The Dumb-Dom effect:

Dominic Cummings is billed as Boris Johnson’s idea’s” man. However there’s a problem, most of his ideas are sh*t. We need only look at the satellite fiasco, where they bought a company that makes the wrong kind of satellites for GPS. His track and trace app that didn’t work because of all spyware it came with. And his original plan for covid was herd immunity (i.e. let hundreds of thousands die to save Pret). And this is before we bring up his involvement with both the leave campaign, and the Scottish referendum, his connections to the Kremlin, nor his little trip to Bernard’s castle, which has produced a recognised “Cummings effect that is in part responsible for a 2nd wave worse than the first wave.

I’ve heard Cummings and Boris compared somewhat unfavourably to pinky and the brain (the difference being that Cummings thinks he’s a genius… and he’s also insane). In truth, he hasn’t got a clue, he’s yet another point on the Dunning-Kruger scale. While yes at the extreme end you’ve got the likes of Trump, but a little further along we meet Cummings. And you could argue he proves that a little bit of intelligence (what I’m calling the Dumb-Dom point), combined with an overly inflated ego and an posh upbringing, can be a very dangerous thing.

Moscow Dom

Take for example defence, with word that Cummings has been visiting UK military facilities as part of a Tory spending review (yes, its considered ok to let someone with connections to Moscow into UK military bases, go figure). Although I should perhaps call it a what not to spend review. Already there’s rumours that the UK is going to cut out all of its Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior IFV’s and replace them with Cyber warfare. Ya, to Cummings the way we’ll stop Russian tanks rolling up the M2 is by having a team of nerds posting meme’s. Good luck with that one.

Cummings was also seen going into Downing street with a copy of a Reagan era letter related to defence research. As I mentioned in a prior post the Reagan administration funded all sorts of hair-brained schemes and squandered vast sums of public money in the process. Of course, unwilling to admit they’d made a mistake, republicans came up with the retroactive argument that ya we knew none of it would work, but we were trying to get the soviets to spend themselves into bankruptcy (in truth Russian military spending did not increase significantly during Reagan’s tenure, it was only 7% of their GDP and it was what was going on with the other 93% that was the problem).

Either way, the UK just doesn’t have the defence budget to finance these sorts of programmes. As I discussed in a prior post, previous efforts by the UK to compete with the major powers during the cold war failed, the TSR2 being a good example. Only with European co-operation can the UK hope to keep pace with the US and China. And a hard brexit is pretty much going to scupper that.

I’d also note that we need to factor in the UK’s geography. The whole reasoning behind trident (which is an American weapon system, one they can withhold support for and effectively disarm the UK…if say the UK were to break international law for example), is that anything else (no matter how advanced) is vulnerable to a sneak attack. This is less of a problem for Russia, China or the US as they can position their facilities well in land and they have vastly more conventional forces with which to guard them.

In some respects, I get the impression that Cummings and the Tories have latched onto a defence spending theory that basically says you don’t need conventional forces if you’ve got nukes. However, this is not true, it ignores certain geopolitical realities. It could leave you vulnerable to Salami tactics (where the enemy gradually weakens your position by engaging in a series of acts that would not constitute grounds for war, never mind threatening a nuclear attack), as this skit from the satire Yes Prime Minster discusses.

In reality its a choice between the UK having conventional forces, plus maybe trident as an optional extra. Or if you want to save money and cut military spending, then trident is the first thing you’d ditch. Its one or the other. But for the Tories trident is a phallic totem. If they give it up they will be abandoning their dreams of empire 2.0. Hence the conventional army must too be sacrificed on the high altar of brexit, even if this ultimately compromises the UK’s actual defences.

And we have to consider the international consequences of such a policy. Given that the Challenger 2 tanks are really more designed for large scale tank engagements (such as in the Middle Eastern deserts or the Fulda gap) even proposing to get rid of them could be interpreted as a signal that the UK will not be getting involved in such conflicts in future.

Now while that might actually be a good thing (no more being America’s lap dog), it could mean allies (such as the US) are less supportive (i.e. they take back their missiles). And enemies may decide to make a move against a UK ally (or nationalise a UK company’s holdings), as they will be assuming the UK will not take any action. This is pretty much what caused the Falklands war. Tory cuts to the Royal Navy convinced the Argentine Junta that the UK wouldn’t try to retake the island. And the UK almost lost that war (something even the British commanders have admitted), they only didn’t because the Junta hadn’t really planned very well for how they’d defend the Island (largely because they were so convinced the UK wouldn’t take any action!).

Hell, Cummings military policy is so bad it would only make sense if you were a Russian agent looking to deliberately sabotage the UK’s defences….oh wait!

Speaking of nukes….

Cummings has also proposed that we solve unemployment in northern England by building lots of nuclear reactors in the North (I didn’t know there were loads of unemployed nuclear engineers in northern England!). As I pointed out in a prior post one of the consequences of brexit on the energy industry is that it will make it harder to recruit new workers. Industries like nuclear or fracking will need EU workers to come in and make up for skill shortages.

So we have a load of working class communities in the north, who voted leave because they are xenophobic about foreigners and feel threatened by technology (as its reducing the number of blue collar jobs). And Cummings plan is to have a load of white collar workers move in, some of them from overseas (mostly from France & China for nuclear and Romania for fracking), pushing up house prices and living costs. How’s that going to go down? And leaving the EU means leaving Euroatom, who is going to certify and supply the fuel?

In all categories the UK’s readiness to manage its own nuclear industry post-brexit is still in category red

Also, nuclear projects take forever. Hinkley C was proposed in the 2000’s with construction starting 15 years later and power production will be a good ten years after that….so Cummings is proposing jobs in the 2030’s & 2040’s. By contrast we can start building renewable energy systems, council houses, hospitals, etc. tomorrow. But of course while the Tories will happily shell out a small fortune for anything nuclear (empire 2.0 and all that), but they won’t spend a penny on anything that might actually help people.

UK house building, most notably of social housing fell under Thatcher and has never really recovered, likely because home owning Tories prefer their to be an artificial shortage, pushing up prices and rents

Dot Dom bubble

And according to Cummings the real benefit of brexit is how the UK can become a hub for the next trillion dollar IT company, once we are free from burdensome EU regulations. Why is that all the big IT firms are set up in the US?

