Brexit: the View from the Prairie

brexit-800x500I want to thank Jessica for sharing her views on Brexit yesterday, here. As I said then, mine differs somewhat, so let’s look at them.

First President Obama’s remarks in remarks while in the UK, were, or should have been insulting to any Brits who heard them, as well as to any American who values the UK as a partner or even an ally. Not to mention that he’s about the lamest lame duck of a president, ever. Ted Cruz had this to say:

“Instead of standing with our allies President Obama routinely hurls insults at them. Sadly, it happened in London last Friday, when the President of the United States informed the British people they would be at the ‘back of the queue’ for a US-UK free trade deal if they dared to vote to leave the EU on June 23,” said Cruz.

Cruz argued Obama’s intervention was nothing less than a slap in the face to British self-determination. “If Brexit takes place, Britain will be at the front of the line for a free trade deal with America, not at the back,” Cruz added. The Texas senator reaffirmed his commitment to the “special relationship” and slammed the president’s foreign policy priorities.

“The British people will shape their destiny, and we will stand with them regardless of the outcome of the referendum. As president, I will work to ensure that our special relationship is reinvigorated — and the Obama doctrine of coddling tyrants while castigating democratic allies will finally be at an end.”

Read more:

Quite, and while we can’t be sure of what Hillary or Trump think (or if they’ve been told what they think yet) Cruz is correct. And yes, I found Obama’s remarks both shameful and insulting as well.

As far as the economics of staying or leaving go, I simply don’t know, and I doubt strongly anybody else does either. It is beyond doubt that London is one of a handful of ‘world cities’ along with New York, and perhaps either Singapore or Hong Kong, and yes, there is a telling point in that. All three or four of those, and there is at most 1 or two more, is by heritage and outlook founded on English values and common law. You might want to think about that. I note that if you know a bunch about this, The Conservative Woman, a British blog, has a contest for the best article about how Britain would function outside the EU. You can enter here. The best article I’ve seen is from The Spectator, and his conclusion is to leave.

The last time I looked, the UK economy is about the size of Germany’s, and larger than anybody else in the EU. I’ve also noted that Europe appears to need Britain a lot more than Britain needs Europe. The UK also has the highest energy prices and quite high food prices. Why? Well, I suspect that unlike much of Europe, the UK tends to obey the law, instead of looking out for the special interests. Both are something the New World can fix, but Europe can’t.

I would say that if Britain is to stay they should forget the half-measures and join the community and lead it, and quit the half in and half out nonsense. But be convinced you really want to be part of Europe first, because you will be leaving your heritage, all over the world, behind. I’m convinced that your future is better served with what has come to be called the Anglosphere, mostly Canada, the US, Australia, New Zeeland, and increasingly India. Also, the ‘Remainers’ tend to offend me with their fear-mongering, and they should you, too.

One thing that bothers me, as an American, a lot about this so-called ‘ever closer union’ is that the UK is the ally and friend that we are prepared to throw ourselves on the railway to save, and we have all seen that the UK has been the same way with us. Somehow, I don’t think the European Army will be such a good ally, and it’s something the US needs, another voice and perspective, sometimes to save us from ourselves.

But I don’t really think this will be decided on economics, it will be decided on sentiment, and patriotism. And here there should be little doubt. England, and by extension Britain, has always done better when it turned away from Europe, at least back to when Henry VIII turned his back on the Catholic church, established the Royal Navy, and started the first Empire – the results are astonishing, the US, Canada, The Commonwealth, much of Africa, and India, all from those little fogbound islands, about the size of Nebraska. You built the system we all revere, all the way back to Alfred the Great, the unique Common Law, the practical methods of getting along, capitalism itself, along with the free people that we all have fought so many wars about.

Where’s the French heritage to match, or the German one? For so many of us, our history starts with your history, and if you’re not proud of it, well I’m sorry, we are.

