Brexit – could it result in Proportional Representation?

More than a month ago, 11 April, I predicted the present situation (which had basically “already happened”).

Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.

Yesterday I wrote:

Update is that Tories are closer to being “wiped out” than just “severely damaged” and Brexit party is doing even better than I expected, well ahead of Labour and Tories combined, not just ahead of Tories.

A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!

1. Brexit 34%

2. Labour 16%

3. Liberal Democrats 15%

4. Greens 11%

5. Tories 10%

That is because the pro-Brexit wing of Labour, led by Corbyn, has so far NOT run a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum.

So as well as losing 12% of all Labour voters to the Brexit party, Corbyn is also losing another 57% of Labour “Remain” voters to other “Remain” parties (Liberal Democrats et al) leaving it with only 40% of the “Remain” voters it had at the last general election.

Actually the Labour party is following these tactics in the correct belief that humiliation by the Brexit party and minor “Remain” parties in the EU elections based on proportional representation is a small price to pay for the damage done to the Tories at the next general election under the current electoral system. I am surprised that they have been able to stick to this stand for so long, but if they are able to sustain it they are more likely to form a government after the next general election than if they do not.

Today’s news is that Labour has not been able to stick to this stand and have now broken of negotiations with the Tories the same day as they dropped to third place behind the LibDems. So they still have a week in which to campaign for a “Final Say” referendum and recover some of the votes lost to the LibDems.

Whether Labour succeeds in the EU elections or not it looks like the Tories have no hope of preventing a Labour led government in the next general election. The best they can do is hope it will be a minority government, which Labour is now trying to avoid by clawing back some of its supporters.

Either way, under the present electoral system the Tory party is in real danger of being replaced by the Brexit party. But the Labour party is in no real danger of being displaced by the LibDems and  others as Brexit will be over by the next general election and Labour will have delivered a “Final Say” without losing as many of its “Leave” supporters as the Tories have lost.

But will the present electoral system survive the collapse of mainstream politics?

The two party system is the inevitable result of anachronistic single member electorates that remained for centuries after national parties had developed because the UK Parliament was formed centuries before democracy was established, when politics was still a matter of representating local rather than national “constituencies”. Other english speaking countries like Australia have inherited the same anachronism. Throughout Europe national elections, as well as those for the European Parliament, are held on a system of representing national parties proportionately that was established together with democracy.

The current mess creates a real opportunity. It is always hard to get rid of an electoral system because the politicians elected under it consider it delivers a satisfactory outcome while those excluded cannot just vote to change it.

Right now in the UK we have a major national decision about to be resolved decisively by the fact that the supporters of Brexit will get less than 40% of the vote in a proportional system. The failed attempt at Brexit has now produced the only significant mass movement in support of the EU in Europe!

At the same time more than half the members of the current Parliament have a direct stake in getting rid of the anachronistic two party system. The Tory party currently has nearly half the seats and faces being replaced by the Brexit party and becoming just another minor rump party under the present electoral system.

No matter how inept they are they will have plenty of time to contemplate their predicament between the EU elections this month and the next British general election. Nothing concentrates the mind so much as imminent non-existance!

The minor parties naturally already support PR. Together with the Brexit party they now represent not only far more voters than the old “two parties” combined, but also a large absolute majority. (Today’s YouGov poll, Labour 15%, Tories 9% total 24% others THREE TIMES their total!).

Only the Labour party has a direct interest in retaining the present system. As well as having only a minority of MPs they are in fact badly split and would have real difficulty uniting against PR.

Even if the minor parties are all total wimps there should be little need to even get insurrectionary about it. Just huffing and puffing should be enough for a 75% majority to bring the two party system down in the UK.

There has to be either a referendum or a general election decided on before the next EU deadline of October 31.

In other recent news, Prime Minister May won’t discuss a timetable for electing a replacement Tory leader until after vote on Withdrawal Agreement Bill in early June. But that is presumably when an amendment will be proposed to call a referendum which should aim for a decision before the end of October. So there would be little time for a membership vote to elect a replacement leader for that campaign so it might just be necessary for Tory MPs to take the decision entirely themselves.

Then there is the problem of a possible switch to Proportional Representation. This could also come up when discussing whether a general election could resolve a parliamentary deadlock. If that occurs it ought to be followed by an immediate general election, even more urgently requiring a replacement leader.

If there is an orderly timetable for a membership vote, the charlatan Boris Johnson would be likely to win whereas Tory MPs would reject him. So my guess is that May is not likely to facilitate an orderly timetable and more likely to resign for a snap election after establishing at least a referendum and/or PR.

Things will drag on for a bit longer in Australia but the voters are already treating tomorrow’s national elections with an equanimity bordering on contempt.

It’s way past time for another campaign to vote for “Neither”.

 

 

 

 

Brexit – Remain still winning, as is Labour

A few weeks ago I said:

UKIP now led by far right thugs will be largely wiped out. Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.

