A poem for Theresa May.

 

What do you think you are doing TM?
In the commons, Thatcher’s den.
That ancient seat in halls of power;
The island with its gothic tower
Where sits the bell that chimed the hour.

Now silent, its a dark omen
How long until it rings again?
So many British people cower;
Your Brexit deal’s turning sour;
Your government’s a hopeless shower.

Why did you want to be PM?
Ordering our union’s end
Do you think you’re doing well?
As this country turns to hell.
Don’t you hear the death knell
That rings out from the silent Bell?

Would you do it all again
within the silence of Big Ben?
Or can it be you do not feel,
that you are creating a deal
to impact on the common weal?
The bell above you will not peel

a joyful call to all Britain,
telling all the voting public when
we’ll tell the union goodbye.
Though most of us still can’t see why
our leader’s too weak to defy

the dwindling group who want an end
But have not planned what to do then.
They’d rather see our country die,
And gladly accept any lie,
Out of the papers that they buy.

Westminster rose out of a fen;
In spirit it sinks there again,
but this time dragging us all down;
Every county, every town,
Into the dark wet murky brown.
We, Britain, and the people drown.

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A Brexit solution

Brexit, the pressing issue that is currently dividing a large amount of the British public actually has a solution available to the remain side that does not seem to have been considered by many people. A point of disclosure that you should know if you are not already aware is that I would very much prefer to remain in the EU. Having said that, this post is not intended to rehash the reasons why Brexit is a bad idea. The news does an adequate job of highlighting that every day, plus there is no shortage of academic study on the likely effects to the economy. I am even willing to concede there may be some advantages to Brexit and that Brexit could be potentially be handled in such a way that some of my chief concerns might be dealt with in a manner that will make me feel a lot better about the whole thing.

Having said that, I still remain a committed europhile and find it hard to believe that it has come to the point that the government is happily accepting a flawed referendum in order to justify continuing the Brexit process despite the serious lack of support they received in the general election.

Personally I believe there must be some machiavellian thinking within the inner depths of whitehall, and the plan is to avoid leaving the EU altogether. As it is the place of the government to protect the British public and to run the country in an effective manner, maintaining our world position it should be self evident that the government would not allow us to make such a disastrous decision to throw away our considerable influence in the EU when it gives us no advantages. Of course it is possible that the seat of power is occupied by people who do not have the wit to understand their duties, but despite the appearance that this is the case we much hold out hope that they do know what they are doing, or that they have the wisdom to realise they need to find a solution to the evident disaster that we are currently being pulled into as surely as a comet that has been caught in the gravity of a black hole.

The question is, how could the government pull themselves away from this course of action. If the country was run by Angela Merckel then the likelihood is that she would have been advised long ago of the deleterious effects of this course of action; she would have accepted this, and she would have backed out. That does not seem to be a problem for Merckel. In Britain there is a different culture though. As we have the disadvantage of the massive direct and indirect influence of the Murdoch press, politicians are very wary of u-turns, or flip flops, or whatever term is currently being bandied about the media. In Britain realising your are wrong and changing direction is not an option. In Britain if you realise you are wrong then the main option that a politician will choose is to plough on ahead anyway and hope that something will turn up. We are governed by a bunch of optimistic political Micawbers. Clearly as nobody is always right, even myself, this attitude of ignoring the fact that as mistake has been made, will, not may, but will occasionally lead to a great deal of problems that are only justified on the childish notion of saving face.

So the solution to the entire Brexit problem is a case of saving face. At this point our government is not able to make a u-turn. This may be something that is not understood on the continent. It may be possible that the culture there does not realise there is a British tendency to continue forwards and never say die. If there is this lack of insight on the part of the EU combined with the unfortunate fallacy of British superiority then we are looking very much at a situation that appears to be an unstoppable force meeting an unmoveable barrier.

There is a way out of this though, which is why I hope that there is a machiavellian scheme being developed by the government. That should be the way in which politics is conducted so my fingers are crossed that they do realise this. In order to prevent our country from falling into the disastrous situation that appears to be ahead of us it will be necessary to win the support of those who object to remaining in the EU. There are certainly flaws with the way the EU is run and the leavers are right to realise this. Before the referendum Yannis Varoufakis made regular appearances in the media arguing that we should remain in the EU so that we could force the implementation of changes to create a better system. It is not only the British leavers who think the union has problems, it is a feeling that runs throughout the EU. If it wasn’t for the example of economic disaster and political incompetence we are displaying to the rest of the EU it is probable that political actors such as Marine le Pen might have achieved power and be moving their countries towards leaving the union as well. Our example has created a fear that has led the European leave contingent to rapidly lose the impetus they were developing.

The only way the leavers are likely to be swayed enough to give a reason for Britain to remain part of the union is if the union fixes a sufficient number of its problems that it becomes something very different to what we voted to leave. If a family voted to leave a house because it was too small, their reason would disappear if a large extension was built that expanded the size of the house. In that instance it would make sense to stay in the house, it would no longer be too small. Similarly if the EU changed so that the impression was created that we would be leaving something other than the entity we voted to leave then there would certainly be a justification to think again about whether it was what we really wanted.

