The grinning stupid authoritarian (GSA) phase

…the founder

When privileged-arch-fascist-climate-denier James Delingpole called his 2009 book Welcome to Obamaland: I Have Seen Your Future and It Doesn’t Work , he was onto something.

The UK had unhappily become the template for the next ten years in the polities of the complacent and morally confused West. All thanks to Tony Blair, and I should add, with the benefits of hindsight and his recent return to prominence, the selfish idiocy of John Major. His determination to continue as a dud Tory PM for a couple of years – despite a thriving economy – gave us the horrors that began in 1997.

So, we got Blair, slowly ruining that economy, along with his hated rival Gordon Brown, and visiting quite astonishing amounts of carnage on various foreign countries in the process. He is sort of reviled now, though he obviously finds it hard to take. Brexit has given him the opportunity that he craves to start lecturing us all again.

In any event, I would say that Britain had begun to recover from his peculiar brand of smoothness, his labelling of opponents as morally bad people, and his oafish certainty. Theresa May’s dismal reign is essentially a hiatus in that recovery, I hope.

That depressing period is becoming a distant memory of course, as we actually got rid of Blair a whole 11 years ago, and whatever his demerits, his successor Brown was not a grinning authoritarian, and nor was Dave, after 2010.


Obama, a master of the amiable rictus, came in after a cunningly stage managed meteoric rise, in 2008, and exemplified the essential features of the GSA: a messianic view of his own powers and beliefs; the support of a mostly invertebrate and adulatory media; a hatred of  ‘old’ (and generally successful) norms in economics, morality, societal structure; a tendency to reward untalented cronies for fawning; an unthinking obsession with climate change; complacency about the electorate; a counterintuitive tendency to violence and the use of physical authority.

There are no doubt lots of other themes, but they’ll do for now.

The final common pathway of all this is the same – failure.

This failure though is one that only affects the public good, including the economy. The corollary of it is that the GSA will always end up personally enriched. That said, they rarely end up happy. This blog began in 2010 with exactly that observation.

Obama’s failures are many, although his extended media fan club hate to admit it. His irrefutable achievement was being the first African American president. The rest of it – not so much. Obamacare is tottering, he was the master of the multi-casualty drone strike, he destroyed his own party as for eight years it was all about him (another typical feature), the economy stagnated with absurd claims made to disguise failure, the church was targeted, terrorists were routinely appeased, and so on and on and on. Par for the course.


Macron has turned into an ongoing car crash (even as I write) at a quite incredible speed. Clearly more intelligent and widely educated than both Blair and Obama, he nevertheless has proven to be amazingly out of touch and stupid. His de haut en bas style is ruining both him and France. It’s as if he’s making their mistakes at triple speed, just to catch up. What is funny is that he clearly didn’t see it coming – he thought the template worked. The inherent lack of principle is deliciously emphasised by him folding on his daft fuel tax – either climate changes exists and the proposed actions matter or it doesn’t (spoiler – it doesn’t).

…the new boy

The newest GSA is Leo Varadkar. Poor Ireland, generally badly run by a host of chancers since de Valera threw in the towel, its unique identity has been slowly crushed and subsumed by the secular brutality of the EU superstate. Once it sold its soul by giving in to voting twice on the dreadful Lisbon Treaty, it became a perfect seed bed for a GSA – and Varadkar is an exemplar of the breed. Number one priority was sucking up to EU overlords – there would be no  prospect of dissent. Number two was going to town on legalising abortion – a far more controversial topic to this day than was ever admitted – which inevitably was joined with lots of church bashing. Number three is kicking Theresa May about, which everyone finds easy these days. It plays to the time honoured anti-English gallery in the Republic, itself a form of ‘toxic nationalism’.

There is no happy ending here. These menaces always cause untold avoidable harm. They bask in the approval of  most of the media and the young, until everyone begins to realise that this maybe isn’t so great after all, by which point lives have been lost, economies ruined, society broken further.

At the moment though, we can always eventually throw the bastards out. Far better would be to spot them in advance and never vote them in, in the first place.





The unwritten rulebook (part 1001)

I’m lifting this brief post from the very smart and witty Steven Hayward at the peerless Powerline, which apart from anything else, has five regular writers who are absolute role models for concise and pithy blog posting. Here is the essence of Steve’s piece, referring to the work of Michael Uhlmann, about whom I know very little. He is though, a master of the unwritten law:

Like Uhlmann’s law of legislative analysis:

If an Act of Congress has a long title—lock up the children and run for cover.

Or Uhlmann’s Razor:

When stupidity seems a sufficient explanation, there is no need for recourse to any more elaborate analysis.

