Thursday, September 19, 2019

Bear Market in Integrity Continues (2019 Update)

Things, people, and/or ideas believed to have integrity, now seemingly compromised...(the second third  fourth latest updated and expanded version). The bear market in integrity continues unrelentingly…2013, 2014, 2015, 2019 edition.

Carlos Ghosn
Sheryl Sandberg
Quantitative Easing 
Boeing Corp
Generic Pharma
Justin Trudeau
James Dyson
Kayne West
US Immigration Policy
Alan Dershowitz
Patisserie Valerie
Defined Benefit Pensions
Grant Thornton
John Humphrys
Susan Collins 
Ben Sasse
Lisa Murkowski
Tom Brady
Roger Daltry
Deutsche Bank
Danish Banking 
Elon Musk
Australian Cricket
US Gymnastic Trainers
UK Football Coaches
SAT Tests
US University Admissions
Louis CK
Al Franken
Wells Fargo
Anthony Weiner
Intel CPUs
Kobe Steel
Mitsubishi Materials
Johnson & Johnson Corp

Fantasy Sports
Mt Gox
NFL Football Air-Pressure
Bill Cosby
Pot Noodles
Michel Platini
"Kids Company" Charity
Student Loans
US Secret Service
Energy MLPs
Whole Foods Market
Bruce Jenner
American Police Conduct
Rachel Dolezal
Red Meat

Jimmy Savile (tnx Anon)
Rolf Harris (tnx Anon)
US Veterans Administration
The Red Cross
Justin Bieber
The London Gold Fix
Chris Christie

US Govt Agency Data Release
The UK National Health Service
Swiss Train Safety
Nick Clegg
IM Confidentiality 
BBC Management & Oversight
Risk Parity
Segregated Customer Accounts
Investment Consultants
Bloomberg Privacy
Dark Pools
London FX PM Closing Prices
Meredith Whitney

Reinhart & Rogoff
Jérôme Cahuzac
Japanese Yen
Jamie Dimon/JP Morgan
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena 
IKEA Meatballs

Wen Jiabao as "Humble Servant of The People
Lance Armstrong
Top Ten Lists
Austerity as an Economic Panacea
Harvard Students' Academic Honesty
BLS Statistics
Cyclical Recovery
Book Reviews
Strong Computer Passwords
'Organic' Food
Money Velocity
Undecided Voters
The Food Pyramid
Purity of '.999 Fine Gold Bars
Penn State Football
"Top of the Pops" 
Fareed Zakaria
The "risk-free" rate
LIBOR as a Benchmark
Public Sector Pensions
HFT as a Beneficial Provider of liquidity
Diversifying properties of Hedge Fund's
Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity 
Celtic Rangers
Macroeconomic Forecasts
John Paulson
FRB Open Market Operations
Standardized Educational Testing
Swiss National Bank
A Relaxing Cruise
WTI as Oil Benchmark 
Olympus Corp.
Payment Protection Insurance
HM Revenue & Customs
Sony Playstation Network
Social Mobility
Actuarial Return Assumptions for Pension Funds
Ryan Giggs
France   AAA
Boob Jobs
David Einhorn
Nuclear Power
Deepwater Drilling
Tiger Woods
Professional Cricket
Professional Cycling
High-Frequency Trading
Professional Baseball
Professional Tennis
Municipal Bond Underwriting
The Catholic Church 
Track & Field Athletics
NCAA Sports
US Congress
UK Parliament
Analyst Research
Credit Ratings
Newtonian Physics
The Stock Market
The Food Pyramid
Incentive Stock Options
Reinsurance Brokerage 
Lou Dobbs
The Mortgage-Backed Securities Market
Hedge Funds
Social Security
Government Balance Sheets
Tooth Fairy

Errr ummm Professional Wrestling is starting to look good by comparison - at least it makes no pretensions to be anything other than it is. What's left?

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Could Progressives Have Done More to Prevent Nasty Populism?

The rise of populism has caused both left and right to indict centrist’s seeming embrace of “neo-liberalism”, to further their own agendas, or to forensically assign blame for the current blight of Trump, Brexit, Five Star, Gilets Jaunes, Orban, etc. While neo-liberalism has always been multi-dimensionally-flawed I believe these indictments of Centrists are mostly unfair, and fall prey to the cardinal sin of revisionsm by ignoring the context of centrists’ appeasement with neo-liberalism across most western democracies.

