‘What China is doing here is selectively breeding its population to select against the trait of critical, independent thinking.’
‘What China is doing here is selectively breeding its population to select against the trait of critical, independent thinking.’
I didn’t know any of this:
If I were asked to name the man who did most to shape the welfare state in modern Britain, I just might give the palm to Sir Alfred Watson. He would be an unconventional choice. Short, bald, unassuming, more at home with numbers than people, Watson is well and truly forgotten. But he had strong views on how social services should develop and be funded, and first as a kind of roving adviser to the committees that set up national insurance schemes before the First World War, and then as government actuary with an office in the Treasury from 1917, he took a red pen to anything that smacked of profligacy or radicalism. In the cause of fiscal rectitude he could be creative too, teaming up with the then minister of health, Neville Chamberlain, in the 1920s to shift the state-funded old-age pensions scheme onto a contributory basis – a move that at once enhanced its financial stability and sharply restricted its redistributive potential. Watson understood perfectly that his near invisibility sustained his authority and he never sought the limelight, but as John Macnicol points out in a brief but sharp entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, for two decades his word was, almost literally, law: ‘In the interwar years no policy proposal could proceed to legislation without the actuary’s approval.’
From Susan Pedersen’s London Review of Books review of Bread for All, titled One Man Ministry.
I can’t help but wish that the people who had come after him had followed in his footsteps.
First, read this transcript of Peter Atwater’s words to Adventures in Finance late last year:
Voter confidence in congress at 12 per cent. I think the president’s latest approval ratings put confidence in him at the mid-upper-30s. And then you have bi-partisan support of the US military that ranges in the mid-70s. And that to me is noteworthy in that it is the exact opposite of what we saw in the 1960s. So, just the sense that the pendulum has swung from one very negative view to a view today that is exceptionally positive.
And I think that that creates an environment where it becomes remarkably easy for some kind of military intervention in american leadership. And if you watch today the belittling and badgering that the left and right are doing, particularly on the congressional front, they are unknowingly revealing and identifying further and further weaknesses and reasons for Americans to have lost faith in congress as a real viable leadership group.
You have unprecedented polarisation of views of Donald Trump. And so, should there be an event, something that triggers a need for change in leadership, I think it is remarkably easy for the military or a group of military leaders to say, ‘You know, we are the right choice to step in here and restore calm, given the public view that again is bipartisan towards the US military today.
I’ve had folks on the left who have said, you know, without prompting, that they would much prefer to see a military leader than the current administration, which to me is just a striking statement.
Now read this, from the first posts in late October last year to the most recent ones.
Now – put the pieces together.
From my recent reading, which I had time to go through on a long, long, uncomfortable and vexing – CX, what a disappointment, never again – flight from one side of the world to the other.
First, some paras from an FT lunch with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, from the November 17 edition, touching on both epistemic rationality and the latest news about US-NK relations that I wrote about earlier today:
From his first wife, who died 20 years ago, Guterres learnt other, more subtle skills. She was a trained psychoanalyst, and encouraged Guterres to put politicians – and politics – on the metaphorical couch during negotiations.
“A crucial lesson for my political life is this very simple [psychological] analysis,” he explains. “When you have two persons in a room, you do not have two, you have six: what each person is; what each person thinks he or she is; and what each person thinks the other is. This is the reason personal relations are so complex. But what is true for persons is true for groups, and countries,” he adds.
“This is why there are pre-emptive strikes. So what is essential for me, [with] Russia and the United States, or North Korea and the United States, is to make sure that these six become two, that the perception aligns with the realities.” That is hard, I observe. “Very hard,” he sighs.
Next, a para in an FT piece ‘Slow Burn – a gripping podcast about Watergate’, by Fiona Sturges, touching on poisoning the well:
[Journalist and author Leon] Neyfakh reveals how, when [wife of President Nixon’s attorney-general Martha] Mitchell finally told her version of events, thus revealing the skulduggery at the hear of the Nixon administration, few took her seriously. The president’s aides had leaked stories to the press about her fondness for alcohol, thus damaging her credibility. That she was later vindicated led to the invention of the phrase “the Martha Mitchell effect”, where a person’s outlandish claims are deemed delusional by psychiatrists despite their veracity.
