Tuesday, 30 October 2018

In your brain you know he's sane.....really?

My post of 15 October suggested that Donald Trump might not be totally bananas. David Owen agrees with me. But his article published on Sunday* made uncomfortable reading nonetheless.

Owen noted that, when Trump was elected, there were many amateur diagnoses of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This stopped abruptly when Allen Francis, the professor of psychiatry who first defined NPD wrote to the New York Times making clear Trump did not have the condition. "He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn't make him mentally ill." There is a marked difference between NPD, classified as a psychiatric illness and narcissism, a personality trait.

All good, but Owen went on to say:

"Narcissists train themselves from an early age to block out other voices, other opinions, so one of the few voices they trust is their own." 

Hmm. One of my mantras during my business career was "trust your own judgement", though to be fair this started in earnest when I was given very poor counsel, counter to my own opinion, by my boss's boss while in my early 30s. But there was more:

"They are accustomed to listening to themselves talk  (oh, SO guilty!) debating different sides of the same issue... (I like testing arguments this way all the time. It really irritates people sometimes when I take the counter view to what they have said, just to test where it might go).... finally reaching a decision about what to do and the best way to do it." (Oh, yes as well! After all, if  I'm going to trust my own judgement, who else can I have the debate with?)

Apparently narcissism is common in many heads of government, military commanders and business leaders.  It is not, as some think, indistinguishable from hubris. Hubris is characterised by overconfidence (wow, there's one I at least don't feel guilty of!) overambition (well, I was ambitious but I knew many who were much more so), arrogance (no comment, Fifth amendment!) and excessive pride (I don't think that's me, there would be so little to justify it!). While, according to an emeritus professor of psychiatry at King's College, London narcissism is expressed with "blatantly attention-seeking, grandiose sense of self-importance, a persistant and burdensome search for admiration and lack of empathy". Well. I have sometimes found myself seeking praise - never got much as a kid, you know, but never felt I needed it then -  and one of those gobbledegook psychometric tests at work indicated a lack of empathy (though I might have been trying to frig the outcome towards strong leadership and other tests didn't come out that way - but then I made sure they didn't.....) And if I'm not attention-seeking, why do I write this blog, for frig's sake?

So, I've been found out - a narcissist, then. But surely not as big a one as the Donald.....??? And at least it doesn't count as "mentally ill". Phew.

But I'm sure everyone can see some of these characteristics in themselves. Er, you do, don't you?

*Trump floats above us all on a double bubble of narcissism and hubris. Sunday Times 28 October 2018. Owen's book, Hubris: The Road To Donald Trump, is published by Methuen on 1 November

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The top clubs still get the breaks

Match of the Day was on the TV as I started to type my latest rant about Manchester City. Fabulous team but like all teams at the top they do get cut some remarkable slack at times. This isn't new but I find it more surprising now, with all the video analysis that all of us see. Including PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited, keep up!) My own team has benefited from this behaviour often enough in the past. Referees sometimes freeze when a player from a team at the very top gets it all wrong. Sometimes fouls aren't given, red card moments are allowed to pass. It's as if they think "surely I didn't just see that...."

Last weekend's examples came from Manchester City against Burnley. Yes it ended 5-0 so the fact that Manchester City should have ended the match with 9 men may not have affected the result, though the first incident happened in the first minute and City's second goal should not have stood. But the suspensions that would have followed could affect what happens over the next 3 weeks, had the referee acted on quite appalling challenges by Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane. I know, with City's depth of squad, maybe not. City don't exactly need help from the refs.

Kompany has, for me, been perhaps the most over-rated player in the history of the Premier League. Yes, he can play. But he gets eulogised as if he was, if not Bobby Moore then John Terry. Which he's blatantly not. On Saturday he took out Aaron Lennon at crotch height, missing the ball by "about a yard" as Lineker and Murphy put it on MOTD. It was a clear red card from a player who, readers will know, I feel is always a red card waiting to happen given his poor tackling technique which often turns into a lunge for the ball. Although this incident happened in the first minute, referees are trained to understand that  isn't any different from any other minute of the game. So why wasn't it given?

Late in the game Leroy Sane lost the ball to the Burnley right back and attempted a needless - and foul - tackle from behind to recover it. When that failed he took his opponent out with a scything swipe from behind. No sanction. The incident happened near Burnley's box. If a Burnley defender had challenged a City player in that way in that part of the pitch, what do you think would have happened?  Sane's challenge seemed to be borne of frustration, perhaps because he is no longer an automatic starter since Mahrez's arrival. Indeed, you could see it coming just as I did on quite a few occasions in my own playing "career" when you could see a hothead boil over after losing the ball. So no excuse for the ref.

City also got a big favour in the build up to their second goal after players from both teams froze as Sane went down easily in the Burnley box. David Silva's brain was working but he was off the pitch. He played the ball from just over the dead ball line (so it was out of play AND he was offside) enabling City to score. To be fair, that is a double error by the Assistant Ref, but the offside should also have been twigged by the ref himself. It was one of those occasions where the officials should think "that didn't look quite right". I remember, refereeing in the heights of the Oxford Boys' League, realising that there was actually time to "replay" such moments in my head before giving the goal. Refs are trained that, while decisions have to be prompt, there is a short window to think first. And, if the ball is dead, a longer window to talk with the Assistant, though many refs seem to hate doing that, as it looks as if they aren't sure.

Actually, the real problem last Saturday was that the referee, Jon Moss, is not one of the better Premier League referees in a weak field. Moss was one of the refs that former top flight ref Keith Hackett said should be cut from the PL list when he reviewed how they had all done last season*. Mind, Hackett said 6 of 16 should be dropped and gave a couple of the others a rating of 5/10! I've noted before that it's no coincidence that there were no English refs at the World Cup. (Mark Clattenburg would have been picked but quit the Premier League to pick up petrodollars in Saudi).

The Premier League refs, all full-time professionals of course, get together frequently for reviews. One wonders what Moss's colleagues will say to him about those decisions at their next get together. But will it make refs treat the top clubs, especially playing at home, the same as all the others? That would be a triumph of hope over experience.

But a question. When VAR comes in, will it make a difference? It probably would have changed all three of these decisions at the Etihad. So, in theory at least, it could go some way to leveling this particular aspect of the playing field. We'll see.