Update is that Tories are closer to being “wiped out” than just “severely damaged” and Brexit party is doing even better than I expected, well ahead of Labour and Tories combined, not just ahead of Tories.

A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!

1. Brexit 34%

2. Labour 16%

3. Liberal Democrats 15%

4. Greens 11%

5. Tories 10%

https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-eu/british-pm-mays-conservatives-slump-to-fifth-place-ahead-of-eu-election-yougov-poll-idUSL9N227004

That is because the pro-Brexit wing of Labour, led by Corbyn, has so far NOT run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum.

So as well as losing 12% of all Labour voters to the Brexit party, Corbyn is also losing another 57% of Labour “Remain” voters to other “Remain” parties (Liberal Democrats et al) leaving it with only 40% of the “Remain” voters it had at the last general election.

These figures are reported by the Guardian as:

The polls are clear – Labour’s Brexit tactics are failing spectacularly

The party is haemorrhaging votes in the mistaken belief that the leave tendency is driven by its working-class base

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/16/labour-brexit-remain-voters-european-elections

Actually the Labour party is following these tactics in the correct belief that humiliation by the Brexit party and minor “Remain” parties in the EU elections based on proportional representation is a small price to pay for the damage done to the Tories at the next general election under the current electoral system. I am surprised that they have been able to stick to this stand for so long, but if they are able to sustain it they are more likely to form a government after the next general election than if they do not.

The reason is simple, with single member electorates, as in Australia, there will be far less Labour seats lost to minor “Remain” parties than Tory seats lost to the Brexit party and to Labour. It will still end up a basically two party system. Even if Labour can only govern in coalition with minor remain parties there will be very little chance of anybody else being able to form a government. Although LibDems and others have benefited spectacularly from Labour’s tactics, once the Brexit issue is over many of those voters punishing Labour for its ambiguity will return to it and those who don’t will still not be represented in proportion to their numbers as long as Labour is larger than the others.

However the damage being done to the Tories is so great that they might decide to introduce proportional representation to avoid becoming just another irrelevant minor party displaced by the Brexit party. No sign of this yet, except that Farage is aiming for that result and there is plenty of time for the Tories to focus their minds on the reality of their predicament between the EU elections and the next general election.

It would be a positive step towards breakup of the two party system despite the fact that the immediate effect will be more long term representation for right wingers like Farage.

As for the effect on Brexit, displacement of the Tories by the Brexit party will not change the overall impact of a large swing towards Remain parties in the EU elections (with the Brexiteers accurately portraying both Tories and Labour as Remain parties despite their pretences). Being the largest party will not make the Brexit party a majority on its issue – Brexit. The figures above are essentially 34% for a “No Deal” Brexit with the rest against (and a more overwhelming majority, including the Brexit party, against the only deal available – the Withdrawal Agreement).

All other developments remain on track as predicted – there are no alternatives emerging that avoid the stark choice between “No Deal” and “No Brexit” and the only decision that can result will be to put it to a referendum, where the Withdrawal Agreement would be defeated, as would “No Deal”. Dragging out negotiations for a “customs union” is upsetting party supporters on both sides but mainly damaging the Tories in their existential battle with the Brexit party.

Here’s another comment from the Guardian just not getting it:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/16/labour-brexit-party-european-elections-nigel-farage

Celebrating Darce Cassidy

Notes for my contribution to memorial meeting on May 14, following Darce’s death on 2019-04-29

I’m not a historian and cannot do justice to the story of Darce Cassidy.

But I do know that he played a critically important part as a leader of the sixties rebellion in Australia and it would be well worthwhile for some historian to write up that story.

Most people who knew either Darce Cassidy or Jon Cassidy would know him as a progressive and radical who worked in the mainstream as an ABC journalist, staff organizer and manager and who was able to get on with all kinds of people helping others to organize themselves in a progressive direction that caused problems for the powers that be. He would be known by many for his contributions to Community and Multicultural radio and opposition to internet censorship and surveillance as director of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. He did all of that and more, and it was central to his life.

But I knew him as a revolutionary as well as a friend, and specifically as a revolutionary communist leader, and I know that was also central to his life and should not be forgotten so I will focus on that. That description may come as a surprise to many who got to know him after the sixties wave had subsided when there was no radical left to help organize and lead. He was able to adapt because he always followed the “mass line” of taking progressive political ideas from the masses, concentrating and developing them and taking them back to the masses.

In the late 1960s Darce played a significant leadership role in the largest and best known radical student and youth organizations in Australia – the Maoist led Monash University Labour Club and Worker Student Alliance. Like other open supporters of the Vietnamese armed struggle against US occupation and advocates of militant protest tactics in Australia he was regularly slandered. Bob Santamaria’s far right wing Newsweekly had a major campaign to oust him from his “subversive” influence at the ABC, claiming that he was a terrorist. More common were the slanders from the “Communist” CPA, the “Labor” ALP “left” and some Trotskyists who portrayed revolutionary rebels like Darce as sectarians.