From the FT’s lunch with author Edward St Aubyn, from the October 20 edition:
St Aubyn is, at his best, a moralist – someone who looks certain permanent features of human nature straight in the eye and for whom it is sentimental to suppose that we could overcome them. “There have always been parents who have been narcissistic, preoccupied or who simply don’t like children,” he says. “There are thousands of forms of parental behaviour which have deep psychological roots which are to do with the nature of human beings.”
What sort of parent is he? “I’m not the sort who replicates the things he loathed most. But I remain the sort of parent who, as a result of what he loathed most, is in the shadow of a sort of over-compensation. So many parents are so hypnotised by what they hated that by doing the opposite they create a new set of problems.”
From the FT’s lunch with family law lawyer Sandra Davis, from the October 6 edition, sentiments that recently caused James Damore to be fired from Google, but which are uncontroversial when stated by a woman:
Unusually for the top of the legal profession, women dominate those lists. To Davis, this is not surprising. “Clients are emotional, they’re under stress, they need support,” she says. “So the skills you require are not just strategic legal skills, they’re softer skills as well – how to communicate difficult messages, how to support people when they’re breaking down.”
From Stefan Stern’s FT article ‘Boardrooms’ missing voices undermine risk management’, from the November 16 edition, touching on the need to seek out contrary information and be receptive to bad news:
One seasoned consultant to many boards says there are two types of [General Council]. “There is one who puts the interests of the company first – not the CEO, not other directors, but the company. This sort is quite rare. There is another type who will say to you, ‘Oh yes, I can see that this is a serious problem, but I could never tell the CEO.’ These conversations are more common and can be quite shocking.”
A good chief executive will be on guard against the danger that he or she is not receiving all of the necessary information from colleagues. However, all-powerful bosses may find that bad news does not get through to them quickly. The board and senior management team need truth-tellers whose careers will not be damaged – and preferably are seen to be boosted – by their candour.
And lastly, from Edward Luce’s excellent write-up of his lunch conversation with the brilliant and brave Daniel Ellsberg, touching on the nature of risk and decision-making:
I was keen to go further back in Ellsberg’s life than that. When he was 15, his father crashed the car that was carrying his family. Ellsberg’s mother and younger sister were killed. Ellsberg nearly joined them. He was in a coma for almost four days. How has that affected him? “The car crash alerted me to the possibility that the world can change in a flash for the worst,” he says. “That is the story I have been telling myself for more than 70 years.”
But in the past few months he has been revising what he thinks of the tragedy. “Was it really an accident?” he asks. His new answer is complex. It also goes some way to explaining why Ellsberg is more worried about human fallibility than most people.
The tragedy occurred on the July 4 holiday in 1946. Ellsberg’s mother wanted to drive to Denver from Detroit, where they lived. She forgot to book a motel for the fir so they slept on the dunes of Lake Michigan. Ellsberg and his father shivered under blankets on the beach for most of the night. His mother and sister slept in the car. “I remember my father hardly got any sleep,” Ellsberg recalled. “I also remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing falling stars, this shower of meteors – I’d never seen so many.”
The next day, Ellsberg’s father kept saying he was too tired to drive, and suggested they pull over. But his mother said they should press on. At some point in the middle of Iowa’s cornfields, Ellsberg’s father must have nodded off at the wheel. They veered calamitously off the road. “‘Accident’ is the wrong word,” says Ellsberg. “It was an accident in the sense that nobody intended it to happen. But both my parents knew the risks and they took the gamble anyway.”
Ellsberg relates this calmly but sadly. He also draws the natural parallel. “Nuclear war is also an accident waiting to happen,” he says. “The world has been preparing for nuclear catastrophe – for the end of civilisation – for 70 years now. I know: I have seen the plans.”
The incident taught Ellsberg that leaders whom you trust and even love – like his father – can gamble for little upside with everything they hold dear. “He should never have been driving,” Ellsberg says. “My mother should have listened to him.” It was a straight road. There were no other cars. “It was not as if we were hit by a meteor,” he adds.
The U.S. hopes to mitigate the collateral damage with a fearsome combination of cyber-warfare, psychological warfare, special operations, massive bombing, and limited air and amphibious invasion.
Either Jim is completely delusional, or key policy-makers have told him what they’re going to do.
And none of this is yet priced into factor markets!
The mainstream media are not telling you this war is coming. The stock market is not telling you this war is coming.
