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The Purge of Science and Reason

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From: powerm1985
Duration: 15:30

Organic farming was not the singular cause for the crisis which Sri Lanka is currently facing, but the sudden agro-chemical ban poured more fuel on the fire and demonstrated just how critical high-yielding crops are in economies still based largely on agriculture. This is the dark side of organic farming. 
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Vandana Shiva and the Seeds of the Sri Lankan Farming Disaster
Is Glyphosate Probably Carcinogenic? Probably Not!
Is Glyphosate “Probably Carcinogenic to Humans” ?
Capitalising on Corona – Vandana Shiva – #1
Biting the Hand That Feeds You – Those Who Oppose The Green Revolution
Bad science in the paper ‘Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant GM maize’
Bad science in the paper “long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize”
Drinking Roundup Herbicide Makes Men Live Longer
Failing to Learn From Previous Sri Lankan Farming Disasters
Voice overs by
James Gurney
Intro Music by Michael 'Skitch' Schiciano
Dreams by Dj Quads

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LKA-Beamter kauft im Dienst in Berlin Drogen von Koks-Taxi – und wird von Kollegen erwischt

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(Foto: Modi74)

Ein Polizist des Landeskriminalamtes wollte in Berlin Koks von einem „Koks-Taxi“ kaufen und wurde dabei von Kollegen erwischt. Na hooopsie!

Am Mittwochabend ist ein LKA-Beamter in Berlin-Mitte dabei erwischt worden, als er Drogen aus einem „Koks-Taxi“ kaufte. Der Vorfall ereignete sich laut Polizei gegen 21 Uhr in der Straße Unter den Linden. Beamte wurden demnach auf den Mann aufmerksam, als er an ein dort wartendes Fahrzeug herangetreten war und sich von der Fahrerin etwas geben ließ.

Bei dem Beamten wurden die Diensträume durchsucht, wobei nichts weiter gefunden wurde, gegen ihn wurde ein Verfahren eingeleitet.

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4 hours ago
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Residents' association takes Vancouver to court over agreement for Squamish Nation-led development

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A group representing residents in part of Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood is taking the city and the Squamish Nation to court, asking a judge to quash a key agreement concerning a housing development planned for the area.

The Kits Point Residents Association filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday asking for a judicial review of the agreement to ensure the city will manage utilities, fire and policing at the 11-tower Sen̓áḵw development planned for the neighbourhood.

The association — which represents more than 1,000 households in the area — wants the court to declare that the city didn't give residents a fair chance to offer feedback or express concerns around the development.

"The city did not provide residents of Kits Point or Vancouver generally with any details of the service agreement or an opportunity to be heard ... despite city staff's assurances that it would engage with community and the impact of the project on surrounding neighbourhood," the petition reads.

"The city incorrectly and unreasonably believes that since the [Squamish] Nation was not required to consult city residents, it too was not required to consult or hear from its residents."

The Sen̓áḵw development would see 11 towers built at the head of Vancouver's False Creek, on expropriated land the courts returned to the nation in 2003. It would bring 6,000 new rental homes to the area by 2027, according to planners.

At a groundbreaking ceremony last month, the Squamish Nation said the development is the largest Indigenous-led housing and retail development in the history of Canada.

The City of Vancouver issued a brief statement about the legal action on Thursday.

"The city is reviewing the legal petition and will respond in due course," it said in an email.

The nation deferred comment to the city.

The residents' association said it tried to get details about the project before the services agreement was signed, but claimed staff "repeatedly" told them they could not discuss details because discussions were all being held in camera, or behind closed doors.

The petition says the city's actions were "unlawful, unreasonable" and violated the Vancouver Charter — the rulebook governing how the city operates.

"A host of interests and issues need to be addressed and negotiated ... including impacts on services, infrastructure, environment, public amenities, parking, traffic and transportation, livability and local taxes," the petition says.

The residents' association said it is not opposed to the development, but concerned about the "size, density, heights of towers and the effect on the neighbouring residential area," including Vanier Park.

The federal government is providing a $1.4-billion loan to the nation to help finance the first two of the development's four phases. Ottawa said the loan from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is the largest in Canadian history.

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7 hours ago
Of course they are. They want to retain their "tranquil neighourbhood" in the city. There's a reason they all want Hardwick and her TEAM, she'll guarantee that nothing new gets build anywhere but the east side or downtown peninsula.
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‘It’s closer now than it’s ever been’: could there soon be a united Ireland? | Ireland

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The 3Arena in Dublin has hosted U2, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Arcade Fire, but on 1 October 2022 5,000 people streamed in to watch a very different spectacle. The performers on stage were Irish politicians, dozens of them from ruling and opposition parties, and all they did was talk. A river of words that touched on pensions, healthcare, taxes, social policy, constitutional arrangements – worthy topics that could put an audience to sleep. Instead, people craned forward in their seats, thirsty for every word. An energy pulsed through the auditorium because each speech articulated a collective wish, a wish once dismissed as hopeless fantasy, a pipe dream for sad ballads, and declared it alive with exhilarating possibility. The wish for a united Ireland.

