October 18, 2008
I was blessed, while rooting through old LDV posts yesterday in search of material with which to placate a disgruntled Voter (“Why didn’t the Liberal Democrats tell ME there was going to be a recession? You could have put ads in the newspapers!”), to come across this post from October 2006.
Its lesser charms consist of a picture of George “Absent” Osborne disporting himself in song on the Tory front bench. Ah, carefree times before we knew there was going to be a recession! Well, er, actually we did, in fact Sir Ming Campbell had highlighted the problem of colossal consumer debt and how it had the potential to lead to a disastrous crunch in March of that year. But you keep singin’, George.
Anyway, the real gold lies in the comments, in the form of this fabulous Chicago take-off by the great Will Howells:
I don’t care about new policies
Climate change, celebrities
Don’t mean a thing
All I care about is Dave
That’s what I’m here for
I don’t care for building railway tracks
CO2, income tax
Don’t mean a thing
All I care about is Dave
(All he cares about is Dave)
What to do:
Vote blue, get blue
Please just say “I’ll vote for you”
Make me heir to Tony Blair
But please don’t mention I’m a millionaire
I don’t care about us taxing less
Primary schools, the NHS
No, no, not me
All I care about is Dave
(All he cares about is Dave)
Show me good opinion polls
Show me that I’m on a roll
And when the papers big up DC
Forget elections, that’s enough for me
I would never cycle very far
With my workshoes coming in my car
No, no, not me
All I care about is
Getting myself in to Number Ten
Though I’ve no idea what I would do then
All I care about is Dave!
October 17, 2008
Posted by Alix under Polly-ticks
| Tags: economy
One happy side-effect of yer basic glerbleconmicmeldow is the sharp and unflattering relief into which it has thrown some sections of the media – perhaps the whole purpose of media itself. It’s not just that some people persist in not getting what the credit crunch was all about (pay close attention: it wasn’t ree-al mon-ey – it hasn’t “gone” anywhere). It’s that the frequent commentators’ habit of attaching emotive reaction and playground moralspeak to everything they report serves them spectacularly badly when the main substance of the news is economic.
The innate demand of the media engine is that “bad” news be trumped in some final and definitive way by “good” news. Or vice versa. They are, to give them credit, entirely unfussed about whether or not we “win” the glerbleconmicmeldow. But they do demand that someone “wins”. Or Panorama will know the reason why. It’s all totally subjective, of course. The current narrative is that Gordon Brown has won and is “back in control” on the basis that he’s taken some action in an economic emergency. You think he wasn’t taking various less exciting actions three weeks ago? You think there weren’t pictures of him smiling available for press use three weeks ago? Of course you don’t think that, you’re a bright spark who knows how to read newspapers critically, but you get my drift.
The trouble is that applying this simple goodies and baddies logic – irritating at the best of times – to an economic crisis makes the media look utterly bananas. At its height, the mad rodent school of news-making generated several successive days of headlines like this: “FTSE plunges to 21-year low as confidence wanes on world markets”, “Shares surge 7% as bank bail-out restores confidence”, “Markets no longer quite so confident three days after bank bail-out, fall again, this time to worst levels for five years”, “Market recovers slightly in totally nonsensical manner; we reckon this time it’s serious; Brown’s political comeback is complete”, “Market is slightly down again – we ask why?”
And so on. Honestly, guys, are you going to do this on the front page every single day from now on? Because, that’s kind of how markets work all the time. Actually, they’ve finally broken ranks today with David Cameron, Afghanistan and some child porn (not in the same story) but for a whole fortnight it’s been pretty much wall-to-wall angels-on-pinhead-speak. They might as well have spent their time dousing to ascertain the feelings of the wider cosmos and the Great Being. And they wonder why their circulations continue to plummet? This stuff makes no bloody coherent sense.
The other feature of commentariat behaviour that has been disastrously pinned to the wall is the demand for consistency, no matter what is happening to the economy, the world or Peter Mandelson’s hair. Makes perfect sense if the subject under discussion whether you’re for or against ID cards, makes no sense whatsoever if it’s whether you think interest rates should go up or down. Andy Hinton points to a quote from BBC headless rodent Andrew Neil, for example, who is worried – squeak, squeak! – that Vince has gone off the boil because he’s now calling for suspension of the independence of the Bank of England, having said at Lib Dem autumn conference that this would be the wrong thing to do.