Well the thing is the UK WAS the centre of an IT revolution, back during the dot-com era of the late 2000’s, at the start of the Tony Blair government (the most pro-EU PM the country has probably ever had), when London and Dublin saw themselves at the centre of the European tech revolution. These were heady days. You could go to a “first Tuesday event, put on a green badge (indicating you were an IT person looking for funding) or a red badge (indicating you were a venture capitalist) and do a deal for several million over a handshake and a glass of bubbly.

So what went wrong? The dot-com bubble burst. While silicon valley caught a cold, London came down with pneumonia. It boiled down to market size, the UK is a very small pond compared to the US. And back in 2000 not everyone had access to the internet in the UK (or the EU for that matter) and many that did were still using dial up (which made internet shopping tediously slow). The end result was that while Amazon made enough money to keep the wolf from its door, its UK competitors (boo.com or handbag.com) went bankrupt.

And this still applies today. After the US, the other major hub for IT companies these days is China, which is got to be the most un-libertarian country in the world. They are practically taking tips and pointers out of black mirror episodes. Yet, they have far more IT companies in China than in the UK or the EU and they may well overtake the US in this field. Why? One billion people with mobile phones. How exactly Cummings thinks that shrinking the UK’s potential market is going to help I do not know.

Case in point, Ireland wasn’t as badly effected by the dot-com bubble as the UK. It took a wallop yes, but weathered the storm a lot better. This is because Ireland had focused more on the hardware side of things. There was a big drop in demand for computer parts after the millennium, but the market soon recovered. And this was largely driven by demand from the rest of the EU, to which Ireland could export tariff free, thanks to the expanding single market.

And contrary to what Cummings says, the problem in London back in 2000 (then again he was in Russia at the time) is it became a bit of a wild west. A lot of the dot com firms were operating fairly dubious business models, some were badly run and government oversight was lacking (as the Blair government was terrified of the “old labour” label and would run a million miles if the tabloids brought that up). The aforementioned Boo.com being a good example. This meant a whole generation of investors got burned and swore off tech investments for some time.

Boo.com demonstrated everything that was wrong with dot.com “unicorns” in the early 2000’s, and serves as a case study in why investors need to do due diligence on tech stocks

And how does Cummings propose to get around this? Why we use UK government money to found and start these tech “unicorns. Well firstly, tech start ups are pretty risky investments. A lot of them are just regular companies who call themselves a “tech” stock to attract money from moron’s who don’t know any better (like Cummings!). And, like during the dot com bubble, some have fairly dubious business models. Its questionable if this is sensible use of taxpayers money (particularly if we are so hard up we can’t afford to fully fund the NHS!).

Secondly, he does know that, as part of the EU, UK firms and universities were part of many collaborative projects which benefited from matching EU funding (a sort of public private partnership), which the UK used to do very well out of. Indeed any money the government comes up with will struggle to plug the gap. The only difference is, the EU was very careful about who they gave money too. While the Dumb-Dom approach is, to throw bags of cash at anyone who can bamboozle Cummings & Boris with a flashy presentation.

Again one is forced to conclude that Cummings proposals would only make sense if you were a foreign agent attempting to sabotage the UK economy.

The failed state of Dumb-Dom

Finally, one has to acknowledge the undemocratic nature of how Johnson and Cummings operate. The whole point of democracy is so that any proposed idea gets subject to proper scrutiny. Politicians, from both sides of the house, are allowed to ask awkward questions and seek professional guidance as well as public opinion. There have been plenty of other times in the past where a government has proposed something that would be a really bad idea, which has been killed off once its been subject to proper due diligence.

However, instead the UK government now operates under a model whereby a small cabal come up with policies (that may well be unworkable, illegal, break international law or squander public money), there is no scrutiny or due diligence, no bidding process. And anyone who asks awkward questions (even if you are an expert, or a Tory MP who voted leave) is accused of being an enemy of the people and a remoaner for daring to suggest we should like you know read the bill before voting on it.

If you ever wondered how totalitarian regimes can get away with say, building a gold statue of the leader that always faces the Sun, this is how. Their policies, like Cummings, aren’t subjected to any sort of rational scrutiny or oversight, which is why these countries tend to be poorer. Hence Cumming’s risks turning the UK into a failed state.

But fortunately for us (and unfortunately for Cummings), you live by the sword you die by it. Sooner or later he will be forced out of office (either Boris will be forced to sack him, or Boris will be forced out and Cummings will follow). And the new PM will immediately issue instructions to cancel or reverse everything Cummings. Anyone he employed will either be sacked or re-organised (put in charge of stationary supplies or made cultural attaché to North Korea).

Much like how the golden statues of dictators can be airbrushed out of history, so too can Cumming’s legacy. And while a Tory government probably won’t reverse brexit, its entirely possible that a future labour one (or an independent Scottish one) will do so.

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The rise of the Contrepreneurs

The lockdown and economic impact of the pandemic has left a lot of people bored, out of work and desperately looking for a way to get out of debt. And inevitably on the internet, you’ll find plenty of scammers looking to exploit desperate people. We are after all, living in the post-truth era and the golden age of the snake oil salesmen.

There’s now a whole industry of fake guru’s (or Furu’s) and contrepreneur’s looking to sell you the dream. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads online, get rich quick, financially free, passive income, have more time with the family, work from home, be your own boss, get the fast car, the mansion and the yacht. And these guru’s will teach you…for a price of course. And such guru’s and their cult like following has proliferated recently.

If you have a friend or family member who has fallen under the sway of one of these contrepreneur’s, I’d recommend the youtube channels of Coffezella and Mike Winnet, as both have been investigating these sorts of scams for quite sometime. Another vlogger Munecat (aka Georgie Taylor) has also done some deep dives into a number of furu’s and MLM’s.

Strangely enough, while the scams business ideas the furu’s use may vary, they all seem to follow a similar formula and sales pitch. It combines all the worst elements of manipulation and high pressure sales tactics (e.g. saying the course will cost £10k, but will make it available for £3k if you sign up now, which btw is illegal in many countries). Seriously, Mike Winnet even has a bingo game you can play along while watching these pitches.

But in all cases, the goal is the same, get the marks (and if you attend such courses, you are a mark) to commit to buying more and more expensive classes for yet more money. And they will keep milking you until they bleed you dry. And worse still, if anyone actually tries to implement any of these formula’s for success, they’ll milk you some more. And this can have tragic consequences. A ex-soldier in the UK killed himself after ending up heavily in debt after paying to attend several of these expensive seminars.

