kottke.org posts about UK
Evan Puschak examines the rise of the independence movement in Britain, from their entrance into the European Community in 1973 to Thatcher’s rumblings about EU governance to UKIP’s rise, culminating in Brexit last week. I thought this was a pretty succinct summary of right-wing political tactics:
And that’s the point about far-right political organizations: they use the fulcrum of populism and fear to lift many times their weight in people.
Update: More on the history of the movement to withdraw Britain from the EU from Gary Younge in The Guardian.
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking or the social media filter bubble I’m in, but there seems to be a more-than-zero chance that Britain won’t actually leave the European Union, despite last Thursday’s vote. For one thing, as I mentioned in my Friday AM post about Brexit, the vote is not legally binding. The Prime Minister needs to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which has not happened yet.
But there’s no requirement that the UK invoke Article 50 in a timely fashion. Indeed, both Cameron and Johnson have said they think it’s appropriate to dawdle; Cameron says he’ll leave the decision to invoke to his successor, and Johnson has said there’s no rush.
It wouldn’t be tenable for the government to just completely ignore the vote forever, even though that is legally permissible.
But perhaps not untenable. A Guardian commenter speculates that Cameron did something politically canny when he passed the buck to his successor. As the full ramifications of Leave become apparent, it may be that the consequences of leaving will be transferred from the voters to the person who decides to invoke Article 50…i.e. it may become politically untenable to leave.
Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor.
And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legistlation to be torn up and rewritten … the list grew and grew.
The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.
The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?
Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?
There’s also been talk that Scotland could veto Brexit.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the BBC that Holyrood could try to block the UK’s exit from the EU.
She was speaking following a referendum on Thursday which saw Britain vote by 52% to 48% to leave Europe.
However, in Scotland the picture was different with 62% backing Remain and 38% wanting to go.
SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said that “of course” she would ask MSPs to refuse to give their “legislative consent”.
But perhaps the most heartening bit of information comes courtesy of David Allen Green: that boat never did get named “Boaty McBoatface”, vote or no vote. Prime Minister David Attenborough anyone?
Update: From Gideon Rachman at the FT: I do not believe Brexit will happen.
Any long-term observer of the EU should be familiar with the shock referendum result. In 1992 the Danes voted to reject the Maastricht treaty. The Irish voted to reject both the Nice treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon treaty in 2008.
And what happened in each case? The EU rolled ever onwards. The Danes and the Irish were granted some concessions by their EU partners. They staged a second referendum. And the second time around they voted to accept the treaty. So why, knowing this history, should anyone believe that Britain’s referendum decision is definitive?
Update: John Cassidy writing for the New Yorker:
As reality sets in, E.U. leaders may well be content to let the Brits stew in their own juices for a while. Initial talk of forcing the U.K. to begin the process of leaving straight away has been replaced by calls for patience. Monday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal quoted Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, as saying, “Politicians in London should have the possibility to think again about the fallout from an exit.” To leave now, he added, “would be a deep cut with far-reaching consequences.” A majority of the politicians at Westminster probably agree with Altmaier’s analysis. But what, if anything, can they do to reverse the march toward Brexit?
The Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th century in Great Britain. To provide power for the wondrous new inventions producing marvelous new goods and services, coal (and later oil) was dug out of the ground and burned, releasing billions and billions of tons of carbon dioxide. In time, the speedy introduction of all this new carbon into the atmosphere caused the Earth’s climate to change.
In order to procure new resources for manufacturing and gain access to new markets for finished goods, the British Empire expanded across the globe. At some point, Great Britain invaded nearly 90% of the world’s countries. The expansion fueled climate change and created avenues for immigration to Britain from their colonies. Their activities eventually bring them to the Middle East in search of oil.
Fast forward to 2006. Drought exacerbated by climate change is one of many factors that pushed Syria into a prolonged civil war. The war triggered a humanitarian crisis and millions flee the country, becoming refugees, and some are able to migrate to Europe and other countries around the world, including Britain. The Syrian immigration issue fueled British nationalism, racism, and xenophobia, triggering a vote about whether Britain should leave the European Union. Yesterday, more than 17 million Britons voted to leave, with strong support for Leave in areas with now-empty coalfields and declining industrialization.