I commented yesterday that it had been 37 years since Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister, and she, and you, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II freed the Communist slave empire. You, every bit as much as us, or the Vatican, led that effort, as you did all through the last century to restore freedom to Europe, and the world. You, like us, have seen Brussels betray that legacy. In truth both Washington and Westminster have as well, but that is no reason to allow the EU to have prerogative powers that you took away from the King way back in 1688. And that is exactly what the EU is doing. So much of this looks like weak men, who nonetheless lust after power and wealth, passing the buck to other unaccountable people. Seems to me, that you, like us are learning the truth of that old Russian proverb, “God is far up high, the Tsar is far away.” That is not the British way, any more than it is the American or the Australian.

I think we’ll close with a few words from one of my best friends, Professor John Charmley, writing in The UK in a Changing Europe. He says this:

The problematic relationship between Britain and the European Union is rooted in an original sin which continues to shape the debate.

At its heart is “English exceptionalism” – a phrase that can trigger the sort of reaction which used to be reserved for heresy. Those who refuse to recognise that England’s history is different from that of her Continental partners will fail to understand how to convince so many of their sceptical or indifferent countrymen that ever-closer political union is something Britain needs.

For the original six members of what was then the European Economic Community, it was obvious. They came to the idea from the experience of defeat and occupation; it was an alternative to what looked like failed states.

Britain, as one of the “Big Three” World War allies, wished their troubled neighbours well and hoped it might finally solve the German question which had haunted them since 1871. But they saw no reason to suppose their history as an imperial people was at an end. England had been a state since the seventh century, and its history, after the Norman Conquest, was one of steady expansion; nothing in that history pointed to its ending in an “ever closer political union”. […]

If Britain had deigned to become a founder member of the Common Market, then she would have been able to have named her terms and helped create its structures. But coming in as she eventually did, in the early 1970s, those structures were set, and Britain’s negotiators were unable to strike the sort of deal they had wanted. This failure was compounded by the fact that the period after 1972 witnessed the first post-war economic crisis, which meant that the promised economic gains were far fewer than had been predicted. […]

Can the effects of this “original sin” be undone? Not if current portents are anything to go by. Again, with the honourable exception of the marginalised Liberal Democrats, we see no major political figures make the “high road” visionary argument. The main answer to the argument that we are in an “ever closer political union” seems to be that we have “opt outs”.

To an electorate which has failed to buy into the idea of “Europe” or to take much interest in it, that might just be enough to win the referendum campaign, when combined with some suitable concessions gained by a politically skilful prime minister. But it will not win many hearts and minds, and whatever the result, in the absence of a convincing deployment of a case for the vision of ever closer union, the arguments will continue.

You all know that I am fond of the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But there is a corollary to that rule, “If it is broke, and you can’t fix it, replace it, or do without it.” Europe is broke, you (or we or anybody else, I think) can’t fix it. Come on home, with those of us who with you built the modern world, and help us fix that.

And so for this small ‘c’ conservative American, of Norwegian extraction, who has found his place in the English-speaking world, it seems to me that the conservative position is to conserve the UK from being submerged into Europe.

Vote to leave.



As this blog is offering the ‘view from the Anglosphere’, I thought I’d say something about being back of the line, or is that queue? That, of course, is a reference to the comment from POTUS Obama that were the UK to vote to leave the EU we’d be back of the line in terms of a trade deal. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that the USA sells us far more stuff than we sell you guys, and perhaps, being so distantly acquainted with economic realities, he feels it won’t much matter – not doubt yet more goods from China can fill the gap? Others better qualified than I have made the point that the UK wasn’t back of any line at D Day or in Desert Storm, but what’s honour when you’re a politician? Like Falstaff, Obama would probably say ‘who has it, he who died a Thursday’.

