14 September 2018

coming soon

 
● New article is in progress.

07 September 2018

Interesting times

An interesting phenomenon of recent times is how a significant number of politicians, ostensibly committed to the notion of democracy, demonstrate their commitment to another set of values that overrides their support for majority voting.

Thus we witness, for example, a White House member of staff boasting anonymously in the New York Times* about his (or her) efforts to subvert US President Trump's policies.

The writer is vague about what is so objectionable about the policies that it justifies such behaviour, though he tries to paint a picture of a President who is erratic and deluded. The writer summarises his complaint in terms of Trump's alleged "amorality", by which he apparently means that the President "is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making". I can see why someone might dislike lack of commitment to principles in a politician, but it is hard to understand why it should be grounds for subversion.

A Republican commentator has expressed disapproval** of the article, arguing that the writer's behaviour will only make the President "more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous". The commentator recommends that the President's aides should rather resign, or work towards impeachment.

The commentator might have suggested that the writer, and like-minded colleagues, should attempt to overcome their antipathy and comply with the President's wishes as far as possible, on the basis that Americans voted in a way that implies they would like them so to comply. However, the commentator does not do so.

This revealed weighting among elected politicians and commentators between (a) the results of a vote, and (b) their own personal preferences is surely one of the most significant contemporary issues in political affairs, and worthy of attention.

Exercise for the academically inclined
1. See how many recent scholarly articles you can find on the phenomenon of Western politicians opposing the results of majority voting, in which the authors regard it as something that needs explaining.
2. Contrast the number you get in part 1 (which may well be zero) with the number of articles which ask how it came about that voters recently made 'bad' decisions and which suggest remedies for preventing it from happening again.


* 'I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration', anonymous op-ed, New York Times, 5 September 2018
** David Frum, 'This is a constitutional crisis', The Atlantic, 5 September 2018



● The third and final part of EC v Apple should be on the website later this month.

31 August 2018

Bond: time for a change

I like the idea of Idris Elba (star of BBC series Luther) as James Bond, a role for which he is reputedly being considered. The Bond 'franchise' could do with a 'reboot'.

Daniel Craig makes a complex and intense Bond, which is interesting to watch. But the character he plays is not a person one would eagerly invite to a dinner party.

The Bond films have moved well away from the spirit of Ian Fleming's novels. A return to traditional values would be refreshing. Suave and polite, charming and witty, a touch sadistic perhaps — but not overly burdened by demons.

With a black actor, the film makers might feel less obligated to strike a gritty tone, and allow some glamour to creep back. If that is too out of sync with contemporary values, why not set it in a parallel universe. Or the Sixties.

Unlike Bond-world, Aston Martin has embraced modernity without losing its original ethos. An Aston Martin featured in Fleming's 1959 novel Goldfinger, and the cars have appeared in many of the Bond films. The company is set for a flotation on the London Stock Exchange later this year.


• Picture of Idris Elba is from the cover of GQ Magazine October 2013.

24 August 2018

Snowflakes

I note it has become fashionable among left-wing columnists to refer snidely to free speech snowflakes. "You think that debate on important topics should not be circumscribed by speech laws? Aww, diddums."

What next — political prisoner snowflakes? "You think that people should not be imprisoned for their beliefs? Aww, diddums."

17 August 2018

The cultural elite and the "upper middle class"

Has it become acceptable yet, in polite circles, to criticise the il-liberal elite?

(Attacking the elite may smack of "populism". Populism is, at the moment, widely regarded as bad — though why it's supposed to be bad is rarely elucidated.)

Judging by Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb's article in yesterday's Times, it may be okay, provided you can demonstrate your egalitarian credentials.

Webb talks of polarisation between America's cultural elite, and the many ordinary Americans who do not partake of the beliefs of political correctness, e.g. self-righteous indignation at white people or men.

However, instead of using the description "politically correct cultural elite" — which might sound critical of moderately-paid but highly-ideologised groups such as teachers, academics and government employees — Webb labels his targets as the "upper middle class".

"Who will challenge the American upper middle classes?" he asks. "Who will take away their tax breaks?"

Inviting resentment of a class because it is said to possess privileges it doesn't deserve? Doesn't seem that different from what the subjects of Webb's critique do.

10 August 2018

The Power of Life or Death - 2

It is undoubtedly the case that medical professionals are at times overly interventionist, in the sense that drastic life-saving measures are imposed on some clients who would prefer not to have such measures applied. Certainly this phenomenon is part of what fuels the ‘right to die’ movement. Yet because the autonomy issue is evaded, the debate has a tendency to turn on the question of whether treatment is ‘appropriate’ rather than on whether it is not wanted by the client.

One of the results of this has been the development of a view according to which life-prolonging measures may well be ‘inappropriate’ in certain circumstances and therefore may — indeed should — be withheld. This is a consideration which operates to some extent independently of the wishes of the client.