Coincidence? Not even close. More than 250 years on, Britain is still dealing with the effects of the Industrial Revolution. (via @EricHolthaus, @johnupton, @MichaelEMann, @chucktodd)
I awoke at 3am last night, perhaps having sensed a disturbance in the Force, read a late-night text from a friend that said, “BREXIT!!” and spent the next two hours reading, shocked and alarmed, about Britain’s voting public’s decision to leave the European Union. Although according to a piece by David Allen Green in the FT, the decision is not legally binding and nothing will immediately change with regard to Britain’s laws or EU member status, the outcome is nevertheless distressing for the reasons outlined succinctly by an FT commenter.
A quick note on the first three tragedies. Firstly it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term from the dearth of jobs and investment. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another one. Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages, and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors. Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Well novel. When Michael Gove said ‘the British people are sick of experts’ he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has lead to anything other than bigotry?
Reading this and casting your mind to Trump and the upcoming US election is not that difficult.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a book I read several years ago by Robert Wright called Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. In it, Wright argues that cooperation among individuals and ever-larger groups has been essential in pushing biological and cultural evolution forward. From the first chapter of the book:
The survey of organic history is brief, and the survey of human history not so brief. Human history, after all, is notoriously messy. But I don’t think it’s nearly as messy as it’s often made out to be. Indeed, even if you start the survey back when the most complex society on earth was a hunter-gatherer village, and follow it up to the present, you can capture history’s basic trajectory by reference to a core pattern: New technologies arise that permit or encourage new, richer forms of non-zero-sum interaction; then (for intelligible reasons grounded ultimately in human nature) social structures evolve that realize this rich potential — that convert non-zero-sum situations into positive sums. Thus does social complexity grow in scope and depth.
This isn’t to say that non-zero-sum games always have win-win outcomes rather than lose-lose outcomes. Nor is it to say that the powerful and the treacherous never exploit the weak and the naive; parasitic behavior is often possible in non-zero-sum games, and history offers no shortage of examples. Still, on balance, over the long run, non-zero-sum situations produce more positive sums than negative sums, more mutual benefit than parasitism. As a result, people become embedded in larger and richer webs of interdependence.
The atmosphere of xenophobia on display in the US, Britain, and elsewhere in Europe is affecting our ability to work together for a better future together. World War II ended more than 70 years ago, long enough in the past that relatively few are still alive who remember the factors that led to war and the sort of people who pushed for it. Putin, Brexit, Trump, the Front National in France…has the West really forgotten WWII? If so, God help us all.
P.S. I also have a couple of contemporary songs running through my head about all this. The first is What Comes Next? from the Hamilton soundtrack:
What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Do you have a clue what happens now?
And the second is a track from Beyonce’s Lemonade, Don’t Hurt Yourself:
When you hurt me, you hurt yourself
Try not to hurt yourself
When you play me, you play yourself
Don’t play yourself
When you lie to me, you lie to yourself
You only lying to yourself
When you love me, you love yourself
Britain just played itself.
Update: Excellent op-ed in the LA Times by Brian Klaas and Marcel Dirsus.
This is the glaring contradiction in the muscular nationalism of right-wing populism, blended with isolationism, that seeks to withdraw from international unions: It cannot shape a better world by shutting the world out. The same people who cheer when Trump laments the decline of American leadership want to ignore key global issues and put “America First.” The people who voted for Brexit, attempting to create a border between Britain and challenges such as the refugee crisis, seem to think Britain can solve such problems without consulting Germany or France or, worst of all to them, Brussels.
The world doesn’t work that way, and it hasn’t for decades. Ever-increasing globalization has created an unprecedented surge in prosperity, but it has also ushered in jarring changes. The rough edges of those changes can only be overcome with more aggressive cooperation and engagement, not less. Whether it’s the risks of terrorism, the tragic flow of refugees, or economic shocks, Britain cannot solve problems alone and neither can the United States.