“Together, we look to an Ireland beyond partition,” Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Féin, told the crowd. “We reimagine the future of our country, discuss our ideas for a united Ireland and a tomorrow that captures all the potential and immense opportunities for this island. We are here in the spirit of ambition. To seize the day.” She paused, and the rhetoric soared: “Friends, we have come together to build our nation anew.”

McDonald finished to cheers and a standing ovation and there was yet more rapture: in a keynote speech, the actor James Nesbitt, a Northern Irish Protestant from a unionist background, declared it was time for a “new union of Ireland”, one that accommodated all identities and allegiances. “We’re standing at a profound moment here in the history of the islands,” he said. The crowd whooped and gave another ovation. They streamed out into autumn sunshine confident history was finally on their side, that demographic and political forces were aligning to erase the border. “It’s closer now than it’s ever been,” said Mary Greene, 63, from west Belfast. Wally Kirwan, 78, a retired senior civil servant who used to advise Irish governments about Northern Ireland, hoped to see Ireland become one. “If I’m given a few more years, I might be there for it.”

These were the converted, people who had paid €7.10 to attend the conference organised by Ireland’s Future, a non-profit that advocates unification. But they are hardly alone. British politicians are increasingly vocal about where things seem headed. “It looks more likely than not that in the not too distant future, the province will become part of the republic,” Norman Tebbit, a Thatcherite minister wounded in the IRA bombing of the 1984 Conservative conference at Brighton, recently wrote in the Daily Telegraph. Shaun Woodward, the Labour government’s last Northern Ireland secretary, told the BBC the conditions to call a referendum were nearing: “It’s getting pretty close.” Peter Kyle, Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, said he would call a referendum, also known as a border poll, if certain conditions were met. “I am not going to be a barrier if the circumstances emerge.”

For Irish unity even to be taken seriously is a dramatic turnaround – and a century in the making. Rebels led by Michael Collins ended British rule and won autonomy for 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties in 1921. The British cleaved off six northern counties as a statelet for Protestants who wished to remain in the UK. Protestants in this new state, Northern Ireland, outnumbered Catholics two to one, ensuring a seemingly permanent unionist majority. Discrimination against Catholics paved the way to the Troubles, which revived the IRA and republican dreams of unification. Then the 1998 Good Friday agreement enshrined the principle of no constitutional change without the consent of the majority. If a secretary of state believes a majority would favour unification, he or she is to call a referendum. For two decades this was a remote prospect since most people in Northern Ireland, including many Catholics, favoured the status quo. It meant stability, the NHS and an estimated £10bn annual subvention from London. The unification dream hibernated.

Over the past six years, little by little, it has awoken. What prompted the comments from Tebbit, Woodward and Kyle were results last month from the 2021 Northern Ireland census. Of the 1.9 million population, Catholics now outnumber Protestants: 45.7% versus 43.48%. The demographic tilt was expected – the gap has narrowed every decade – but was still a landmark. The late Rev Ian Paisley, the founder of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), had feared such a doomsday when he warned that Catholics “breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin”.

Perhaps even more significant in the census was a loosening of British identity. Some 32% identified as British only, 29% identified as Irish only and 20% as Northern Irish only. In 2011, the figures were 40% British only, 25% Irish only and 21% Northern Irish only. Brexit’s fingerprints are all over this waning Britishness. Most people in Northern Ireland, as in Scotland, voted in 2016 to remain in the EU and resented being forced out of it by the English. It wasn’t just about markets and travel. The Good Friday agreement’s success hinged on blurring identities – in Northern Ireland you could feel British or Irish or both. By resurrecting the debate over borders, Brexit revived an existential question – which side are you on? In a LucidTalk poll in August, 48% said they favoured staying in the UK versus 41% who favoured uniting with Ireland. A University of Liverpool poll in July found both sides tied at approximately 40%.

Sinn Féin, once the IRA’s mouthpiece and a political outcast, is now ascendant. In May’s assembly election, it overtook the DUP as Northern Ireland’s biggest party, a milestone that makes Michelle O’Neill eligible to be first minister. In the republic it leads the opposition, is surging in popularity and appears poised to lead the next government, a once unthinkable proposition. Sinn Féin leaders welcomed King Charles to Northern Ireland last month with a flawless show of republican respect – yet another milestone – that impressed even some unionists.

