Current Affairs

Wednesday Round-Up – June 23rd 2021

  1. Moorish Sovereign Citizens

The Moorish branch of the SovCit movement is…different. Unlike the more mainstream, very white SovCits, who mostly attempt to be scofflaws over matters like firearms ownership, Citizens Grand Juries, Covid-19 restrictions, vehicle licensing, and (their favorite) paying any form of income taxes to anybody, Moorish SovCits have an obsession about claiming properties owned by other people. They routinely get arrested for waiting until home owners leave a  house for a vacation or some such, then they occupy the house, sometimes filing nonsense claptrap documents with local authorities and courts containing cockamamie rationales to the effect that they are repossessing the house for the Moorish nation, claiming that it is part of their ancestral property. Alternatively, they file voluminous paper claiming bogus tax repayments.

Another Moorish SovCit has just been arrested for this kind of nonsense. As the home owner explained:

She said she had received a letter dated May 20 in the mail from a group called Al Moroccan Empire Consulate at New Jersey State Republic telling her the home belonged to them. She also received a second letter in June from the same group with red fingerprints and seals on it, the woman said.

This is SOP for Moorish SovCits. It never quite seems to work out well for them, however.

2.  The disintegration of the Libertarian Party in the USA

I am going to write about this at more length, but the Libertarian Party in the USA is currently disintegrating. The root cause is the attempted takeover of the party by authoritarians.

This is completely hopeless. The authoritarian swamp ground is already occupied by the Republican Party. For any party to have any different competing appeal, they would have to be even more authoritarian, or definably libertarian. It looks like the party is going full authoritarian, dominated by people who follow the philosophy of Ludwig Van Mises. This will not end well. It will repel most of the current party voters in elections.

In my opinion, the entire libertarian movement in the USA is fatally damaged for a generation, and will need to be rebuilt around durable principles that take into account the reality that the USA is no longer an agrarian society where every man can be an island. Covid-19 should have proved this, but the authoritarian wing of the Libertarian party has no clue about totalitarianism in practice, and as a result the party is throwing itself off the cliff, while the GOP is busy trying to gerrymander its way to permanent one-party rule in the states that it currently controls.

3. Plea Deals after the January 6th insurrection 

This week, the floodgates are opening, with a number of court hearings to ratify plea deals for participants in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol.

We can see the classic pattern developing:

  1. Small fry and peripheral participants are being offered plea deals based on pleading guilty to one or more misdemeanors, with no prison time
  2. Bigger fish are being persuaded to plead out to lesser felonies. Some may end up doing jail time. Those plea deals also will contain co-operation agreements, probably with the reduction in felony charges as a quid pro quo. (Graydon Young, supposedly a member of the Oath Keepers, is due in court today for a plea agreement hearing where he is expected to plead guilty to multiple felony charges)
  3. The organizers will find themselves snowed under with evidence from the co-operating bigger fish, and will be staring at some serious felony charges

I expect this process to go on for several months, probably into the Fall. After that time, we can expect the underlying organizers to be indicted on numerous more serious charges. It will be interesting to see if the DoJ actually uses the formal laws against insurrection (my guess is that they will not, since those laws were really designed for a war situation).

UPDATE from Zoe Tillman:

Graydon Young is pleading guilty to two counts from the indictment: conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, both are felonies, the former has a max sentence of five years in prison and the latter has a max of 20 years.

Young has promised to cooperate with the government as part of his plea deal, incl. testimony before the grand jury and at a trial, and interviews with law enforcement (and waived right to counsel)

UPDATE 2 – The terms of the deal include the option for the DOJ to file a petition to reduce Graydon Young’s prison time from the sentencing guidelines (currently 5 years minimum) based on his co-operation with law enforcement. So the more he tells, the less jail time he will have to serve (probably).

UPDATE 3- Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a minor participant, has been sentenced to 36 months of probation and a fine after pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor count. We can expect this pattern for the minor players.


Illegal immigrants in the USA

Pew Research, unlike most politicians, actually knows a lot about illegal immigrants in the USA, because they actually, you know, do research. 

Some interesting findings in this document:

  1. The majority of current illegal immigrants are not Wetbacks and other recent arrivals via the Southern border. They are visa overstays, people who arrived legally and some of who may have been in the USA illegally for decades.
  2. Immigration across the Southern border is balanced (and sometimes exceeded) by emigration.
  3. The fear-inducing estimate of up to 40+ million illegals, routinely passed around by the nativist fringe, is sensationalist garbage that deserves nothing less than ridicule. There have never been that many illegals in the USA.