It’s a shame he took that tone, and it’s a shame that the tone of the debate over Britain’s future in the EU is one of smear and counter-smear and the stirring up of fear. The fact is no one can know what the effect of the UK leaving the EU would be, but it seems perverse to imagine it will have little effect, and so far as I can follow the argument of those who want to leave (Brexiteers) it amounts to saying that in a few years we’d have trade deals with the EU and the USA as good as we have now – gee, thank guys, so why leave?

The leave argument amounts to an emotional one – we’d get sovereignty back. But who, in this global economy has complete sovereignty – North Korea perhaps? The US, by the sheer size and scale of its economy is closer than most, but as the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, the UK does not begin to compare with that strength. Sure, it could cut deals, but there will be a cost – there always is. The idea that the EU would seek to do us down economically seems a bit illusory – they do more trade with us than we do with them, but then so does the idea that they’d give us the same deal as they do now without our paying in what we pay in now. In short, I think the economic arguments are probably not decisive – except for one aspect – is this the time to give some kind of adverse shock to the global economy?

So it is, in the end, about sovereignty. But we all share aspects of sovereignty now. We can’t run the UK as we could in the mid twentieth century – the world has changed. The EU is, it is true, not the speediest organisation, but it is one of the world’s largest trading blocs, and it has a political as well as an economic aspect to it. It has helped entrench democracy in countries like Spain, Portugal, and even (despite the obvious problems) Greece, which have had, to put it mildly, chequered histories. It has also managed to include some nations formerly in the Soviet bloc. It’s far from perfect, but then as I look at the people running my country now, and those vying to, I’m not sure that they are any better.

Then, for me as a Welsh-born woman living now in Scotland, there is the little matter of the United Kingdom. The land of my birth, Wales, looks as though it is going to vote to remain in, and Scotland is certainly going to do so. If England votes to leave, the Union is bound to unravel. The Scots and the Welsh, and perhaps the Ulstermen, will want to stay ‘in’ and will want to if England leaves. The mess that would follow does not bear thinking about.

The small c conservative position seems to me to be to vote to remain in, with all the problems it is better than the alternative – so this woman of Welsh-German stock living in Scotland is voting to remain in the EU.

Almost, but Not Quite

From the Daily Standard:

The magic number needed to capture the Republican presidential nomination in 1976 was 1,130 delegates, and Ronald Reagan was oh so close as the national convention prepared to convene.

After losing six straight primaries to President Gerald Ford early in the year, Reagan had come roaring back, attacking Ford for his weak foreign policy and deficit spending and winning the crucial North Carolina primary with help from Sen. Jesse Helms. Reagan achieved a political resurrection and posed the most serious challenge to an incumbent Republican president since 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt had taken on William Howard Taft.

After Reagan won the Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama primaries, a nonplussed GOP establishment that favored Ford struggled to understand the former California governor’s appeal. Conservative author Richard Whalen made it easy for them: Reagan was doing well because he was “unsullied by Watergate, untainted by Vietnam, and uncorrupted by a Washington system that isn’t working.”

However, after failing to carry Ohio although easily winning his home state of California, Reagan realized that the political momentum was shifting back to Ford. Something dramatic had to be done. Breaking a long-held precedent, he announced his running mate before the convention: Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, a moderate conservative with a high rating from the AFL-CIO. Schweiker assured Reagan and his aides that he could pry loose delegates from Pennsylvania and other Northern states. […]

Anxious to achieve unity, Ford generously invited Reagan to join him on the platform following his acceptance speech. Reagan gave a rapt convention and tens of millions of viewers a taste of what they would have heard if he had been nominated. Without notes or a teleprompter, he speculated how Americans 100 years from now would look back at this time.

Would they say, “Thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom; who kept us now a hundred years later free; who kept our world from nuclear destruction?” This was this generation’s challenge, Reagan declared. “Whether [the Americans of 2076] have the freedom that we have known up until now will depend on what we do here.”

via When Reagan Almost Won: The 1976 GOP Convention

And perhaps we shall, once again, have cause to quote the old English ballad that Reagan quoted the next day:

“I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile; although I am wounded, I am not slain. I shall rise and fight again.”