While Irish-unity advocates polish their credentials, the putative defenders of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK immolate their credibility. The DUP has alienated liberal Protestants by resisting same-sex unions, abortion rights and other social changes. It has collapsed power-sharing at Stormont to protest against the Northern Ireland protocol, leaving the region rudderless in the midst of a cost of living crisis and reinforcing a sense that Northern Ireland, as a political entity, simply does not work – long a cherished goal of the IRA.

Meanwhile the Tories, officially the Conservative and Unionist party, have prioritised Brexit over the union. In a 2019 YouGov poll, 59% of party members said they would accept Northern Ireland leaving the UK as a price of Brexit. Boris Johnson exhibited this disregard in agreeing to the protocol, which puts a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Liz Truss seeks to empower her government to rip up parts of the protocol with a bill currently at the House of Lords but that was devised before her fiscal policies put financial markets and her own party in revolt, reordering her priorities. There are signs Truss is preparing to cut a deal with the EU. Why else, the DUP nervously wonders, did the arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker, a Northern Ireland minister, last week apologise to Dublin and Brussels for previous behaviour?

“Part of the sense of momentum towards a border poll is that Britain is so embarrassing at the moment,” says Malachi O’Doherty, the author of Can Ireland Be One?, a new book that interrogates the case for unity. “If I vote for unity, it’ll be out of not wanting to be governed by a Little England run by Tory prats till the end of time.”

Every month seems to bring another book on the topic: United Nation: the Case for Integrating Ireland, by Frank Connolly; Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground, by Susan McKay; Making Sense of a United Ireland, by Brendan O’Leary. Ben Collins, a former British government press officer who campaigned for the Ulster Unionist party, details his conversion to the cause in Irish Unity: Time to Prepare. Next week, Rosemary Jenkinson will launch Extraordinary Times, a literary thriller that imagines Belfast on the eve of a referendum.

The tide seems remorseless, inevitable. Unity advocates are at pains to avoid triumphalism. There are no Irish tricolours or rebel ballads at Ireland’s Future events. Gerry Adams stays behind the scenes. The message is: unity is coming, unionists will be welcome, let’s discuss details. “Constitutional change will require planning and preparation. It’s not about imposing a preordained result on anybody,” said John Finucane, a Sinn Féin MP.

But unification is not inevitable. Sinn Féin’s rise, and the census results, are in some ways deceptive. The party is popular in the south because it promises free-spending leftwing solutions to a housing crisis and other problems unrelated to a united Ireland. Opinion polls suggest support for unification in the republic is wide but shallow, with only 22% prepared to pay more tax to fund it. A Sinn Féin-led government will be expected to prioritise housing, income and welfare. Its electoral surge in the north comes at the expense of the Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP), which also favours unification. In recent elections, the overall nationalist vote has plateaued at about 40%, as has the overall unionist vote.

A referendum will hinge on the non-aligned middle, approximately 20% of voters. “It’s not an Orange or Green thing – it’s a class thing, it’s about whether you can heat your house,” says Niall Carson, 23, a Belfast barman.

The fastest-growing party in Northern Ireland is Alliance, which is agnostic on any border poll, saying it will decide if and when one comes. “The constitutional question is not what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s the bread-and-butter issues: climate, social justice,” says Eóin Tennyson, 24, an Alliance member of the assembly. Young people resent being hustled into tribal positions, he says. “If you’re an atheist, it’s: ‘Yes, but a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?’” Voters will judge a prospective unitary state on how it affects the health service, pensions and other pragmatic concerns, says Tennyson. “There is much talk about the need to focus on details but we never seem to get there.”

He has a point. Studies on unification tend to fill gaps in research with wishful thinking and questionable assumptions. The speakers at the 3Arena event tacitly acknowledged that when they said serious work was needed to flesh out what a united Ireland would look like.

Persuading voters to leap into something new – as Scottish nationalists discovered in 2014 – is not easy. It is likely to be even harder if a stable Labour government replaces Tory melodramas. Irish nationalists may find that Northern Ireland, for all its dysfunctions, is not quite dysfunctional enough to sway the non-aligned. They enjoy a relatively low cost of living, job opportunities and a vibrant arts scene.

“There is so much in this place that is good and exciting and ambitious,” says Anne McReynolds, the chief executive of Belfast’s Metropolitan Arts Centre, better known as the Mac. The Lyric theatre, the Grand Opera House and other venues are thriving despite savage cuts to arts funding, she says.

The city’s Cathedral Quarter has transformed into an arts and hospitality hub that draws hordes of students. “There used to be nothing here except the odd dead body and lurking terrorist. There is a vitality about this place, it’s buzzing,” says Damien Corr, the area’s business improvement manager.