In response to Santamaria’s campaign, the ABC duly obtained a report on comrade Cassidy from ASIO. This confirmed that actually he was a revolutionary, not a terrorist, and that his employment in charge of book reviews for the ABC was not a matter of immediate concern to ASIO in the current situation and while he was not in charge of news or current affairs. But Darce was no sectarian either and helped ABC news and current affairs staff to rebel in ways that right-wingers are still upset about.

For anyone interested in sources to find out more about Darce’s revolutionary activities, in preparing notes I was helped by two references easily found online by a google search for “Monash Labor Club”. They are listed at the end.

ASIO’s records have been released and would provide a lot more detail.

Darce was not a theoretician, nor a public spokesperson for revolutionary politics. But he was a leader, with a major role in strategy, tactics and organization. His revolutionary work as a journalist and organiser was central to the radicalization of the youth and student movement in the sixties because he taught others how to do radical journalism, how to get organised and how to maneuver against our enemies without getting isolated. He was particularly good at teaching people how to think before writing, so as to produce short punchy items with real impact, through careful attention to catchy headlines and humorous slogans that adapted tactics to strategy.

Darce arrived in Melbourne and enrolled at Monash University shortly before things got moving in 1967. He immediately helped launch our regular news sheet called “Print”. Unlike most of the sixties activists in Australia he had several years experience of radical politics at Sydney University before the movement took off and had edited a weekly newsheet there called “Wednesday Commentary”. He advocated a neutral name to focus attention on the content not proclamation. But he originally proposed the name “Gladys” as he thought “Gladys says” would catch on. Fortunately we were able to persuade him that “I saw it in Print” would also work.

The sixties Vietnam movement in the US grew more directly out of the civil rights movement than in Australia (especially with black conscripts as the most important force). But a lot of the sixties Australian indigenous rights movement was also inspired by the US example. An obvious direct import was the rural NSW Freedom Ride that Darce helped organize in March 1965 following on from solidarity protests in support of the fights against racism in the U.S. and South Africa. The Vietnam movement also had a natural continuity from solidarity with US as well as South African struggles. (My own earliest political activity was as secretary of “Youth Against Apartheid” around the same time.)

It is ironic that we were presented as “anti-American”. As with the Freedom ride, even more so for Vietnam, a lot of the inspiration for the sixties movement came from following the examples set by radical Americans.

We did not have the internet back in the sixties. But we did have typewriters, wax stencils and duplicating machines called “Gestetners”. One of Darce’s slogans was “All power grows out of the barrel of a Gestetner”. Darce was more than anyone responsible for launching an irreverant and uncensorable underground journalism tradition of “the sixties” that Australian university and later high school authorities could not cope with.

Another of Darce’s slogans was “If there is to be a revolution there must be a revolutionary party – Friday night at Jasmine Street”.

Jasmine street was the home of several Monash Labor Club activists including Darce from the summer break1966-7.

The revolutionary parties at Jasmine Street every Friday were pretty wild, some would say they were drunken orgies. But the revolutionary music organized by Darce was not just background noise. Radical songs are always a necessary part of any radical culture and tradition. Jasmine Street was also the off campus HQ where people developed their ideas on HOW to rebel in continuous political discussion. Later a similar role was played by “Shirley Grove” and then “The Bakery” which became the headquarters of a non-student organization, the “Revolutionary Socialists”. Darce was central to organizing all three HQs, fostering an atmosphere in which ideas could develop. Later he proposed disbanding the Rev Socs to form a more explicitly Maoist led youth organization, WSA, the “Worker Student Alliance”, in January 1970.

These irreverant takeoffs from Mao’s slogans “All power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and “If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party” were typical of the thoroughly irrevererant and politically incorrect sixties rebellion that Darce helped organize.

As Darce confirmed in an interview half a century later:

“By late 1966 early 1967 I grew to see ALP politics as futile and the Maoist stance offered a clear anti-Parliamentary line. Other than this fact it was the sheer rebelliousness of the Maoist ideas like ‘It is right to rebel’ that became attractive
to a lot us around that time.” (2005-09-03)

Soon after Darce’s arrival we had a major breakthrough in 1967. After some initial toughening up in response to attempts to censor “Print” from the University administration we were able to withstand a real “baptism by fire”. This came when we organized collections of aid for solidarity with the “National Liberation Front” who were fighting and defeating U.S. and Australian invaders in south Vietnam. The concentrated attacks from press, TV, government and University authorities as well as the peace movement “establishment” were a major turning point, not just for the student movement but for the wider anti-war movement. As intended the whole climate shifted left. The “moderates” were now able to distance themselves from us while also moving towards a position that the war could only be ended by defeat of the U.S. rather than by respectably influencing its government to be less aggressive. The left became a major force in the organized anti-war movement with Darce often representing us at private meetings where he helped out maneuver the old guard “peace movement” without them ever quite understanding how they got done over.

