Thursday, 25 August 2016

Anti-terrorist terror

Since neither politicians nor the media (with very few exceptions) cannot admit and state the core, fundamental, problems in the European landscape, they focus on the infinitesimal.

French police recently forcing a woman on a beach to remove her burkini is, on the surface, infinitesimal - and deplorable.

However, the real significance of the tiny moment on a tiny confined location is horrifying.

Since the so-called anti-terrorism legislation introduced under Tony Blair in the UK, which has been amply discussed here, too, increasing number of Governments got lost in the detail.

Whilst in the UK teachers must report "signs of radicalisation" to authorities (and 11 year old children were referred in this way...), the truly Orwellian aspect comes into effect when legislation, police and other authorities are using eminently extreme totalitarian means to protect society from extremism.

Let us take away all the context and all the circumstances.

A person is approached by armed police  and forced to take off a part of his/her outfit due to anti-terrorist legislation.

Read the above sentence again.

If this is not a perfect example of any self-respecting totalitarian regime acting on the everyday minute details of its existence then what is.

It is just ironic, that we, yes, "we" have become identical in our approach to a problem to the regimes we despise.

The media then picks up on this, but does not dare to point out the bitter irony. Nor the terrifying depths of the mechanic and utilitarian thinking at work.

The usual excuse and the apologetics of some media usually states that oh no, we are eminently different and we still live in a free society.

However, the small-scale acts are the most telling... throughout history, the distortions of collective perception and collective psyche always started with minute adjustments in attitude, in minute acts of propaganda.

This is no different.

With all the rhetoric, and all the "upholding our values", we end up resorting to the means we are protecting ourselves against.


Monday, 25 July 2016

Continuum of irrationality

One month after the Brexit referendum, there has been an understandable backlash against wild generalisations denigrating the Leavers (mostly based on the tragicomic correlations shown by the charts mapping the votes based on level of education, job qualifications, age and rural vs. urban locations).

It is rather deplorable that despite the triggers for this rather divisive backlash, the Leave camp has been resorting to communications that, if anything, re-enforce the perceptions and statistics they objected to.

A quick list of just one month worth of problematic trends of thoughts:

1. "Remainers wanting to kill democracy" has been a rhetoric (and even headline in the case of e.g. The Express) that targeted eminently democratic and fundamentally constitutional measures taken by some Remain campaigners. Petitions, demonstrations and debates in media and online are all fundamental rights.

2. It is painfully ironic that those in the Leave  camp over-using the word "democracy" need to be reminded of the fundamental tenet of the Constitution, laid down ever since Oliver Cromwell: the Parliament is sovereign, therefore a referendum and clapping or shouting on the streets does not automatically make the Parliament take action in one or other direction.

Hence calls for respecting the Parliament's constitutional sovereignty, i.e. needing a vote in the House to make the referendum result actual reality is not undemocratic... nor it is an act of "Remoaners" wanting to twist the referendum until it suits their own agenda...

3. It is also painfully ironic, how vitriol is poured onto "Remoaners" because some signed petition for a 2nd Referendum. The latter, as also pointed out on this blog quite some weeks ago, cannot be justified.

However, pouring vitriol on "Remoaners" is tragicomic considering the fact that on 16 May, Nigel Farage stated in printed and electronic media, that he will demand 2nd referendum if the results are very close...

4. It is further height of irrationality, that Farage stepping down was said to be "understandable" as he has no control or influence in what happens after the Referendum, since he is not an MP and he is not in Government.

It is irrational and self-defeating circular "logic" at best, since Farage's (immediately withdrawn) promises during the campaign have been said to be nonsense exactly because he had no influence and no say in turning them into reality, as he is not an MP and not in Government...

The Remain camp stating this back then was ridiculed by the Leave camp, but now the Leave camp is using the very same line as justification and explanation...

5. Farage's withdrawal from the fallout was thanked in social and electronic media, as he "has done so much for British people to have a say". His campaign was based on us "not having a say in EU"...

It is again ironic, as the same person has barely turned up in the European Parliament, where he was elected to represent this country... In the famous fishing law debates, he turned up once in 42 debates... but he could campaign on the Thames about how "British fishermen have no voice in Europe".

6. Lastly, just based on one month of irrational discourse, one could point out to the Leave camp that objecting to wild generalisations by the Remain camp is not done best by using wild generalisations in the opposite direction...