The other deterrent to constitutional change is that it could get very messy, very quickly. Herding a minority into a new state against its will did not work out well the last time. Promises to respect unionist culture – perhaps adopt a new flag and anthem, rejoin the Commonwealth, keep a role for Stormont – cut little ice in hardline unionist areas.

Stroll down Lower Newtownards Road in east Belfast and you see freshly painted loyalist murals that announce “freedom corner” and depict masked figures manning a roadblock. Many homes have union jacks and posters of the Queen. “We’re British and we’re staying British. We do not want a united Ireland,” says one resident, Catherine McCormack, 64. “We don’t want our country run by terrorists. It’s up to us to stop it.” Her friend Agnes, 68, says: “I’ll put it plainly, love. We don’t want Sinn Féin-IRA running the country.” She was not impressed by Sinn Féin welcoming the King. “They have as many faces as the Albert clock.”

Richard Stitt, 52, a former Ulster Defence Association paramilitary, says he could never accept Dublin rule. “I’d never go under the Irish government – or the pope.” The UDA and Ulster Volunteer Force, a rival paramilitary group, are still ready to defend British identity, he says. “If there is a referendum, everyone would start fighting again, they’d start shooting again. They’re still collecting guns.” Police agree the groups remain armed and dangerous.

Malachi O’Doherty says some loyalist areas might demand their own police, courts and sovereignty. “Unionists in the north hold territory, defined territory which they would assert through murals, flags, parades, maybe weapons. It would be a very hard rock for a united Ireland to swallow. You’re creating a potential Donbas region.”

Shane Ross, a former Irish politician and author of Mary Lou McDonald, a new biography of the Sinn Féin leader, shares the foreboding. “A united Ireland is a kind of nirvana that is very dangerous. It’ll resurrect all the ghosts of the past.”

The crowds at the 3Arena shrugged off such talk as scaremongering and defeatist. There was a new nation to build. However, Nesbitt ended his keynote speech with what sounded like a coded warning. “I’ll leave you with a traditional and appropriate Irish blessing,” he said. “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

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9 hours ago
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The week the wheels came off the Brexit Britain bus

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The political ambitions of the libertarian wing of the Brexit Ultras have always been ambivalent. On the one hand, they have largely preferred to complain of betrayal from the sidelines rather than take any responsibility or, if accepting ministerial office, to quickly resign rather than engage with the pragmatic realities of Brexit. On the other hand, they have hankered to be in charge not just so as to create ‘true Brexit’, but the ‘real Conservatism’ of which Brexit was a part and to which it was a gateway.

With the advent of Truss’s premiership, they have eschewed the sidelines in favour of governing and, with a rapidity that even their sternest critics would have thought it cruel to predict, have been exposed as utterly incompetent, both politically and economically, and in the most basic of ways. It is deeply ironic that this has happened at the hand of ‘the markets’ which they so slavishly fetishize.

Anatomy of a crisis

The occasion, of course, was last Friday’s tax-cutting ‘mini-budget’. “At last! A true Tory Budget”, the Daily Mail drooled, whilst Nigel Farage simpered about “the best Conservative Budget since 1986”. Yet, whether despite or because of this fidelity to Conservatism, and as anticipated in my previous post, there was an immediate crisis in the currency and bond markets, with the value of the pound falling to its lowest ever level on Monday, and the cost of government borrowing in the form of gilts or bonds rising very sharply. Amongst numerous knock-on effects, pension funds, which invest heavily in such bonds, came within hours of mass insolvency on Wednesday afternoon, threatening a major breakdown of the financial system and requiring major emergency temporary action from the Bank of England. This, in combination, with a clear signal from the Bank that interest rates will rise in due course, which eased pressure on the pound, has effected a degree of stabilization, but markets remain jittery and it’s by no means clear that this crisis has run its course, especially as regards gilts.

These weren’t routine or trivial market movements, but an overwhelming and brutal vote of no confidence in the government’s plans. Specifically, they were a vote of no confidence in the decision to cut taxes, or not implement previously planned tax rises, and to fund this through borrowing. Again as anticipated in my last post, the government’s refusal to allow its plans to be scrutinised independently by the Office for Budget Responsibility added to market alarm. So, too, did Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s casual reaction over the weekend, even suggesting further tax cuts to come. The rout continued on Monday when, as Paul Donovan, Chief Economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, put it, “investors seem to regard the UK Conservative Party as a doomsday cult”.

Throughout the week, the absence of public statements from Truss or Kwarteng compounded this impression, and when Truss did emerge on Thursday morning it was to re-confirm the government’s policy and downplay the market reaction, as well as denying it had anything much to do with the mini-budget. To the extent she admitted any connection it is the false one that markets didn’t like the costs of the energy bill support part of the budget, when in fact it was the tax cuts. It has since emerged that this and the equally false claim that what is happening in the markets is a global event due to the Ukraine War rather than something specifically affecting the UK are to be the government’s lines of defence.