Darce’s detailed organizational proposal for moving from a weekly “Print” to a daily were written under the name Len Esdaile in the third issue of the internal bulletin of the Young Communist League, Sunday February 15 1969. Eventually the Monash radical student movement had many weeklies, including those from groups in most Faculties such as “Spanner and Sickle” in Engineering, as well as the daily “Print”. Many high schools also had their own regular newsheets based on the same rebellious and offensive “underground” style. These had to be distributed anonymously as the editors would be expelled from school. Being cheeky, rebellious and highly offensive to all right thinking people was easy. Learning to do it skillfully required lessons from a professional revolutionary journalist – Darce Cassidy, also known as “Tony Brooks”.

Darce’s commitment, like that of other sixties radicals, was not virtue signalling and hence was of interest to ASIO without them pretending that he was a eiither a terrorist or about to launch an armed struggle. Like the rest of us he was totally in favour of offending people to make them think (while rejecting the “being offended” that helps people avoid thinking). He was of course hostile to the censorious “political correctness” that now dominates the pseudo-left that imploded into the vacuum left by the subsiding radical wave half a century ago. It was the radical left, not the right that invented that term “politically incorrect”, and its Australian equivalent “ideologically unsound” to mock the pretensions of the pseudoleft.

Darce was a thorougly mainstream and thoroughly political incorrect revolutionary. That style of politics was fun. Darce will be remembered for it.

REFERENCES

1. Robins, Daniel (2005) Melbourne’s Maoists : the rise of the Monash University Labor Club, 1965-1967. Honours thesis, Victoria University.

http://vuir.vu.edu.au/30211/

2. From http://www.reasoninrevolt.net.au/biogs/E000612b.htm links from page on “Monash Labor Club”

Notes on Trump 46 – breaking news flash on Mueller report liberals outraged

It isn’t entirely clear what they are outraged about but the liberal media is heavily covering Democrat outrage about the Mueller report.

As far as I can make out they are particularly outraged that they won’t be able to convince even themselves that impeaching Trump would be a good idea so they are left spluttering about more Congressional investigations. It looks like Pelosi and the rest of the leadership will successfully avoid the impeachment trap but the sense of total deflation must be quite devastating despite the mutli-stage build down from peak Trump delusion syndrome.

The report is over 400 pages so I won’t be scanning it for any hints on whether Mueller’s team considered my theory that Trump was deliberately encouraging the lunacy. There are certainly no such hints in the two annotated guides I did read on what right minded people should think about the report but I don’t expect the media to be capable of noticing such an outlandish idea. I would be interested if anybody else has time to look for hints although it is only of historic interest now.

Here is a link to searchable pdf (via politico):

Above broken by WordPress. Here’s a working to download from CNN:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/18/politics/full-mueller-report-pdf/index.html

Democrats look likely to switch to a focus on persecution of harmless intelligence agency officials for doing their party duty by trying to bring down a completely unacceptable President who could not possibly have won an election. That plus saving the climate by printing money looks almost as good an election strategy as Hilary Clinton saying it was her turn.

I won’t bother linking to the usual outrage.

Here’s politico’s key findings which pretty much confirm what has been known for many months and was announced in the four page summary by the U.S. Attorney-General a few weeks ago:

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/18/mueller-report-summary-key-findings-1280879

Here’s the New York Times moaning about the same:

[forgot link – fixed]

Even NYT does not seem to be complaining about the redactions that Democrats have been outraged about for several weeks now. Focus is on “obstruction” with not even an ongoing attempt to pretend that there was a crime to investigate in the first place other than the crimes of corrupt intelligence agency officials in leaking conspiracy theories to a corrupt media.

But the tone is one of defeat with lots of reminders about what a wonderful story they had told so many times that it really ought to have been proved true by now.

Brexit – “Remain has won”

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu/eu-offers-pm-may-brexit-pause-to-october-31-idUKKCN1RM0LR

Comment by Tory MP on hearing this news: “Remain has won”.

Brexit extension to October 31 with UK participating in European elections. Details here

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/39043/10-euco-art50-decision-en.pdf

1. UK will participate in European elections at end of next month, immediately after the celebrations for the birthday of St Rita, patron saint of impossible causes.

2. UK Independence Party previously led by Nigel Farage was largest UK party in European parliament followed by smaller Labour and Tory parties in elections based on proportional representation within regions similar to Australian Senate. Very low turnout that was mainly of people annoyed with EU since others didn’t care. UKIP now led by far right thugs will be largely wiped out. Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.

3. Customs Union supported by Corbyn won’t be accepted by May. Even if went through Parliament cannot change Withdrawal Agreement.

4. Only remaining option is the Withdrawal Agreement being subjected to a “Final Say” confirmatory referendum. New October 31 deadline allows adequate time for referendum and inadequate time for anything else to emerge.

5. No chance of referendum accepting withdrawal agreement opposed by both “Leave” and “Remain”. Lots of Leave* voters will not turn up.