How likely is it you can actually make money off the back of these get rich quick schemes? Well you never know, you might win the lottery! In many cases theses courses are just a mishmash of amateurish hearsay (this property furu for example doesn’t even know what a timber framed house is, nor that students don’t pay council tax) and the business ideas they pitch are often dangerously flawed. Of course they sound plausible to someone who isn’t an expert, which is the whole point of scam, and why they are pitched at a certain vulnerable people (rather than people with money or business experience who’d spot the scam straight away).

Property scams

Some contrepreneurs will sell you on the idea of property investment as a way to get rich quick. However as this BBC investigation on on property Furu’s shows, its basically a fraud. Shaf Rasul from Dragon’s Den (and an actual property investor) picks apart such scams here. The reality is that property speculation is a potentially a high risk investment, especially if you are borrowing heavily, or you simply lack the experience about how the property market works (and you ain’t going to get that advice from a furu).

It only takes a small fluctuation in property prices to put you into serious losses. Buying property involved a significant number of expenses, at least £20k+ to cover your deposit, legal fees, mortgage costs, taxes, stamp duty. The average cost of owning and maintaining a home in the UK is estimated at around £9-10k per year. And those maintenance bills tend to come in fits and starts (case in point, I recently had to have a boiler replaced at the cost of several thousand pounds).

Unless you can sell the property for substantially more than it was originally purchased (plus any repair & renovation costs, which can be hard to estimate in advance), you are all but guaranteed to lose money. And recall the point here is to earn enough income to replace your job, so you’d need to be profitably selling several properties each year to earn a living (which is going to require an awful lot of starting capital or an insanely good streak of luck).

And if that weren’t bad enough, some of these contrepreneur’s, aware that their mugs clients have blown their savings on these courses, instead encourage them to borrow the initial stake money (which means you are paying very high interest rates), or proposes the use of risky buying strategies that carry much greater risks of failure. So much so that your losses can easily exceed 100% of your investment (you lose every penny, the house and still owe the banks money, potentially leading to you losing the home you live in as well).

Similarly with buy to lets, the mortgage and ownership costs (again £9-10k per year) have to be less than the rent in order to provide a monthly income, which isn’t always the case. Rents are driven by supply and demand and its all to easy to find yourself in a situation where its not covering your costs. This is a particular problem when it comes to schemes such as rent to rent. or Air BnB’ing property. As I’ve discussed before, this isn’t the cash cow its portrayed to be. If you aren’t careful you could find yourself running an illegal hotel (in violation of planning laws, building codes, while simultaneously committing tax, insurance and mortgage fraud).

All in all property investment is a bit of minefield. There’s also sorts of laws and regulations, as well as lending rules set by the banks and insurers. It is not the place for amateurs who are cash poor to start gambling in.

Day trading…or perhaps that should be called daily losing!

Another popular pitch is day trading of stocks, share, currency, crypto, etc. Again, this seems to rely on the ignorance of most people about what goes on in finance. I know people who work in the industry and no they do not spend all day screaming buy, buy, buy into one phone, while shouting sell, sell, sell into another. The reality is very different (in fact here’s an interview with an actual trader).

Instead, they spend most of their days with their noses buried in ledgers, spreadsheets and reports that are so dry and boring they’d put an entomology professor to sleep. And the traders aren’t alone, they have an entire building full of staff backing them up (data miners, analysts, computer geeks, risk management, lawyers, accountants, vampires, ghosts and ghouls, etc.). I mean why do you think banks have those massive tower blocks for?

Either way the pitch from these fake guru’s is that you in your pyjamas and a laptop can take on these massive wall street firms (with an army of staff, supercomputers and a near infinite supply of cash behind them) and win. Good luck with that one. How many day traders actually make any money? 50%?, 30%? Actually, its closer to 3% according to this paper, with only 1% producing significant returns (i.e. enough to earn a living).

In fact another point I’d make is that financial companies tend to be extremely secretive about their strategies. After all, if every body knows your strategy, they will copy it (or try to bet against you), in which case why are we paying you this huge mark up? Anyone who claims to be a successful investor who is willing to tell a couple of bozo’s on youtube his secret strategies for a fee (rather than just using that strategy to make more money) is to be treated with suspicion, as he’s either gone a little nuts, or he’s a fraudster (or a failed trader like Nigel Farage).

Amazon FBA: Helping Bezo’s get richer…while you get poorer

Another common pitch is Amazon FBA, whereby you set up an online store via Amazon. You’ve probably seen the pitch, “I sold hundreds of thousands of units for $20 which I originally bought for just $1….”Well, even if that were true, you are an awful excuse for a human being and little short of a thief. What you are doing is called “price gouging”, which is not only unethical, but also illegal in many countries (several hoarders of sanitisers & loo roll got caught for this during the pandemic).

And its a toss up as to whether the authorities or Amazon shut you down before your customers figure out what you are up to (if you can find it online for $1 so can they!). Upon which, you’ll get a load of awful reviews (drawing the attention to past and future customers) and you will never sell anything to any of these people ever again. Or your competitors figures out what you are up to and begin selling the same item for $10 or $5 (that’s sort of how capitalism works!).

But ignoring all that, there are are a number of problems with this pitch, most notably overheads (the costs of getting Amazon to fulfil the order, postage, taxes, etc.) and sales volume. The overheads eat into your profits (if any), such that, at best you are making maybe a few pence per item (or losing money with each item you sell). Which means that your sales volume would have to be huge in order to give a reasonable income. And again, there is a risk factor, what if the products just don’t sell (and given that these guru’s have every tom, dick and harry trying their hand at it, there is going to be massive market saturation).

Yes, there are companies with successful Amazon FBA stores. But they tend to be using Amazon to supplement an existing business (i.e. they have a real store in the real world), providing a way for those who can’t physically get to their store to shop, as well as assisting them in meeting customer demands in store. Ultimately this means that even if they aren’t making a lot of money, its still worth their while, if it means more traffic and a higher overall sales volume.

I mean seriously do you think Jeff Bezos, one of the most ruthless capitalists since the robber baron era, is some sort of hippy looking to let various bozos ride on his coattails and get rich quick. No, Amazon FBA its another way for Amazon to make yet more money, while discouraging anyone from trying to establish a rival online service.

The cult of MLM’s

Finally we come to MLM’s. Now, there are some MLM’s who are genuinely trying to distribute a product that would otherwise be difficult to sell by conventional means (that said, you have to question the viability of such a business model in the interney age).

However, an awful lot of MLM’s are little more than thinly disguised pyramid schemes, where the emphasis is on recruiting more members, with the bulk of sales going to new members rather than genuine customers (so it ends up piled in members attics unsold). And some MLM’s are prone to dangerous and controlling cult like behaviour (so much for being your own boss!), as discussed by John Oliver back in 2016.