In Twelfth Man, a short film by Duane Hopkins, you’ll witness the chaotic and occasionally ugly run-up to a football match in one of the most heated rivalries in England, the Tyne-Wear derby pitting Sunderland against Newcastle United. Watching it, I was reminded of the rhetoric and confrontations happening around the US in the presidential primaries. Turns out, equating politics with sports is not far off the mark in this case.
Sunderland and Newcastle are situated 12 miles apart in North East England. After first meeting in 1883, the teams have played a total of 155 matches, with each winning 53 matches (with 49 draws). According to Wikipedia (and ultimately sourced from a pair of texts on the two cities), the rivalry between the two cities dates back to the English Civil War in the 17th century:
The history of the Wear-Tyne derby is a modern-day extension of a rivalry between Sunderland and Newcastle that dates back to the English Civil War when protestations over advantages that merchants in Royalist Newcastle had over their Wearside counterparts led to Sunderland becoming a Parliamentarian stronghold.
Sunderland and Newcastle again found themselves on opposite sides during the Jacobite Rebellions, with Newcastle in support of the Hanoverians with the German King George, and Sunderland siding with the Scottish Stuarts.
If you’re unfamiliar with English football, the entire entry is worth a read, particularly the sections on policing and banning fans during away games and hooliganism. There’s even an entire section on players (and a couple of managers) who have played for both teams, a reminder that although rivalries may stretch back centuries and be rooted in deep political differences, money holds a powerful attraction. (Which brings us right back to the US presidential primaries…)
Update: Matches between the two teams may be hard to come by next year. With a 3-0 win over Everton on May 11, Sunderland secured a place in the Premier League next year and caused Newcastle to be relegated to the Championship, the league below the Premier League. The bitter rivalry rolls on.
Update: See also Viceland’s The Eternal Derby about a football rivalry in Serbia. Here’s the trailer for the episode:
And some footage of a pre-match riot. Intense.
Someone took the audio from a BBC News report on North Korean military parade held in honor of Kim Jong-un’s birthday and played it over footage of the parade held in London in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 89th birthday.
The succession of English/British kings and queens explained, from William the Conquerer in 1066 to little Prince George, perhaps, in 2067-ish. For a list of English monarchs organized into their houses (Plantagenet, Tudor, etc.), Wikipedia is the place to go.
In light of the ongoing policing situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer and how the response to the community protests is highlighting the militarization of US police departments since 9/11, it’s instructive to look at one of the first and most successful attempts at the formation of a professional police force.
The UK Parliament passed the first Metropolitan Police Act in 1829. The act was introduced by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, who undertook a study of crime and policing, which resulted in his belief that the keys to building an effective police force were to 1) make it professional (most prior policing had been volunteer in nature); 2) organize as a civilian force, not as a paramilitary force; and 3) make the police accountable to the public. The Metropolitan Police, whose officers were referred to as “bobbies” after Peel, was extremely successful and became the model for the modern urban police force, both in the UK and around the world, including in the United States.
At the heart of the Metropolitan Police’s charter were a set of rules either written by Peel or drawn up at some later date by the two founding Commissioners: The Nine Principles of Policing. They are as follows:
1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
As police historian Charles Reith noted in 1956, this philosophy was radical when implemented in London in the 1830s and “unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public”. Apparently, it remains radical in the United States in 2014. (thx, peter)
During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II of England has met 10 sitting US Presidents, every one from Eisenhower to Obama except for Lyndon Johnson. She also met Harry Truman as a princess in 1951 and former President Herbert Hoover in 1957.
You can see the entire progression here or here. QEII is more definitely a human wormhole.
BTW, Elizabeth is creeping up on Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning British monarch, just another two-and-a-half years to catch her. Victoria reigned during the terms of 19 different Presidents but never met any of them and had an unfair advantage…lots of short terms and one-term Presidencies back then. (via mlkshk)
Of the current 200 nations in the world, the British have invaded all but 22 of them. The lucky 22 include Sweden, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Bolivia, and Belarus. The full analysis is available in Laycock’s book, All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded.