Some of the problems that people worry about are easily resolved without having to make changes to the way the EU works. Immigration was a factor that bothered a lot of people. We already know that immigration can be seriously limited under the rules as they currently stand. The home office simply needs to implement those rules. Another problem that people disliked was the notion of losing control to the European Court of Justice, This was never a serious issue as the court is basically only advisory and has little more authority than it would still maintain even if we were to leave the union. A simple change in perspective will solve a lot of the problems that led to the choice of many leave voters. However aside from internally solving the problems that we are able to change there is still the issue of saving face and avoiding the accusation of having made a u-turn.

At present though, we are in a unique position that we actually have a massive amount of leverage to create positive change within the union. In the past when prime ministers have tried to negotiate to create a more favourable relationship with the EU their main motivation has been simple to get something for Britain from the EU. That would all be very well for Britain but it has quite clearly failed to impress the British voters and it has earned us a reputation throughout Europe as being quite frankly, a little annoying and entitled. Despite this the EU does actually wish to maintain our membership. The EU is weakened by the loss of a principle member state. Their loss will of course be nowhere near as disastrous as our own loss, and they also have to appear to not surrender to our demands. If they do then there are another two dozen or so nations that might also start kicking up a fuss.

Both parties recognise that they will both lose out from Brexit but on our side, we can’t back out and on their side they can’t give in. The only solution we have that is acceptable to both sides is that Britain should use its leverage to achieve change that will benefit the EU as a whole. In the past we have used less leverage and achieved small successes for selfish purposes. If we instead focus on solving European problems that are recognisable to other nations, the sort of things that are highlighted by Yannis Varoufakis then the British public will be given the impression that we have achieved a great victory. We will be part of a union that Britain has shaped to be something better than the union we voted to leave. The EU will also not have lost face because the changes that are implemented will have benefitted the union as a whole. They will probably be changes that would have been made anyway in time, so all we will have done is helped to push them through more quickly. The important things are that the EU will not have been made to look as though it has lost in front of its member nations, so there will be less likelihood of others threatening to leave in order to make selfish gains; and that Britain will have succeeded in achieving positive changes that will make the government look powerful and clever in front of the voter base. I may be a labour supporter but I must admit that such a victory by the conservatives would be a disaster for labour and would probably lead to the government actually looking like they know what they are doing, and may well secure the conservatives a second term, particularly if they are able to pull off the trick towards the end of an extended Brexit negotiation.

Diversity in all things

I am convinced that there are a number of rules that are able to be used in multiple different fields to explain things and to aid in making the right choices. I don’t plan on going into all of them now because I haven’t tried to put together an exhaustive list; I have simply noticed them coming up again and again in life. The one I have noticed is particularly relevant to current events for the last year or so is the rule that strength is found in diversity.

If you are growing a crop, or indeed any kind of garden you may not realise it but the ability of your garden to thrive will be greatly increased by diversifying the plants that you wish to grow. If you have a solid block with only one type of plant in it you will find that as soon as a pest realises how tasty that plant is there will be nothing there to distract that pest. You have made a nice big clear patch of tasty food that is going to attract creatures who will swarm across that area and finish off the whole lot unless you employ all sorts of unpleasant methods to get rid of them.

If you instead have a patch that mixes up a load of different plants then your garden becomes stronger for it. Spurges will deter things that move through the soil, lavender deters many flying pests, nettles make an attractive meal for creatures that might otherwise go for your brassicas. Simply having any plants there can act as a hiding spot for your plants so that pests don’t even realise they are there. Beyond pests bare soil allows water to evaporate off into the air while plant cover can keep the water in so that your other plants can benefit. Even amongst those farmers who do grow a single crop on a piece of land to all exclusion of other plants it is well known that over a four year period diversification in the form of a rotation system keeps the soil healthier.

The rule pops up again in regard to pets. If you have a pure bred dog then you can take it to dog shows and it will look beautiful, etc, but any dog breeder knows that pure breeds have disadvantages that mongrels don’t have. Any faults in a breed are accentuated by being bred into a breed over successive generations. A common complaint in a lot of dogs I have known is weak hind legs, and shortened lifespan. Dogs that have a diverse range of DNA derive greater strength from it. That is a central principle of evolution.

Greater diversity in DNA leads to all sorts of advantages as we take the strengths of both of our parents and hopefully leave the weaknesses. That is why we don’t marry our brothers and sisters. It is not because they are so annoying, it is because their genes are too similar to ours. Without diversity we risk the danger of unpleasant results in our children.

The rule is also clear in investment. If you have invested all your money in housing then a drop in house prices is an utter disaster. If instead you have invested partly in housing, partly in bonds, partly in stocks, partly in antiques, and partly in private business adventures then a loss in any of those areas, while unfortunate is not going to irreparably damage your finances. That diversity is your strength; that is what keeps you afloat in the midst of disaster.