Neo-liberalism means many different things to different people. While it’s history is long, it’s come to mean “laissez-faire” government, coupled with monetarist, supply-side orientation, restraint of social policies, and generally free trade in goods and cross-border movement of capital. It rose with popular support from the embers of 70s inflation, bloated states, and Volcker’s massacre, championed first by Thatcher and then by Reagan in a re-play of Weimar disorientation and Brunning’s smackdown. It has accompanied four decades of economic growth, laid the foundations for globalization, trade liberalisation and, subsequently, prepared the world for re-entry of China, Eastern-Europe, and India. It’s helped draw billions of people out of most extreme poverty, while also fostering rising inequality in industrialized nations (especially US/UK), industrial concentration, industrial hollowing, corporate rent-seeking, and with these, market-failures across many sectors.

Economic growth and transformation in the 1980s led to general popular acceptance in the public psyche on grounds of economic efficiency and positive externalities. Some see this resulting from policy success, and while some is, I view it through an “Iceland analogy” where (like Iceland’s meltdown) the Volcker induced pain was so deep and thorough, that when authorities removed their foot from the economy’s head, and loosened fiscal policy, there was only one direction for things to go – both for the economy and the national zeitgeist.

Neo-liberalism is, was, and always will be, far from perfect. Humans have spent the better part of our modern history tinkering with “what works” and what doesn’t in social and business organization, and the limitations of policy and structure. In the process, we’ve discovered what are likely the effective (pragmatic) boundaries of taxation, regulation, fiscal, and monetary policies, as well as nuances of democracy, and human rights. As a result, we know that: Government is not universally bad, inept or inefficient (but certainly has the capacity to be); both fiscal and monetary policy have roles to play and differ according to circumstance and regime; we ignore the social impacts of economic policy and income/wealth distribution at our peril (ask Nicholas II!); trade is good, and unfettered globalization can hollow-out industries; immigration has strong economic benefits but also has social consequences; that mobile capital is pre-disposed to rent-seek and arbitrage both regulation and tax; and that markets often fail – whether from privatised monopolies, natural monopolies, or collusive oligopoly. But don’t always use this knowledge, and since it’s emergence in 1981, forces who gain parochially from “purer” policy (be it tax, regulation, environment) have organized to prevent The State from using and applying this hard-won knowledge.

Clinton and New Labour, and then Obama thereafter, are accused mostly by the more ambitious left - both academics and politicians – of embracing neo-liberalism and thereby neglecting the social consequences thereby creating the present populist backlash. I’ve also heard it from think-tankers, writers/journalists and academics blithely blaming the failure of centrists. And I have a problem with this. Not a problem with the fact that neo-liberalism has contributed to the populist backlash (I agree to some extent), but rather that Centrists should shoulder the blame for this.

Both history and policy analysis are contextual and incremental. In all but the most extraordinary times, we are bounded by prevailing sentiments. Progressives, Democrats, Liberals, Social Democrats have been in ideological opposition to the prevailing societal narrative since Reagan/Thatcher’s success and popular pursuit of neo-liberal agenda(s). Legislative majorities and electoral considerations in this environment further constrain policy options. Consider Walter Mondale in 1984, which was a defining electoral moment. Mondale, a Minesota Democrat, a sensible pragmatic progressive suggested: “We might have to raise taxes”, in a debate, and was requited with one of the most resounding defeats in electoral history. Ditto for Dukakis in 1988 whose opponent GHW Bush’s catchphrase “Read my lips – No new taxes” produced an equally decisive result. Would a more radical left have fared better? Hardly. Would a harder left manifesto by Kinnock have led to a labour victory with similar constraints? No.