* Telegraph 23 May 2018. My top 10 referees of the season and those the Premier League should not retain.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The cod war

On the day of what was to become Theresa May's latest humiliation in Brussels I mentioned to Mrs H that the PM was going to Brussels to speak to but not eat with what are still supposed to be our "partners". She wasn't invited to partake in the refreshments.  How pathetic. Nick Ferrari, speaking on LBC, went further calling it "damned rude" followed by an outstanding rant:
"Can I just point out to these European leaders, save for this country, what they'd be eating tonight would be saurkraut and sausage and drinking beer and speaking German".
It went on in that vein a bit longer.....

But I wasn't angry at that aspect of the snub; it just confirms what they think of us. Why would we want to belong to a club where we have for so long not been wanted? If we ever were?

Mrs H asked me what the point was in the trip. Good question. I said "it's not going to change anything. She has no new ideas which are material and if she had the would make the Chequered Compromise even more unpalatable. She'll just get smacked across the face with a wet fish again and told to go away and try harder."

Which of course is what happened. How many times does she need the cod in the gob to get the message? What was the point of going?

I've come to the view that Mrs May feels she has so much political capital vested in her big idea - an idea which she can't seem to explain in terms anyone else can understand, and an idea that hardly anyone outside of her civil servants buys into  - that she daren't even acknowledge there could be a plan B, else everyone would grab it and she would be seen to have been wrong all along. (Such a plan B might be the EEA option, for example, either as a solution or a route to a Canada style free trade deal). She must have known she was going to get the wet fish treatment but she needs to show the electorate that no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of a "good deal". So when what's left is either shabby, or only satisfies one group of people, she can say "we tried everything".

Of course, we shouldn't have started from here. A confident government, provided it also had an opposition that believed in our country, could have adopted a much more consultative approach, canvassing various options perhaps through cross-party Commons committees, putting the most appealing ones to Brussels for discussion, followed by a further round of debate factoring in what Brussels thought as well as our preferences. We didn't have any of the ingredients needed for that approach in place so we got the Maybot control freak, bouncing her own cabinet by giving them next to no notice at any turn of what her officials were cooking up.

So it could all crash, though whether it would burn I'm not sure. Oh apart from Theresa who must surely be toast by the spring at the latest.

The shame of it is that it didn't need to be like this. There have been plenty of column inches devoted to the Irish border issue. Or non-issue as some people think. They argue it's a contrivance of Brussels to keep us in the single market and customs union. After all, Spain has an internal customs union "border" between its mainland and the Canary Islands which isn't seen as a big deal. And, in South America for God's sake, French Guiana has a border with Brazil that doesn't seem to be "hard" even though that territory counts as part of mainland France and the customs union.

I saw a comment from a reader on a recent Times Brexit article which made me think differently about the problem. It argued that Northern Ireland could be missing a historic opportunity. Wouldn't there be great potential in being part of the UK but also in the EU customs union? Yes the cost would be some kind of border checks in the Irish Sea. Of course that's anathema to the loyalists and pretty difficult for mainland Brits to swallow. But couldn't it create the potential for Northern Ireland to become a much bigger player economically than it is now? Wouldn't it be an inward investment magnet?

There is, of course, no way this beguiling way of looking at things is going to get any consideration. But it could have been great for all concerned. Yes it might lead towards a united Ireland. But if it worked really well there would be no point at all in destroying the whole basis of success by doing that. Of course the Scots Nats would want to have a similar arrangement. But guess what, Nicola? You don't have a land border with the EU, so it just isn't relevant.

The septic climate in the UK has not been conducive to any kind of grown up debate about the future. It has been dysfunctional politics, with temper tantrums, hearing not listening, reacting without understanding. To be politically incorrect (what's new I hear you say) it's all been kind of autistic.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" is a quotation often misattributed to Einstein. It didn't stop me using it a lot at work when I was called "Transformation Director" and charged with improving the business through change, though I used to explain to it to people using my golf performances as an analogy. If I didn't change anything, why would I keep turning up each week and expecting to get a better score? Another way of looking at it is "hope over experience". Theresa May's Brussels trip brought it all right back to mind. She isn't insane but she is making herself appear crazy, as well as looking like a rabbit in the headlights being interviewed on TV after the latest slap across the face. You could almost smell the fish on her.

P.S. cod can of course mean phony or fake. Theresa's battle with Brussels has many aspects of a 'phoney war': not much is actually happening, but people keep thinking it might.  Just like in 1939, war has been declared (article 50 invoked) but one feels the real battles lie ahead for Britain.

Monday, 15 October 2018

In your brain you know he's sane

Since Donald Trump's UK visit in July I've been pondering what to make of him now we are getting close to half way through his term (first term, maybe?) as U.S. President. That visit passed off with a predictable degree of hullabaloo and also a predictable degree of confusion about what the President actually thinks about Britain, Brexit and Theresa May. What he thinks, not what he said because that's a matter of record and was contradictory. Which matches his pronouncements on most subjects. But hopefully he enjoyed his round of golf at Turnberry, as I did when I played there. (It was the first links course I had played and I've loved them ever since).

Nevertheless, we know he's deranged, don't we? "In your guts, you know he's nuts", said Lyndon Johnson about Barry Goldwater in 1964 but the slogan was also used against Trump in his presidential campaign and I remember saying "we do know they were both nuts", because that's certainly how it seemed to me (post of 21 February 2017). And yet, and yet......

We are now familiar with Trump's lack of diplomatic niceties and the way he goes in hard and early to soften up the situation in advance. And that he is a tasteless mysogenistic boor, at best.

But Trump's grandstanding brought Kim Young Un to the negotiating table, though admittedly at a time that suited Kim as he now has credible nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity to improve security in a sensitive area of the globe and prevent further spread of weapons from a rogue state. It's far too early to tell whether any real progess has been made, as some reports claim North Korea is ploughing on with its nuclear programme but there is the prospect of an accommodation which is far more than the smooth talking but ineffective Obama achieved on his watch.

Trump's actions to pull out of the deal with Iran and recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the first of which seemed risky and the second bizarrely inflammatory to most of us, has not created greater instability in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia currently much more concerned about Iran than anything to do with Israel. Finding a solution to the Gordian knot of Palestine is probably beyond anyone, but it seems to me that it can't be done without recognising that the Jewish nation has historically valid claims and rights over Jerusalem, at least as much as anyone else. Unless you are J. Corbyn, of course, in which case it's all very simple. No, simplistic. The recent kerfuffle over the Saudi dissident who disappeared after visiting their embassy in Turkey has clouded the fact that Trump has built a powerful coalition covering Israel and Saudi Arabia to resist Iran, the real threat in the region, which does seem rather clever. And beyond Obama's imagination.