Whilst the stats have eminently shown that indeed vast majority of low-educated, low-skilled workers voted to Leave, fundamental logic and reasoning should tell Leave camp voices that this does not mean all Leave voters are low-educated low-skilled workers...

Perhaps the fundamental pillars of reasoning could be taught in school at early age, so that some could realise that A -> B does not mean B->A, and if it sometimes does, then it has to be proven with dedicated methodology.

Unfortunately, Leavers calling all Remain campaigners "Remoaners" just makes the former look and sound as highly illogical moaners... who cannot grasp even the above basic logical flaw.


The goalposts have been moving already, in  both camps, and in the new Government, Brownian movement is afoot - with the triggering of Article 50 being now postponed beyond the end of this year.

The very divided British society has to show whether it can function as a society of two opposite viewpoints... the recent democratic exercise has created a situation well known to US citizens, but the Brits are now starting to learn how to co-exist and function in conditions when the society has been split almost exactly down the middle... well, discounting the 29% of people who have now taken part in the Referendum...

One hopes that above set of glaringly irrational and illogical thought patterns will gradually fade, but somehow first month's tendencies are not terribly encouraging. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

Killing democracy... or reason?

The petition for 2nd EU membership Referendum in the UK has gathered millions of online signatures, however some portion of them is under investigation as only British citizens could sign it  - and this is not what happened...

It may well be rejected by the Parliament as it is hard to justify having it after a proper campaign, with tiny amount of invalid ballots, and after a properly run vote on the day.

However, what is remarkable is the set of mess-media entities, both printed and electronic, which state this is "killing democracy". In online comments, vitriol is poured over the (small) proportion of Remain voters who signed the petition and demonstrated for it.

It is the pinnacle of irony, but also a superb illustration of how British public has been driven to utterly self-contradicting irrationality. Not to mention the fact that on 16 May, in printed media (in The Mirror) Nigel Farage was the one asking for 2nd Refetendum if the Remain camp registers a minor advantage in the results... Ah the irony.

Saying that a fundamentally democratic petition and demonstration, which is to be answered by the democratically elected Parliament is "killing democracy" is, well, killing reason. Also, seemingly, the ability of many to reason... Never mind the minor irony, that then this media is actually trying to kill a democratic exercise.

The parrot-like repetition of factual nonsense has been a trait of the campaign, and it continues now.

Exponents of the Leave campaign deny ever making pledges that were even on their campaign bus. They have made the pledges in countless written and electronic forums, they are photographed with e.g. the NHS funding pledge on the bus being in their background.

What bothers a rational person is that those were not pledges. A pledge, unless English dictionary was re-written, does not mean promising something in which one has no influence and no say whatsoever.

Similarly, now they say nobody said that EU immigration would be changed by Brexit. Well, for months during the campaign, it was impossible to explain to some Leave campaigners that EU exit means nothing in this sense: see Swiss EU immigration statistics, because they had to agree on free movement in their trade deals...

Thus, not only the voters are waking up with some delay to the common sense (does not need any political, economic or other qualification) facts, but some of this awakening is marked by the same nonsensical irrationality as the entire campaign was.

It is good to see the EU shaken up and Brussels in a tailspin, finally some reform might happen.

However, while fascist posters appeared overnight, including in schools (!), telling foreigners to go home (one stated that it is "enough of Polish vermin"), one has to state another historically and many times proven fact.

While a society can project its eminently internal problems onto some external factor or group of people, all is fine... As soon as it cannot, it will start projecting them onto internal groups.

What happens then has been seen countless times in our history.

British society has started to do exactly that, with very loud and numerous voices already shouting "killing of democracy" when they are exactly in the process of trying to stop eminently democratic exercises of people they disagree with.

Soft fascism is already in the headlines of many major papers... Let's see if UK can avoid what so far not many societies managed to avoid in such times of irrationality.

Friday, 24 June 2016

House divided...

Naturally, the results of the EU referendum in the UK have shown the predicted effects already in the first hours of the results having been announced.

Not just the fact that the currency plummeted, together with the various stock market indexes around the world (when some say, this doesn't affect them, always one would like to ask for a reality check, ranging from insurance premiums to pensions - just how do such people think these things work?...).

The predicted effects were also in the rhetoric of e.g. Nigel Farage. He already disowned his pledge on NHS funding.

