Collusion or delusion?

July 17, 2017

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This post will present my views on the confused affair of Donald Jnr’s meeting with the Russians in June 2016.

The undisputed facts appear to be that on 3/6/16 Donald Jnr received an email from a Russian national he had had business dealings with in the past, offering some compromising information on Hillary Clinton purportedly originating from the Russian government. Less than 20 minutes later Donald Jr confirms he is interested. On 9/6/16 the meeting takes place with eight people present: three of the Trump election team and five Russian nationals. The public statements released by those who attended are consistent – it appears that when no substantive information on Hillary was offered the Trump team lost interest, Jared Kushner left the room after a few minutes and the remainder of the meeting was spent discussing issues around the adoption of Russian children by the US citizens. It also appears that there was no follow up on the meeting.

Rather than sifting through who said what during the meeting I will focus on the big picture. What was the intent of both parties going into the meeting, was the Russian leadership involved and, if so, what was their game plan? Of course this is only my speculation, based on the publicly available disclosures, common sense and my understanding of the shady world of politics.

First we must consider the most obvious possibility that Veselnitskaya was indeed working for the Russian government keen to offer some dirt on Hillary with the intent of helping Trump to get elected. This theory has a weakness which I consider fatal. If the Russian leadership went to the trouble of arranging the meeting with the Trump team why was no substantive information offered? They found a contact leading to Trump’s inner circle, managed to attract Jnr’s attention, got him and two other Trump’s hot shots to sit at the table with five Russian operatives and, well – nothing. Anyone trying to convince me that this is how in June 2016 Putin’s people were trying to help Trump will need to first explain why no meaningful information was provided. Also, if the intention was to discuss confidential and compromising details it is surprising that the Russian team swelled to five – I would expect sensitive information to be discussed with as few witnesses as possible.

I have two other theories which may better explain the real story behind the mysterious meeting.

It is completely possible that Veleniskaya made up the Clinton story to get Trump’s people into the room to discuss her pet project – the Magnitsky Act. She found a person connected to Donald Jnr (Goldstone), took a few random people with her to appear more credible, had no political information to offer and quickly moved on to discuss the adoptions. When that ploy failed she gave up and hence no follow up on the meeting.

The other possible explanation is that the Russian government did indeed send Velenitskaya to Trump Tower but their real intention was not to offer dirt on Hillary but rather to collect a dossier which could be used against Trump. They risked nothing because if Donald Jnr had showed no interest the meeting simply would not have taken place. As things unfolded, Jnr took the bait and the Russians ended up with a bombshell media package that could be (and was) released at the time of their choosing. Trump had the guts to challenge Putin at G20 and, in retaliation, got dealt a body blow by KGB.

I must make clear here that the Trump team showed serious naivety by going into the meeting with the Russians claiming to be Putin’s agents. Donald Jnr may have even broken the law by not reporting the initial contact to the FBI and Kushner absolutely should have declared the meeting in his security clearance. I trust that these transgressions will be investigated and acted on by the federal authorities. But to claim that their single short meeting amounted to “collusion” with the Russian government is laughable. If no sensitive information changed hands during or after the meeting no co-operation or conspiracy can be claimed to have existed so the likes of CNN and NYT have to keep looking for that elusive smoking gun.

Trump the leftie

January 24, 2017

The complexity of the modern World often defies simplistic labels used to describe it. One example of this is Donald Trump who, despite being universally despised by the Left, actually does quite a lot to advance their agenda. This post has been written for the benefit of my ultra-progressive friends who may be surprised to find an unlikely ally in the White House.

Donald Trump hit the Oval Office floor running. His first executive order pulled the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (also known as TPPA). The Left have been fighting furiously to dismantle TPPA for years and I am surprised that they are not giving Trump any credit for his decisive action. It should make no difference what ideological corner he is boxing out of as long as what he does aligns with the will of the proletariat, right? Obama did his level best to advance the globalist agenda but he has now vacated the taxpayer-funded accommodation in Washington. Hillary Clinton, anointed by Obama as his successor, is on record saying that TPPA is a “golden standard” for trade agreements so I am not sure where she stands on the issue. And then, out of the blue (errr – red, actually), comes Trump and destroys TPPA with a stroke of a pen on the first working day of his presidency. This should endear him with the Marxists of the World who have united for the very same cause.

