Thursday, December 31, 2020

Burgundy over blue


It's truly Peak Telegraph that on the day before True Brexit, the sub-headline about Gibraltar doesn't spell Schengen correctly. Maybe it's the shock before the delayed realization that, like Northern Ireland, Brexit has put another EU neighbour in the driving seat regarding a border. 

Bonus points for the NHS-bashing. 

Image: screen capture 3.25pm before the hideous Pay-for-Outrage flash page takes over. 

Add to reading list

The New York Times article today about the unfolding process of realization in China a year ago about Coronavirus as the political instinct clashed with the scientific is interesting and has some new details. But in substance, it's very close to a lengthy Financial Times investigation from over 2 months ago. The FT article also involved some riskier local reporting, as a note at the end indicates. And both articles agree that there is a critical 2 weeks in the middle of January where President Xi is missing in action, which may also be the critical 2 weeks in scaling the virus up to a pandemic. 

Quote of the day

From an excellent Financial Times article on structural challenges of polling, Scott Rasmussen:

"Public pollsters are like bartenders that serve another shot of whiskey to a customer who shouldn't have it," he says. "I would hope that some analytical sites and political sites would display a little less certainty about what the polls [show]." 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Economics not politics

DUP MP Sammy Wilson in the House of Commons Brexit trade and cooperation agreement enabling legislation debate today:

When it comes to a choice between joining the Irish Republic—a small nation which will bob about in the future storms of economic chaos—and being anchored to the fifth-largest economy in the world, which will prosper under Brexit, I believe that that choice will be an easy one for the people of Northern Ireland. 

That's a risky anchor for a  Unionist position. For one thing, it's a prediction that could be wrong! 

Monday, December 28, 2020

New variant stupidity

There are a growing number of countries saying something along the lines of: we have found Covid-19 infections traceable to travel from the UK and the new variant therein (VUI – 202012/01, B.1.1.7 lineage). Such a country is therefore admitting or claiming one or more of the following:

  1. Their system for ensuring no arriving travelers from UK are infected does not work.
  2. Their system for quarantining such travelers does not work.
  3. They have the ability to conduct a test for the Covid-19 variant discovered in the UK
  4. They have compared whatever test they ran on the suspected imported case with other Covid-19 variants already present in the country.

If you believe all that, we're glad 2020 hasn't crushed your optimism. 

UPDATE 29 December: If you want a model of the opposite of the above sloppiness ("we found the UK variant in a cluster with someone recently arrived from the UK!"), it's the press release issued by the office of the Governor of Colorado today, describing the first case of the variant in his state. It uses the scientific name for the variant, never refers to it as the "British" or "UK" variant (only that it's the same variant), notes the absence of any travel history of the victim, and precisely describes the test. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Brexit according to George, Ringo, Paul, and John

Or, the Beatles and their subsequent individual careers -- a Brexit-themed playlist. We've posted a few of these selections before, but the ideas keep accumulating! Links to Youtube. Chosen for their unintended topicality, lyrics about England's place in the world, intimations of sudden change, and spasms of doubt. 

The Ballad of John and Yoko

Helen Wheels (Paul McCartney and Wings)

Goodnight Vienna (Ringo Starr)

Penny Lane

Awaiting on You All (George Harrison)

Cold Turkey (John Lennon / Plastic Ono band)

Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey (Paul McCartney)

Back in the USSR

Give Ireland back to the Irish (Paul McCartney)

God (John Lennon)

Revolution 1

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Reading the EU UK Trade Agreement

 Page 535 (underline added) --

With respect to Investment liberalisation – National treatment and Regulatory framework for Legal services – Obligations: The EU: Treatment granted pursuant to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to legal persons formed in accordance with the law of the Union or of a Member State and having their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the Union, including those established in the Union by investors of the United Kingdom, is not accorded to legal persons established outside the Union, nor to branches or representative offices of such legal persons, including to branches or representative offices of legal persons of the United Kingdom. Treatment less favourable may be accorded to legal persons formed in accordance with the law of the European Union or of a Member State which have only their registered office in the Union, unless it can be shown that they possess an effective and continuous link with the economy of one of the Member States.

That seems highly significant for companies established in Northern Ireland and doing business in the Republic. 

Quote of the Century

Winston Churchill in the House of Commons, 16 February 1922 --

Then came the great War. Every institution, almost, in the, world was strained. Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed. The position of countries has been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous changes in the deluge of the world, but as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.

Of course, this is a too-much cited quote and it's Churchill in his cranky reactionary Unionist phase. But ... he had a point, and if you change his reference from World War 1 to the pandemic and change Fermanagh and Tyrone to just about anything, he has a point again.

Example: Twitter is apparently outraged, again, that Gal Gadot is Israeli. And that Man U "dropped points" against Leicester. And some other third thing.

The speed with which people want to get back to regular aggro service, with the pandemic still raging, is amazing. 

Word of the Day

Reading the extended sea area forecast, as one does, one learns that there is something called a piteraq wind! Good Scrabble word. 


Friday, December 25, 2020

Brexit trade deal

There is a contradiction at the heart of the deal. In the outline of the deal that has been made available -- not the deal itself -- there are several references to how what has been agreed between the UK and the EU is better than in any other trade deal.

Which may be true.

In which case, the challenge of Brexit becomes even clearer. Because, if this deal is so much deeper than any other trade deal out there, then it's going to be impossible for the UK to conclude a trade deal with another partner which compensates for the market access that it has lost by leaving the Single Market and switching to a free trade deal -- as good as it is - with the EU. 

What other country or regional club, without the history of close integration with the UK, will be willing to grant a similar deal? 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Shakespeare's Henry V, St Crispin's Day Speech, Brexit Version

Scene: The English camp on the M20 in Kent, bound for #Dover or #Folkestone, and on to France.


O that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England

That do work from home today!


What's he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark'd to tariff, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to trade,

The fewer goods, the greater share of quotas.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Gove, I am not covetous for turbot,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet control,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this traffic jam,

Let him depart; his passport shall be blue

And euros for convoy put into his purse:

We would not wait in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to be stuck with us.

This day is called the feast of No Deal Brexit:

He that outlives this day, and comes home ever,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of BROCK.

He that shall live this day, and see old age pension,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is No Deal Brexit:'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his Kent Access Permit.

And say 'This paperwork I had on No Deal Brexit day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What lay-by feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Boris the king, Gove and Dominic,

Priti and Nigel, Rishi and Arlene,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And No Deal Brexit Day shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of lorry drivers;

For he to-day that looks for the nearest toilet with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That queued with us upon No Deal Brexit day.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Significance of every word understood

From the Moroccan version of the King M6 / Trump phone call regarding the various normalization initiatives --

In his capacity as Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, His Majesty the King underlined the need to preserve the special status of this city. The Sovereign also insisted on the respect of the freedom to practice religious rites for the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as well as the respect of the Islamic character of Al-Quds Asharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque, in accordance with the Al-Quds/Jerusalem Call signed by His Majesty the King, Commander of the Faithful, and His Holiness Pope Francis, during his visit to Rabat on March 30, 2019.