Politics

Time will tell

by reestheskin on 31/03/2020

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The article is about government secrecy and obfuscation (“ I quite simply misled myself”) (a review in the London Review of Books of The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain, by Richard Norton-Taylor)

His second point, desperately urgent in these early months of Boris Johnson’s administration, is that the law has often stood up for open government and rejected the establishment’s ingrained secrecy. Most people probably assume that when a government decision lands before a court, the judges move to the bench with a bucket of Cabinet Office whitewash ready beside their chairs. This has often been true in the past. Now it is not.

One can but only hope that the whitewash is less scarce than protection.

No ‘Room at the Top’

by reestheskin on 25/03/2020

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In one of Paul Graham’s essays, he writes about the relation between a thriving society and how parents behave (he does not use these terms). He argues that whilst it is natural for parents to seek advantage for their (own) children, in the interests of efficiency, society should try to to limit this tendency. I agree but the details matter.

In the LRB there is a review written by Adam Swift of a few books that deal with this topic. And for those who like to sell higher educationhigher education, the review makes uncomfortable reading.

Education, which promised to be the solvent that would lessen the class structure, has become an effective means of preserving it.

That used not to be obvious to me. Swift however pulls out a lovely quote that illuminates much of the smug complacency shown by some of the ‘educated classes’ and how they see the world. Many of our current political troubles have cognate origins.

Robin Cook’s memoir repeats a story told by a journalist to Roy Hattersley. Tony Blair, asked why he had sent his son Euan to the Oratory, despite the inevitable political flak, said: ‘Look at Harold Wilson’s children.’ The journalist demurred: one of Wilson’s sons had become a headmaster, the other a university professor. Blair replied that he certainly hoped his children would do better than that.

Adam Swift · What’s fair about that? Social Mobilities · LRB 13 January 2020

And that was then

by reestheskin on 20/03/2020

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Dr Chris Day writes:

Two weeks ago, I swabbed my first positive Covid-19 patient during an A&E Locum shift. I must say back then, I hadn’t fully taken in what we as a country will have to face over the coming months. The reports from colleagues in Italy and China are beyond belief.

The UK has been left to fight Covid-19 with half the Intensive Care beds per capita of Italy. Back in 2014, the trigger for my whistleblowing case was my attempt to try and secure more ICU resources for South East London (see Private Eye).

Instead of spending 5 years and £700k fighting /smearing me and damaging whistleblowing law, the NHS could have just fixed the problem. There has never been a more important time for the public and the politicians to understand Intensive Care resourcing and what is decided on their behalf by NHS leaders.

Some links here and here

What future?

by reestheskin on 16/03/2020

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But most of Case and Deaton’s ire focuses on the health care industry, which not only underperforms but is also wrecking the US economy. We [USA] spend twice per capita what France spends on health care, but our life expectancy is four years shorter, our rates of maternal and infant death are almost twice as high, and, unlike the French, we leave 30 million people uninsured. The amount Americans spend unnecessarily on health care weighs more heavily on our economy, Case and Deaton write, than the Versailles treaty reparations did on Germany’s in the 1920s. If, decades ago, we’d built a health system like Switzerland’s, which costs 30 percent less per capita than ours does, we’d now have an extra trillion dollars a year to spend, for example, on replacing the pipes in the nearly four thousand US counties where lead levels in drinking water exceed those of Flint, Michigan, and on rebuilding America’s bridges railroads, and highways—now so rundown that FedEx replaces delivery van tires twice as often as it did twenty years ago.

In the US, health insurance accounts for 60 percent of the cost of hiring a low-wage worker. Many employers opt instead to hire contract workers with no benefits, or illegal immigrants with no rights at all.

Helen Epstein in the NYRB. Review of ‘Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism’ by Anne Case and Angus Deaton. 

I wish I had said that..

