Even The Little Things

One aspect of the Trump/Brexit era is the complete saturation of falsehood in everything. I mean consider this quote from May:

“A slow Brexit, which extends article 50 beyond 22 May, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade, is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together,” she said.

Let’s consider how wrong this is. First, staying in the EU on our current terms for a while longer arguably doesn’t give up control of our borders, trade, and laws (it maintains the status quo). But even if you think that means no control, one thing that we indisputably have control over is our money! It’s the British pound controlled by the Bank of England. Sheesh!

(Put aside that her Brexit does sorta unite the UK by making us all hate it.)

Given that she talks about a third “meaningful vote” I just have nothing left. (How is the vote meaningful if it doesn’t settle the matter when it’s overwhelming against you?)

Stop lying, people! At least about the little things!


Constitutional Chaos in US and UK

The constitutional order in the US and the UK is pretty much in tatters. The US might be a bit better off? Maybe a lot better off? It’s more dramatic in the UK because of Brexit which, after all, involves a wholesale rejiggering of a huge swath of the UK’s governing and international structure.

But put aside Brexit per se…both the Government and Parliament are a total mess. Neither the Government nor Parliament is functional. The speaker blocking a “meaningful vote 3” on May’s deal is a perfect example.

How have we gotten to three “meaningful” votes in the first place? The first two lost by enormous majorities. (The first time by a truly staggering margin.) Either one should have brought down the government or at least May. And yet Parliament hasn’t voted no confidence and the Conservatives voted down the challenge to her leadership.

Of course, the stakes are generational. Leaving (or post referendum Remaining) is not easily reversible by a subsequent Parliament. And Parliament is split. It doesn’t help that both Cameron’s and May’s Governments have even tried to be marginally competent. Brexit on any scenario is a huge governance challenge. Yet we’ve not seen the legwork. (I feel sorry for the civil service.)

The US might be better off but Trump’s ravaging if the executive branch is no joke. Both the US and the UK are very complex societies deeply embedded in the international order. Taking a wrecking ball to all that probably won’t end well and even more probably won’t end well for the US and UK.

Center right parties with ascendant hard/lunatic right wings are really bad for liberal democracies, if they get power. We’re seeing that play out in real time. We can hope the contagion will be contained but there’s huge risks all around us.

Worse, the pressure of ecological collapse is going to ratchet up. With key societies weakened, we’re going to have even more trouble maintaining core institutions.

Does May Have a Government?

Losing major vote after vote often by crushing majorities, proposing stuff then whipping against the amended version, then having cabinet ministers defect…how does May have the confidence of Parliament?

Corbyn, by his existence, is propping her up, I think. He so unacceptable to Tories that they won’t actually push for a general election. Of course, Corbyn defied the PLP to stand (and win) the leadership election when he lost the confidence of the MPs. May’s folly of an election prevented more coups (for a while) but Corbyn still sucks as an opposition leader on almost every front.

So there we are. No one is adhering to the norms which structured UK governance and May doesn’t have the guts to split her party.

And so we have a fundamentally broken set of institutions trying to remake our constitutional order. Such fun.

Unfamiliar Illiberalities

The first time I went to France, during college, the told us that we should keep or passports with us because the French police could ask for ID and it was illegal to be without.

I was outraged and incredulous! Sacre blue and holy shit! What sort of police state were they running!!!!

Of course, not very much of one, but it felt odd. Obviously, a lot depends on how such a regime is formally constituted and actually implemented. When it’s unfamiliar, one’s imagination can run free.

Some things aren’t as bad as they seem but still pretty bad.

Citizenship is fundamental. In the modern world, statelessness is a bad place to be but being stripped of any given citizenship can wreck your life (or get you killed).

Shamima Begum has been stripped of her UK (and apparently only) citizenship at thew word of a  government minister. No trial. No case being made. No appeal, as far as I can tell.

One can forfeit or renounce a citizenship, but again she doesn’t seem to have done that (and there should be very very clear criteria for doing so).

She’s not the only one:

Home Office statistics show the government has stripped more than 150 people of British citizenship for the “public good” since 2010.

The power was used only a handful of times a year, until deprivations rocketed from 14 people in 2016 to 104 in 2017.

The Home Office declined to provide a reason for the dramatic increase, a breakdown of cases, information on the justifications used or what happened to the individuals targeted.