By 1992, in the US, Clinton and the progressives understood the impediments. Ditto Labour/Blair in ‘97. Claim more of the center, assuage fears on the economy. One can wish all one wants for a pure and fanciful but unpopular manifesto, but in the end nothing gets done if you don’t have power. And even if legislatively, it proves difficult, you will have prevented the worst-case erosion from more conservative agendas. Now that you had power – albeit with slim and fickle popular vote majorities, what could you do. As said, you could prevent further erosion, tinker on the edges of social policy, but giving is easy – taking away is hard. Ambitious social agendas require spending, and the lessons from Mondale remain. And legislative majorities short-lived and easily obliterated by an economic mis-step, and constatntly shifting and challenged at State levels. Their best hope was go with flow, expand the economy and opportunity. Their achievement was continuing to foster growth, pursuing sounder social and environmental policies, and being less mean-spirited than the conservatives. Is that something to be proud of? Were they unwitting stooges of global capital, manipulated by industrialists to shaft The People? Not in the main. Both Clinton & Obama arrived with ambitious plans to tackle healthcare and failed. The failure resulted from broken democratic process, cynical lobbying and media distortion, and corrupt subterfuge across party lines, but not an embracement of neo-liberalism by the center. This is indicative of being in power, but remaining in opposition to the prevailing (probably contentious and often wrong) economic narrative. But one thing is certain: social policies, and economic policies with the most negative negative externalities upon The People, were less bad, and illiberal social agendas delayed or stymied during progressive rule.
That alone made would have made co-opting neo-liberalism worth it.

It’s useful to denigrate one’s predecessors in order to set oneself apart and cut a new path. But this carries dangers as zealots are everywhere (on both sides). Impugn the historical reality of pragmatic centrism, and one may open the path to von Hindenberg-National Socialist coalitions in response. By all means, I believe journalists, activists, academics, think-tankers and politicians, should make the case for reducing inequality, increasing opportunites, crackdowns on crony-capitalism and corporate rent-seeking, better education, transport, housing, regional policies for changing economic geographies, and more humane immigration policies. But do not destroy the efforts of pragmatists who’ve throttled the corrosive effects of ideologically-driven neo-liberalism. There is too much at stake.

Friday, November 30, 2018

James Fields, Jr. is a Coward

I sent my middle child to a boarding school, deep in the bowels of the English countryside, when she was of a tender single-digit age. One doesn’t make such a decision without carefully consideration, but the reasons, while complicated, were compelling and I have no regrets. She will have her whole life to ruminate upon it, and blame me. But what doesn’t kill you, often makes you stronger, and as a result of her experience, she has become very strong indeed.

Most parents blithely have positively distorted images of their children. I’m no exception, but I won’t digress further because I have a point to make. This child was wilful, playful, and mischievous. Boarding schools for adolescents necessarily have lots of rules, for more or less everything, and children have equally numerous ways to break them. Sweets. Phones. Reading time. Bedtime. Evening movements. Study time. Music Practice. Treatment of others, all have rules. For whatever reason, mine was involved in almost every transgression, and prank. They got away with lots: hiding prohibited sweets in the ceiling tiles, using night lights under their covers to read when lights were out, or pranking overly-severe matrons . But clever and precocious as they are, experienced minders don’t miss much, so she was caught. Frequently. Sometimes as inspired leader, but most often as co-conspirator. And we’d get the inevitable call from her, or the school, that she’s been caught (again) doing ABC and as a result will be punished by XYZ. Here is my point, and one that expresses my strong admiration of her: whenever she was “caught” and was guilty, in whatever capacity – either as leader or co-conspirator – while her mates typically denied responsibility, she quite courageously and stoically accepted responsibility and subsequent punishment. No whining or whingeing. Not defiant, not overly contrite. She knew the rules. She knew she was breaking them. She knew the consequences. Just courageous mature admission - an integrity that earned not just my respect, but that of her interlocutors, and gave her a legendary reputation amongst her more cowardly peers. Greasy readers might think her stupid, but despite her frequent mischief, she had the strongest sense of justice and fairness (unsurprising raised as she was in a Rawlsian household). When, from time to time, she was unjustly accused or punished, or witnessed others similarly suffering, she became fearsome and would march into the Head’s office (or the Head’s wife) and passionately plead her case, or those of others. So strong was her character and sense of justice, that when she saw others being bullied – whether or not her friends were the bullies or irrespective of whether she disliked the bullied, she would intervene. She has retained this courageous awesomeness into university, yet this trait sits in a blind spot of her consciousness. She doesn’t try to be this way – she just IS this way.