A legitimate MLM would instead try to limit the number of sales people, to avoid market saturation. Bottom line, if you know someone else in your area who sells for the same MLM, its probably a pyramid scheme, in which case only those at the very top (i.e. not you) will actually make money, while everyone else will lose massively.

Scrubbing the internet

And speaking of which, there are various red flags to watch out for with furu’s, the obvious one being when they constantly showing off their expensive cars and wealth (if Bill Gates did that would you be more or less inclined to buy MS software?). But a foolproof method is to put the furu’s name into google along with a search term such as “…… is a fraud” or “……exposed”. And if the first page of hits you get is just links to the guru’s own site, or shills saying “is ….. a fraud?, not at all! (hilarious one here where one furu get’s caught out shilling for himself under a fake name).

This indicates that our furu has gone to great lengths to manipulate the search algorithms (probably by hiring an IT expert), in order to bury any genuine feedback and criticism. Likely because most of the real feedback is almost entirely negative. They are also prone to being fairly litigious often threatening people with lawsuits, or using NDA’s to gag their victims. In fact, the one skill contrepreneur’s won’t teach is that of due diligence, probably because they don’t want you conducting due diligence on them.

And it will probably come as little surprise to learn that when it comes to politics most of these furu’s are libertarian objectivists (which is basically a nicer way of saying you are a selfish thieving bast@rd), or admirers of the prosperity gospel (god wants me to be rich…by stealing off the poor, that’s what the bible says, doesn’t it?). And yes some of them are promoting the usual Covid conspiracy theories. In fact one of them got arrested recently for using money from a Covid relief fund to buy a Lamborghini.

And if they do get caught or exposed by the media, they claim its just haters who are jealous (presumably because these haters prefer to be poor), or its all a big government conspiracy….so the government, currently run by snake oil conmen, is apparently against snakeoil con men like these furu’s. Go figure!

The reality

Setting up a business isn’t easy. A significant proportion of business ventures ultimately fail (75% of them by one estimate). And I’d argue that this is likely because many people simply lack the experience to undertake such a venture, or they underestimate the amount of work that’s involved, not to mention the capital requirements (as any business will initially run at a loss for sometime).

Being your own boss” sound good, but in reality bosses are very busy people. I recall sending my boss an email once, then bumped into him in the corridor and we spending about five minutes in his office talking. During which I could see on the screen behind him my email went from the top of his inbox to disappear off the bottom of the screen. Similarly, there’s no free lunches, passive income isn’t really something most people should aspire too.

And you need a unique selling point. For example, when I was growing up, we had a neighbour who was very musical and so he ended up starting a business which re-furbishes, tunes and sells pianos. And, given that he’s got all the gear to move them safely, he also hires out roadies to music festivals. I know someone else who started off in his hippie days installing renewables (generally on the homes of other hippies), who now runs a renewable installation business. Then there’s Louis Rossemann, a right to repair advocate, who also runs a computer repair business in NY, as well as a YouTube channel (where he describes some of his struggles to get his business off the ground).

You will probably notice the trend, all of the individuals above are operating in a field where they enjoy what they are doing (and are thus willing to commit to long hours). And they have a unique set of knowledge and experience, allowing them to carve out a niche. Indeed, the advice we give students before embarking on a PhD is pick a field you enjoy doing research in, because while you might end up hating the subject at the end of your PhD (which stands for Piled higher and Deeper), you will at least have the resolve to finish it. Its no different in business. Hence the lunacy of the contrepeneur’s pitch (high risk business ventures, in a field where a penniless amateur is all but doomed to fail).

If you do want an education on running or starting a business, I’d advise checking out your local college, who will probably run professional courses (typically short P/T evening or online courses) on a variety of related topics. There also MOOC’s run by the world’s top universities. You will be taught by qualified experts and many of these courses will be accredited by an outside agency (so you’ll be getting a recognised qualification you can put on you’re CV). While some will include fees, these are often subsidised (plus there’s a long list of free MOOC courses). You’ll be paying a fraction of what a contrepeneur would charge you and getting a much better service. They might not sell you the dream, but you will at least get something for your time and money.

As the saying goes, in a gold rush the only people making money are the people selling shovels. In the post-truth era, it seems the best way to make money is by selling lies.

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The real problem with brexit: ignorant and arrogant toff’s

So now we can see how, yet again, the brexiters have tied themselves up in various knots. By threatening to break international laws they’ve managed, within the space of a few weeks, to scupper any chances of a deal with the EU, piss off the Americans (and several other countries too, make it very unlikely they will get the trade deals they want, even if they drop the internal market bill), risk the break up of the UK (support for Scottish independence is now at 53-55%), provoke mass resignations among the government’s legal advisers (not exactly helpful at such a critical time), and risk the UK becoming the first country in history to effectively impose sanctions on itself.

Incidentally, if you ever want confirmation that a Tory policy is harmful, watch how they will shamelessly claim the opposite is true (war is peace and peace is war in Toryland). With Johnson preposterously selling the bill to his MP’s as vital to saving the union….by destroying it!

And all if this against the backdrop of a 2nd wave of Covid, where’s its quite clear the NHS will struggle to cope and the Tories have dropped the ball, promising a “worldbeating” testing system (of course anything the Tories claim is worldbeating usually means world beating levels of incompetence and cronyism), which doesn’t supply any tests and a tracing system that doesn’t do any tracing. And many of the same mistakes made before (where elderly patients with suspected covid where discharged and sent to care homes without being tested, to free up beds, leading to a massive spike in cases in care homes) are being repeated.

Some argue its all part of some clever plan cooked up by Dominc Cummings. I’d argue no, it simply a product of the upper class twits who run the Tory party. Many of them (Cummings included btw) were educated in posh boarding schools where children are essentially radicalised (not unlike similar institutions run by islamists). These schools enforce a particularly warped world view of British exceptionalism (rules are for other people, same as taxes) and the glories of empire, while glossing over certain details (such as all the massacres or repression that sustained that empire).

So for example, any fool would understand how much of a red flag breaking an international treaty would look to Europeans (given the past behaviour of fascist governments and the dangers in appeasing such behaviour). I mean how would the British feel if the Spanish decided to break international law in “ a limited way by now imposing a blockade on Gibraltar (effectively starving the British out).