Thus, ironically, arguments about the right to die have so far not resulted in any facilitation of suicide for the terminally ill, but have instead promoted a tendency to deny treatment to those who might wish to prolong their life however poor its apparent ‘quality’.

from The Power of Life or Death, Foreword by Thomas Szasz

Available from Oxford Forum via Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

03 August 2018

Google: hyper-neophilic

An interesting thing happened about a year ago. I remember the day clearly, because it was the one day Google did not  fiddle with the presentational frills of one of their products ...

I am grateful to be able to use Alphabet’s suite of online office products for free — Chrome, Docs, and the rest. And I know change is supposed to be good, healthy, empowering etc.

But for the sake of the brains of users who are no longer teenagers, couldn’t the tweakers at Googleplex, restlessly implementing their latest ideas for 'improvement', be encouraged to regard stability as a virtue?

27 July 2018

Zero Cult

 
Could there be a more undeservedly obscure electropop artist than Zero Cult?

And surely there ought to be a Wikipedia article.

20 July 2018

The inconceivable

Celia Green:

Now if you see that it is inconceivable that anything should exist, it is evident that at least one inconceivable fact is there. That is to say, that which exists is not limited to the conceivable. Since the inconceivable is there, it is impossible to set any limit to the quantity of inconceivableness which may be present in the situation.

Now were the existence of anything consistently to remind you of the fact of inconceivability, since it is impossible to live without interacting with a large number of existing things, it would be impossible for you to feel in the same way about the conceivable.

Now if anyone were reminded about the inconceivable by the fact of existence at all constantly, he would sooner or later have the perception that there may be inconceivable considerations which are inconceivably more important than any conceivable consideration could be.

Now if you do have a perception that any conceivable consideration may be utterly invalidated by some other consideration which you do not know, and if you are reminded of this perception constantly by the fact that things exist, certain modifications take place in the way you feel about things. These modifications have not taken place in the psychology of most people.

from Advice to Clever Children

13 July 2018

Quentinvest

One of the best stock pickers I have ever come across — quite possibly the best — is Quentin Lumsden.

His selection of shares, many of them in US technology companies, has apparently outperformed the FTSE All-Share index by a factor of five over the last ten years.

His best-known product is probably the Quantum Leap newsletter, but there is also a sister product,
Chart Breakout. Recently he launched a service called Quentinvest which looks like a great new way to pick and track stocks.

06 July 2018

The Power of Life or Death - 1

 
Most medical professions are still, on the whole, opposed to active euthanasia for conscious clients without their consent. The practice is also unlawful, at least in theory.

However, as voluntary euthanasia is similarly both unlawful and condemned by the profession, and yet certainly goes on, we cannot be at all sure that clients in the UK or the US are not being deliberately killed against their will on a signifcant scale.

from The Power of Life or Death, Foreword by Thomas Szasz

Available from Oxford Forum via Amazon UK or Amazon USA.

25 June 2018

new article


Part 2
of EC v Apple is on the website.


Tax law, including anti-avoidance, is a matter for national governments. Tax avoidance is not an issue which the EC's competition division should be trying to investigate or penalise.

Rather than welcoming it, the EC's rhetoric on taxation is something that should be viewed critically. We may be dealing with competence creep. [Read more]

15 June 2018

Incorrigible

Recent articles and readers' comments at theguardian.com suggest that the Left has learnt little or nothing from the Brexit referendum.

Their vision of paradise may appeal only to a minority – those who believe they would help to control the new order. But the fiction that it is all motivated by desire for the happiness of ordinary people must be maintained.

So those who voted for Brexit were "confused", or worse.

And there is little sign of the Left cutting back on its approach of trying to win the argument by demonising opponents.

08 June 2018

Out-of-the-body Experiences


Part 2 of EC v Apple should be available later this month.

Meanwhile, did you know that hallucinatory experiences in normal subjects are more common than is generally realised.

I was working as a waitress in a local restaurant and had just finished a 12-hour stint. I was terribly fatigued and was chagrined to find I had lost the last bus ... However I started walking as in those days I lived in Jericho, a fifteen minute walk at most. I remember feeling so fatigued that I wondered if I’d make it, and resolved to myself that I'd "got to keep going". At this time I was where the Playhouse is today.

The next I registered was of hearing the sound of my heels very hollowly, and I looked down and watched myself walk round the bend of Beaumont Street into Walton Street. I — the bit of me that counts — was up on a level with Worcester College chapel. I saw myself very clearly — it was a summer evening and I was wearing a sleeveless shantung dress. I remember thinking "so that's how I look to other people".

Out-of-the-body experiences should not be confused with near-death experiences, a related but distinct phenomenon which unfortunately has become sensationalised by the media.

Celia Green - Out-of-the-body Experiences

Italian edition