Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Think back a few years to the days when we were regularly assailed by banner headlines in certain newspapers and the BBC would often lead its main bulletins with terrible 'reports' about how bad climate change was going to be. These were usually based on computer projections. Nobody at these news organisations thought to question the veracity of these predictions. Nobody stopped to wonder how they could be entirely accurate and trustworthy since we cannot accurately predict the weather more than 4 days ahead. They were taken as gospel. The gospel according to the models.
When people like me questioned the accuracy of these predictions we were labelled of course as deniers. We weren't deniers. Nobody serious was denying that CO2 is a greenhouse gas - although did you know that this is based on 19th century science? Nobody serious was denying that the planet has undoubtedly warmed, although of course it hasn't warmed as much lately, which the models everyone was relying on did not predict. Nobody serious was denying that mankind has clearly had an impact on the climate and that our CO2 emissions need addressing, something that was going to happen anyway as we weaned ourselves off fossil fuels, in much the same way as we have weaned ourselves successively off whales, candles, gas lighting, horse drawn carriages and steam trains.
Where questions arose they were to do with the reliability of the data, the extent of natural variability in climate as a contributory factor, pointing to inconsistencies in the models and the lack of supporting evidence other than simple correlation. For this we were branded deniers.
People like me were not deniers, we were sceptics. We were and are sceptical of some of the science that is often called settled. It was never settled - science, proper science, never is or shouldn't be. It should always be questioned, never accepted. It can always be improved, our understanding broadened. Our scepticism was always to do with some of the more outlandish and hyperbolic claims of the climate change industry, of the five years to save the planet kind as trotted out by Prince Charles and of course the likes of the BBC, Guardian, Independent and Washington Post
All of which makes the report this week from Oxford University very welcome. It says that things are nothing like as desperate as we had been told and that the aims of the Paris summit are achievable. We even have more time to do this, meaning that some of the more idiotic pronouncements of our own and other governments around the world seeking to cut emissions and ban cars are ridiculously over the top. As was always the case, we will be able to adapt and let new technology take the lead. Electric cars will happen but the technology is not yet in place. Energy storage making renewables viable will happen but we are not there yet. But humankind has always been good at adapting and technology moves at such a pace that all of this will likely be transformed in a few short years. There really is no need for the panic measures forced on us by credulous, virtue signalling politicians. It also means, by the way, that Trump was not wrong about the Paris deal. It will make no significant difference to anything.
None of this will of course get anything like as much attention as the old doom laden predictions of the early part of this century. But let's put that down to human nature and not just bias shall we. We're going to be fine. The planet is not going to fry. That just doesn't make for such a great banner headline.
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Very mixed reviews of mother! everywhere. Oh and by the way it is supposed to be spelt with a lower case M and with an exclamation mark. That kind of sums it up really. It is an emperor's new clothes type film that has wankers who think they are intellectuals pretending they know what it is about when in reality the director doesn't really know. It is supposed to be a retelling of the creation myth. Okay. Fine. But what the hell for? And what does it have to say about it? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Oh it is all allegorical they tell us. But usually allegorical stories are allegorical for a reason. This is allegorical for the sake of being allegorical so that people can spot the references and pat themselves on the back for how clever they are. Yes, we spotted them. That doesn't make it clever or in any sense interesting. It makes it every bit as much of a borefest for people who think that they are film experts. It's like a student film made by someone with a really big budget.
Don't go to see this film. It is pretentious bollocks. You will walk out of the cinema, if you are honest, and be furious at the loss of 2 hours of your life plus 20 quid you are never getting back.
I hated this film so much I have posted about it twice this week already.
The Emmy awards were at the weekend. TV is on a roll at the moment and cinema has just had its worst summer in a decade. Why? Because it makes films that are either about boring comic book heroes (Wonder Woman is an exception because it was rather good) or it makes tosh like mother!.