And the influence of the Irish American lobby is well known, has Johnson never seen a St Patrick’s day parade? And, while the republicans are being a bit more diplomatic about it than the democrats, the message is similar, stick to the GFA or no trade deal. Remember that what trade agreements the UK has currently has with the US will expire on January the 1st 2021, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. People seem to forget its not just the EU we’ll be trading on WTO terms with, but everyone else in the world, the Japan trade deal for example hasn’t yet been ratified by either country.

And of course the very fact they are going back on their own withdrawal agreement (the opposition did propose a more lengthy due diligence and tried to highlight the consequences, but they were ignored) indicates they didn’t understand what it is they were signing. The withdrawal agreement and the NI protocol were rejected by Teresa May, as she was worried it would be a price too great to pay for brexit (her plan was to pretend to support a hard brexit, then force through a softer brexit at the 11th hour under the threat of no deal). Its been obvious since the start of the brexit process you have to put a border somewhere (and a border across Ireland breaks the GFA) or what’s the point in brexit? This was always going to make a hard brexit very difficult if not impossible.

While a soft brexit would negate the need for a hard border, its unacceptable to brexiters as it would quickly expose the reality that they lied through their teeth during the referendum promising things that could never be delivered. It would mean being in the EU’s orbit, still bound by its rules, but with no say in how those rules are made. And still paying more or less what is currently paid into the EU’s coffers. And even this would be more economically damaging than staying in. As such it would probably be reversed pretty quickly once the Tories were out of power.

This is why they’ve been pushing for the hardest of hard brexits, as it allows they to defer having to accept certain unpleasant realities. But its doesn’t change anything, its an ostrich strategy. The brexiters principle enemy after all is reality (which has a remainer bias) and their accumulated body of lies.

Recall for example, that signing trade deals with other countries means you have to change your laws to account for that (as trade deals require common laws…you know like EU membership!). The Japanese trade deal will require changes to state aid rules, the US deal (if they were to get it) would mean changes to food standards and the selling off of the NHS. And establishing your own institutions to regulate these new rules is likely to cost the UK far more than it ever paid to the EU.

The only difference between these deals and EU membership is that by staying in the EU, the UK would save money, retain more of a say EU affairs and have more bargaining power abroad. But the Tories aren’t details people. They are as ignorant of these pesky facts as they are about NI. And besides they know they can rely on the right wing media to lie to the public and convince them that the chocolate ration is being increased from 30g to 20g.

Which is why I’d argue that under no circumstances should anyone go easy on the brexiters over this. If I were the EU I’d announce a no deal and make it clear to Johnson that if he wants a deal (the country is in no way ready he’ll have to come crawling to the table eventually), he’ll have to drop the internal market bill, pay some sort of fine (or accept some sort of political punishment, e.g., agreeing that the parliament act does not apply to any agreement signed with the EU, which means the lords can block bills like this indefinitely, oh and stop him appointing new lords as well), and then basically wait on the naughty step for a few weeks, before talks are allowed to resume. And if so much as one tabloid story comes out suggesting the government is being insincere, talks are suspended again, compensation is requested and further punishments applied and so on.

And the US should do the same. In fact I’d suggest both the US and the EU should quietly lean on other government’s (such as Japan) and let it be known that if they were to proceed with trade talks (or ratify any agreed deals into law) that this will be seen as an unfriendly act, which will result in political consequences (don’t come looking for favours if you get into a mess).

The Tories are spoil little brats, used to getting their way. They need to learn a lesson in respect and that their actions have consequences. If they chose to do so the hard way, well so be it.

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A Critical analysis of SpaceX Starship

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Musk’s Starship looks impressive….but will it work?

I came across this video series from a Vlogger (common sense sceptic) critiquing Elon Musk’s Mars programme and his plans for a Mars colony. I would give it a look, its actually quite informative. They also look at the Gateway foundation, pointing to several serious technical flaws in their proposals as well…plus the fact that the foundation’s mailing address isn’t a engineering firm or a airport hangar, but a PO box in a strip mall!

The series highlights a number of the major problems with the Starship spacecraft. Notably the fact it can’t accommodate anything close to the 100 people Musk proposes, when you work out how much food & water they will need enroute (based on NASA data and the likely volume required per crew, a max of 17 per trip is a more likely figure). There’s also a potential serious design flaw in the fuel tanks and its thin sheet steel construction.

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While yes Starship does contain a large volume of space, as much as an A380. But people don’t stay in their seats on an A380 for several months! There’s also the matter of supplies, waste disposal, in flight repairs, medical emergencies, room for exercise, washing & other activities etc.

Then there’s the issue of a exit hatch 100ft up off the ground (good luck trying to get everyone in or out during an emergency!), with no lifts inside the spacecraft (so when on earth or Mars the crew have to move between floors via ladders in what is essentially a 7 storey building). Then there’s the rather nasty conditions on board during the transit to Mars (life on a spacecraft ain’t as much fun as it looks in the movies, its more like living in a very messy and smelly science lab).

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So your Spacesuit has a leak, you’ve got to get back to the ship and up a 100ft crane ride. And what if there’s a fire on board and everyone needs to evacuate? they supposed to jump?

Further issues include the difficulty in Orbital Refuelling (which won’t work as smoothly as Musk thinks), plus the small matter that trips to Mars can only be undertaken during a set of narrow launch windows, about once every two years. Which means they will need to send out not one starship at a time, but a flotilla of dozens of them. Which means all of those ships will have to be launched, fuelled, stocked and crewed simultaneously over a few months (any longer and those supplies get used up maintaining the ships and crew in orbit). Then there’s the logistics of feeding the Mars colony, cos its not like Musk can just send someone down to the nearest chip shop and order a million fish suppers.

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And no there won’t be a big glass dome on the front of the ship for concerts. It would weight too much, cost too much and be too much of a safety risk. The Bridge will also be off limits during the flight, for the same reason cockpits are off limits on planes

This echoes issues I’ve previously raised about Mars colonisation and space flight in general. I’d further add my two cents that the issue with Starship is that its a bit of a Swiss army knife. It has to act as the assent vehicle, a transit vehicle to Mars, the Martian lander & ascent stage and still be able to land back on earth again after all of that (oh and it has to do all that and be reusable too). It would be far simpler to break this down into three separate vehicles. There is a reason why we don’t have flying cars. Because you are combining all of the engineering requirements of a car with those of a plane, which means you’ll end up with a vehicle that is expensive, slow, guzzles fuel and doesn’t handle as well as either an ordinary plane or a car (in short, its easier to just drive to an airfield, hop in a plane and hire a car at the other end!).