So while most of us thought Obama's reasoned approach to Korea and the Middle East made sense at the time, it actually resulted in aimless drift and a reduction in security.

But what about fears of a trade war? I recognised Trump's tactics at an early stage. I recall going on a company training event focussed on pricing, for which they had hired a facilitator considered a guru. He was indeed sharp and, more importantly, streetwise. One of his pieces of advice concerned increasing prices if you weren't sure the market would take it: pick on a small customer who didn't matter that much to try it out before going into battle with your major customers. Trump did something similar. He picked on Canada (sorry, Trudeau lovers, in this context Justin is the 7 stone weakling) and Mexico. The bigger game for Trump and what he sees as fair trade is the EU and, especially, China. Trump was sending a message to the world.

But does his policy of banging on tariffs make sense? It certainly offends against the long-held principles of free trading. Two of the economics commentators I most respect, Irwin Stelzer and David Smith, are at odds over this. Smith has referred to Trump's tariffs as "knuckleheaded" and has been totally consistent in his comments so far. Stelzer, or at least his subeditors who write the headlines, seems to have oscillated. In June* he noted the big game was China, that Trump had more ammunition than China and that China would not be able to sustain a game of poker over tariffs.  In July** he called it as a "win for Trump on trade" after the EU decided to work with the US to reform the WTO, try to end the theft of intellectual property and work towards zero tariffs and removal of trade barriers. Stelzer greeted this as proof that "Trump is not a mad protectionist but a champion of freer, fairer trade". He noted that America had taken some casualties in the trade war but Trump had been ready for this with support to American farmers and industry hit by retaliation to his tariffs.

However by August*** Stelzer was concerned that some commentators thought Trump's tariffs would bring the US economy to a screeching halt and that the tax cuts induced growth would inevitably run out of steam because employers can't find people in a high employment economy. But only a fortnight later Stelzer got over his wobble and declared that the "Trump war on the world is working"****. This war included:

  •  Turkey, who had upset Trump and US evangelicals over the case of Andrew Brunson, held by Turkey on charges of spying and terrorism. Trump banged on tariffs even though Turkey is a key ally. (The Turkish currency plunged and Brunson was released on 12 October. Trump is now being warmer to Turkey over the Saudi Arabia embassy affair. A simple message: are you with me or against me?)
  • Russia, with sanctions on Putin's circle. Trump has backed the UK strongly over the Salisbury affair despite Trump's chummy (and at the time unsettling) meeting with Putin
  • China: tariffs banged on and retaliation greeted with more. China is the ultimate big trade issue for Trump
  • EU - see above. They blinked
Stelzer noted that the US had taken some serious inbound fire, but support for its president seemed to be holding and the "wars unleashed by America on what we might with some accuracy call the rest of the world are going rather well". Trump offers a firm handshake and state dinner to Macron, then levies tariffs on French products. He wines and dines Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, then loads tariffs on Chinese exports. He chats pleasantly to Erodogan at a NATO meeting, but then cripples his economy. He has a cosy meeting with Putin, but then increases sanctions on Russia. Stelzer compared Trump to a cowboy, with scalps hanging from his belt. I'd say it shows two things: it ain't personal and you'd better believe he means it when he says "America first".

Maybe we need someone who isn't an economist to see through this. Niall Ferguson is not an economist. The Oxbridge historian is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. Ferguson became an American citizen this year and has a good vantage point from which to comment on Trump and China. In a column# titled The China I see is losing this trade war - Trump's tariffs are widely mocked but he has found Xi's weakspot, Ferguson said that 99.9% of economists regard Trump's trade war against China as idiotic. "Doesn't  he realise that a trade deficit is not equivalent to a loss in business?" Ferguson went on to say that, while Trump might have missed some economics classes when he studied at business school, somewhere along the way he picked up an intuitive understanding of power. Ferguson says the Chinese governing elite is scrambling to formulate a strategy to respond and has few good options. Divisions at the top are showing, with strains between the "new new China" technology sector, the "new old China" of banking and telecoms and the "old old China" of  state-owned heavy industry. China reminds Ferguson of the French second empire, in which an autocratic regime brought into being a large middle class. Ferguson sees Xi's China running the same risk as Napoleon III. Xi will be well aware of the risk and will do whatever he can to avoid growth slowing. Which makes Trump's trade war a real problem for him. Ferguson says future historians may be as impressed with Trump's trade shock as today's economists are contemptuous of it.

The story has now moved on, with the US pushing Mexico and Canada (reluctantly) into a revision of the NAFTA. Stelzer@ notes that the proposed new arrangements show what future trade deals will look like post-Trump and that Trump is using the threat of tariffs as a bargaining tactic to gain concessions rather than a prelude to permanently high tariffs. So Justin Trudeau was forced to relax tariffs on American poultry, eggs and dairy products. Adam Smith himself said that the use or threat of high tariffs is "good policy when there is the probability that they will procure the repeal of high duties". I'm not sure David Smith has recognised that.

There is some concern from free marketeers that the new arrangements will not be as effective at maximising trade as they surrender free trade purity for advantages for (some) American workers. But - and it's a big but for me to swallow as a free marketeer - while free trade has produced unparalleled wellbeing it pays little concern to distributive effects and has hollowed out communities, which is a downside of globalisation. But a problem with current world trade is that some nations, notably those with partly Marxist economies (hello China) game the system. OK, they cheat. Deals between countries that cheat, by artificially fixing their currency for example, can't really maximise economic benefit for both parties anyway. So there is a case for Trump's hardball tactics.

Now he's pulled Trudeau down a peg, Trump will continue his battle with the EU and Japan over motor cars and will hope to get China in line as well once, as Stelzer puts it@ "as soon as his good friend Xi Jinping can no longer tolerate the trade war's damage to his economy and sues for peace". Stelzer also notes that the implication of what he calls "Globalisation 2.0" is that the price paid for a system more attentive to the interests of American workers will be reduced efficiency and a consequent increase in costs and prices. The gain is a system that might be seen as fairer (at least to some Americans) and therefore prove more sustainable.