This brings me to the “Alt-Right”, exemplified presently by James Alex Fields, Jr. now infamous for ploughing his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring many and killing a young woman. He has pleaded “not guilty” and disingenuously claims to have driven over counter-protesters “in fear” (or so is the absurd claim of his defense strategy). For on that day in Charlottesville, the facts are indisputable as to who arrived with their own heavily armed militia. There is no revisionist version of this history. Fields, Jr. is a coward. Fields Jr. is pussy. He is a coward and a pussy because he refuses to accept responsibility for actions, or acknowledge – without weasel words – the beliefs that drove him to his actions. Deeds without consequences. He epitomizes the cowardliness of the alt-right, and both their apologists and sympathizers who, to avoid the moral revulsion of the overwhelming majority of fellow citizens and its practical consequences – both in the marketplace and under the law - also refuse to explicitly, wholly, own their own dogma and sentiments. There are few other words for it.

And when I see this fully grown, mature man, with strong ideas and beliefs, make a plea of “not guilty” for an undeniably objective action seen by all, that had mortal consequence, I think back to my daughter, who at age nine, standing accused, for something she knew she was guilty of, had the integrity NOT to lie in order to avoid culpability. Her morals and integrity were clear. Fields, Jr. and the Alt-Right? Not so much.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Elizabethan Verse

So farewell then
inventor of
that weren't.

You fooled
some of the people
all of the time,
but not enough
of the people
some of the time.

You were like
the "Roy Batty"
of start-ups -
shining multiples
as bright
for fractions
as long".

Your name
was an amalgalm
of "Therapy"
and "Diagnosis,
your investors
will need

(apologies to EJ THribb & PrivateEye)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Farewell Then Toys"Я"Us

Farewell then
America's Halfway house
to Barbie, Ken,
G.I. Joe and
"Rock-'em Sock-'em 

You were 
the first company 
to crucify
the English Language 
for the sake of 
a memorable 

Upon your shelves,
aptly-named board games 
like "Risk", 
"Chutes & Ladders"
"The Game of Life" 
and "Trouble - 
foretold your

Category Killers
rose by roll-up 
like Lazarus (not your founder);
but neither Jesus (nor Kravis)
could resurrect
you now.

You put  
the Big Box
into Retail.
But now,
KKR will solemnly
bury their retail 
in a
Big Box.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Bitcoin Haiku

It's been more than three years since I first posted these. So on the day when the value of 1 Bitcoin surpassed that of 1 oz of Gold, I thought it'd be fun to see how they have aged.  For the sake of FD, I can re-affirm that I own no Bitcoin (as if you had to wonder).


Up Up and Away
The sun feels good up yon-der
"Relax!" said Hamlet


Pop some Bitcoin tags?
'Mother Mary & Joseph' !!!!
Napoleon's Waterloo

Left Of the Curtain

The Wizard told him
"Rub two Bitcoins together"
What is 'kurtosis'?


ya-da ya-da ya
Where's my USB?

Not the Monkey King

'That's a nice robe'
Exclaimed she to the vain king
Eat more bananas.

Giapetto's Nightmare

Pinocchio dreamed
When you wish upon a star
Jiminy Bitcoins!

(with apologies to Bashō; As usual, all contributions are most welcome)

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

On The EU & Brexit

The following is a my Remainer's reply to a Brexiteer's comment on my last piece "The Uninspiring Antitheses to Populism". I wouldn't normally turn a reply into a post but I've been wanting to articulate most of these thoughts in Cassandra's record for the future. I've replied in-line to the commentator's (in boldface italics). All further comments, thoughts and replies are both welcomed and appreciated (especially opposing views):

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am huge admirer of your blog and this piece of yours is an excellent example. However, although it's true that Brexit is fraught with downside risks to the UK economy, with few likely economic upsides, there are good reasons for its necessity nonetheless. The vast majority of UK voters and politicians are in favour of the club that we joined: an alliance of advanced West European countries bound together in a free-trade customs union.