Round-Up – Monday 21st June 2021

  1. Poison Ivy 

Mary and I are suffering from Poison Ivy poisoning. We are covered in spots, welts, lines of spots and other symptoms, from when we unwittingly handled a plant 2 weekends ago. We both look like prime candidates for exclusion from a Middle Ages English town on the grounds of being “unclean”. Doctors tell us that it will take 1-3 weeks for the ugly rash to completely vanish. Mary is sleeping downstairs as I write this, because she has not slept properly for 2 nights due to discomfort and pain. I did not sleep much, mainly because the blotchy pink patches all over my torso arms and legs make it feel like I have sunburn. Plus, itching. We are both on anti-inflammatory drugs and creams to damp down the symptoms.

Stay away from poison ivy, folks. It ain’t going to be fun if it contacts your body.

2. Brexit 

Brexit continues to be a shambles, as predicted by many (and similarly ignored by many). However, the opinion polls seem to show that the previously large margin of people thinking that Brexit was bad has diminished recently. This is counter-intuitive for me, since the news continues to be bad. However, the government’s blaming of the EU for all of the problems may be finding a receptive audience. I suspect that the support for Brexit will continue to hold steady as long as the effects are largely confined to the professional classes or artistic communities. If essentials like food and medicine start to disappear, then things will change rapidly. People expect governments to assure the supplies of essentials.

Despite being beaten up by the EU, and pressured by the USA, Boris Johnson is sailing along as though all is well. However, on the other side of the Irish Sea, the DUP, the most hardline Protestant group, is in disarray, having forced out its new leader, Edwin Poots, after only 20 days in the job. Poots apparently alienated most of his supporters by nominating The Wrong Guy as First Minister (translation: somebody way too sympathetic to the Irish language). Poots came to office talking a tough game, threatening to get tough with Ireland and generally strutting his macho Protestant stuff. Now he is gone, and the DUP has to look for its third leader in 4 months.

The DUP continues to threaten the UK government over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the decision to put a logical border in the Irish Sea is starting to look more and more impractical and dangerous with each passing day. The problem is that the UK government cheerfully signed up to it, and it is now part of the Withdrawal Agreement. That, plus other conditions in the UK-EU trade deal, which have in turn led to The Sausage Problem (caused by an impending EU ban on the movement of chilled meats between the EU and third countries), have backed the UK government into a small box of its own making.

Boris Johnson can huff and puff and threaten the EU, but he has no real leverage, because the UK folded on a lot of issues in order to rush through a deal before the end of 2020. The negotiating style of “talk tough, then fold” is proving to be dangerous for the whole of the UK. At the present rate, Northern Ireland is likely to be more of a challenge than Scotland. Unlike in Northern Ireland, the Scots have not taken to bombing and shooting to get their point across recently.

3. Covid-19 

The UK continues to transition rapidly to being dominated by the new B.1.617.2 variant of the virus, which has, in the space of a month, taken over from the B.1.1.7 variant. This new variant is more contagious, and vaccines are slightly less effective against it, although if enough of a population is vaccinated or immune, herd immunity can still be achieved.

Prof. Christina Pagel explains the latest situation in the UK in this thread. Basically, unless there is a return to social distancing and lockdown, this new variant is going to trigger a large increase in cases and hospitalizations. The number of people testing positive is rising exponentially again. 

4. The Roman Catholic Church and Joe Biden

No, the Roman Catholic Church in the USA is not going to excommunicate Joe Biden. Many priests, including his own, and main of the laity wouldn’t tolerate it. The bishops are engaging in performative posturing.

5. Yes, the Republican Party has eliminationists in its ranks

Not exactly a surprise, but it is good to have conclusive proof. The GOP is now a profoundly anti-American party.




HST2 UK project costs are now being adjusted for reality

The estimated price tag for High Speed 2, the next-gen flagship UK rail project, has now risen from £33bn to over £106bn. This, unsurprisingly, is leading to a lot of comment in the UK, most of it negative.