And if Trump can stop Chinese theft of intellectual property that would be an enormous long term benefit for the US and maybe the West in general. Western companies selling to large Chinese enterprises - which are all state backed - find they have to cede their IP rights to get the work. Not the arising IP under the contract which has become normal in the West but all of the know how related to the design of whatever product is concerned. And that's without getting into the security implications of Chinese subcontractors inserting rogue chips into the motherboards of PCs made by American companies for the US Department if Defense, including their navy.  I wasn't the only one to feel queasy about BT's deal with Hauwei as this sort of caper isn't really a surprise. Individual western companies stand no chance of negotiating different terms with what is effectively the Chinese state. I've always felt it needs western governments to intervene if we are to avoid selling our future.

So the end results could be possibly fairer to America, more sustainable and with "yuge" potential long term benefits. Looked at that way Trump's tariffs don't sound so nuts, do they?

In the meantime the US economy continues to do well on what has been called by some a 'sugar high' due to Trump's tax cuts. Whether these will prove beneficial in the long term or will just increase debt remains to be seen. But in the short term it seems to have worked, politically at least.

But, even if his economic and trade policies might not be nuts, doesn't Trump ride fast and loose with the truth I hear you say? Plenty of American Presidents have "misspoken". For example, one of Reagan's press correspondents once clarified matters by saying that the President had been "less than precise". And, risibly, one of Eisenhower's people once misspoke himself by saying "President Eisenhower doesn't necessarily speak for this administration" (eh?). And of course there was sleazy Bill Clinton, who didn't just miss-speak several times but also found himself in a miss-poke (sorry, couldn't resist that one) media frenzy - "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". Er, so you just had it off with her dress then Bill? That's really weird....

So whether you like him or not there is clearly at least some degree of method in Trump's bizarre and at times unsettling behaviour.  And, whether you, I or Joe Soap likes it, he is POTUS and we have to deal with him because has influence over many things that matter a lot to us. So whether or not he's sane, in your brain you surely know we have to work with him as best we can.

If you watched the BBC bulletins during Trump's visit to Britain you'd have thought that half the country was up in arms against him, as the time spent showing the rather embarrassing, indeed pitiful, demonstrations was almost as much as that covering the visit itself. The truth was revealed when the camera zoomed out from the throng at the launch of the Trump baby blimp in London, for we could all see there were a  few hundred there at the most. At least one BBC editor wanted us to see the context.

Note to the BBC: just because some people make a lot of noise doesn't mean that they should have equal coverage. After all, empty vessels and all that.

I found the demonstrations embarrassing to the point of squirm inducing. Yes, I'd have been on that side of the plot when I was a student. But there seemed to be a lot of folk involved who should be more grown up by now. For a start, what they were demostrating about is mostly none of our business. If you doubt that, consider what we would think of southern US rednecks demonstrating against Theresa May because we have allowed gay marriage.

But these folk just don't get how counter-productive their actions could be. How should we be responding to Trump? Lord Powell who, as Charles Powell was private secretary to Margaret Thatcher from 1983 to 1990 and one of her key foreign policy advisers, wrote^ that the special relationship would, for her, have transcended the personality and politics of whoever was US president. She would have found plenty in common but would not have agreed with him on everything and a lot "to oppose fiercely. But top of her mind would have been that her duty and Britsin's interest was to give him the respect that in her eyes any and every American president deserved. Whatever personal distaste she would have felt for aspects of his behaviour - and she was pretty broad-minded - she would have rigorously supressed as beside the point by comparison with our strategic interest".

If you want to know just how deep a hole Jeremy Corbyn could take us into just think how statesmanlike he would be in these situations. And consider the consequences.

Trump ain't nuts. And neither is Corbyn. But there is more sanity in Trump's approaches to international relations and trade than might appear obvious. Corbyn? I think that's pretty obvious too.

*China will fold if it plays poker now, Irwin Stelzer, Sunday Times 24 June 2018

**That's a win for Trump on trade, Sunday Times 29 July 2018

*** Tariffs will wreck Trump's boom, Sunday Times 5 August 2018

**** Trump war on the world is working, Sunday Times 19 August 2018.

# Sunday Times 23 September 2018

@ Globalisation, blue collar style. Irwin Stelzer, Sunday Times 7 October 2018

^ Soulmate, no,  but Maggie would keep Trump close, Sunday Times 8 May 2018

Friday, 12 October 2018

Better decide which side you're on

One of many bands close to my heart from the punk/new wave era was the Tom Robinson Band. Yes, 2-4-6-8 Motorway of course, but I loved both of their two albums, though the second was a commercial failure leading to the demise of the band. Most of the lyrics were complete rot, of course: left wing nonsense and paranoia. In The Winter of '79  Robinson sang of a right wing clampdown, with national service reintroduced, social security stopped and the SAS coming "to take our names". When actually Margaret Thatcher's liberating government was only a few months away and in reality it was Labour overseeing the Winter of Discontent, with rubbish piled up in the steets and the dead unburied because of strikes.

Nevertheless, one of Tom's songs I'm still very attached to is Better Decide Which Side You're On, with its chorus:
You better decide which side you're on
This ship goes down before too long
If left is right then right is wrong
You better decide which side you're on.

At that time I was somewhat left of centre but over the next decade it became clear even to me, ever so reluctantly, that the right had the better solutions at the time (in Britain, Europe and USA) while the left was devoid of solutions or even coherent arguments and seemed capable only of demonstrations and protest.

However, the radical political left is now getting stronger in many countries. Not just here: Irwin Stelzer noted that the next Democratic US Presidential candidate will come from the survivor of the primary battle between the party's hard left and its "shrinking centrist bloc". Why, I wonder?

It's been said that people on the left believe a more ideal world can be created, a utopia where you can appeal to everyone's altruism and trust people to do the right things with everybody helping each other out. Why would anyone mind working hard and paying more taxes to pay for benefits and sevices to be generous for all? In this simplistic stereotype people on the right, in contrast, think such ideals are for the birds and you have to work with the grain of human behaviour, offering a carrot and stick, to make things work in practice. They think you have to encourage people and companies to work harder and longer with lower tax rates so they keep a higher proportion of what they earn but in practice contribute more in total taxes to fund benefits and services. This is the wealth creation model beloved of those who feel the important thing is the size of the cake, whereas those on the left often overlook that inconvenience in their preoccupation with its precise allocation.

