Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2017

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…

The American national nightmare

On August 9th 1974 Gerald Ford took the oath of office to become president of the United States. In his brief speech he said:

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over... Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men."

43 years later, the American Republic is being tested in a way it has never been tested in the 241 years since the declaration of independence. 

It is not just that Donald Trump is a vulgar, boorish, lecher. It is not just that he has consistently lied about his businesses and has consistently used mafia levels of intimidation and fraudulent promises in order to cheat his way out of trouble. It is not just that his absurd self-regard renders him utterly unfit for any public office. It is not even that Trump was over three million votes behind in the popular vote.

There are three intersecting crises in America today. They are economic, political, and constitutional.

The United States is no longer the engine of glob…

No island is an island entire unto itself...

OK so there has been a breakthrough apparently...

But the breakthrough is not that a framework agreement to start substantive talks is kinda, sorta, done, maybe...

It is that now the UK public knows that the leaders of the "Leave" campaign were a bunch of charlatans. 

David Davis took "hapless" to new lows with his "my dog ate my homework" explanation of why -in fact- no impact assessments of the single most important economic policy change in 60 years, were made. Whether you choose to believe or disbelieve the shifty excrescence is a matter for you, because its all the same to the Secretary of State as to whether you believe him or not.

Meanwhile the refusal of the Conservatives to recognise that Ireland is a separate and sovereign state, and that therefore of course the UK has a land border with the EU, nearly brought the whole process to a shuddering halt. In fact that actions of the DUP have now, for the first time brought the departure of Northern Irelan…

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are …

Putin over reaches himself- but the West must respond.

In espionage the standard of proof is a variable measure. There are very few times that information can be said to be "beyond reasonable doubt". Nuances and circumstances acquire great significance and it requires an analyst with a deep sense of intuition to piece together an accurate narrative from small pieces of partial information. There may be much data, but to find the information it contains is like putting together a shattered mirror, where you do not know whether you have all the pieces. Thus intelligence can be a double-edged sword, and it is dangerous to rely purely on secret intelligence without bringing one's own sceptical biases into the equation.  Spies are much given to using two quotes from Sherlock Holmes: the first dictum is about positive truth: "once you eliminate the impossible, what ever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth". The second is "the curious incident of the dog in the night time" "the dog did noth…

Tory Leadership Vacuum

In Brexit Britain, there seem to be few aspects of human behaviour that do not seem to be in some form of crisis.  The return of the Conservative party to the sleazy days of yore is not exactly a surprise. What is a surprise is that it the rather clumsy Sir Michael Fallon who was forced out, rather than the considerably more predatory Boris Johnson.  The fact is that with sleaze, as with everything else, the Conservatives are engaging in a vicious kin strife.

Fallon had to go because he was loyal to Theresa May. Johnson stays because he isn't. That the odious Andrea Leadsom was the occasion of Sir Michael's fall merely underlines her ambition and her utter absence of any wider loyalties at all. She is, of course not very good, which is why her perfidy was quickly revealed. In fact her aspirations are way beyond her skills. I encountered her at Perpetual, which she "administered" and it was clear that this was a pretty unhappy ship, with good asset managers over ruled …

Cicero ReDux

By Special Request of Baroness Scott and Mark Valladares... Cicero's Songs returns: bigger, longer and uncut.
October 1st marked the half way point of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union.  Perhaps for many people such an anniversary is of passing interest at best.  Yet the conduct of the Estonian Presidency is reinforcing just how forward looking and innovative the most northerly of the Baltic States has become.
Estonia is a country that wants to live in the future, and with its openness and innovation, that future seems a lot closer than almost anywhere else in Europe
It is not that Estonia does not “do” the past: the picturesque cobbled streets of old Tallinn have tourist crowds a-plenty enjoying the mediaeval architecture in an Indian summer of sunshine and blue skies.  The real point is that Estonia refuses to be a prisoner of its past. Lennart Meri, Estonia’s President in the 1990s- who spent years of his childhood in Siberia- once told me that the country had to conc…

Britain Adrift

A system where the choice of British Prime Minister is Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn is -self evidently- a system that needs reform.

Despite the humiliation of a hung parliament, the current Prime Minister, Mrs. May, has nevertheless started the negotiation to leave the European Union. The Conservatives do not intend to stop at any halfway houses, but to leave the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and so withdraw from the customs union, the single market and essentially all the institutions of the EU. Although Brexit will cause major economic damage- not to mention trashing the national brand of the UK- it is not the most immediate problem the country faces right now. Britain is sailing into the mother of economic storms with the engine stopped and a huge argument on the bridge.

