Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Peanuts


George Michael



George Michael, whatever his personal foibles and weaknesses, was undoubtedly one of the greatest musical talents this country, which is replete with them, has ever produced.

Michael went from a pop star churning out his formulaic if catchy hits to a genuinely interesting and thoughtful artist. Some of it was pretentious and self absorbed it is true, but even when this was true, such as on the album Listen Without Prejudice, he produced such soulful, superb songs it was easy to forgive. At it's best Michael's songwriting when allied to an exceptional voice made him an icon of the 80s and 90s and a figure every bit as important as the other music greats we lost in 2016.

His music deserves to be explored and listened to anew. In recent years the scandals and the self indulgence detracted from that. It is the music we will remember. I'm sure he would see that as an epitaph to be proud of.











News Bloopers

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Market Economy

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Peanuts


Merry Christmas


The blog is having a few days off for Christmas, although there will be some content here every day including the last window in the Musical Advent Calendar, the final few episodes of US Government and Politics and some tunes for your delectation and delight.

Normal full service will be resumed on 3rd January.

In the meantime don't let the politically correct dimwits tell you differently. Christmas is for everyone. It's just a nice festival at the end of the year. Whoever you are, whether Labour, Conservative, Ukip, SNP even Lib Dems, whether a Democrat or a Republican or even Donald Trump, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and a Happy New Year.

Video Diary: Greatest Hits of 2016



Ordinarily this slot is for my Video Diary. That returns in the New Year. Here instead is one of my greatest hits of the last year.

Jon Stewart on Religion

Musical Advent Calendar

Friday, 23 December 2016

Peanuts


The Queen, Brexit and The Prime Minister

I have no idea if the story in The Times today about the Queen's disappointment at her new prime minister is true. I have my doubts. As you would expect it comes from an anonymous source. Such stories about the Queen and her prime minister are extremely unusual and almost unprecedented. She simply does not do this sort of thing, regardless of the provocation. It is one of the features of her tenure as our monarch that has been most impressive and admirable. Part of the relationship between prime ministers is that it is completely confidential. So how likely is that the Queen would have expressed dissatisfaction with Mrs May when it had only been a week or so since the new PM had been appointed?

It is much more likely that this is more mischief from the Remain camp. They are trying every tactic they can think of to derail the Brexit process, now even claiming that the Queen is on their side.

Whatever you may think of the Government's approach to Brexit and their refusal to give much detail, it would have been highly unfair for the Queen to be critical of a lack of detail back in September when Mrs May had only just been appointed. Back in September this was all new and the Government was feeling its way, assessing the detail, creating new departments and new ministers were only just getting their feet under the table. Even now, 3 months on, it is hardly unreasonable for the process to be incomplete. Back then it was only to be expected. This after all is why Article 50 was delayed.

So take this report with a pinch of salt. It's probably not true. Its unlikely that they Queen would have been so indiscreet and even if she had been the PM has every right to tell her that it is a work in progress.

Labour's Temporal Causality Loop Leads to Annihilation


I don't want to come over all Tom Harris, the very personable and genuinely nice and normal former Labour MP who had the good sense to get out of parliament before the Chauncey terror. But I was watching an old episode of Star Trek: TNG last night. One of the best ones, it concerns a temporal causality loop in which the Enterprise gets caught in a recurring time loop in which the same events keep repeating themselves over and over again. Over time the crew start to experience deja vu type feelings and start to figure out what is happening to them. But should they start second guessing their decisions? What should they do? Is this what they did before dooming them to endless repetitions, or should they find a way to send a message back through time to tell themselves what to do.

Now if this were the good ship Labour then there would be an obvious course of action. For God's sake don't play fair. Don't nominate Chauncey for the party leadership. You just won't believe what happens if you do.

The trouble is that, such is the tendency of Labour to shoot itself in the foot, they probably wouldn't do the right thing even then. Nominating Chauncey was the ultimate example of virtue signalling causing terrible consequences. Or at least it was until Angela Merkel invited the waifs, strays and terrorists of the world to please come and accept her country's hospitality and sexually abuse its women for the sin of wearing tight fitting clothing.

The crew of the Enterprise got themselves out of this predicament by figuring out what not to do and then doing the opposite. Labour do not have that luxury. But they are, in a way, living out this paradox. Imagine what would have happened had Tony Benn prevailed over Denis Healey all of those years ago. Or had Gordon Brown told his friend Tony to mind his manners and got his friend Tom to enforce his will a few years earlier. Or had Gordon Brown called that election. It's enough to drive you mad.

