What should we do?

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David Davis

Obviously photoshopped because he’d never really dress like that.

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One billionaire’s fury at another

Good article in times today,  proof that Johnson, Gove and Rees-Mogg have nothing to offer their brexit constituency.  Has any one of them been to Boston, Barnsley or Middlesbrough to tell their supporters how brexit will cure their ills?  No.  Mogg was at the Cambridge union debating and Gove and Johnson never leave the m25.  Just look at the constituencies these jokers represent: Surrey, Somerset and Uxbridge.  Hardly left behind Britain.

Daily Heil is all over Soros today.  Aaron banks anyone?

Daily Mail:

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Schrodinger’s border

Robert Peston on Facebook:

“Schrodinger’s border” is a senior Tory’s name for what the government has to create between Northern Ireland and the Republic: a border that both exists and doesn’t exist at the same time.

Or to put it another way, there has to be enough of a border so that after we leave the EU, the rest of the EU isn’t fearful that goods failing to meet their standards leak from the province into the EU single market.

They don’t want US chlorinated chicken polluting EU coq au vin, for example, which might happen if we succeed in doing a trade deal with Trump’s America and there aren’t border checks.

But the border can’t be so real that it stimulates the kind of smuggling and crime which in the past has funded terrorism.

So the border somehow has to exist and not exist.

How Hedge Funds (Secretly) Get Their Way in Washington

Bloomberg:

James K. Glassman, 71, who said in an email that he stands by his testimony, is a key asset in a furtive campaign by Wall Street to bend the political process. Over the past two decades, hedge funds have grown explosively, with a collective $3.4 trillion under management. Not content to make bets and watch from the sidelines, the largest funds increasingly are trying to steer government outcomes—such as negotiations over sovereign debt—so that their investments are likelier to pay out. When billions are at stake on a given wager, a lobbying campaign looks cheap. But hedge funds know that they’re politically toxic—portrayed by both parties as overpaid plutocrats—and prefer that much of these offensives be conducted in secret. That’s where DCI comes in, providing credible-seeming voices to speak up for the funds’ interests—voices like Glassman’s. It’s not illegal, but it undermines basic principles of transparency and trust.

Since the work is concealed, there’s no way to know for sure how many hedge funds are leveraging Washington to benefit their portfolios. But interviewing insiders and scouring public records, Bloomberg Businessweek identified six major influence campaigns waged on behalf of investors in a particular stock or bond since 2006. DCI, it turns out, coordinated all six.

The campaigns are remarkably similar. Behind the scenes of official Washington, the company repeatedly crafted narratives portraying investors as victims of corrupt governments. DCI rounded up ordinary Americans who agreed with its clients and marched them into lawmakers’ offices to lend a veneer of grass-roots support. Meanwhile, Glassman and other ostensibly independent intellectuals blanketed panels, hearings, and press conferences with the same storyline, without ever mentioning their connection to DCI or the hedge funds. If all went well, the targets of these campaigns—administration officials, media “thought leaders,” and lawmakers—didn’t know they were being lobbied, much less who paid for it.

American democracy is broken.

Henry Wallace

Henry Wallace in the New York Times:

The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

 

A conversation about how public transport really works

Financial Times:

Jarrett Walker is a public transportation expert and author of the 2011 book Human Transit, which seeks to dispel many of the myths and fallacies misleading debate and investment in public transport across the world.

Written before ride-sharing apps became the thing they are today, Walker’s core thesis — that urban geometry must be respected at all stages of public transportation development — still holds true. Worryingly, it’s also the key reality still ignored by those seeking to disrupt the world’s transport systems (supposedly for the better) today.

Walker blogs at HumanTransit.org, where he continues the campaign to inform the world about the physical constraints of urban geometry that must be respected if we are to build better systems that don’t just service the urban elite. He also tweets at @humantransit, where he sometimes gets called an idiot by Elon Musk.

Earlier this month FT Alphaville spoke with Walker about what people misunderstand about how public transport works. A technology failure prevented it being a podcast, so here is a (slightly) truncated transcript of that long conversation.

The many problems with a market for higher education

Financial Times:

In April this year, the Office for Students will become the “regulator and competition authority” for the English higher education sector. The establishment of this authority, complete with its own “chief executive”, captures perfectly the transition of the country’s university sector, where income from tuition fees has gradually supplanted direct government funding over the last few decades.

This process of government-encouraged marketisation — one of those rare instances where Latinate jargon is actually instructive — naturally leads to a conception of the student as a customer or consumer.

It has therefore generated high levels of competition between universities, which encourages them to do new things, like improve their accommodation, advertise on YouTube, or issue hundreds of millions of pounds of debt in international capital markets.

So what kind of a “market” are we dealing with here? Enter: the National Audit Office, which in December produced a report on the matter. It pointed out that the average student debt for a three-year degree is £50,000 – a “legal financial liability”. The independent body, which is funded by Parliament, also revisited the theme this week in a blog, which argued that students “don’t have the same protections at the point of sale as some other services”.

The strengthening of these incentives is closely connected to the consumer-protection issue. The marketisation process, as a corollary to competition, introduces (and even encourages) the threat of failure. This risk incentivises aggressive marketing on the part of cash-strapped universities, who are selling a service mostly paid for with government credit.

It’s not going to end well, is it.