Every major project I ever came into contact with in I.T. has the same challenges. Somebody cooks up an initial estimate from Cloudcuckooland, then an approved project starts with an estimate from Lalaland. Then reality slowly intervenes. The final cost is usually a multiple of the initial estimate, sometimes embarrassingly so.

Infamously, the Confirm program, a first attempt to build a multi-partner travel industry booking system that I read about in the early 1990s was cancelled half way through, with the costs having multiplied by several multiples of the initial estimate. The project had multiple stakeholders with competing interests, which made actually completing an agreed solution specification almost impossible. As a get-out they blamed the technology. This is, incidentally, a classic excuse in I.T. when projects fail. This is seldom true. Whenever I hear somebody blaming the technology for an I.T. project failure, I immediately look elsewhere for the root causes of the failure.

I remember mentioning this phenomenon to a work colleague a few years ago. His (slightly cynical) response was “Well, if they were totally honest about the final likely cost upfront, most of these projects would never be started because you wouldn’t be able to remotely justify them”.

Now, High Speed 2 is not exactly your average I.T. project, and there are multiple considerations that come into play when creating benefit statements for it. The UK, a relatively small country, has become very dependent on road transport, which creates higher emissions than rail transport. The shrinkage of the UK rail network in the 1960s, which led to the abandonment and closure of one or two rail lines which would actually have been easier to upgrade today (like the Great Central Railway, built with larger bridges and tunnels), has been proven to be a long-term mistake, officially acknowledged by the government’s announcement of the Beeching Reversal Fund. Now money is being spent to re-open lines closed to passengers or totally abandoned. So, High Speed 2 can be partially justified on the grounds of environmental stewardship, although it is notoriously difficult to quantify those kinds of benefits in money terms.

Covid-19 certainly has impacted all projects which were up and running. The government has directly or indirectly had to pay money to keep project teams active in a difficult working climate. However, I doubt that this is the major contributor to the price inflation. The more usual inflation is due to the dreaded scope creep – the addition of new features to the solution, or the discovery of activities and deliverables that nobody realized were required when the original estimate was finalized.

Scope creep is an issue that is particularly bad on government projects. In the military arena, scope creep helped to sink the entire Nimrod AEW program in the late 80s, which was cancelled in favour of the UK buying Boeing AWACS planes. The military kept changing the specification requirements for the radar, which took it beyond the design envelope of what was already a tightly packaged airframe and computing combination with little scope for expansion.

Another factor in government projects is lobbying by elected representatives impacted by the project, to get more “goodies” (“pork” here in the USA) for their constituents. Here in the USA, representatives would probably sell family members to the highest bidder if they could get a US Navy ship home-ported in their district, since that generates thousands of jobs. It is not clear to me if High Speed 2 offers members of parliament the same pork opportunities, but I would not be surprised if that is a factor behind the scenes.

Ideally, there would be a full review of the entire program to see if cost savings can be made, and a tough line taken on scope, as in No More Scope. However, government projects, which are often pursued for vanity reasons by the government, are notoriously difficult to rein in or cancel once started. The loss of face alone tends to lead to the government continuing. The Nimrod AEW program was very much an exception, with the government refusing to fall for classic fallacious arguments made by supporters and contractors (principally the Sunk Cost Fallacy) and taking an unsentimental approach despite the deployment of the “British Technology” argument. They saw only continued cost escalations and cancelled the program.


Lawyers Letter – Jan 6th

Dewey Cheatem and Howe LLP

17th June 2021

Re:       Insurrection Day Trip

We represent John and Julie Smith, who were customers of Revolution Travel LLC on 6th January 2021.

Mr and Mrs. Smith purchased a Day Trip Insurrection Package from your website on 3rd January 2021. On the website, the package was described thus:

“An unparalleled opportunity to visit our great nation’s political capital, see the sights, and participate in a unique one-time only insurrection to re-install Our Type of Government”.

As true Americans and patriots, this was very appealing to our clients.

In the e-Brochure, you promised our clients that they would get to participate in the insurrection, and that it would be a unique opportunity for them to help to make history, not just read about it after it happened. However, at no time did you warn our clients that doing so might place them at risk of legal consequences. It appears that you failed to indemnify our clients

Your failure to itemize all of the potential legal consequences of participation in this day trip, and ensure that our clients understood and agreed to them, or to give them the chance to cancel their order, has resulted in our clients currently being incarcerated in a federal jail, awaiting trial on a total of 7 public order, trespassing and conspiracy charges. Their lives have been ruined, and they are not due to be tried until February 2022. This whole event and its aftermath has caused them profound financial, mental and emotional distress. When they booked the trip, they were under the impression that it would be an exciting day out in Washington DC, with the possibility that they would be identified as participants in a historical event. The event itself did not meet the advertised objectives.

