Staying in the EU

My job for the last 3 years has been EU researcher at a London think tank. My work was mainly on the problems of the EU and the different options for leaving the EU – in short, what might be called Eurosceptic. They can all be accessed here for free.

Over the course of my time there I have become convinced that it is best for Britain to remain within the EU, although it certainly has its problems. I have now left Civitas.

Here are some of my reasons for supporting Remain.

Here is how I think the government could promote Leave-Remain reconciliation, and try to fix the EU’s problems, after a Remain win:

You could also argue this (by a colleague), which is mildly true but barely relevant:

David Cameron’s renegotiation efforts have changed the EU for the better

I have a few more articles planned, but await people to pay me to write them.

I am happy to discuss my views further.

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Book Review: The Feminist Utopia Project, fifty-seven visions of a wildly better future

The Feminist Utopia Project, fifty-seven visions of a wildly better future

edited by Alexandra Brodsky, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

This was a great book. But then, I expected it to be that from the LRB interview I had seen about it. I had to buy it from Amazon USA because, as a modest art-academic project with the Feminist Press, it has not been published in the UK (yet).

The collection is mostly short stories and essays but includes poems, listicles, art, the lot. I’m in the middle of writing fiction about a world with different gender dynamics so I especially wanted to look at these, even more after I saw the contributors included Melissa Gira Grant and a few other writers I already enjoy reading.

This won’t be a particularly thorough review: if you’re the kind of person who thinks they’d like to read a book called the feminist utopia project, yes, this is the kind of book you would like to read. But here are a few observations. Continue reading

PAPER NUKES: Navy Whistleblower Reveals Britain Abandoned Atomic Missiles In 1998 & Pretended Ever Since – The Middlesex Mendax

The United Kingdom has not possessed a real nuclear deterrent since the early days of the Blair Government, a shocking whistleblower has revealed. The first New Labour administration decided to give up the Trident missile system, which had been run by four Vanguard-class submarines, to save Britain billions of pounds.

Since then, documents seen by the Mendax prove that Britain has kept its lack of actual atomic weaponry a guarded secret. The old submarines were kept in shady docks and occasionally went out with skeleton crews to show they still existed. They never patrolled the world’s deep seas after 1998 though, and they never possessed the power to eradicate Moscow or Samoa.

Our source claims that the conspiracy was a way to save over £30 billion but maintain an effective nuclear deterrent. This was a tactical decision by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who felt that they had to accept the Cold War was over and the missiles useless, but did not want to be seen as weak on defence. Because other countries, including Britain’s allies in Nato, believed that the Royal Navy could still wipe out millions of lives in seconds, no foreign power ever considered invading. Continue reading

Throwing mud

<Normal housekeeping on eye and hand pain>

Loathe though I am to spin in favour of David Cameron, here are some disconnected thoughts on the Ashcroft/Mail rumours:

  1. I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with your university self having put his willy in a dead animal’s head, if (as is highly unlikely) it happened. As acclaimed obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman writes, there is nothing about it that seems illegal, the act as described falling into neither bestiality nor necrophilia categories.
    It may be disgusting to many people, and in any case would probably not have been performed or orchestrated as a genuinely erotic act – but I’m basically happy for people to do whatever they want sexually (or mock-sexually) so long as they don’t hurt others or contravene others’ consent or involve minors. This did none of the above.
    (1.i) As such I do not think allegations of such should be the cause of a politician’s fall from grace, however much I dislike said politician.
  2. Recall, with some hint of sympathy, that a young and drunk boy might have been basically peer-pressured into such an act, with a bunch of braying fellows of similar social standing and wealth, many of whom had (presumably, or claimedly) already performed such an act. That sounds basically traumatic, however much fault lies with the young man for arriving at the situation.
  3. All of that notwithstanding, consider the hygiene implications, which are mind-boggling, and would, I imagine, add to the above horror.
  4. If it did happen, and a picture of it was taken, that is as much a violation on the young man as the invasive photographs taken of various Royals that I’ve previously criticised.
  5. The mere allusion that Cameron was a toff is not remotely new, and did nothing to stop him winning an election. As such, it’s unlikely to change much.
  6. The allegation that the prime minister knew that his key donor was a non-dom a year before it became public is arguably more damning.
  7. The drug stuff is basically meaningless.
  8. I massively doubt that this episode is an out-of-control Crosbyite ‘dead cat’, but it did not hurt the government entirely in that it obscured the news that a coroner explicitly ruled that a government ‘fit for work’ assessment caused a welfare claimant to take his own life, and that this will probably happen again without reform.
  9. Yes, many of the jokes on Twitter were glorious, many of the defences raised for the act, hilariously spurious.
  10. The newspaper in which the allegations were aired, the Daily Mail, remains a pretty objectionable publication that often publishes damaging stories I really don’t like. As such (and in keeping with 1.) I essentially disapprove, although this is mildly mitigated by the fact they’d have emerged in Ashcroft’s biography eventually.
  11. As a sidenote, the last 25 hours remind me strongly of the allegations against Lord McAlpinewhich were widely tweeted/retweeted and ruled to be libellous. Many online have not learned the lesson that a tweet is an act of publication that makes you liable, when you have zero means of proving the veracity of your potentially-libellous accusation. The next time someone is rumoured to have fucked up, don’t be hasty.