In the running of a business there are also similar advantages of diversity. When building a team for a project you want to have all skill sets represented in order to be able to get the best results. You need people who are good at leading, but if you had nothing but leaders your team would see a lot of conflicts, you also need people who are good at following. You need people who are good at coming up with ideas, but you also need people who are good at putting those ideas into actions. You need people who can get a lot of work done quickly, but you will also need people who are good at ensuring fine details get the attention they need. All these qualities are unlikely to exist in the same person so you need the diversity offered by many different people in order to form the strongest team.

If I racked my brains I could probably come up with many examples of diversity being a form of strength in many different situations. That would detract from the central message I want to get across. The problem today is that people do not realise how important the strength of diversity is. In America over the last few days we have had neo-nazis marching against the diversity that comes from different races sharing a common land. In Britain we are living through the extended process of Brexit because people think that being part of a community of like minded nations makes us weaker instead of stronger.

Personally I support remaining in the EU, but that is because I recognise that diversity gives strength rather than weakens us. There are certainly flaws in the system but those are things to be fixed. Thanks to the diversity of the EU nations it is unlikely that issues will remain unfixed; anything that favours one nation or group above the others will find opposition from the nations it doesn’t favour. If you want to see what comes from losing that diversity then the economic losses being seen in Britain at present are a good place to start looking.

I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, but I have books on history, sociology, biology, etc, etc. I have too many books to be able to read them all to tell the truth. Those books allow me to see what has been and what currently is. From seeing how things have worked in the past it gives a reasonable impression of what is likely to happen in the future. Where we lose diversity we create gaps in our defences. We need to fill those gaps in order to strengthen ourselves; we can’t build a wall with only bricks, we need mortar as well.

Thankfully there are people fighting to create greater diversity. We have more women becoming politicians, or judges, we have young black women making strides in entering universities like Cambridge which were once homogenous groups of white males. However wherever there are people trying to increase diversity there is also opposition. People need to realise that increasing diversity doesn’t just benefit those new elements that we allow into our societies and groups; increasing diversity benefits all of us. Even when it appears to give individuals disadvantages they didn’t previously have, it also gives those individuals a stronger environment in which to live. It increases competition and makes their world a better place because of that strength.

A few thoughts on Karma

When you think about it on a mathematical and a psychological level karma must exist. Psychologically we all maintain an approximate balance so that we cannot be too happy or too miserable in perpetuity. This can be seen in the difference between people who live in first world nations and those who live in third world nations. Those of us who are blessed to have computers and electric, houses to live in, etc have different things to feel bad about, we can have bad days, we can even feel suicidal. Those who live with none of these benefits, no house, no electric, no food, etc can have good days; they find their joy elsewhere. If someone who is in a 1st world country will kill themselves out of misery then they obviously feel worse than someone in a third world country who is not miserable enough to kill themselves. The result of this internal balance which draws our feelings and sensations back towards a central stable area will mean that anyone who takes advantage of others for their own gain will achieve nothing because their experience will always pull back towards that central average.

It is similar in action to the way a drug user will gradually feel less joy at using their drug and will always want more an more. There is never any way in which a person can have more than others on an internal experiential level on any lasting basis. In fact there is also no way that a person can maintain an average feeling of sensation unless they are mentally damaged in some way because their experience will always be fluctuating either side of the central average or else the highs will have no lows to contrast against in order to be able to recognise the difference in them.

This psychological tendency to always aim for balance works in tandem with the mathematical tendency for numbers to always balance out. If you roll a dice millions of times you will ultimately find that any particular number will have approximately the same chance as any other number coming up. Life may be more complex than a six sided die but the same principle will apply. Over time things will have a tendency to average out. You may have a number of good days but you will also have a number of bad days in how fate tends to treat you. One day you will find a penny and on another day you will lose a penny. If you work harder you will earn more but if you work less hard you will earn less.

Most of the time this principle is very easy to see in action. The outliers are the problem in this theory. Human experience could be represented on a bell curve where most experience will be in the centre of the bell curve and at the edges there will be a few who seem remarkably lucky or remarkably unlucky. I have already pointed out that these outliers will have their experience drawn to a central stable set of feelings so the appearance of good luck or bad luck is merely an appearance as it seems to those viewing their experience from outside. The homeless person has advantages in some manners and, believe it or not, the wealthy person also has disadvantages. For instance, when you can afford anything you want instantly, then where is the joy of anticipation?  You move from one purchase to another experiencing a fraction of the joy any of those purchases would give one of us. Likewise, if you are cold and wet then the sheer pleasure you can feel from the occasions when you step into the warm and put on dry clothes are unimagineable to someone who has never had that experience. So once again we see the action of the psychological manifestation of karma combining with chance to always see that balance is achieved.

