Sunday, 27 March 2016

The EU Delusion - A Dangerous Misuse of Science

"Science (noun) - A seemingly magical, yet entirely logical evidence based practice which, somehow,  allows itself to be used by the political class to further undemocratic federalist integration"


Great sparking scientific balls of steel are mandatory in this referendum

I've blogged previously on the matter of Science and the EU referendum. Whilst all sides should be allowed the right to have their say, my concerns regarding Scientists4EU are founded in their make-up and approach:
  • Board members with links to EU money (link)
  • Actively dragging the sacrosanct world of science in to the grubby world of politics to take an activist stance.
  • Attributing an inflated sense of importance to the role of the EU in UK science.
  • Inaccurately inferring a doom-laden future of isolation for UK science if we left.

It was pleasant to read some thoughtful and even handed analysis of the situation here in the 'EU and Europe' blog 'Science Part 1'. http://euandeurope.com/2016/03/26/science-part-1/

The essence to take away from this is that there are pros and cons, but the reality of science in a post Brexit world is not the Hindenburg-esque tragedy that has been presented to date.

EU funding represents only circa 3% of UK expenditure of R&D. EU science funding programs are open to nations outside of the EU, such as Norway & Switzerland - so we should expect the same access. At most, it seems what's at risk is a level of influence regarding the direction of EU science programs, and that's not taking in to account any bargaining power we may have considering the prestige of our own institutions.

I find the high profile alarmist rhetoric coming from Scientists4EU as out of character for the profession - more dubious theoretics than evidence based analytics.

A microcosmic version of the EU

Let's change the scale for one moment and re-imagine the whole matter of the EU, not at the level of national governance but on a smaller scale. Imagine that, for some reason, your university provided funds to a larger 'club'  representing a body of pan-european academic / scientific institutions, limited in number. The promise of membership would be that it would allow for greater cooperation and provide a mechanism for scientific interchange and collaboration. Rather than run bilateral arrangements, the club would arch over all matters and orchestrate them, handing back some of the money to members in order to fund directed research, supporting a common yet unobtrusive good.

However, in exchange for said membership, it would demand a say in how the universities were run. A small say at first - but over time, and without further consulting any of the patrons or students, the governors would hand over more and more of the running authority to 'The Club' so that in time, it would no longer be a club but a bureaucracy that had the final say on the majority of all important university decisions. The governors would still be there and the university would still have a vice-chancellor with a colourful salary, yet the bureaucracy would ultimately steer the ship where decisions could be made 'for the common good'.

Seemingly benign at first, it would start becoming evident that this emerging arrangement would have some unexpected consequences, directly impacting everyone concerned.

The bureaucracy initially allow anyone of similar academic merit to come and collaborate, which makes some sense but, surprisingly, in a move described as a fundamental scientific freedom, they change the arrangement to allow absolutely anyone to go to any scientific institution they want (regardless of previous merit or achievement) to compete for funding and to use the available resources. No previous financial contribution necessary - in fact, those without the ability to support their research must have at least a basic level of funding allocated by the national institution itself.

Further still, 'The Bureaucracy' would then enlarge membership, to bring in a whole swathe of new institutions of somewhat lesser standing than the existing members. As a reward, existing members would have their voice in scientific policy making reduced to a small marginal percentage and their right to veto removed, along with a reduction in any rebate.

Naturally the best institutions with the stellar reputations would become a beacon, attracting all and sundry. No heartfelt protests about overcrowding or sharing of limited infrastructure resources would change a thing, because as far as 'The Bureaucracy' are concerned, it's a freedom which cannot be denounced. And besides, anyone complaining about the situation would be looked on with suspicion as 'someone who doesn't like others', neatly cutting them down to size and shutting up the debate.

Regardless as to who governs the university, or who runs it - none of them would actually have any control over the things that mattered. You could sack them / change them - but it's still 'The Bureaucracy' making the decisions at arms length in the background.

To top it off, regardless of what was said at the beginning of the arrangement with 'The Bureaucracy' or 'The Club' as it would have been known then - it's evident that all scientific institutions are to become one entity governed centrally with all national institutions becoming mere branches or branch campuses.

How would they react?


Universities and scientific institutions would be the first to scream if this happened - if their prestige and reputation were swallowed up in to the conch like corpus of some supra-academic body, eviscerating the very essence that made them unique and hollowing out the very spirit that ignited discovery, inspiration and growth.

Yet the very same people, so focussed down the lens of the microscope staring at their own microcosmic environment appear to disregard the wider fundamental arguments that underpin this entire debate - democracy, accountability, sovereignty - in order to please their own narrow interests with the mere 3% of national science funding that the EU represents.

