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Showing posts from January, 2017

Seeing through the smoke

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The last week has been extraordinary, even by the standards of these extraordinary times. A flurry of Executive Orders from the new President of the United States has thrown the global order into chaos and sparked outrage throughout the world.

But he has only done exactly what he said he would do. There is nothing in the Executive Orders signed so far that was not announced during the Presidential campaign, repeatedly and to loud cheers from his many supporters. The President was lawfully voted in by the people of the United States on the basis of the promises he made to them, and he is now following through on those promises. Frankly, I find this hard to criticise. If his decisions are illiberal, discriminatory and racist, that is because a substantial proportion of the American people are illiberal, discriminatory and racist. The problem is not the President, it is those who elected him.
I do not understand why those who cherish liberal values and human rights convinced themselves …

President Trump's Triffin problem

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In many eyes, President-elect Trump is a loose cannon. He says things that upset people the world over. Many of these things perhaps should not be taken too seriously - after all, he is a showman. But it would be a mistake to dismiss his rhetoric on trade. There, he is in deadly earnest - and it does not bode well either for America or for the world. 
Trump's trade agenda was set out in Peter Navarro & Wilbur Ross's paper(pdf) of September 2016. Peter Navarro's most famous work is the documentary "Death By China" which essentially blames China for all America's woes. Wilbur Ross is a businessman who made a fortune from buying up and restructuring manufacturing businesses, some of them protected by George Bush's trade tariffs. Both of them are unashamedly protectionist, labelling countries running large trade surpluses as "cheaters" and "manipulators" and demanding that the rules of international trade be changed to benefit America…

It's not an NHS crisis, it's a social care disaster

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You've probably all noticed that I haven't been writing much lately. Well, not on this site, anyway, though I have been doing rather a lot elsewhere.

In the last couple of months, my life has been upended. I suppose I should have seen this coming - the signs have been there for a long time - but the speed at which this has happened has shocked me.

At the end of October, my father suffered a fall at his home on Sheppey, where he has lived alone since my mother went into a nursing home in August 2014.  He was found - after several hours - by the taxi driver he had booked to take him to see her. I didn't find out for another two days that he had been taken into hospital.

When I went to see him, I was horrified. He couldn't talk, and when I spoke to him he just stared at me. I thought he had had a stroke. But the hospital thought otherwise. They decided it was his heart, fitted him with a pacemaker (for which he had previously been recommended, but no-one had got round to…

No, I'm not going to respect your opinion

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What does "discussion" mean?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are three definitions:

the action or process of talking about something in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideasa conversation or debate about a specific topica detailed treatment of a topic in speech or writing
Well, this is a pretty wide brief, isn't it? Lots of opportunity for misunderstanding there.

I recently joined a discussion group. There are lots of these on social media, some open, some closed. Some have clearly defined topics, others are much woollier. Most do not specify what they mean by "discussion".

I expected a friendly debate in which differences of opinion are welcomed and there is no intention of reaching any conclusion. But there is no particular reason why I should expect this. Another person might expect discussion to be focused entirely on obtaining general agreement to a particular course of action. And someone else might simply be wishing to air their views…

The return of machismo

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2016 has been an extraordinary year. Memorable for so many things: celebrity deaths,the melting of Arctic sea ice, Trump, Brexit, terror attacks in Europe, drownings in the Med, destruction in Syria. The largest movement of people in recorded history. And - perhaps - the overturning of the political & economic paradigm established by Reagan and Thatcher. Are we seeing the end of elites and the triumph of the common man? Was the Brexit vote really the victory of "ordinary people"? Was Trump's election really due to a populist surge?

I look at Trump's cabinet and I don't see a resurgence of populism. On the contrary, I see the triumph of the 1 percent. Trump's cabinet is made up almost entirely of old, white and extremely rich men. Many of them are former senior military personnel. The few women are rich, beautiful and - by American political standards - young. In short, the composition of Trump's government speaks not to pluralism, or even the end of …