When it happens that someone seems to experience misery or joy for longer than seems natural then it is usually because they have imposed that upon themselves. Someone who has done something bad to another person will often feel guilty about it and that sensation of guilt will force them to judge themselves badly, while someone who has brought joy to others will go away with a warm feeling of having done the right thing. This has been proven in experiments where people were given money and told to go out and spend it. At the end of the day their feelings of happiness were compared to the beginning of the day and it was discovered that those who had helped others with the money felt far more happiness than those who had spent it on themselves. This is probably an evolutionary mechanism that is inbuilt by the mutual protection we gain from living in groups above the danger that individuals would have felt if living alone in the wild. This nature of cooperation and sharing would have greatly facilitated communal living and seen reciprocaton from others, which of course is a far more obvious manifestation of karma achieving balance between individuals.

The obvious exception to this would be sociopaths who feel little compulsion to help others due to their limited empathy. Hoever even sociopaths have been shown to have emotions, although on a greatly reduced level, so even they will be able to feel unhappiness or happiness in response to their actions. Additionally the greatly diminished state of their emotional level could be considered by those who have a typical experience of joy to be a punishment in itself. Plus the sociopath will often have had to have been through a horrific experience to damage their mind in that way so the loss of emotion is once again a way in which the psyche tries to achieve the central balance and withdraw from the extreme of the horror that they have already experienced.

In essence it ultimately becomes impossible for anyone to ever experience any joy over and above their fellow humans, no matter how much they take advantage of them, but similarly as karma dictates, noone is able to experience more misery than their fellow beings. Balance will always be achieved in the end.

However I am certain that everyone reading this will be uncertain about this conclusion.  Everyone knows of somebody, or is somebody who has suffered a terrible life changing incident that has greatly reduced their overal happiness.  There is certainly evidence that such circumstances can impact upon a person’s ability to feel happiness in their lives.  Regardless of what conclusions you draw from this evidence there still may be a way for karma to redeem itself, but to do so the conversation must pass into areas that are somewhat more philosophical.  In religion the problem is easily dealt with through reincarnation or the afterlife.  There are certain harshnesses to the idea of hell and heaven but karma is more likely to be associated with reincarnation.

I am not going to step into discussion of contiuity from one life to another but I will propose that in the event of reincarnation, if it does indeed exist, we are unable to retain memories from previous lives.  If we did then there would be little point in reincarnating in a form to learn the lessons of the previous life as we would simply continue where we left off.  Given the lack of memory actual physical continuity is not necessary as much as a mathematical continuity.  Indeed the essence of spiritual issues is their detachment from the physical.  The question should therefore centre around how much spiritual existence resembles physical existence.  All that would be needed for the corresponding and contrasting life to come into existence following the end of our own would be the laws of averages.  To put it simplistically, if at one point a person has behaved heinously and must therefore be taught the error of his ways then a corresponding life must come into existence in which those lessons can be learnt, perhaps the life of a devout monk or the life of a beggar.  As there is no memory from one life to another there is a missing continuity between the death of the one and the birth of the next.  Additionally there is no physical continuity.  There is a ‘spiritual’ continuity but what exactly does that mean?

 

Essentially, do we have individual souls?  The answer according to many religious and philosophical beliefs is that ultimately we are all one.  We all have god within us and we are seeking for reunification, etc, etc, etc.  Unsatisfying though it might seem, the only continuity necessary appears to be that the death of one with the birth of the other must both be connected by being related by both being part of the same existence.  Given the perceived nature of an all powerful god it is not even necessary that the two lives should exist consecutively.  The nature of us all being one, means, that in the formless nature of a fluid universe, we can in our ‘spiritual’ aspect be experiencing two contrasting lives separately and simultaneously.  Such is the nature of being part of a unified spiritual embodiment that is purported to have omnipotence.  To give it any limitation in that regard or to insist it follows the laws of physics misunderstands the nature of omnipotence and the power it has to be governed by physical laws, yet simultaneously not governed.  Naturally this falls a little outside the previous arguments I have made but considering karma is a theory that has always been considered to fall in line with the more esoteric ways of thinking it would probably be inappropriate not to cover some of the less conventional and scientific manners in which the concept could be described.

Naturally, if we need to rely on this final hypothesis, that can be difficult to come to terms with if we do not already believe in some kind of spiritual world already.  The impossibility of seeing beyond death or before birth renders any concerns academic.  The logic falls into place upon certain assumptions, but even if those assumptions prove to be false it makes little difference.  Similarly to a legal fiction this is a fiction that explains an idea and process, but does so in such a way that is not verifiable by material means.  Unfortunately this means that we have to rely on faith alone to accept this final argument as it is a faith based argument.  The positive side is that it makes no difference whether we believe it or not, so the action of faith is to simply take it for granted in the same way as Pascal might wager.

Corbyn and national defence

I am sure I can’t be the only one thinking this but there seems to be little said about it online.  Jeremy Corbyn needs to pledge massive support for Britain’s intelligence agencies.  There are constant accusations being laid against him that he is not taking Britain’s security seriously.  The controversy behind his decision not to back trident has been overblown.  We do not need trident and will never use trident but that is not to say that we don’t need protection.