Anywhere we are where we are. We are not in a causality loop.

This is the very real 21st century, Chauncey really is in charge in a very real and legally binding (Monty Python, not Star Trek) way and there is nothing whatever that anyone can do about it. Labour tried and failed to unseat him and actually managed to nominate someone even more inconspicuous and anonymous and yet conspicuously useless in the form of Owen Smith. Chauncey is going all the way to 2020 and after that one of his lieutenants will take over.

In other words Labour is doomed. Don't bet on there being a causality loop causing 20/20 vision to Labour's legions of halfwits. They want a pure party, a party that stands on its principles. The electorate be damned.

We don't even need a Star Trek style epiphany to reveal the truth to us. We just need to look to Scotland. We just need to look to America.

But the problem is greater even than this. The problem with Labour is not just that it is useless now, it is that it has been useless for quite some time. They have been talking to themselves and cutting themselves off from the very people they were elected to represent and defend. Chauncey considers himself to be a representative of the working man. In truth he is a representative of a north London enclave of wealthy, privileged and utterly adrift London machine politicians who may not all look or sound like Chauncey but might as well do. They have no clue what the rest of the country is thinking and would condemn it if they did. They exist in their own echo chamber of so called progressivism, which is every bit as arrogant and cut off from reality as it sounds. Want to know how we got to a place in which gay marriage, transexual rights and the rights of ethnic minorities but not of ethnic minority women came to be the siren calls of Labour? Just look to the modern Labour Party, talking amongst themselves, in the end talking only to themselves and ultimately representing only themselves. They take for granted that they talk for the working man. They take for granted their safe constituencies. But then look what happened in Scotland.

The problem for Labour is that this is not something confined to the loony left, it goes across the entire party. Sure, Chauncey and co refuse to accept that there is anything wrong with immigration and consider it beyond the pale to criticise a strike that is conspicuously political and nothing whatever to do with safety or jobs. But the former of these positions was one espoused by Labour until very recently and still is if they are being honest. The only reason that New Labour didn't get into all kinds of industrial strife was that there was plenty of money around in those days, money they squandered and ended up having nothing to show for. The whole of the Labour Party, no matter what wing, is signed up to the notion that the NHS can do no wrong, that immigration is always a good thing in its own right, that public is always better than private whatever lip service they pay and that spending ever more on public services is all to the good. Labour under Blair/Brown increased taxes hugely, they just had the wit to do it by stealth. Labour is not so very different now than it was then whatever it suits them to now pretend.

Jamie Reed, the Labour MP, quit this week because he had a better offer. He has seen the writing on the wall of Labour. But Jamie Reed, or even the estimable Tom Harris, could not save the good ship Labour even if they could erase the last two years by sending a signal to an android (Trekkies know what I'm talking about). Labour doesn't know what it stands for anymore. It doesn't under Chauncey, it didn't under Wallace, but it didn't either under Brown or even under Blair towards the end. They just assumed that they were on the right side. This last year has demonstrated that they definitively are not. Labour won't cease to exist during 2017. But it will come close. And it is only a matter of time until it does. And no amount of time travel or resigning MPs is going to change that.

Snow in the Sahara and Saudi Arabia



Those of us who pay attention are very well aware that weather changes constantly and that much of what we call weather is down to wind direction. Here in the northern hemisphere and especially here in the UK, if the wind is coming from a northerly direction it is colder. If it comes from the east in winter it is also colder. If it comes from the west, off the Atlantic, it is milder and wetter. If it comes from the south or the south west it is warmer still.

This however seems to come as a surprise to certain newspapers. The Washington Post in particular keeps publishing stories about how warm it is in the Arctic, warm of course being a relative term. But this is in no way unusual. It depends to a large degree on wind direction and intensity. The Arctic is colder than the rest of the hemisphere beneath it largely because it gets less sunlight than the rest of us. But it can still be warmed if the wind is blowing in from the tropics.

This is yet another example of global warming alarmists confusing, possibly deliberately, weather and climate. The weather is a short term phenomenon that is affected by any number of factors. Climate is a long term one that can only be measured over years or preferably decades.