Actually that is spectacularly unfair. There have been plenty of excellent movies this year and last. But TV is consistently doing a better job of engaging the audience and making thought provoking intelligent comedy and drama full of rounded and well drawn characters without being pretentious and having to resort to telling us that their boring drivel was an allegory. Note that nobody can even agree what the bloody thing is about. This is because nobody really knows. It is unclear. That is because it is a crap film. Here's a hint: allegories are fine but they still have to say something intelligent otherwise they are worthless. What is happening here is that lots of 'film studies' students are going in to see the film and coming out smugly and telling us that they get it. Unfortunately they then proceed to disagree about what it was they got. Again, that is because it is a crap film. Don't get me wrong, it is well executed, beautifully shot and as ever Jennifer Lawrence gives a superb performance alongside a stellar and generally excellent cast. But they have been sold a pup too. They can't agree what the film is about either. Just look at the promotional interviews about it.
Ultimately this is just boring. It is tedious. It has nothing whatever to say. This film is worthless and I speak as a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence. Had she not been attached to this film it would never have been made and even if it had it would have been ignored. It deserves to be. Jen, you should hope that it is quickly forgotten. Go back to making action movies wearing tight fitting outfits for a while and hope that David O Russell gives you a call.
Monday, 18 September 2017
I don't know how long Boris spent writing the article that has caused so much cheek sucking, sharp intakes of breath and air punching in equal measure over the weekend but I doubt that it was very long at all. It's not just that he can knock out this kind of stuff in a heartbeat, it's that much of it made very little sense, or at least didn't stand up to scrutiny.
But this of course is to miss the point of this classic piece of Borisian fluff. This was his attempt to regain the initiative, to strike back at those who have been briefing against him and at the perfidious scribblers who have mocked him and wondered in print if he isn't a busted flush who has had his day. Some, like Fraser Nelson, who advanced three theories as to why Boris has been laying low, none of them flattering, the most convincing of which was that he is just waiting for the right moment to strike and try once again to be leader coming to the rescue of a becalmed Conservative Party. Others simply said that he had his moment during the referendum campaign but could not convert that into the leadership and that his moment, having delivered a Brexit vote, is now gone forever. As a consequence we were handed a Theresa May premiership. The only consolation is that it could have been worse - it might have been Andrea Leadsom.
So was that article on Saturday a leadership bid? Of course it was. And for all of the reasons stated above plus a few more. Boris has been sidelined since he was appointed to the Cabinet and, though enjoying his new role, has not been allowed to be sufficiently Boris. He has watched instead as the Conservative Party first lauded Theresa May as its new Maggie only to decide that she is actually Ted Heath, although the country helped with that estimation. Brexit is not going well, not because the negotiations are to our detriment, but because nobody is out there making the case for them and for our stance. And somehow the remainers seem to have got the upper hand.
It has all been hugely frustrating for those of us watching from a distance. Boris has been on best behaviour and has been rewarded with bitchiness and being sidelined. He finally had enough. Hurrah for that.
The result may not have been an especially coherent prospectus for Brexit, at least in the detail. But the tone was spot on as was the broad philosophy. Theresa May herself, in an interview with America's ABC, made the point over the weekend that Brexit is not about us withdrawing from the world. It is about opening ourselves up more to the whole world, but of doing so in a manner that suits us and not 27 other countries. Boris argued the same, that we can seize this opportunity to make a huge success of Brexit by being bold and holding a bonfire of EU inanities. We also need to slash taxes.
Details, it is true, were sketchy and a little contradictory. There is no legal or moral reason for us to pay the EU any money at all. But as a quid pro quo it might be politic to do so. As the man in charge of our foreign policy Boris must surely know this. So his piece was a naked attempt to curry favour, not with his colleagues or the commentariat, but with the rank and file of the Conservative Party.
It is probably no coincidence that Boris chose to make his intervention just prior to the latest big speech the PM is set to give about Brexit. Nobody knows yet what is going to be in that speech, not even those in the Government. This then was the Foreign Secretary making his pitch. It is also no coincidence that this appeared just a couple of weeks before the Tory conference. It will go down well with most Conservative activists, even if it has not gone down well with Boris's colleagues.