Accordingly, we are demanding the following:

  1. a full refund of the total cost of the Day Trip Insurrection Package
  2. payment of all of our clients’ legal costs to defend themselves against any and all legal actions, both criminal and civil, arising from this day trip
  3. a public apology for failing to notify our clients as to the potential legal consequences of the afternoon Insurrection Party

Failure to meet these demands within 30 elapsed days, will lead us to begin the process of filing appropriate legal complaints against your company in the appropriate State and Federal courts, for misrepresentation.


Kind Regards,

M.A. Ko





The sad truth about Donald Trump

The saddest and most enduring aspect of the era of Donald Trump as a pretend politician is not his lying, bullshitting mendacity, his utter incompetence as a human being, or his fascist tendencies.

It is that he operated as a human permission slip to his supporters. He gave them permission to act like the worst possible versions of themselves, in private and in public. That behavior is going to continue for years.


GB News – misunderstandings

GB News, the new UK news network, launched this week.

There has been a lot of comment on social media, most of it based on witheringly negative assessments of the studio, the production values and other aspects of the channel. There is also already a campaign to persuade corporations to pull advertising.

The old era of media outlets being owned by corporations and hands-off old-money owners is over. The new generation of newspaper owners are not in it for higher ideals. They are a mixture of hedge funds, which expect a quick return on investment, or they will revert to slash and burn management, and oligarchs operating via front companies.

Oligarchs expect their media properties to be their personal mouthpieces. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas-based casino mogul, bought his local paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for $140 million in 2015 via News + Media Capital Group LLC, a front company. The newspaper promptly became his personal mouthpiece. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250m in 2013, which for one of the richest men in the world, was chump change. There is a pattern here.

In the current world in which we live, with the ease of creating internet-based TV streaming channels, a newly-minted oligarch with $100m a year to burn can easily afford to fund an entire operation the current size of GB News. As I am fond of saying, disinformation networks are a lot cheaper to run than an aircraft carrier with a squadron of F-35s. The real world war is the Information War, and the West is currently losing. Some of the oligarchs and plutocrats operating in the disinformation space are almost certainly acting as fronts for governments.

The funding for GB News should be a big Tell as to its intended positioning. The majority of the funding is from corporations not domiciled in the UK, and a lot of the funding comes from the “front” corporations of oligarchs and plutocrats. This is not a benign news channel, trying to thread the needle down the middle, or engaging in fearless investigate reporting. It was intended as a propaganda channel for pluto-populism. Its presenter roster is dominated by a combination of established UK tabloid blusterers, and newer internet-based provocateurs, long on mouth and short on information.

As for the crappy production values…the cynic in me says that GBNews doesn’t mind having YouTube production values, since it is appealing to people who mostly get their news from YouTube.

GB News is not competing with the BBC, Channel 4, Sky or any of the other established UK news channels. It is a propaganda outlet largely funded by oligarchs, designed to generate dopamine clickbait for nativists and fans of plutocrat-controlled fascism. Comparing it with those channels is tempting and easy, but misses the entire picture in terms of its underlying objectives and market positioning.

The campaign to pull advertising may well succeed. However, like Fox News in the USA, the funding model of GB News is not dependent on advertising. If all they have are gold and crypto-currency snake oil salesmen as advertisers, they won’t care. The purpose of the network is not to be a commercially successful news channel with blue-chip corporate advertisers. This is already obvious from the decision by the network to launch a smear attack on Ikea, one of the corporations that pulled its advertising. Ikea is a European corporation headquartered in an EU country. Attacking a European corporation ticks all the right boxes when your intended audience is nativists, and nationalists.


The EU-UK clash – political culture

The current dispute between the EU and the UK over the practical application of the Northern Ireland Protocol section of the EU Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to ignite or re-ignite sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, and also to cause a major trade and logistics dispute between the UK and the EU.