It is not astounding that he made those pledges. Nor that he disowns them. Well, reason is that he had zero say in any of those promised measures - he is not in Government, he has one MP, and he barely turns up in the European Parliament.

The fact that such people can make such empty nonsensical pledges to the voters is not amazing. The fact that so many fell for it, is a bit shocking, when an infant can understand that pledges in which one has no influence whatsoever are meaningless.

Looking at the demographics... it is clear we had a house divided... young vs. older voters, leave vs. remain. 1950s nostalga had shown its effects, the pipedream of "getting back our democracy" (in which 800-odd unelected Lords can veto a Government instated by 24% of eligible voters...), the nostalga of "Great Britan before EU" (look at GDP and being 2nd poorest European economy before joining something so reviled now).

Cornwall is already asking whether the EU funding (by the way, vast sums in the range of billions) will continue. The answer is obvious, but they did ask Brussels and the Government. It is another breathtakingly nonsensical episode:  they received vast EU funds for farm subsidies, infrastructure, even the resurrection of Cornish language... but they cut the umbilical chord and now ask whether it can magically continue...

Universities, who warned about the effect on funding, are now in shock and looking at balance sheets that were said by the utterly nonsensical Brexit campaign leaders that will feel no effect if UK leaves. Again schoolboy economics could not be explained to many: if they think that money will come from within UK, ask themselves where that money comes from with no trade deals in place, and much less taxes coming into Treasury... It is truly elementary.

Such level of short-term loss of vision is truly breathtaking from even an otherwise usually gullible mass of voters.

Yes, the EU may well collapse anyway, and yes, it's machinery is nauseating...

However, what many voted on and hoped for (which often, as too many rational people tried to explain to them, were fundamental nonsense even at the level of schoolboy economics and finances, often even basic logic...) is already disintegrating hours after the results have been announced.

The real games begin now, and as usual, the gullible and fundamental logic-violating voters will have to look for culprits.

One wonders, after immigrant have been the culprits for everything that was wrong with UK (from health service to infrastructure to jobs), what new targets will be found when most of the incredibly devoid of any sense promises and pledges don't materialise?

2008 recession was caused by a circle that one had no control over and acted independent of public will.

This chaos, now, which is already unfolding, was caused by people with their own hands.

If only, in coming months and years, when truly basic and fundamental economics unfold and they, as already today, panic about the effects of it, if only they could have the honesty to admit the root causes of those effects.

Somehow, after this historic example of nonsensical belief in nonsensical pledges disowned hours after the results, one has to doubt that honesty and self-awareness...

Monday, 20 June 2016

Shifting realities

In the Referendum deciding whether UK stays or leaves the EU, it is hardly surprising that some are thoroughly reaching saturation point with the "facts" vehiculated by some...

The same camp in its official leaflet and in one sent by my local MP quote two headline figures that were at the heart of the debate before immigration took centre stage. While the same camp "dismissed", labelled "utter tosh" etc. any quantitative analysis on any economic and financial aspect of exiting vs. staying in the UK, and rhetoric constantly labelled any numerical data as "Tory cover-up", "conspiracy"... it would be stupendous if they could at least agree on their own headline campaign data...


However, we moved on to mainly immigration-fueled debate (where Nigel Farage stated again that his poster, trying to depict actually Middle-Eastern refugees queuing in Slovenia as migrants trying to enter the UK, is "fact").

As some in the media and elsewhere suggested after the brutal murder of Jo Cox, a young pro-Remain camp MP, the emotions whipped up around immigration and "taking back control" of borders (and everything else) are becoming toxic.

Reason does not stand a chance, though if the same articles were immediately misquoted by the Leave camp supporters on social media as "anyone" who votes Leave is depicted as a xenophobe. Nor does it stand a chance, if voices immediately broadcasted that the mentally ill murderer had nothing whatsoever to do with the increasingly vile and irrational xenophobic rhetoric.

Of course, even if one takes the apparently mentally ill man's act in isolation, one has to ask the fundamental question: of all the causes, of all the means, of all the targets and places, he picked a pro-EU MP - clearly, his deranged mind existed in a vacuum, not connected in any way to the hate rhetoric flooding the pre-Referendum discourse on the street and in electronic and written media...

Occam's razor is by now blunt. It has been tried to be applied so many times in this campaign by a minority of people, that it lost its proverbial edge by now...

Pity.