But this is, or should be, about more than just Brexit. It is also about Conservatism at this time of crisis in our politics. We came nail bitingly close to getting a socialist government in this country thanks to the inadequacies of Theresa May who seems to have a different interpretation of what a Conservative really is. Her campaign tried to be clever by reaching out to the middle ground and just succeeded in confusing her own side. Her interventionist, high taxing, business hitting programme went down like a cup of cold sick. The rest is history.
As this blog has been arguing for months now, the Conservative Party has to stop playing the oh so sophisticated games of appealing across the aisle and dare to defend Conservatism. Perhaps the reason that so many young people are being swayed by the false promises of Chauncey's Labour is because we have become too complacent about all of the battles we won in the 80s and 90s and which turned Britain from the sick man of Europe to the dynamic island being held back by it. We need to start making the case for individual responsibility, lower taxes and for the fact that it is Conservative policies that have delivered the lowest unemployment in decades. There is more work to be done for sure, including building more homes and giving young people a stake in society that home ownership creates. But we can achieve these things by taking Britain out of Europe, making the country a highly innovative and low tax state that rewards hard work and attracts the world's best and most ambitious companies.
That is an optimistic vision for Britain. And it is one that Theresa May is simply incapable of delivering. She doesn't have it in her and may not even believe it. Boris almost certainly does. More than that he is the man who could convince the country of it and win against the brown jacketed leader of the Labour Party who, Boris rightly pointed out, has a 'remarkable beardy ability to speak out of both sides of his mouth.'
I have long backed Boris Johnson as the obvious choice to be the next leader of the Conservative Party thanks to his remarkable ability to reach out to people who don't follow politics and don't like politicians. He has star quality and that is like gold dust in these strange and unpredictable times. But he is also a proper Tory, a liberal Tory with the sort of instincts people can get on board with. He is a patriot and a man who can save us from the Marxist menace at home and fend off the demands of the zealots in Brussels. Theresa May's position seems to have become surer in recent weeks, yet it shouldn't be. The theory is that we should not rock the boat at this delicate and precarious time. But there is no good time to dump a captain who is heading straight for disaster. We need a change of course before it is too late. A good captain needs to be someone who not only charts a good and sensible course but one who inspires those around him or her too. I hope this was a pitch for the leadership. This is not a time to worry about old theories to do with he who plunges the knife not winning the crown. It is time for boldness. Go for it Boris.
Sunday, 17 September 2017
The Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness but when they came across other tribes in their lands they were going to war with them. One such tribe, the Moabites, were next. So their king, Balak, tried to get a curse put on them by a local enchanter. No, really. But this enchanter, by the name of Balaam, had a chat with God - something we have hitherto been told was impossible except for Moses - and God told him not to do it. This infuriated the king and no matter how many altars he built Balaam would not curse the Israelites.
21 altars Balak had built and 42 animals he had slaughtered and still Balaam would not curse the Israelites. Worse he had blessed them. Balak was furious. I would have made you rich, he said, instead you have blessed my enemies.
Balaam was not for turning though. He was full of the glory of God and even spoke of unicorns. Yes, unicorns. That really is glorious.
He decided to leave and go home. But before he left he made Balak a prediction. He told of how Israel was going to crush him and anyone else who got in their way. Why? Because of God being on their side. And possibly the unicorn.
Balaam also predicted a fierce warrior rising up in Israel.
And then he went home. And so did the king.
Saturday, 16 September 2017
I don't usually do this, but I just have to add my own mini review to Mark's. I usually respect his judgement but sometimes critics like him tend to forget that films are supposed to entertain. This doesn't. It may have certain admirable traits and aspects like the cinematography and of course the acting but at its root this is stupid, pretentious drivel of the kind that critics and people who have studied film at university simply luuurve. They like to think that they get films on a level that the rest of us don't. This is arrant nonsense. If anything it makes them even more susceptible to believing the PR drivel that is doled out to them when they go to their screenings.