Stuart Laycock, the author, has worked his way around the globe, through each country alphabetically, researching its history to establish whether, at any point, they have experienced an incursion by Britain.
Only a comparatively small proportion of the total in Mr Laycock’s list of invaded states actually formed an official part of the empire.
The remainder have been included because the British were found to have achieved some sort of military presence in the territory — however transitory — either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment.
Incursions by British pirates, privateers or armed explorers have also been included, provided they were operating with the approval of their government.
The US currently has military personnel stationed in all but 43 countries.
For instance, as of Sept. 30, 2011, there were 53,766 military personnel in Germany, 39,222 in Japan, 10,801 in Italy and 9,382 in the United Kingdom. That makes sense. But wait, scanning the list, you also see nine troops in Mali, eight in Barbados, seven in Laos, six in Lithuania, five in Lebanon, four in Moldova, three in Mongolia, two in Suriname and one in Gabon.
But the presence in most of those countries is due to diplomatic usage of military personnel. (thx, aaron)
Unless you’re from the UK (or watched Spitting Image and all sorts of other British comedies on PBS as an impressionable youth in Wisconsin), the observations of Parliamentary sketchwriter Simon Hoggart about the prime ministers he has covered might be too inside baseball, but I couldn’t help sharing this Thatcher anecdote about her unwitting skill with double entendre:
But Thatcher saved the best of all for her victory tour of the Falkland Islands. She was taken to inspect a large field gun, basically a ride-on lawnmower with a barrel several feet long. It was on a bluff, overlooking a plain on which another Argentine invasion might one day materialise. She admired the weapon, and the soldier manning it asked if she would like to fire a round.
“But mightn’t it jerk me off?” she replied. Chris Moncrieff of the Press Association, who was covering the visit, recorded the manful struggle of the soldier to keep his face, indeed his whole body, straight.
Actually, all the Thatcher stories are quite good. (thx, tom)
This summer’s dry English weather has been unexpectantly good for archaeology. Aerial surveys over dry cropland has revealed the outlines of several prehistoric and Roman ruins.
The surveys show marks made when crops growing over buried features develop at a different rate from those nearby.
Photos here. (via clusterflock)
A couple in London have found the ultimate space-saving solution for a city-dwelling book lover: a staircase bookshelf. UK-based Levitate Architects came up with the page-turning passage as a unique way to augment a loft sleeping space in the attic with discreet storage. If they could create a record crate bathroom, I’d be ready to move in.
The musician Tricky talks about Englishness in this interview.
We’ve always been violent, but now it’s stupidity, people kicking heads in for no reason. When I was a kid we used to fight or rob the people we wanted to fight or rob, we didn’t walk along the street, kick someone’s head in, and film it on a mobile phone. Now you’ve got a guy stood at the bus stop, minding his own business, and eight guys jump him and beat the fuck out of him, or stab him to fuck for no reason. It’s like these video games, you can go on a video game, shoot someone twenty times and they get back up again. I don’t want to sound like an old man, but when I was growing up we had films like Get Carter and Scarface. Scarface was one of the best gangster films ever. But those films were more about the threat of violence that makes it a violent. Now people use violence as a marketing tool, that’s the problem we’re having right now.
Tricky also rightly defends English food; I’ve never had anything bad to eat there, at least in London.
How big is England? Mapmakers can’t seem to agree.
So for the last two years I’ve been taking pictures of Britain on world maps. Not accurate maps, but drawings or illustrations of maps. The differences are amazing. You might assume that all maps were accurate, or at least accurate-ish. But no, designers play fast and loose with the truth making the host country bigger, more important or more central. Look at Britain in these photos. Look at the size of it compared to Europe. It’s the same, but different.
I love the averaged England near the bottom of the post. (via migurski)
Interview with Matthew Dent, the chap who designed the fantastic new UK coinage.