Amongst the most significant events was when, on Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued what BBC Economics Editor Faisal Islam described as a “stinging and unusual rebuke” to the UK. What made it so unusual was that such IMF warnings are usually made to emerging markets, not leading global economies. I mentioned in my previous post that aspects of the economic situation resemble those which occasioned the IMF’s 1976 bailout of the UK, and its statement this week that it is “closely monitoring” developments in the UK carried echoes of that. It was also, like the comments of other international players and the decisions taken by traders, a reminder that, no matter what Brexiter ‘sovereignty’ fantasists may think, the UK can never be ‘independent’ of the wider world within which it is a relatively small player. Most fundamentally, the Brexiters’ belief that they can create their own reality, and that all opposition can be swept aside as ‘Project Fear’ or ‘remainer sabotage’, was tested almost to the point of destruction.

These events have been widely reported and there’s no point in me adding more to that. Instead, I want to tease out more about the Brexit aspects and implications.

The Brexit mini-budget

At one level, the mini-budget had very little to do with Brexit in that, so far as I can see, the only provision within it that wouldn’t have been possible whilst a member of the EU is the planned removal of the cap on bankers’ bonuses. That isn’t unimportant, politically, but it’s not what spooked the markets. However, it is the budget of the Brexit Ultras and it is intimately bound up with Brexit. In case anyone doubts that, it was underlined by Farage’s endorsement. Even more explicitly (£), John Longworth, one of the most immoderate of the Ultras, regards it as part of Truss’s battle “for the future of Brexit Britain”. It’s a sentiment widely shared in Brexiter circles, with the Bruges Group tweeting that “remain media are talking up market panic … to derail Brexit”.

So, given that the Brexiters themselves regard the mini-budget as integral to Brexit, it’s reasonable to say, as Robert Shrimsley of the Financial Times did (£), that “Brexit ideology lies behind the UK’s market rout”. It’s abundantly clear to even the feeblest intelligence that those Brexiters now include Truss, for all the fury  of Dominic Cummings’s denials (directed at me!) on the inane grounds that she supported remain in 2016. As I pointed out during the campaign, she is now a ‘born again Ultra’, perhaps the more fanatical for being so, and was extravagantly endorsed by the leading Ultras, making the fact that she was once a remainer the most tedious and least relevant thing to say about her.

As so often before, Brexiter responses to the crisis they created have been confused and contradictory. Some in the government prissily said they could not comment on market events, as if some new Trappist ordinance of political propriety has been invented. Others downplayed what has happened, suggesting that the market reaction is either trivial or transient, or even that it has little or nothing to do with the budget but is simply a result of a strengthening dollar (which doesn’t explain why the pound fell against all major currencies, or what happened in the bond market). Outrageously, some, like Crispin Odey, hedge fund manager, Tory and Vote Leave donor, and sometime employer of Kwarteng, blamed “remainers”. Peak insanity was reached by Daniel Hannan, who blamed the crash not on the mini-budget, but market fears of a Labour government!

In addition, or instead, some Brexiters blamed the Bank of England (BoE) for having failed to increase interest rates by enough, early enough, or to have reacted immediately to the crisis so as to support sterling and control inflation. That argument is more complicated than their others. There is a case that last week’s pre-budget interest rate rise should have been larger, although it’s not a straightforward one because doing so would also have been likely to impact on the cost-of-living crisis by pushing up mortgage rates.

Nevertheless, it was the government’s mini-budget, not the BoE, that caused this crisis and there is something bizarre about a government simultaneously taking inflationary measures it says will boost economic growth, whilst relying on the BoE to take measures to reduce inflation and choke off growth. Indeed, part of the reason for market nervousness is that the institutions of financial and economic governance are not acting in a consistent and coordinated way, something flagged up by Mark Carney, the former BoE Governor whose actions did much to preserve a degree of economic stability after the Brexit referendum vote. Perhaps the BoE could have acted earlier, though had it done so it's easy to predict that then it would have been accused of overreaction and of trying to undermine government policy. In any case, what is even more bizarre is the spectacle of Brexiters, with their disdain for experts, technocrats and unelected bureaucrats, positioning the BoE as having responsibility to save the government from itself. Or perhaps it is not bizarre, so much as a reflection of the Brexiters’ reflex refusal ever to take responsibility for anything even when in government.

Government by cultists

That refusal has as its counterpart the distinctively Brexity idea, now taken over wholesale by this Brexit government, that they are beleaguered revolutionaries of true Conservativism fighting the (presumably false) conservatism of ‘the Establishment’. The notion of Brexit as an anti-Establishment insurgency has been a ludicrous one ever since the 2016 referendum was won, and Brexit became adopted as the central policy and national strategy. It is even more so now that the Brexit Ultras are unequivocally in charge of government, though of course it is a standard populist trope, familiar from the Trump presidency.