Now, I (calling on my in-depth knowledge of, er, middle Anglo-Saxon burial practices) am by no means convinced of the wisdom of suspending the independence of the Bank of England. And Vince’s say-so should be questioned as much as anyone else’s. But even in my dark age ignorance I am tolerably sure that one or two things have, er, changed since the Lib Dem party conference? You know, shifting goalposts? Or pitches, in fact?
The epithet “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” was never more relevant than now, but the media insistence that everything look and sound the same from one day to the next, even from one month to the next (except when it’s Tory environmental policy under discussion, obviously), makes their reportage of a rapidly unfolding economic crisis a nonsense.
Danny Finkelstein displayed a similarly infantile grasp of political morality a week or so ago, tsking over the sad decline of Vince Cable-as-seer (I’m pretty sure he’s doctored his original post, by the way, which I remember as more damning than this; but I’m prepared to be corrected):
Three weeks ago he told the Liberal Democrat conference that:
“The Government must not compromise the independence of the Bank of England by telling it to slash interest rates and generate another dangerous inflationary ‘bubble’.”
In the same speech he contrasted Tory emptiness with the Lib Dem’s: [sic]
“more deeply rooted, more principled, alternative, a clearer analysis of why Britain faces a growing crisis; and a more honest statement of what the Government can and cannot do.”
Then on Sunday this principled, deeply rooted, more clearly analytical man said this:
“What is required is for the chancellor to write to the governor saying that on a temporary emergency basis the committee should assume a central role in countering the crisis with a large cut in interest rate.”
At least when Tony Blair did u-turns he generally moved from the wrong position to the right one. Cable’s new position does not have this merit.
And a lot of boringly clever-sounding people with – damn them – actual knowledge of the subject under discussion came along in the comments to make Fink climb down from the mast to which he had nailed his trousers:
Three weeks ago the FTSE was at 5200. Three weks ago RBS’s market capitalisation was double what it is now. Three weeks ago Ireland and Germany hadn’t unilaterally made moves to guarantee saver’s deposits. Three weeks ago Iceland hadn’t enacted legislation to prevent the country from going bankrupt. Three weeks ago HBOS hadn’t announced merger talks with Lloyds. Three weeks ago … well Danny you get my point… He made the statements at the time of the conference based on the situation at that time. Events change on a daily basis and at the present moment liquidity is the problem. Lowering interest rates, even if temporarily, could encourage LIBOR to fall and banks to lend to each other.
Tcoh. Don’t you just hate these well-informed spods with their bloody longer-than-two-minute attention spans turning up just when you’re trying to fudge together an emotionally-based partisan narrative about the economic crisis from the bits that weren’t good enough to make your main column last week? It shouldn’t happen to a highly-paid opinion former.
Between them, these two stories mark something the party needs to watch out for. Somehow, be it by osmosis or masonic meeting, the media have decided that Vince has had his day in the sun (which, make no mistake, was bestowed upon him initially because they thought it might ruffle Nick Clegg), for no better reason than that it’s in their disturbingly primitive collective nature to build up idols and then pull them down again.
Expect more groundless finger-pointing and portentous “ummmmmm” noises to follow, and gradually form itself into delicate layers of insinuation like puff pastry, until no-one can remember how the air-filled pile of specious slop that forms the Case Against Vince Cable started, but they’re pretty sure there’s no smoke without fire, and anyway it’s on the deputy editor’s mood board this week so let’s run a story about it. Quickly though, I have to call my crystal healer about moving my car insurance.
October 12, 2008
So the government has been taken up on its offer of buying shares in the major banks, to the tune of (at the time of writing) £50bn if you’re the Telegraph and £40bn if you’re the Guardian (fight, subs, fight!)
The takers are HBOS, RBS, Lloyds TSB and Barclays. The government will hold majority stakes in the first two. And here’s the thing. Apparently, we’re no longer talking exclusively about preference shares, but about ordinary shares too. This matters. It means nationalisation is an ever-more realistic word for what’s going on here.
