Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Archive for May, 2016

Rapid growth

A lot of EU citizens who live in Britain are worried that they will be forced out if the UK voters decide next month to withdraw from the EU. The Leave campaign dismisses this, and all concerns that anyone might have about this radical step, as “Project Fear”:

Clearly any EU citizen that is legally here if we come out of the EU would absolutely have the right to remain here. Any other suggestion is just absurd.

Given that the main point of Brexit is to reduce immigration from the Continent, and given that tempers are likely to flare when the fate of said migrants (on both sides) are negotiated, and given that current UK law clearly would not give most of the EU citizens who are here the right to permanent residency, it’s clearly not absurd to worry. To adapt an old saw, even those whom political campaigners are trying to make paranoid, have real reasons to worry.

Well, from the NY Times, here’s some non-evidence:

Rose Carey, the head of immigration at Charles Russell Speechlys, a global law firm based in London, said she had seen an “unprecedented amount” of applications for British citizenship in the last few months.

“Historically, E.U. nationals didn’t really bother applying for a British passport,” she said. “It used to be a couple hundred a year to now five queries a week.”

From a couple of hundred a year to five a week — that’s pretty rapid growth!

“Different methods”

Boris Johnson, proud of his subtle grasp of history, and of the Second World War in particular, has contributed to the Brexit debate by comparing the EU to the Third Reich:

“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” he says. “The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”

I appreciate that goals and intentions are important, but one would tend to think that at some point, if the “methods” are sufficiently different, it does make a qualitative difference. Otherwise, one could attack the government’s attempts to calm ethnic tensions, and the grounds that Hitler also tried to resolve ethnic tensions through “different methods” (genocide rather than dialogue). Policies to ensure that businesses can find qualified workers? Sure, if you look at the details, improved education opportunities sound better than enslavement, but it’s really just quibbling over different methods.

Or plans to build motorways… well, I guess the methods weren’t particularly different, so that’s just fascist through and through.

Vintage lemonade

I was just reading Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus. I hadn’t noticed before that, among all his great accomplishments, Rilke must be counted the originator of the most characteristic cliché of our time, the one about lemons and lemonade. Or rather, in Rilke’s telling,

Ist dir Trinken bitter, werde Wein.

If the drinking is bitter, become wine.

Complete impartiality

Conservative advocates of Brexit are angry that experts whose job it is to protect the stability of the British economy are proving so stubbornly… conservative. Their narrow-minded equations only respond to the boringly conventional changes in tariffs, consumer confidence, investment flows, and the like, and seem to have no place for the growth-multiplying effect of exuberant national sense of purpose and untrammeled Britishness. The most recent offender is Bank of England governor Mark Carney (himself dangerously colonial), last seen protecting Britishness by warning the Scots of the financial implications of their own leap into national autonomy. He warned that a vote to leave the EU could devalue the pound and initiate a recession.

The Conservative Brexit response:

Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative energy minister, accused the Bank’s governor, Mark Carney, of disrupting the markets and jeopardising his independence… “It is institutional ganging up on the poor British voter who is trying to get a decent primary school place and doctor’s appointment.”

The Bank of England governor had “come out with some nonsense that is totally unjustifiable, totally speculative stuff” and predicted that he would be wishing that he had not done it, she said…

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a backbench Tory MP, said Carney should be fired and had become highly politicised in what was meant to be an impartial role.

Yes, we need to protect the impartiality of the Bank of England by firing its governor when his advice supports one side in a political argument.

Surfin’ NSDAP

I think we can all agree that the entire 20th century has conspired to make this sentence from the April 11 1933 NY Times the most bizarre political analogy since the New Jerusalem:

Screenshot 2016-05-12 09.28.28

Cleverly mixing his sports metaphors, Rev. Clinchy went on to say

Germany has been down for the count of nine and now she is arising to her feet and beginning to assert herself, and Hitler knows how to capitalize on that.

Hitler and Germany conducting a boxing match on a surfboard. The cartoon practically draws itself.

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