Currently the northern hemisphere is cooling at a rapid rate. This is down to the fact that the planet recently warmed up thanks to a particularly strong El Nino. This was inevitable reported by the Washington Post, The Guardian and the BBC as proof of global warming. It wasn't. It was weather, albeit on a huge scale. El Ninos are vast and can change weather patterns for months on end. Now the latest El Nino has ended and so there has been rapid cooling. We are returning to the mean and quite possibly will have a period of cooler than average temperatures.

This week, for instance, there has been snow in the Sahara and heavy snowfall in Saudi Arabia where sub zero temperatures have been reported. This is unusual but not unprecedented. It is just weather. But you will look in vain for it to be reported in the Post.


Putin Wanted to Be a Ballet Dancer in a Tutu


It is well known that, before he became a politician, Vlad the Botoxed was an officer in the KGB. What is less known however is that this was not his first career choice.

When he was a boy he wanted to be a ballet dancer in the Bolshoi. He would dance around the house on his tiptoes all day long to the amusement of his parents. But their amusement turned to bemusement as he grew older and he started doing pirouettes and wearing a fetching pink tutu. He was a small boy and looked quite girly. He was told in no uncertain terms that this career choice was not open to him, despite the fact that in the glorious Soviet empire the very best doctors were available to turn him into a girl and make his dreams come true.

This, psychologists suggest, is why Vlad now overcompensates by doing so many masculine activities and showing off his chest to the world. He wanted to be a girl. They wouldn't let him. He has been tortured ever since and so why shouldn't he torture the cruel world too.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Media Institution

Musical Advent Calendar

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Peanuts


Why We Voted to Leave: Dodgy Dodgem Decisions and the EU


In the post truth world that lefties and remainers inhabit, it is popularly imagined that those of us who voted to leave the EU did so for at best nationalistic reasons via our being ill educated right through to bigotry. This of course is a travesty of the truth let alone of post truth.

The reason we wanted to leave and voted accordingly was much more to do with issues like democracy, sovereignty, accountability and wanting to free ourselves from an out of control, bureaucratic behemoth that is causing insecurity, unemployment and injustice right across the continent.

Take for instance a couple of stories in just the last few days. Ireland, one of the minnows of the EU, has for many years had a low rate of corporation tax. This has attracted a number of large international corporations to the chagrin of the rest of the EU. One such was Apple. The Commission stepped in and decided, apropos of their being very much opposed to small countries not doing as they are told, that Apple had been receiving illegal state aid from Ireland and ordered Apple to pay back billions in back taxes. Apple is currently challenging this, with the agreement of the Irish government, on the grounds that this is none of the Commission's business. This is true. Taxation policy is supposed to be the purview of states and not of the EU. This is why the Commission had to use the back door route of illegal state aid.

It is a nonsense of a case. But don't bet on that necessarily making any difference. The EU makes things up as it goes along as does its court the ECJ, which is more interventionist and political than any court in the world. It has been on a decades long quest to make real the 'ever closer union' part of the EU's treaties. It does the bidding of the federalists. It is one of central reasons why so many of us voted to leave.

Or take another story just yesterday. The EU has decided, at the behest of an ECJ ruling, that all vehicles, whether or not on the road, must be insured. This is as idiotic a ruling as any from the EU, notwithstanding those on bendy bananas and olive oil jugs on restaurant tables.

But leave aside the blatantly pettifogging nature of this edict. What about an even more obvious question that always seems to get ignored. Why the hell does something like this need to be decided at EU level in the first place? Because of ever closer union? We must all insure our dodgems, golf buggies and assorted off road vehicles and we must do this across all 28 states because otherwise it would be somehow against the spirit of ever closer union? There would be something inherently unfair about Britain choosing to ignore this piece of nonsense? What is the rationale? That golf would be rendered unfair in Spain were they to implement the measure and we didn't? Would the peoples of Europe flock to our funfairs instead of those in France or Germany? Or vice versa?

The laugh of all of this is that the remainers seldom actually defend this kind of nonsense. They just insist that being in the EU is worthwhile despite it. But it isn't. That is what the EU stands for. It is about a one size all approach to everything. It is a homogenising, joyless entity that has somehow persuaded people who call themselves progressive, that it is the modern sophisticated choice and that those of us who celebrate regional and national differences are somehow backward. Fascinatingly the remainers are all for regional and national differences in other scenarios just not vis a vis the EU.