A comment on an article:

With reference to Janan Ganesh’s column (“What the US lost when the Berlin Wall fell”, November 7). This is such a clever line.

“It is as though hatred obeys the first law of thermodynamics. Like energy, it can be transferred but never destroyed.

This apropos the US right’s shifting from the Soviet Union to immigration and climate. I’m trying to figure out how to work it into my own stuff. Full credit, of course.

Link

We need more STEM (STEAM etc)

by reestheskin on 08/01/2020

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Perhaps, perhaps not. But when and where is even more important.

Hailed as a maths prodigy at school, Shields accepted a junior position at Merrill Lynch after studying engineering, economics and management at Oxford University because the trading room floor offered him a thrilling, dynamic environment. He was not alone: of 120 engineers in his year group at university, Shields added, only five went into engineering.

I think we should be much more cautious in attempting to direct young people’s choices beyond providing them with an education. We should feel proud of their independence of mind, remembering that supply side factors will likely win out over central planning. It is the supply side that we need to deal with, not least Putts Law. The same applies to medicine.

This personal story is worth a read for other lessons, too.

‘The men who plundered Europe’: bankers on trial for siphoning €60bn | Business | The Guardian

What do you want?

The government has instructed Health Education England to consult patients and the public on what they need from “21st century” medical graduates

Patients to be asked what they need from doctors | The BMJ

It won’t end well.

Finnish lessons

by reestheskin on 19/12/2019

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No, not Pasi Salberg, but cognate.

But idealists now have another international beacon of social mobility: long live the Finnish dream, in which a 34-year-old woman who once worked in a shop can become prime minister.

“I am extremely proud of Finland. Here a poor family’s child can educate themselves and achieve their goals in life. A cashier can become even a prime minister,” tweeted Sanna Marin

Meanwhile back in the UK as the FT rightly comments:

..egregious examples of rigging the game endure: on being rejected by the voters, Zac Goldsmith is to be elevated to the House of Lords, from where he will carry on as a minister in the government of Boris Johnson, also an Etonian from a high-profile family.

Looking in envy at Finland’s social mobility pin-up PM | Financial Times

Mark Blyth on Goldman

Goldman [Sachs) are smart: they can rip your grandmother’s face off and make her feel good about it.

The Crash of 2008: 10 years on

Check your privilege

by reestheskin on 13/12/2019

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An article fit for this deceitful day by Nick Laird in the NYRB. UK education doesn’t escape from it either, but the context is Ireland or that British problem.

“I thought, if these bastards are voting Remain, I’m voting Leave.”

As for ‘identity’

An old friend of mine, a Catholic and a fellow poet from Belfast, was in New York City last week and described being told once to “check her privilege.” She had replied that the privilege her identity had given her was a mild form of PTSD. The phrase “identity politics” has a darker resonance in Northern Ireland.

Every evil act I’ve ever seen committed was done in the name of identity

Blood and Brexit | by Nick Laird | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

Fiction, apparently.

“…what he read was clear proof of an Anglo-American covert operation already in the planning stage with the dual aim of undermining the social democratic institutions of the European Union and dismantling our international trading tariffs…In the post-Brexit era Britain will be desperate for increased trade with America. America will accommodate Britain’s needs, but only on terms. One such term will be a joint covert operation to obtain by persuasion — bribery and blackmail not excluded — officials, parliamentarians and opinionmakers of the European Establishment. Also to disseminate fake news on a large scale in order to aggravate existing differences between member states of the Union”

Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré

Writings from the margins

by reestheskin on 28/11/2019

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I was back in Dublin a few weeks ago for a family celebration. Then last night — on C4 I think— I was listening to an interview with Fintan O’Toole. Something stirred and below are two quotes from Brian Friel: the context may be Brexit, the reality is something much more.

As a character in Translations says, describing his own fading Gaelic world, “a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of fact”.

 

To remember everything is a form of madness,” warns one of Friel’s characters.