We are fortunate to live on an archipelago/island in Britain which gives us a moderate amount of safety against many attacks from other nations but being known as the little satan due to our special relationship with the US is evidence that there are people out there who do not particularly care for us.  There are essentially two ways of ensuring our safety.  One is the gung ho approach that is currently being taken by stronger military powers and the other is to know enough that we can stop trouble before it starts.

In a modern liberal society there is a certain amount of distaste felt about the idea of killing people who upset us.  Even in World War I there were conscientious objectors, a trend that has increased throughout the twentieth century and will probably continue to increase as long as our own people are not trodden down completely by those who are in power.  For this reason it makes sense that we should be taking the second option of combatting opposition with intelligence.  The hallmark of modern society is the way in which we apply our intelligence.  In something as sensitive as national security it makes sense that we should apply intelligence to an even higher degree.

In addition to this rather obvious reasoning is the continued speculation that the internal intelligence services are observing the rise of the current labour leader with some trepidation.  A pledge to support the intelligence services to a far higher degree than the current government would do a lot to ensure backing from within their hidden ranks.

Trident may work as a deterrent, but it might as well be a series of giant cardboard cutouts for all the likelihood of it ever being deployed, even by a gung ho prime minister.  It is an expensive bluff.  The intelligence services are no bluff.  They are actually doing their work, unseen, in the background.  There is a lot of worry about exactly what that work is but investment is not going to make that worse.  Investment will enable them to use greater precision and discernment.  It will increase our security and ensure that they can direct their efforts where they are really needed.

The money that is spent on Trident, if spent on MI6/GCHQ/MI5 would continue to act as a deterrent.  Any foreign power that is not afraid of that much investment in intelligence needs to invest in a little more intelligence themselves.  Additionally this deterrent will be operating not only as a deterrent, it will actually be doing its job as well.
Cardinal Richilieu was infamous for his network of information gatherers.  That is what is needed by Corbyn.  Given the number of objections by the more powerful sectors in society he needs as much help as he can get to defend against them.  The dual benefit of actually supplementing Britain’s defence in a meaningful and cost effective manner is simply a bonus to the benefit that such an approach could give him.  It is all very well having a great defensive power but it would be far better to have the knowledge that would enable us not to need it.

The possibility of action against Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli has been in the news of late due to the interesting tactic of buying a biotech company and raising a drug price by approximately 5000%.  Pills which had started at $13.50 and had only risen about 5 dollars suddenly find themselves at $750 per pill.  While it is certain that there will be people out there who are prepared to pay that sort of figure in order to stay alive there will be a vast majority who simply cannot afford it.  If my life depended on pills that cost $750 each then I would be saying my goodbyes.  The likelihood that many potential customers would simply die is not good for the bottom line of any company.  First rule of business, as any insurance company will tell you, is maintain the life of your customers.

So with the likelihood that many people simply could not pay one has to wonder how profitable it could possibly be to raise prices so high, especially when it also leads to you becoming one of the most hated men in the world.  It may be that the figures do balance out and that Shkreli would really be able to lose a huge number of customers if enough people can afford to pay his exorbitant prices.  It may be that there are more nefarious purposes behind his actions.  A look into Shkreli’s past certainly suggests that nefarious purposes are not a thing that would slip his attention.

Shkreli’s success began when he was only 17.  He suggested a particularly savvy deal in biotech which turned out to be so savvy that it led to an investigation for insider trading.  Although the investigation did not find anything the continuance of suspicious circumstances accumulates a sensation of caution in relation to Shkrelin’s character.  He was later discovered using multiple twitter accounts to give the appearance that his investments were better value than they actually might have been.  For instance Fusion.net report a tweet worded “Damn Bruh, if Cohen is buying then your boy is buying too, nahmean.”

Fusion describe this as a seeming violation of securities law as well as of good taste.  They make no mention of any action being taken though.

The rest of the article makes interesting reading as it mentions Shkreli being accused by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington of making inaccurate and misleading statements about the effectiveness of drugs in order to improve his position in regard to short investments.

Additional suspicious behaviour includes a very recent case in which he was sued for 65 million dollars by one of his own companies for allegedly using their funds to pay back customer losses in another company that he had recently opened.  A tactic that has a flavour of Charles Ponzi all over it.

All told there are a lot of suspicious circumstances in Shkreli’s past which certainly seem to suggest that his approach is not the most ethical, but then can you really expect ethical behaviour from someone who is prepared to hike the price of a vital life saving medicine by 5000%.  There is a line between purely unethical behaviour and behaviour that can draw criminal sanctions.  So far Shkreli seems to have been quite free of criminal sanction but the question has to be considered, is this because he is an innocent who has never committed a crime, or is it pure luck?

The price rise he brought about seemed to have an immediate effect on the nasdaq biotech prices which dropped 4.41% on Monday.  If you were the sort of person who was in the business of short selling then you could easily see the value in being able to effect this sort of change.  It may be far fetched for someone with the limited set of thinking skills Shkreli demonstrates to anticipate the likelihood of major changes being announced in response to his actions but Clinton’s tweet was not completely unforeseable. Since then Shkreli has said that he will lower the price to one that is more affordable.  There are times in Shkreli’s past where he has made similar price rises to drugs; it would be interesting to see how the nasdaq was affected the last time he made a price rise of a couple of thousand percent.  Previously the rise was one that was only from about $1.50 to about $30.  That is an increase that could be imagined as being payable.  The current increase would make a year’s treatment for toxoplasmosis rise to over half a million dollars.  The benefits of selling things cheaply are obviously not easy to understand in the world of Martin Shkreli.