6. Further details murky but Remain has won.

Some earlier discussions among Tories are rather interesting.

https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2019/04/james-arnell-a-second-referendum-is-now-brexiteers-best-chance-of-getting-what-they-want.html

https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2019/04/does-the-conservative-party-have-enough-money-to-fight-a-european-election-campaign.html

https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2019/04/lord-ashcroft-the-space-for-a-new-party-isnt-just-in-the-centre-of-politics.html

That last item has important information on likelihood of new parties emerging. There is a real possibility of the proportional representation being introduced by the Tories before the next general election as they face near extinction under the present system.

Naturally the precise timing and details of the twists and turns between now and the already known end result cannot be predicted with any certainty.

I am using an unusual grammatical tense that descriibes an inevitable future as though it is already present – as with Marx’s:

Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch32.htm

Or the road runner “runs of the cliff and crashes to the ground” as caption to a long scene in which legs are spinning in mid air at the same height as the top of the cliff with no downwards movement and no crash – yet.

Or “the US Democrats and liberal media focus on exposing the Trump as a Kremlin asset and when that doesn’t work out well for them go for changing the climate by printing money and lose bigly”.

Does anyone know the name of this grammatical tense? Perhaps “future present”?

PS Trump’s 51% approval to 47% disapproval does not seem to be an outlier. Same for three of the last four days Rasmussen polls of likely voters. For 9 April it was 53% to 45%.

PPS (sigh) * Fixed typo “Lots of Remain voters won’t turn up”.

Note: added 2019-04-12

There is a significant difference between the texts of the widely reported EU27 meeting’s “conclusion” linked above and the final text agreed by the EU28 including the UK concerning participation of the European Parliament elections:

https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/XT-20006-2019-INIT/en/pdf

EU28 decision European Council decision taken in agreement with the United Kingdom, extending the period under Article 50(3)TEU

(10) …In the event that those elections do not take place in the United Kingdom, the extension should cease on 31 May 2019.

EU27 conclusion:

(3) If the United Kingdom fails to live up to this obligation, the withdrawal will take place on 1 June 2019.

Presumably the change to a milder tone was requested by the UK Government to emphasize that the UK does not need to be threatended to comply with its legal obligations and participation in the European election was forced on them by a recalcitrant Parliament rather than by the EU.

Theoretically it opens up the possibility of Brexiteers further demonstrating their intransigence by trying to prevent acceptance of any statutory instruments needed to hold the elections under UK law rather than under an order to comply with European Union law from the European Court of Justice.

Of course the actual result of doing so would not be a “no deal” exit on 1 June, but another demonstration of their isolation and impotence.

Still, they are not known for tactical brilliance and it is interesting that, so far as I know, there has been no attention paid to the milder decision, than the widespread assumption from the conclusion that a hard Brexit on 1 June would be fully automatic if the UK did not comply with its legal obligations.

Notes on Trump 45 – now at 51% approval to 47% disapproval among voters

While following Brexit closely, I’ve only been scanning the headlines on Trump without reading the articles in the couple of weeks since the Mueller report confirmed “no collusion”, which coincided with the Brexit end game.

The headlines look like just a continuous stream of why people ought to hate Trump more. No sign of shifting to actual policy issues or aiming to communicate with people who don’t already agree with the liberal media. Basically unreadable.

Latest Rasmussen daily poll has Trump on 51% approval to 47% disapproval among likely voters. That may be an outlier but he needs much less than that to win in 2020.

Biggest danger for Trump is that the damage done by Democrat and media tactics is now so obvious that it would cause them to think again. He cannot reasonably expect to succeed in persuading them to just keep on ranting about Russia so his ongoing tweets about “Witchunt!” ought to be rather ineffectual with Democrats switching from conspiracy theory back to normal bourgeois politics.

But even though the focus seems to now be on some other “exposure” (sex with porn star, corruption etc), a lot of the conspiracy theorists are still so fixated on “Russiagate” that they just cannot let go and are hoping to keep it going when they get the “real” Mueller report.

I’ve only looked at this example but I assume it is a genre similar to the sects predicting end of the world on a specific date and then just revising the date with firmer conviction:

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/the-witch-hunt-lives-trump-and-the-investigation-that-just-wont-end

Here’s an initial defence of the media lunacy immediately after it fell to bits:

https://newrepublic.com/article/153408/russia-skeptics-committing-sins-despise

It took less than a couple of weeks for the New Yorker to fully return to the theme as above.

But its interesting the initial response actually links to a couple of dissident journalists it was responding to.

Both are well worth reading (even though their rejection of the mainstream enthusiasm for believing US intelligence agencies and authority figures is closely linked to their view of the Iraq war).

Here’s Matt Taibi:

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population, a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. As Baker notes, a full 50.3% of respondents in a poll conducted this month said they agree with Trump the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt.”

Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller’s final report might leave audiences “disappointed,” as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news.