Uhlmann’s Razor also has a corollary known as Uhlmann’s First Law of Historical Causation:

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

And my personal favorite:

When evaluating the soundness of any moral proposition, law, rule, or regulation, however popular, to ascertain its true meaning, read it aloud slowly in a German accent.

…to which Steve adds the rules of historian Robert Conquest:

  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

Timeless advice from both parties, and universal (ie. also broadly applies to the UK)

Uhlmann’s Razor applies again


The paradoxes of #Brexit

A bold and confident Brexiteer…

Paradox is a beautiful tool of language, the master of which was GK Chesterton (1, 2, 3), but in our times Mark Steyn seems to be able to produce them effortlessly and very wittily.

At the heart of the Brexit mess lie a few of these gems, the first being the truth that strikes a cold, paralysing fear into the hearts of the hubristic masters of the EU project:

~ The EU and Remainers are not afraid that (No Deal) Brexit will fail,  they are afraid that it will succeed

~ In the UK the official opposition is not particularly opposed to Brexit (despite some noisy Blairites)

~ Democracy loving (allegedly) Remainers are recklessly trying to overturn the result of the biggest democratic exercise in British history

~In a class ridden society (allegedly), the upper and lower classes are united by being assaulted by an enraged middle class

~ The entire Despite Brexit movement is a living, pulsating mass of new paradoxes and baffled journalists every day. Here are just a few of the recent ones: 1 (from the FT, spiritual home of the Despite Brexit classes) 2 and 3. They’re not hard to find.

No doubt there are quite a few more of  these unexpected results of the Brexit vote, though more specifically, of the failure to accept its result.

Paradox  implies that humility is a good idea. That applies to both sides of the Brexit divide, but Remainers’ continued failure to predict the future suggests that they perhaps need that particular virtue more than most.

As it happens, given the sheer loathing (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) that Remainers have demonstrated for the rest of us – a fault also found in Brexiteers, but to nowhere near the same extent – another Chesterton paradox seems applicable….

It is a great mistake to suppose that love unites and unifies men. Love diversifies them, because love is directed towards individuality. The thing that really unites men and makes them like to each other is hatred.

The 7 ages (so far) of #Brexit

…happy days
  1. 1st February 2016, the European Union Referendum Act 2015 becomes law. This is based on a Tory manifesto promise, and the referendum was supported by Labour in the debates. The question was to be
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

with the responses to the question to be marked with a single (X):

Remain a member of the European Union
Leave the European Union

Which seems straightforward. I don’t see any mention of ‘a deal’

2. Dave announces the Brexit referendum. The announcement is on the 20th February  2016. The date of the poll will be 23rd June 2016. Dave says “I do not love  Brussels. I love Britain. I am the first to say there are many ways the EU needs to improve. The task of reforming Europe does not end with yesterday’s agreement. I will never say our country could not survive outside Europe … That is not the question. The question is will we be safer, stronger and better off working together in a reformed Europe or out on our own. You will decide and whatever your decision I will do my best to deliver it” . Well he forgot that last bit.

…not one of Dan’s best

3. There is lots of campaigning. Both sides are working from the same premise. In or out. There is no substantive talk of deals, Hard and Soft Brexits etc. Both sides are spending money like water. There is no mention of Putin. There is lots of absurd Remainer scaremongering. Virtually all of the media are anti-Brexit, though honourable exceptions include a couple of Guardianistas like Larry Elliott, thoughtful    Europhiles like Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, and the Daily Express. The Sun came over eventually. Remainers are serenely confident usually (see right). Oddly, both sides pretty much concede that the EU is a corrupt, dysfunctional, expensive, authoritarian, bureaucratic behemoth (I’m not joking), but weirdly, Remainers still think it can be reformed.

4.      23rd June 2016 is the date of the referendum. There is a huge turnout. There is no suggestion that this is an electorate that hasn’t thought it through – the opposite is true. Remainers seem relaxed, as like Nigel Farage at 2200hr, they think they’ve won.

5.     The result: 52% leave v 48% Remain. It may sound close, but that is pretty clear cut as these things go. Remainers go absolutely ballistic with rage. That 52% is accurately described by Hero Of Our Times, Brendan O’Neill as the largest bloc of voters in the entire history of this nation.

6.     After more than two tedious years of Remainer and media whingeing about the thick  electorate, we wuz lied to, the thought that they might need to apply for a visa to go ski-ing etc etc, it becomes clear that there has been no substantial preparation by Remainer pols and civil servants for Brexit as both sides understood it pre-referendum (now dishonestly known as Hard, or No Deal Brexit). This was their primary task, not fannying around trying to strike a feeble compromise deal with arrogant Eurocrats who clearly hate them.