In a more general sense Trump favours national protectionism over a global, free-market economy. He is happy to introduce tariffs on the imported products putting the US industry out of business. Again, this is something the likes of Communists and Greens (excuse the linguistic redundancy) have been campaigning for for years. The fate of the workers in the Rust Belt of the US should be close to the heart of every caring leftie but now Trump is prepared to stand up for the dispossessed and his commitment should be recognised. It is true that the German proletariat will suffer if the US introduces tariffs on BMW cars to protect the American proletariat working for GM but this is a subtlety anti-globalists never worried about so why bring it up now, just because the guy pushing for the tariffs does not wear a beret with a star?

Donald Trump is also happy to confront China on the trade issues. Abuses of the workers’ rights, prison labour, price dumping and other dodgy practices in China have been in the cross-hairs of the caring lefties for a long time. Unfortunately, the previous US regime was not prepared to touch the issue so it is good someone with bigger cahunas is now inhabiting the White House. Let us hope that, with the support of the labour rights movement and other Marxists, Trump will be able to exert enough pressure on China to force some changes. Both the Chinese workforce and those in other countries whose  jobs are threatened because of cheap imports should benefit from it.

In another development Trump broke the long-standing tradition of pussyfooting around China’s sensitivities by talking on the phone with the Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-Wen. It is something the previous US presidents, including the folk hero Obama, were too scared to do. This brave step by Trump may open the door for confronting China on the other two of the three “T’s” which were considered off limits for any discussion – Tibet and Tienamen . If things go well maybe even the brazen Chinese expansionism in the disputed maritime areas can be given some air? The human rights NGO’s in the West have been decrying the fact no one was prepared to stand up to China so good on Trump for raising his voice. It is also significant that it made no difference to him the Taiwan’s president who called him is in fact a woman. So much for Trump’s alleged misogyny, which so agitated the feminists during the presidential campaign.

But most importantly of all, Trump was prepared to listen to the concerns and fears of the ordinary Americans and devised his political program to address them. This is why he won the elections humiliating the much favoured Clinton team. The story of an underdog defeating an inbred political establishment has echoes of the Bolshevik coup d’état,  1933 German election or Cuban Revolution and should strike a chord in every progressive heart. Well done comrade Trump!

I hope the above examples show that Donald Trump is not a barbarian simpleton but rather a pragmatic politician who has picked the policies that resonate with the mainstream Americans and is prepared to carry through at least some of them, including the contentious ones. There should be no harm in the lefties supporting and praising him for making the changes which align with the progressive agenda.

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Where does Go go? (3)

December 28, 2016

In March 2016 AlphaGo computer program defeated the top human player Lee Sedol. During their match AlphaGo was much more powerful than during the games it had played against Fen Hui a few months prior. This was because AlphaGo had been playing a lot of practice games over that period. About two million a day to be precise. And it played them against itself.

AlphaGo utilises a programming feature mimicking the way human brain functions known as neural networks. Without going into too much detail it has two modules assessing the current board position which it used to work out the best move. But more importantly, AlphaGo can learn from the outcome of the games it plays against itself. This way it evolves much like humans do – it gets better at playing Go every single day.

When AlphaGo defeated Fan Hui in 2015 the experts predicted that a world beating Go playing computer program was still a decade away. In fact it only took under a year which shows that the progress in the development of artificial intelligence surpasses all expectations. The next challenge for computers is the Turing test – being able to pass as a human in a casual conversation. I doubt if it takes another decade.

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Where does Go go? (2)

December 12, 2016

Due to the incredible complexity of the game of Go the computer programs playing it could not utilise the brute force approach which has cracked chess. The method used by most Go programs instead is known as Monte Carlo tree search. The name is quite apt in that the algorithm runs through possible play sequences (game tree) using a random generator of moves (like a roulette in a Monte Carlo casino).

Instead of applying any strategic thought most Go computer programs start from the current board position and play millions of games consisting of completely random moves made by both players. When each games finishes the result is stored in the cells of computer memory corresponding to the moves selected. After millions of searches a picture is beginning to emerge of which move about to be made by the computer tends to statistically end up with a high probability of the computer winning – in multiple random sequences of games played to the end.

