Big brother is reviewing you

In John Naughton’s column in theObserver today he describes a chinese plan to ‘review’ the behaviour of its citizens and award or deduct brownie points depending on what you do – with real world consequences, he writes:

In particular, they are adapting the ubiquitous “reputation rating” system by which online platforms try to get feedback on vendor and customer reliability. The government is beginning to roll out its social credit system, which is designed to “raise the awareness of integrity and the level of trustworthiness in Chinese society”. It will focus on four aspects of behaviour: “honesty in government affairs”, “commercial integrity”, “societal integrity” and “judicial credibility”.

When first conceived in 2007, the intention was to replicate the credit rating systems common in the west for assessing people’s financial creditworthiness. But why, thought the Chinese, stop at finance? Why not use the technology to assess how “good” a citizen one is? Everyone starts off with a baseline allowance of, say, 100 points. You can earn bonus points by  doing “good deeds” such as separating and recycling rubbish. On the other hand, behaving in what is regarded (by the state) as antisocial behaviour can lose you points. Examples of deductible behaviour can apparently include: not showing up at a restaurant without cancelling your booking, cheating in online games, leaving false product reviews and even jaywalking. And if your social credit score is too low, you find yourself barred from taking flights or travelling on certain trains.

Read the whole column here

Thinking about all the fake, aggressive, dishonest agenda driven reviews that appear on Trip Advisor, IMDB, Amazon etc. It does make you wonder who’ll review the reviewers.

Big brother is reviewing you

Kakistocracy: A word we need to revive – Amro Ali

“Stupidity does not consist in being without ideas. Such stupidity would be the sweet, blissful stupidity of animals, molluscs and the gods. Human Stupidity consists in having lots of ideas, but stupid ones. Stupid ideas, with banners, hymns, loudspeakers and even tanks and flame-throwers as their instruments of persuasion, constitute the refined and the only really terrifying form of Stupidity.” – … Continue reading “Kakistocracy: A word we need to revive”

Source: Kakistocracy: A word we need to revive – Amro Ali

Thanks to Sibling3 for sharing this post.

Kakistocracy: A word we need to revive – Amro Ali

Donald Trump Is the First White President – The Atlantic

It’s been obvious for a time that Trump’s actions in the White House are driven – in part at least – by a need to get his own back on President Obama. In this excoriating piece for The Atlantic Ta-Nehisi Coates sets his actions – as they should be – firmly in the context of unvarnished white supremacism:

Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

Read the whole piece here,

Donald Trump Is the First White President – The Atlantic

Pleasing billows of debauch

These debates about the Irish border in Northern Ireland reminded me of this poem from Seamus Heaney, written during the Troubles about the possession and repossession of his land by the rapist across the water.

What are these latest debates, but new inexpert fumblings from the old disabled debauchee.

OCEAN’S LOVE TO IRELAND

I
SPEAKING broad Devonshire,
Ralegh has backed the maid to a tree
As Ireland is backed to England

And drives inland
Till all her strands are breathless:
‘ Sweesir, Swatter! Sweesir, Swatter! ‘

He is water, he is ocean, lifting
Her farthingale like a scarf of weed lifting
In the front of a wave.
II
Yet his superb crest inclines to Cyntia
Even while it runs its bent
In the rivers of Lee and Blackwater.

Those are the splashy spots where he would lay
His cape before her. In London, his name
Will rise on water and on these dark seepings:

Smerwick sowed with the mouthing corpses
Of six hundred papists, ‘as gallant and good
Personages as ever where beheld’.
III
The ruined maid complains in Irish,
Ocean has scattered her dream of fleets,
The Spanish prince has spilled his gold

And failed her. Iambic drums
Of English beat the woods where her poets
Sink like Onan. Rush-light, mushroom-flesh,

She fades from their somnolent clasp
Into ringlet-breath and dew,
The ground possessed and repossessed.

9ef69c0919aec400347bd29998d8ca95--printable-maps-vintage-printable

Pleasing billows of debauch

September 1 1939

I read something somewhere recently that, historically, August was the month where things – bad things usually – kicked off.