Thank you for the kind comments. I have few doubts that that there reasons people hold for Brexit. Whether such reasons have virtue is more contentious. First, I'm sure I needn't recount the history of the EU as rooted in the ECSC. This was, first and foremost, a political project and for very good reasons following the scale of death & destruction from two world wars, that was pragmatically rooted in mutual economic entanglement. Churchill knew this since his ideas were central. Ted Heath, the UK's steward, knew this, both when UK was rejected, and when his efforts were finally requited.

But our Continental partners pushed on with a different vision: a nation called Europe 

I can't find the nation called Europe, anywhere. Yes some members have agreed currency union. Others have chosen to do away with internal borders. Some even "feel" themselves more European in spirit than their national identity. But last time I looked, UK was not a member of either Schengen or the Eurozone.  If anything it is for THOSE countries to feel concerned about real or imagined EU power usurption - NOT Britain. After all, it is they (not UK) who will in likelihood, eventually move towards at least a weak form of fiscal union – probably weaker than Canada which itself is one of the weaker federal unions. But why should that concern the UK? Yes, it may sap more political energy and activism, but that should suit UK just fine as they are, by your own view, interested in a narrowly purposeful trading union.

Most Brexiteers who claim to support Free Trade speak derisively of a “single market”, but it's worth re-stating that, for most, a single market IS the holy grail of free-trade. It is precisely what drives the internal economic might of the US. It is far more powerful and liberating than a mere "free-trade zone" or "customs union". It levels the playing field helping prevent cheaters (e.g from excessively polluting or abusing labour safety in order to gain cost advantage), and closet exclusion (e.g.  domestic agencies like VOSA from creating NTBs that might reference “peculiarly special nature of UK roads” to exclude foreign made cars). There's obviously much more - much of what individual nations would do of their own accord for their own benefit, but is far more efficiently accomplished and sensibly implemented at large scale (pharma & chem  regulations; health & safety, environmental standards. Most are essential since pollution, food safety, etc  don't respect borders  One need only look at the idiocy of US insurance regulation where each state maintains it's own insurance commission and regulatory regime, to realize the value. But a single market is decidedly NOT a nation, nor does pretend to be. Yes, ALL members cede a modicum of sovereignty (Britain less than others) in exchange for the large opportunity within the single market . Fortunately, the EU  remains a customs union as well (like the one the UK joined) since they are not mutually exclusive, which has even more palpable advantage than it did when Britain joined. This is particularly true when broadening the Single Market's opportunity against larger, and more powerful counterparties (US, China, Japan, India)  which is where most major trade results. The advantage is counter-veiling power as well as technical negotiating ability. Outside of Fishing, I've heard few if any Brexiteer talk specifics of trade that would occur, but that hasn't as a result of the EU, although we have heard an endless stream of concrete examples of how the UK benefits from both customs union and single-market membership. While I'm sure you are not in the “Tea Kettle Paranoia Brigade” using bogus stories about “how the EU is intending to legislate-away Britain's Tea kettles” I remain open to the evidence that will sway my opinion

Everything changes. Institutions evolve. Complaining about change or evolution is like the spouse complaining ”that his partner's aged, and he didn't sign up for that”. Nothing stays the same. Mere evolution with the times is frankly insufficient ground for divorce. This is not to deny there aren't ever grounds for divorce. There are. I've just yet to hear them well-articulated by Brexiteers. And for those who make the economic case built upon new potential trade - I've yet to see this potential "time-weighted or probability adjusted - which is essential to cost vs. benefit analysis.

within which Britain would be merely a "member". 

All countries are “merely members”..  All have rights and obligations. The matters of the community are mostly pragmatic – not grandiose, or for most except the UK, contentious. Therefore, I am suspicious of exceptionalist arguments, that either accuse other members or believe they themselves should be conferred extra-special rights by history or aggrandized self-opinion.  Britain is a small nation in the world, with rich history and tradition. Contrary to the view of Euroskeptics, the UK is important in the EU, playing an vital role, from which it derives enormous benefit – not least peace and growing prosperity of its neighbors. At its worst, the UK might consider the cost  “a small net annual prosperity dues”  - i.e. an immunization against the considerable costs of cost of war, autocracy, corruption, breakdown in the rule of law etc.