Certainly with the list of interesting incidents above you could imagine anyone who was deliberately trying to influence stock prices would be getting gradually bolder and bolder.  There is no doubt in my mind or the mind of most people that Shkreli’s ethics are more than questionable.  Could this be the time that legal action eventually succeeds against him.  It is difficult to say as I am not yet aware of legal action being proposed on the grounds of market manipulation.  The information available about Shkreli on the internet shows that he is often the centre of controversies and legal actions for various courses of action that have surprisingly received little legal scrutiny.

There are people out there who wish to try and pursue Shkreli on any charges whatsoever, attempted genocide is one suggestion that I have heard.  It seems that the evidence for a charge on market manipulation grounds would be favourable to anyone who is pursuing Shkreli.  It is true that he probably has access to some incredibly talented lawyers but in the instance of biotech stock dropping by 4.41% across the nasdaq he has had an effect on a lot of other very powerful people.  Where it may be that a blind eye is turned towards a lot of white collar crime the chances of that eye being turned full on in maximum scrutiny must be far higher where there are high powered victims of your actions.  It is often in reaction to the greatest rogues that major improvements to legislation and legal infrastructure are made.  If it hadn’t been for world war II there may have been no Human Rights Act or EU.  Perhaps Shkreli deep down inside felt that the world of copyright and patent trolls was so egregious that he needed to force the hand of politics to introduce legislation to deal with it.  Perhaps, but probably not.

Objective sanity in a crazy world, or madness in a sane world. Probably both.

I was reminded of my byeline today.  A sane voice in an insane world or vice versa.  When I originally wrote this I saw the truth that lay within but largely wrote is out of a sense of humour.  The reason I was driven to think of it today was because of discussion of psychological disturbance in Oliver James’ book Britain on the Couch.

It shows how good my attention span is these days that I have taken to writing a blog by something that was mentioned at the beginning of chapter one.  At least I made it through the introduction anyway.  James describes the case of Jim, a lawyer who has led a fairly successful life and has had no history of mental illness.  He has reached the age of 33 and is progressing well in his career and is married to what sounds like a marvelous and intelligent girl.  Things begin to fall apart on a trip to Scotland with an old friend from university.

In Scotland Jim is convinced to try MDMA.  The result is a weekend of deep introspection that leads to a crisis.  Jim realises that his life does not hold the meaning he had previously accepted it did.  The MDMA seems to have pulled the trick of enhancing Jim’s world view so that he can look at his own life from a distance with a far broader viewpoint and what he sees leaves him in serious conflict.

That is as far as my attention span has so far allowed me to read, but it got me thinking.  Jim’s life is relatively successful but he has been conditioned like most of us to plug away at his job day after day as one of the cogs in the mechanism of society.  It is probable that Jim is giving himself too little credit for his importance but it has led him into crisis.  The crisis strikes me as being a sign of having been overwhelmed by an insane society.

We all need to survive and we do that by fitting into our niches the best we can.  Sanity is to conform to the standard set by everyone else around us.  If we look normal then we are normal.  When we stop being normal it becomes pretty obvious to the rest of the world.  We become the loony, the mad bloke that everyone avoids.  The problem is that in being normal we are conforming to a society that has no objective comparators in our daily experience.

If we look far enough we can see the example of many other different societies but largely they are all in as much difficulty as our own.  Corrupt politicians and collapsing economies seem to be a theme to most advanced societies.  In order to really make a judgement about the way in which a society operates we need to take years of study at university, perhaps even writing a Phd before our understanding is solid enough to take action.  Or we could pop some MDMA on a weekend away like Jim did, and then those years of understanding will hit home in about 20 minutes instead of 5 or 6 years.  It is hardly any wonder it caused a crisis.

The things about which Jim was concerned within his life were simply who he was.  They were aspects of his nature as a homo sapien and of the world around him.  The resultant neuroses was the natural response in someone who has not had the chance to build a coping mechanism to deal with the circumstances in which he found himself.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
This ultimately led me to realise that the world around us all is mad but only when held up in comparison to our ability to cope with it.  If we can cope with the world then it is relatively sane.  If we can’t cope with it then we appear to be insane, though really if the world is that difficult to cope with then it is hardly a shining example of balance itself.  Perhaps my byeline should read that I am a sane voice in a sane world and an insane voice in an insane world simultaneously.  Though that is far less catchy.

A direction for Syria

Syria is an issue that demands new ways of dealing with conflict.  The majority of the public concede that more refugees must be accepted, a point with which the prime minister appears to also agree now.  The problem with refugees is that many consider them to have a similar effect on their destination nation as economic migrants would, so much so that the distinction between migrant and refugee has been one of the points of contention during the last few weeks.