It perfectly separates facts from the Farage-like nonsense (e.g. "we don't have a say in EU" says he, who attended one out of 42 European Parliament debates about fishing laws... and he goes campaigning on the Thames for British fishing laws...).

It perfectly separates emotional and increasingly fake rhetoric (e.g. by exiting EU, we would take back control of EU immigration - again, if anyone could check what Swiss EU immigration figures are, despite them not being in EU... but they had to sign all the possible free movement agreements for their trade agreements...).

Alas, as someone said, one cannot be rationalised out of something one was not rationalised into.

The irrational demagogues are asking for "proof", they dismiss all the experts' figures, but then they can campaign on the same side with wildly conflicting headline figures even.

As ancient Romans said, yes, them, back in the day, stepping also on our "pure British soil"...: Q.E.D.

If only Philip K. Dick were alive, to see how the shifting multitudes of realities he depicted in his The Mold of Yancy and in his Faith of Our Fathers are becoming reality in this so-called campaign.


Friday, 10 June 2016

The xenophobia referendum

As UK's EU membership referendum approaches, the campaigns in both Remain and Leave camps have not improved over the past few months...

True, Remain camp came forward with a series of figures and projections, echoing other not very independent (Institute of Fiscal Studies receives quite some EU funding under the bonnet...) or independent sources... These were constantly dismissed by the other camp, but one has to note: so far without any tangible contrary projections, figures, nor specific points on how and why the published pro-EU statistics are wrong...

Some headline figures in the Leave campaign have popped up, but ironically these were either completely wrong (the per-week "cost" of the EU, where not only the figure itself is vastly wrong, but also left out the cost vs. benefit calculations) or self-contradictory. On same day, two Leave campaign leaflets popped through the letterbox, one claimed twice the sum the other one stated in similar headline... It would be great if inside same camp, at least the tendentiously overstated figures could be agreed...

However, the biggest problem is that inevitably, as in every voting in recent years on any subject, the campaign has shifted toward chemically pure and reliable xenophobia.

The "take back control" (which in its utter naivety, considering basic geopolitical and economic factors any grown-up should be marginally aware of, is breathtaking) has been applied to... well, you guessed, UK borders.

Once again, isolationist and xenophobic emotions are running high. The immigration topic has completely discounted the minor facts that e.g. Switzerland, a non-EU member, had eye-watering levels of EU immigration due to the trade agreements' conditions...

Richard Dawkins has aptly stated that giving such decision to people is irresponsible, as voters don't understand economics (and many other things, if one looks at the debate). Therefore in his words, the Government is playing Russian roulette...

Even if one imagines UK "takes back control" of its borders, the Leave camp imagines this as a unilateral change... without giving any thought to the realities of just what conditions there will be when signing EU trade agreements... nor that there will be quite some reciprocity in the equation...

One has to recognise dogma as soon as rational discussion become impossible. Notice how any statement of truly common sense (e.g. without common free airspace, there will be years of uncertainties and costs passed on to customers, until possibly something is settled) are marked as scaremongering. Even someone stating the risks of both scenarios is marked as "tosh", "irresponsible"... Any figures that show costs of Brexit are immediately said to be part of, to quote, "Tory cover-up" and "conspiracy".

Thus, dogmas have surfaced again, and it is scary to see the level at which even blatant self-contradictions don't alert the Brexiters and make them think for a tiny moment. Some want "democracy" instead of proportionally represented Euro MPs - in a country where 24% of eligible voters have instated a government. A superb example of democracy...and again total ignorance of basic facts.

Cornwall received vast EU subsidies in absolutely everything, compared to virtually nothing from Westminster... and they, rightly, constantly complained on how Westminster ignored them government after government. One would not guess, based on logic, what UK region has the biggest concentration of anti-EU voters. Yep, it's Cornwall. A typical case where utter lack of self-awareness and local patriotism scores a huge own goal - but such is, as always, fervent nationalism and xenophobia.

The most brilliant quote heard in electronic media was that of a small business owner. This concentrated the most ignorance into the least possible English words... "We won two world wars, we will survive outside the EU".

Nobody questions we would survive outside the EU. However, to make a statement so fundamentally logically flawed (check what logical inference and/or induction is), so fundamentally ignorant of one's own historic facts and so devoid of any basic understanding of how one's own society and political structures work, is quite a superlative achievement.