Thus folk on the left saw Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms as harsh and cruel, while their political opponents saw potential to get more people off benefits and into work, thus helping them while saving spend on benefits and generating more revenue in taxes. The interesting thing to me is that, even after this turned out to be completely true, helping to create the record employment levels we now have, Smith's reforms are still thought of as the work of the devil by the left even if many of them are sensible enough not to advocate undoing them completely.

All of that is just my simplistic pastiche of left and right wing ideology. But there are behavioural differences at the moment. Just look how uncivil so many are on the left compared to the right (I'm talking mainstream parties here, not the BNP, whose forbears, the National Front, were Tom Robinson's preoccupation). For example, furious demonstrators screaming "Tory scum" at party conference delegates the other week (I'm assuming these are Labour supporters though they might, till recently have been in the Socialist Workers Party, which now has no need to exist). And totally unwilling to recognise the legitimacy of an opposing mainstream political opinion, as in the case of the teaching assistant who told the Labour party conference that, if children were brought up properly "we'll probably not have any Tories". If you doubt me on this please explain why Laura Kuenssberg found it necessary to have a bodyguard at last year's Labour conference. What a contrast with the civility with which Jacob Rees Mogg is prepared to debate his views with anyone, whatever their behaviour. I don't buy that this is just passion: it's an attempt to bully, intimidate and thwart democracy. Basically it's a Trotskyite tactic and is fundamentally anti-democratic. We have gone a long way from Evelyn Beatrice Hall's comment, often misattributed to Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". With no platforming and safe spaces the miltant and snowflake left combine to close down debate while the right is prepared to argue it's case.

One might conclude those on the left place too much store on feelings and the right too much on thoughts, to the exclusion in both cases of the other approach.

Earlier in the year I discussed at length on a walk with a friend somewhat to my left (politically, not on the walk!) an admittedly artificial question I posed - if you see the chance to make things better for, say, 65% of the folk on benefits, by giving them a better chance of making work pay but at the same time making things even more difficult for a minority what should a politician do? The answer to this used to be easy: follow the greatest good for greatest number, while ensuring there is an ultimate safety net. Now it seems that any change that produces some "losers" is derided as heartless in the extreme and beyond the pale. How you feel about this artificial question probably depends where on the political spectrum you sit, but I would contend it provides some insight into the underlying question.

For the purpose of that question I am assuming that most people on left or right aren't idealogues, they genuinely believe their model is the better way to do things. Oddly that is a tenet that people on the right are much more prepared to concede than prople on the left. It seems to me the left resort too readily to the accusation that their opponents are driven by ideology when actually it is more often the other way round. Or is it just laziness? After all, it's so much easier just to contend that the right is heartless than to try to argue the case logically.

Nevertheless, I don't understand the the logic behind most left wing economic policies. As in I really don't get it. Take tax and spend. I understand Keynes, economic multipliers and the argument for "pump priming".  For example, if you get people out of work and off benefits by public infrastructure projects, the greater spending by those back in work creates a positive economic feedback. Good jobs sustain other jobs in both the private and public sectors. But don't kid yourself - on its own this would only increase public debt and wouldn't generate more tax than it cost. But it can create a climate that encourages business. If it incentivises the private sector to invest, creating more jobs and tax revenues, then you  can get a positive economic effect.

But those who argue more should be spent on benefits and services by purely increasing spending and debt are just spending OPM (other people's money). I know they think they would be spending the money of "the rich" or "the fat cats" or the "big corporations" by increasing taxes. But this isn't what happens in practice. I suspect even John McDonnell knows increasing income and corporation tax rates will not increase the tax take. He just thinks it should be done, maybe because it would be popular but more likely because he is an old fashioned class warrior. And he wants to break the system, so when the policies don't work he would claim it showed the need to be more radical.

No, the "other people" are the taxpayers of the future who will have to pay more in interest on the automatically higher levels of debt. Those "other people" are the you and I of tomorrow and, more importantly, our children and grandchildren. I strongly disagree with the argument that the old have stolen the youngsters' future by voting for Brexit - after all some of us didn't - but we are all prejudicing their future with too much debt.

So when Emily Thornberry responded to the dry Tory David Gauke on Question Time recently "don't you understand Keynes?", well yes we do but we also understand that overspending always leads to problems, either quickly (Ted Heath) or slowly (Blair and Brown) probably depending mainly on the strength of the economy they inherited.

I recall a wise professor (literally, of economics) I worked for in the 1980s saying that, for all the noise, there usually isn't that much difference between the parties, particularly on economic policies. The difference in total public sector spend proposed is often barely material and maybe not measurable in practice. And many of the ideas the parties pick up come from a pool of think tanks and, indeed, the civil service. I would argue there was a significant difference between the major parties in 1981 and that there would be at the next election, unless Mrs May tacks towards Jeremy Corbyn to try to claim the centre. Time will tell whether this strategy proves sensible or if she will just prove to be another of the useful idiots like Frank Field and Margaret Beckett, who made up the numbers to get Corbyn nominated as Labour leader so the left could have a candidate on the ballot paper even though they profoundly disagreed with him and who have helped put us on the verge of having a Marxist influenced government.

Usually I cleave to the view that neither the left or right has all the answers and there is great merit, in our first past the post system, in the tendency for governments to change after one or two parliaments. The incomers,  if they aren't idealogues, will retain the better things the previous administration did while bringing new ideas and fresh energy. But I feel we are in more dangerous times than that.

I noted recently that research has given the lie to the simplistic ideas of why electorates voted for Brexit and for Trump. So I am hopeful that the millenials won't all go for Corbyn. After all, a world in which the Len McCluskeys have power and influence beyond their actual role would probably feel entirely alien to that age group, if depressingly familiar to those of us who were at work in the 1970s.  I hope they can figure it out rather than learn it by experience.

I expect that last in first out irrespective of ability and the tyranny of the closed shop will come as a shock to the libertarian WhatsApp Instagram generation.

There's an old saw which goes "if you aren't on the left when you're young you haven't got a heart but if you aren't on the right by the time you're middle-aged you haven't got a brain". Tom Robinson famously sang Glad to be Gay but later married a woman and had children, though to be fair he says he still identifies as gay but happened to fall in love with a woman. I have no problem with that fence sitting but, it shows you are allowed to change your mind. Politically then, you better decide which side you're on else the ship will go down, youngsters, it's just a matter of how far and how fast.

