Libra and the Telcos

What has happened to Libra? Facebook announced the scheme back in June 2019 in a blaze of publicity, almost immediately followed by a massive negative reaction: central banks on regulatory grounds; commentators on dystopian grounds; just about everybody on the grounds of Facebook’s reputational difficulties. Although there have been no formal announcements of closure, it…

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Covid-19 and the Old Gods

From the very beginning there was something disturbing about the government’s daily virus briefings. Something I couldn’t quite identify, something dreamlike and other-worldly. They reminded me of something but I couldn’t recall exactly what. It was Sunak’s first appearance that broke the spell and dragged an old memory to the surface. His suit was too…

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Strange Days

Strange days have found us Strange days have tracked us down They’re going to destroy Our casual joys – The Doors . Every day brings something new. The unthinkable becomes normal. The impossible becomes mandatory. We are living in truly strange times… Do you remember when things were really humming? It seems like only yesterday…

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The Friendly Face of Fascism

Daniel Trilling in The Guardian, 18 February 2020: ‘It has become received wisdom among Westminster pundits that the new winning formula in politics is to “move left on economics and right on culture.”’ Sounds like National Socialism doesn’t it? But then we think ‘Oh well, it can’t happen here.’ Maybe because we think we’re not…

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GE 2019: The Court Jester vs The Bogeyman

‘I couldn’t vote Labour because I don’t trust Corbyn, so I’ll vote Conservative for the first time in my life’ – a refrain repeated over and over again, with some variations, on the doorstep during the 2019 General Election campaign. An extraordinary piece of logic by any reckoning: I don’t trust Corbyn so I’ll vote…

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The Internet at 50: Surveillance, Censorship, Control

2019 is the birthday year – the Internet is 50 and the WWW is 30. What started as a borderless free exchange of information and views, mainly between academic users, has transformed into a fully commercialized and ubiquitous communications mechanism. So ubiquitous, indeed, that it seems difficult to imagine life without it. So essential to…

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Racism and the Hostile Environment

In 2012 Theresa May, who was the Conservative Home Secretary at the time, introduced the Hostile Environment Policy with remarks including that: “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants”. The policy ran into trouble when Operation Vaken’s notorious ‘Go Home’ vans created a popular outcry. Overall, the…

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The Strange Death of the Conservative Party

You must have noticed. The Conservative Party just doesn’t seem like itself any more. Gone is the cautious pragmatism that once characerised it. The unifying principle of ‘one nation conservatism’ has been flushed away in favour of an unashamedly confrontational mode, whether in the guise of ‘a hostile environment’ or ‘people versus parliament’ posturing. The…

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