Britain is saying now that we have no choice but to enact this directive from the EU. This is odd given that we are in the process of leaving, or at least will be when Article 50 is invoked. Here would be an early example of a response to the question what does Brexit mean. It means we are leaving the EU and that therefore we won't have to have insurance for vehicles that never go near a road, especially as they only work when in fairgrounds. That might even convince Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.

PS

Another decision of the ECJ has also emerged in which they tell us that the so called snooper's charter, the bill that has recently been passed enabling our security services to access our phone and internet records via ISPs. The ECJ has ruled that the general and indiscriminate retention of this data is illegal. This is none of their damned business. Indeed given recent events this should be the sort of measure that is adopted across the EU.

Britain has had a lot of success in recent years in thwarting Islamist terrorists. But it is a constant battle. The measures passed by our parliament were and are necessary to protect us from the kind of outrages across France, Belgium and now Germany this last couple of years. Since Britain is leaving the EU we should simply ignore this ruling. It would be a bad decision and a presumptuous piece of interference in our affairs at the best of times. In these present times it is indefensible.

Putin in Panties


Despite his macho image, Vladimir Putin is not quite so masculine underneath.

Putin read the rumours that Cary Grant used to wear women's panties as he found them comfortable. Vlad the Botoxed tried it and found that he liked it.

Vlad now wears silky women's panties all the time. Even when he is riding around shirtless to show off what a man he is. Psychologists suggest that he may be overcompensating for something. Well, if it fits in panties.....

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Interest Group Formation

Musical Advent Calendar

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Peanuts


Identity Politics


It's being reported today that polling stations will start 'demanding' ID before allowing people to vote. The use of the word demand is deliberately and ridiculously hyperbolic. We go through life producing ID 'on demand'. Many have to wear ID around their necks all day long. Few of us think anything of it.

Many of us carry at least one form of ID around with us all the time in wallets or purses. It has become the norm, a simple practicality. I carry that handy plastic driving licence around with me constantly. It is a useful item to have.

It is an absurdity that we do not have to produce ID in order to do something as important as voting. Our system is one that is tried and trusted and yet it is under pressure as never before. There is clear evidence that it is being corrupted by people from foreign and patriarchal cultures. That is unconscionable and wrong. We have a system of secret ballots enabling us all to go into the polling booth and cast our vote as we see fit. This enduring system is probably the reason that so many of the polls have been wrong this last few months.

It has always seemed absurd to me that I can go to a polling station and simply tell the clerk my name before casting my vote. Why is this still the case?  There are arguments that requiring ID will somehow deprive many of the vote. Yet how can this be the case when producing ID for a range of services has become second nature for us all?

It is also absurd, quite frankly, that so many postal votes are allowed these days. Voting is, or ought to be, a civic duty. It takes five minutes. Go to the polling station.

And it's not just voting that is subject to abuse. Anyone can turn up a doctors surgery or hospital and receive expensive treatment without the requirement of producing ID to show that one is entitled to it. This has to stop.

I am starting to think that the ID card scheme that Tony Blair tried and failed to introduce was a good idea. It was something I opposed at the time but the rationale for it is real and increasing. The only real argument against it is not a civil liberties one, but more to do with Whitehall's inability to manage large IT schemes. Given the hacking dangers we all face in world today, imagine if a national ID card scheme was hacked.

The great advantage of our traditional voting system using good old fashioned pencil and paper is that it is simple, easy and pretty much incorruptible. Attempts to modernise it by introducing more postal voting have backfired. The basic system however is one we should cherish. It may be old fashioned but it works. All it needs is some tweaking to ensure fair play. Producing ID is not unreasonable in the second decade of the 21st century. It's a reform that is way overdue.

Putin and Hillary


Stories that Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton and was responsible for fake news about her that might have contributed to her having lost the election are wide of the mark. Or at least partially so. Putin is notorious for stealing things from foreign dignitaries but also tried to steal Ms Clinton's heart. She rebuffed his advances.

Ever since Putin has been furiously jealous.

The stories that have been disseminated about Ms Clinton were not about his desire to keep her from the presidency per se. They were because he felt he would be unable to control himself in her presence and would be putty in her hands if they had to negotiate over anything. 'All she would have to do is flutter those babushka eyes at me and I would do whatever she wanted,' he is reported to have said.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Interest Groups

Musical Advent Calendar

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Peanuts


2016 Will Not Let Go: This German Attack Will Resonate Next Year



This year of all years is still not finished with us yet.

