Ship of Fools

March 26, 2017
Went on the pro-EU march in London at the weekend - which may be something of a futile gesture, as Theresa May seems set to give notice to leave under Article 50 this week.  But if it helps to deter some of those in government from pursuing some of the more extreme forms of Brexit which are being seriously talked about (such as walking away without any sort of deal at all with the EU - absolute madness in my view), then it will have been worth it.  There were quite a few good placards but my favourite (although it's not really a placard) was this creation, which sums up the whole enterprise for me:




I was thinking along similar lines with my own effort - here's the more amusing side:



And here's the other (less amusing) side:



I'm not sure what the numbers were - although I've seen one estimate putting it at around 100,000.  It was certainly enough to fill fill the whole of Piccadilly and then some.  Here we are marching past the south corner of Trafalgar Square:



Quite a few people had brought flowers to lay at the site of the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge.  The whole thing was pretty good humoured and (so far as I'm aware) entirely peaceful.  And here's a picture of a banana - not straight, but curved*:



*for the benefit of non-UK readers (and possibly some UK readers as well), this is a reference to one of the most persistent "euro-myths,"  which is that the EU is so obsessed with regulation and bureaucracy that it requires bananas to be straight.  Hilarious.  But total bollocks.  There is just a law regulating how you classify bananas - so if you want to charge top dollar for them, they have to be "perfect" (which includes being "free from abnormalities of shape"), whereas class 1 bananas are allowed minor imperfections (and will cost a bit less) and class 2 bananas can have all sorts of defects of shape, so shoppers on a budget should go for them (they will still be perfectly edible).  

When we leave the EU we will probably maintain similar rules about the classification of fruit and veg so that wholesalers and retailers know what quality they are buying - which demonstrates what a load of utter bollocks this is. That did not stop over very own Brexit clown in chief, Boris Johnson, mentioning it whenever he got the chance during the referendum campaign.  Other similar euro-myths are very well explained in this NPR article.  

No doubt it all seemed like a bit of fun at the time - but this sort of thing has been going on for years and our own politicians never did much to contradict it, so sadly, a lot of people actually believe it.  

Anyway, how do I think Brexit is going to pan out for the UK?  Well, I expect we will muddle through - but that is probably about the best we can hope for.  It's certainly true that the economy has performed better than many people (including me) expected since the vote - but as we haven't left yet, all that tells you is that consumer confidence is high.  Is that consumer confidence well-founded?  Well, I would suggest not.  The pound has already dropped significantly against other currencies, particularly the dollar:



This is bound to make imports more expensive (and we import a lot - bananas, for example, do not grow at all well in the UK).  Retailers may have had currency hedging arrangements and they may try to hold prices down - but they can't hold them down forever, so price increases are on the way sometime in the next 12-18 months.  A further round of price rises is likely if we leave the Single Market (and probably also the Customs Union), since this will increase the costs of doing business with the EU for both importers and exporters.

That said, the better than expected performance of the economy since the vote (helped by the Bank of England taking swift action to lower interest rates and calm the markets) has meant that those warning that the UK faces a difficult time after Brexit have lost credibility - even though the real test is what happens when we actually leave (because until then, nothing changes). Brexiteers have used this (and the fact that we currently have a useless opposition) to push for a much more extreme version of Brexit than anyone was really talking about during the campaign, including leaving the Single Market - although they claim that they will be able to secure the "exact same benefits" that we have now.  

There is, however, no way the EU will allow us to keep all the benefits we currently have - otherwise, every other non-member country will start asking for the same thing and all the EU member states will start asking what is the benefit of being in the EU?  There is also a lot of scope for negotiations to break down over issues like the size of the UK's "divorce" payment to the EU (to settle its outstanding liabilities), Gibraltar (over which Spain has a territorial claim) and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Yet as I say, despite these looming clouds, consumer confidence remains high - indeed expectations for life after Brexit are "sky high" according to this survey.  To my mind, these expectations are completely out of line with reality - I am reminded of that Philip K Dick quotation about reality being "that which, when you stop believing in it, won't go away".  Well, Brexit seems to be something that is being kept airborne largely by belief.  When reality strikes, there is likely to be a hard landing - and lots of people are going to be very disappointed and upset that Brexit wasn't the fantastic new dawn what they were promised, free from all that banana-straightening bureaucracy.  And that really takes us back to why a lot of people voted for Brexit in the first place - because they felt disillusioned with mainstream politicians and wanted something different.  Will they get it?  I wonder.....