All of these could be mutable.

I have no particular intention to ever run for public office, having exhausted myself as Oxford University Croquet Club Secretary 2010-11, but am minded to make a list of all the disgusting/debauched/toffish/dangerous things I can remember doing as a student (which fortunately do not compare to the above allegations), lest I ever have a change of heart.

If you think Cameron makes a bad PM, make the case based on what he’s doing and what he intends to do, not what his 20 year old self possibly did.

I have no particular intention to ever run for public office, having exhausted myself as Oxford University Croquet Club Secretary 2010-11, but am minded to make a list of all the disgusting/debauched/toffish/dangerous things I can remember doing as a student (which fortunately do not compare to the above allegations), lest I ever have a change of heart.

If you think Cameron makes a bad PM, make the case based on what he’s doing and what he intends to do, not what his 20 year old self possibly did.

Superheroes are next to useless

Not just superheroes, really. Jedi too. Super-spies like 007 or Agent Carter. Badass detectives like Sherlock Holmes (whether Downey Jr, Bumblecatch or Miller).

Seriously, if I had an Iron Man suit waiting in my spare room, it’d be even dustier than the broken vacuum cleaner. If Thor’s hammer Mjolnir found me worthy then I’d use it to impress moralists and for cheap interstellar travel, but not to hit people with. If I had a lightsabre and some nifty telekinesis abilities, I’d think they were badass toys to help cut wood for the fire. If I was bitten by a radioactive spider then I would probably enjoy touring the rooftops of Canary Wharf and the City, but doubt I’d fight much crime.

Why?

Because a vital element in superhero narratives is the supervillain. As escapism, heroes are not only fantasies because they show ordinary people given the power to right the world’s wrongs: they are fantasies because they present evil as simple and soluble. They present the world’s wrongs as problems that a well-placed lightning bolt can fix.

Ultron – killer robot intent on wiping out humanity. Kill him.

Loki – killer god intent on subjugating humanity through alien invasion. Smash him.

Doctor Octopus – killer scientist willing to blow up a city for progress. Kill him.

Darth Sidious – practitioner of a sadist magic intent on a galactic dictatorship. Electrocute him.

Moriarty – killer genius in various forms. Throw him off a cliff.

Red Skull – killer Nazi demon general. Bring him up in every internet debate. Also: kill him.

The world’s real problems just don’t have such discrete short sharp shock solutions; that is why they’re frustrating, and it’s largely why they are our problems.

Let’s take the most cut and dried evil on the planet at the moment, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and Isis. Yes, if you were Wolverine you could make a bloody mess of them and probably kill their leader. Except killing their leader does not work. Boko Haram’s founder and leader Mohammed Yusuf was executed in 2009. The movement got stronger. Osama Bin Laden was shot by US troops. Al Qaeda currently controls over half of Yemen. Western bombing has (possibly) killed several Isis commanders. They’re still on top across northern Iraq and Syria.

Right, OK, so you need to Hulk out and kill all their fighters. Let’s say that’s fine, you take down every living Isis member. What now? Bashir al-Assad retakes northern Syria and continues to repress it. You kill all Assad’s army. You leave a chaotic traumatised husk of a country full of petty warlords, many of whom have the potential to become a second Isis. Most of the population hate you because you hit their cousin with your green fist of justice.

Oh, and you’ve doubled the refugee crisis. Now everyone in the Middle East is trying to get away from a genocidal green monster. Are you going to stay in hulk form to rebuild roads, airports, factories and tower blocks?

(That’s quite a nice image actually)

And those are just the easy problems. What could a hero do to resolve the Israel-Palestine problem?