I am telling you the war is coming, but I’m not alone. The President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Director of the CIA, and the National Security Advisor are all saying the same thing. It’s just that no one is listening.
Trade accordingly! Epistemic rationality FTW!
Just a quick write-up of a comment, by WenellMurray, on an FT interview with Daniel Ellsberg – discoverer of the Ellsberg Paradox, exposer of the Pentagon Papers, and author of the superb book Secrets (a book which I highly recommend).
I thought the comment was excellent, getting to the nub of the problem of people confusing, for whatever reason, anti-Zionism with anti-semitism:
I would let it pass. Anti-semitism is an issue in some parts of the world, but barely extant elsewhere, in the USA, for example. Mr Kelso makes an accurate point above concerning grossly inflated claims of anti-semitism in order to divert attention from the Zionist push in Israel from its pre-state origins over 100 years ago that has resulted in the expulsion of native Palestinian Arabs from their homes. That has led to .statelessness and powerlessness in the apartheid state of Israel along with surrounding Arab countries for near tens of millions of Palestinian Arabs.
Many years ago, I don’t know exactly when but either back in the nineties or in the early noughties, back before the show’s relentless left-wing bias became too much for me, I listened to a programme of Philip Adams’ ABC RadNat show Late Night Live in which he and either David Brooks or Bruce Shapiro discussed President Eisenhower’s doddery, confidence-sapping speaking style when responding to questions from the press. Eisenhower gave everyone listening to him during these audiences the impression that he had lost, or was in the process of losing, the plot, as he rambled and went off-topic.
Brooks/Shapiro noted how surprised people were when, many years later, transcripts were released of Eisenhower’s cabinet meetings, in which the old soldier could be heard debating vigorously and giving orders, in full control of his mental faculties. Some of the Eisenhowerian phrases I remember (broadly) Brooks-Shapiro sharing during the show, even at possibly a twenty-year remove, are ‘You shut up, I’m sick of hearing from you. Now here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to screw these guys …’
The point being that the mind that Eisenhower presented to the world, and the mind that he revealed and used in his cabinet discussions were two entirely different things. Rather than being a doddery, senile old man, Eisenhower was a decisive, strong and prudent leader.
I was reminded of this episode this week when I came across an article, I think via the Financial Times’ FT Alphaville site, by someone called Ford Vox and titled ‘I’m a brain specialist. I think Trump should be tested for a degenerative brain disease‘.
The author discusses Trump’s speech patterns, apparently poor impulse control, and lapses in memory, attention and concentration, finally diagnosing mild cognitive impairment, and that the President is behaving as though he has pre-dementia and is progressing towards dementia.
This seems to me to be part of the usual anti-Trump garbage that is being spewed up by a leftist establishment determined to undermine the President in any way that they can. Whether by impeachment, unsubstantiated hysteria about Russian influence, or questioning the President’s cognitive functioning, these people have to muddy the waters and do whatever they can to deligitimise Trump. What Vox does is gives some professional support to the calls of the leftists for Trump to be removed on the grounds of incapacity.
The point I would like to make, drawing from the example of Eisenhower, is that Vox has seen only one part of Trump’s cognitive abilities, and a part which may be deliberately manufactured in such a way as to appeal to a broad section of the population. Trump may have weighed up the costs and benefits of appearing to look impulsive, inattentive and rambling in public, and decided that the benefits are much higher than the costs. But in private, he could be the attentive, clear-thinking, prudent and decisive leader that Eisenhower showed himself to be. From what I have read and heard, he is such a man, and the people around him – including senior, serious and accomplished people – both have confidence in him and draw confidence from him.
WYSIATI – What You See Is All There Is. Vox is making the mistake of thinking that what he sees of Trump’s performance is all that there is. This is not necessarily the case.
Back in August, I wrote a piece about the role that Europeans, in particular Mark Sykes and Arthur Balfour, played in shaping the Middle East as it is today.