It is important to note that a Go program relying on Monte Carlo tree search does not need to “know” anything about the strategy of the game. It only needs to know which moves are legal (even if completely nonsensical) and play enough random simulations to arrive at statistically significant conclusions. This approach is devoid of any analysis and, predictably, Monte Carlo programs are not great at playing Go. While they reached a decent amateur level a while ago they had no chance against Go professionals who spend their lives studying the intricacies of the game and developing strategies to play it.

The challenge for the programmers was to improve the performance of the Monte Carlo algorithm by adding more Go-specific depth to it. The breakthrough was finally made by the DeepMind software team formed around 2014 and funded by Google. In October 2015 their creation, AlphaGo, managed to beat a competent professional player Fan Hui by 5 games to 0. The Go community was perplexed but most experts still believed AlphaGo stood no chance against a top human player. This was proved wrong when in March 2016 AlphaGo defeated a top ranking Go champion Lee Sedol by 4 games to 1. Following this match the program was awarded an honorary rank of 9 dan – the highest awarded to any human player.

So how did AlphaGo manage to deafeat Lee Sedol? Read on to find out!

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Where does Go go? (1)

December 6, 2016

In mid 1980s IBM hired the team developing a chess computer program for Carnegie Mello University. Known as Deep Thought, the program won a game against Grandmaster Bent Larsen in 1988 but lost the match against the reigning champion Garry Kasparov in 1989 by two games to zero. Renamed Deep Thought it challenged Kasparov again in 1996 and this time lost 4-2. Then in 1997 in New York City Deep Blue became the first computer program to defeat the reigning human chess champion under tournament conditions by beating Garry Kasparov 3.5-2.5. The era of human dominance in chess was over.

Deep Blue was run on a dedicated mainframe with multiple processors operating in parallel. The code, while sophisticated by 1990s standards, derived much of its strength from being able to search and analyse the game many moves ahead. Human brain has limitations in this area but conventional wisdom was that top players more than make up for it by being able to think strategically. In 1997 the sheer computing power of a super-computer running code compiled by a team of experts overpowered the chess intuition of the best human player and, as they say, the rest is history. I remember speculations made post-1997 that there is another game which will not fall to the computer analysis that easily. Go.

Chess is played on a 8×8 board and has 20 possible opening moves. Go is played on a 19×19 board and the number of opening moves is 361. An average chess game is 40-50 moves long versus 200 moves in Go. This should give an idea how much more computationally intensive the game of Go is compared to chess. In fact the number of possible positions which may arise in Go is so huge it exceeds the number of atoms in the universe many, many times over. In that sense it is impossible to apply the brute force Deep Blue approach to Go – there simply is not enough computing power available in the World to search all the moves. Which is why Go players rely largely on intuition and feel when they play. Something computers cannot do – right? Read on to find out!

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IR8

December 1, 2016

Every now and again we get to hear about people who, through their heroic deeds, managed to save other human beings from certain death. These compassionate acts of bravery typically happen during wars, terror attacks or natural disasters. But I recently became aware of someone who helped save 1 billion people and did it in the time of peace. To add another twist to the story his efforts were funded by the fortunes of two of the US greatest industrialists who had at the time been dead for a few decades. The name of this hero hardly anyone knows about is Norman Borlaug.

In 1960 International Rice Research Institute was established in the Philippines with the financial assistance of the two charitable trusts – Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation. The institute worked on developing new genetic varieties of rice capable of better yields. In 1961 they crossed the Chinese dwarf rice known as Dee-geo-woo-gen and tall, bushy Peta rice from Indonesia. This produced the semi-dwarf variety which became known as IR8. In field trials in optimal conditions IR8 delivered an astonishing yield of over 10t per hectare – the average rice yield in the Philippines at that time was about 1t per hectare.

Following the introduction of the IR8 rice variety the annual rice production in the Philippines rose from 3.7 to 7.7 million tons. Similar results were achieved in other countries. The person requested by the Indian government in 1961 to modernise its agriculture was Norman Borlaug, who already had an impressive track record of introducing high-yielding wheat varieties in Mexico (funded by Rockefeller Foundation). Due to the adoption of IR8 and improvement in agricultural practices the average rice yield per hectare in India rose from 2t in 1960s to 6t in 1990s which helped avert mass famine. The price reduced from $550 per ton to $200 per ton making rice more affordable to the poor. According to some estimates the Green Revolution spearheaded by Norman Borlaug saved up to 1 billion people from starvation.