If so, we will know, once again, that it is the truth. And we shall return to the arena.

Spring Cleaning

woman_spring_cleaning1Time to do a bit of spring cleaning. I keep finding far more things that would make good posts than I ever have time to write about, so here are some of them.

You and your monkey brain.

Our friend, and our enemy: Time, itself.

Why is productivity so low?

Why Apple is so annoying.

Do we want high-paying manufacturing job? Maybe we should learn from Indiana.

How the way we teach American History got so screwed up, and how to fix it.

What made Ronald Reagan great.

Mr. Lincoln goes to London, or does he?

David Cameron loses the plot, or did he ever know it?

Love Game of Thrones? Then you must love history whether you know it or not.

Suzannah Lipscomb tells you how it is recycled British history, mostly!

And the Irish, sensible folk that they are, are building a statue of the Duke, and Maureen O’Hara, as they appeared in our favorite movie: The Quiet Man.

And finally, quit whining, nobody owes you a job or anything else!


Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’

This is most interesting and strikes me as pretty much how the trends are going. I see it here, I see it on my occasional forays into digital media, and I especially see it with the garbage legacy media has become. By Jim VandeHei writing on The Information.

Here is how they fell into this lethal trap: They got into the content game to produce news or info they might be proud of, believing they could lure us to read it and maybe even pay for it. They quickly realized it’s expensive to produce quality content and hard to get a lot of people to click on it, much less pay for it. So they deluded themselves that the better play was to go for the biggest audience possible, using stupid web tricks to draw them in. These include misleading but clicky headlines, feel-good lists, sexy photos and exploding watermelons.

And it appeared to work. Traffic spiked. Costs were contained. But revenue never followed because everyone else was doing the same tricks and getting the same spikes—and the simple law of supply and demand drove down the value of their inventory. This dynamic helps explain why Mashable recently laid off so many journalists, BuzzFeed saw its growth miss the mark and many media companies and investors are freaked out.

Here’s the good news: This era is getting flushed away. Some companies feel self-conscious about the trash they are producing. Many others realize it’s simply not a good business model. But the savviest ones see a very cool reason to change: A content revolution is picking up speed, promising a profitable future for companies that can lock down loyal audiences, especially those built around higher-quality content.

Fatal Flaw

In coming years, the revolution will likely demolish much of what we read and watch now. State and local newspapers and TV? Gone. Their models are fatally flawed. General interest magazines such as Time and Newsweek? Gone or unrecognizable shells of their former selves. Traditional TV and cable? Shrinking and scrambling. Clickbait machines such as Gawker, or Ozy, or Mashable? Gone or gobbled up by bigger players.

via Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’ — The Information

If you’re like me we had an outstanding example from the legacy media. When the UK Telegraph was sold to its new owner, it wasn’t all that strong financially, for all that it was a source that almost all British conservatives and a lot of us Americans had depended on for years. To the point that it’s often called the Torygraph. I’m an example, I started reading it well before the 2008 elections because it was simply much better than any American paper.

But those finances, running a daily paper ain’t cheap, even if you have loyal readers, and some pretty good blogs to go along with it. But the Telegraph did what so many have done, they gave up the high-value content (even many of the blogs) and fell head over heels into the click-bait trap. Now it’s to the point, and I interact with quite a few British Conservatives, as well as American, I don’t don’t think I know a single subscriber, anymore. Sad but some of us insist on value, even if all we’re spending is our time.

And you know it is true, I could likely make this blog pay its way, by doing a bunch of garbage, more pretty girls, conspiracy theories, and all that, not to mention a much harder edge on my articles. And we are looking at some changes down the road, but my brand (and Jessica’s) is on the blog, and we like where we are, so in tone and substance we’re not likely to change much.

But it can be very tempting.

Going Out of Business!

Well, perhaps a reminder of why businesses settle where they do. From Bill Whittle

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