Preference shares offer the purchaser more favourable terms than your common-or-garden ordinary share (usually higher rates, always priority payment) but no voting rights. A company can offer as many preference shares as it likes, offering a good investment deal to those who receive them and raising liquidity for themselves, without affecting the balance of power at its AGM. Ordinary shares, however, carry voting rights. If, say, the government buys a majority stake in HBOS and that majority stake is entirely made up of ordinary shares, the government has bought direct, indefinite control of HBOS via the share-dealing mechanism as surely as it bought Northern Rock by underwriting it. It’s no longer just an investor – it calls the shots.
Restrictions on individual banks’ behaviour in return for the whole largesse can now therefore be imposed from two directions: one, the agreement each bank signs up to before it has access to the money, and two, an open-ended rule-changing power in the government’s hands for as long as it owns and controls a majority voting share in a particular bank. This sets confusions bells ringing which may, in time, turn out to be alarm bells. Do the banks need regulation – yes. Is it a government’s place to impose regulation – yes. Can this be done via the terms of an upfront agreement – yes. Is it a government’s place to implement regulation and micro-manage regulation on an indefinite basis via a legal mechanism which treats it as a rights owner – not really.
Pending details of the individual deals being known, this new element has the potential to undermine the impartiality of government as a regulator. What attention, one wonders, is being paid to legality in this frantic climate?
October 12, 2008
Some mild hand-wringing is going on over at LDV tonight over our poll ratings. One suggestion is that we’re emphasising the wrong policies.
The trouble is, it’s almost impossible to prove that a particular emphasis on a particular policy constitutes the entire problem – or that a particular emphasis on a particular policy constitutes an entire success. It’s an impressionistic and individualistic judgement.
For example, people (oh, you know, just people in general) claim that our 2005 platform of tuition fees and Iraq had a particular magic about it that we haven’t recaptured. But no single person has any real idea how success in 2005 really arose from those two foundations. The processes by which tuition fees+Iraq = electoral success is opaque to us. Post factum, we can come up with all sorts of justifications for why it worked. But no-one has ever proved to my satisfaction that the success of those two emphases was always inevitable. There was nothing exceptionally likely to result in success about it, and it’s possible, I think, to prove this as follows.
Our post factum justification for the success of the Iraq/tuition fees platform might run: “On one, we were proven right after a long-held principled stance on an issue that people could get properly angry about. On the other, we made it clear that we were onside with public opinion on a big issue, and they were both easy to explain.”
Let’s assign values to these. E signifies the quality of being easy to explain, Z signifies the quality of relating to a particular zeitgeist in evidence in press coverage (and is therefore largely outside our control), and X signifies that extra je ne sais quoi that captures people’s imagination. Given these values, opposition to the war in Iraq had an E and an X factor (the X in this case being the 2003 march, and the sense of being part of a grand sweep of history, and the fact that the Lib Dems were fairly suddenly and dramatically proved to have been right), and tuition fees had an E and a Z factor. Eventually, of course, Iraq acquired a Z factor as well, but the process by which that happened was not under our control. A fourth value, C, signifies coherence and consistency of abstract principle between policy emphases, something notably lacking from the Iraq/tuition fees platform.
A handful of our current policies would score as follows (an overall C rating being served up last):
1. The Green Tax Switch has both E and Z qualities. It’s easy to explain that income taxes will be lowered and this will be paid for by increases in pollution taxes (and if you can throw in the destruction of tax privileges currently enjoyed by richer taxpayers as well, so much the better). The environment is constantly and insistently zeitgeisty, and it will continue to flourish in times of recession as well (via its component themes of self-sufficiency and frugal living).
2. Locally elected health boards also have E and Z qualities. The powerlessness of the individual in the face of the monolithic NHS is a staple theme of every tabloid – a locally elected health board (and there, I explained it just by stating its name) ought to be flawlessly, instantly zeitgeisty. Not entirely clear to me why we can’t make the running on this one. I suppose you could argue that it has a sort of negative X-rating (if you will) that holds it back; it’s just never going to set anyone’s imagination on fire.
3. Civil liberties. Opposition to ID cards has E (nothing easier to explain) and X (“I don’t believe in that sort of thing”, individual-versus-state, 1984) qualities. But in spite of various gallant attempts on the part of the chatterati to push this concern on the nation, the sleepwalk largely continues, making civil liberties as a whole issue neither E, X or, especially, Z beyond certain cobwebby corners of the broadsheets.