Oh it's full of allegories they will tell you. No, it is pretentious drivel that is disjointed, confused and self indulgent. It's about the Bible, apparently. No it isn't. It is a metaphor for various universal themes. No it isn't. If it were any of these things it would have something interesting or original to say. Instead it just hams things up, has a juvenile desire to shock and criminally wastes its stellar cast who ham it up as if their lives depend on it.
Oh I know what it was trying to do, but it singly fails to do it. It just looks like what it is: an indulgent festival of stupidity with some supposed metaphors tagged on. It is an emperor's new clothes type movie that has credulous people applauding its daring finery.
It only got made because it had Jennifer Lawrence attached to it. It shouldn't have been. I am a huge fan of Ms Lawrence, but she should have run a mile from this film, even if it did boost her love life. I hated this film. It is every bit as appalling as you may have heard, not because it is shocking and daring but because it is just bad. It is the sort of film that jaded and slightly stupid film critics like. They are wrong. There have been many pretty poor films released this year. Happily I didn't go to see any of them. I did go to see this one because of all of the fuss. Resist. You'll be sorry if curiosity makes you shell out your hard earned cash on this nasty, brainless tosh.
Friday, 15 September 2017
The Grenfell disaster inquiry finally got underway yesterday amidst yet more grandstanding, anger and arrant stupidity, not least from Michael Mansfield the bleeding heart lawyer who, with all of his usual self regarding, supercilious bumptiousness demanded the right to be heard and was rightly ignored by the presiding judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
The likes of Mansfield and the local MP, the only recently elected Emma Dent-Coad, who won very much against the odds and looks entirely out of her depth, are seeking to make hay out of this disastrous tragedy and in so doing only making the grief of the relatives ever worse. Some are determined to play politics with this, when they should be showing some maturity and leadership and cooperating in full with the inquiry and encouraging others to do the same. Instead there is talk of some boycotting giving evidence. How will that accomplish anything when the relatives are demanding answers and justice?
Of course the underlying narrative of this is that this will be a cover-up and that Sir Martin is too white and privileged to dispense justice, the sort of offensive accusation made by supercilious MPs and so called community leaders who are displaying no leadership at all.They demand that victims be included as part of a panel and various other facile notions that would make the inquiry cumbersome and would offend against the very notion of fairness and impartiality they claim to want. Sir Martin will be able to rise above the emotion of this tragedy and deal with the facts. He will best do so sitting alone and hearing evidence without fear or favour since he has experience of dealing with complex cases and will be able to do so efficiently and speedily. The victims families want swift answers to their questions. The only way this can be accomplished is by one highly experienced and competent judge hearing and dealing with the reams of evidence and ignoring the likes of Michael Mansfield and the legions of professional grievance mongers intent on making mischief or serving their own ends.
It is understandable that there is still anger around the burnt out husk of Grenfell Tower. The families emotions are still raw and that is their excuse. But they are wrong to accuse this eminent judge of being anything other than impartial and thorough. It is time they were told that the inquiry is going ahead and that they should now let it do its job, without further complaint, without further demands, without further indulgence of silly conspiracy theories.
The facts are by now more or less established anyway and were weeks ago. Those who have hoped against hope to find a smoking gun of political manslaughter amongst the smoking wreckage will likely be disappointed and will thus complain bitterly about a cover-up. Those hoping to be able to point to cost cutting will likewise be frustrated. Those who want to blame cuts to the emergency services made that accusation early on and were quickly refuted. There is some justice in the allegations about poor advice about the correct strategy for residents to take in the event of a fire, although even then that would have been the correct advice had the block been fitted with properly flame retardant materials.