Worse, it has become clear that the power driving the new EU Nation would be centred on Berlin and Frankfurt with its Admin Centres in Brussels and Strasbourg so as to save face for the French. 

I appreciate there some British suspicion and jealousy exists. But to me as a detached American observer, living in Britain with a European Passport, it appears that the neutral Belgians got the Senior Admin, the French got the Parliament (some spillover bens to Germany), the Dutch got the judiciary, the Danes got the Environment, the Germans took the ECB, & the Brits got The City as the central Financial & Insurance capital, AS WELL AS the Euro equiv of the FDA . I think the view painted and held by Euroskeptics is a bit paranoid. On the surface, the Germans appears to get the raw deal, paying most and getting least. The Commission doesn't appear skewed, but a fair representation of the community. If anything, voting history suggested Germans have historically sided with Brits, and the UK exit will be most sorely missed by the Germans. More comprehensive research by the LSE suggests this is isn't reflective because there are different political approaches amongst members that skew results (i.e. much coalition-building/vetting happens before official votes, and it's here where Brits have been most effective (and valued by Germans). It's incumbent upon skeptics to make a more substantive case that Britain is somehow on the verge of getting shafted by an enlarged Community and Commission (that it must be said, the UK themselves were ardent supporters of).  Some even argue further that the EU was a conspiracy set up for the benefit of France. I would liken this to the history of the internet which was founded to connect a few physicists, but now has evolved as the most important tool for mankind, with creators accruing little to no benefit. Whatever the EUs origins, the present system is quite distant in the most positive sense, while the benefits are more universally-shared and felt among all her members.  

This is an intolerable drift towards a European political configuration that Britain fought two great wars in the 20th Century to prevent. 

If one were to distill the war and it's aftermath, one might say, Britain fought two great wars to diminish the likelihood of having to fight further wars. Oh, yes politics were dirtier and less transparent in WW1 (this isn't the venue for rehashing UK diplomacy of the era, and WW2 might have been avoided altogether if the French had only heeded JMKeynes. Britain's own enthusiastic support for enlargement was as much predicated upon the desire to consolidate free-market liberal democracy in Eastern Europe (for the same reasons as membership had been extended to the Italians, Spanish & Portuguese as they emerged from struggles with isolationist authoritarianism) as the desire to extend and reap the benefits of a single common market  As an American with a sense of history, I would argue my country didn't fight two world wars in Europe to see Europe splinter and the continent become a quarrelsome door-mat for Russia  We fought the wars, created, funded, supported  Marshall Plan, NATOetc.  to NOT fight another war, to insure spread of democracy and self-determination, to prime European markets and consumer demand for US good/services, and yes, to contain the Soviets and illiberalism. Little of that rationale has changed, even of the commitments and rules have altered with time.

Furthermore, the EU is not democratic and may soon not even be liberal. 

Citing the possibility that in the future the EU may become illiberal as a reason or cause to Brexit is rather like filing for divorce because you suspect that, one day, hypothetically, your spouse might have an affair. This is absurd logic, and even worse national behaviour as a state and party to existing treaties.

There are many forms of democracy and the UK's own “first-past-the-post” is but one (and itself highly flawed), even before considering the “House of Lords”. By your own definition of “undemocratic", the UK's Prime Minister herself is illegitimate since there is no direct election by The People, of UK PMs, and Mrs May even less so. But this hypocrisy rarely silences critics, or sets them to work on bills to yield more power to the UK People. You've left out the reason that some use positing the superiority and longevity of UK Democracy at Westerminster as much stronger than than on the continent. I, too, hold the UK's democratic tradition  in high esteem. At then time, I also marveled at the traditions and longevity in Athens, and in Rome. But longevity, as demonstrated by our Greek and Roman forebearers, says little about the future. If anything, it portends darker days.

The lack of democracy is not only evident in the fact that EU laws are almost entirely manufactured by faceless and overpaid bureaucrats.  

Euroskeptics and Brexiteers make much of “EU Laws”. In the main, they are either related to development of the single market or are laws that are the lattice binding nations to their agreements/responsibilities and conferring, and  importantly protecting  rights among their citizens, rather constricting their individual rights. As an individual citizen, this is decidedly reassuring to know. Perhaps Brits will only appreciate this benefit AFTER they suffer from the indignity of fascism or authoritarianism. Continentals understand its value presently for obvious reasons.