The "sombre national mood" identified by the venerable Queen Elizabeth II is rightly named.

The sense that the Brexit vote has cast Britain adrift in uncertain international waters has grown over the past year si…

After the Earthquake

When the Exit poll arrived I was, for a moment, utterly elated. 

The Conservatives had finally done enough to alienate even their most die-hard supporters. Fox hunting, grammar schools, dementia tax and above all the Kamikaze Brexit -not to mention all the other festering, broiling drivel of their brain dead manifesto and vacuous campaign- had finally brought the Tories to defeat. Yet, and yet, Theresa May, in all her tin-eared, out-of-touch, arrogance remains the Prime Minister. Despite Boris Johnson's transparent moves- as George Osborne noted, Johnson has a permanent leadership campaign- in fact Mrs. May, despite electoral embarrassment bordering on humiliation, remains Prime Minister and will probably survive for far longer than the chimpanzee cage of the British press currently thinks.

The fact is that after the biggest scare of their lives the Conservatives are in the same mind set as Dr. Johnson: "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mi…

Hopes and Fears

Watching the UK election from afar has been a sad and chastening experience. The fact is that neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of HM Opposition are fit for office. 

The partisan media scream for their particular political brand but have utterly failed to dissect the issues that threaten to wrench the UK into crisis and possible collapse. Biased, incoherent and feral, the British press has systematically undermined democratic debate and even basic rules of decency. Frankly the drivel that most of the print media serve up is a slop of insults to the intelligence and out-and-out depravity that genuinely makes me ashamed of the country of my birth. That the FT, The Economist and sometimes the Guardian do provide nuanced and thoughtful opinion doesn't off-set the verminous alt-right lies published by the off-shore owned, tax avoiding right wing bastards in the Dailies Telegraph, Express, Mail, or the Times or the Sun. In future years we will not need to look far to understand t…

News from Abroad

Some people have drawn parallels between the shock of Brexit in the UK and the shock of the advent of Donald Trump as President of the United States. In particular on both sides of the Atlantic there is a powerful sense of the role of the media in both events. Of course, Trump himself is a product of celebrity culture who managed, improbably, to turn a reality TV show into a platform for government. Through the power of the alternative media he was able to create a platform and a power base. The supporters of Brexit many of whom, such as Nigel Farage, are close to Trump also followed an alternative media playbook.

Both the Leave campaign and the Trump campaign played fast and loose with the truth, or to put it plainly- they lied.

There are doubtless many other parallels in the campaign, but what has happened since the the advent of May and Trump- May unelected as PM and Trump 3 million votes behind in the popular vote- is instructive. Neither government can claim a fully legitimate mand…

An Unreasonable Brexit could be fatal for the UK

The weeks pass and the position of the Conservative Brexit government grows ever more unreasonable. Many people who voted to leave the EU would still have been perfectly happy with an "economic association", indeed it was the default option for probably the majority of those who voted to leave: "we should have an economic not political union". Leaving aside the practicalities of how much economic issues require political engagement, the idea of limited economic cooperation is not unreasonable.

However the current position of the Conservative government is that Brexit means the end of British membership of any European cooperation groups, whether political or economic. Brexit means not merely withdrawal from the EU, but the outer group of European Free Trade Area (EFTA) nations that are members of the EEA. It even means the withdrawal from the EU customs union. This total withdrawal is not the majority position of the British people: 48% voted to remain full members …

The misjudgment of Theresa May

It has been a long hiatus from blogging.
Partly it was that I have had little time and less inclination to comment of a series of utterly catastrophic events for Western values. I began to feel that the fear of the implosion of the West that this blog was founded to warn against had actually happened. The withdrawal of the UK from Europe and the advent- one can hardly say that losing by three million votes was an election- of Donald Trump in the United States are two malign sides of the same discredited coin. A spectacular failure of confidence and a betrayal of what open societies are supposed to stand for.
In ancient Rome, a victorious general could be granted a Triumph- a truly extravagant ceremony where the Triumphator was promoted for one day above all mortal Romans. In the midst of this adulation a slave would travel with the hero saying: "Respice post te. Hominem te momento" (Look [to the time] after you [are gone]. Remember you are only a man. This "momento mori&q…