To reiterate, there was a necessary role in negotiating over specific (and relatively limited) financial and moral obligations, as well as unique issues such as the status of EU citizens already in the UK. Even popular issues such as visa free travel could wait, as along with many other issues, there is mutual benefit in producing reciprocal arrangements, which would (and will) inevitably come to pass. There was never any sense – until Remain lost – that a complex overarching deal was even an issue.

The pathetic whining by the SNP is a self-centred sideshow – Brexit is irrelevant to Scottish independence, although it highlights their astonishing hypocrisy, mysteriously preferring the EU yoke to that of the evil English. Likewise the utterly cynical invention of an ‘Irish border problem’, intentionally reviving memories of terrorism to serve the twisted cause, could be ‘solved’ at the stroke of a pen. Ask an Irishman.

7.    November 15th 2018: Desperate Theresa May produces a ‘deal’/capitulation that is so comprehensively bad, undemocratic, dishonest and stupid that it unites sworn enemies, and makes Eurothug Michel Barnier smile, albeit temporarily.

The ‘deal’ is well described by many, notably here, by the calm and well informed Pete North, and by Steerpike in The Spectator. I have pinched this from behind their paywall, as it is so important. If anything they go soft on the betrayal element. Apologies for the length, and you can read No 10’s slippery rebuttal here. They must have been stressed:

This week, Theresa May’s government teetered on the point of collapse over her proposed Brexit deal. The withdrawal agreement between the UK and Brussels led to Dominic Raab and Esther McVey resigning in protest. However, May’s remaining ministers have since attempted to rally around her at least in the short term. Speaking on Friday, Liam Fox – the International Trade Secretary – gave a speech in which he declared ‘a deal is better than no deal’. This is rather different to May’s old claim that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.

So, is Fox right? Mr S thought it best to let readers decide for themselves. In theory, Britain is leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. But the legal small print, published by Brussels, shows what this means. Parliament will be asked to ratify a deal which clearly admits that ‘all references to ‘Member States’ and competent authorities of Member States…shall be read as including the United Kingdom.’ (Article 7). So the UK will be bound by EU laws, at least during a transition period. But this ‘transition period’ can be be made to last forever (Article 132).  And even if a successor deal is agreed, the UK will have signed away other rights for years to come.

Just in case readers don’t have the time to go through the lengthy document themselves, Steerpike has compiled a list of the top 40 horrors lurking in the small print of Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

In summary: The supposed ‘transition period’ could last indefinitely or, more specifically, to an undefined date sometime this century (“up to 31 December 20XX”, Art. 132). So while this Agreement covers what the government is calling Brexit, what we in fact get is: ‘transition’ + extension indefinitely (by however many years we are willing to pay for) + all of those extra years from the ‘plus 8 years’ articles.

Should it end within two years, as May hopes, the UK will still be signed up to clauses keeping us under certain rules (like VAT and ECJ supervision) for a further eight years. Some clauses have, quite literally, a “lifetime” duration (Art.39). If the UK defaults on transition, we go in to the backstop with the Customs Union and, realistically, the single market. We can only leave the transition positively with a deal. But we sign away the money. So the EU has no need to give us a deal, and certainly no incentive to make the one they offered ‘better’ than the backstop. The European Court of Justice remains sovereign, as repeatedly stipulated. Perhaps most damagingly of all, we agree to sign away the rights we would have, under international law, to unilaterally walk away. Again, what follows relates (in most part) for the “transition” period. But the language is consistent with the E.U. imagining that this will be the final deal.

The top 40 horrors:

  1. From the offset, we should note that this is an EU text, not a UK or international text. This has one source. The Brexit agreement is written in Brussels.
  2. May says her deal means the UK leaves the EU next March. The Withdrawal Agreement makes a mockery of this. “All references to Member States and competent authorities of Member States…shall be read as including the United Kingdom.” (Art 6). Not quite what most people understand by Brexit. It goes on to spell out that the UK will be in the EU but without any MEPs, a commissioner or ECJ judges. We are effectively a Member State, but we are excused – or, more accurately, excluded – from attending summits. (Article 7)
  3. The European Court of Justice is decreed to be our highest court, governing the entire Agreement – Art. 4. stipulates that both citizens and resident companies can use it. Art 4.2 orders our courts to recognise this. “If the European Commission considers that the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties or under Part Four of this Agreement before the end of the transition period, the European Commission may, within 4 years after the end of the transition period, bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union”. (Art. 87)
  4. The jurisdiction of the ECJ will last until eight years after the end of the transition period. (Article 158).
  5. The UK will still be bound by any future changes to EU law in which it will have no say, not to mention having to comply with current law. (Article 6(2))
  6. Any disputes under the Agreement will be decided by EU law only – one of the most dangerous provisions. (Article 168). This cuts the UK off from International Law, something we’d never do with any foreign body. Arbitration will be governed by the existing procedural rules of the EU law – this is not arbitration as we would commonly understand it (i.e. between two independent parties). (Article 174)
  7. “UNDERLINING that this Agreement is founded on an overall balance of benefits, rights and obligations for the Union and the United Kingdom” No, it should be based upon the binding legal obligations upon the EU contained within Article 50. It is wrong to suggest otherwise.
  8. The tampon tax clause: We obey EU laws on VAT, with no chance of losing the tampon tax even if we agree a better deal in December 2020 because we hereby agree to obey other EU VAT rules for **five years** after the transition period. Current EU rules prohibit 0-rated VAT on products (like tampons) that did not have such exemptions before the country joined the EU.
  9. Several problems with the EU’s definitions: “Union law” is too widely defined and “United Kingdom national” is defined by the Lisbon Treaty: we should given away our right to define our citizens. The “goods” and the term “services” we are promised the deal are not defined – or, rather, will be defined however the EU wishes them to be. Thus far, this a non-defined term so far. This agreement fails to define it.
  10. The Mandelson Pension Clause: The UK must promise never to tax former EU officials based here – such as Peter Mandelson or Neil Kinnock – on their E.U. pensions, or tax any current Brussels bureaucrats on their salaries. The EU and its employees are to be immune to our tax laws. (Article 104)
  11. Furthermore, the UK agrees not to prosecute EU employees who are, or who might be deemed in future, criminals (Art.101)
  12. The GDPR clause. The General Data Protection Regulation – the EU’s stupidest law ever? – is to be bound into UK law (Articles 71 to 73). There had been an expectation in some quarters that the UK could get out of it.
  13. The UK establishes a ‘Joint Committee’ with EU representatives to guarantee ‘the implementation and application of this Agreement’. This does not sound like a withdrawal agreement – if it was, why would it need to be subject to continued monitoring? (Article 164). This Joint Committee will have subcommittees with jurisdiction over: (a) citizens’ rights; (b) “other separation provisions”; (c) Ireland/Northern Ireland; (d) Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus; (e) Gibraltar; and (f) financial provisions. (Article 165)
  14. The Lifetime clause: the agreement will last as long as the country’s youngest baby lives. “the persons covered by this Part shall enjoy the rights provided for in the relevant Titles of this Part for their lifetime”. (Article 39).
  15. The UK is shut out of all EU networks and databases for security – yet no such provision exists to shut the EU out of ours. (Article 8)
  16. The UK will tied to EU foreign policy, “bound by the obligations stemming from the international agreements concluded by the Union” but unable to influence such decisions. (Article 124)
  17. All EU citizens must be given permanent right of residence after five years – but what counts as residence? This will be decided by the EU, rather than UK rules. (Articles 15-16)
  18. Britain is granted the power to send a civil servant to Brussels to watch them pass stupid laws which will hurt our economy. (Article 34)
  19. The UK agrees to spend taxpayers’ money telling everyone how wonderful the agreement is. (Article 37)
  20. Art 40 defines Goods. It seems to includes Services and Agriculture. We may come to discover that actually ‘goods’ means everything.
  21. Articles 40-49 practically mandate the UK’s ongoing membership of the Customs Union in all but name.
  22. The UK will be charged to receive the data/information we need in order to comply with EU law. (Article 50)
  23. The EU will continue to set rules for UK intellectual property law (Article 54 to 61)
  24. The UK will effectively be bound by a non-disclosure agreement swearing us to secrecy regarding any EU developments we have paid to be part. This is not mutual. The EU is not bound by such measures. (Article 74)
  25. The UK is bound by EU rules on procurement rules – which effectively forbids us from seeking better deals elsewhere. (Articles 75 to 78)
  26. We give up all rights to any data the EU made with our money (Art. 103)
  27. The EU decide capital projects (too broadly defined) the UK is liable for. (Art. 144)
  28. The UK is bound by EU state aid laws until future agreement – even in the event of an agreement, this must wait four years to be valid. (Article 93)
  29. Similar advantages and immunities are extended to all former MEPs and to former EU official more generally. (Articles 106-116)
  30. The UK is forbidden from revealing anything the EU told us or tells us about the finer points of deal and its operation. (Article 105).
  31. Any powers the UK parliament might have had to mitigate EU law are officially removed. (Article 128)
  32. The UK shall be liable for any “outstanding commitments” after 2022 (Article 142(2) expressly mentions pensions, which gives us an idea as to who probably negotiated this). The amount owed will be calculated by the EU. (Articles 140-142)
  33. The UK will be liable for future EU lending. As anyone familiar with the EU’s financials knows, this is not good. (Article143)
  34. The UK will remain liable for capital projects approved by the European Investment Bank. (Article 150).
  35. The UK will remain a ‘party’ (i.e. cough up money) for the European Development Fund. (Articles 152-154)
  36. And the EU continues to calculate how much money the UK should pay it. So thank goodness Brussels does not have any accountancy issues.
  37. The UK will remain bound (i.e coughing up money) to the European Union Emergency Trust Fund – which deals with irregular migration (i.e. refugees) and displaced persons heading to Europe. (Article 155)
  38. The agreement will be policed by ‘the Authority’ – a new UK-based body with ‘powers equivalent to those of the European Commission’. (Article 159)
  39. The EU admits, in Art. 184, that it is in breach of  Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which oblige it to “conclude an agreement” of the terms of UK leaving the EU. We must now, it seems, “negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship.” And if the EU does not? We settle down to this Agreement.
  40. And, of course, the UK will agree to pay £40bn to receive all of these ‘privileges’. (Article 138)