In response to an odd article on the Balfour Declaration by Simon Schama in the Financial Times of November 4, ’67 words that changed the world’, Ralph M Coury, Professor Emeritus of History of Fairfield University, wrote a letter, published on November 21, which exposes the duplicity of Balfour’s public declaration. I’ll quote the letter in full:
Sir, Simon Schama writes, in “67 words that changed the world” (Life & Arts, November 4) that the British and Zionists sought to reconcile “the ambitions of both Jewish and Arab reawakenings”. According to Professor Schama, the British effort was manifested in the “crucial proviso” to the Balfour Declaration which states that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”; and the Zionist effort was manifested in the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann’s belief that Zionists should “appreciate the Palestinian Arabs’ own sense of home”, and Weizmann’s acting upon this belief by negotiating with the Emir Faisal of Mecca to whom the British had promised a sovereign pan-Arab state after the war. Prof Schama’s arguments cannot withstand serious scrutiny.
The Balfour Declaration does indeed speak of “the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities” (90 per cent of the population!) but not of their political rights, and this in contrast to the British concern for the preservation of “the rights and political status of Jews” outside of Palestine, a phrase that follows the “proviso” and which Prof Schama does not mention. The use of the terms “rights and political status” for non-Palestinian Jews is clearly deliberate, inasmuch as it avoids calling attention to the fact that Jews are deemed to have”political rights”, implicitly in Palestine and explicitly outside of it, in contrast to the Arabs.
Balfour knew exactly what he was doing, as is shown by a secret memo that he sent to the British cabinet at the time: The “policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the ‘independent nation’ of Palestine than that of the ‘independent nation’ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the present inhabitants of the country … The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land … In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the powers have made no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.”
That clears it up. The public Balfour Declaration was a sham, the real intention of the British government was always to do in the Palestinian Arabs and hand their country to the Zionists.
Why do it? One of the hypotheses circulating around the internet is that in 1917 the British realised that, with the French army in mutiny, the Russian Empire close to collapse, and having allowed their generals to murder a significant proportion of their own army through patently idiotic tactics and strategies, there was an increasing chance that they would lose the war to a vengeful Germany. They needed to be rescued by the men, money and resources of the United States, which would require getting the United States into the war. To this end, a deal was struck with the Rothschild family, who were at the head of the Zionist movement, and who had the sway in Washington to bring the United States into the war in return for British facilitation of the Zionist project.
The British got their way, the United States came into the war and swung the balance in favour of the allies, Germany was trounced, and the Zionist project began its push towards statehood. One hundred years later, the British Empire is gone, Britain is defeated, demoralised, impoverished and islamicised, Germany has the European empire that it always wanted, and the costs to the Palestinians and to the Jews, in blood and treasure, of this vile betrayal continue to mount, with no end in sight.
Around three years ago, Yanis Varoufakis was elected to the Greek parliament and selected to be the new government’s finance minister. He came to the job with bold ideas about rescuing Greece from its terrible financial predicament, among which was the idea of a restructuring of the Greek government’s debts, which could never be repaid and the burden of which were weighing on the Greek economy.
Varoufakis’ ideas would be no panacea – Greece’s economic problems have deep and strong cultural and structural roots. But his plans were, in my view, a very intelligent way to restore economic activity in Greece and to maximise the returns that the creditors would receive for their lending.
The plans went nowhere. Greece’s fellow European states would have none of Varoufakis’ approach, and treated him, his packages and his arguments with contempt. He also gained no effective support from the IMF. Varoufakis also quickly lost the support of his prime minister and his fellow ministers. In six months, he was out of the job.
Move on three years, and I see this article printed in the English edition of the Greek newspaper Katherimini:
Lagarde Says Restructuring Greece’s Debt Essential
A restructuring of Greece’s debt is essential so that the future of the Greek economy can be sustainable, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.
Regarding Greece, Lagarde said the IMF’s position was “very clear” and that it has approved a stand-by loan in principle on the basis on certain elements, with chief among them being the need to restructure Greece’s debt.
An assessment by IMF experts that has just been completed, Lagarde explained, outlined a series of actions and benchmarks that need to be met.
“We must deal with these in order to be able to move forward. It is my estimate that this can happen at the start of the new year,” she said.
Varoufakis was exactly right in his diagnosis of the problem in Greece, and his proposed cure. But he was early. He saw things more clearly than others, but while this allowed him to generate solutions to existing problems, it also meant that it was difficult, if not impossible, to bring others of less insight with him.
The Curse of Cassandra. Responsible for so much needless misery in the world.
You know what’s next. It will just get worse when people realise that the money has run out and there isn’t anything left to spend on ‘social programmes’, welfare payments and the like.
UPDATE: the above wasn’t an isolated case.