For most UK citizens, their laws are manufactured by faceless bureaucrats whom they don't know, and most often, didn't vote for, who get paid much more than them, and have staff (often family members) who are also faceless. However true this argument may be, it has problems. First, what  IS a “faceless bureaucrat”? This is a classic Tim Bell turn-of-phrase that sounds ominous but is insidiously demagogic. Commissioners (presumably the faceless bureaucrats you are talking about, are the A-Team of each member country. Leon Brittan, Chris Patten, Neil Kinnock, (of sorts) Catherine Ashton, UKs last four Commission Representatives hardly seem nameless or faceless. We may not know the A-Team from each others' countries, any more than Brit's know MPs other than their own. But they are appointed by the delegated representatives, elected by the people for each member country, and hardly faceless. Most UK policy and directives are made by appointees, appointed by elected delegated representatives, or career members of the civil service. It is true that the Commission are the sole introducers of legislation, but member states directly, and parliament ( who often brings ideas to the commission to introduce) also are part of the process so it's just simply wrong to characterize the producers of legislation as faceless bureaucrats.

Over-paid & Over-privileged? I sympathize with this claim and think member nations should make clear through their commissioners that IF you're going to suggest members tighten belts and restrain pensions, it might be best to set the good example. Headline egregiousness is typically focused on the 28 EU Commissioners. It's doubtful EU impoverishes its lower level civil servants, but it's always been with the UK government's ability to bring this to the fore. Interestingly, one hasn't seen the Brexit MEPs relinquish portions of their salaries to prove the point by example, nor has it gone unnoticed that Brexit MEPs were less-than-restrained when it came to claiming their own expenses. Nor did Brexit MEPs set the example for attendance at their respective membership committees  (which were appalling). On the other hand, UK's maligned faceless bureaucrats, from Leon Brittan to the recently resigned Lord Hill were all deemed to extraordinary Representatives of the UK's public interest, and extremely well-regarded Team Players and managers of their respective portfolios within the commission. Here, there is disconnect as the Brexit MEP slackers mooched and whinged for parochial political gain, while the lavish layabouts worked their asses off.  What one CAN accurately say, is there is a communications failure, be it the UK Press (for it's own commercial advantage or for benefit of the political  views of its patrons and shareholders), or just the arcane and boring nature of the majority of the work of the commission. NOT unimportant – just less-than-newsworthy  in the Fleet St. sense

Even the apparent democracy of the EU Parliament is a sham. In the U.K., for example, an MEP is chosen by the Party List form of proportion representation. The latter guarantees that the actual MPs close to top of those list will become elected. The selection is made by a few Party Managers and thereafter hardly any potential voter has any idea or interest in who is meant to be representing them in Brussels. In other words, it's a stitch-up.

Many representative democracies have found proportional representation MORE democratic than first-past-the-post. I agree with them, and think first-past-the-post is less well-suited to representative democracy especially in the 21st century where identity and interest is truly more fragmented than ever before and large parties are finding it increasingly difficult to aggregate and represent The People's majority will.  Proportional Rep results in the majority in and around the pragmatic center coalescing to do the right thing for the most people in the Public's Interest. I fail to find fault in this approach, but appreciate the strangeness for the UK as an outlier democracy. One needn't recount the flaws in first-past-the-post (Just look at Trump!), or that Lib Dems  could win  8% of the popular vote & 2% of seats, or SNPs with 5% of vote & 10% of seats or admittedly UKIP with 12% yielding just 1 seat. True representative democracy – that truly represents the variety of political interests NOT one's parochial local geography is unfamiliar, but upon reflection, more thoughtfully democratic

Thereafter, the MEPs need to no work, they oft n pay their partners as PAs and generally live it up (often with their mistresses whilst in Strasbourg and Brussels).

