[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

Con Majority

Boundary changes resulting from cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 could exacerbate Labour divisions as well as boosting the Tories.

The Guardian are reporting that leading psephologist and former Tory MP Lord Hayward has looked at the forthcoming boundary review/reduction in the number of MPs,

Two hundred Labour seats – more than 85% of the party’s total – could be affected by the review of parliamentary boundaries due next month, according to a detailed analysis of the review’s likely impact.

Up to 30 Labour seats could disappear altogether, says Lord Hayward, an analyst widely regarded as an expert on the boundary review, while the rest will see their composition altered in some form.

Although the changes will also affect the Conservatives, Hayward, a Tory peer, said his analysis of demographics in the UK concluded that Labour is over-represented.

“The party that will suffer most is the Labour party because such a high proportion of their current seats are well below the required quota, particularly in Wales, the north-east and parts of the M62 corridor,” he said.

The changes, initiated by David Cameron, which will cut the number of MPs by 50 to 600, aims to ensure that each person’s vote is of similar value by equalising the number of registered voters in each constituency to within 5% of 74,769. A higher proportion of Tory seats are currently within the range, so only between 10 and 15 of the party’s seats are expected to disappear.

MPs of all parties face the prospect of battling it out with colleagues to retain a seat, but anxieties will be particularly acute within Labour, where anti-Corbyn MPs fear that the necessary reselection contests could be an opportunity to reshape the parliamentary party in Corbyn’s favour, if he retains the leadership. “This will have implications for large numbers of Labour MPs who may well have to compete against each other for reselection,” Hayward added.

I suspect this will be main reason Mrs May decides against an early election, notwithstanding the intricacies of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, an early election will deny her and the Tories a boost from the boundary review.

Although some might argue the cherry on the parfait will be the potential of many Labour MPs facing re-selection because of the boundary changes, it will be like the mandatory re-selections that many close to Jeremy Corbyn have been arguing for.

My own view if that does happen, it might force Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn to do something more radical if they are likely to be replaced to someone more politically in tune with Jeremy Corbyn, and that will split the Labour party further and wider than we’ve already seen.


james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Either Begby is back

Aug. 28th, 2016 11:39 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Or chipmunks are just generally extremely aggressive. Poor squirrel.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

PSA for Android players of Zen Koi

Aug. 28th, 2016 10:14 pm
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
If you're playing Zen Koi on Android and you're loss-averse, you need to separately back up your app data: while you can log into Google Play Games or Facebook, that doesn't sync your progress, and apparently the developer can't or won't transfer games between devices.

If your device isn't rooted, you'll want to use the Helium app (free, but you'll have to get the resulting files off your device by going into your file manager of choice and sharing them to email or the cloud; it will back up to cloud storage if you buy the app). This is a little fiddly to deal with, unfortunately; among other things, it requires you to hook your device back up to your computer whenever you restart Android. But it does work for Zen Koi--I tested it by transferring my game data from my tablet to my phone successfully.

Note: any app data backup, as far as I can tell, only works for data associated with the primary user of the Android device. If the game is being played on a restricted account or even a regular account that isn't the one that was originally set up, you can't get the data off.

(I have no idea what the situation on iOS is.)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Just got FB friend request from someone claiming to be Stephanie Clarkson. Stephanie passed away in July. Complaint sent to FB but be aware.
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Despite the plethora of political data knocking around online these days (the days when you had to go to the library to find a new FWS Craig book are long gone), it can be hard to find a simple summary of the key figures on how each party is performing.

Hence this little experiment in producing a monthly political scorecard. Even in this initial form it throws up nuances not caught by most political reporting, such as the fading of both Ukip and the Greens in council by-elections or how even with its huge membership surge Labour was struggling to match the Conservative ability to find candidates.

Political Scorecard August 2016

Feedback on the format and choice of data very welcome.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Chris Bowers

The AlternativeJudging by the reaction to Andrew George’s post last week  there seems to be a lot of unnecessary fretting among Liberal Democrats caused by ‘The Alternative’, the book I have co-edited with the Labour and Green MPs Lisa Nandy and Caroline Lucas. Allow me to explain why I think some people are getting the wrong end of the stick.

I fully understand the views of those who say Labour is not a progressive party, and that we sometimes have more in common with the liberal wing of the Conservatives than we do with Labour or the nationalist parties. Those views can be defended, but they don’t alter the practical reality of what we face.