4. The high-speed rail network has Z and X qualities. It’s zeitgeisty on two counts: environmentalism and the price of fuel. The X factor is pretty straightforward – it’s a big whizzy shiny thing you can publish an artist’s impression of. Instant win. It doesn’t have the E quality because of the funding mechanism. By way of demonstration, I don’t currently have time to go and look up the precise details of when we stick up VED and when we abolish it and what else we stick up instead. And offhand, I can’t remember. And if I can’t remember, we are in big trouble with the E quality on this one. This is important because a key negative policy position of ours – a consistent stance against airport expansion – needs its corresponding positive policy to have a good E factor.
5. The pupil premium has a strong E factor and possibly an X factor. The X arises from the fact that individuals will be putting it into practice, in contrast to their passive relationship with, say, restrictions on airport expansion. The problem here is that the Tories are about to capitalise on the X, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. This one doesn’t have a Z because the education narrative in the newspapers is currently about discipline, rather than the helplessness of the individual parent dealing with the education system (which was a much stronger theme a few years ago).
I’m sticking to five, but please do others in the comments. The overall C rating on these five examples is considerably higher than the 2005 platform in that every one of the five is linked to at least one other by a common theme. Two policies are linked by environmentalism (Green Tax Switch, high speed rail network), and no less than four by individual liberty and choice (Green Tax Switch, local health boards, civil liberties, pupil premium).
We could theorise that the ideal policy has E, X and Z qualities and is also C with other policies. No one of the policy platforms above fulfils this. Every possible policy emphasis we could make has its pros and cons. The one which, until recent events overtook us, had the potential to have all these qualities were those spending redirections and possible tax cuts.
E – it ought to be easy to explain that, given a total spend of £600bn of which £82bn is spent on education and £110bn on the health service, it should be possible to find a 3% redirection of current spending without affecting frontline services. It also ought to be easy to explain that this is what we exist to do as an opposition party. That £600bn represents Labour’s choices. It ought to be obvious and instinctive that we would not make – should not make – all the same choices. That our Communications and Press teams so signally failed to explain this is deeply troubling. It also ought to be easy to explain that offering a tax cut is a spending choice and does not exist in opposition to other spending choices, but alongside them as an option. But here I can hardly park the blame on Press and Comms – the history of Tory slash-and-burn cuts in which reduction of expenditure went far beyond considered choice is too recent to be overcome as a narrative.
X – spending cuts are the one thing no-one except us has been talking about. The Tories are afraid to do it because of their own past associations, and it’s not in Labour’s nature to do it. The X attaches itself to spending cuts because of the sheer novelty value of the idea that the government’s spending money is actually our money. An entire generation, schooled under the mumsyness of NuLabour, has forgotten this.
Z – the Z factor just wasn’t there before the financial crisis properly imploded. It will now, in time, arise as the government is forced to consider recession spending cuts. I’m pessimistic about our chances of capitalising. A high-minded argument that we would make spending cuts on principle whereas the government is only doing it out of necessity would go nowhere. A spending redirection in favour of a tax cut is riskier still. At the moment, Keynsian economics show no sign of being particularly zeitgeisty, among our own members or elsewhere.
C – spending redirections to our policy priorities are obviously consistent with those priorities. A spending redirection towards a tax cut would be consistent with the notion of individual choice and liberty. But would C come at the expense of Z (see above)?
So our current policy package scores generally equally to the 2005 platform when policy positions are considered individually, and it scores more highly on the overall C rating. Overall, there was nothing uniquely appealing about the 2005 platform – its components had the same mixture of pros and cons as our current policy base, and its clinching success took place largely at the whim of the press. It’s that Z factor. We can’t control the Z, although we can foreground policies that score on it – yet we did and do this constantly with the Green Tax Switch, and to little avail. A determined media can always emphasise the cons and an insufficiently determined Communications Team or Press Team can always fail to emphasise the pros.
I would have thought our increasing C quality would be a factor in our favour, potentially a replacement for the fickle Z, but so far that seems not to be the case. I imagine it’s a background belief on my part that our C factor will eventually shine through that prompts my continued interest in the tax cuts platform – under my ratings system they have the potential to be the lynchpin on which everything else hangs.
October 8, 2008
A quick post that started out as a comment on Charlotte’s blog and got too unwieldy:
According to the Beeb report, the rescue package looks like this:
- Banks must recapitalise to the tune of £25bn by a combination of Treasury loans and looking under the cushions
- £25bn further will be available in exchange for preference shares.