Openly using such language has, all along, been an indictment. Imagine how tone-deaf you’d have to be to not realize it makes you look bad, when news does not match audience expectations you raised. To be unaware of this is mind-boggling, the journalistic equivalent of walking outside without pants.

There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…

Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.

For years, every pundit and Democratic pol in Washington hyped every new Russia headline like the Watergate break-in. Now, even Nancy Pelosi has said impeachment is out, unless something “so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan” against Trump is uncovered it would be worth their political trouble to prosecute.

The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That’s a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn’t so.

The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.

The betrayal narrative was not reported as metaphor. It was not “Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.” It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump “will die in jail.”

In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have “leverages of pressure” on Trump.

CNN told us Trump officials had been in “constant contact” with “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” committing acts “nothing short of treasonous.”

Hillary Clinton insisted Russians “could not have known how to weaponize” political ads unless they’d been “guided” by Americans. Asked if she meant Trump, she said, “It’s pretty hard not to.” Harry Reid similarly said he had “no doubt” that the Trump campaign was “in on the deal” to help Russians with the leak.

None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the “overwhelming and bipartisan” standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.

There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”

Of course, there won’t be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can’t confirm.

There’s more and its worth reading to understand just how big a favour the media has done for Trump.

Here’s Glenn Greenwald debating one of the journos in denial, also worth reading to understand their complete inability to face the situation:

https://www.democracynow.org/2019/3/25/as_mueller_finds_no_collusion_did

I don’t watch TV but the brain rot suffered by liberal Americans who do must exceed the impact of the press. Here’s a random account of the main liberal cable channel MSNBC:

https://newrepublic.com/article/153435/msnbcs-wild-ride

This is far worse than the notorious Fox news channel and closer to “Infowars” whose anchor recently defended itself from a defamation suit by admitting he was “psychotic”.

Most of the media may shift focus to other “investigations” of corruption etc which is less lunatic than “Russia”. But it still looks like the Democrats will be running a campaign to change the climate by printing money, in which case we’ll be stuck with Trump for another four years.

Hopefully some of the damage will be mitigated by the collapse of Brexit.

Brexit – from blustering and blithering to outright gibbering

Greg Sheridan seemed to have shut up for a few days after another specacular failure to get anything at all right about Brexit.

Previously he thought a “no deal” Brexit and “no Brexit” were equally likely. Then he just said only one thing was certain, Brexit “has a long way to run”.

Yesterday (Wednesday 2019-04-03) he returned to the fray. Now he thinks “there is a real prospect of a general election”.

She (the Prime Minister) hopes these threats (of a general election) will get her thrice -rejected deal over the line, on the fourth or fifth try.

He got that out just in time to be proved wrong the very next day.

In the same issue of The Australian, Janet Albrechtsen at least had the sense to not make stupid predictions. She doesn’t mention that her side has lost, but does tacitly indicate awareness of the real situation by fantasizing about the past instead of the present or future:

May’s other infernal error was not preparing the ground from the start for a no-deal Brexit. Given almost three-quarters of MPs voted to remain, May should have anticipated mayhem in Westminster. By banking on a no-deal Brexit she could better have forced agreement from remoaners….

May offered no explanations … of how a no-deal Brexit can, in the longer term, deliver a thriving UK, untethered from European bureaucracy and rules, trading independently like a Singapore of the north.

Albrechtsen is vastly more intelligent and perceptive than Greg Sheridan (to damn her with faint praise). But even if she believes that “untethered” stuff herself, she ought to understand that May, like most of the British establishment, does not share her views. Why does she imagine that the UK Prime Minister, who was one of the three-quarters of MPs who voted to remain, would try a “forced agreement” from three-quarters against the view she shares with them rather than carefully and systematically isolating the one-quarter whose policy she opposed (who unfortunately comprise about half of her own party)?

Nearly two years ago, after the last UK general election I wrote the first article in this series:

https://c21stleft.com/2017/06/11/no-soft-brexit/

Even the Economist is blithering that May’s campaign for a hard Brexit has been rejected but there are no grounds to reverse the referendum result.

My recollection is that May opposed Brexit and was given the job of recovering from Cameron’s blunder. She was forced to abandon the pretence that Britain could become the only member of the single market that did not comply with free movement of labor. There never was an option for “soft Brexit” nor any preparations for a “hard Brexit”.

So I assume there will now have to be a second referendum to cancel Brexit. The only reason I think this might be worth mentioning is that none of the articles I have read agree.

I documented subsequent twists and turns heading inexorably towards this outcome in detail under the same category heading here:

https://c21stleft.com/category/brexit/

Nearly two years later, some journalists have started to notice what has certainly been blindingly obvious for weeks and months, if not for more than a year.

Even CNN now mentions:

Senior figures in both main parties raised the prospect of a second referendum to obtain the British public’s backing for any deal — and to offer the choice of remaining in the EU.