Everyone is talking about how we were hammered at the 2015 election, which we were in relative terms, but the 8% of the vote we polled would have given us around 55 seats if we’d had a proportional election system, which was roughly what we had in the last parliament.

As a liberal, I’d happily accept whatever our core vote is – probably something between 8% and 20% – under PR. We’d probably never be a party leading a government, but we’d have real influence, and could pursue liberal-democratic policies in association with whichever other parties were receptive to our ideas.

So our main priority needs to be PR, but we have a problem. Electoral systems don’t inspire the public, and politics and politicians are in such low repute at present that any alliance to get PR could easily be painted as a power-grabbing lunge by those whose policies are out of fashion.

Therefore, if we’re ever to get PR, we have to inspire the public with ideas, to build a picture of a Britain that people can get excited about. That’s why ‘The Alternative’ has essays on rethinking economics, a creative approach to public services, a deeper take on the environment, ideas on how we live and how we get about, and much more. The aim is to build up a picture of a caring, compassionate, modern Britain in which everyone has a voice – and if everyone has a voice, that must mean a proportional voting system (which wouldn’t need a referendum if it were in all the key manifestos).

So it’s a question of building up your cooperation and your optimistic vision in a way that inspires people, and eventually our majority for PR will come. It won’t be easy, but it’s a lot more promising than trying to bludgeon PR through now when all the winds are blowing against us, as witnessed by the 2015 and 2016 results.

The problem, I agree, is still Labour. Until it commits to PR, the scope for cooperation will remain limited. But there are signs Labour is seriously thinking about it, and several leading Labour figures are now pro-PR. If we start airing exciting progressive policies that could inspire the public to have renewed hope in politics, Labour may well come to see that it has more to gain than to lose by embracing PR.

By contrast, the Conservatives will never do so. There are a number of good Tories, people who might well support several of our policies, but the Tory machine is a malign one. It acts in its own interests, and will not give away the mechanism by which it does very well for itself.

‘The Alternative’ is a collection of essays that explore a course of action. Feel free to disagree with some of them, but please don’t diss the whole project. We are Liberal Democrats, we are free thinkers – and we have to give this approach fair consideration.

* Chris Bowers was a two-term councillor on Lewes District Council and is currently PPC for Wealden

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Last week the University of Chicago caused a bit of an uproar by sending out a letter to incoming students telling them not to expect intellectual safe spaces or trigger warnings when it came to critical inquiry. This caused celebration in some quarters and consternation in others, in both cases in no small part to the use of the phrases “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings,” which are apprehended in different ways by different general audiences, cutting roughly but not exclusively along US liberal/conservative lines.

I am a University of Chicago graduate, and having come out of its classically liberal educational ethos, I have some thoughts on the letter, and on the general matter of intellectual inquiry, and on safe spaces and trigger warnings and so on and so forth. Note that a lot of this follows on (and may repeat) what I’ve written about free speech and other related topics before, so some of this may seem familiar to you.

1. In a very general sense, as a graduate, what I understood the University of Chicago letter to mean is this: “When you get here, your previous notions are going to be confronted and challenged and sometimes this process might be deeply uncomfortable for you. We find this to be a feature, not a bug.” Which I find to be a largely unobjectionable sentiment, when it comes to education and the development of the individual. You have to be confronted, you have to be challenged, and you have to learn the skills that allow you to robustly defend your point of view and to abandon that point of view when it is not tenable, and come to a new understanding through the process. This is all very Hegelian — thesis, antithesis, synthesis — which means it’s very Chicago, where Hegel might as well be the school mascot.

2. I thought the Dean of Students did a less than 100% excellent job in conveying this particular point, choosing to spice up his letter to the kids with lingo to show how he’s hip and with it, or something, in the process letting shouty people drag the letter out and wave it about for their own purposes. So, yeah, well done, there, dean. Additionally, I’m not entirely sure that that message in that particular letter was necessary. This is the University of Chicago, guys. Is anyone who actually intends to attend unaware that the university prides itself on rigorous examination, discussion and debate? Basically, I found the letter a bit silly. If I were an instructor (or an editor), I would have sent it back with the instruction to tone down the posturing and just get to the meat of the letter sooner.