- £100bn will be available in short-term loans from the Bank of England, on top of an existing loan facility worth £100bn
- Up to £250bn in loan guarantees will be available at commercial rates to encourage banks to lend to each other
- To participate in the scheme banks will have to sign up to an FSA agreement on executive pay and dividends
Given this outline, I’m not clear on how this will amount to a 10% “ownership” of the banks. The £25bn set aside for preference shares seems far too low to buy a tithe of the UK banking system. If we really mean a “stake”, as in the amount of government or government-sponsored money pumped into the system, however, then that’s not ownership. Furthermore, preference shares don’t generally have voting rights, so if that’s what Darling, darling! is buying £25bn-worth of on our collective behalf then I’d say the label of “partial nationalisation” is actually a good one. The dividends without the voting power. If the government had a significant minority of shareholder votes in every bank, then we might as well subsume the entire FTSE into UK Plc. So from the point of view of a small statist the fact that preference shares don’t carry votes, and the fact that the lion’s share of the £500bn will be in the form of loans anyway is a Good Thing. First point.
Second point, preference shares are first in the queue for receiving any profits that do emerge as dividends – ahead of ordinary shares, hence the “preference” (but they’re behind loan repayments in that queue, so the loan money is “safer” than the dividend money). Also unlike ordinary shares, that preference is rolled over if necessary. So even if ten years go by without any money being available for dividends at all, all the profit from the next ten years will have to be ploughed into paying back the preference shareholders for the years they missed (as well as paying them for current years).
And in the event of winding up, preference shareholders are also ahead of ordinary shareholders in the queue to get the value of their investments back. The only people in front of them, in fact, are Her Maj’s Revenue and Customs (the govt) and once again the lenders (also the govt). So, without having seen the fine detail, the investment is not actually as risky for the taxpayer as it sounds. If there’s no money at all again ever to pay preference share dividends, or loan repayments, or to share out among the survivors of a winding-up, then yes, we’re totally fucked, but in that scenario we’re probably totally fucked anyway and it’s strangled cat stew time.
Final point, we need to be careful with this conditionality question. Someone offering a loan can demand what conditions they like, but a purchase of shares is a regulated transaction and the government can’t use it to strong-arm the banks into obeying a code of conduct. So that FSA agreement can only legally apply to the loans, not the shares. The whole point of capitalisation-by-share, as a market-led solution, is that you buy your shares just like everybody else and hope it works. And that’s the real question, rather than perceived risk to the taxpayer – will it actually bloody work?
October 8, 2008
The trouble is, the news is just too good for me to blog about respectably at the moment.
In fact, the really terrible consequence of the global economic meltdown (have you started saying that as one word, too? “Glerbleconmicmeldow”?) is the dreadful impact on our objectivity as bloggers.
Witness, for example, James Graham’s further descent into North London dinner table property angst (while the real James Graham peers out mutely from inside and can see perfectly well what is happening to him, which I don’t think is helping one bit). I on the other hand, whose North London dinner table is currently locked up in a storage facility in Finchley, am rather chipper. In this, the greatest crisis of our times (what, did no-one else watch Return of the King on channel 4 t’other weekend?) I am the one standing at the back going, “Oh. So massive inflation will adversely affect the savings I don’t have, while a stupendously overdue correction in the credit market will bring crashing down the prices of houses that I currently can’t afford. Right. Gosh, that’s… awful.”
Throw into the mix a luckily timed parental downsize, a temporary (albeit irksome) lack of living costs, and the fact that my earnings look set to double in my second year freelancing (don’t get too excited on my behalf though; two times one baked bean is still only two baked beans), and you are looking at possibly the most economically bombproof person in the western hemisphere today. (Though I mean “today” quite literally; tomorrow I might lose work and Alistair Darling might waggle his eyebrows at an awkward moment, and who knows what tsunami of destruction that might unleash.) Ok, so I still have to move three hundred miles from my birthplace and wait another six months in order to be able to even rent my own flat, never mind buy one. And I’m still absolutely not very well off. But relatively, my position has improved by literally 100%, and my range of options has vastly improved on the ones I had six months ago.