It appears as if your description by UK Eurosceptics and UKIP MEPs characterizes rather well the Brexiteer MEPs. Or embarrassingly for that matter UK's own MPs, across all the parties.  I cannot defend the rest of the MEPs, but at best it makes the Euroskeptics and Brexiteers hypocrites. If reform is warranted the are plenty of avenues to purpose before throwing the toys from the pram and sacrificing the project that has substantially contributed to uninterrupted peace and one of the longest periods of of the most profound economic prosperity in modernity.

Pay and pensions are high. It's corrupt and unreformable.

Yes on pay and pensions, and categorically, no on reformability. I believe almost everything can be reformed, and hold no such strident fixed ideas. Each and every day is a new day. Just look at the east of Germany or the pragmatic evolution of German labour unions. Anything is possible The political importance and economic advantages conferred by the EU are far too important to jettison over parochialism, nostalgia, or petty pessimism based on some queer form of exceptionalism.

David Cameron didn't want Brexit, he just sought some help from Merkel, Hollande and The EU to get some control of the UK's borders. And why the hell not? But he got nothing. Therefore, I would suggest, if this is a cock-up, those responsible are not the British. In particular, a bit of foresight from Merkel would have avoided it. Sometimes there is more to geopolitics than just trade and economics. Otherwise, why should Britain not have caved to the Germans in 1939?

I am personally sympathetic to Populist fears on immigration. Not because I fear immigration itself (all evidence suggests it IS a positive), and not because I think it will continue ad infinitum (it WILL reverse as Blighty is squalid compared to compared to most of the continent), but rather because UK is most densely populated member by a wide margin, and the stresses ARE exacerbated by Tory indifference & austerity to investment needs (education, healthcare, roads, transport) to accommodate and therefore profit from the inflows. So while its true that few continentals appreciate just how densely populated it is in the south of the UK, successive UK Govts must share a large portion of culpability. One cannot have all the benefits of immigration without bearing investment costs which BTW are long-term investments with long-tail benefits (lower dependency ratio being primary) along with improved infrastructure & enhanced skills-based competitiveness.

For domestic political expediency, the UK made little effort to throttle immigration pressure from non-EU origins, nor did they make reasonable attempts to modify welfare-pulls (totally-free point of use NHS, generous in-work benefit etc). The sovereign UK parliament and Govt had the freedom of UK policy prerogative. Which is their choice, but one elicits little sympathy by throwing a tantrum and making threats, when the Club's functioning is dependent to the greatest extent possible respectful cohesion to one's commitments or else other members (and their constituents) will ask why the UK is allowe to free-ride on cornerstone responsibilities when others are making sacrifices. Perhaps, had the UK first attempted to do what was within its formidable sovereign powers to solve its problems, AND not already been the EU Member with the most special deal (opt-out of the Euro, no Schengen, uniquely large fee rebate) they would have received more sympathy and very probably the cooperation on at least some of concessions sought. I've no special knowledge here – just the view of the detached observer. Look, I'm married, and know that negotiating with just one partner  is all-too-often fraught with difficulty and frustration. Yet, I remain married for many reasons - much of which is not economic. I see many others divorce, and believe that will end their problem yet, with a great many, I still see them suffering from the problems they projected onto the focus of their frustration and anger rather than look within at what they themselves can change.

Nothing is perfect – certainly not the EU. Despite it's numerous flaws, it represents positive progress across economic, social, judicial, and even political spheres. Economically, it represents the most ambitous and successful example of a single-market amongst independent states, and has built the infrastructure to extend this from a position of scale and strength. Socially, it has codified rights, opened enormous opportunity for its citizens to seamlessly move, study, work, and travel, as mutually recognizing qualifications across borders. Moreover, it is an important contributor to regions where development has been neglected. Judicially, it has created protections, and avenues of appeal, to citizens treated unfairly or unIawfully BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENTS, checks without which citizens rights can be more easily be trampled by individuals state for parochial political purpose. Citizens in the UK, with an increasingly illiberal and authoritarian State, more than others, should appreciate the great value in this umbrella.I hesitated when including the political sphere because the evolution of democratic and transparent processes are new and still evolving. But I include it because the EU remains the single most ambitious cooperative endeavor to bring sovereign nations together in whereby each voluntarily yields a bit of sovereignty and accepts mutual responsibilities to other states in the community in exchange for benefits and payoffs whose return are far in excess of what they have paid.