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/03/uk/brexit-no-deal-bill-yvette-cooper-theresa-may-gbr-intl/index.html

In fact this item basically gets it right:

“The Brexit dream might be fading”

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/03/uk/brexit-no-deal-vote-may-corbyn-talks-intl-gbr/index.html

I had “Brexit Danger Fading” last year:

https://c21stleft.com/2018/11/19/brexit-danger-fading/

Different perspective and less certain, but CNN is now reaching roughly the same conclusion nearly 6 months later.

But of course another item at CNN just blithers:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/04/uk/brexit-may-signs-of-optimism-gbr-intl/index.html

Accusations of incompetence are levied at her by the hour.
However, it is just about possible to see that the prime minister may finally get her own way on Brexit — with a few tweaks. Ironically, this could be happening in the same manner she won the contest to become prime minister nearly three years ago — due to all other contenders falling by the wayside.

Firstly, lawmakers fighting for a soft Brexit deal lost a crucial vote yesterday. The motion to allow a third opportunity to hold indicative votes on alternatives to May’s Brexit deal was defeated by just one vote.
The original vote was a tie, and as a result the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, had the casting vote and went with the government. Lawmakers had already had two chances to back alternative options and could not reach a majority on anything. That route is now closed off, making May’s deal more likely.

[Actually it had become pointless since May had agreed to present options to Parliament and abide by the outcome.]

Secondly, the prime minister has embarked on a new strategy of seeking consensus with the opposition Labour party, through talks with its leader Jeremy Corbyn, which could lead to her normally rebellious Brexiteer MPs (members of Parliament) coming round to her deal….
From May’s point of view, she can use these talks to pursue a double-game: Show soft Brexit and remain-supporting lawmakers that she wants to build a more moderate consensus, but also scare Brexiteers into backing her original deal out of fear of something “worse.” Those two ministerial resignations were triggered by that Brexiteer anger.

[Ignores the fact that lots of Tory Remainers who voted for the deal when they could rely on Brexiteers to block it would join them and Labour to vote against their party whip if that became necessary. A dozen did so recently on the vote that was almost tied even though it wasn’t necessary. The Brexiteer anger is about knowing that they have lost.]

Thirdly, a no deal is becoming increasingly unlikely — meaning, again, May’s deal emerges as a stronger possibility.

[She already convinced Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson that they would never get “no deal”. That still left 58 votes short despite them humiliating themselves. Only some journalists have actually believed “no deal” was still possible since then (though others may still pretend).]

Mentions referendum only as something opposed by both May and Corbyn. Doesn’t mention that May has no other options left and that Corbyn would lose his seat as well as his leadership if he allowed a Brexit agreeement without a referendum since his party and constituency are overwhelmingly for a “Final Say” vote.

Some useful background on Corbyn’s position is in this New Statesmen article although expressed as congratulations to him for his wise choice in accepting having been defeated by Labour Remain supporters.

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2019/04/tories-self-destruct-over-brexit-jeremy-corbyn-s-new-stance-has-been-vindicated

The Guardian, is also hopeful that there is now a “slim chance” for a referendum. (Presumably their campaign for it was in the same spirit of utter hopelessness as with climate change or “Not In Our Name” rather than intending to win).

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/03/may-corbyn-brexit-talks-solution-mps-final-say

The BBC maintains its more traditional “wobbly lower lip” focus on “sticking points” blithering about various reasons why an agreement would be unlikely with no mention of a referendum:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-47799848

The latest developments include the government and opposition agreeing to work for an extension that will require UK participation in EU elections and passage of a (basically pointless) Bill requiring the government to seek that extension from the EU.

That makes it pretty hard to just keep on blustering and blithering about any other possibility than a referendum on the “deal”. So now we get outright gibbering.

Here’s WAPO’s gibbering:

It leaves the country in an extremely perilous situation. The government’s latest wheeze, expressed in a statement from May on Tuesday night, is to extend Article 50 again and try to bring opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on board to see if they can find a deal that works for both Labour and the Conservatives.

But even this attempt, which shows an openness the prime minister has not exhibited before, faces the same problems: If the plan does not include a People’s Vote, Corbyn loses a chunk of his supporters, inside and outside Parliament. If it includes a soft Brexit, those People’s Vote types still won’t support it, and May loses most of her own party in the bargain. Whichever way you look at it, political puritanism makes the mathematics of a Brexit majority hard to imagine.

The country is stuck, frozen in indecision. Parliament is reenacting the end of “Reservoir Dogs.” And still the clock ticks mercilessly down. Puritanism has provided no answers whatsoever, except pain and failure. Unless MPs quickly rediscover Britain’s tradition of pragmatism, things are about to get very ugly indeed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/04/03/brexit-has-turned-british-politics-into-zombie-horror-movie/?utm_term=.f982009bc291

That spells out very precisely the mathematics of a Brexit majority, which have been obvious for a very long time. Instead of the last paragraph one would expect a simple conclusion following the second paragraph:

“Therefore the most likely outcome is a “Final Say” People’s Vote on the Withdrawal Agreement already negotiated with the EU”.