What we have seen this week is that the Brexiters have added ‘the markets’ to the increasingly long and diverse list – encompassing the ‘Woke’ Blob, the civil service in general and the Treasury in particular, the BoE, remainers, rejoiners, the National Trust, the BBC – of enemy forces they must confront in the name of revolutionary purity.

Longford explicitly included the City in this list, whilst unnamed government figures suggested that traders were enacting “a plot by the left” which will have come as a surprise to them. Similarly, the Daily Mail reported that senior Tories blame “City Boys” for “sparking economic chaos” with traders “trying to make money out of bad news”. Well colour me shocked. Haven’t these free-market ideologues worked out that ‘trying to make money’ is what traders always do, indeed it’s all that they do? Do they think that ‘City Boys’ care about making government policy look good? And aren’t these the same ‘City Boys’ who, according to Kwarteng, are the brightest and the best who must be encouraged to come to London by uncapped bonuses? Aren’t they, for that matter, good ol’ City Boys like Crispin Odey?

The IMF, which has long been on the Brexiters’ list of enemies, also came under attack for its comments. For example, Brexiter economist Andrew Lilico was outraged by its “left-wing” intervention, to the point that he advocated the UK should “withhold its IMF contributions”. It is a strange world in which the IMF is considered ‘left-wing’ (or even, as Brexit Party ex-MEP Lance Forman had it, “socialist” and under the influence of the EU), and the idea of withholding contributions seems to conjure up a vision where Brexit is the gateway to exiting any and every international institution, in a permanent revolution of endless Brexits.

Also triggered by the IMF, David Frost opined, contradictorily, that its comments were “somewhat eccentric” yet reflected its “highly conventional approach”. This is indicative of the fact that what is at stake is more than Brexiter whinging about the enemies that beset them. This government, and its semi-intellectual underlabourers in think tanks and the media, are convinced that they are the custodians of a new truth. The markets and their economists are “attached to the old way of doing things” as Patrick Minford put it, to the extent that “there is no sterling crisis except in the minds of idiots” (£). Similarly the BoE has “not got the memo” about the “economic consensus crumbling” according to Paul Marshall (£), investment manager and Vote Leave donor. Thus arch-Brexiter journalist Allister Heath insists (£) Liz Truss must “hold her nerve” and defy the “orthodoxy” of “the elites”.

Their problem is that, as the market reaction shows, the ‘old ways’ still hold and the ‘economic consensus’ remains. Calling it an “orthodoxy” is accurate, but that very accuracy shows why decisions to “defy” it are foolish. That’s why investors regard the Tory government as a ‘doomsday cult’, and responding that investors are ‘idiots’, ‘conventional’ or even ‘socialists’ makes no difference, except perhaps to re-enforce them in that view.

As I put it in my last blog, traders simply don’t care about the theories of Patrick Minford, or of the broader IEA-derived analysis of the cultist government. Indeed, one of the few semi-amusing features of Brexit is the spectacle of all these free-trade, free-market economists going into contortions to explain how erecting trade barriers doesn’t damage trade and, now, why markets don’t understand how to price currencies or debt. It’s this stupidity that accounts for the fact that, apparently, market traders talk of the demand for a “moron risk premium” in order to hold sterling assets and fund UK debt.

But is there a cunning plan?

However, there is a different interpretation of all this doing the rounds on social media*, in which, far from being utterly incompetent, the Brexit government has a skilful, if malevolent, plan. It is an interpretation which comes in two variants.

One version is that the government deliberately crashed the markets, secretly giving hedge fund traders and others – with whom the current government has strong links of networks and party funding – advance notice so that, as indeed happened, they could short the markets and make fortunes. It doesn’t really make sense, though, because no such secret information would need to be passed – it was obvious even to me, and widely predicted, what was going to happen if the mini-budget pursued the policies Truss had openly advocated during the leadership campaign. Indeed that’s why the pound was beginning to fall once it became clear she was almost certain to win.

It also doesn’t make sense given the huge political price of the crisis. Some suggest that the government is so fanatical that it does not care about winning elections, or already thinks the next election is lost, and will inflict any amount of damage in order to pave the way for disaster capitalists to swoop in. Even, some say, the government ministers devising this scenario are doing so in expectation of lucrative employment with hedge funds and the like. But I’ve never met or heard of a politician who having devoted years to a political career has so cavalier an interest in its continuing success, and it seems extremely improbable that it would characterise an entire government.

And if it really does, then why provide energy bill support, so plainly at odds with small state, libertarian ideology? Indeed that seemed to be Truss’s position early in the leadership contest, when she spoke against giving people “handouts”, only to change tack when it became clear what the political consequences would be. The same applies to the theory of a deliberately engineered market crash.