3. I think it’s good and fine and necessary that an education requires confronting one’s own thoughts and beliefs, subjecting them to the crucible of inquiry and discussion, and thus tempering the quality of one’s own beliefs as a result. What is equally important — and what in my experience Chicago was good at, and a thing not conveyed very well by the letter — is that those leading these excursions, the professors and other instructors, work the room. Which means not only leading discussion but also focusing and shaping it and creating an environment in which every student can be a component of the discussion. Which can mean anything from making sure a couple of egotistical loudmouths don’t just drone on every goddamn class session, to drawing out those students who might otherwise feel like there’s no percentage in making their own points. You can only robustly interrogate beliefs and assumptions when everyone who is there to learn knows they can speak. That’s on the instructors, and professors, and on the University as a whole. I believe Chicago does that — or did, when I was there — and that’s something I wish was better articulated.

4. Likewise, the educational process is more (and better) than some sort of Intellectual Thunderdome where the validity of a point of view is decided solely through trial by combat. Robust interrogation of one’s point of view by others is a thing, and a necessary thing, but is not the only thing. There are all sorts of ways to learn, to acquire knowledge, assess and reassess one’s ground assumptions, and come to a better understanding of the world therein. My Chicago experience had a lot of me squaring off against some other student — or a professor! Screw you, Dr. Whoever! I have points I’m gonna make and I will fight you on them — but just as much or not more of my education was spent doing other things, from quiet reading to co-operative participation to just shutting up and letting someone more knowledgeable and experienced than I was show me something I didn’t already know.

5. Over on Twitter the other day I noted the following:

Which made a lot of conservatives on Twitter really rather foamy, bloviating about how they never ask for safe spaces, harupmh harumph, gwaaaaaaaar. Which I found pretty funny. First because I found it non-responsive to the point that Chicago’s policy means that all points of view will be open to interrogation, which will include conservative points of view that new students might bring in. Having seen more than a couple of young conservatives at Chicago walk into a moving fan blade of people as smart as they were, with better command of facts and rhetoric, and coming out rather upset and angry with the experience, I’m not at all convinced every young conservative is ready to have their own baseline assumptions challenged. I expect some will assume Chicago is an implictly “safe space” for them, like, as it happens, most of the rest of their world. Which is of course is the point: when (some) conservatives like to brag that they never ask for safe spaces, that’s very much like a fish bragging that it never asks for water.

Let me suggest a radical idea (which is to say, it’s not really radical at all), which is that the ability to take a challenge to one’s fundamental precepts of the world, and the enthusiasm to engage with those who oppose those precepts, is largely orthogonal to one’s political views. There are liberal-minded folks who love to walk into a room full of people ready to hate them and bellow, bring it, suckas; there are conservatives who are the most special of special snowflakes who ever wafted down, weeping precious and icy tears. And vice-versa, and the same no matter where one plots one’s self on a multi-dimensional political chart.

I might suggest a salient difference between liberal and conservatives in this regard is that many of the groups that traditionally comprise the liberal coalition — minorities, women, LGBTQ+ — don’t have the baseline assumption of safety in the world that generally white, generally straight conservatives do. This makes it easier for (some) conservatives to pretend that don’t in fact expect to have their worldview coddled and allowed for every bit as much as they accuse liberals of doing. And when they run into a buzzsaw that shreds their worldview — as they will at Chicago, almost guaranteed — their perhaps previously unrealized assumption that Chicago was “safe” for them, intellectually, is going into the hopper.

6. With respect to the University of Chicago specifically, it’s been suggested that one reason for the letter is a bit of institutional territory marking (see this Vox article) basically telling the kids that the sort of protesting that works at other schools isn’t going to fly at Chicago, so don’t even bother. While I’m not at all convinced that this is really what the letter was about, it is absolutely true that institutionally speaking the University of Chicago doesn’t take kindly to protesting. When I attended Chicago, I wrote an in-depth series of articles about when, in the 1960s, Chicago students, like other students at elite universities, took over the administration building as a protest (in the case of Chicago, for a popular teacher being dropped). Chicago’s response, basically, was to wait out the protesters, discipline a stack of the students for being a nuisance, and then never speak about it again (the teacher was not rehired, either). This last year, the president of the student government at Chicago barely escaped with his degree after he allowed students into the administration building for a different protest (seriously, don’t screw with the administration building. They get annoyed and they will punish you).