(1) Brexit, the UK and Ireland: a dialogue of the deaf | Financial Times

Indulging our future(s)

by reestheskin on 25/11/2019

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Carbon offsetting is shaping up to be the greatest mis-selling scandal since the Dominican friar Johann Tetzel sold pardons to redeem the dead. Martin Luther attacked this practice in 1517, in his 95 theses.

Five hundred years later, those of us who seek planetary redemption should reduce our carbon footprint in ways that we control — rather than relying on middlemen who may or may not plant trees. The road to hell, I seem to remember, was paved with good intentions.

Well, the Catholic church usually got there first.

Carbon offset gold rush is distracting us from climate change | Financial Times

Dark matters.

by reestheskin on 21/11/2019

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Frank Davidoff had a telling phrase about clinical expertise. He likened it to “Dark Matter”. Dark Matter makes up most of the universe, but we know very little about it. In the clinical arena I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about ‘expertise’,  without developing any grand unifying themes of my own worth sharing. But we live in a world where ‘expertise’ in many domains is under assault, and I have no wise thoughts to pull together what is happening. I do however like (as ever) some nice phrases from Paul Graham. I can’t see any roadmap here just perspectives and shadows.

When experts are wrong, it’s often because they’re experts on an earlier version of the world.

any

Instead of trying to point yourself in the right direction, admit you have no idea what the right direction is, and try instead to be super sensitive to the winds of change.

How to Be an Expert in a Changing World

Thought of the day

by reestheskin on 11/11/2019

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That, across human experience, in all places and at all times, only one or two societies have unwound concentrations of income and wealth as great as [those that] plague the US today without losing in war to a foreign foe or succumbing to a domestic revolution.

Interview with Daniel Markovits

THE, 31-10-2019

Sensing the future.

by reestheskin on 05/11/2019

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We are not a great power and never will be again. We are a great nation but if we continue to behave like a great power we shall soon cease to be a great nation.

Sir Henry Tizard, 1949.

Quoted in the LRB by Ian Gilmore (reprinted 7-11-2019)

Send in the clown

But what lies ahead for Johnson in those uncharted waters? His best joke was not meant to be one. In November 2016 he claimed that “Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a titanic success of it.” In this weirdly akratic moment of British history, most of those who support Johnson actually know very well that Brexit is the Titanic and that his evasive actions will be of no avail. But if the ship is going down anyway, why not have some fun with Boris on the upper deck? There is a fatalistic end-of-days pleasure in the idea of Boris doing his Churchill impressions while the iceberg looms ever closer. When things are too serious to be contemplated in sobriety, send in the clown.

The Ham of Fate | by Fintan O’Toole | The New York Review of Books

Direct URL for this post.

A well argued and evidence based article like this will get you nowhere. This is Britain. Better to put some bollox on a bus.

A comment from theSwedish Chef’ on the FT.

Crash landing

by reestheskin on 01/10/2018

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Europeans may wish to opt out of the global battle for corporate domination. They may even hope that they may thus achieve a greater degree of freedom for democratic politics. But the risk is that their growing reliance on other people’s technology, the relative stagnation of the eurozone and the consequent dependence of Europe’s growth model on exports to other people’s markets will render those pretensions to autonomy quite empty. Rather than an autonomous actor, Europe risks becoming the object of other people’s capitalist corporatism. Indeed, as far as international finance is concerned, the die has already been cast. In the wake of the double crisis, Europe is out of the race. The future will be decided between the survivors of the crisis in the United States and the newcomers of Asia.44 They may choose to locate in the City of London, but after Brexit even that cannot be taken for granted. Wall Street, Hong Kong and Shanghai may simply bypass Europe.

From: ‘Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World’ by Adam Tooze. This book brings to my mind Alan Kay’s comment when he was awarded the Turing Prize:’the computer revolutions hadn’t happened yet’. I don’t think we have even begun to live through the worst of the Crash (yet).