At the very least one would expect an analyst who disagrees with that rather natural conclusion to explain why not. Instead they just gibber.

Here’s The Economist with more measured gibbering, but likewise spelling out the positions that point to the obvious compromise but resolutely ignoring the implied most likely outcome without any attempt to explain why.

https://www.economist.com/britain/2019/04/03/can-theresa-may-and-jeremy-corbyn-compromise-on-brexit

Here’s Nick Miller gibbering in today’s The Age, under headline ‘Unity’ Brexit bid reeks of failure:

No mention at all of the most likely outcome, even to explain why he thinks it is not worth mentioning. Instead:

Apart from anything else, the UK still has the power to unilaterally revoke Brexit if, at the last, that is seen as a better option than plunging off the cliff of a “no-deal” Brexit.

And this all may have been a cunning plan by May to focus Brexiteer minds on the alternatives, swinging them behind her original deal.

If not, all May’s announcement on Tuesday may have achieved is spreading the blame for a no-deal disaster on April 12.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/was-this-a-brexit-breakthrough-frankly-it-smells-more-like-fudge-20190403-p51a6e.html

Its hard to understand what is going on, but somehow the politicians who kept insisting that they must avoid participating in the European elections (next month) because it would spell out the end of Brexit bullshit, have still not admitted that is precisely what will now happen.

Officially, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are negotiating how to achieve a short extension until the birthday of St Rita, patron saint of impossible causes, which is May 22, the day before European elections so that the UK won’t have to take part. The political parties and the electoral commission are officially only making “contingency” preparations for actually holding the elections because current law says the UK will not be in the EU then as the current exit date of April 12 has not yet been changed.

But the EU already specified and has repeatedly reminded everyone that any extension beyond April 12 will require participation in the elections.

So everyone actually following the Brexit saga does know. Here’s the details:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2019/03/holding-european-parliament-elections-easier-mps-think

But that doesn’t stop them from simply not mentioning it and pretending they are working towards an exit before May 22.

It ought to stop anybody else from believing the pretence. But it certainly hasn’t stopped them from gibbering.

Details of the drama requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension she has already admitted to needing are here:

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8541

If in fact the Government wished to defy both overwhelming votes and basic survival instincts by not requesting an extension the Bill would have no effect. It would simply be refused assent or more politely, not presented for assent in time. It is reasonable to assume the House of Lords will be able to adopt it in time, even if they have to stay up all night, as they are about two to one in favour of doing so. But cabinet ought to refuse assent anyway, just to remind people that responsible and accountable government requires a Parliament to confer confidence only on Ministries that it supports rather than issuing daily instructions on precisely what motions a Ministry it has no confidence in must propose in Parliament. That would also add some drama right up to the last moment this Wednesday, which is hardly sustainable by merely spouting gibberish.

The only point of the Bill is that it has provided a convenient way to avoid more embarassing displays of Parliamentary impotence with “indicative votes” instead of no confidence and a general election.

Theoretically it could also have had the effect of getting journalists to stop gibbering about the consequences of “no deal”. Its too soon to tell but I doubt they can stop. For example, instead of just explaining that the Bill is a distraction, we get expert gibberish arguing that it is also “dangerous” as it could add to the (imaginary) danger of “no deal”.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/03/cooper-letwin-brexit-no-deal-distraction

Here’s a collection of philosophers gibbering learnedly about the democratic solution to Brexit:

https://iai.tv/articles/what-is-the-most-democratic-way-to-solve-the-brexit-crisis-auid-1225

Only the last of them has a clue:

Silete theologi in munere alieno!” (Trans: “Silence, theologian, where you do not belong!) -Gentili (Italian humanist lawyer telling the Papists just where they get off, 1588 AD).

Of course nothing can ever be certain.

Especially when The Economist manages to make even their call for a referendum indecipherable by tacking it on at the end of some stream of consciousness gibberish:

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/04/04/theresa-may-takes-a-step-in-the-right-direction-on-brexit

This may be the result of alarm about the collapse of mainstream politics into a far right nationalist populist Tory party against a pseudo-left populist Labour party. A plausible description of that is here:

https://www.economist.com/britain/2019/04/04/the-tories-are-transforming-into-a-party-of-populist-nationalism

But it seems safe to say that when the PM and Opposition Leader agree on the obvious this will appear to the gullible as miraculous as pulling a rabbit out of a hat after first having put it there while misdirecting the audience to look the other way.

Here’s the Director of an “Institute for the Public Understanding of Politics” using exactly that expression about rabbits and hats to express his confidently and expertly helping the public understand that he does not have a clue:

https://theconversation.com/all-too-hard-understanding-brexit-theresa-may-and-the-british-humiliation-114644

Its interesting that he has essentially the same incomprehension of May’s successful tactics as Janet Albrechtson. But being on the opposite side he blames Theresa May for having gone “too hard” instead of “not hard enough”.

It takes real skill to convince all one’s opponents that they are much smarter than you are while defeating them.