P.S. what I didn't realise at the time was that the chorus of 2-4-6-8 Motorway was lifted from a Gay Lib chant, 2-4-6-8  gay is twice as good as straight, 3-5-7-9 Lesbians are mighty fine. In the long tradition of references in song lyrics that make those in the know smile and sail over everyone else's heads

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A selective education model that could be popular, if not populist

I've just been reading about a new approach to vocational training pioneered by an entrepreneur in the USA. Recognising that many prospective mature students cannot afford fees, Lambda School in San Francisco offers an intense seven month online course in software coding for free. Students sign up to hand over 17% of their subsequent earnings for 2 years as long as their salary exceeds $50,000. If they don't reach that income in 5 years they repay nothing and the payments are capped at $30,000 in total. One example was quoted of a low-earner who was living in subsidised housing but now earns over $100,000 a year working as a software engineer for the insurance giant AIG. Lambda is looking to broaden out into other subjects.

So, no student debt in this privately operated scheme which is operated as a "graduate tax" rather than a loan -  pretty much how Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com reckons our university funding system should work.

There is an obvious catch. Lambda naturally selects the students it is going to take a risk on. The basis is interesting. Not where they went to high school, their college grades or their current job but on whether they are "willing, driven and capable". A person of average intelligence but above average drive would be accepted.

Our higher education system is a fudge. There is selection: uni departments decide what grade offers to make to individual applicants. But if you want to get to university to do something/anything then you pretty much can. So in the end determined applicants can saddle themselves with a big debt. As Martin Lewis often explains, it's not really a debt because it doesn't have to be repaid if you never earn enough and it doesn't count as a debt against your credit rating, when applying for a mortgage for example. And, unlike normal debts, it isn't written off by bankruptcy. But it's seen as a debt, just as the Tories' abandoned care funding proposals were portrayed as a dementia tax when they were nothing of the sort. In politics much is about what are called the "optics". Just ask Nick Clegg!

I am left feeling that the Lambda approach could work here, but only for for mature students and retraining as the likelihood of a return on students of generalist subjects might not be reliable enough to make a business.

But I have come to the view that funding for students and universities does need to be reformed. Not because the loan system is unfair - I don't think it is, at least not materially, even if I find it hard to justify the current interest rates in excess of 6%. But that only really affects a subgroup of students and, by design, only those earning enough will ever pay it. Most other countries have similar schemes even if they call it a graduate tax.

No, the reason I think it needs reform is that the system has become unsustainable.  It is now projected that three-quarters of graduates will never repay their loans. Some say make it all free, like it used to be in the old days. But only 10% went to university then, now it is approaching 50%. The real problem is we have too high a proportion going to university and all sorts of things are deemed to be university subjects when they probably shouldn't be. The Chartered Institute for Professional Development says almost half of all UK graduates end up in jobs that do not require their expensively acquired skills. For example, more than 40% of people in property or estate management have degrees - in 1979 the figure was less than 4%.

Basically, our system isn't selective enough. Weak candidates can get to uni and many will never repay their loan. It's seen as their 'right' to do so, whereas the representatives of the taxpayer should have a say on their prospects. Somewhere a business decision based on that risk of non-repayment needs to be taken, a bit like the Lambda model.

I'm not suggesting that loans (or free tuition against a graduate tax) should only be given where the chance of repayment is very high, but the balance must be shifted. There needs to be rationing by a quota system. Indeed, I've long thought that the numbers of loans available for courses should be loosely related to what the economy needs. (Only loosely, mind, as I don't trust the people who would be given responsibility to get it totally right). We already have defacto quotas for occupations such as medicine, so why not extend that?

Oh and one other thing. I was also reading about what has made people vote on lines seen as populist - for Brexit, Trump or populist parties in Europe*. It seems there are lots of myths - bigotry, age, membership of an alienated underclass, etc. And myths they are. The average income of a Trump supporter was nearly 30% higher than the US median; attitudes to race, gender and cultural change were more important than income. 41% of US millenials went for Trump. While Brexit was indeed popular with those on low incomes, 51% of people on average or just above average voted Leave. Half of people aged 35-44 voted for Brexit.  Vince Cable said folk who voted for Brexit longed for a world "where faces were white". Also not true: Brexit was supported by one in three black and ethnic minority voters, for reasons such as preference given to EU immigrants over non-EU nationals and anxiety over historically high levels of immigration.

I'll leave you to read for yourself the factors that have influenced votes for options perceived as populist, apart from one. While there wasn't a correlation between income and voting for Brexit, there was with education. 84% of Brits under 34 with a degree voted Remain, but only 37% of their peers without a degree did so. More generally, there was a correlation between voting for Brexit and a feeling that "politicians do not listen to people like me", 58% of whom voted Leave.

There is a huge group of young people who I would guess feel ignored and unloved by the politicians: the 51% of them who don't go to university. They don't get loans on what are actually very preferential terms and they don't have many people championing them. No wonder some of them feel alienated.

Tony Blair's ill conceived target of 50% of 17-30 year olds going to university is within a whisker of being met. Progress towards it has not been diminished by the size of fees or the  concerns about student debt. The system is dysfunctional. We should scrap the target and rethink the whole issue.

The Lambda model might have a place in a more varied and more market-driven system, rather than our pretty much one size fits all approach, which is clearly failing.

* Why is populism on the rise? How Brexit and Donald Trump gained support. Sunday Times 7 October 2018. Lambda School was covered in "University for free - unless you get a job" in the same edition.

P.S. another interesting thing about Lambda. It isn't accredited in the U.S. The reason? It would have to have a full time qualified librarian which, as an online business, it doesn't need and can't justify. It relies on what employers think of its graduates. I'm not sure I'd want to do that for medicine, say, but it does show how regulation can be inappropriate in some circumstances.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Chuck it in, Chuka

"Call off the dogs" Chuka Umunna rather pathetically begged Jeremy Corbyn recently. "We aren't dogs" exclaimed an activist from the conference podium the other week. Not in strict DNA terms perhaps but remember, this is the party in which Ed Balls was once called Gordon Brown's "attack dog" and Damien McBride his "rottweiler", so I think we know what Chuka meant. Along with Charlie Whelan, Tom Watson and a few others, Brown's inner circle were accused of thuggish, bully boy tactics*.