Watch this space. The deal is doomed. No Deal Brexit, AKA Brexit, is around the corner.

Writing as music: unexpected economist addition

In the previous post I gave a few examples of superior prose, to the point where it conjured up music, in my mind at least. Who would have thought that economics, a notably dry specialism, would be associated with a sparkling example of this (for which I am in debt to Paul Johnson):

How can I convey to the reader, who does not know him, any first impressions of this extraordinary figure of our time, this siren, this goat-footed bard, this half-human visitor to our age from the hag-ridden magic and enchanted woods of Celtic antiquity? Mr Lloyd George is rooted in nothing; he is void and without content; he lives and feeds on his immediate surroundings; he is an instrument and a player at the same time which plays on the company and plays on them too; he is a prism which collects light and distorts it and is most brilliant if the light comes from many quarters at once; a vampire and a medium in one*

Like much great poetry, I’m not entirely sure that can I decipher all the meanings and allusions in that short paragraph, but it is quite brilliant. The author? None other than John Maynard Keynes (in Essays in Biography), the King of Bretton Woods and undoubtedly the most abused economic theorist of the 20th century, in terms of his message being distorted – like Lloyd George’s light.

You may pick your own musical parallel, for me its crammed and elusive vituperation is definitely Berliozian, with a touch of Ravel’s glassy menace.

Keynes, also known as an economist


* something of Tony Blair in this description, I would say


Writing as music

It takes more than the ordinary journalistic literary skills to come up with an opener like this:

Ithe geography of the arts, Canadian is to American as Irish is to English and Jewish is to everyone. Social imitators by proximity, but intellectual ironists by distance, Canadians are the same as Americans, but more so—more obviously stranded in the wilderness because there is so much of it and so few of them, and more similar in politics to the Old World than the New. Their Liberals are centrists, not leftists ashamed of their leftism, and their Conservatives are even Tories.

…a gem of taut prose, I’d say,  setting up a sharp critique of the (overpraised) Saul Bellow, by Dominic Green, whose taste also runs to some of the best jazz. The paragraph’s formal interlocking and anticipatory pulse has a little in common with the technical facility and improvisatory chops of a Dave Brubeck.

Or, in a complete change of mood,  the closing paragraph of the first chapter of Dombey and Son. In fact, the very last line in it:

..the little voice, familiar and dearly loved, awakened some show of consciousness, even at that ebb. For a moment, the closed eye lids trembled, and the nostril quivered, and the faintest shadow of a smile was seen.

‘Mama!’ cried the child sobbing aloud. ‘Oh dear Mama! oh dear Mama!’

The Doctor gently brushed the scattered ringlets of the child, aside from the face and mouth of the mother. Alas how calm they lay there; how little breath there was to stir them!

Thus, clinging fast to that slight spar within her arms, the mother drifted out upon the dark and unknown sea that rolls round all the world.

To be repeated in a sad variation, at the end of chapter 16, when the Son, Paul, dies:

‘Now lay me down,’ he said, ‘and, Floy, come close to me, and let me see you!’Sister and brother wound their arms around each other, and the golden light came streaming in, and fell upon them, locked together.‘How fast the river runs, between its green banks and the rushes, Floy! But it’s very near the sea. I hear the waves! They always said so!’