From a practical perspective, sectarian violence is a lose: lose for everybody, and if there is a trade dispute between the EU and the UK, there will be significant negative impacts in the UK, which is not self-sufficient in most basic supplies for a highly populated post-industrial society. A trade war, if it occurs, will not end well for the UK. it will impact the EU also, but given the disparity in GDP size, and the reality that many trade routes into and out of the UK are via the EU, the effects will be disproportionately felt in the UK.

The history of the relationship between the EU and the UK is one of initial reluctance by the EU (or the EEC as it was then) to let the UK even join in the first place. President De Gaulle famously vetoed the first UK attempt to join in the late 1960s, and in turn, there was significant resistance in the UK when it finally agreed to join in the early 1970s. The resistance to EU membership never went away, it simply went underground in the two major political parties, waiting for an opportunity to re-emerge, which happened in 2015. Both parties were crippled in their approaches to campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU as a result.

The UK’s relationship inside the EU were always contentious. Margaret Thatcher certainly pissed off the EU leaders multiple times during her largely successful attempt to negotiate a better financial deal in the 1980s. However, the Single Market in its current form was a concept that she supported and lobbied for, since at the time that the UK joined the EU, it did not exist in the form in which it exists today. So the UK, while it was an EU member, had very significant strategic influence on the evolution of the EU.

However, the EU has always tended to see the UK as a reluctant member, and strategic UK actions since the 1980s, such as the refusal to join the Euro, and the attempt by David Cameron to head off a negative result in the 2016 referendum by once again re-negotiating the terms of UK membership, have reinforced that feeling. The UK’s sense of imperial exceptionalism has not helped its relationships while in the EU, and the current post-Brexit mess is merely a continuation of a fractious relationship.

BTW, I regard the Euro as a qualified failure; while it certainly added to trading convenience, it deprives a country in the Euro of a valuable economic lever for crisis management, namely the ability to devalue its currency. That caused major problems when Greece lurched into insolvency and could not devalue its debts by devaluing its currency; it no longer had an independent currency to devalue. The UK was right to not join the Euro.

The bigger question is why the relationship has always been fractious.

In my opinion, a major cause of the problem is that the political cultures in the UK and Europe are, in most cases, fundamentally different. Most European countries have electoral systems based on forms of proportional representation. They also have much more fluid political systems, with more than 2 major political parties, and with rapid evolution (and disappearance) of political movements. As a result, government by coalitions is the norm, rather than the exception. The EU reflects that, in that it is an unwieldy coalition of 27 countries, which for major decisions, requires unanimity.

The UK has no significant history of coalition governments. Apart from wartime, when party politics was essentially suspended, the only UK coalition of any length was the recent Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, with the LibDems very much as the junior partner.

The two major political parties in the UK have always been publicly hostile to proportional representation, claiming that a “first past the post” system is needed for what they term “strong government”. Cynically, they would say that, since a government with a majority in the House of Commons in the UK can essentially do what it likes. They do not have to take any notice of any other interest group or political party. It is not realistic to expect either of the two major parties to support the change of a system that has given them a comfortable duopoly for centuries.

People who are hostile to PR like to justify that hostility by mocking Belgium, which has had perpetually unstable coalition governments for decades. It once went nearly a year without any government at all. However, Belgium is not a credible example of the problems of PR. It is a manufactured country, formed by merging Wallonia, Flanders and part of North West Germany to act as a buffer state between France and Prussia. The reason for the instability is that the coalitions reflect linguistic community dynamics, and there is lingering distrust between the French and Flemish speaking communities. In an ideal world, Belgium would be unwound, but nation-states tend to be regarded as inviolate. (If the world was pragmatic, Kurdistan would be re-created also. But I digress).

The UK electorate had the chance to change from “first past the post” to a form of PR in 2011, but unfortunately chose to vote No. Since both major political parties were against PR, I was not surprised by the result. However, it has locked the current system in place for the foreseeable future.

The lack of proportional representation and coalition politics in the UK had persistent negative consequences when the UK tried to work within the EU. The decision-making processes in the EU are entirely coalition-based, and significant ones require unanimity. This does not sit well with the governing mindset in the UK of “we’re in charge”. As a result, the UK regarded the EU decision making processes as hopelessly cumbersome and too deferential to smaller countries, while the EU regarded the UK approach as insensitive and dictatorial. It’s two different mindsets of how to govern.

