Saturday, April 29, 2017

On Marche?

As cures for populism go, the French one is already looking a bit, well, homeopathique

Is anyone really that convinced by the whole insider-outsider ploy? Only in France perhaps, where acting all superior is actually a valid variant of the common touch. 

Frenchness and middle of la rue, centrist, fence-sitting politics are such an absurdly unlikely match-up, that Macron's novel movement En Marche! has almost inevitably achieved the sort of rebel cachet that most establishment rearguard actions could only dream of. 

The trouble is I think that most jubilant market commentators, especially in the US, have failed to brush up on the French constitutional system, which differs from the American model in at least one important respect: the executive and legislature cannot function properly unless driven by the same basic political tendency. 

So Macron, a candidate whose would-be party currently has a grand total of zero MPs, will have some work to do prior to the June parliamentary elections and most probably throughout any term as Le President

Just because people are prepared to vote for him to keep Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace does not mean that constituency voters will behave quite so tactically. 

As James Fenby observed in this week’s Spectator: ‘A movement that came from nowhere could all too easily dissolve like snowflakes in the sun’. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Media Bias

The snap election campaign is but a day or two old and already the Corbynites are pre-emptively calling out media bias. I can see this getting as tedious as listening to the Special One whingeing about alleged unfair treatment from referees; often before the match has even been played. .

Readers from outside the UK might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Even before we were all formally walled off inside our social media silos, bias was pretty much what the media was supposed to be about. But in over in Blighty we have a national broadcaster tasked with a state-sponsored mission to at least appear impartial: Aunty, aka the BBC.

This provides both sides with a perennial opportunity to act out their inner Mourinho. Naturally, they never accuse the Beeb of being absurdly partisan AGAINST their political opponents.

In the good old days when the polarities of British politics primarily involved progressive vs conservative sensibilities, the BBC could make a decent enough show of balance. But cripes, nowadays it’s all urban vs rural, educated vs unlettered, cosmopolitan vs nationalist, expert vs fuckwit etc. So an organisation such as the BBC  at its core urban, educated, cosmopolitan and (usually) expert  is basically up a gum tree. Even if we were only talking about inclusive vs narrow, it would surely be hard to be balanced and narrow at the same time.

Anyway, bias as used by the Left is in some ways the equivalent of division as employed by the Right — revealing how they would all prefer it if their messages could, if at all possible, arrive unfiltered at the trough where the cattle are to imbibe them.


Feeling kind of envious of the Froggies for (possibly) having found a way to stick one to the existing political order without simultaneously appearing half-witted...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Forked Paths

Self-consciously classless America is possibly the worst place imaginable to be leading the global cascading revolt against elites.

Classes are the headline acts in complex social ecosystems, but instead the US chooses to engage a set of stereotypical tableaux which it constantly plays back to itself through the sovereign medium of its cultural specula.

On my very first visit to America at 13 years of age I found myself within days of my arrival at that elite gathering - brunch at the Boca Ratón Club - which authentically featured a tuxedo'd string quartet playing The Hunt (K458) by Mozart. (Granted, in the Hollywood version of this scene, it is invariably Vivaldi providing the gilt-edged muzak.)

In that self-mythologising land, the person entering such a dining space with no clue about which sort of fork to use with which dish is a de facto social hero or heroine.

You can bang on until the vets with PTSD come home about the underlying radicalism of the American Revolution, but it was essentially a non-comformity of individuals who didn’t know which fork to use.

And this rebellion has never been far below the surface of American small-d democracy and freedumb. Hence the current incumbent of the White House - who looks like a member of the elite to any bien-pensant euro-chattereur, but on the other side of the pond has just the requisite number of chips on his shoulder to stand out as an insurgent.

Buscando una pinche procesión...

Cucuruchos Enojados?  Seen a few of them around.

How cool would it be to shoot a spoof of this making use of some of the purple people? 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

On the Spectrum

So the Dortmund pipe-bomber was 'on the Islamist spectrum'. What other contemporary spectra are out there? 

The Ayn Rand spectrum? La Glow is on that one for sure. 

Then there's the Wenger Out spectrum, the Corbynite (or ista) spectrum and of course the Hitler Wasn't So Bad spectrum. 

Plus the From Russia With Love spectrum...

Monday, April 10, 2017


At what point in the life of a so-called civilised society does it become permissable for a company to treat its paying customers the way that United treated that doctor? If airport security is supposed to be the early warning indicator of how our governments would really like to treat us most of the time, then the treatment we get once we make it through to the departure lounge and then on to the plane may be an indicator of how corporations would like us to submit to them. And anglophone administrations and airline corporations have only just recently combined to dream up some nonsense about exploding laptops and tablets that will help the latter compete unfairly against Middle Eastern and Asian airlines hailing from nations where an entrenched tradition of hospitality and basic civility appear to persist.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

White Elephants

Anyone who has spent any time living in and around this city must have speculated why there are so many essentially empty gated communities in the area. 

A visit to Google Earth can be instructive.

You might have already supposed that these would-be condominios are part of the wider phenomenon of over-exploitation of an actually limited economic opportunity that characterises so much of the 'entrepreneurial' exertions of La Antigua. 

We've seen it with cyber cafés, then spas and now taco joints. 

Or you could speculate that the relative returns from exploiting land for domestic real estate compared to say coffee cultivation are now so evident that speculators have been sucked into this marginal space somewhat feverishly. 

But the truth is that a significant number of these walled compounds have been tellingly situated beside roads which line the edges of the big estates. 

It's not that the big coffee fincas of DOC La Antigua are no longer able to make money from the bean. The sheer number of helicopters in the air around here at the weekends suggests otherwise. It's that advances in modern infrastructure over the past few decades have conspired to complicate their security issues. 

And so the finqueros either sell off the land on the edge of their estates or elect to 'develop' these outlying terrenos themselves. The idea being that weekending capitalinos or gullible gringos can be unwittingly co-opted into the role of wachimen

Even if nobody bites, they get a wall and a 24-hour guarida, which they have deemed sufficient deterrent to the incursive sort. 

The Absence

God knows that if he were to show himself he would cease to exist. He himself has never claimed to exist. He allows himself to be sensed only so that the problem of his existence may be posed > Jean Baudrillard

Indeed, God functions primarily as an absence for believer and non-believer alike. 

If humanity were to stumble across credible evidence for His existence, both would find themselves immediately out of business, and so too, to a large extent would God. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Burning the candle at both ends

Thanks to David Goodhart we have a new way of bifurcating entire complex societies into separate polarised tendencies: the somewheres and the anywheres.

Over-simplified of course, but let’s run with it...

Right now the revolt of the somewheres against free trade, free movement, free bathroom choice and so on is in full flow.

And it appears to be posing a significant threat to democratic life in the developed world — precisely because it is taking place through the medium of democratic institutions.

But before we had the revolt of the somewheres, we had the underhand, barely visible machinations of the anywheres, which had (and continue to have) as much potential for disrupting democracy — precisely because they deliberately bypass the medium of democratic institutions.

How you respond to Theresa May's notorious remark that  “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”, depends to a large extent on which of these two anti-democratic tendencies is currently causing you the most anxiety.