Presently he told her the motion of the boat upon the stream was lulling him to rest. How green the banks were now, how bright the flowers growing on them, and how tall the rushes! Now the boat was out at sea, but gliding smoothly on. And now there was a shore before him. Who stood on the bank?—He put his hands together, as he had been used to do at his prayers. He did not remove his arms to do it; but they saw him fold them so, behind her neck.

‘Mama is like you, Floy. I know her by the face! But tell them that the print upon the stairs at school is not divine enough. The light about the head is shining on me as I go!’

The golden ripple on the wall came back again, and nothing else stirred in the room. The old, old fashion! The fashion that came in with our first garments, and will last unchanged until our race has run its course, and the wide firmament is rolled up like a scroll. The old, old fashion—Death!

Oh thank GOD, all who see it, for that older fashion yet, of Immortality! And look upon us, angels of young children, with regards not quite estranged, when the swift river bears us to the ocean!

You might find that mawkish, but to me it captures the ineffable strangeness of what is taking place in the mind of a dying person – we can only glimpse it, despite its inevitable role for each one of us. Dickens’ rare gift takes us to the bedside. As music, it’s a Beethoven late quartet, or one of Schubert’s extraordinarily powerful sad, slow, second movements in a piano sonata – D850 perhaps.

Completely different, but just as vivid, with a hard edged resonance identifiable with cool jazz, I’d suggest, is Raymond Chandler:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

…taken from Red Wind, and I’m not the only one who finds it carries an almost impossible to define extra layer of meaning and precision. It is the West Coast of Shelly Manne and his era…

A lot of people think like this – certain forms bring to mind unbidden parallels in other fields, classically synesthesia, or a variation on it. Over to Wikipedia:

… a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

There’s no message here, just an observation on the extended gifts provided by reading and music.


The #Brexit iceberg

It’s getting closer. And the panic levels are rising. Predictably Russia, bogeyman du jour, is getting credit, because all Brexiteers are subliminally (or otherwise) influenced by evil Kremlin masterminds. Whatever.

This is what passes as ‘clever’, in the Remainer echo chamber:


It’s worth reading a few of the replies to see how easily this ignorant nonsense is debunked, and how switched on Brexiteers are to the rules of the game in a democracy, along with a few honest Remainers.

Then one gets Jo Johnson’s pompous and hypocritical resignation statement, gleefully ripped by Guido. What is it with these people?

It says something that a person as ordinarily lacking in insight as Diane Abbott gets it better than these hysterical twerps:

“I will say this about the second Referendum. You should be careful what you wish for. If we had a second referendum now the same people who voted leave last time, who are not largely speaking in London, would vote leave again saying: ‘Didn’t you hear us the first time?’”

Even if her motives arise from the mad-Leftie end of the Brexit spectrum, she has a point. One which Remainers are enthusiastically ignoring, in their solipsistic misery.

I was idly watching a rerun of James Cameron’s Titanic the other day, when the metaphor became obvious. The ship is the EU, Brexit the iceberg. And boy do those Remainers cling on to the bitter end.

Get off the boat while you can.

Forever Lester Young

Jazz can be addictive, and it can also be repulsive. It depends where you’re coming from – Ed Sheeran to late Coltrane, for example, would be a big jump – and also on what you use as your entrée to its many wonders. You don’t want to be put off right at the start.

For me it was Lester Young. A double LP of 1940’s Lester, borrowed from my local library (look it up, kids) on a whim, pretty much kindled my interest, poor sound quality and all. Lester’s warm breathy tone, and his sly languorous solos floating across the band were pretty ear catching. And he had a certain personal style, verbally, sartorially, musically.

It’s hard to find a perfect example (more below), but here’s a taste..

Yesterday in a charity shop I came across a classic book on jazz, by Anglo-American Leonard Feather, who knew them all. Jazz inspires some truly compelling writing, both on the music (1, 2 for example) and on the people (Miles Davis’ brutal memoir is one for the ages). Feather’s smallish book is a series of portraits of the big names who he actually knew and with whom he worked – Armstrong, Holiday, Miles…and Prez, AKA Lester Young. The essay is a concise gem of Prez’s genius and his suffering. I reproduce it below.

If you read it you’ll see that it all went downhill pretty quickly. A lot of jazz fans claim that his later work is a pale shadow. I’m not convinced. The same was said of Charlie Parker **just before he had to enter the asylum at Camarillo, and people give his version of Loverman as evidence, recorded allegedly when he was blind drunk. When you hear it though, it’s actually achingly beautiful, one of the finest pieces of any music on record I’d say, reflecting all of Bird’s recent pain. Some people are hard to please.