As you might expect from a supra-national grouping founded on consensus, the EU’s political leaders are almost all from countries with a strong tradition of PR, so they are experts at satisfying multiple divergent interest groups and building unanimity for proposals and laws. The UK’s politicians have little to no background in that style of politics, and more seriously, they never really showed any interest in learning how to operate that way. As a result, the relationship was marked by the bureaucrats working well together behind the scenes, with periodic public spats as the UK complained about something or other, and the EU leaders counted to a large number and said under their breath “here we go again”.

The resulting friction was always a part of the EU-UK relationship, and it still continues to this day, with the UK thumping the table after Brexit and demanding concessions from the EU. This is not a style of interaction that would have worked well while the UK was in the EU, and it is even less likely to work now that the UK has left.

The difference in political cultures has implications for any future relationship, up to and including the UK rejoining the EU, which will probably not happen in my lifetime. I consider it unlikely that the UK will even be considered for closer relationships unless there is a profound change in the current UK political culture. Whilst PR is not a requirement for EU membership, the current “winner takes all” mindset of UK politics is not a good match for the EU culture. Until the UK’s political culture becomes a lot more collaborative, I see no real prospect of any significant long-term improvement in EU-UK relations.

Right now, with a deeply authoritarian UK government in place, the two parties are about as far apart as you could imagine. Hence my skepticism that the current arguments over the Northern Ireland protocol will be resolved without further escalations.


Property Market notes – local

The property market in our subdivision is…bonkers.

There is very little property for sale anywhere in the USA right now. I have been looking at Hawaii and California at intervals, and our across-the-street neighbor is a realtor.

She confirmed my suspicions a few weeks ago when we briefly discussed the state of the market. Normally, in a price boom, there is a lot of inventory as lots of people are trying to move up or cash out, but there are also a lot of buyers, so prices are being bid up.

Right now, prices are booming, but there is no inventory to speak of. There are very few properties coming onto the market, but there are willing buyers. So any time even a half-way decent property comes onto the market, there is an unseemly stampede and, quite often, a bidding war. This results in many properties, even sub-standard ones, going for way more than the initial asking price. This has been happening in Hawaii, where even tired condos from the 1960s and 1970s have been selling significantly over the asking price. (Quite why a 367 square foot tower block box should attract such interest is not clear to me, unless speculators are buying, which is very possible).

Here in our subdivision, a very nice 4 bedroom 3000 square foot 1978 house went up for sale 8 days ago, and is now Under Offer. Not sure if it is under offer for more than the asking price, but we saw lots of people visiting it last weekend immediately after it hit the market. The house is well looked after, with an excellent frontage, but no pool, and the interior is dated. (All medium color wall wood, typical of many houses here built in the mid-to-late 1970s).

2 doors down, a property with not much kerb appeal, also appears to have sold, after being on the market and vacant for 3 or more months. We saw evidence of people moving in this weekend.

We have mentally upped the value of our house based on watching local price trends in this area. It may not help if we stay in the USA, because prices are rising everywhere, but if we move to Costa Rica, it might give us the ability to buy a better house there.

UPDATE – The latest feature of the market is apparently that sellers are demanding that prospective buyers waive their right to an inspection in order to even be considered as buyers.

From a safety perspective, this would be unacceptable to us. When we lived in a rented house in 2009, we found out that the property company that owned it had filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which meant that the house was up for sale. We actually attended a court hearing in Fort Worth to validate this. When the trustees confirmed that the house was for sale, we ordered up an inspection. When we both returned from work, the inspector was finishing his report on his laptop in the kitchen. He said “you will have a 30 page report in a few minutes, but I can sum up my findings in one word. Run”. The report detailed a long list of issues, which would have cost upwards of $70k to fix before we could even be sure of getting a mortgage. We passed, and found our current home a few months later.

Asking buyers to waive an inspection is understandable from people who want a quick sale. It enforces information asymmetry, with the buyer being less informed than the seller. This is favorable to the seller. Some people will take the gamble. We won’t.


Sunday round-up – 13th June 2021

I left out the “people behaving as assholes” commentaries this weekend. There are far too many to choose from. The failure to take mental health seriously over decades, and the negative impacts of sequestration as part of Covid-19, have left a lot of marginally adjusted and poorly-socialized people with significant temperament and anger management issues. Until societies start taking mental health a lot more seriously, while still making people accountable for their own actions, this problem will continue to build.