To paraphrase the whole debate - Scientists4EU are attempting to use the revered and, to non-academics, impenetrable world of science to persuade the UK that they should endorse continued membership of an institution that has: continually promised it will not become a federal entity, yet is hurtling towards becoming one; continually undermined national sovereignty in a piecemeal manner, removing the national right to self governance without once putting the matter to the people in the last forty years; established a law making oligarchy who are obliged by oath not to represent national interest and are just as divorced from the people when it comes to accountability for their actions.

And all this - for the mere matter of influence on 3% of national science funding.


Summary

Science is stumbling in to the political arena like a giant oaf, shielded by it's unimpeachable mysticism and launching from its lofty vantage point of unquestionable benevolence (we'll ignore the horrors of the atom bomb and thalidomide - or the idiocy of Piltdown Chicken for that matter - because science can do no wrong). Propelled by the steam of its new era 'D-ream' like rock stardom, it wields its reputation like a blunt instrument, blindly sweeping aside that which detracts from its own aims and ambitions.

By analogy, if UK science were the sex organ in a body, it wouldn't perceive the harm in getting all the blood it needed to stand to attention to its proudest extent, regardless of whether it robbed the brain of what it required to think straight. They are becoming that insular and self centred in this matter.

Ultimately, the question that cannot be satisfactorily answered by Scientists4EU is this: Why is political union (including the loss of national sovereignty and the dramatic dilution of democracy) necessary for scientific collaboration?

If that question cannot be put to bed, then Scientists4EU are guilty of allowing their once noble profession to be used as a crowbar for the advancement of political federal interests. Probably not something Newton envisaged or something which we, as a nation watching our democracy slip away, should tolerate.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Diary of a Brexiteer - Breakthroughs, Blunders and Black Dogs

"There are three types of lies -- 
lies, damn lies, and EU Referendum statistics."

Frankly, it's hard to know who the bigger liar is.

Father I must confess, it's been almost four weeks since my last blog post. A lot has happened in that time, yet I've managed to keep my trap shut throughout - and I've had my reasons. Taking some time to appraise the current situation, it's notable that in spite of the chaos currently drowning out intelligent debate, some significant victories have been had by and within the Leave camp. Here are three to ponder:

 

1 - The 5 presidents report --- from obscurity to internet meme


Even a few months ago, the notion that the EU had further plans for integration was off the map (in spite of some pointed analysis by campaigners). Now it's the subject of internet meme's and commentary. Although the full details will not sink in for the majority, the shorthand is out there: "The EU is looking for further integration of the Eurozone - and the rest of us will be left stuck in no man's land as a result" - and it underlines the clear fact that a vote to Remain is not a vote for the status quo.

 

2 - Norway 'Fax Democracy' myth - busted


It's been seriously challenged in the most public of ways now (see previous blog) and the likelihood is that by the time we reach the final stretch in this referendum debate - it should haunt the psyche of everyone trying to contribute. Norway does not accept all EU law - not even half of it and probably only a quarter to a fifth at best (certainly as part of the obligation under EEA / EFTA). Some commentators suggest it could even be as low as 8 percent but that's far off the 21 percent I calculated just five months ago.

The joy in this victory is that this lie was one of the first made in this debate and it was shouted loud and proud, making it a foundation stone of project fear. If we dismantle this, the rest of the wretched Remain edifice is seen to be on rocky ground.

 

3 - Two referendums - a dead concept


Vote Leave appeared (through staff and some members) to be positioning the idea that we would vote to leave the EU, only to use it as a bargaining chip to rejoin. It's now widely considered a taboo to endorse such a nuanced and deceitful stance and the 'vote leave - get remain' narrative appears to have fizzled out.

Whilst I'd always be wary of saying that this has been kicked in to the long grass for good, it's going to be a struggle for this misguided approach to be rekindled. 

These are good wins and we should be proud of what we've achieved.

Yet there's a great deal to be disturbed about:

It's ominous to see the machine in motion, the full weight of the establishment, crushing the life out of the people. Employing the voice of the state to deliver gentle notices of compliance (http://news-watch.co.uk/analysis-of-newsnight-reveals-strong-imbalance-against-brexit-case/), they're prone to barking out half truths and wild claims in front of the camera, like a gang of malevolent confidence tricksters hoodwinking a cowering nation in to remaining in the EU.

 

The real enemy of the EU


Let's remind ourselves of the mission of the EU - its enemy is not just militant islamism or this straw man arch villain Putin, so often held up as the Remain campaign bogeyman. The real enemy of the EU is the nation - the idea of national identity and also of democracy. In no uncertain terms, the EU has done everything in its power to erase our ability to act unilaterally on any matter. They're pimping the nations successfully: firstly getting us hooked on the opium of the single market and then secondly, insisting on making us walk the streets by enforcing political union to go along with it.