However, over the last few years Labour has made bullying and intimidation something by the many not the few in the party as reports from so many constituencies have made it clear the tactics are now endemic. One might say they gave gone back to the days of Militant - indeed they have even readmitted the egregious Derek 'Degsy' Hatton, who said he was inspired by Corbyn's leadership to reapply for membership, having been booted out in 1986. "What I have seen over the past year or two, particularly with Jeremy Corbyn and the people round him is a move along the lines that I would have wanted to see in the 1980s" Hatton told the Liverpool Echo, adding "there is a prime minister in waiting who stands on every picket line, who is talking about nationalising the means of production". Labour has no rule to prevent Hatton rejoining. The main difference from the 1980s is that now the Trots are at the top and bottom of the party, which gives a new meaning to Ed Miliband's "squeezed middle", doesn't it Chuka?

So, other than sounding pathetic, what is Chuka meant to do? Quit the party and start a new, moderate centre-left party? We know how that goes after the SDP. Stay and fight the bullies but probably lose as one after another moderate MP faces a vote of no confidence in the party that officially decided against automatic reselection? What is the moderates' plan?

Like Micawberish rabbits in the headlights they wait and hope that something will turn up. Perhaps they are hoping that Labour loses the next election and the tide in the party turns. Fat chance - the left will say what it always has, that the policies weren't left wing enough. This time they would have the strength to enforce it. Or that Labour win and it all goes belly up, again turning the tide in the party. But by then there won't be any moderates left, they'll all have been forced out.

I said ages ago in this blog that the Labour entryism project was well advanced and, with the various rule changes that have been enacted, probably unstoppable. The mystery to me, with the bullying tactics and anti-semitism so visible is why Labour is fairly popular in the polls, albeit not routinely higher than a government visibly lacking in confidence, competence and coherence.

The latest Labour (what comes after 'New'?) seems to be much more popular than the last genuinely left wing option, Michael Foot's 1980s version. Bankrupt policies of tax and spend, nationalisation and returning power to the unions, all of which would set us back far more than Brexit, don't seem to be a poison pill with significant chunks of the electorate. Partly because Corbyn is popular. He seems to be seen as some kind of avuncular uncle, a harmless old well-meaning duffer.

Rod Liddle gave the lie to this on last week's Question Time. Now I'm a fan of Liddle's acerbic columns, whether on current affairs or football, but he has always disappointed me on QT. I suspect, like me, he comes up with a suitable riposte after about three hours rather than in the moment. This time he had come prepared, as he answered a question about Corbyn's Labour party conference speech, saying it had been a very good speech and that Corbyn had become a "charismatic, persuasive and likable speaker over the last three years". He went on to say that the speech was full of left wing populism and platitudinous drivel, which was not necessarily a bad thing in a party conference speech. It included many things which appeal to people, particularly given the levels of social inequality between north and south and rich and poor. "He is right and I think if there were a general election within the next few weeks Labour would win by a mile." Dimblebod was about to move on before Liddle interjected "I need to add the important bit", which was worth hearing:

"I wish people who were taken in by that and agree with that would look to the left beyond podium and see the rabble with their Palestinian flags and lanyards sponsored by Hamas, would look to the raft of hypocrites on the Labour front bench. Thornberry, Abbott, Chakrabarti - all of whom don't want you to send your kids to private schools or selective schools but do so for their kids, and for Corbyn and McDonnell, who have given support and succour to every possible hostile, violent, anti-democratic terrorist regime or organisation they can: IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela. If you want people like that running your country, vote for Corbyn."

The audience cheered this superb rant. There are clips on the internet** - it's well worth watching. Ian Lavery, the Labour party chairman was on the panel. Lavery  pushed his chair back as if to walk out, or give Liddle a punch. Now Lavery is built like the proverbial brick outhouse. This is the same Ian Lavery who had his mortgage paid off by the National Union of Mineworkers Northumberland area for which he was General Secretary. In 2016 he refused on nine occasions to answer a question on Newsnight about whether he had paid off the mortgage.  Subsequently he received a redundancy payment when he left to become an MP. As he had a successor it's not at all clear that he was redundant. His union subsequently discovered that it had overpaid him by some £30k. Lavery would only agree to repay half of it and the union decided to settle rather than take him to court, leading the BBC to question whether he is a fit and proper person for his current role***.  The Parliamentary Commissioner cleared him of wrongdoing - well none of it was to do with him being an MP - and Jeremy Corbyn ignored it, promoting him to party chairman. Lavery would no doubt be a key figure in a Corbyn government.

But, rather disappointingly Lavery didn't land one on Liddle but tamely said it was outrageous and expressed astonishment that Liddle would "come out with an anti-Corbyn rant like that". Liddle has been a member of the Labour party for about 45 years and worked for it early in his career but is currently suspended for an anti-antisemitism in the Labour party rant in a blog post published in May in which he claimed that antisemitism "is absolutely endemic in two sections of the Labour party - the perpetually adolescent white middle class lefties and the Muslims" which all sounds like a fair cop to me.

By now the Beeb producer was in Dimblebod's ear, telling him to correct Liddle - that one shadow cabinet's offspring didn't go to a private school, maybe fearing a writ.  "I said selective" insisted Liddle, naming the school. He'd done his homework.

Liddle represents a strand of old style Labour (working man, trade unionist, concerned about inequality and regional disparities, eurosceptic, worried about levels of immigration) that the party now seems to ignore. Those people are taken for granted. Whereas the Blairites are eviscerated. So where does this all leave Chuka and his endangered chums? Up the creek without a paddle.  And still harrassed by the dogs. You see the avuncular old duffer Corbyn NEVER explicitly condemns the harrassment of the moderates. The most he will do is trot out a platitude, condemning all violence, by whoever - a formula you'll hear him use frequently to avoid criticising any of his "friends", like Hamas or Russia. Which the bully boys take as a green light to continue. Which is why Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP for a Liverpool constituency, needed a police escort at the conference held in the city she represents after suffering months of antisemitic abuse. There can be no doubt: Labour is the really nasty party.

There is actually a phrase for this, Chuka. Welcome to the dictatorship of the proletariat, chum. Now you know how the Mensheviks felt.