I was lucky enough to be in the world’s greatest record shop recently, Amoeba Music in San Francisco, and got my hands on Lester’s Verve studio recordings, so in much better sound than some of the live stuff. It was out of print until a new release this year. A lot of people say he was already past it. It’s too early for me to have a view on it, but I doubt that the critics are right. Here’s an insightful review from their first release. I quote: Why does anyone need to hear eight CDs that trace the decline and collapse of this great man? Perhaps no one does. And perhaps no one needs to read King Lear, see Death of a Salesman or listen to Mahler’s 9th Symphony. Those who do will be enriched.

Jazz is as full of tragedy as Shakespeare, for sure. As a well considered Amazon review noted: But, while the first five discs will give you many hours of unalloyed joy, there is a scary, deepening sadness that comes with the final three. These are the last days of Lester, and beginning about halfway through disc six, you can hear the magic leaving him. From then on, he seems to shrink, suddenly losing all sense of the beat, sometimes playing only a few wayward notes, inept as any amateur on the instrument. By the time you hit the last Paris sessions of 1959, it is painful to listen to. What makes it even worse is the occasional flash, like dying lightning, of the old genius.

However, here’s that perfect example of prime 1944 Prez, a real find on YouTube. The filming is perfect, the remarkable Marie Bryant is perfect, and Prez is, well….perfect. Enjoy.


**Bird and Prez did record together too, check it out.

The Devil, probably

Washington DC, last week

You don’t have to be a dyed in the wool Republican, or generally lean towards the conservative end of politics, to be shocked by the events of this last week, in Washington. I have no doubt that the legions of Hillary fans and Trump haters will have said to themselves “thank God it’s not happening to me or my family“, as they contemplated the attempted evisceration of Brett Kavanaugh, on the incredible grounds that he is a rapist manqué. 

And I mean incredible in the sense of not being credible. What the hell is going on?

Well, aside from sheer politics, there is an undercurrent of plain old evil here. Lots of people have commented on it. I have no idea if others mean evil in a religious sense, or just bad behaviour. I specifically mean the former, and I know that would get me laughed at in what passes for polite society. In following UK politics you will encounter all sorts of badness, solipsistic idiocy, bullying, arrogance and many many other vices. And that’s just Alastair Campbell. But evil? Not so much.

Accusing a man of rape, knowing there to be no evidence is undoubtedly evil. Attempting to wreck the lives of his wife and children is evil. Abandoning the presumption of innocence is evil (and foolish*****).

Surely we can all agree on this, in theory at least***. So why would you do that?

I get the “all’s fair in love and war” cliche. I know that politics is a rough game, although part of the problem is that the judiciary should stand apart from politics, and doesn’t. I know that the Supreme Court stakes are very high for all parties. But this latest assault on Kavanaugh is something else, something much darker.

Again, this is not a left/right thing. Any reasonable person should be appalled. The fact that it’s still being pursued is a mark of how strong, the evil impulse is. It is not politics as normal. It is nothing to do with investigating sexual assault. The latter is being cynically used as a vehicle by people who have in fact routinely supported sexual abusers.

Back to religion. Give up reading now, if you are groaning inwardly, but the truth is that Charles Baudelaire – no stranger to evil, by his own admission – was right when he stated: la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas. Most people will be able to work that one out: the devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.

He has a point.

When ISIS, or Mexican drug cartels do their now almost banal torturing people to death, we can all agree, that’s evil. It’s also mostly in a land far away, removed from our comfortable existences. And we do use the word evil in describing them, we also use the words devilish, demonic, and hellish, and rightly so. But this week in Washington it has been in our own backyard, metaphorically. You don’t have to saw heads off to merit the use of these terms.

I trust that it will still end well, with the manifestly innocent Kavanaugh being eventually confirmed, although badly battered, and that the very real problem of sexual abuse will return to being a crime worthy of investigation and punishment – not a handy weapon for evil people to attack their opponents with.

To quote the eloquent Effie Deans, a voice of reason on this side of the pond: The madness that has taken over the United States is such that people’s lives are being ruined because of unsubstantiated allegations that go back decades. If we allow this to become the norm then our politics will simply become impossible.

That’s the practical problem**. The moral problem goes much, much deeper. Until recently this theme of evil, and dealing with the Devil in order to get ahead, would have been widely understood . The whole Faust legend, embedded in Western culture in numerous forms is a perfect example of that (see the top picture). Dante, Milton, Goethe, Bosch, Berlioz, Pasolini, Bresson, Dostoevsky, Chesterton and innumerable others all created masterpieces from this, the temptation that resonates with every person. As recently as 2011, a movie on Faust won the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion prize. This timeless dealmaking didn’t come out of nowhere, nor did it come out of superstition. It was probably easier to understand the ways of the world 400 years ago than it is now.