The terrorist attack in Germany was another cowardly and brutally cynical stab at another European state, this time one that naively opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers. Merkel was warned of the folly of her decision. This morning it has been confirmed that the attacker is a Pakistani asylum seeker. He is not even one from Syria. He is someone who used the chaos of the situation and exploited the chaos of the refugee crisis. It made the crisis worse and not better as had been intended. Now it has just been ratcheted a few notches worse.

This was an attack at the heart of Germany. Christmas markets are one of the great German festive traditions, a tradition they have exported to the rest of the world with nearly the same efficiency as their excellent cars. They are about yuletide cheer, happiness, community. This was a nasty, vicious stab at western values. This was them coming into our midst and attacking us for being welcoming and tolerant.

This is calculated to damage those values we hold so dear. Christmas in Germany is not quite the secular festival it has become in Britain, but it is still an occasion that can be enjoyed by anyone whether Christian or otherwise. The hate filled morons of extreme Islamism want to destroy this most precious aspect of our societies.

And this will damage Angela Merkel. It must do. She made a mistake last year and this was almost inevitable. The jihadists are a small minority and untypical of the vast majority of Muslims, but it only takes a few to get through and any country becomes vulnerable. Even 1% of a million asylum seekers is formidable number of people to track and monitor. It's not as if she was not warned that something like this might well take place.

This will affect everything in the coming year. Elections are coming. Brexit negotiations are coming. Politics is changing at lightning pace. The reaction to this by all politicians will inevitably be that this hatred is unrepresentative of Islam and of the majority of Muslims. The latter is certainly true. The former not so much.

Islam is not a religion of peace. It never has been. None of the major religions of our world are. But it doesn't matter whether it is or not. People decide whether or not to be peaceable. People decide what aspects of their bronze age religions to believe and pay heed to. They cherry pick their religions to suit their sensibilities. If you are a hate filled half wit with a grudge then there is plenty of encouragement in the Koran to behave like a crazed savage.

It's not a very festive message, but it is true.

PS

Since I wrote this the facts have changed. It seems that the police may have arrested the wrong man. For now, unlike Donald Trump, it behoves us to wait and see what the facts are.

Putin and Russia



We are in an era of fake news it seems, much of it posted by those mischievous tykes in Russia at the behest of Vlad the Botoxed.

Accordingly I have decided to join in the fun and games. Henceforth and until further notice this blog will be posting a daily story or factoid about Russia or Putin. Some of them will be true, some of them will be made up. I leave it you to decide which is which.

Vladimir Putin was handed a ring by American businessman Robert Kraft: a Russian, jewel encrusted ring that looked like it had been pimped. Putin, being a man of exquisite taste and not at all like a drug dealer gangster clearly liked the ring. He tried it on and joked about how he could kill someone with it. He then pocketed it. When Mr Kraft tried to claim it back by holding out his hand he was pushed away by Putin's bodyguards.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Party Systems

Musical Advent Calendar

Monday, 19 December 2016

Peanuts


End This Strike Now, Prime Minister


It is crystal clear now to anyone looking objectively at this situation that the strikes going on, particularly in the public sector are politically motivated. The Southern Trains strike in particular is about nothing other than this. The safety issue is a nonsense. It is not unsafe for a driver to press a button any more than it is for a guard to press a button. There has been only one accident attributed to doors closing on a passenger and dragging her down the platform and that was on a train with the old system operated by a guard.

Safety has long been the excuse of choice of militant trade unionists out to cause trouble. It has been what the RMT has been arguing for years every time they felt like calling a strike on the London Underground. It was what gullible junior doctors were advised to argue in their equally politically motivated strike earlier this year. The Government won that battle. Now they must win the next.

Fortunately they are facing an enemy that has overplayed its hand as fatally as that of the doctors.

The Government should announce this week that they will introduce an emergency measure into parliament to end this nonsense. To earn additional brownie points they could even announce that to do so they will not now send the Commons into recess on Tuesday as planned, but use those few empty days before Christmas to ram a measure through parliament. It is said that Labour plan on stymying this in the House of Lords. Well bring it on.

Theresa May is a very cautious politician and this is to her credit. But this is a golden opportunity to not only put her stamp on parliament and her party but to show everyone in the entire country who is boss. It would win her friends in her party in a way that no amount of glad handing would ever do.