The same is true of Starship. The existing Dragon capsule could be used for crew launch (with the added bonus that it can be detached and send back to earth before departure, so you don’t have to haul it all the way to Mars and back). Something similar could be designed for Mars re-entry (essentially an enlarged dragon capsule with a lighter heat shield, but an engine stage to boost it back off Mars). As for the transit vehicle, a better design would be a couple of accommodation modules (similar to those on the space station) up the front, connected to engines at the back via a truss system, with a array of fuel tanks (which are launched fully fuelled, then jettisoned as the fuel runs out to save weight) mounted between the two.

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NASA designs for a Mars mission (or those from other space agencies) look very different from Starship….and for good reason!

I’ve pointed out before that by using nuclear engines the fuel mass that is needed to get to Mars would be a lot smaller. And a nuclear powered Mars craft wouldn’t necessarily be constrained to the narrow launch windows of conventionally powered space craft (it would burn more fuel during such trips and carry less cargo, but it would still be able to make the journey). Of course, just because we are in space doesn’t mean all the problems associated with nuclear power will magically go away (in fact some of them get worse). And of course putting dozens of astronauts in close proximity to a nuclear reactor raises all sorts of safety questions, nevermind what would happen if it were to crash back onto earth. But then again, Musk will also need to haul along some nuclear material in the form of RTG’s to keep his spacecraft and Martian colony warm through those cold Martian nights.

Ultimately, supporting the million people on Mars by 2050 Musk proposes just isn’t possible with our current technology. We still aren’t even sure if its possible for humans to live and survive on Mars permanently (e.g. how much gravity is too little for permanent survival?). So it would make a lot more sense to stick to two way return missions and a smaller crew of, say a dozen at a time. These could explore Mars over multiple missions, determine its habitability and ultimately lay the ground work for future colonisation.

So if this is true why is Musk not admitting as much? Well because right now he can dazzle the media, plus his army of supporters, and they will lap it up. Its free advertising. The minute he starts bringing up pesky little facts and admitting to a big long list of engineering problems that need fixing, they’ll lose interest. Consider that any SpaceX video (or those from Mars One or the Gateway foundation) gets tens of millions of views with almost universal praise and plenty of media coverage. Meanwhile the sceptic series I’ve been pointing to has only a few thousand views. People tend to chose comforting lies over unpleasant truths.

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And the simp‘s shilling for Musk online are only doing so in the forlorn hope that they might be picked by the chosen one Musk to go. But once it becomes clear that there’s only a few dozen seats available, which will have to be reserved for astronauts and scientists, he might not be so popular. And the minute he mentions nukes (even just a couple of RTG’s), every government on the planet is going to be right up his ass demanding oversight.

And too be fair, Musk ain’t exactly the full shilling. He recently got rebuffed by Egypt for suggesting the Pyramids were built by aliens (which didn’t go down well). He’s previously talked about nuking Mars and he’s gotten told off before by the SEC for making false claims on twitter and very nearly got himself into some serious hot water (as in jail time). Now I have no doubt that SpaceX has plenty of very talented engineers, but I get the impression Starship is a project Musk is personally leading. And it shows. The danger is that at some point he’s either got to deliver. And if he can’t, that’s when he might face something of a backlash.

As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with space exploration, but only so long as you are setting goals that are achievable, with a realistic timetable and where such efforts will have a worthwhile outcome. Long term planning towards sending a small team of scientists to Mars, to follow up on the probes we’ve already sent, sounds like a reasonable goal to me. Sending a million bloggers, bitcoin bugs and gamers to Mars, hundreds at a time, sounds like a recipe for disaster…. unless Musk’s real plan is the same as the Golgafrincham  from the Hitch Hikers Guide that is!

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The flawed thinking of the Fallists

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BurningArt-AshleighFurlong-20160116_large I mean its not like anything bad ever came from burning art or books!

As I mentioned in a prior post, I see no reason against taking down certain statues (that frankly were put up for largely racist reasons in the first place). But I worry that if you start taking down any statue that anybody is offended by, you’ll end up taking them all down. Hell, “the statue” is an important landmark in my home town of Cork in Ireland. Its erected to Father Matthew, both a catholic priest and a leading member of Ireland’s temperance movements (so presumably he’s offending at least three groups, atheists, anyone with a grudge against the catholic church and everyone in Ireland who likes a drink!).

But much as there is a lack of understanding of history on the part of those looking to maintain these statues, its…

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Brexit Britain: “worldbeating” for all the wrong reasons

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One phrase you keep on hearing from brexiter is worldbeating. They want their Empire 2.0 to reflect the warped vision of British exceptionalism beaten into them in their public schools. And at least in some respects they are succeeding. The UK is now worldbeating” for all of the wrong reasons.

Firstly its now official, the UK is one of the worst effected by Covid. While we can argue a bit about the figures (its likely some less developed countries are showing artificially lower figures due to less effective testing, or in some cases government manipulation of figures, something Trump is attempting in the US). But certainly in terms of countries where some level of testing is ongoing, the UK’s figures are the highest death rate in Europe and the 2nd worst in the world (for total excess deaths and per capita excess deaths). And…

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How grids will cope with electric cars

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A few months ago (in the before times), the UK government’s BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) taskforce released a report that presented both the benefits and challenges of transitioning road transport over to electric vehicles. Given that the media tended to focus on the more sensational aspects of the report (i.e. in theory, if all of those BEV’s were to be plugged in all at once this could cause blackouts), I thought it would be useful to provide a more balanced review of this report and what it means going forward.

Firstly, one myth that I frequently hear is that electric cars would require a massive increase in power generation to charge all those cars. However, the scale of this problem is perhaps being exaggerated somewhat. As the report mentions, even if we converted all of the UK’s vehicles over to electricity, it would only increase demand by 30%, which matches values for similar reports, such as the one below from the ICCT in 2013.

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The estimated impact of BEV’s on the grid is often overestimated (this from a 2013 ICCT report)

We can estimate this figure ourselves by taking the average fuel economy of an EV (say for example a Tesla Model X, which work out at about 36 kWh/100 miles), the number of vehicles in the UK (38.7 million, of which 82% are cars) and the average distance driven per year (7600 miles) . Multiplying all of that out we get a total annual energy use of 106 billion kWh/yr. The current annual energy consumption of the UK grid is about 334 billion kWh/yr. So even if we converted all of the cars in the UK over to electricity, you’d only increase electricity demand by 30%, in line with our report’s estimate.