There's no way back for the Labour moderates in their party. They can only hang in and hope for a realignment of the political centre, which doesn't seem at all likely at the moment. Hoping for Brexit to crash then, I suppose. Funny that, as it's also what the trots are licking their lips at.

You may as well chuck it in, mate.

* Gordon Brown's attack dogs, The Times, 15 April 2009

** https://order-order.com/2018/09/28/rod-liddle-totally-eviscerates-labour-on-question-time

*** Ian Lavery MP received £165,000 from trade union, BBC 20 October 2017

Monday, 8 October 2018

Captain Fantastic

Yet again the Ryder Cup was fantastic entertainment, keeping Mrs H and I riveted to the TV for many hours the weekend before last. It was great to see the Poulter roar, perhaps for the last time in a Ryder Cup. And yes, Democracy Man, I was proud to be a European, even if "Ode to joy" sticks in my craw a bit. But there isn't really an alternative to that, or the blue and yellow EU flag, even though golf's team Europe comprises 44 nations, not just the EU 28. At least theoretically 44 nations as only about a dozen nations have ever provided players for the European team, with most historically coming from England and Spain. This is one area where Brexit really isn't relevant, including the Irish border which basically doesn't exist in golf (or rugby).

I wasn't sure about Thomas Bjorn as Europe's captain. I'd always thought him a rather gruff and uncommunicative type from what little I'd seen when he was a feature on the European tour. I couldn't have been more wrong. Thomas came across as warm and very human and not just when he went all twinkly after Europe won. I'm not surprised the team bonded and wanted to do well for him.

It's easy to assume Europe always bond as they tend to do so much better than the Americans, but the captain's role does matter in that regard. For example, Nick Faldo was a fabulous golf player but I don't think the team atmosphere was anything like as good when he was captain compared to Bjorn, or most other recent captains come to that. Bjorn's team mastered all of the marginal details and motivational triggers which Paul McGinley was so good at but seemed to add extra warmth.

And the results spoke for themselves when it came to comparison of the two captain's numbers. Bjorn's four captain's picks produced six and a half points for the team*, while Furyk's produced one and a half, all of them from Tony Finau, with the lamentable Mickelson**, the serial Ryder Cup non-peformer Woods and the rookie DeChambeau contributing nix. As Europe's margin of victory was 7 points, one can argue that the performance of the captain's picks was critical.

But critical also was the performance of the two European stars of the touranment, Italian Francesco Molinari and Evertonian Tommy Fleetwood, who looked the partiest of party animals crowd surfing after the win was sealed.

At the last Ryder Cup Mrs H commented that the player Europe looked to as its leader, Justin Rose, looked completely exhausted at the end of day 2 after playing all four legs. He duly went on to lose his singles match the next day. She correctly, in my view, said that the captains should never ask players to play five times. This time Bjorn put that burden on Molinari, who did look tired but pulled through (though only against Mickelson) and Fleetwood, who looked brain dead after his heroics of the previous two days. I suspect Fleetwood's party antics were partly born of relief that his singles defeat to Finau hadn't mattered. Molinari became the first European to win five points at a Ryder Cup and the first player to do so since USA's Larry Nelson in 1979.

It's become standard captaincy practice to make sure all of the players play at least once in the team rounds on the first two days, before they go out on their own in the singles round. But playing on all five occasions also looks to be unadvisable.

Rose looked tired again by the last day, but then he'd had a big weekend at the PGA Tour Championship a week earlier, winning the FedEx $10M jackpot. But not as big a weekend as Woods, who won the Tour Championship. The TV commentary told us that Woods had played in 19 tournaments this year, as many as he played in a year in his pomp. Woods looked exhausted, out of sorts and, worryingly, occasionally seemed in pain, or at least looked very stiff. I don't doubt that Woods wants to do well in the Ryder Cup. But it was a tournament too far this time and he only made his lamentable Ryder Cup record even worse. But I don't blame Jim Furyk for picking him as it hadn't seemed plausible beforehand that Woods could make a poor record worse. And it would have been a brave call indeed to leave Woods out after the comeback year he's had. I don't think you can blame Furyk for picking DeChambeau either as he was in a rich vein of form, having won twice in the last four Stateside tournaments: an unusual achievement given the breadth and depth of competition at those events.

However, Furyk was culpable in selecting Mickelson for his team and even more culpable in picking the player ranked 192nd out of 193 on the PGA tour this year for hitting fairways to play in the foursomes on day one. In that format, called "alternate shot" by the Americans, there is nowhere to hide. Why didn't he pick Lefty in the fourballs, where each player plays his own ball and the better of the team's scores counts on each hole? (Not hindsight on my part, Mrs H will vouch that I said this when I saw the day one pairings on the Thursday evening). With the course set up with narrow fairways (though surely not as narrow as one American claimed afterwards - 15 yards!? - maybe at a pinch point I suppose) and punishing rough to counteract the American players advantage in how far they can hit the ball, Paul McGinley repeatedly pointed out in TV commentary that you couldn't play the wonderful Le Golf National course from off the fairway. Now it's a truism that hitting fairways and greens makes for a good score in golf, as it's always the best way to play a golf course. But accuracy was certainly favoured and many of the American team failed the test, though none as badly as Phil Mickelson, whose day in the golfing sun has surely run.

The European team will face a different test in the States in 2020. But, whatever the course set up and form of the players as the event unfolds my advice to the European captain is: don't ask any of your team to play in all five legs.

* I'm crediting each player in a fourball or foursome team with half a point here with a full point for a singles win to make the points difference between the teams work. I don't think this tallies with the normal player records which gives players credit for a win whether on their own or with a partner.
** 'lamentable' enough to have won $4.5 million in 2018, mind!

P.S. Paul McGinley takes the opposite view on playing your best players all 5 times. He noted that at Medina US captain Davis Love III rested the all conquering Mickelson and Bradley combination, who'd won 3 points out of 3, saving them for the singles. Europe gained momentum, Lefty and Bradley both lost their singles and the Miracle of Medinah unfolded with Europe coming back to win from 10-6 down. I agree that momentum is important in these tournaments: Molinari and Fleetwood's win to hold the Americans to 3-1 on the first morning at Paris and Casey's half second out in the singles felt important at the time. But there's no way of knowing what would have happened at Medinah or Paris if those aspects had played out differently. Sport, eh?