The second variant of the ‘cunning plan’ interpretation is that the market reaction was anticipated by the government with the intention of providing a justification for a subsequent full budget including massive public spending cuts, as well as ‘supply side’ deregulation of labour rights, planning, and environmental standards, in order to ‘satisfy the markets’. On this account, the government manufactured the current crisis as a step to that pre-existing end goal.

In reality, it is highly unlikely that any government would deliberately create such a crisis, again because of the political consequences. Whatever any government’s agenda may be, it can only deliver it if it is in power and able to exercise power. That remains true even if the agenda is a secret one to enact some Ayn Rand-like laying waste to society and the state or, at least, a massive rolling back of the state. It still requires being in power, and being in power for a considerable amount of time, and with very little opposition or constraint. Yet some, such as Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee, think this week’s crisis will put the Conservatives out of power for a generation and many Tory MPs fear just that. But if the analysis that the government wouldn’t want a crisis because of the political consequences isn’t accepted, then why would it feel the need to provoke a crisis to justify spending cuts, rather than simply make the cuts and face the political consequences of doing so?

I suppose that those who believe the ‘cunning plan’ theory, in either variant, will never be persuaded otherwise, despite its inherent implausibility. One thing about such theories is that (ironically, rather like those of the Brexiters) they constantly twist the available evidence to ‘prove’ themselves. For example, until very recently Rishi Sunak appeared in such theories as the arch-libertarian, product of Goldman Sachs, former hedge fund partner and, supposedly, masterminding the introduction of ‘Charter Cities’ into the UK. Surely if the plan to deliberately crash the markets existed then he would be part of the government delivering it, perhaps even leading that government? And if he had been then, inevitably, that would have been cited as ‘proof’ of this secret plan. Yet, in fact, it was he who, during the leadership campaign, repeatedly denounced the “fairy tale” of Trussonomics, anticipating exactly the effects it would have on currency and bond markets and rejecting it as irresponsible.

No, just incompetence

So my own view is that, in their arrogance and delusion, this Brexit government, and its cheerleaders, really do believe it has found a new ‘unconventional’ economic model and did not expect the market reaction, and that although a full November budget was certainly planned, including the announcement of the deregulatory ‘supply side reforms’ that will supposedly deliver the growth to pay for tax cuts, it was not going to include significant spending cuts which, instead, were anticipated for after Truss had won the election on the back of what they expected to be a growing economy. Then, with the legitimacy of a fresh mandate and a compliant parliamentary majority, she would declare it was time to shrink public spending but without coupling that with the tax cuts that would already be in place.

If my interpretation is right, the government’s plan is now in tatters, and the expectation is that the November budget will feature huge spending cuts (£) (and perhaps reversing the tax cuts, as some Tory MPs want, which can’t be ruled out though it seems unlikely at the moment). That may seem to be the same outcome as version two of the ‘cunning plan’ that I’ve rejected, but my point is that the government would not, from choice, have initiated spending cuts before the election but afterwards, because of the political unpopularity of such cuts. Otherwise, why not just have held a normal budget this Autumn, featuring both tax and spending cuts, avoiding a market crisis altogether, taking a political hit, no doubt, but nothing compared to that which they now face.

For this government was already politically weak, and as a result of this crisis is now much weaker. Although the libertarian cabal has taken control of the government, both it and Truss have many opponents amongst MPs and, as I remarked in a post during the leadership campaign, the current Tory Party is so riven by factions as to be unleadable, with rebellions an ever-present possibility. This week’s crisis has laid that bare, with, almost astonishingly given how new her premiership is, reports of letters of no confidence in Truss being submitted by some MPs and threats of backbench revolts.

Crucially, the latest opinion poll, published yesterday evening, shows a massive 33% Labour lead, an increase of 16% since the mini-budget. That may not last, but it’s very possible that the government will not recover from this crisis, rather as happened after Black Wednesday in 1992 when the immediate fall in the polls was actually smaller.

It’s not just a matter of the electorate reacting fearfully to headlines of market turmoil and the sense that the government has lost control, it’s the impact on prices, most obviously petrol, and on mortgages, with several major lenders withdrawing fixed-rate offers this week and rates certain to increase, as well as predicted significant falls in house prices, perhaps by as much as 15%. This comes on top of the acute existing energy and general inflationary problems voters face, and their negative reaction can only be compounded if this crisis is immediately followed by, and seen to be the cause of, a new round of deeply unpopular ‘austerity’ spending cuts. The consequence is that Truss is now much less likely to win the next election and, possibly, won’t even survive until then.