One really cannot be a fan of EU overblown bureaucracy and the often utterly silly levels of regulations. However, the irony in the "take back control" demagogy is that it keeps occurring in a country that has its nuclear power plants owned by China, entire car industry owned by Germany, India, USA et al., its heavy industry in doldrums and owned by others, multi-national lobby circles pulling the strings in Westminster... the list goes on, let's not even drag into this equation the facts of the financial sector...

Throughout history, overblown emotions coupled with utter ignorance of basic facts have yielded interesting results. However, exactly those making references to history have shown no understanding of that history, nor the basics of the present.

Therefore, it really shall be an interesting referendum indeed, to state the obvious.


Friday, 22 April 2016

Hopemongering

As the referendum on Britain's EU membership is approaching, one would really like to consider one's leave vs. remain vote based on some objective analyses of the consequences.

The studies and projections on the costs and, in general, the consequences of Britain leaving the EU, made by the London School of Economics (and one about the legal aspects, too), Global CounselInstitute of Economic Affairs, Confederation of British IndustryBank of England, HM Treasury, PricewaterhouseCoopers, BlackRock (the world's largest fund manager), to name a few, are instantly dismissed as "scaremongering" by the Brexit campaigners.

What is worrying is that the series of dismissals that promptly followed the series of studies are not substantiated to this day by a single counter-study from comparably ranked bodies and/or individuals, independent or not.

What we have is the Brexit campaigners purely personal and purely subjective rhetoric, which uses phraseology soaked in "I am sure", "but surely", "we are certain", and in the more honest cases, "I believe" or "I strongly believe".

If the Bank of England dared to measure in an ice-cold lucid way the pros and cons of Brexit, highlighting the uncertainties and risks, even that was dismissed as a "political intervention" (at best) and, to use the by now tiring and certainly tired expression, "scaremongering". The Governor of BoE rightly pointed out that the BoE not listing the risks and uncertainties would be a politically biased act...

One has to take e.g. HM Treasury's long-term predictions with a pinch of salt, but this goes for every single economic study, biased or not...

The problem is that any attempt to quantify the possible outcomes of Brexit is completely dismissed by empty rhetoric if that attempt has any negative conclusions. When the HM Treasury's analysis was dismissed, the Leave campaign has destroyed any hope of us seeing a counter-analysis by stating that they have no plans to publish their version of projected reality.

Also, a treaty signed by 28 countries was dismissed as "worthless" and as something that can be "easily undone" when compared to (literal quotes) "I am sure" and "surely" phraseology used by e.g. Michael Gove when he depicted the glorious future UK would have outside the EU. Yes, 28 countries signing a treaty is nullifiable by "I am sure" promptly followed in same sentence by personal unsubstantiated beliefs...

With utmost lucidity, one has to ask these increasingly hopemongering demagogues: if everything signed and published so far on the costs of Brexit is purely scaremongering, could the Leave campaigners come forward with any objective quantitative analysis that would, point by point, counter the "scaremongering" conclusions?

Perhaps some figures are only partial truths, perhaps some projections are biased - but if it is so, why so far we have zero quantitative counter-arguments that point by point demolish those scaremongering projections?

So far the campaign has been vastly disappointing on both sides... The Remain campaign quoting numerous independent, and sometimes not quite independent, sources has been attacked time and time again about them standing for "Project Fear".

What really strikes fear into the desperately trying to be objective voter's mind is the absence of comparable substance in the Leave campaign's empty rhetoric.

It is merely tragicomic that emotions about immigration (the eternal British election-time device) and fundamentally wrong emotions about "Britain setting its own destiny" are becoming the main devices of the Leave campaign.

Anybody with a very basic command of contemporary economics and geopolitics can only hear rhetoric about Britain "on its own" and "setting its destiny" very few times before it starts to physically hurt (or, at best, make one have cramps of rather bitter laughter).

It is deeply worrying that the hopemongering campaign not only refuses to produce objective quantitative analyses to attack what they so far attacked with merely subjective rhetoric, but it actually denies the fundamental realities of how Britain's future political, economical and financial destiny is inseparable of very external factors... whether the Leave campaign demagogues like it or not.

It is even more worrying that some parts of the electorate is, once again, suspending any basic logic in favour of such pseudo-patriotic nonsense that just betrays a willful denial of contemporary world economics (not to mention the political aspects).

So in a way, the Leave campaigners are right... there is a lot of scaremongering happening, but it increasingly feels as if the endless hopemongering devoid of substance is the main cause of one's fear...