Luke Skywalker or Professor Xavier could, with great effort, mind control every hawk on both sides for the rest of their lives so they come to a permanent settled solution. That seems, however well motivated, a level of authoritarianism that nobody would choose. It means Luke/Charles have the perfect solution to the problem and need no other input.

Then you get to the serious problems. What are any of these heroes going to do about stock market instability? About racial aggravation or homophobia? Gender violence? How are they going to convince Europe and America to take hundreds of thousands of migrants? How are they going to reverse climate change or tackle local government corruption in developing states?

Then there’s the accountability problem. The whole point of masked avengers is that they’re vigilantes outside the usual responsibilities of law enforcement, but is that something we actually want? Even with laws and accountability, many people across the world hate their police forces. They can be over-violent, prejudiced, corrupt. Plus they, and even more so a solo hero, have fallible judgement.

In Iron Man II the Senate tries to take Tony Stark’s suit away. The senators are painted as stupid fools getting in the way of Stark, the only person who can use his creation, the libertarian hero protecting his intellectual property. Well, maybe he should be able to keep the suit itself, but he should basically never be allowed to use it. Whenever he takes off he breaks numerous airspace safety measures. Are civilians actually allowed missile launchers and machine guns in all US states? And when he flies to the Middle East, how does he know he won’t trigger a wider war with every illegal repulsor ray he fires? Would he accept being called to Geneva Convention trials or war crimes tribunals?

Obviously some superheroes can do good. Bruce Wayne could put his money to philanthropy, jobs and anti-corruption to make Gotham a sustainable clean city. Tony Stark can design all kinds of non-weapon useful technology and promote energy efficiency (as he briefly fantasises in his first film) as well as the above. The mutants can make a good case for inclusion and acceptance. But solving the world through violence or mind control? You can only do that if there’s a baddie bad enough to get badass with.

Jurassic World: Why Claire actually doomed the park and everyone in it

(This blog contains spoilers and also assumes the reader is familiar with Jurassic World)

I got to thinking about the Indominus Rex and within the film’s internal logic and it took me to a worrying place. Claire’s decision to release the Tyrannosaurs Rex to help fight the I-Rex was catastrophic. This is unapologetically geeky: you have been warned. Continue reading

Why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t unelectable

Here is a thing that was pleasing to me. Especially Ho Chi Corbyn.

youmerelybrokemylife

Introduction

There is a very strong tendency in coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become leader of the Labour party to argue that Corbyn would destroy Labour’s election chances because he is too left-wing. I don’t even need to link to examples of this, it is practically unquestioned in the bubble of English political commentary. It’s easy to see why it is so prevalent, but I think it’s a rather ballsy assumption.

I’m not saying Jeremy Corbyn is wonderfully electable. I’m not saying he is necessarily more electable than his opponents. I’m not saying he will lead the Labour party to triumph if he wins its leadership election. I’m not even necessarily saying he’s very good. I’m only saying it’s not true he will be an electoral disaster for the party compared to his opponents. Here are some reasons.

He would probably come across as more genuine and honest than…

View original post 1,025 more words

The case for a British-led Greek bailout

I do not seriously think Britain’s austerian Conservative government has a snowball’s chance in Hellas of leading a Greek bailout. Cameron and Osborne have been dragged into contributing a small amount to an EU-wide measure, having kicked up a mighty fuss and received assurances that Britain’s contribution is underwritten.

Still, I think it’d be a good idea for this government to seriously consider leading a bailout. I would have the prime minister convene a debt relief conference with (if possible) contributions from America and Canada, both of which are in late-stage talks over trade deals with the EU, and if possible South Korea, South Africa and Mexico, all of which have free trade deals already.

The IMF, Centre for European Reform and eminent economists like Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Jonathan Sachs all say current the current situation is unsustainable and the measures the Eurozone is imposing on Greece in return for additional loans will ruin the country even more. Debt relief (pushing back repayments) now seems to be on the table, courtesy of Angela Merkel, but that is far off and contingent on full implementation of Eurozone model austerity. Merkel has categorically ruled out a haircut (debt write off). It’s far from an Obama-style stimulus package or Sachs-model shock therapy which could actually make Greece grow again. It won’t have any impact on the currency either, because Greece will remain locked into the euro while it grows less and less competitive.

Continue reading

WIP

So I’m writing a book about cloning, normalisation of the sex industry, and financial crisis. Also about identity, relationships, mental health and happiness, effective business regulation, gender relations, the decline of aristocracy, and calligraphy.

Drop me a line about any of these, or if you would be interested in critiquing a draft in return for pints or actual cash money.