Monday, 23 January 2017

A new Trump reader

1. Why a philosopher voted for Trump.

2. Resistance to Trump? Or just opposition? Why Trump is in great shape for 2020 (a tweetstorm) and advice for the Loyal Opposition to Trump.

3. Trump might be right; you might be wrong.

4. The media cannot think properly about Trump, but FiveThirtyEight might be able to.

5. What the King of Hawaii can teach us about Trump.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Why villains are British

... explained (to some extent) here, also telling us that Americans like a Brummie accent.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Friday, 13 January 2017

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Miscellaneous links

1. The moving sofa problem, familiar from Douglas Adams and given a mathematical formulation.

2. A good and fair interview with the intellectual Trump supporter Publius Decius Mus. "Before he began to speak, he held out an iPhone showing a picture of his family: if he was unmasked, he said, his family would suffer, because he works for a company that might not want to be connected to an apostle of Trumpism. // It is not necessarily absurd for Decius to suggest that he might suffer a fate like that which befell Brendan Eich, who resigned under pressure from Mozilla Corporation, the tech company he co-founded, after he was discovered to have donated to an anti-same-sex-marriage initiative." That is great fairmindedness from the author and the New Yorker.

3. New Zealand:"I lack space to eulogize Wellington, where the national library appears to surpass any analogous institution Australia can show, even if the airport houses mankind’s only known ceiling-suspended statue of Gollum."

4. The great Greggs robbery: "The 34-year-old also stole hot drinks sachets from an NHS Trust". Greggs and the NHS - has the man no shame?

5. How and why to use stereotypes in Bayesian reasoning (but please also consider why not).

6. Have you come across the phrase "evangelicalism’s subaltern counterpublics" before? If not, you might be interested in this piece on the collapse of American mainstream Protestantism.

7. Fake news?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

What to expect from Brexit

Some thoughts prompted by the departure of Sir Ivan Rogers.

Here is a quick description of the circumstances that would lead to the best outcome from the Brexit negotiations: on the UK side, a political and diplomatic elite who have intellectually and emotionally bought into the case for Brexit and who have been preparing for it for years, all the brightest and best having spent years hoping and wishing for Brexit to happen and making detailed, together with a broader cultural and media elite who fervently wish for the negotiations to go well and who are prepared to lend a hand by producing the right kind of mood music and cheerleading to encourage the waverers and strengthen the resolve of the negotiators, and a populace beneath that wholly united behind Brexit, and cheerfully prepared to pay any price to make it happen; that combined with a European counterparty motivated only by magnanimity, one which has decided that the EU and the UK should be the best of friends, that the negotiations should create no bad blood but, on the contrary, that the terms of divorce should be so generous that the British might come to think that the EU is not so bad after all and truly is a beacon of sweetness and light in a dark world otherwise consumed with pettiness and rancour; and all of that combined with a profound and unspoken belief on both sides that restrictions on trade, whether on imports or on exports, are always and everywhere restrictions on the wealth and happiness of mankind.

Such a concatenation of circumstances is not wholly unrealistic. Something not a million miles from that must have lain behind the processes by which various dominions became independent from the UK. But it is clearly not the circumstances we are in.

If you start with that description of the first-best scenario then you can create a variety of second-best scenarios in which one or other element (a united populace, a generous EU) is missing. We are in none of those second-best scenarios either. We are some kinds of third best scenario in which we have some elements of the political and media elite, and a fair chunk of the populace, happy with Brexit. Given that background, if the terms of divorce are half-way acceptable then that would be a great achievement for our negotiators. The least we can do is to wish them the best of British.