This is a golden scenario. Unions, as yesterday's Sunday Times showed, are out to use these confected disputes as a means to put pressure on the prime minister and her narrow majority. The left is once again showing its contempt for democracy and the rule of law when they go in a direction with which they disagree. And so it is time for firm and decisive leadership. The unions are entirely in the wrong. They talk of solidarity with the working class and of how Tories hate the working class and yet here they are preventing the working class from going to work or sending cards and parcels at Christmas. Or going on holiday.

This is not a complex issue. The legislation will take some time to put through parliament it is true, but it will also send out a signal. Strikes cannot and must not be used as a means of exerting political pressure. They are supposed to there as a last resort. Increasingly they are used as a first resort by very well paid workers in highly secure jobs by Marxist revolutionaries who have never grown out of their teenage issues. Labour will back the strikers over the workers because that is Chauncey's default response to any and all disputes whatever the rights and wrongs. It may well be the case that the striking BA cabin crew have a more reasonable dispute, although even then their timing is cynical. But the train strike is 100% wrong. It needs to be stopped immediately or measures taken to ensure it never happens again.

Vlad the Botoxed and His Orange Friend



If we have learnt one thing, one unassailable fact in this supposedly post truth age, it is that Donald Trump is not a man who is assailed by self doubt. He is to modesty and self effacement what Mick Jagger is to family planning, what George Osborne is to the Laffer Curve, what his friend Vladimir Putin is to the Nobel Peace Prize. This is remarkable given Trump's career to date, which has had more ups and downs on it than that new ferris wheel they are building on Coney Island. But then, to be fair, the last few months have probably given him a degree of vindication and validation. It would be hard not to be feeling smug after winning as an outsider the presidency of the United States having broken every rule, won it from the right and ignored the advice of every political expert in the western world. There are many scratching their heads about how it happened. The answer is of course that it happened almost entirely by accident and happenstance, but also that he was up against the weakest candidate since the days of Michael Dukakis or Walter Mondale.

The problem we all face now is that Trump is displaying every sign of being emboldened. He is doubling down. His Cabinet is very very right wing. He is refusing to give a press conference or interviews to anyone outside his usual media friends. He continues to tweet. He continues to provoke. He continues to listen to nobody outside his own circle of friends, family or cronies. And he continues to break promise after promise, whilst disseminating lies.

Does this explain his approach to Russia and Putin? Partially. In truth every president going all the way back to the elder Bush has thought that he could do things differently with regard to Russia. They have all had their own versions of the reset. A succession of presidents have been like football managers who sign a troublesome player imagining that they will be able to handle them and get the best out of them. But Russia is like the Mario Balotelli of world diplomacy. Nobody can handle it. It is sulky, in possession of a grandiose idea of its own importance and given to pig headedness.

The idea that Russia can be given the respect it demands and treated as a partner in the fight against ISIS and Islamic extremism is admittedly an attractive one. The problem is that Russia sees such accommodation as weakness and works to exploit it. Time and time again since Obama's now infamous reset of nearly 8 years ago, Russia has won concessions only to renege on deals. Time and time again it has broken promises, broken treaties, broken ceasefires. It has invaded neighbours, stoked fear in neighbours, is constantly engaged in stalking and harassment of European countries including the UK, it has been implicated in dozens of cyber crimes and hacking and is using a strategy of brazen propaganda, lies, bribery and even interference in elections to win itself power and influence around the world.

Yet this is a country that is, by recent estimates, gobbling up around 70% of its GDP in public spending even while that GDP is shrinking. Its is an economy that is almost entirely dependent on oil and energy production, has no industry to speak of, no innovation and is suffering a declining population alongside one of the world's highest rates of alcohol dependency. Recent western sanctions have hit it hard. If attempts to lift the oil price fail, an attempt doomed to failure, ironically, because of American shale oil production, then Russia will continues its downward spiral toward economic disaster and societal implosion. This is why Putin has been increasing defence spending and trying to distract his people with his foreign adventures. As a consequence his approval ratings remain sky high. But this cannot last forever.

This is why this latest reset is doomed to failure. It may buy Putin some time, sanctions may even be lifted meaning that some of the pressure relents. But Russia is trapped in a death spiral entirely of its own making. This pathetic husk of a country, this frigid Greek style tragedy caught between history and reality stands on its dignity while its people shiver and struggle to feed themselves.