This forcible and mandatory blending of the reasonable with the unreasonable can only happen when the political agents of any nation are willing to act as local soft sell merchants. Today, Cameron is nothing more than a plum faced, pro EU, Machiavellian, missionary - furthering the EU's agenda above our own freedom & democracy. People like this are the real danger, these soothsayers who promise that our freedom and democracy will remain, yet are no longer accountable by the time the inevitable happens and the marrow of our country has been hollowed out by the lapping jaws of the EU bone licking hounds.


Black Dog


Which is why I find myself in such a hole at the moment. This blog certainly isn't about me - but it's true to say that my ability to deliver content is severely curbed by my own bewilderment at our current situation.

In spite of that conniving fool of a prime minister pretending that he's delivered something of any worth to the people, when it's evident that in fact he has no deal - Leave are still marginally but consistently behind in the polls. In spite of the undeniable truths: The EU is merging in to a single country and openly talking up security and military union; the fact that it's blatantly an anti-democratic institute; and also the fact that we have been knowingly deceived as a nation from the day we joined ( http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11018818entry ) - opinion has still failed to change significantly. It's close - too close.

The nation has been wrestled in to a state of fear and is being held in check in order to allow the project to continue unabated. To watch it happening before your eyes can be a soul destroying experience, hence the black dog that I find myself in now.

I know, somewhere deep inside, all of us who want to leave the ever tightening, constrictor like coils of the EU and regain what was lost - have to kindle the fire of belief and hope. Through some latent desire, we must flex our muscles and fight against the established ranks who currently think this referendum is 'just for show': the sneering EU Commission that has no intention of filling the democratic void; the hypocritical US President who would never concede the sovereignty of his own country to the unelected yet keeps intervening in our destiny; or our own Grima Wormtongue, David Cameron, purveying his slimy deceit on behalf of the EU's Mordor. Like some verbal necrotising fasciitis, eating away at common sense, he worryingly asserts that black is white, up is down and worst of all, that sovereignty isn't really sovereignty until it's gifted in to the hands of a distant political strata who under no circumstances are ever going to make themselves accountable to the people of the UK. If we fail in this endeavour to break free -  it must not be without giving them all a bloody nose in the process.

Above all, we must never forget who we once were and those that pissed it all away.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Project fear - off the rails

"If you think that the EU referendum is an unprecedented battleground and that either side could be telling the truth, think again. One side has form for telling huge porkie pies - and with a small amount of reasoning, it's quite easy to prove."

Hancock experiences the TV equivalent of driving a Bugatti Veyron off the cliffs of Dover

Claim, counter claim, counter counter claim. With so many "facts" flying through the air, unless you're going to make it your full time job to research and check, it's impossible to know who to believe on the matter of the EU referendum. Poker faces have never been so in vogue.

Surely the media with all its well trained journalistic expertise will be able to sort this mess out for us -  after all, the "facts" have been peddled on high rotation for some time now, available for proper scrutiny. With only a handful of exceptions (and one absolutely huge one which I will mention later), mostly the "facts" are wheeled through unchallenged.

So how can we, as punters, find a way through the brown mist of political rhetoric and divine a truth that we can be comfortable with? After all, there is no precedent in our lifetime is there. And those scaremongering stories of an epic drop in investment and a crippling impact to trade - they could actually be real, couldn't they? Well actually, with some confidence, I'd like to say "No".

There are two axes of falsehood here that we need to recognise. One is a constant force that has been blowing like a wind for years now and the other compliments the former like a tiller, steering the direction of the ship. Throughout the history of the EU, power has only ever effectively travelled in one direction, away from the nation states and towards the EU. And when the EU wants nations to accept change, they are guided by all the right noises in order to point opinion in the right direction.

The prevailing winds ...

We don't need to delve too deeply here to see that the general direction of travel for the EU.  There is no secret: continual enlargement and expansion of the EU in terms of member nations; establishment of a Eurozone which demands the kind of harmonisation that requires centralisation of policy, undermining domestic sovereignty; the obscure conflation of trade union with political union; the growth of an unsightly bureaucracy that increasingly invades every facet of our lives yet fails to provide democratic accountability.

If this were not true - and if the EU were prepared to be flexible and reform, then the threat of the second largest EU economy leaving ought to be enough to motivate real change. Ask yourself - did David Cameron get real change? Does the EU recognise that reform is necessary?

The guiding force ...

And here's a prime example of the guiding force in action, trying but failing to steer the UK towards adoption of the ill fated Euro. As you read these 'sage' comments from 'industry experts' trying to drive us in one specific direction, keep at the forefront of your mind the current state of the Eurozone: Flatlined, riven with economic disparity and plagued by unemployment with several of the countries appearing to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Example 1 - A letter from 26 "business leaders" 2003
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3019519.stm


Quote: various inc: BAE Systems / Vodafone Group / Boeing UK / CBI / KPMG / Ford Motor Company / BP / Siemens

"The weight of independent economic evidence suggests that the conditions for entry are right. Commercial reality strongly dictates that the risks of staying outside the euro far outweigh any risks of joining. The European single market has moved on and we are no longer full members. We hope that the Government will have the courage of its convictions and recognise that membership of the euro is in our long-term national interest. To do otherwise would have serious consequences for Britain's future prosperity."