Any government which has a major issue to deal with must seek to find the strengths in the situation rather than simply run scared from the problems.  David Cameron infamously said that the solution to the crisis was not simply to accept more refugees.  In this he is correct; the solution must go further than this.  Opportunities must be sought to help those refugees in regaining their lives and their self respect.

It has been suggested to me that training refugees in how to fight and wage a war might be a solution, so that they can return to their nation and reclaim it for themselves.  Whilst it is certain that many of them are currently unprepared for the conflict around them it is also certain that many of them are plainly not going to fit into the mold of a soldier.  If this nation were overcome by war how many of the people you know would plainly not be up to the task of fighting in the traditional position of a soldier.

Likewise, military action and airstrikes are considered to be a necessary path for foreign governments.  Military action is one of the courses that people oppose on idealistic grounds.  For many it is simply out of the question, like suggesting a cull of squirrels to a group of vegans, it is not going to be taken well.  While I do not offer opinions on potential military action I accept that it might be the chosen method of those in power and at present it might not be the time to resist that decision.

My opinion on the path to resolving the situation lies in knowledge.  Perhaps it is my past as an educator that compels me to consider knowledge to be the most important way forward, just as I would assume by brother, the military strategist, to support military action.  Different people from different walks of life will have different ideas which must be respected on the strength of their experience and specialist knowledge.  And there lies that world ‘knowledge’ again.

The people who are currently being forced out of their country bring with them a great deal of knowledge and they also need a great deal of knowledge.  They should be trained, but the training should not be in basic fighting skills.  In a nod to the military perhaps they should at least be trained in strategy and logistics, but mainly they need training in problem solving, team building, diplomacy, and other arts of gentle control.  Britain or any other nation should not be considered a final destination for any refugee.  These other nations should be considered places where they can regroup and discover methods and ways in which they might regain their homeland.

The communication that is allowed by the use of the internet will enable a political state to exist without geographic boundaries.  It is possible for people living in Berlin or London to communicate with people living in small villages in Devon.  Refugees must be aided in organising themselves as a cohesive group while also allowing them to integrate into any host societies.  The inevitable result of segregating them would ultimately be resentment on the part of hosting native populations.

While integrating with host nations, the refugees would be able to create cohesive groups to try and find solutions to their own problems without the need to rely on others to take action.  Offering them training in bureaucratic and diplomatic arts would give them more peaceful weapons to win back their homes.  In exchange they can offer knowledge of their own.  People who live in nations outside the conflict need to hear about what is happening, why it happened and what led up to it happening.  The arabic language they speak is something that more of use should grow accustomed with considering the way world politics is currently shaping itself.
This exchange of information would strengthen not only them but us as well.  While I am sure that military maneuvers may be inevitable just as David Cameron asserted the solution was not simply to accept more refugees, I assert the solution is also not simply to rely on further escalation of conflict.

Since writing this I have had my attention drawn to this additional content:  https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14710-britains-syrian-diaspora-unites-to-build-peace-in-their-homeland .  It is uncanny how closely it connects with what I have written and is probably more worthy of being read due to the information and facts contained within.

Polyglotism

Polyglot is a word that is new to most people’s vocabularies.  It describes someone who learns multiple languages.  It seems kind of ironic in that learning foreign languages you become something for which you must learn a new word in English.  The word was probably popularised more by Benny Lewis who has turned an inability to learn foreign languages into an ability to pick them up at a seemingly unnatural pace, claiming three months is adequate for fluency.  He has now even published a book by the title ‘fluent in three months’ or ‘Fliessend in Drei Monaten’, which I presume he translated himself.

As more and more jobs are taken up by robots and finding employment becomes harder language ability becomes ever more important.  There are many jobs that people believed could never be automated which are increasing danger of being handed over to machines, if they have not already been.  It can be difficult to say which jobs are unlikely to be given to machines in the future.  Skills and abilities that are considered to be things only humans can do are quickly being developed to a higher and higher extent in computers.  Looking at how man made items are still appreciated over mass produced products it seems there is likely to always be options for craftsmen but language and translation looks like its value is disappearing.  Google translate, real time voice translation and cameras that translate signs are all putting extra nails in the coffin of employability.

Language learning is in far less danger than it appears though.  Direct personal interaction is one of those skills where humans are definitely recognised as an essential part of the process.  Conversation is an art and a translator in an important business deal or a political exchange has a more important role to play than it first seems.  A translator is able to subtly affect the meaning of phrases and terms by things as simple as tone of voice.  Whether all translators realise this is uncertain.  To be able to speak directly without any intervening need for a translator (human or otherwise) is a mark of respect that can win points in a deal with people from other nations.  It is additionally a skill that reaps benefits in the distant future as it has been shown that an ability with multiple languages can protect against the brain disorders that become increasingly inevitable as you grow older.