Like all achievers, Norman Borlaug has his share of detractors. In particular the Greens hate intensive agriculture ushered in by the Green Revolution because it relies on industrial fertilisation and uses much more water than a 1-ton-per-hectare approach. These miserable, negative people would be happy to sacrify the lives of millions in the name of ecological purity. It seems that being despised by the Greens is almost a prerequisite for having a meaningful and productive life these days but I digress…

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Confession time

November 12, 2016

This post may lose da-boss a few followers from the conservative camp but I feel I have to come clean on one important issue in connection with the recent US presidential elections. Despite posting a number of comments on Trump which did not include the obligatory invectives like ‘bigot’, ‘racist’ and ‘dumb’ I actually did not like the guy much.

Apart from his willingness to talk about the issues no one else wanted to touch there was little in his message that impressed me. The throw-away lines about women put him in a bad light. Some of his comments about Muslims were unnecessarily polarising. His rhetoric was hyperbolic and many of the solutions he proposed outright populist. Watching the progressive journos squirm when presented with someone simply calling a spade a spade was priceless but the rest of the spectacle I found quite uninspiring.

At some point however  I started feeling admiration for Trump who singlehandedly took on the whole political establishment of the US. Facing pathetically biased coverage in the media, condemned to defeat by the pundits, dumped on by feminists, Marxists, LGBT crowd and activists of all sorts he just carried on. His persistence was so impressive he earned my genuine respect.

Then, towards the end of the campaign, he moderated his message somewhat proving that rather than a loose cannon he is actually a shrude PR operator. His post-election speech was magnanimous and everything he has done since quite presidential. He was very dignified during his meeting with Obama and even Melania had a cuppa with Michelle as pleasantries were exchanged. This bodes well for a smooth transition of power.

But the main issue with Trump was always going to be his advisers and this is where he impressed me most. Short on political experience, he is looking at hiring some grey heads with many decades at positions of influence between them. Being Washington outsiders they should not be hamstrung by the ideological straight-jacket of political correctness so we can expect some radical changes in the style of governance. After eight years of the Obama nightmare this is an encouraging prospect.

All-in-all I am feeling more positive about the future of the US than I have for a while. They have a president-elect who is visionary and decisive yet seems to understand his limitations when it comes to running the country and is willing to draw on the experience of others. In House and Congress Trump has the support he needs to make his vision into realty.

Good luck to Donald Trump and God bless America.

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Obama’s kiss of death

November 10, 2016

As the dust is settling after the US elections we are beginning to appreciate the circumstances which lead Donald Trump to his stunning victory. One such factor which went unnoticed by most commentators will now be brought to your attention by da-boss. It was the kiss of death delivered on Hillary’s cheek by Barack Obama.

To regular readers of the blog it will come as no surprise I am not an admirer of Mr Obama. In fact I think his political legacy is nothing short of disastrous. Here is the summary of his failings which are well documented by public record:

  • He was repeatedly snubbed by North Korea which carried out a number of nuclear tests on his watch. Obama’s legacy does not include a coherent policy for dealing with Kim Jong-un
  • He was repeatedly snubbed by Iran which carries on its uranium enriching operations. The agreement Obama managed to negotiate is a poor face-saving measure of little substance.
  • He masterminded and carried out military destruction of the political regime in Libya which handed the country to Islamist militias and made it into a staging post for millions of African refugees invading Europe. No policy exists for dealing with the problem.
  • He made absolutely no progress in sorting out the Israel-Palestinian conflict and there is no solution on the horizon.
  • He completely mishandled the Syrian crisis and as a result millions are suffering way more than they did under the despotic rule of Assad. Syria is a mess no one knows how to fix.
  • Through inaction, he has allowed for the formation of the Islamic State – a creation of barbaric religious fanatics hell bent on imposing their ideology on others. Some gains are made in the fight against IS, partly due to the Russian involvement which was a slap on the face for Obama.
  • He fell out with Putin, leading to the new low in the relationships between two nuclear super-powers. On the positive side Trump appears able and willing to repair the damage.
  • He failed to prevent the military expansion of China into the South China Sea.
  • Guantanamo Bay, which he repeatedly vowed to close is still open, after 8 years of his presidency.
  • Domestically, he spent most of his political capital ramming through the ObamaCare plan which in all likelihood will now be dismantled by his successor in the Oval Office.