But again, I don’t think the letter was a warning so much as a poorly expressed declaration of intellectual intent. Yes, the school and/or students will occasionally bring in people to speak whom you hate. No, your protests won’t stop it. Deal. Which again is a very Chicago thing to do.

7. How do I personally feel about safe spaces and trigger warnings in a general sense? With regard to the latter, I think they’re fine, and often courteous. I think the world has come to place where we understand people have their various sensitivities, and if it would be a kindness to give people a heads up that something involves violence or racism or whatever, sure, why not? It’s not censorship to make people aware they should prepare (which ironically, means you could say that silly letter was a trigger warning letting students know about their future lack at the school — in which case, very sneaky, Chicago).

As for safe spaces, my own understanding is that it’s also generally fine and courteous to give people space to despressurize and relax and be themselves, often without me around (or at least, if I am around, with me following rules others set). This is, I will be the first to admit, a very simplistic approach to what the concept of a safe space is. But it’s the foundation on which I build out complexity regarding the subject.

Also, you know. I don’t feel obliged to pretend “trigger warnings” are a liberal phenomenon; when they’re basically conservative, they’re usually called “ratings.” Movie, TV and video game ratings, content advisory notes on music, etc — none of which in the US are currently dictated by the government, incidentally — they’re pretty much so people don’t get triggered (or get triggered by their children seeing something inconvenient for them as parents). I don’t really have an opposition to ratings either. I mean, hell, back at the turn of the century I ran a video game site specifically calling out game elements ranging from violence to drug use to racism to nudity so people could decide whether or not to get a game, or get it for their kids, or be prepared for that content when it happened (here’s one of the reviews). You know, kind of like trigger warnings. Conservative folks loved the site. But that’s different! Well, no. It’s really not.

Likewise I can think of several places online and off which qualify as “safe spaces” for non-liberals, where like-minded people go to rest and relax and not have to feel like they always have to be looking over their shoulder for the politically correct thought police, etc and so on, places that have rules that you have to follow, set by moderators or owners or whomever, and if you don’t like it, there’s the door. Whether they’re called “safe spaces” or not is neither here nor there. Apply the duck test to it.

And that’s fine too — with safe spaces and trigger warnings, however you choose to label them, everyone needs their gathering holes and has their sensitivities and desires companionship with others whose journey is similar to theirs. Sometimes you need a respite from the world, because very often the world is work. It’s courteous to let others have them, and if necessary, to offer them. It would be lovely if people stopped pretending they don’t exist all across the human experience, including across the political spectrum.

8. I don’t believe the Chicago approach, or that silly letter, means fewer liberals (or conservatives! Or any other political orientation!) are going to come out of the school, a belief buttressed by looking at the rather wide cross-section of political positions and opinions that its alumni espouse. A school that counts both Saul Alinsky and Milton Friedman among its graduates can encompass a wide scope of thought; the alumni issuing forth from it since the heady days of the tenure of Alinsky and Friedman appear similarly varied in their politics. This is good for the school and it’s good for the people who attend it today — they are going to meet up with people not like them, and argue with them, and hopefully come away with a better understanding of opposing positions, and their own. And who knows? Maybe they’ll even become and remain friends with people who don’t think in lockstep with them. It happens. It happened to me. And that is a definite positive of a Chicago education.

[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Mindy

Sunday Funny: Linear Regression (via xkcd)

Mad Art Lab

Wither: The Many Triumphs and Long Fall of Nuclear Physicist Harriet Brooks. (Women in Science 71)
Dale tells of a career that burned bright for too short a time.

Mad Art Lab at Dragon Con!
Stop by these MAL panels at Dragon Con!

Canadian Content
Jim matches fake Canadian novel premises with real Canadian authors.

Skepchick Svensk

Drilling Holes in Your Head is a Bad Way to Open Up Your Mind (på svenska)
Dimduning reads articles about trepanation as a method to “open up the mind” and finds the science behind them to be disturbingly inaccurate.

Skepchick.se is Looking for New Writers! (på svenska)
Get in on all the fun!

School of Doubt

White Teacher, Black and Brown Students: Race and Representation in the Modern American Classroom
New contributor aswetz gives some advice for bringing up race in the classroom from the perspective of a white teacher.