Serious consequences. I think it's fair to say the opposite is true. So much for the wisdom of "business leaders".

Example 2 - News item 2003
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3019519.stm
Quote - Chris Bryant (Labour)

"If the prime minister just folds his hands now we risk political and economic isolation."

Quote - Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem)

"The Liberal Democrats have been warning of the damage our isolation from the euro would cause since the moment the new currency came into being in 1999"

Isolation, isolation isolation. The only thing dividing us from those nations neck deep in Euro idealism is our comparative prosperity.

Example 3 - Guardian news 2003
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/may/22/euro.eu2
Quote - Peter Mandelson

"...we will be turning our backs on what has become our domestic market for goods and services. It will mean fewer foreign businesses investing here, fewer jobs being created and less trade being done with our European partners."

And did any of this come to pass? Are we a ruined nation begging for Eurozone entry? So why should we let these clowns influence how the ship is steered now?

Assessment

If we're honest with ourselves, we know what the EU wants, yet we're not having an honest debate about it. Cameron has only sought to obfuscate the matter, acting as a rather obvious and hapless deceiver. In spite of the fact that withdrawal from the EU would be a significant blow to them, he still failed to gain any genuine concessions. Why? Because the power of the EU is a confidence trick and to concede by way of reform is to admit to the illusion. Hence the EU direction of travel is a one way ride and statements about removal of ever closer union without treaty change are irrelevant - especially when they don't appear to be legally binding.

Combine that with the army of false prophets trumpeting the apocalypse if we didn't commit to the Euro and contrast it with similar recent stories about Brexit, and you have a recipe for sanity in the madness of the EU referendum debate. At last, you can make a judgement call for yourself. You may not be able to account for every drop of water in the river, but you can see how it flows.


Serious journalism

Lastly .. and also at last, I did mention that there was a huge exception to the rather tawdry level of journalism that's been peddled in the mainstream media for the span of this referendum. Nothing is more frustrating than watching an interviewee spin yarns unchallenged with facts that you know to be falsehoods. As an example, even one of my favourite journalists, the forthright John Humphries, allowed Peter Mandelson to ride his coach and horses through Radio 4's Today program without being seriously challenged once. Mandelson - who has pledged allegiance to the EU and must continue to support it in order to receive his significant pension. A man who predicted doom and gloom thirteen years ago if we failed to join the Euro. A man who boldly stated on the Today program that Norway must accept ALL EU law in order to continue trade. This, and I'm sure he knows it, is a barefaced lie.

So for me, it was a matter of some significance that Andrew Neil decided to buck the trend and tear the Norway 'fax democracy' myth to shreds on live TV. On the day that the 'so called deal' was met by the latest Government 'dodgy dossier' of Brexit scenario scaremongering, they peddled out a doe eyed, un-briefed Matthew Hancock (the epitome of a snivelling careerist Tory) to defend what is a blatant handbook of scare stories that even Stephen King would be frightened to read. The results of this car crash interview can be seen here and I urge you to take some time to watch it:




Car crash is the polite way to refer to this. Let's put this in to context and underline its significance. When the EU referendum became 'a thing', the very first strategy that David Cameron took was to undermine the Norway option. He attacked it again and again with his 'no say, still pay' mantra. Europhiles quickly rallied around the narrative, becoming an echo chamber of voices that suggested Norway had to take all the laws in order to trade.

Simply put, Cameron had to attack the most viable exit path first in order to cast it out of reasonable debate. Once that was done, the rest would only be easier. It's been a matter of huge frustration for many of us Brexiteers that he's managed to get away with it for so long.

What Andrew Neil managed to do in around two minutes was to crush the entire Norway 'Fax Democracy' argument, almost as if he casually trod on a snail. Whereas the 'government analysts' appeared to have conjured "facts" from thin air, Andrew Neil cited the EFTA secretariat as his source. The joy of the interview is that 'Fax Democracy' was just one of the myths that was savaged by this heavy weight. It was a masterclass.

And a final word on Neil, I don't suspect for a single second that his motivation here was some latent bias towards - or desire for Brexit; it's that rare gem of journalistic integrity that seeks out the truth in politics - and to share that truth with the reader or viewer. I have no doubt that he will shake both pillars of the debate equally hard - which is why he's so compelling to watch, even if he's de-constructing every prejudicial belief you've ever held on a matter.