The reason for my devil-may-care attitude to recession is, of course, that I’m not in any direct sense a stakeholder. When you ain’t got nothin, it don’t mean nothin, as someone-or-other said. You are immune from all the direct and specific worry. Any worry you do indulge in is likely to be long-term and vague, much like the effects on you will be. My earnings might drop and food bill might rise to unsustainable levels tomorrow, just like everybody else’s might, but for now there’s a peculiar sort of grim luxury in knowing that everyone else has been brought down to my level, that I’ve at least got a fighting chance now. I spent the last boom year of the economy living off basics range pasta, feeling deeply alienated by the cultural celebration of wealth and practising (as it turns out) for hardship. Now suddenly I land slapbang in what is probably one of the best financial positions I’ll ever be in in my life. It feels like getting a second chance you had been told you were definitely not going to get.
It bothers me, of course. A historian should maintain a constant awareness that they’re a hostage to fortune like everybody else. I don’t like to think of myself as the kind of subjective knee-jerker who crows at “the rich” when they’re down (whoever they are). And while I’m not a stakeholder myself, others are whose fortunes matter to me, personally and financially. Plus I expend a lot of time and vitriol berating people for attaching emotional interpretations to economic events (“The cupboard is bare”, “He didn’t mend the roof when the sun was shining”. FFS. Clegg skewering those two bits of abominable fluffspeak is still my favourite bit of his conference speech – “What is this? Just William?”). So I certainly ought to be giving short shrift to my sneaking sense of moral superiority that things are temporarily set my way (ner, ner, shouldn’t have ignored me and my kind for so long then, should you, Mister Property Market, eh? eh?). The world hasn’t actually recognised the petty injustices of my position and decided to give me a break. And I mustn’t behave in the pub as if it has. Nonono.
But self-reproach must wait. For now, I’m off flat-hunting.
October 2, 2008
It turns out that Professor John Wells of the Spelling Society is phlegmatic about his oratorical mishandling at the well-oiled hands of David Cameron.
“Gosh, I’ve been denounced by David Cameron!” he declares in a post entitled “Fame at last”. John, Liberal Democrats and chocolate orange eaters everywhere* salute you.
It was an odd decision, that segment of Cameron’s speech. So easily exposed as painfully daft. What were they thinking:
Listen to this.
It’s the President of the Spelling Society.
He said, and I quote, “people should be able to use whichever spelling they prefer.”
He’s the President of the Spelling Society.
I say that he’s wrong.
The Spelling Society, as Joe has already pointed out, is a hundred-year-old organisation dedicated to promoting and publicising the need for the reform of spelling conventions. So you might expect President of said organisation to, er, favour changes to the current system. That’s what “reform” usually means, you see. (In this case, the particular change he was favouring was the acceptance of “thru” as an alternative for “through”, “lite” for “light” and “u” for “you”, but of course this was glossed over in Cameron’s speech.)
However, it’s the tone Cameron uses here, rather than the dodgy content, that’s interesting. He’s setting himself up as a sort of Clarkson-for-the-non-masses here. “I say he’s wrong, well, because, I do! Why should a mere phonetics expert be righter than ME? I have common sense! Just like all of you!” (Common sense, of course, is a common Tory shorthand for being pig-ignorant of the finer details of something and having no intention of seeking out further information just in case it spoils the nice big simple picture.)
Of course, disagreeing with the Spelling Society’s aims is one thing. Doubtless good arguments exist for the retention of the existing creaky old spelling system. I am, myself, concerned about Prof Wells’ targeting of the apostrophe. But to attack the Society, and misrepresent them, as a matter of principle in a grandstanding speech? Laying into an expert in a particular field on no basis other than your own rhetorical say-so is political anti-intellectualism, such as we saw in the Cities Unlimited case. In this instance, more cruelly still, it’s political anti-intellectualism masquerading as a concern for high educational standards.
So the internal Tory struggle between the yin of barking-old-fart and the yang of I’m-a-liberal-really-SO-LONG-AS-YOU-AGREE-WITH-ME-ahem-ahem-sorry continues to horrify and entertain, all the more when it is personified in the words of the leader. I suppose if you essentially believe that you can only go forward by going backwards (“progressive ends through conservative means”, as the spectacularly bonkers tagline has it – an old-style grammar school teacher would lay on a cane for that one) then it must be extremely disconcerting if people who actually know something about your subject tell you the precise opposite. Fingers in ears and bray is just about your only option.
* Now, there’s a Venn diagram worth compiling. And we have another survey coming up on LDV…