Grenfell happened because the fire regulations were not fit for purpose and our authorities had not caught up with the latest developments and the latest international best practice. These were well known in advance and indeed parliamentary committees had tried to warn of the need for improvements to the regulations. It was a regulatory failing more than anything, yet another example of one part of government in this country not talking to other parts, of a lack of joined up administration, of matters falling through gaps. It was a symptom of the very British disease of our pettifogging and stifling bureaucracy obsessing over arcane and abstruse matters that nobody cares about whilst allowing the glaring errors to get through unhindered. How is that we live in a world that can silence the nation's favourite clock for 4 years for fear of the ears of contractors but which allows a tower block with hundreds of people living it to have flammable materials bolted to the outside? It is certainly the case that the advice to stay put in the event of a fire cost lives and a sprinkler system could and should have been fitted. Most of all, how is it possible that such a building only had one exit?
All of this is known already. We await the inquiry and the initial report of the judge, but don't be surprised if that is what he says. Many will be disappointed by that. There will be angry denunciations that nobody will be held to account, although there is a separate criminal inquiry going on too. The chances are that no one person or authority will be held culpable and that will make people righteously angry. Others will be furious that no Tories will be blamed. But as has been shown by how many other buildings have failed the urgent tests implemented by the Government, this is not a problem restricted to one council in one part of the country. The problem seems to have been widespread and the result of administrative and systemic failures. Grenfell just had the misfortune to fall prey to a freakish accident.
It was a tragic accident that should never have happened. But it was probably just an unfortunate confluence of factors that hindsight now makes look obvious. This is not to excuse what happened, but to explain it in terms that are all too readily understood. We place our faith in officialdom, but tend to forget that officialdom is as fallible as the rest of us.
Nevertheless we must await the full inquiry, hear all of the evidence and go where that evidence takes us. I for one am prepared to be proven wrong in my initial assessment gleaned from the media reports I have read and seen on the likes of Newsnight. It is incumbent upon us all to be open minded, as open minded as the judge will be.
I don't watch Strictly. I would rather have root canal surgery, which coincidentally is nearly as painful as listening to Bruce Forsyth bugger up a joke - seriously, all the fuss when he died did seem to overlook the fact that he was a past it and never very good light entertainer who became famous for hosting a succession of game shows and pulling faces at the camera. He couldn't sing. He could dance. A bit. And this is why he was foisted on the nation in what has become, for reasons that elude me, our go-to Saturday evening's entertainment. I prefer a good book. Or a trip to the dentist.
Anyway, having got that off my chest, it has crossed my consciousness that Susan Calman, a contestant in this year's show and someone I have actually heard of, which is unusual in the parade of nonentities lined up as the barrel is well and truly scraped, has been criticised by the sort of people who like to judge others but no doubt don't consider themselves judgemental. Calman is gay, but has committed the sin, in some eyes, of failing to campaign for same sex couples on Strictly. She has been paired, shock horror, with a man.
For fuck's sake! Have you ever heard such bollocks? And I used the word advisedly.
I have nothing whatsoever against men pairing with men and women pairing with women, marrying one another, having families with one another. Great. Fine. But the reason that men dance with women in competitions, note that word, competitions, is that men dance different steps to the women and perform a different role. They do so because men tend to be stronger than women and thus are able to do the lifting that is so often required. Or shall we campaign to have such elements removed in future since it is sexist? I say again: for fuck's sake. Actually that is probably sexist too. Or possibly not. I'm confused.
There has been all kinds of angst about this for reasons that defy explanation. Look, you've got what you wanted. Gay relationships are now seen as normal. Gay marriage is now legal. You can even sue your baker if he doesn't want to bake you a cake for it. But getting angry about the lack of same sex couples on a dancing show? Really? Are you so determined to get angry and offended by something that you are that desperate? Men and women, once and for all, are not the same. We are different. If we weren't there would be no need for being homosexual at all would there.
Like I say, I don't watch the bloody show. I loathe it in a visceral way. It is everything that is wrong with television these days and is why so many of us have turned to Netflix and Amazon. Or the pub. But I might vote for Susan Calman anyway. She's often funny, seems very nice, is clever and nicely self effacing. And if she wins with a man it will be by far the most entertaining thing the BBC has shown in a long time. They might even cancel the show in case anything like it ever happens again.