Given Obama’s disastrous track record of (non) achievement it is no wonder that his unprecedented in the political history of the US public endorsement of Hillary Clinton  turned out to be a kiss of death. As Trump aptly put it nobody wanted another four years of Obama.

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America divided

November 10, 2016

So the US voters have elected Donald Trump as their next president. Most political commentators stress that the bruising election campaign has left the country deeply divided and da-boss agrees. In fact the most precipitous chasm I can see is between the mainstream Americans and the media. The raison d’être of the public media in a democracy is to air and discuss the views of the common people. The media completely missed the depth of the anti-establishment sentiment of the US voters because they had given themselves a different task altogether – to educate the Americans how they should vote.

One comment by a TV reporter last night points directly to the heart of the problem. When referring to the shock result in Florida he said that the pre-election commentaries had focused on the way ethnic – Black, Hispanic – minorities would vote but they missed one minority which ultimately made the difference on the election night. White males without college degree. One obvious question is why the views of this segment of the society had not been given the media attention they deserve? Is it embarrassing for the media elites to present what white, uneducated American males think? And, most importantly – what do they think?

The matters which bug the mainstream Americans are actually quite similar to what worries normal people everywhere. Jobs. Immigration. Bureaucracy. Some ethnic minorities not pulling their weight. Islamic terrorism. They happen to be the issues the mainstream media will not touch with a barge pole because they do not conform to the politically correct view of the World. Opening a serious public discussion on any of these matters would reveal that ordinary people do not care about ideological agendas and simply want the problems sorted out. But the left leaning media will not tolerate airing non-PC views so as a result popular dissatisfaction does not vent which inevitably leads to the emergence of populism. It is the likes of CNN and BBC with their weak, irrelevant coverage of the contentious social issues that created Donald Trump.

One other aspect of the recent events which is quite revealing is that the pundits of the Left are not celebrating the democratic election process. Had Hillary won we would all now be hearing that the people made the “right” choice by shunning a populist and – democratically – electing a progressive candidate. But the left leaning lot has gone silent on the wonders of democracy because it did not deliver the results they were hoping for. This shows that they see democracy not as a goal but rather a vehicle to keep them in positions of influence. Nothing that da-boss did not know but perhaps a sobering thought for some on the Left who still harbour illusion of being in the democratic camp.

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To Trump or not to Trump

September 8, 2016

In my previous posts (for example here and here) I commented on the hatchet job on Donald Trump carried out by the mainstream media. For someone who does not have vested interest in the US election it is mind boggling how the supposedly neutral media outlets chose to relentlessly bag only one of the prospective presidential candidates.

At the risk of stating the obvious I will reiterate that the role of the media is primarily to provide the facts so the public can form their own views. Any opinion pieces or editorials should be balanced in a sense of presenting all sides of the argument and affording the same level of scrutiny to all adversaries. The reason for this is that political propaganda can shape the opinions of a democratic electorate and those who control the media control the collective mind of the nation. Goebbels knew it when he said:

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”

The effect of bringing down a presidential hopeful by a concerted effort of the media would extend well beyond the results of the current election cycle in the US. If successful, it would pave the way for a social manipulation of Orwellian proportions carried out on our free, modern societies. It is primarily on these ground I am finding myself in Trump’s camp. And it seems I am not the only person feeling this way:

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton start the race to November 8 on essentially even ground, with Trump edging Clinton by a scant two points among likely voters

Yes, you read it right – despite the barrage of negativity poured on Trump by the media he is now ahead of Clinton in the polls! I guess it goes to show that political propaganda can sometimes backfire.

