Category: Uncategorized

Theresa May announces Festival of Great Britain and NI plan

BBC:

The government has announced plans for a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to take place in January 2022.

Downing Street described the nationwide festival as a “unique event” that echoes the 1851 Great Exhibition and will take place 70 years after the 1951 Festival of Britain.

“Just as millions of Britons celebrated their nation’s great achievements in 1951, we want to showcase what makes our country great today,” said Mrs May.

I think this is the single dumbest, most partisan idea I’ve ever heard.

A Guardian roundup of the suggested attractions include: games of pin the blame on a remainer, workshops on cooking chlorinated chicken and buying unregulated medicine on eBay, and the presence of an innovative jam pagoda.

Kavanaugh

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Brett Kavanaugh Said Blasey’s Friend ‘Refuted’ Her Testimony. She Didn’t.

Jonathan Chait on Why Brett Kavanaugh’s Hearings Convinced Me That He’s Guilty.

How we know Kavanaugh is lying is a line by line examination of Kavanaugh’s testimony.

Oh yes, and from The Washington Post in 1990: Area headmasters warn parents of student parties.

LaterI Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him.

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It’s not often you see a federal judge acting as though he’s auditioning for The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come

Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic:

Unlike Marxism, the Leninist one-party state is not a philosophy. It is a mechanism for holding power. It works because it clearly defines who gets to be the elite—the political elite, the cultural elite, the financial elite. In monarchies such as prerevolutionary France and Russia, the right to rule was granted to the aristocracy, which defined itself by rigid codes of breeding and etiquette. In modern Western democracies, the right to rule is granted, at least in theory, by different forms of competition: campaigning and voting, meritocratic tests that determine access to higher education and the civil service, free markets. Old-fashioned social hierarchies are usually part of the mix, but in modern Britain, America, Germany, France, and until recently Poland, we have assumed that competition is the most just and efficient way to distribute power. The best-run businesses should make the most money. The most appealing and competent politicians should rule. The contests between them should take place on an even playing field, to ensure a fair outcome.

Lenin’s one-party state was based on different values. It overthrew the aristocratic order. But it did not put a competitive model in place. The Bolshevik one-party state was not merely undemocratic; it was also anticompetitive and antimeritocratic. Places in universities, civil-service jobs, and roles in government and industry did not go to the most industrious or the most capable. Instead, they went to the most loyal. People advanced because they were willing to conform to the rules of party membership. Though those rules were different at different times, they were consistent in certain ways. They usually excluded the former ruling elite and their children, as well as suspicious ethnic groups. They favored the children of the working class. Above all, they favored people who loudly professed belief in the creed, who attended party meetings, who participated in public displays of enthusiasm. Unlike an ordinary oligarchy, the one-party state allows for upward mobility: True believers can advance. As Hannah Arendt wrote back in the 1940s, the worst kind of one-party state “invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.”

Lenin’s one-party system also reflected his disdain for the idea of a neutral state, of apolitical civil servants and an objective media. He wrote that freedom of the press “is a deception.” He mocked freedom of assembly as a “hollow phrase.” As for parliamentary democracy itself, that was no more than “a machine for the suppression of the working class.” In the Bolshevik imagination, the press could be free, and public institutions could be fair, only once they were controlled by the working class—via the party.

China wants to make machines and tools, too

Financial Times:

Ms Boland, like a lot of witnesses at the US Trade Representative’s hearings, mentioned Made in China 2025, the PRC’s ten-year plan to become dominant and self-sufficient all the way up the value chain, in industries such as electric cars, aerospace, bio-medicine and farming equipment. It’s a major complaint of the USTR’s 301 report (emphasis ours):

The Made in China 2025 Notice sets forth clear principles, tasks, and tools to implement this strategy, including government intervention and substantial government, financial and other support to the targeted Chinese industries. Domestic dominance and global competitiveness are to be achieved by upgrading the entire research, development, and production chain, with emphasis on localizing the output of components and finished products. Foreign technology acquisition through various means remains a prime focus under Made in China 2025 because China is still catching up in many of the areas prioritized for development, and as U.S. companies are front-runners in many of these areas. 

The plan includes improving what the PRC calls “basic techniques” for manufacturing — exactly what the companies of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association make. That’s the next link up the value chain. China wants it. So here’s the problem for this and every White House:

  1. You can’t apply tariffs lower down the value chain in China without harming the next link up, domestically. US manufacturers need Chinese resins, and want Chinese markets.
  2. Meanwhile, China is aggressively targeting that next link up with its own subsidies at home.

In its new tariff schedule, the Commerce Department tried to square this circle by including tariffs on current imports as punishment, and tariffs on tools and machinery as a warning. The companies of MEMA want neither, but they do want the US to be a lot more effective at bilateral negotiations with Beijing, because they look down the value chain and see Chinese companies — and Chinese subsidies — looking back up.

Tariffs alone aren’t the answer. Maybe tariffs aren’t the answer, period. But the 1.6m US employees of the machinery and fabricated metal products sectors can’t afford for there to be no plan whatsoever. Maybe the White House is playing its hand poorly. Maybe it has a bad hand. But the poker game is on.

Here’s the science behind the Brexit vote and Trump’s rise

Michele Gelfand in The Guardian:

My research across hundreds of communities suggests that the fundamental driver of difference is not ideological, financial or geographical – it’s cultural. Behaviour, it turns out, depends a lot on whether the culture in which we live is a “tight” or “loose” one.