Oddly enough, today is Michaelmas, or the Feast of  St Michael and All Angels. He kicked Lucifer and his rebel army out of heaven, the story goes. 

Very timely.

Cleaning the body politic…Feinstein, Booker, Blumenthal, Harris…mustn’t forget Schumer… (Bruegel, The Fall of the Rebel Angels, 1562. Musee des Beaux Arts, Brussels)


**John Hinderaker enlarges on the wrecking tactics here. My piece is more on the morality and…er…metaphysics

***Maybe not all of us would agree, sadly. If you think all this talk of evil – and the Devil – is nutty religious hyperbole, think again.

***** and lo, it came to pass….

Trump v Thanos: prediction time again


Hillary/Barack/MSNBC etc etc

Avengers: Infinity War is not a terrible movie, but nor is it a particularly good one**. The action is chaotic, most of the Avengers are annoying, and by far the best thing in it is Thanos, the crazed Titan. He is absurdly powerful, ruthless, amoral, charismatic yet prone to sentiment and generally he gets what he wants. Everyone is scared of him and sucks up accordingly. His basic schtick is that he will rule everything, forever. It’s his destiny. People will suffer of course, but that’s all justified. It’s the way things have to be.

This sounds familiar.

I watched it on the way to the US recently, which was strangely appropriate. Here’s the parallel: Thanos represents the opposition to Trump, which based on my careful scientific analysis is: 45% various Clintons, 35% the Godking Obama (and toadies like Brennan), 20% most of the media, trailing in the wake of the big two. Trump is, I suppose, the Avengers. The analogy falls down a bit, as however much you may dislike Trump, he’s nowhere near as irritating as Chris Evans playing Captain America, or Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk.

Anyway, more than two years ago, despite numerous claims regarding the November 2016 election that ‘nobody saw this coming‘, the outstanding Salena Zito did. And I did.

Three takeaway quotes from my piece, which was written before Trump even got the nomination:

~ he’ll gain votes from former Democrats who can’t stand Hillary and actually like what Trump says, but they won’t tell pollsters that

~ he will gain more of the black and Hispanic  votes than anyone is predicting at the moment

~ foreign policy will be left to a smart Secretary of State and the military

Feel free to disagree, but they stand up well  in  my view, although I think Trump personally has been pretty canny in foreign policy, aided by a superb team. Apart from my ego, though, why am I writing this? Because the midterm elections are imminent, for all of Congress, some of the Senate and various governorships, and the drums are already beating for the 2020 presidential contest.

My own take from hanging out in California for a while, and talking to lots of people can be easily summarised:

  • affluence is increasing, nearly across the board
  • everyone is pretty happy with this
  • net immigration is still essential for the economy, but there is no reason why this cannot all be through the ordinary legal procedures, ie. there is no reason for illegal immigration other than to increase the potential Democratic Party voter base
  • there is not – apart from in various parts of the media – lots of overt hatred for Trump, nor any huge wish for Hillary. In fact, in all of my travels around San Francisco  – not in the tourist areas – I saw a single solitary faded Hillary flyer (pictured below)
  • Trump’s ‘unexpected’ popularity with ethnic minority voters seems likely to continue, and almost certainly increase

The last point is relevant, given the new evidence – not denied – that Google did its very best to influence Hispanic voters to go for Hillary, yet they failed. Miserably.

I conclude that in 2020 there will be virtually no Trump voters who change sides – barring some unpredictable disaster – yet there will be former Dem voters who do cross over, with their new jobs, higher wages and sense that the country is moving on. Which it is.

The reliance by the Dems, with their overweening sense of entitlement, on the votes of black and Hispanic and voters in perpetuity exactly mirrors Gordon Brown and Labour’s hubristic view of Scotland. Keep ’em poor and reliant on the government. When the hyped up SNP came along, Labour – to use a phrase – didn’t see it coming. The SNP are losing support now, deservedly, given their incompetence, bullying and parochial obsessions, but it took a while. Trump is probably still in the ascent phase.

So I predict Trump with a straightforward win in 2020 – health permitting, assuming no unforeseen calamity. ‘Russian collusion’ won’t finish him, mainly because it doesn’t exist.

As for the midterms, I can’t say. I suspect however that they will also go the Republicans’ way, but they do highlight a strange fact – Trump is a one off, and people will vote for him and continue to loathe their local Republican, so all bets are off for now.

As for Thanos – he always fails in the end, causing immense misery and destruction on the way.

Not a bad analogy for the miserable Dems.

45% of Thanos, approximately


** Most of the related comic books, though, are outstanding (eg. 1, 2)