As a theory, if you only looked at the 20th Century, you’d certainly want to check it out.

I listened to a politics podcast last week – a summer edition, with snappy soundbites from the last tumultuous twelve months – that lent weight to the Dangerous August Theory – by closing with a reading of these verses from the end of Auden’s poem, September 1 1939. It was hard to think it nearly 78 years old, so prescient it seemed. Or is it that all human crises feel the same when they are about to break over you?

This was what was read:

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

This is the whole poem, read by Dylan Thomas:

By the way, the podcast, Talking Politics, really is worth a listen.

September 1 1939

Choosing Logres

Jeremy Corbyn has been stuck like a fishbone in the craw of the Labour Party almost since he was first elected back in the eighties.

Irritating but immovable, the party learned to overlook him – along with the smaller band of refuseniks who sat with him on the backbenches resolute in their – deeply unfashionable – principles.

Fashion, though, has a way of coming full circle. Just as we can be certain that mullets and bell bottoms will one day return to triumph – so Corbyn triumphs now. It’s biblical: remember Psalm 118 v22:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

So, with socialism back on the table, we have a choice on Thursday. It is political of course, but I wonder if it isn’t deeper than that too. Here’s something I read years ago in CS Lewis’ strange novel, That Hideous Strength. One of his characters, Dimble, asks if we had noticed:

“How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven’t you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers; the home of Sidney–and of Cecil Rhodes. Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites? But what they mistake for hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain.”

It crops up in Howards End too as the contrast between the life of the mind – and heart – and the world of ‘telegrams and anger.’ Margaret Schlegel, here:

The truth is that there is a great outer life that you and I have never touched–a life in which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we think supreme, are not supreme there. There, love means marriage settlements, death, death duties. So far I’m clear. But here’s my difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid, often seems the real one–there’s grit in it. It does breed character.”

Margaret’s wisdom is to see that you have to have the grit of the outer world as well as the world of ‘personal relations’ – but it shouldn’t be all about those ‘telegrams and anger’. In Lewis’ terms Logres and Britain will always need each other.

The problem today is that, for the last forty years ‘Britain’ has been in the ascendant. The voice of the practical woman and man has been supreme in the land. Some things have improved, but a great deal of what we most value – children and families, health, the environment, has been – is being – threatened. We need to redress the balance, bring back some of those other qualities – where people matter, where the heart has value, and where what counts is not merely money.

Corbyn – for all his many faults (he’s no King Arthur) does represent something different. Maybe Thursday is the time to give Logres its chance.

Choosing Logres

Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker

I came across a lovely piece about the relationship between the leaders of the GOP and – at the time – candidate Trump.

It begins with this report of a conversation amongst some old New York mobsters:

In the late nineties, federal agents insinuated an informer into the ranks of the DeCavalcante crime family, of New Jersey, and the resulting wiretaps and transcriptions revealed a dying language of secrecy, petty schemes, and blood oaths gone wrong. Sad old veterans of the Punic Wars of Essex County talked about selling old comic books and Viagra to make money, and yet they knew they were losing touch with the new world.

“They make money with the computer,” a gangster named Joseph (Tin Ear) Sclafani said incredulously about the young. To which another associate replied, “These [expletive] kids—twenty-five, twenty-six years old—will teach you things you could not ever believe.”

 “You know, I’m computer-phobia,” a DeCavalcante soldier named Lenny replies.

“That’s the whole thing,” another says. “In this [expletive] life that we live, every day if you ain’t like a chameleon, if you can’t change, you’re finished.”

I thought of this exquisite sampling of the DeCavalcante tapesafter reading the riveting serio-comic report in the Washington Post by Adam Entous describing a meeting in June, 2016, on Capitol Hill, at which Republican Party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, gathered to talk business. Let’s not be unfair, much less libelous. It’s not that the members of Congress present were involved in crimes or illegal activity of any kind; no, it’s that they seem so craven, cynical, and, ultimately small-time. They have sunk so low that they are willing to get behind a candidate for whom they clearly have no regard. Because, well, that’s “this [expletive] life that we live.”

The two reported dialogues are well worth comparing.

Source: Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker

Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker