Thursday 2 March, 2023

The Interloper

Seen on a Kerry beach last week.

Quote of the Day

”The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism.”

  • William Ostler

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Julian Lage | I’ll Be Seeing You (Live in Los Angeles)


New to me, and lovely. Thanks to Michael Dales (Whom God Preserve) for discovering it.

Long Read of the Day

What the poet, playboy and prophet of bubbles can still teach us

Typically thoughtful and interesting essay by Tim Harford.

One winter morning in early 1637, a sailor presented himself at the counting-house of a wealthy Dutch merchant and was offered a hearty breakfast of fine red herring. The sailor noticed an onion lying on the counter.

“Thinking it, no doubt, very much out of its place among silks and velvets, he slily seized an opportunity and slipped it into his pocket, as a relish for his herring,” according to a Scottish writer telling the tale two centuries later. “He got clear off with his prize and proceeded to the quay to eat his breakfast.”

The Scottish writer was Charles Mackay and the story is recounted in his book, Extraordinary ­Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It’s one of very few works of economic history to have been an enduring bestseller, from its first publication in 1841 through to the 21st century, thanks, largely, to its vivid storytelling. Mackay debunked everything from alchemy and crusades to haunted houses and religious cults. But it was the three chapters on economic bubbles that made him the enduring guru of the phenomenon, cited to this day. In the book, Mackay went on to explain that the sailor, seeking zest for his fish, unwittingly pilfered not an onion, but a rare tulip bulb. Which was a problem because, in 1637, one of the strangest of all financial booms was taking place: the tulip mania, during which the choicest bulbs went for astonishing sums.

“Hardly was his back turned when the merchant missed his valuable Semper Augustus, worth three thousand florins, or about 280 pounds sterling,” wrote Mackay…

Read on. There are surprises in store.

If you thought Murdoch was omnipotent, think again

He’s always been scared of Trump.

Terrific column by Jack Shafer.

An article of faith among modern media observers preaches that Rupert Murdoch can manipulate American politics in any direction he wants through the broadcasts of his lucrative media property, the Fox News Channel. This article of faith, which Democrats share with their children to give them nightmares and Republicans share with theirs as a cautionary tale, has given Murdoch king-maker status over the years as he has directed his channel to reward his supplicants and punish his enemies.

But on closer examination, and especially in light of the testimony released in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News for its coverage of the “stolen” presidential election of 2020, Murdoch isn’t always the master puppeteer he’s reputed to be. In Murdoch’s own words, delivered in Dominion suit depositions, he describes himself as frightened by the power Donald Trump holds over the Fox audience. He portrays himself, accurately in this case, as the supreme authority at his network but unable to control his prime-time anchors who endorsed Trump’s lie of a stolen election. And he regrets not interceding — which he says was within his power — to keep stolen-election fabulists like Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell from repeatedly appearing on his shows, even though some Fox executives and anchors were gagging, off-screen, on Giuliani and Powell’s wild-eyed theories…

Wow. I hadn’t realised that Murdoch had had to testify in the Dominion libel trial.

Jonty Bloom on the Windsor Agreement

From his piece in The New European

You really could not make it up. The Brexit-loving prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is boasting that NI has the best deal in the world because it is both part of the UK and of the single market.

And he is right, Northern Ireland does have a great deal in the world. It is exactly the same deal that the whole of the UK used to have before Rishi Sunak and his mates threw it all away.

That is why Northern Ireland’s trade with the EU is booming – up by £1 billion last year – that is why it has grown much faster than the rest of the country and why it is now the second largest recipient of foreign investment in the UK after London.

The foreign investment would have been even higher but for the suicidally stupid threats by previous Conservative administrations to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol and start a trade war with the EU. Now that threat is removed, it will doubtless soar.

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