Ultimately, the key point as regards the competence of this government by cult is that actually it’s irrelevant whether the crisis was the unexpected consequence of last Friday’s mini-budget decisions or was indeed ‘the plan’. Either the government was too incompetent to anticipate the scale of market reaction, or too incompetent to anticipate the scale of the political consequences of that reaction.

The dangers of cultism

The question about design versus incompetence has a wider significance. Throughout the Brexit process there have always been some, mainly remainers, who are adamant that it is driven by Machiavellian master strategists who conceal themselves behind a façade of stupidity and incompetence. To my mind, it is an absurd notion: not only did the Brexiters never have a single, unified, strategy but also everything I have seen or heard about them suggests that they really are just as incompetent in private as in public.

So now that we have a government of the libertarian Brexiters, it genuinely believes – egged on by its think tank advisors – that it is in possession of a new truth, one despised and ignored by the ‘experts’ whom they see as financially and intellectually invested in the ‘old way’ of doing things. That truth informs the fantasy economics of this ‘budget for growth’ but encompasses the entirety of the Brexit project, including the persistent, hubristic delusion of the UK’s power to dictate terms to the world around it and the fantasy which accompanies it about what ‘sovereignty’ means.

It rests upon a fanaticism, completely at odds with reality, shored up by the impregnable arrogance and mulish stubbornness of mediocrity. The most dangerous thing about it is not that these fanatics refuse to listen to any warnings, whoever they come from, it is that the more they hear those warnings the more convinced they are of their own rightness. This is the Brexiter logic I have written about so many times before (I think the first time was May 2017) in which every piece of evidence that proves their claims wrong is re-interpreted as proof that they are right.

That perverse logic is compounded in government by the creation of a groupthink bunker from which all dissent is banned, external constraints regarded as sabotage, and everything outside regarded as the treacherous machinations of the enemy. Some of the responses from the Brexiters to what has happened this week show the virtual insanity that is required in order to sustain this view of the world.

The bigger picture

This is an utterly disastrous approach to running the country, and it was brutally exposed as such by what happened this week. This, I think, was about much more than the government’s plans to increase debt. For one thing, it’s just the latest example of how the pound has ebbed and flowed since Brexit, always dropping when it seemed as the most extreme Brexiters would prevail (e.g. in getting ‘no deal Brexit’) and rising when it seemed that some degree of relative pragmatism was in the offing, though overall the general trend was always downwards.

Much more importantly, whilst the Donovan comment about a ‘doomsday cult’ being in charge of the UK was at one level a specific reference to Truss’s government it surely reflects a wider view of the UK since Brexit. That view isn’t simply to do with this or that budget, or even anything specific or measurable. It’s the more general reputational and cumulative effect of seeing a country which for six years has taken bizarre decisions, picked needless fights with its allies, showcased political instability, been cavalier about institutional probity, constitutional propriety and the rule of law, and all the other pathologies of Brexit and its aftermath. Throughout all of this has been the underlying presence and power of, indeed, a doomsday cult of Brexit Ultras, impregnable to evidence and reason. We are now seen, rightly, as a country which has become less reliable, less stable and less trustworthy, and, in some fundamental way, detached from reality.

So the market chaos this week and the economic crisis it has caused are contextualised by the general lack of confidence in such a country as well as providing an example of Brexiter fantasies, and specifically those of the budget, being found out by reality. In that sense, the current crisis is a crisis of Brexit.

A nation’s currency isn’t necessarily a reliable measure of its standing, and if it is then it’s a crude one and certainly not only one, and it is affected by many things. But it tells us something. Consider, then, that since the day before the referendum, when it was worth $1.49, to the pound’s lowest point of $1.03 this week – just six short years, though how long they seem – sterling has lost an astonishing one third of its value. It’s as good a measure as any of what Brexit has cost us economically, whilst symbolizing far, far more than our economic losses.



*I usually provide links when discussing the claims and arguments of others so that readers can judge whether I am representing them accurately and fairly. In this case I haven’t found any public figure making this argument which instead comes from numerous small social media accounts and it would be unfair to identify them. But the argument is being made by a significant number of such accounts, so is clearly widespread, which is why I am discussing it.

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10 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
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The PC turbo button mystery finally solved!

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From: vwestlife
Duration: 18:28

An example of how to settle a long-running Internet debate and bust a revisionist history myth, by reading manuals, books, and magazine articles, doing some research, and confirming it with your own tests. C'mon folks, it's not that hard!

Time flow:
0:12 First, a History Lesson
2:27 Zenith Z-148 PC
3:38 A Typical 486 PC
10:13 Gateway 2000 4DX-33
11:42 5x86 with Fake Cache
14:57 Turbo Buttons EOL
15:51 Don't take my word for it!

Intel 486 SL Microprocessor SuperSet Data Book:

#turbo #cpu #vintagecomputing

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