The British crisis: MPs discover they have spines

In 1689 the Act of Settlement decreed that sovereignty lay with the King in Parliament.  By the turn of the last century the King had become a figurehead and Parliament reigned supreme.  Supreme over the executive as well.  More recently the executive has grown in power.  Why is that?  Because Parliament has allowed it to …

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Apathy: a follow-on from yesterday’s posting

From the Daily Telegraph “These days, all of us are engaged in politics. Fanatically engaged. Furiously engaged. Twenty years ago, when I was in my teens, apathy was all the rage. In the newspapers, practically every political column was about the lack of interest in politics. Anxious MPs thought apathy was a bad thing. They …

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Should CERN build an even more expensive collider?

There is a problem with the current physics .  We have quantum theory for very small particles, relativity for the big stuff, and the Standard Model, which includes all the weird particles discovered by physicists all over the world.  All seem true individually, but relativity and quantum theory contradict one another and the Standard Model …

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The Britain we knew is gone forever

The following is based partly on an article in the Financial Times: On July 20th Martin Wolf, wrote in the Financial Times:  “No one knows what kind of Britain will emerge from the “Brexit earthquake”, but my increasingly clear conviction is that the outcome will be ugly and the damage long-term. “The UK that “the …

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Killing wild animals

The Trump administration last week reauthorised the use of controversial poison-filled traps to kill wild animals, such as coyotes and foxes, that prey on livestock, despite strong opposition from environmentalists. The spring-loaded devices, dubbed “cyanide bombs”, eject a capsule containing sodium cyanide. The Wildlife Services’ use of the traps, which last year killed 6,500 animals, …

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The return of federal executions

“Anyone who has witnessed the steady rise of Trump, with the thumbs-up, thumbs-down swagger of an omnipotent Roman emperor,” knew this day was coming.  Attorney General William Barr has just announced the end of the Justice Department’s unofficial, 16-year-long moratorium on executing federal prisoners. The department plans to put five inmates to death in December …

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The British political system is bankrupt (and in good company)

The Queen, who by tradition does not comment on politics, is quoted as saying that the political class is incapable of governing.  Amen to that. Robert Unger, a philosopher at Harvard, says that European politicians don’t know how to do anything apart from splitting the difference, and are incapable of facing up to fundamental problems.  This …

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Drug deaths in the US and some unintended consequences. No. 2

Well-intentioned policies can have unintended consequences. For example, while the rate of new opioid prescriptions has fallen in recent years, a large number of physicians have stopped initiating opioids altogether.  While that may sound like a good thing, it’s not clear whether this does more good or harm to patients in severe pain. This isn’t …

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Collectively we are all guilty of perpetuating misleading “facts”.

From the Harvard Gazette: We are all too ready to judge the world though anecdotes, images and distorted reporting designed to sell news, rather than quietly studying the actual facts.  Some examples:    –   Trump refers to American “carnage” in an era in which violent crime rates are close to historical lows. Bush created …

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A statistic that needs no comment

Out of England’s 334 high-rise blocks of flats with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, 69 have so far had it removed.  ( U.K Ministry of Housing) (The cladding on Grenfell Tower turned out to be flammable.  Scores of people were trapped in the burning high-rise apartment block on 14 June 2017 and were killed)

The death penalty

The American Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday that it will resume capital punishment for the first time in nearly two decades. Only three federal executions have taken place since 1988, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. All five of the death-row inmates named in Thursday’s release were convicted for the murders of children. …

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