Lord Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said a “scrutiny blackhole” made the impact of citizenship deprivations impossible to assess.

So we don’t know if they’re helping or making things worse. There’s no independent review. But the government doesn’t do it lightly!

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary’s priority is to keep Britain safe and he has a range of tools to do this. They include the power to deprive people who pose a serious threat of their British citizenship where it would not make them stateless.

“We have been open and transparent about the use of this power, publishing reports as recently as last summer, setting out the number of deprivations.

“Any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are not taken lightly and are based on all available evidence.”

So we have a minister with a power which may or may not help applied in a manner which may or may not help in ways not requiring consultation or review.

Given that the grounds of Begum’s “non statelessness” was that she was of Bangledeshi decent and thus(?!) entitled sorta to Bangledeshi citizenship except of course that she has never been there and whoops! they say they won’t take her. (I guess since Javid stripped her UK citizen first he wasn’t the one technically making her stateless?!)

This really shouldn’t be how things are done.

I’m technically tri-national. I was born in the US (so US citizenship), my father was Iranian (so Iranian citizenship which I don’t think I can renounce, but why bother), and I’m naturalised UK which is where I live and work. I sincerely doubt I’m at risk, practically speaking, but it’s unclear what protects me. I believe that depriving me of citizenship is not conducive to the public good but I don’t find any definition of what being conducive to the public good means.

Again, it’s highly (wildly!) unlikely that I’d be so targeted…but then why not make it impossible? Why not have review and independent determination and appeals and a clear definition that establishes a high bar? We’re talking about citizenship here!

Rees-Mogg Nonsense

The title for the worst or most fatuous MP these days usually goes to the one in the news, but Rees-Mogg is, per usual, a special case. Let’s start with the standard nonsense:

In my view, an extra 33 months of vassalage after 46 years is an unwelcome but not unaffordable price to pay.

There is, of course, no rational sense in which EU membership, esp for the UK, is any kind of vassalage. I mean, really.

But that’s just normal bullshit. What set me off is this:

He played down claims that businesses need certainty – a key argument made at the moment by business leaders and MPs arguing for a softer Brexit. When it was put to him that uncertainty about the UK’s future after Brexit was bad for business, he replied:

The truth is, business is all about uncertainty …

There is no certainty in business. The whole art of business is trying to manage uncertainty. Investment decisions aren’t made for certain facts. You can’t be certain that anyone will buy your car when you have built it. All business is based on uncertainty, and managing uncertainty.

Yes, dude, the point is that one way to manage the uncertainty facing the UK is to get out of the UK, postpone investment, or otherwise hedge your bets. This is an excellent way to reduce economic activity, and thus prosperity. It also tends to promote a vulture culture where wealth destroying rentiers and he like destroy vast swaths of value to make a private profit.

Oh right!

Malthouse What?

Even the Guardian:

The “Malthouse compromise” – named after the junior minister, Kit Malthouse, who brokered it – is a proposal to replace the unpopular backstop with alternative technological arrangements to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland. It is supported by Baker, other Eurosceptics and the pro-remain former ministers Nicky Morgan and Damian Green, both of whom will attend further meetings with Barclay on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“As far as I’m concerned the Malthouse compromise is the only game in town if we’re going to reach an agreement in Brussels,” Baker said, indicating that only rewriting the draft withdrawal agreement to remove the backstop would satisfy Tory Brexiters.

In what sense is this a compromise? Who is compromising with whom?

Putting aside that the thing “agreed to” 1) isn’t specified, 2) was specifically rejected in actual negotiations, and 3) doesn’t exist, it’s unclear what was given up!

These no reason for anyone to call this a compromise. I don’t know if there’s a word for “go along with a delusion in order to temporarily secure votes” but that’s what this is. Maybe we should call it a “May-bail”.

If Your First Failure Was Ridiculous

Then doing the same thing again is more ridiculous.

It of course doesn’t mean that second time won’t be the charm.

I really hope that Brexit and the Trump/McConnell shutdown knocks on the head the silly theory of negotiation that gets mobilized against Obama eg about the stimulus. It goes something like “Ask for twice, no, 10 times what you really want and then you’ll get what you really want.”

I mean, this theory is trivially bonkers yet mobilised a lot. Along with all sorts of “just force them to agree” lines.

In the end, being a nasty, untrustworthy person in a negotiation, esp with professional negotiators, isn’t going to go well. And it will poison future negotiations.