How Big Tobacco invented Donald Trump and Brexit (and what to do about it)

Economist Tim Harford (previously) traces the history of denialism and "fake news" back to Big Tobacco's cancer denial playbook, which invented the tactics used by both the Brexit and Trump campaigns to ride to victory -- a playbook that dismisses individual harms as "anaecdotal" and wide-ranging evidence as "statistical," and works in concert with peoples' biases (smokers don't want cigarettes to cause cancer, Brexiteers want the UK to be viable without the EU, Trump supporters want simple, cruel policies to punish others and help them) to make emprically wrong things feel right. Read the rest

America divided into states with the population of England

Earlier I crudely redivided the USA into states the size of California, its most populous state. This results in eight states. But what if old England, having abandoned Europe and been abandoned by Scotland and the other bits of its shabby island hegemony, somehow ended up in the Union?

Leaving aside all the actual important and interesting social and demographic consequences of such a near-future scenario, here's a dumb map of what America would look like if the current states were kept, but glommed together to form larger ones with the population of England—roughly 55m each.

Now you have six (not including England itself.)

Read the rest

Wanted: real British criminals to commit real British crimes

The artifacts that tumble out of Scarfolk (previously), the English horror-town stuck in a ten-year loop from 1970-1980, continue their amazing run of being so very much on-point with the issues facing the UK today, case in point: The Campaign for Real British Crime. Read the rest

Brexit, Chicken and Ulysses Pacts: the negotiating theory behind the UK-EU stalemate

Ever since Thomas Schelling -- an advisor on Dr Strangelove! -- published his work on negotiating theory and nuclear deterrence, we've developed a rich vocabulary for describing negotiating tactics and their underlying theories. Read the rest

Europe's top court says UK surveillance rules are unconstitutional

Last July, the European Court of Jutice's Advocate General ruled that the UK's mass surveillance regime was unconstitutional, triggering an appeal to the ECJ itself, which has affirmed that under European law, governments cannot order retention of all communications data; they must inform subjects after surveillance has concluded; must only engage in mass surveillance in the pursuit of serious crime; and must get independent, judicial authorization. Read the rest

Politics got weird because neoliberalism failed to deliver

Ian Welsh says that the USSR collapsed because its promises -- "a cornucopia and a withering away of the state" -- conspicuously failed to materialize; now, neoliberalism's promises ("If the rich have more money, they will create more jobs; Lower taxes will lead to more prosperity; Increases in housing and stock market prices will increase prosperity for everyone; Trade deals and globalization will make everyone better off") are likewise being shown to be lies, and so we're in crisis. Read the rest

Europe's Brexit negotiators will offer Britons the right to opt into EU citizenship

The European Parliament's Chief Negotiator plans to offer British nationals the right to opt into "associate citizenship" in the EU, with the right to travel and work in the continent. Read the rest

Daily Mail finds new depths to plumb, blames hypothetical immigrants for neo-Nazi's murder of Labour MP

Last June, Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi who was outraged by her anti-Brexit stance; that man is now on trial. Read the rest

Trump and Brexit are retaliation for neoliberalism and corruption

Glenn Greenwald frames what I've been trying to articulate: as neoliberalism and its handmaiden, corruption, have swept the globe, making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and everyone in the middle more precarious; as elites demonized and dismissed the left-behinds who said something was wrong; as the social instability of inequality has been countered with increasingly invasive domestic "war on terror" policing, millions of people are ready to revolt, and will support anyone who promises no more business as usual. Read the rest

British curry restaurants say the Tories betrayed them on Brexit

People involved in the £4B UK curry industry overwhelmingly backed Brexit on the promise of future easing off of visa requirements for curry chefs from south Asia, hoping to reverse the current waves of curry restaurant closures driven by a lack of skilled chefs. Read the rest

High Court tells UK government that Brexit requires a vote in Parliament

The lawsuit to force the UK government to call a Parliamentary vote before triggering Article 50 (the first and irrevocable step to pulling the UK out of the EU) has prevailed at the High Court. Read the rest

EU lies and the British tabloids who told them

Last June, the Economist ran this chart: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Directives," which documents decades of flat-out lies about EU regulations that were published in the tabloid press (many invented by the UK's post-Brexit foreign minister and Trumpian hairclown Boris Johnson, whose press colleagues considered him most reckless confabulist on European matters in their ranks). Read the rest

Price of Marmite, tasty British slime, at heart of latest Brexit imbroglio

Marmite is a popular, exceedingly British food product spread on toast, crackers or directly onto one's tongue. It is dark, sticky, and delivers a stark "love it or hate it" kick to the tastebuds. Marmite originated in the thick, yeasty dregs generated by beer production; Bovril, its great enemy on the British condiment aisle, was made in similar fashion from slaughterhouse goop. And thanks to Brexit, there is a Marmite shortage and pricing run.

When a nation’s currency suddenly falls in value, as the pound has since the Brexit vote, imports cost more. This means prices in the shops will inevitably rise. Most people can grasp that simple, frictionless, model. Yet the Marmite affair highlights that there are many other economic factors involved and that things are (rather like the polarising “yeast extract” itself) stickier in practise.

Marmite is manufactured in Burton upon Trent. This fact prompted provoked accusations of “profiteering” from some Tory MPs and right-wing newspapers. “How can a falling pound justify a price hike for a UK-made product?” they demanded to know. Some suggested that this must be a plot by Anglo-Dutch Unilever to discredit Brexit.

But Unilever does not solely manufacture Marmite. It has reduced its transaction costs and increased its profit margins by bringing a wide range of consumer products into a single multinational business.

Photo: Kent Fredric (CC-BY-2.0) Read the rest

Lawsuit would force Parliament to vote on Brexit

Gina Miller, an "investment manager," has brought a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Brexit referendum, arguing that UK law requires a Parliamentary vote on the matter before the government can act on it. Read the rest

Hate crimes spike after Brexit

The month after the Brexit vote, recorded racist verbal and physical assault rose -- and even arson -- by 41% in the UK. Read the rest

Despite Brexit, the UK is going to end up sending billions to the EU

If the UK wants access to the EU markets, it's going to have to pay billions of pounds, something that the Brexit Leave campaign conveniently neglected to mention (they also conveniently neglected to mention that even if this wasn't true, the money the UK used to pay to the EU wasn't going to be spent on the NHS). Read the rest

Report paints UK as the sick man of Europe

The pro-Brexit narrative insisted that the UK was one of Europe's greatest, most vibrant economies, and that, unshackled from European regulation, the country would be able to soar to the heights it deserves. Read the rest

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