The other reason I am increasingly warming up to Donald Trump is that desperate times call for desperate measures and the times are desperate indeed. We all know what a Hillary Clinton reign in the White House would look like. Four more dreary years of rehearsed, meaningless speeches and sucking up to the rogue states like North Korea, Iran and ISIS, while the US are sinking under the burden of debt. Trump at least offers a chance to shake up the fundamentals and set the US on a new path. Being unpredictable, he also comes with a huge risk profile but increasingly it looks like the US voters are prepared to take the gamble.

Faced with a prospect of living in a country run by Hillary Clinton I would be too.

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What did Trump actually say?

July 28, 2016

There is a new trend in the use of English language by the journalists. A text given in quotation marks used to represent the exact words of the person involved. Now take a look at the attached screenshots. BBC are claiming (twice) that Trump encouraged Russia to “hack” Clinton’s emails. “Hack” is given in quotation marks so one would assume that this is the term Trump has used – right? Wrong. He has not. What he said was:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,”

The same thing? Not necessarily. It is normal for spy agencies to snoop on email traffic. This in fact is exactly why Clinton’s use of private email account to conduct federal business is problematic! So what Trump said can be viewed as asking Russians to release the hacked emails already in their possession, if indeed they have them. Not encouraging them to hack but only to publicise what they have already hacked. The exact meaning of what he said can be argued both ways but what one cannot do is give one particular interpretation of what Trump said as a direct quote.

So what do the BBC title lines actually refer to? Was it one editor who told his colleague that Trump (in this editor’s opinion) “encourages Russia to hack Clinton emails” and the other guy dutifully put it in as a quote because he heard it from someone? Should the BBC not make it clearer that the person quoted is not Trump but rather someone presenting they personal view on what Trump meant? But let us check how the title lines would read with the actual words Trump used:

Trump to Russia: ‘find the 30,000 emails that are missing’

and:

US election: Trump encourages Russia to ‘find’ Clinton emails

They do not have the same sensational ring to them as the “hack” versions, do they? Maybe this is why BBC decided to embellish them.

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Brexit

June 29, 2016

Much as I predicted, less than a week after the referendum the financial markets are already recovering the modest losses resulting from the initial political uncertainty:

Pressure has eased on UK financial markets after two days of turmoil in the wake of the Brexit vote, with the FTSE 100 share index closing higher.

In a month or so it will be business as usual, with both the UK and the EU countries repositioning themselves to face the new economic reality. But how different will it really be? The UK products which are competitive will still find buyers on the continent and elsewhere and the ones which only survived on EU subsidies will disappear. Good riddance! As long as all players allow the market forces to take the lead the whole Brexit affair will turn out to be an economic non-event. If (or rather: when) that happens will the “experts” prophesising economic melt-down and recession in the UK:

Leaving the European Union would tip the UK into a year-long recession, with up to 820,000 jobs lost within two years, Chancellor George Osborne says. Publishing Treasury analysis he said a Leave vote would cause an “immediate and profound” economic shock, with growth between 3% and 6% lower.

lose their cushy jobs? Time will tell but I suspect they will just move on to comment on the economic impact of global warming by 2100, the costs of “inequality” and “gender gap” or some other imponderable nonsense.

So we know that the UK will be leaving the EU but will the Euro-apparatchiks take this blow to their beloved Marxist creation on the chin and just quietly move on? It does not appear so:

A central figure in the Leave campaign, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, was booed, called a liar and accused of using “Nazi propaganda”.

The EU-philes are now resorting to personal attacks against those who channelled and facilitated the collective will of the Brits. It is ironic that the worshippers of democracy gathered in the European Parliament scoff at the democratic decision made by the citizens of one of its member states. So is democracy only good when it promotes Marxist collectivism? In any case the UK PM David Cameron is keen to make the transition smooth and painless:

“I’ll be explaining that Britain will be leaving the European Union but I want that process to be as constructive as possible,” he told reporters before the summit’s working dinner in Brussels.

This presumably means initiating informal negotiations, in preparation for the official withdrawal from the EU. But Angela Merkel will have none of that:

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said there can be no talks on Brexit before the UK formally begins the process of leaving the EU.

Her confrontational stance is aimed at discouraging other states from leaving the EU by making the transition costly for the UK. This belligerent tactic is very short-sighted and will backfire against Ms Merkel who is now styling herself as a head bully of the EU.

The way the Brexit drama plays out will provide us with both entertainment and reflection for months to come.

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