  1. The G7 Summit

The annual public strutting of the G7 leaders has completed in Cornwall. As is usual at these kinds of events, disagreements behind closed doors are papered over with bright-fluffy-bunny press releases and fine-sounding statements of…well, some kind of intent to eventually think about getting around to possibly doing something at an unspecified future date about an urgent issue. Like Global Warming. Nothing significant, you understand.

However, the interaction dynamics between the participants can be seen via images and videos. Which is more interesting for observers when much of what is actually being said between the leaders is not visible, and is heavily filtered for public consumption.

The good news for the UK was that Boris Johnson scored a meeting prior to the start of the summit with President Biden. As normal, both men attempted to play down private disagreements, and portray a position of agreement on key issues. However there is a big difference between a statement like “we agree on the need to solve the Northern Ireland problem” (which is the equivalent of saying “we both agreed that water is wet”) and actually agreeing on how it should be solved. Everything that has emerged from the G7 shows that Biden told Johnson that he needs to solve the problem without pissing off the EU or the United States. When one government sends another government a formal diplomatic warning, that indicates a clear disagreement on something fundamental.

Right now, the UK government’s entire public strategy appears to revolve around bellicose statements challenging the need to even obey the new deals signed with the EU. Johnson and other government leaders, including the juvenile and scientifically illiterate leader of the DUP, Edwin Poots, seem to be trapped in a rhetoric hole of their own making. This bellicose table-thumping threatening made for some uncomfortable meetings, and torpedoed the original idea of the summit being a launch-pad for a New Global Britain (whatever that cute-sounding marketing phrase might mean).

2. The Addiction model of misinformation

Nick Carmody explains why the entire “Trump won” and QAnon cult follower groupings are probably an addictive behavior based on a combination of fear induction, and dopamine highs caused by further feeding of misinformation to confirm existing biases.

Because it is fundamentally an addiction, treating interactions as an opportunity for discussion and debate is almost certainly a waste of everybody’s time. The smartest people in the room may be the ones that walked away from interaction with friends and family members when they realized this.

3. Covid-19 

I am concerned that there will be a further wave of Covid-19 infection, which will proportionately impact the Southern states, due to the low overall levels of Covid-19 vaccination in many of those states. There is a clear correlation right now between political ideology and willingness to be vaccinated. States that have a majority of Democrat-voting progressive voters have significantly higher vaccination rates than states dominated by Republicans. 

The new variant of Covid, B.1.617,  is being referred to as the India variant.  I don’t think that name is racist, it simply reflects where the first contagion was identified, unlike the persistent GOP and anti-vaccine activist messaging of Covi19 as the “China virus”. When you read the comments of people using that name, it is almost always accompanied by allegations that Covid was manufactured and released by China. As far as I can tell, nobody is alleging that India or anybody connected to India released B.1.617.

B.1.617 is clearly more transmissible than prior variants, so if there are insufficient vaccinated people in a community, and/or there are insufficient precautions being taken by people to minimize the chance of infection, that new variant may soon dominate new cases and contagion, and a new wave may happen and force the return of rules that nobody really wants, like travel restrictions and indoor gatherings and entertainment venue restrictions.

4. Goodbye to Texas (soon) – a 2 year plan

After the mendacious and contemptuously undemocratic attempt by the GOP in Texas to ram through a blatantly unconstitutional and fascistic voting management bill, I have determined that we need to leave Texas sooner rather than later.

I am setting a 2 year target for us to be living somewhere else. The “somewhere else” is not yet determined. It could be California, where Mary’s family is from, or Costa Rica, or Hawaii.

Europe is out of the picture, because the UK leaving the EU left us with no ability to live in Europe in any EU country in retirement without paying penal healthcare costs. I am certainly not going to return to the UK, after numerous recent demonstrations that England is now dominated by nativism, xenophobia and a wish to return to the Days Of Empire. The UK failed Civics 101 starting 11 years ago when they failed to vote for proportional representation. They failed it 3 more times, once when they voted Leave, and twice in General Elections. I cannot trust, in aggregate, the electorate in England. In aggregate, they are making bad decisions and enabling politicians who have no respect for the democratic process.

My family in the UK will have to get used to us, in all probability, living further away than before. But since, as far as I can tell, they probably voted for Brexit, they actually have to own the outcome, and this is part of the outcome. We wanted to move to the Azores, but that is not going to happen.


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