The problem is that this will make Putin ever more desperate and more of a gambler than ever. If Trump gives him the opportunity he will not be able to resist taking it. Putin has spotted, like many dictators before him, the weakness of liberal democracy.

That weakness has been there for all to see and ruthlessly exploited by Putin. The preening and serially hypocritical Julian Assange and Wikileaks indulged and celebrated by the left across the western world was partially responsible for the Kremlin campaign against Hillary Clinton. The same goes for the traitor Edward Snowden, held up as a martyr and a hero by the left and currently holed up in Russia. Both weakened American and western democracy and helped create the conditions for Trump to flourish.

The left bleats about right wing populism. Yet what about left wing populism? Bernie Sanders forced Hillary Clinton to tack left leaving space for Trump to exploit.

Most of all though Barack Obama was a president that lefties have been waiting for for an eternity. He was determinedly non interventionist, tried his own reset and reached out to the world's vilest regimes. What was the result? A power vacuum, a vicious civil war in Syria, a resurgent and bullying Russia, a resurgent and bullying Iran and a febrile atmosphere in the always febrile middle east. America voluntarily removed itself or failed to step into various war theatres and the result has been a world that looks more unstable than at any time since the end of the Cold War. This is what left wing posturing and wishful thinking gets you. Lefties have always had a poor grasp of human nature and the uncomfortable realities of international relations. This has been a year in which their purblind obstinacy and arrogance has had a huge cost. Yet they blame right wing populism. Their cynical exploitation of western democracy's weakness is in many ways as bad as those of Putin, not least because they ought to be on our side.

 But it is a weakness that only lasts so long. Democracy has a tendency to rebound. Trump is a product of Obama, much as Obama was a product of George W Bush. In four years time Trump will have been betrayed by Putin and made to look the fool that we are all assuming he is. Where does America go from there? Wherever it is, it is most unlikely to fall again for a demagogue buffoon like Trump or allow itself to be hacked by Putin's Russia. One thing we can say though is that the left will not learn its lesson. It prefers its own version of reality. You might call it post truth.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Political Parties

Musical Advent Calendar

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 14 - Purification of Lepers



We're still doing skin conditions, described erroneously here as leprosy. So this big bad god, this guy who supposedly rescued his people from the Egyptians after visiting all kinds of plagues on them and then leading his people through the Red Sea, cannot, it seems, cure a simple skin disease that nowadays we treat with a cream or a week of antibiotics. The only solution to your affliction was to be banished and treated as an unclean outcast. And if somehow your problem cleared up? Then your problems were only just starting.

In the event that the skin disease of a poor unfortunate sufferer cleared up then he came back to the camp and asked to be let back in. The priest would of course inspect him to ensure that this was the case. But if it were then that was not the end of the matter. Oh no.

Now we get all kinds of voodoo crap about offerings and sacrifices to appease the god who hadn't been able to do anything about the condition itself. Now the sufferer needed to be made clean again. How? Well with sacrifices of course. This is no doubt all part of the notion that the sufferer must have done something to anger or otherwise displease God. But surely if this were the case he or she should have been able to appease God with an offering before he got his skin disease? Or else what was the point of all of the preceding chapters?

Anyway, if the sufferer came back and the priest confirmed his condition was gone the priest now took two birds. One was killed and the other was dipped into the blood of the other bird along with some cedar wood and some scarlet and hyssop and this was sprinkled over the leper. Then the bird was released. How this is any different from idiotic pagan rituals is a mystery.

But that still wasn't an end to it. Now the cured leper had to take off all of his clothes, shave off all of his hair and wash himself all over. He then had to spend the next 7 days living outside his tent. Then, after this period, he had to sacrifice two lambs along with some flour to make other grain offerings. There was then a big ceremony at the Tabernacle involving sacrifices, lambs, turtle doves or pigeons according to the wealth of the sufferer to make them clean again.

Finally there is even a way of dealing with houses with leprosy. Or just a bit of damp and mould as we would call it. This is of course to be driven out, although the sufferer of the skin condition would have been better advised to lick the mould. It would stand more chance of curing him than sacrificing a lamb.

Again the priest had to go and look at the house - although actually just a couple of paragraphs ago we were told that they live in tents, so this is clearly a bit that was added years later - and there had to be more offerings made and sacrifices and possibly even complete demolition of the house. It would be much easier with a tent of course.