What Pramaoedya Ananta Toer Tried to Teach His Kids About Medicine and Critical Thinking
New contributor Matthew Scribner discusses issues of skepticism and consistency in the letters of Indonesian writer Pramaoedya Ananta Toer.

Grading Traditions
New contributor Daniel takes a methodical approach to received wisdom on grading.

Featured image credit: Detail from The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, a painting by Hieronymus Bosch depicting trepanation (c.1488–1516) via Wikipedia

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Amazon has just announced that it is going to be trialling, on a small scale, 30 hour work weeks for some teams of staff. There’s one obvious reason an employer might do this- get hours just a shade under 30 a week and there’re no requirements or penalties under Obamacare concerning health insurance. Amazon are quite clear that this isn’t the reason here as they offer the same benefits to part time and full time staff. But there is another, entirely different, economic explanation for this behaviour, something that Gary Becker tried to explain (although he was often shouted down) and which Dame Steve Shirley exploited to make a fortune. There’s also a further more minor explanation which I don’t think really applies here, at least not at the Amazon corporate level.

It’s a tiny experiment so far but it is possible that it will have major effects if it pans out. If truly successful, something which expands out across the economy, we’d see the gender pay gap, at least as measured by pay by the hour, shrink.

The Washington Post reports Amazon will experiment with a 30-hour work week.

It’s a pilot program that will have a small team working a shorter week. Instead of the 9 to 5, a few dozen people will work Monday through Thursday and only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with what the Post called “additional flex hours.”

Do note that this isn’t about Obamacare and the penalties for not offering health care to all but part time employees:

Part-time employees will receive the same benefits as employees scheduled to work 40 hours every week and will be paid 75 percent of what full-time workers are paid, the Washington Post reported.

The WaPo article is here and this is, to me, the crucial part:

The program could also help to improve Amazon’s diversity, said McGrath. Along with other top tech firms, Amazon has not balanced its female-to-male worker ratio, especially in areas of leadership, where men make up 76 percent of management positions across the company globally. A 30-hour workweek could help encourage more female workers, who tend to take on more household and child-care responsibilities than men in the domestic sphere.

Just to detour into that very much less important economic reason. Recall Keynes’ Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. In which he talks of us, us in his future that is, about now being rich enough to work only 15 hours a week. He got this wrong because he didn’t fully account for the manner in which we reduced unpaid hours of household work rather than paid hours of household work. Our leisure hours have in fact gone up rather as he predicted. This isn’t something that works at the corporate level, these are changes that come at the individual, so it won’t be something driving Amazon’s decision. But it’s possible that we are seeing an inflexion point. Hours of household work might be around and about some inflexible minimum. And yet we are all still getting richer (no, really, we are) and it’s entirely normal that some amount of extra wealth gets taken as extra leisure rather than extra income. This could be (and only could, to insist upon it would be a very bold prediction indeed) the beginning of a general decline in paid working hours.

Which brings me to the much larger point which I would think is the driving force of this decision. Gary Becker pointed out that discrimination is expensive to the people who do it. If you won’t hire people because of the colour of their skin then you’re rejecting talent which you could have profited from. Further, if there’s a general such rejection of people for some such reason then this makes that talent in that rejected group cheaper for others to hire. This idea really was rather shouted down at the time. And yet we have proof that it did in fact happen. Dame Steve Shirley made a fortune out of it.

Stephanie Shirley noted, back in the early 1960s, that married women with children could not get jobs as programmers. Just one of those things that wasn’t done. And yet many women did such work before they married and or had children. So, there was discrimination against such married women with children – which made them cheap to hire. She set herself up with armies of them working from home and went on to do some pretty cool contracts. They did the software for Concorde for example. And a fortune was made in the process. She has to sign herself Steve, not Stephanie, to letters to be taken seriously at first – thus the oddity of a Dame (the female equivalent of a knighthood) with a male name, even if only colloquially.

Which gives us one interesting point – if this sort of taste discrimination does exist then it’s a business opportunity to be exploited by other people. Which rather means that if you think such discrimination is going on against women, or people of different melanin enhancement, these days then that’s a business opportunity where you can clean up. And if you don’t think it’s possible to clean up then you are, implicitly at least, rejecting the idea that there is such taste discrimination.