This is simply a way of describing the strength of social norms and the strictness with which those norms are enforced. All cultures have norms – rules for acceptable behaviour – that we take for granted. As children, we learn hundreds of them: to not grab things out of other people’s hands, to put on clothes each day. We continue to absorb new norms throughout our lives: what to wear to a funeral; how to behave at a rock concert versus a symphony; and the proper way to perform rituals from weddings to worship. Social norms are the glue that holds groups together; they give us our identity, and they help us coordinate in unprecedented ways. Yet cultures vary in the strength of their social glue, with profound consequences for our worldviews, our environments and our brains.

Tight cultures have strong norms and little tolerance for deviance, while loose cultures are the opposite. In the US, a relatively loose culture, a person can’t get far down their street without witnessing a slew of casual norm violations, from littering to jaywalking to arguing loudly on the street. By contrast, in Singapore, gum is banned, streets are pristine and jaywalkers are rare. Or consider Brazil, a relatively loose culture, where arriving late for business meetings is more the rule than the exception. In fact, if you want to be sure someone will arrive on time in Brazil, you say com pontualidade britânica, which means “with British punctuality”. Meanwhile, in Japan, a tight country, there’s a huge emphasis on punctuality – trains almost never arrive late. On the rare days that delays do occur, some train companies will hand out cards to passengers that they can submit to their bosses to excuse a tardy arrival.

A discovery I and my team published in Science is that the strength of a culture’s norms isn’t random. Though they were separated by miles, and in some cases centuries, tight cultures as diverse as Sparta and Singapore have something in common: each faced (or faces) a high degree of threat, whether from Mother Nature – disasters, diseases, and food scarcity – or human nature – the chaos caused by invasions and internal conflicts. Strong norms are needed in these contexts to help groups survive. And when we look at loose cultures, from classical Athens to modern New Zealand, we see the opposite pattern: they enjoy the luxury of facing far fewer threats. This safety is used to explore new ideas, accept newcomers, and tolerate a wide range of behaviour. In contexts where there are fewer threats and thus less of a need for coordination, strong norms don’t materialise.

Manufacturing jobs are better jobs

Financial Times:

Your weekly paycheck isn’t your wage; it’s your wage multiplied by your hours. Over the last 40 years, hours overall have drifted down, particularly in retail, where in the last decade scheduling software has allowed companies to more efficiently call employees in or dismiss them. But manufacturing jobs, which are more likely to be unionised, still offer 42 hours a week. Mining and logging, which tend to run closer to capacity, offer 47 hours.

And in America, whether an employer offers benefits can make a huge difference. Last year 81 percent of production jobs offered health insurance. Overall for private workers, 68 percent. For service jobs — the single largest group — 39 percent. So the job that Gary Cohn says Americans wouldn’t choose at the same pay turns out to have better pay, better hours, and better benefits. People are nostalgic for manufacturing jobs not just because it’s nice to make something. It’s because they’re better jobs.

Trump was on to something, during the campaign. People are dissatisfied with the quality of the jobs they hold. Perhaps they want manufacturing jobs. Perhaps they just want the kind of security that manufacturing jobs offer. Either way, it’s hard to be sympathetic to the people in the administration who, confronted with the President’s inchoate but not entirely incorrect feelings on economics, attempted to explain them away.

 

Conservative Zugzwang Redux

Simon Wren-Lewis:

After the 2017 General Election, I wrote a post about how, whatever the Conservatives did next, they would make their position worse (a situation called ‘zugzwang’ in chess). In that post, by taking a piece of received wisdom as given, I underestimated the hole they were in. The mistake I made was to assume that by 2021 the Brexit issue will have been put to bed and a new Conservative leader would be elected in time to fight the next election.
The error was to underestimate the determination of the Brexiters to keep the issue alive. If a deal is made with the EU and parliament accepts that deal (both big ifs) it will be on terms which Brexiters find more intolerable than being in the EU. We will be in the customs union and at least part of the single market: pay, obey but no say. The reasons that the Brexiters will keep complaining about that kind of Brexit is partly because they cannot stop themselves, but mainly because they need to keep the issue alive to obtain the prize of the Tory leadership. In this they will be helped by the return of UKIP talking of the Brexit betrayal. The received wisdom after the 2016 vote that the Brexit vote would end this fatal division among the right of UK politics was another mistake.
That leads to the ultimate zugzwang: Remain Tory MPs cannot risk May departing from the scene, because if she does the solid Leave majority among members will vote in a Brexiter. The Conservative zugzwang is even worse than I thought in that earlier post. If MPs vote through an EU deal and we enter transition there is a good chance Theresa May will fight the next General Election. What seemed unthinkable after 2017 now seems most likely. We know from 2017 and the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy that May is the type of leader that makes the most of Corbyn’s qualities.
It is worse than that. The issue of ‘Brexit betrayal’ will remain alive until 2022. UKIP will start taking votes from Conservatives more than they take votes from Labour, because Leavers are more likely to be Conservatives. That does not mean Labour are bound to win in 2022. The Conservatives will try their best to convince voters that Labour under Corbyn will tear the UK’s economy and foreign policy apart even more than the Tories have done. But an actual or impending end to transition will not be sold by the Conservatives as a triumph but instead will remain an existential threat to the party.
This was the point at which I realised something that I had completed missed: this will never stop.  There is no placating the brexiters.  Whilst the EU still exists and the UK trades with it, no leave will be good enough for the ultras.