And if anything I’d argue this is probably an over estimate. For in truth we are unlikely to ever have that many electric vehicles on the road. Vehicle ownership levels and distances driven have been falling for several years now (so likely there will simply be less vehicles in future). Better public transport, cycle lanes and facilities such as car clubs(of which I am a member) are negating the need for individual vehicle ownership.

Furthermore, some vehicles will not be converted to BEV’s for various reasons while electric vehicles might be suitable for many, given that 80% of all vehicle journey’s are under 20 miles, but they won’t be suitable for everybody. Long distance lorry drivers, travelling salesmen, police, emergency vehicles & taxi’s in rural areas, will probably not convert over, as you’d struggle to design a vehicle with enough range to meet their needs (likely instead these vehicles will be powered by a hybrid powertrain, biofuels or Hydrogen fuel cells).

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The discharge rate of individual charging ports can be quite high, potentially even higher than needed to power most houses

But what happens if millions of electric cars get plugged in at the same time and go to 100% charge all at once? Well certainly yes that would be a problem, as this paper discusses. Even just 5% of the UK’s current vehicle fleet (1.9 million cars) all being charged at a rate of 50 kW’s would require double the peak output from the UK’s current grid (currently about 60 GW’s). Fortunately, this can be resolved using smart grid technology, which controls and regulates charging to prevent such spikes in demand.

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A paper by Adolfo & Perujo (2009) demonstrates the impact on the grid of BEV’s depends a lot on how charging is handled

As noted, the vast majority of car journey’s are relatively short (less than 20 miles), while the range of electric vehicles on the market is between 150 to 350 miles. Thus on average most vehicle batteries will still be almost full when parked up. Given that your average car spends 96% of its time parked, then there’s no need to charge them up straight away (or use a supercharger to do the charging). It would make more sense to charge them at night using off peak electricity. Indeed modelling by the UK national grid suggests closer to a 4-10GW peak in grid demand due to electric vehicles. with smart charging.

Of course, as the aforementioned EV task report discusses, there is the issue of how to implement such a strategy. How do you motivate people to understand you don’t need to keep the car fully charged. We’ll need to tackle range anxiety (you don’t keep a petrol powered car fully fuelled all the time, why should it be any different with a BEV?). This could take the form of rewards for charging off peak or allowing vehicle to grid discharging, with higher charging costs if charging during peak hours. Such policies already exist for large industrial users of electricity (cold storage facilities, steel mills, factories, etc.), whereby they are able to buy electricity at a discounted rate. However, in return they are expected to de-rate or turn off equipment during times of peak demand (if they don’t de-rate, they get charged at a premium rate for their electricity).

In fact the electric vehicles themselves could off a solution, by turning the BEV fleet into a giant energy storage system. Assuming we use just 10% of a fleet of say 20 million electric vehicles (with say an average battery capacity of 75 kWh’s) would yield an energy storage capacity of 150 GWh, five times the UK’s current electricity storage capacity. This could be used to help even out the peaks and troughs of the grid (such as those caused by sudden spikes due to lots of electric vehicles charging, or intermittent renewable energy).

Of course there is the question of how to control all of this and the solution would be some sort of smart charging app, controlled by a mobile phone. But as the report highlights that would require the availability of data in compatible formats, as well as data protection. The charging ports themselves will also need further harmonisation, as there are several competing versions in use. Keep in mind that building regulations may soon require the inclusion of BEV charge points.

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There is a wide range of different charging ports, which might need some standardisation

So its not going to be straightforward. An awful lot of infrastructure will have to be build, notably all of those charging points, raising questions as to where will they be located, how their installation is funded and who will be responsible for maintaining them (the vast majority of UK cars are currently parked on private property, typically drive ways, private roads or car parks, rather than in garages or on public streets).

So in fairness to the naysayers, they were right…..several years ago, when the average range of electric vehicles was much shorter (20-30 miles and hence most would need recharging straight away), smart grids weren’t really an option and we all didn’t have wireless internet access via a hand held computer in our pockets. However, technology has moved on considerably since then.

There will also be a need for some additional electricity capacity and improvements to the grid will be needed, particularly if we are using more and more intermittent renewables to power everything. But these are not an surmountable problems. The problem is they require long term planning to be put in place now if they are to be successful.

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The Americanisation of UK politics

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Some of the UK government policies in recent weeks have seemed baffling. Not just the usual cronyism (with Cummings drinking buddies getting lucrative no-bid contracts for stuff they aren’t qualified to do) and incompetence….and that’s before we even consider the Russia report. (recall that Cummings who led the brexit campaign also worked in Russia for several years). But we also have out of touch policies, such as stamp duty cuts (great news for anyone who can afford a house, not much use to someone who can’t pay the rent). Or vouchers to middle class people so they can go to dine out.

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Think about that, we have thousands of people dependant on food banks, people dying after their benefits were withdrawn, an NHS in crisis (but don’t worry it will all be over by Christmas!), essential workers struggling to make rent, and the…

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Conservatives unmasked

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Republicans have been rather comically freaking out over the big bad gov’mint forcing them to wear masks, inventing various health reasons from their Facebook echo chamber to justify this stance (and of course Trumpbook Facebook is doing nothing to stop it, because Zukerberg is a Trump supporter hence why I don’t have a Facebook page). However, in the process they serve to demonstrate the dangerous and illogical mind set of many conservatives. As well as explaining why their opposition to things, such as gun control or climate action, is not based on any form of rational argument, but instead deep seated tribalism and selfishness.

First of all, no there is nothing unusual about being asked to wear a mask in the middle of a pandemic, such measures have been brought in during past pandemics, such as the 1918 Spainsh flu. And yes there wear some hold outs (called mask slackers back in the 1918 pandemic) but perhaps not on the scale today (they didn’t have access to Facebook back then).

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A “Mask Slacker” is accosted by police in San Franciso during the 1918 flu pandemic

Hospitals also use masks to control the spread of infections. And its quite common in many Asian countries for people to wear a mask if ill. So if any of this anti-mask BS was even remotely true, we’d know it for sure as there would be known statistics from a century of data gathering to prove as much (I particularly find it funny some of them claiming they have breathing problems while yelling at people).

Unfortunately, masks aren’t hugely effective at stopping you getting infected, but they are very effective at stopping wearers spreading the virus. Which of course means that if everyone wears them (when social distancing isn’t possible), then you can greatly reduce the rates of infection. Studies have shown a 80% rate of mask wearing would reduce infection rates by 90%. So in essence it means that we all trade the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask (and yes I know, on a hot day its not nice to have one on), in return for reducing all of our changes of getting the virus by a factor of 10. Which seems a fair trade…..unless you are a conservative.