Which brings us to what Amazon is doing. As all who are paying attention know the gender pay gap is actually about children. Never married no children women do not face a pay gap. The major cause is that in our society, rightly or wrongly, women take on, on average, the job of being primary caregiver to the partnership’s children more often than men do. Children being more important than filthy lucre this leads to rather more women than men looking for jobs with shorter hours, or greater flexibility, than pay or promotion. When we look at this on average across the population we see women earning less than men. But it’s the choices about working habits and primary child care driving it.

OK, so where’s the talent need greatest at present? Yup, in that tech industry, just as it was for Steve Shirley. The tech companies don’t fly in H-1B people just for the fun of it – they’re desperate to find sources of coding and coding management talent. Women who have done these jobs before children are, as Dame Steve proved, an obvious place to go looking. Thus the creation of job terms which might be expected to appeal to such.

[personal profile] hollymath
Now I want a t-shirt that says

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Welcome to the first in my series of tips and advice for Liberal Democrat members, which appear first in the email bulletin run by London Region for party members.

Finding out about Liberal Democrat policy making

Much of the work of making Lib Dem policy takes place in our policy working groups. These are set up to cover specific areas and run for many months (usually over a year), reporting back to the party’s federal conferences. Throughout this there are plenty of opportunities for party members to take part – but you need to know what policy groups are running and what stage they are at! So the party has got a new policy group tracker which lets you see which policy groups are at work and what stage they are all at www.libdems.org.uk/policy-working-groups.

There is also a new Facebook group to keep up with news from the party’s Federal PolicyCommittee (FPC) and ask questions about its work: www.facebook.com/groups/federalpolicycommittee/

You can read the full set of tips for Lib Dem party members here.

cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)

Visiting Israel

Aug. 28th, 2016 04:47 pm
[personal profile] cesy
I am coming to Israel for some winter sun in November, staying in Tel-Aviv from 11th-19th. I am hoping to meet up with local fans, including [personal profile] marina, [personal profile] hagar_972, [personal profile] roga, [personal profile] the_ragnarok and others. Let me know if you're around, or have suggestions of things I should do while there. I've done a lot of the major tourist sites in Tel-Aviv last time, and did a brief tour of the country as a kid, but there's lots more to explore. I may well take a day trip up to Haifa, and be looking for someone to go to Blackout with me. Feel free to pass this on to other local friends.

I am excited!
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

The German vice-chancellor has stated that this whole process of Britain leaving the European Union is making the structure itself unstable. To which the correct answer is good, about time too. For the real and important question is and has always been not British membership of the EU but the existence of that monstrosity in itself. Yes, I am extreme even by the standards of my fellow Brexiteers. I argue, as I have done for more than two decades, that the European Union is a bad idea and Europe itself will be better for its passing. I similarly argue that it would be better if a number of the constituent nations states broke up, as the Czech Republic and Slovakia did. Far from the modern world requiring that we all move into ever larger blocks the technologies of that modern world allow us to split into ever smaller political groupings and still get along just fine, in fact thrive rather better than in the larger entities.

This thus does not worry me, I in fact enjoy their worry:

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union is creating a sense of instability and will lead to “big problems” if policy makers mishandle the Brexit process.
While Britain’s exit “won’t hurt us economically as much as many fear,” it’s “a huge problem politically,” Gabriel, who leads Germany’s Social Democratic Party, said at a town hall-style event in Berlin on Sunday. “The world is looking at Europe as an unstable continent.”

Of course Europe is no more unstable than it has ever been. What he means is that the current political arrangements are unstable. Which I argue they should be as they’re bad political arrangements.

It’s arguable that here was a time when political groupings needed to be larger in general. The most obvious point of this was that people could only imagine of free trade within the one nation state and it’s certainly true that the larger the free trade area then the better off everyone becomes. But we know today that we can have free trade without having political union with anywhere. It’s not even true that we must have one standards setting body for there to be that free trade. The major benefits of trade are the imports that it is possible for the citizenry to get. And that of course is something which is entirely within the control of a domestic government of whatever size. Thus it is possible, in fact sensible, for each and any area, of whatever size, to simply have unilateral free trade.