Thursday, 14 September 2017
So that's okay then. All is going swimmingly. Nothing to see here. No need for second thoughts, consultation, debate, rethinks. The EU continues on its path to ever closer union. The fact that millions across the continent think otherwise is neither here nor there.
Yesterday the grandest panjandrum of an organisation that has five presidents gave his state of the union speech. Jean-Claude Juncker, the most pompous and self regarding of the EU's many presidents and unelected bureaucrats, spoke to the parliament that few can be bothered to turn out to vote for and told them of how much more marvellous it is all going to be in the future. And soon too. Once the unpleasant business of Brexit is dealt with it will all continue. Indeed it will pick up speed without we Brits slowing everything down. In time, very soon intact, said Juncker, we will regret having left.
Even if you started out as an enthusiastic remainer, surely this cloth eared performance gave you pause for thought. Remember all of those plans we were assured were not on the agenda had Britain voted to stay last June? Yep, they were all here and many many more. From the EU army to the EU tax to the centralised and centralising bureaucracy. Je Non Regrette Rien.
Actually the one issue with which it was hard to disagree was that of the need for a directly elected president and a more powerful parliament. But then that should always have been the case. The great problem with the EU has always been that it was created by politicians for the benefit of politicians and has proceeded in an ad hoc way creating sclerosis and dysfunctionality. A directly elected president - a pipe dream in a polity of 500 million people speaking different languages - ought to be a no brainer. But it will never happen, not because of the language and culture problem but because the countries of the EU and the politicians who run them would never agree to hand over that kind of power. The same goes for completing the Euro project to make it less economically nonsensical. It would need a central treasury and a formal machinery for fiscal transfers from the rich parts to the poorer parts. Never. Going. To. Happen.
Instead what will happen to the EU is it will concentrate power in the existing institutions and numerous presidencies to keep driving the project closer together whilst always ducking the awkward and most intractable issues, which will be kicked further down the road as ever. Thus the EU will become progressively more undemocratic, progressively less accountable and yet convenient for the Council of Ministers who really run everything.
Had we voted to stay in, this would have been taken as a green light to further union, further loss of sovereignty and power would have further ebbed away from our parliament, which has instead spent this week starting the process of reclaiming it.
Have you ever wondered what it is drives this near pathological desire on the part of the most ardent Europeans to ever closer union? It is the desire to be a United States of Europe. It is the desire to be a superpower, throwing its weight around on the world stage and allowing the Junckers and Barniers of this world to strut around like peacocks as they see Americans doing. They would never be able to do so as representatives of their tiny countries and so the dream of the EU was created. It used to be that small European nations projected their power by creating huge empires. They then replaced them with the dream of the EU.
Except that dream is entirely unrealisable because the EU is unwieldy and cannot agree on any issue that conflicts with national priorities. We only have to look at the chaos that has reigned on the issue of refugees and migration. We only have to look at the economic nonsense that is the Euro, which is still causing mass unemployment and economic sclerosis only obviated by massive money printing. The only time in recent years that there has been near unanimity in Europe is on the issue of Brexit as they try to extract as much cash from us as possible before we leave.
The EU is a fantasy that politicians lost control of. It is an ideology in search of theological grounding. They have to keep driving forward towards ever closer union because if they pause and consider the inconsistencies and illogicality of their aims the whole thing could come unstuck.
And that is why they are so furious with the British. We have long played the role of pointing out that the emperor is naked but they were able to bribe us into acquiescence with trade and other concessions along the way. Finally we had had enough and have pointed at the nakedness and opted to leave rather than keep lying to ourselves and them about the nature of this uncomfortable reality. Now they are worried that others will see us wearing the clothes of Brexit and decide to come join us in the gentleman outfitters of national sovereignty and self determination. If Britain makes a success of Brexit we may well yet bring the whole thing toppling down. Politics has been very unpredictable of late. But if that were to happen nobody could seriously say they didn't see it coming, with the possible exception of Jean-Claude Juncker.