Five Things #24

In Fortune’s Final Hand Adam-Troy Castro envisages a casino in which memories can be gambled and asks how much of you would still be you if your memories once belonged to someone else.

Rich Pelley talks to David Jason and Brian Cosgrove about Danger Mouse.

Renewable energy still has a long way to go. Wednesday was Belgium’s Grey Day, the day when notionally the country’s green electricity production is used up.

Klaus Sieg visits Sirplus, a chain of German supermarkets selling expired yogurt, mislabled jam and weird potatoes.

Chris Grey argues Brexiters need to stop campaigning and start governing.

Preparing to fail

Do you remember that photo, taken shortly after Theresa May had formally informed the EU of Britain’s intention to leave, of David Davis and the UK’s negotiating team meeting their EU counterparts. On the EU side, the negotiators each had thick folders stuffed with detailed guidelines intended to shape the direction and outcome of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations. On the UK side, the negotiators had… David Davis’ inane grin.

Before that, of course, we had the utter insanity of Theresa May invoking Article 50 and setting the clock ticking on the UK’s exit from the EU without having the first clue of what she wanted to achieve or how she was going to get there.

This was followed by three years of chaos as the UK’s clueless and incompetent government stumbled from one crisis to the next while allowing itself to be pushed into taking ever more extreme positions by their own Bennite wing. This carried on until everyone was so fed up with the whole mess that they let Boris Johnson tell them that throwing Northern Ireland under a bus and caving in to everything represented some sort of victory.

David Allen Green notes that nothing has changed:

The European Union chief negotiator produced draft negotiation guidelines for the next stage of the Brexit process: that is the future relationship agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

You can read the draft here, thirty-three pages of detailed guidelines, which if adopted will shape the next stage of the negotiations.

As Green notes, the EU negotiators understand the process and have put thought into making sure they are fully prepared for the next part of the Brexit negotiations.

The UK could have done something similar; a draft negotiation document, for example, which could have been put before Parliament for approval

There would be no problem with the Prime Minister doing this: he has had the civil service machine at his disposal since summer — plenty of time for the government to know what it wants from the next stage of negotiations, especially as he wants the agreement in place by the end of this year.

And there would be no risk for the Prime Minister in doing this either: unlike his predecessor, he has a majority in the House of Commons and so he could be confident of any such guidelines getting parliamentary approval.

Of course, no such document was published.

The obvious explanation for the United Kingdom government not publishing a document as detailed as that of the European Union is that it has (currently) no proposals as detailed as those of the European Union.

As in 2016-2020, the United Kingdom does not have a clue in practical or detailed terms what to do next.

This government hasn’t learned a thing.

Five Things #23

Gut Feelings by Peter Watts imagines scenario in which gut flora reprogram the brain’s anger and image-recognition macros via the Vagus Nerve. It is, as the author notes, about as heartwarming as a Peter Watts fantasy can be.

Looking at how people keep on voting, Chris Dillow draws the obvious conclusion that the public does not want economic growth.

A possible third wolf has been sighted up at the Hoge Kempen National Park and its surroundings in Flanders, according to Landschap vzw, the nonprofit association behind Welcome Wolf.

In other Belgian rewilding news, the De Logt brewery will be introducing a ‘Naya’ beer, named after the ‘Belgian’ wolf that was killed last year, on 1st February. Part of the proceeds will be contributed to Welcome Wolf.

Tom Jolliffe takes a jaunt back to the 80’s to see how some of the decade’s biggest fantasy films have aged. Confession: I like Krull. And Time Bandits, for that matter.

Quote of the day: Massive, not obvious

On Friday we cross the threshold where Brexit must breathe the same air as other political projects. It sheds the immunity of abstraction and enters the realm of evidence. There will be no bracing inrush of liberty to get leaver hearts pumping, and no sudden cataclysm to vindicate remainers. If ending EU membership proves to be a mistake it will be a gradual tightening, a slow burn; the kind of problem that is easier to deny than to own.

Rafael Behr

Quote of the day: Anticlimactic

Revolutions unleash euphoria because they create tangible images of change and inaugurate, at least in the fevered minds of their supporters, a new epoch. Brexit can’t do either of these things. The problem with a revolt against imaginary oppression is that you end up with imaginary freedom. How do you actually show that the yoke of Brussels has been lifted? You can’t bring prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps back into the shops, or release stout British fishermen from the humiliation of having to wear hair nets at work on the high seas, or unban donkey rides on beaches, or right any of the other great wrongs that fuelled anti-EU sentiment – because all of it was make-believe.

Fintan O’Toole

Five Things #21

KT Bryski provides a very different take on the story of Red Riding Hood in The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles.

In 2008 Rian Dundon spent 9 months on the road with Fan Bingbing, China’s biggest movie star, and gained a firsthand look at the country’s celebrity-industrial complex.

There are exactly two wolves in the wild in Flanders at present. Pups could be on the way.

Nick Tyrone discusses three things the left gets wrong. Repeatedly.

Ben Orlin presents The Game of Snakes. All you need is a pen and a bit of paper.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results

In Belgium, rumour has it that the latest pair of royal informants to take on the role of forming a federal government is looking to make a coalition proposal which could consist of the Francophone socialists and the Flemish nationalists.

The elections were held in May of last year and there have been several (failed, obviously) attempts to assemble a government.

The problem here is that Belgium has no national parties — the Flemish parties campaign in Flanders and the Francophone parties campaign in Wallonia. Because of this, national elections look more like a pair of regional elections that happen to be held at the same time. This is compounded by the fact that Wallonia tends to vote left and Flanders tends to vote right, and exacerbated by the fact that none of the Francophone parties trust the separatists of the N-VA, who are the largest party in Flanders by some distance.

We’ve been here before. I’m far from convinced that things will be any different this time around.

Quote of the day: A Vainglorious Revolution

Having initially been bemused by the Referendum result, and then confused by the political crisis that followed, the election result has now cemented the new reality of Britain’s place in the eyes of the world – a “diminished” figure, being taught daily that it just isn’t important enough or powerful enough to exert much “control” over anything.

— Chris Grey on what “taking back control” really looks like.