be to unite the whole country against her, allowing the surviving Tyrell’s and Martell’s to take over. They might well invite in Daenerys afterwards with a suitable marriage pact to legitimise their claim (this was a theme explored in the novels). But either way, they’d be the ones calling the shots.

The problem with Jon‘s claim, as outlined in season 7, is its meaningless. His only evidence revolves around a vision his brother Bran had (which is a bit like saying, the bloke down the pub told me). There is some documentary evidence of a marriage annulment, but no mention of him, nor any living witnesses who can verify any of it (which is the problem with GoT’s murderous habit of killing people off). Its a medieval world, its not as if they can take him down to a clinic and run a paternity test.

Indeed, the likely outcome of such a plotline would be that the Southern lords would laugh him out of the room, pointing out that by breaking with the seven kingdoms he’d invalidated any claim to the throne (it would be like Nicola Sturgeon getting Scottish independence and then a few years later trying to become PM in Westminster). Meanwhile the northern lords upon hearing he’s a Targaryen and not a Stark at all, would kick him out and he’d end up back at the wall. And we know what happened last time he was there.

Defensive architecture

One rather annoying feature of GoT is that they don’t seem to know what a moat is, something that Shaduniversity also mentions in this video with regard to Casterly Rock.

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Moats are kind of important

A moat is kind of essential around any keep because you want to keep attackers away from the base of your walls. Otherwise a bunch of guys with sledgehammers can just stand there and pound a hole in it. Note that a moat doesn’t have to be filled with water. Any sort of defensive ditch will do. In some parts of the world they’d just fill it with lots of large polished boulders ( or dragon’s teeth or wooden stakes), the whole point is to stop the enemy approaching your walls in any sort of organised formation.

And this becomes doubly important when we are in a high fantasy setting with magical beasts, wizards or giants. You absolutely want to keep such creatures as far away from your castle walls as possible, given the enormous damage they could inflict if they get close enough. If anything, the likely response (if, as noted, we still bother to build castles at all) would be to make moats even larger or wider. Or add further layers of defence (as was the case once cannons appeared).

Perhaps the worse offender of these rules is “the wall” in the North. Without any sort of a moat or defensive ditch all the Wildlings (or undead) need to do is basically pile timber at the bottom of it and light a fire. The Night’s watch, 300ft up on top of the wall could not effectively target them or defend the wall from such a distance. So in addition to a moat, you’d want a second set of battlements further down, close enough that they could target the attackers below.

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The undefendable wall

Also the gate out of the wall into the north, the obvious weak point, has no gatehouse or barbican. Normally in a medieval castle you’d include such a structure, as this creates an additional set of barriers between an attacker and the gate. They now have to overcome a moat and at least two sets of gates and portcullises, all the while they’ll be coming under fire from the troops inside the supporting towers and on the walls above.

Oh and when winter does come, Winterfell is screwed.

Anti-dragon defences

In GoT large crossbow’s are used to defend against dragons (in the novel’s this is how the Dornish were initially able to hold off against the Targaryen’s). Now if we were to put several of those on the tops of a castle, in well reinforced positions, where they could mutually support one another (i.e. provide covering fire while one or other is being reloaded) then that could work, as they’d effectively function much like a flak tower from World War II, creating a zone of immunity from dragons, or flying enemies, around the castle.

However in an open field its not going to work as well, as there’s various way’s it can be countered. Simple combined arms tactics (where dragons and ground forces mutually support one another) is one option. In world war II pilots would fly a figure of eight attack pattern over targets, often pairing up with a wing man. It was hard enough to defend against such tactics with anti-aircraft guns, with a crossbow (which is going to require a crew sometime to reload after each shot) it would likely be impossible (unless, as noted they were built into a well reinforced structure). So in short, Bronn should have gotten fried.

…And since we’re talking about Jamie should have drowned (while armour isn’t as restrictive to movement as many think, the one thing you can’t easily do is swim in armour)….. And also since we’re talking about it, how is Daenerys supposed to be able to hang on to a dragon while its cruising along in a 60 mph jet stream? Or is one of those Targaryen superpowers having Velcro like skin? Presumably she should be using a saddle.

Jokes aside, in any high fantasy setting this would drastically change how battles would be fought. Unless an army had its own magic users (or dragons) to counter the enemies, they would not engage in large field battles, preferring instead to fight from well defended keeps (with moats presumably!).

And in a high fantasy setting with magic users, defending against flying enemies does become a lot easier, as those magic users will be able to sling spells at a dragon at a considerably longer range than it can engage them. One of the most effective tactics probably being to use mind effecting spells to confuse, stun or paralyse the dragon while its in flight, hopefully causing it to crash.

Just one guy

A common trope in high fantasy which isn’t realistic is where you have one guy who is so hugely strong or so brilliant in battle that they can single handedly take on an entire army. Now while this might apply for someone with an unnatural advantage (e.g. a dragon rider with three two large dragons or a very powerful wizard, etc.), otherwise its a bit silly. One guy is still one guy. I would argue the D&D gaming system is mostly to blame for this (and I suspect you’ll find a large number of high fantasy writers have played this system before), as its possible under the game’s rules to create ubra powerful Munchkin’s, which wouldn’t be realistic, even in the context of a high fantasy setting.

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Munchkins….complete with a +12 chainsaw

The mountain”, or whatever he’s called these days, would be a good example of this. The thing is, its easy to overcome such an enemy. Just have a dozen guys rush him all at once, knock him off his feet and then basically sit on him. Its essentially how prison officers deal with some out of control crack head and how the whole sport of rugby works. Okay, unless they catch him off guard, he might get his sword out and maybe take down one or two of them, but that’s about the best he could hope for. A suitably determined bunch of attackers (e.g. the faith’s militant) would still be able to overcome him. Its certainly a better strategy than attacking him one by one while the rest hop around him in a vaguely threatening manner.

