• The UK is no longer its 19th-century self, but a second-rank power in decline…. The White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass claimed to believe six impossible things before breakfast. Alas, The Brexit Inflection Point: The Pathway to Prosperity, a recent pamphlet from the London-based Legatum Institute, fully matches the queen. This matters because the view it advances of the “Brexit prize” to be won by the UK is influential. Here then are six impossible things it argues.

    tags: Brexit selfdelusion UK thinktank MartinWolf trade

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  • Instead of building a broad base for a sustainable Brexit policy, the government instead chose secrecy and to play to the hardline-Brexit press and political supporters.COMMENTS1) As I regularly point out:1. The U.K. is not North Korea – but a largely open society;2. The European Commission has nearly, if not complete access to all U.K. economic data;3. The EU27 all have embassies in London packed with well trained diplomats, and the Commision has its own office – they spend their days talking to politicians and businessmen and writing reports;4. The Commission and the EU27 have packs of well trained economic analysts and sector experts for all significant industrial sectors in the EU, EEA and indeed globally.There is almost certainly nothing in these 58 sector reports that Barnier and the EU27 do not have knowledge of. The only reason to not publish them is that they are highly damaging to the entire Brexit project – and harder to refute because they come form the British government. They mus be very disturbing indeed.The government’s refusal to tell people about how Brexit will affect them is perhaps the most worrying, and telling, part of all of the whole process of leaving the EU.

    tags: Brexit DExEU UKparliament DavidAllenGreen

  • One uncanny aspect of the investigations into Trump’s Russia connections is that instead of too little evidence there’s too much. It’s impossible to keep it straight without the kind of chaotic wall charts that Carrie Mathison of “Homeland” assembled during her manic episodes. Incidents that would be major scandals in a normal administration — like the mere fact of Trump’s connection to Sater — become minor subplots in this one…Harding, the former Moscow bureau chief of The Guardian, has been reporting on shady characters like Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was indicted last month, long before Trump announced his candidacy. He was able to interview Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier attempting to detail Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin, and who describes the conspiracy between the American president and the Russians as “massive — absolutely massive.”“Collusion” doesn’t purport to solve all the mysteries of this alleged conspiracy. There’s no longer any serious question that there was cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but the extent of the cooperation, and the precise nature of it, remains opaque…Harding, the former Moscow bureau chief of The Guardian, has been reporting on shady characters like Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was indicted last month, long before Trump announced his candidacy. He was able to interview Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier attempting to detail Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin, and who describes the conspiracy between the American president and the Russians as “massive — absolutely massive.”“Collusion” doesn’t purport to solve all the mysteries of this alleged conspiracy. There’s no longer any serious question that there was cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but the extent of the cooperation, and the precise nature of it, remains opaque…Trump, the gaudy huckster who treats closing a sale as the height of human endeavor, is a quintessentially American figure. His campaign of racial and religious grievance drew on the darkest currents of American history. At most, Putin appears to have recognized an opportunity that American political dysfunction created.It’s a sign of how deep that dysfunction goes that the substantial evidence that the president is not a patriot hasn’t caused more of a political earthquake. America, stunned and divided, appears incapable of metabolizing all we’re learning about the man in the White House.

    tags: DonaldTrump Russia Putin USpolitics interference conspiracy LukeHarding ChristopherSteele bookreview

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  • One thing underpinning many Brexiters’ confidence in Britain’s position is the belief that the country will be just fine without any preferential trade deal with the EU securing access to the bloc’s single market. So they argue the UK — not the EU — has the leverage in the Brexit talks.They tend to dismiss the warnings of big job losses by banks in the City of London and the CBI, Britain’s biggest employers’ group, if there is no post-Brexit transition deal with the EU as just more of the scaremongering they believe Remainers engaged in during the referendum campaign. The fact that the sky has not fallen in and life has changed little on the ground in south Wales since the Brexit vote has only deepened their conviction… Neither Mr or Mrs Boucher trust the BBC — and its reports of mounting Brexit costs — so they seek alternative sources of news. “He’s constantly on YouTube, looking for stuff,” Mrs Boucher said of her husband… Her Ukip membership has lapsed but her Brexit fervour remains strong. In fact, her only apparent regret is that the fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum may foil the Bouchers’ plan to sell their house and retire to Spain…

    tags: Brexit UK Wales publicopinion delusion ignorance politics

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  • Annie Hall is the greatest comic film of the twentieth century—better than Bringing Up Baby, better even than Caddyshack—because it acknowledges the irrepressible nihilism that lurks at the center of all comedy. Also, it’s really funny. To watch Annie Hall is to feel, for just a moment, that one belongs to humanity. Watching, you feel almost mugged by that sense of belonging. That fabricated connection can be more beautiful than love itself. And that’s what we call great art. In case you were wondering…

    Tracy’s face, Mariel’s face, is made of open flat planes that recall pioneers and plains of wheat and sunshine (it’s an Idaho face, after all). Allen sees Tracy as good and pure in a way that the grown women in the film never can be. Tracy is wise, the way Allen has written her, but unlike the adults in the film she’s entirely, miraculously untroubled by neurosis.

    Heidegger has this notion of dasein and vorhandensein. Dasein means conscious presence, an entity aware of its own mortality—e.g., almost every character in every Woody Allen movie ever except Tracy. Vorhandensein, on the other hand, is a being that exists in itself; it just is—like an object, or an animal. Or Tracy. She’s glorious simply by being: inert, object-like, vorhandensein. Like the great movie stars of old, she’s a face, as Isaac so famously states in his litany of reasons to go on living: “Groucho Marx and Willie Mays; those incredible apples and pears by Cézanne; the crabs at Sam Wo’s; uh, Tracy’s face.” (Watching the film for the first time in decades, I was struck by how much Isaac’s list sounded like a Facebook gratitude post.)

    Reminder: not “you,” not “we,” but “I.” Stop side-stepping ownership. I am the audience. And I can sense there’s something entirely unacceptable lurking inside me. Even in the midst of my righteous indignation when I bitch about Woody and Soon-Yi, I know that, on some level, I’m not an entirely upstanding citizen myself. Sure, I’m attuned to my children and thoughtful with my friends; I keep a cozy house, listen to my husband, and am reasonably kind to my parents. In everyday deed and thought, I’m a decent-enough human. But I’m something else as well, something vaguely resembling a, well, monster. The Victorians understood this feeling; it’s why they gave us the stark bifurcations of Dorian Gray, of Jekyll and Hyde. I suppose this is the human condition, this sneaking suspicion of our own badness. It lies at the heart of our fascination with people who do awful things. Something in us—in me—chimes to that awfulness, recognizes it in myself, is horrified by that recognition, and then thrills to the drama of loudly denouncing the monster in question.

    The psychic theater of the public condemnation of monsters can be seen as a kind of elaborate misdirection: nothing to see here. I’m no monster. Meanwhile, hey, you might want to take a closer look at that guy over there….

    There are many qualities one must possess to be a working writer or artist. Talent, brains, tenacity. Wealthy parents are good. You should definitely try to have those. But first among equals, when it comes to necessary ingredients, is selfishness. A book is made out of small selfishnesses. The selfishness of shutting the door against your family. The selfishness of ignoring the pram in the hall. The selfishness of forgetting the real world to create a new one. The selfishness of stealing stories from real people. The selfishness of saving the best of yourself for that blank-faced anonymous paramour, the reader. The selfishness that comes from simply saying what you have to say…

    tags: art writing creation creativity selfishness cruelty WoodyAllen RomanPolanski film filmreview ethics morality selfindictment genius tenacity JekyllandHyde MartinHeidegger selfconsciousness

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