There were plenty of technical issues I had to come to terms with in conjunction with the distribution of metal across the coin and the high-speed striking process. At one point I considered suggesting that half the 20 pence’s border — where it met the shield — be removed. It would have still been a rounded heptagon, only its border wouldn’t completely surround the coin. There were potential issues with this; I learnt that the distribution of metal wouldn’t be balanced, thereby possibly affecting the striking of the coins and the acceptance of them by cash machines. Oh well… this competition was a learning curve. And as someone who was unfamiliar with the technical aspects of coin manufacture - you have to ask don’t you?
The new design for UK coinage is fantastic.
As you can see in the image to the right, the Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is the first time that a single design has been used across a range of United Kingdom coins.
This is my favorite bit of design so far this year. (via we made this)
Update: Jonathan Hoefler compares the new UK coins, designed by a first-time currency designer, to the new US five dollar bill.
Below, the new five dollar bill, introduced last month by the United States Department of the Treasury. The new design, which features a big purple Helvetica five, is the work of a 147-year-old government agency called the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It employs 2,500 people, and has an annual budget of $525,000,000.
It looks like Purple Modernistan is invading the US from the southeast.
It’s worth sitting through the first several minutes of this documentary on the speech patterns of Edwardian-era Britons to hear Joan Washington, the host and an accent expert, speak with several different British accents.
The line of succession to the British Throne, which has on it 1286 members. AKA, the thing you should show someone should they ask you the definition of “thorough”.
Photos from a meal at L’Enclume in the UK, where chef Simon Rogan is practicing molecular gastronomy at a high level. “I don’t think there’s a more exciting meal than this anywhere in the whole world, even [at El Bulli]. This was 24 flawless brilliant courses by a chef who is not just ‘at the top of his game’, but somewhere out in front of his rivals.” More photos and information at L’Enclume’s web site.
The Fat Duck, one of molecular gastronomy’s main outposts, recently offered a course complete with its own soundtrack served up on iPods shuffle. “Heston Blumenthal, the chef, said he wanted to experiment with using sound to enhance a dining experience. Hence the iPod, playing the soothing sound of the sea breeze and waves gently caressing the seashore.”
The British government is installing talking CCTV cameras in public places…the control center staff will be able to yell at people they see on the camera to stop littering and the like. “Smith! 6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade.”
Former bitter rivals in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists and former IRA leaders, are set to form a government coalition to work together on increasing the region’s economic growth. “After decades spent fighting each other to the death, these two movements will now share power, spending the next year or two arguing about school admissions and local water rates. Their long war is over.” (thx, elaine)
When the UK gambling industry is deregulated next year, it will be legal for gamblers to use a tiny device to cheat at roulette. The device works by listening to the wheel and how the ball bounces to predict roughly where the ball will land, reducing the odds from 1 in 38 to something a bit more manageable. (via spurgeonblog)
We’ve arrived safely in Vietnam. Saigon is by far the most European stop on our trip, which makes sense because Thailand was never colonized by a European power and Hong Kong was British and therefore not European. There are cafes, French restaurants, European architecture, public spaces like squares and parks, etc. It feels like Europe here.
And there are a lot of dongs here. The Vietnamese currency is the dong. Our hotel is just off of Dong Khoi. I’ve seen several restaurants and shops with “Dong” in the name. Beavis and Butthead would love it here; I myself have been making culturally insensitive jokes pertaining to the currency and my pants pocket all afternoon.
 The only SE Asian country never to have been so colonized.
 Hello, angry Brits! Of course you’re European, but you know what I mean. For starters, you’ve got your own breakfast, as opposed to the continental.
 The 50,000 & 100,000 dong notes are plastic and see-through in a couple spots. US currency is so not cool.
The memoirs of Winston Churchill’s bodyguard have been recently discovered. “Why, Thompson, did they allow the president [FDR], almost dying on his feet, to be there? All Europe will suffer from the decisions made at Yalta.”