Archive for Margaret Thatcher

Libération [hardcover]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , on November 23, 2016 by xi'an


another right uppercut

Posted in pictures with tags , , , , , , , on November 21, 2016 by xi'an

While at a much lesser scale than the US election result, the outcome of the French Republican primaries of last weekend shows a similar shift to the right of the electorate, who thus favoured the arch-conservative [Thatcherite] François Fillion over the milder center-right Alain Juppé. Some proposals in his program are downright [very much down and very much to the right] scary, among which

  1. cancel the 35 hour legal working week and let companies “negociate” up to a 48 hour working week
  2. apply an increase of 10% of the VAT, this most unfair of taxes, against a decrease of 40 billions € on company taxes
  3. cut 500,000 public sector jobs, increase working hours in the public sector and restrict the status of civil servant to a few ministries
  4. prohibit adoption and medically assisted procreation outside heterosexual and married couples
  5. collaborate with Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin, including ending sanctions against Russia’s annexation of Crimea,
  6. turn the EU into a Europe of Nations (which happens to be the name of the extreme-right group in the European Parliament)
  7. rewrite history school programs to deliver a “story of the French Nation” that plainly replace teaching with State indoctrination
  8. strip French terrorists of French nationality (a proposal that goes against Article 15 of the Declaration of Human Rights)
  9. leave the European Court of Human Rights (as  Theresa May),
  10. and ban burkinis from beaches, an obviously definitive answer to all secularism issues!

Scary enough to make me decide to vote against him at the second primary election next Sunday, as the winner is likely to be the next French president. (The alternative is simply terrifying!)

Brexit as hypothesis testing

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , on June 26, 2016 by xi'an

last run on Clifton and Durdham Downs, Bristol, Jan. 27, 2012While I have no idea of how the results of the Brexit referendum of last Thursday will be interpreted, I am definitely worried by the possibility (and consequences) of an exit and wonder why those results should inevitably lead to Britain leaving the EU. Indeed, referenda are not legally binding in the UK and Parliament could choose to ignore the majority opinion expressed by this vote. For instance, because of the negative consequences of a withdrawal. Or because the differential is too little to justify such a dramatic change. In this, it relates to hypothesis testing in that only an overwhelming score can lead to the rejection of a natural null hypothesis corresponding to the status quo, rather than the posterior probability being above a mere ½. Which is the decision associated with a 0-1 loss function.  Of course, the analogy can be attacked from many sides, from a denial of democracy (simple majority being determined by a single extra vote) to a lack of randomness in the outcome of the referendum (since everyone in the population is supposed to have voted). But I still see some value in requiring major societal changes to be backed by more than a simple majority. All this musing is presumably wishful thinking since every side seems eager to move further (away from one another), but it would great if it could take place.

ghost town [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2015 by xi'an

During my week in Warwick, I bought a book called Ghost Town, by Catriona Troth, from the campus bookstore, somewhat randomly, mostly because its back-cover was mentioning Coventry in the early 1980’s, racial riots, and anti-skinhead demonstrations, as well as the University of Warwick. And Ska, this musical style from the 1980’s, inspired from an earlier Jamaican rhythm, which emerged in Coventry with a groups called The Specials. (And the more mainstream Madness from Camden Town.)  While this was some of the music I was listening to at that time, I was completely unaware it had started in Coventry! And Ghost Town is a popular song from The Specials.  Which thus inspired the title of the book..

Enough with preliminaries!, the book is quite a good read, although more for the very realistic rendering of the atmosphere of the early 1980’s than for the story itself, even though both are quite intermingled. Most of the book action takes place in an homeless shelter where students just out of the University (or simply jobless) run the shelter and its flow of unemployed workers moving or drifting from the closed factories of the North towards London… This is Margaret Thatcher’s era, no doubt about this!, and the massive upheaval of industrial Britain at that time is translated into the gloomy feeling of an impoverished Midlands city like Coventry. This is also the end of the 1970’s, with (more) politically active students, almost indiscriminatingly active against every perceived oppression, from racism, to repression, the war in Ireland (with the death of Bobby Sand in Maze prison, for which I remember marching in Caen…), but mostly calling for a more open society. Given the atmosphere at that time, and especially given this was the time I was a student, there is enough material to make the book quite enjoyable [for me] to read! Even though I find the personal stories of both main protagonists somewhat caricaturesque and rather predictable. And, maybe paradoxically, the overall tone of the (plot) relationship between those two is somewhat patronising and conservative. When considering that they both can afford to retreat to safe havens when need be. But this does not make the bigger picture any less compelling a read, as the description of the (easy) manipulation of the local skinheads towards more violent racism by unnamed political forces is scary, with a very sad ending.

One side comment [of no relevance] is that reading the book made me realise I had no idea what Coventry looks like: none of the parts of town mentioned there evokes anything to me as I have never ventured farther than the train station! Which actually stands outside the ring road, hence not within the city limits. I hope I can find time during one of my next trips to have a proper look at down-town Coventry!