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In a previous post, with regard to SUV drivers and road safety, I discussed how many republicans have a very selfish attitude. I quoted a report into their mindset which noted that many are:

“…..insecure and vain…They often lack confidence….Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities…”

“….are very concerned with how other people see them rather than with what’s practical, and they tend to want to control or have control over the people around them….”

Which kind of sums up the problem. While to most of us, making a small sacrifice for the greater good makes sense. But its not the same if you are an vain, insecure, selfish person who doesn’t give a toss about anybody but yourself. Even if you are ultimately endangering yourself and everybody else in the process.

And republicans are also very conscious of how they are viewed by their peers. If you ever go on their discussion forums you’ll notice they way they pressure one another to conform is often driven by how you will be perceived and judged (if you wear a mask you’ll look like a liberal, if you don’t carry a gun you’ll look like a pussy). This not only explains the opposition to masks, but also their opposition to other things.

In my previous article for example I noted how the proliferation of SUV’s was driven by a perception of them being safer, when in fact they lack crumple zones are and are more prone to single vehicle rollover accidents. The end result being a much higher rate of fatal accidents. And we see much the same with guns. You might feel safer with a gun in the house, but statistics say the opposite is true.

Climate change also represents another good example. We all make a few little sacrifices (try to use less energy, recycle more, transition to less polluting energy sources), for the greater good, noting that the longer you stretch out the transition, the lower the impact (hence delaying action is not advised). But of course to a conservative, no why should I use low-energy bulbs (which save money) when I can instead waste energy (and my money) just so I can look good in front of my fellow inbreed control freaks conservatives.

And their desire to be seen to be in control makes it difficult for them to change their minds. As that could be perceived as a sign of weakness by their peer group. This is made worse by the conservative propensity for self delusion. I recall a psychiatrist once pointing out to me that the brain is wired up to make decisions quickly and justify the decision afterwards. This makes sense from an evolutionary stand point. Something moves in the bushes and jumps out, you want to react quickly. Of course if it turns out to just be a rabbit (rather than a bobcat), well, your brain is supposed to take those facts on board and remember not to be so jumpy next time around.

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However republican brains will twist the facts to justify the original decision. No they’ll argue rabbits are deadly animals we should fear and run away from. And nothing will persuade them otherwise. And I assume they only survived evolution because no liberal pointed out to them that while rabbits are safe, tigers are dangerous and you should stay away from them (which would have led them to go and hug a tiger just to prove them dems are wrong).

This explains how they will engage in such elaborate delusionary arguments, twisting facts, logic, time and space to justify anything. Because in their mind, they minute they admit they are wrong about something, they are less of a rugged individual and their fragile ego just cannot take that sort of a hit.

And it also explains how republican leaders can make massive 180 degree pivots without their supporters noticing or calling them out over it. When a democrat is office, the deficit is the worse crime in history. Soon as Trump took over, deficits? Who cares about those! lets give the rich a tax cut. Within a month of a democrat taking over, they’ll likely develop selective amnesia regarding Trump (I bet you they will blame every bad that’s happened on Trump’s watch on Biden if he wins).

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They demanded that Obama and Hilary be locked up for Benghazi and 9-11 (yes really! they think its Obama’s fault!), but they will completely ignore the 120,000 dead (and counting) thanks to Trump’s incompetence. Because their supporters subconsciously know that if they ever admit to their leaders being lying, incompetent, con-men (who are probably constantly laughing their asses off at these morons as they count their ill-gotten gains), that’s going to make them look likely total mugs for being fooled by them for so long. That’s why Trump is only 8-10 points behind in the polls (meaning a 4-5% swing could win him the election). Its a classic feature of any con, get the mark to emotionally commit to the con.

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Certainly Trump and other leading republicans refusal to wear masks doesn’t help. It represents very poor leadership and adds fuel to the fire and has ensured the pandemic will last longer, kill more people and do more damage to the economy . But they are repeating what is coming out of the conservative echo chamber of delusion rather than driving it.

And here in the UK, its possible we could see things follow a similar pattern due to the government relaxing lockdown measures too early and not sharing the data in full with the public or local councils. A recent report suggested that between austerity, the rolling back of NHS services and Covid the Tories have killed up to 250,000 people through sheer incompetence and greed. But watch and wait and you’ll see plenty of those screwed over by the Tories lining up to vote for them again next election.

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Every year of the last labour government, healthcare spending went up, every year of Tory government it went down, yet some Tory voters will shrug their shoulders and not draw the obvious link

Unfortunately, Trump and the Republicans are about to get a nasty lesson in evolution. Cases are soaring in south GOP voting states. A leading member of the Trump campaign who argued against mask is now in hospital. Given that it will take about 2-4 months for things to stabilise, this will make campaigning difficult. And getting hundreds of thousands of your own supporters killed on the eve of an election, is hardly a sensible election strategy. Even if a further set of lockdowns is avoided, as many will chose to self isolate to avoid infection, meaning the economic impact of the virus will be extended. Hence the economic recovery Trump is hoping for might not occur by the election day.

Republicans may find that the ultimately cure to their delusionary mentality is a democratic president, with democratic control of both houses. And maybe the solution is for democrats to start acting like republicans. I’d recommend using every dirty mean underhand trick to win the election (e.g. insist they wear masks at polling stations). And once in office, ignore the constitution just as much as Trump did. And use that power to after Trump and his cronies as well as “Trump proofing” the political system (so voting reform, judicial reform and ultimately splinting the powers of president into a head of state and head of government). And take the opportunity to roll back everything the GOP have worked for over the last few decades. There’s no point trying to appeal to conservative voters better nature – they don’t have one.

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Covid news roundup

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The room where I hid

So the big news of the last week is the book out by Papa smurf who broke bad John Bolton, that makes various allegations about the abuse of power and incompetence in the Trump white house. It appears to verify the claims regarding the Ukraine scandal as well as the Mueller report. The book suggests Trump tried to do a deal with China just to get re-elected, and discusses his vulnerability to pressure from Putin (plus his closeness to dictators around the world). The book portrays a Trump white house that is so dysfunctional they’ve essentially abandoned routines such as the daily intelligence briefings (as Trump would spend most of the meeting talking about himself).

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Of course given that the book also reveals that Trump is so dumb he thought Finland was part of Russia and didn’t realise that the UK has nuclear weapons, it…

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