Category Archives: Politics

Just a little late-night snack

I’m working late, so I treated myself to this small plate:

The cheeses:

  • Parmesan (Italian)
  • Manchego (Spanish)
  • Saint Agur (French)
  • Wensleydale with cranberries (English)

The meats:

  • Parma ham (Italian)
  • Chorizo (Spanish)

And of course the wine: Rioja, from Spain.

Please don’t take me out of the Single Market. I like it here.

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A short and simple question for Brexiters

On the whole, the discussion surrounding the Brexit process seems now to be about damage limitation, and earlier talk of it offering us new opportunities has evaporated. I am genuinely interested to know, from those of you who still supporting leaving the EU: can you tell me anything at all that you think will be better after we leave? I’m looking for concrete things, not abstract ideas such as the notion that we will regain “sovereignty”.

Salmon-topped shrimp tempura roll from Yen Sushi, Bath. Photo by Josefa Torres.

Thank you!

Passing laws and adding BIB-1 diagnostics

Years ago, I was a member of the Z39.50 Implementers’ Group. We’d gather from all around the world, maybe 30 or 40 of us, and meet for several days to discuss and vote on possible extensions to this venerable (and still important) information retrieval standard.

A common item of business was approving a new diagnostic code. Continue reading

Europhobia

When talking about British politicians who want the UK to leave Europe, it’s time to stop extending them the courtesy of describing them as “Eurosceptic”. That term suggests they’ve invested a lot of thought and effort into reaching a position that has reservations about — is sceptical about — Europe.

But it’s clearer with literally every passing day that the Brexit experiment is a total disaster — economically, culturally, educationally, technologically, politically. Those who still want to press on with it are way past the point of scepticism and into all-our paranoia, conspiracy theory and irrational fear — in other words, phobia.

They are Europhobes.

Facebook’s and eBay’s monopolies are very different from, and scarier than, Google’s. But what about Amazon?

People talk a lot about “Internet monopolies like Google and Facebook”, as though they are the same kind of thing. Even as astute a commentator as Tim Harford (alias “The Undercover Economist”) lumps them together in statements like “Google dominates search; Facebook is the Goliath of social media; Amazon rules online retail”.

But these “Internet monopolies” actually fall into completely different categories.

Google dominates search because it offers the best general-purpose search engine currently on the market.

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C. S. Lewis on neoliberalism in 2017

From The Screwtape Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil, written as a weekly newspaper column in 1941 and published in book form in 1942:

The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. “To be” means “to be in competition”.

Lewis puts these words in the mouth of his character Screwtape, a senior devil instructing his nephew on how to undermine a human’s progress as a Christian and as a person. They are intended to be too ludicrous to be taken seriously as anything but a satire of the most destructive and appalling philosophies on the market.

Yet somehow this has become completely conventional mainstream political theory in the UK, and now governs everything from how our universities and funded to the progressing privatisation of the NHS.

Discuss.

Would Leave-voters accept this compromise on freedom of movement?

I think most Leave voters now accept that leaving the European Union will hurt the UK economy. But a lot of people still feel that’s a price worth paying to regain control of immigration.

Brussels insists that freedom of movement is required if we’re to stay in the Single Market, but there may be some wiggle-room regarding exactly what “freedom of movement” means for us.

Continue reading