Think of how much more enjoyable it is to watch a foreign movie without having to read subtitles and without having to listen to bad dubbed on sound.  Not to mention the beauty of hearing interesting new words; a term I heard that I particularly liked the other day was Brannen Skadet in Norwegian, even though it means fire damaged it feels so nice coming off the tongue.  If you appreciate the beauty of old literature and poetry then just imagine how it must feel to read old literature and poetry in Dutch, a language that has some fantastic 18th century words.

If anything the wealth of computer translation software is most likely to increase our natural capacity to speak other languages.  The fact that you are reading this in English probably means you are likely to know fewer languages than the people of most nations of the world simply because they often have to learn English on top of their native language.  This puts an advantage in their direction as they prove that in addition to anything you can do they can also speak their own language natively.  Sites like duolingo and memrise seem to be appearing all the time; apps on the smartphones offer multiple ways to learn multiple languages.  It becomes easier all the time to learn new languages.  If you don’t want to make an extra effort then it is still easy to simply turn on subtitles in DVDs to expose yourself to different languages.
As far as my usual blogs go this one is a bit self indulgent, but if it can encourage a single person to enrich their life with a new language then I am glad to have written it.  It can be very important to dismiss language skills now that it is so easy to get good translations but there are so many reasons aside from the desire to obtain a translation that mean language learning will remain of importance to us far into the future, if not forever.

Who invited Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn seems to have done something that nobody has managed for many decades.  He is making politics seem interesting.  Last year when we had Russell Brand telling us not to bother voting because it was a waste of time and our voices made little impact on the actions of the political clone army that run things, a lot of people listened.  Or at least they felt their own suspicions were being backed up by a nominal comedian/celebrity.  Throughout my whole life politics has been dull; when it threatens to get interesting there is a political reaction that injects so much new dullness that I couldn’t describe it to you without you leaving this page to go and do something more interesting instead.  Fortunately I wouldn’t tell you anyway as when it happened I think I might have fallen asleep or urgently gone to watch some paint drying.

Of course they say that the darkness is at its thickest just before dawn; of course this is complete rubbish, it is actually darkest in the middle of the night, but the analogy may apply in politics.  Just about when politics was at its indisputably highest levels of dullness, corruption, disenfranchisement, and many other negative things Jeremy Corbyn just seems to have popped up out of nowhere.  At one point there was a labour leadership contest full of contenders and then suddenly the selfsame leadership contest also had Jeremy Corbyn, who nobody seemed to have invited and he was busy doing things that nobody liked who was in the party.  If it was an ordinary party like those you go to on Saturday night then Corbyn would essentially have turned up at about 10:30 with a couple of six packs and a crate of wine; he would have taken Justin Bieber off the stereo and tossed the CD out of the window before putting on a mix he made himself of Led Zeppelin, The Blue Oyster Cult, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and other similarly non Bieber fare.  Unfortunately it would appear he turned up to a party being held by a pair of accountants to celebrate their new conservatory designs, and they are planning to get up early in the morning.

Jeremy Corbyn is the most popular choice with voting labour members because he is undoubtedly the only hope that labour has for being taken seriously as a party for the people in the future, and the only chance that labour has of offering a viable alternative who would be worth voting into parliament.  He is also the most popular choice with the tories because he will obviously prevent labour being taken seriously in any way whatsoever and will destroy any chance they have of ever being a viable alternative to the conservative party and getting into power.  He is also the least favoured choice of the labour voter on account of these same reasons, but he is also the least favoured choice of the typical tory on account of he may actually make the world a nice place to live for people who don’t have so much money that they could upgrade a slurry pit into a nice place to live if they really wanted to.

Of course it is difficult to see the future so anyone who is working towards a definite strategy only really has about a 50% chance of being successful.  Condorcet used to reckon that a large enough group of people were capable of making decisions between them that would usually be correct.  Condorcet didn’t have access to the knowledge of modern psychology that points out that most people will follow the opinions of any idiot who speaks loudly and confidently enough.  It is therefore difficult to accurately choose which outcome will occur if Corbyn gets in.  Personally I cling to the beautiful irony of all the tories trying to influence things to help him get in only to discover that the result is a Labour government that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Miliband came closer than many people think during the last election.  It has been expertly hushed up that his government actually got more votes that Blair did last time he was voted into power.  It seems that all the achievements of labour have been kept quiet recently.  I can only imagine that David Cameron’s background in marketing has allowed him to keep all the good ad men to himself.
I don’t feel that this is my argument to take part in.  Many of my friends will no doubt be horrified by this.  Most people I know are very vocal in their support for Corbyn.  I could easily be swayed towards him, in fact I think I have already been swayed towards him.  Previously I would have said that the strategic vote was more important for gaining power than the idealistic vote but when I think of how many people feel disenfranchised by modern politics it is probable that strategy and idealism are walking hand in hand at the moment.  I feel for the old conservative labour view that all these new labour members are really being quite unfair in coming into their club and noisily messing things up; I kind of think it is not my place to do so, but to all those who are currently shaking things up for the future of the labour party I salute you and wish you well.  I hope the choices you make work out for all of us.