At which point the entire idea of trade blocs simply goes out the window, doesn’t it? All of the rest of the EU structure and policies are unneeded. There’s no reason why an independent Northumbria, Wessex, could not thrive in such an environment. And it is almost certainly true that an independent Mezzogiorno, or Catalunia, with independent currencies, would do much better than the current arrangements of being locked into their respective nation states. So, that the EU is becming unstable is something to be welcomed. Hopefully it will collapse.

And then there’s this:

German’s Economy Minister has said that Britain shouldn’t be allowed to keep the “nice things” as it negotiates its departure from the European Union.

“If we organise Brexit in the wrong way, then we’ll be in deep trouble so now we need to make sure that we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things, so to speak, related to Europe while taking no responsibility,” he added.

The only nice thing about the current arrangements is the free trade. And yet as above that’s something entirely under our domestic control. We can have more free trade with more people by being outside the EU – so we can have more of that nice thing without the EU.

As to the rest of what’s “nice” about Europe yes, the alpine lakes are gorgeous, Chartes cathedral impressive, Belgian pommes frites yummy and vast numbers of Europeans themselves entirely delightful. None of that will be changed by whatever the political arrangements for governing Europe are so how those political arrangements change won’t limit British access to them.

As I’ve said I’m an extremist on this matter but I cannot actually think of any one thing which is good from the EU. For the British or anyone – and thus I cannot see that we can be restricted from having nice things by not being members. And I can’t see that anyone else will lose nice things if they also leave.

Delenda Est Uniao Europaea is my motto and the sooner the better.

yhlee: Jedao's motto: I'm your gun (hxx I'm your gun)

Left of Bang

Aug. 28th, 2016 09:49 am
[personal profile] yhlee
Amazon.com does this thing where it recommends books to you based on what you've bought from them in the past, which seems reasonable enough. My sister informs me that you can tell it to stop showing specific categories, but I rather enjoy the schizoid variety it displays to me, everything from erotic romance to military history to security engineering to sf/f.

I picked up Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps' Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley partly because Amazon has my number, and partly because it's about developing situational awareness and therefore fell under Writing Research for Revenant Gun. In fact, I wish I'd known about this book earlier. But it's not too late for it to be useful to me, as one of the major characters in Revenant Gun supposedly has very good situational awareness.

The premise behind Left of Bang is that it's better to prevent bad situations before they happen than to react to them after they have. If you visualize the timeline running from left (before) to right (after), the "bang" is the event and "left of bang" is prevention before the event has a chance to happen. This material was developed by US Marines, so it's written from that point of view, including the left-is-past-right-is-future orientation of the American/English writing system. However, while a lot of examples are drawn from recent American experiences in the Middle East, there are also examples drawn from civilian incidents.

The book discusses the importance of quickly establishing baselines in the following domains: kinesics (body language), biometric cues, proxemics, geographics (patterns of motion within an area), iconography, and atmospherics. Once a baseline has been established, clusters (generally, three signs) of anomalous signs can be identified as a cue toward action. Action is context-dependent. For a Marine, it might be Kill, Capture, or Contact; for a civilian in most circumstances, they recommend something like Run, Hide, or Fight.

I note in passing that my situational awareness is pretty terrible but I probably look suspicious for my habit of periodically checking rooftops (there is a story behind this) and checking my six.

Beyond obvious real-life applications, other writers who have characters with situational awareness may find this of interest. I found it well-written and well-organized, and am glad I picked it up. ([personal profile] daidoji_gisei, based on your interests, I think you will find this useful, and recommend it to you in particular.)

More relevantly to my writing project, I am grateful that I got some things right by instinct. That being said, it's good to have some confirmation and to have more specific information to work from. (The character in question is a former assassin, among other things.)

There's a bibliography with some interesting-looking articles cited; I figure I'll hit that up when I have an internet connection. (I'm typing up this book report in a text file offline while sitting in Little Wars--I got some writing done earlier.)

Thank you to the generous person who donated this book.

[cross-post: Patreon]

A tribute to Sir Antony Jay

Aug. 28th, 2016 01:24 pm
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

Earlier on this week Sir Antony Jay, co-creator and writer of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister died. For my mind, both shows remain timeless, there’s the above clip about how leading questions can influence polling results, though the scene above was in the days before the BPC.

The scene below is probably even more relevant in these post EU referendum days. But there many other clips I could have used to show the genius of this show.


matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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