 

Single to Morden by Spike Evans

February 27, 2017



As regular readers of this blog would know (if only there were any), I like to maintain the pretence of being a reasonably conscientious reviewer of free fiction by self-published authors.  This normally entails doing a review that consists of several paragraphs (at least).   And more often than not, it affords another unmissable opportunity to give commercial publishers a bit of a kicking for not doing a better job of finding (and publishing) new fiction (happily allowing me to extend the re...

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Google ate my story!

December 18, 2016




According to a report in The Guardian, Google has recently attempted to improve the language capabilities of one of its Artificial Intelligence programs by feeding it over 10,000 free ebooks downloaded from Smashwords (out of a total of well over 50,000 free ebooks).  Apparently the idea was to help the AI produce more natural-sounding sentences.

Being The Guardian, the report was a bit po-faced about the whole thing and the journalist seemed to think that the authors ought to have been remune...

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Stumps of mystery

October 31, 2016



“Stumps of mystery: stories from the end of an era” by Susan Wickstrom describes itself as “a novel in stories” – and it’s certainly true that it occupies a space somewhere in between a full-blown novel and a book of short stories.  Structurally, it’s similar to some of David Mitchell’s fiction, where you get a series of separate but linked stories - I am thinking in particular of “Ghostwritten” and “Cloud Atlas”.  

But whereas Mitchell tends to leap around a lot in ter...

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Inselaffen!

June 27, 2016


Some thoughts on the EU referendum result.


Now we know why, when they are feeling frustrated with us (as well they might right now), the Germans refer to us as “Inselaffen” (island apes).  Here’s a picture of one of those island apes watching a graph of his currency dropping to a 30 year low against the dollar (having at long last managed to switch on his laptop).

If you have read any of my previous, rather geeky (and evidently totally ineffectual) posts on Brexit (they start here and the...

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Can't decide about Brexit? Read this

June 20, 2016


Unsure about which way to vote in the EU referendum?  Well, who can blame you given that debate on the subject has descended into an unedifying slanging match.

It’s hard to feel enthused about voting to remain because the EU is not a particularly lovable organisation – and it’s going through a particularly bad patch right now with the euro and migration crises, which highlight the fact that it is far from perfect.  So your heart may be telling you we should leave, buoyed up by stirring s...

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Is the EU a giant squid?

June 12, 2016


In this post I’m going to look at whether the EU is so dysfunctional and plagued by major problems (e.g. migration, the euro etc) that it has become like a giant squid, threatening to drag us down into the abyss – so the safest course is to disentangle ourselves and leave.  For me, geography means that this “safer out” argument doesn’t hold much water (excuse the pun).  This is because, if we leave, “the squid” will still be sat there right next to us, with all the same problems...
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Brexit: a broader perspective (3)

June 6, 2016


Having discussed security and trade in previous posts, I’m now going to look at the impact of the EU on the domestic economy.  Maybe I should retitle this “Boring for Brexit,” as I suspect most people are sick of hearing about it – but it’s also hard to find much in the way of reasoned analysis of the issues, hence this series of posts.

Anyway, my starting point is the argument of pro-Brexit campaigners that since the vast majority of UK businesses don’t export, the Single Market i...

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Brexit: a broader perspective (2)

May 23, 2016



Having looked at the security position in my last post, I'm now going to look at whether the EU is good for trade.  The remain side says it is (and prophesies economic doom if we leave), whereas the leave campaign say we’d do better for ourselves outside the EU (and prophesies economic doom if we stay).  Both sides have been overstating their case whilst lobbing statistics at each other - so in this post I’m going to try to keep the numbers to a minimum and focus more on practical example...

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Brexit: a broader perspective (1)

May 16, 2016


I don’t usually blog that much about politics, but the referendum on 23 June 2016 on whether the UK should leave the EU is probably one of the biggest decisions voters will be asked to make in my lifetime.  Both sides in the debate have been throwing somewhat extreme and wholly contradictory claims around – when the reality is probably somewhere in between these two extremes.  So what I’m trying to do here is to look at things from a broader perspective.  If you’ve already made up you...

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About Me


Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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