Indeed, the D&D system compensates for itself by including overbearing” rules to counter this very problem, giving a mob of relatively weaker attackers an opportunity to rugby tackle an stronger individual and pin him down.

Undead are kind of crap at fighting

It worries me that series 8 seems like it will be entirely based upon the fight against the undead attacking from the North. If GoT hasn’t already jumped the shark, this certainly suggests it will in series 8. And that’s even before we consider the debacle of episode 6 of series 7 (okay, so you want to lead a banzai charge north with the goal of abducting an undead creature made of ice and take him south to somewhere warmer, hope he doesn’t wind up as a glass of water on the way, to convince a queen, who by all rights is wholly untrustworthy and cannot be relied upon, to send her army north, hoping that said undead doesn’t break free in the process and create more undead out of the 500,0000 people in King’s Landing, I mean what could possibly go wrong!).

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Episode 6 season 7 in a nutshell

The reality is that while undead might seem scary, but even in the context of a high fantasy setting, they are kind of crap. The key feature that has led us humans to dominate this earth is our intelligence. The idea that undead, who share all the essential features of a human except our intelligence are going to someone win is just plain silly. In fact, even within the confines of the D&D gaming rules its not going to happen. Indeed back during my DM’ing days I’ve saw one or two scenarios where large hordes of undead got beaten fairly easily, usually because those fighting them adopted clever tactics (e.g. such as those deployed by the Romans used during the battle of Watling street) or took advantage of any known weakness or vulnerability they had.

Okay, having the Night King on a dragon does kind of change things (of course he only has one of those because of “banzai” Jon’s charge up north), but not by much (one guy is still one guy, indeed, it suggests a strategy of throwing the kitchen sink at him, a combined attack with dragonglass crossbow bolts & two dragons, take him out and then his army is literally toast).

Breaking the wheel

Daenerys (Ms Velcro) & Tyrion spend quite a bit of time talking about “breaking the wheel, essentially breaking the feudal system. Reading between the plot lines the implication is that of having some sort of democratic system afterwards. However, that would be a bit implausible, democracy won’t really work in a feudal world where most people can’t even read or write. The likelihood is the people would vote for some Trump like figure, who promise to rebuild the wall (and make the night king pay for it), then blame liberal bleeding hearts like Jon Snow or Wildling migrants for it falling down in the first place.

As I discussed in a prior post, one of Plato and Scorates arguments against democracy was that it only works if the voters are well educated and put some serious thought into their decisions. The minute voters start voting for someone “for a laugh” or start using ballot boxes as a urinal in which to vent their personal frustrations (e.g. voting for brexit to get back at Tories for austerity), you quickly end up with a system which isn’t much better. Indeed, given that kings are two a penny and can be easily overthrown, while a president with a democratic mandate is a lot harder to overthrow (even if the public now realise they were lied too and hate his guts), you could end up with something worse (as Trump may well be in the process of proving).

And worse still, in a high fantasy setting where magic can be used to influence the outcome of an election (and inevitably the greedy and corrupt will do so), democracy could become downright dangerous. Furthermore, if you are familiar with the novels there’s already a system in Westeros to deal with a succession crisis democratically, by calling a great council and the lords electing a new king.

Looking back at human history, one would argue that a far more effective strategy would be to create an independent judiciary. Once the law is out of the hands of nobles and in the hands of magistrates it means the days of fighting and pillaging are over (because the aggrieved party will just go to a magistrate, get a court order, the property will have to be handed back and the perpetrator gets a to serve time at his majesty’s pleasure for his trouble). Promoting education, science and medicine will generally better society, but it also means the more people who can read, the more know about their rights and how to exploit them.

And science means developing new technologies to increase productivity, meaning more can be spared from work in the fields to take up the increasing number of new jobs which require an education, which means you’re starting to create a whole new class of people between the nobles and the peasants. Democracy and elections would presumably come much later.

And sooner or later in such a society one of these newly educated people is going to invent a printing press and then its game over, because now every new idea can be copied and distributed thousands of times over in the space of a day. The process from this point onwards becomes unstoppable, any attempt by the nobility to push back would likely result in a violent revolution. Not unlike the French revolution, which was started not so much by the peasants, but by the third estate (i.e. the educated, merchants, minor nobles, etc.) who had done rather well out of earlier reforms and worried about the nobles rowing things back.

Running out of steam

In short, GoT started off well but they’ve painted themselves into a corner by killing off characters who were kind of important to the plot and its thrashed their storyline. A situation not helped by missing out key characters from the books (e.g. Arianne Martell, Quentyn Martell, Aegon (who didn’t die in the novels, oh that might be a spoiler) or Victarion Greyjoy) meaning the story doesn’t really tie together very well.

And other characters, who probably should have been killed off, are still in play, generally because there’s nobody left alive to replace them. Case in point we have Qyburn acting as a regular Mr Haney from Green Acres effectively running multiple government departments and being Cersei’s doctor, spy master & general sidekick/ass licker in his spare time.

I remember reading that originally J.J. R Martin considered making dragons very different more akin to Wyvern’s with all the fire breathing just being Targaryen trickery or smoke and mirrors. That might not have actually been a bad idea, because giving Daenerys an exclusive monopoly on such a powerful resource massively unbalances things, as in effect we are introducing high fantasy elements into what is a low fantasy setting.

Many of the implausibilities and absurd plot holes seen in season 7 are largely borne of the need to get around the issue of an overpowered Daenerys and the fact that so many of the original characters critical to the story are dead.