Their excuse for all of this claptrap of course was that they were an ignorant people who lived a couple of thousand years ago and knew no better. But this is a founding document of a religion that millions of people lead their lives by right now. What's their excuse?

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale returns with Chapter 15 of Leviticus on 8th January.


Musical Advent Calendar

Friday, 16 December 2016

Peanuts


Vlad the Hacker


Like most bloggers I keep a watchful eye on my blog's vital statistics: how many people are accessing the blog, what they are reading and so on. Its interesting, occasionally perplexing and infuriating , but, like most publications these days, it is invaluable to ascertain what you all like and dislike and what I should do more of. The answer is of course naked ladies. I tried that, but then a former girlfriend objected and so I reluctantly stopped that.

The stats of this blog, this 8 year old blog, are perfectly respectable, occasionally very impressive. They are never spectacular but my audience is strong and reliable.

And yet earlier this week my numbers went through the roof. This happens from time to time. It is usually because some site optimisation geeks are trying to piggy back on my hard work by commenting on my posts and pointing to their own efforts at the same time. One gets to know this kind of spam. It is easily stopped.

This latest spike in my numbers was not like that though. It was all very flattering, but when I looked more forensically at the numbers they didn't make much sense. Then I noticed where the traffic was coming from. Not here in the UK, or America or Australia or other English speaking countries. No. It was all coming from Russia.

This coincided with my writing a great deal this week about Vlad the Botoxed, president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Oh and Donald Trump and his peculiar sucking up to the dictator of the Kremlin. Was this why my blog was suddenly so popular?

At first I thought that maybe it was dissident voices in Russia, English speaking ones, reading my blog. But I have now dismissed this as a possibility.

No, it seems that, such is the thin skin of Vlad, that he wants any and all criticism of him silenced. They've been trying to hack me. How do I know? They've been trying the same with a few of my other accounts too. Fortunately I have good and unguessable passwords. Not even my own Mum, even if she were technically minded, could guess my passwords. They are in my head and in my head alone. You're wasting your time guys.



But this is instructive and hilarous is it not. First, it is hilarious that Russia devotes such resources to hacking of foreigners that it even tries it on my little and inconsequential blog. Second it is hilarious that Vlad the Botoxed is just as thin skinned as the next President of the United States. Third it is hilarious because I, by no means an IT guru, could work this out. I'm not saying I have a smoking gun back to the Kremlin, but you can see how experts could do that pretty easily. Because the fourth hilarious thing about this is how bad these guys are at covering their tracks. Or maybe they simply don't care. Maybe they even think they might intimidate me. Oh no, I have displeased the Russians. May the lord have mercy upon my soul.

The fifth hilarious thing about this, in a cavalcade of hilarity, is that Trump refused to believe CIA assurances that the interference in the election was the Russians and probably at the behest of Putin himself. So did Trump already know? Is he in cahoots with a foreign power against his own country? If he isn't, he effectively is now because he is refusing to believe his country's own security services.

On Monday the electoral college meets to officially vote and make Trump the next president. Some are saying they should be so called faithless and vote for someone else - not Hillary necessarily, but another Republican. All it would take is for about 3 dozen electors to side with those deputed to vote Democrat and Trump would not be president. Based on this astonishing story it is increasingly hard to think of an argument why they should not do what the Republican Party will not do and stop this man.


Because if he takes power and gets his cabinet of cronies confirmed it will cease to be funny. It will be serious. It may sound like a coup, and in some ways it is. But by the same token this is what the Electoral College is for, along with ensuring that the voice of less populous states is heard. They are there to prevent lying cheats like Mr Trump. This is the great flaw of presidential systems. I used to think we should adopt such a system here. I am now more convinced than ever that our own parliamentary system is the superior model. Look how smoothly and easily we changed prime minister this year after David Cameron lost his referendum. It happened so smoothly that Cameron is even no longer an MP.

In the meantime though I know how to boost my page downloads. I'll keep writing about Trump and his friend the deranged maniac Vladimir Putin, a man that the Swedes are so wary of they are putting their towns on a war footing and bringing back conscription. This pair of mentally suspect men are taking the world into a new era of crisis. It's getting worse every day. Unless the electoral college do their duty.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: How Voters Decide

Musical Advent Calendar

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Peanuts


Bring in the Robots



Have you ever wondered why scientific and technological progress has accelerated over the last few centuries and reached its current astonishing rate? It's because of communications. When you connect lots of clever human brains together you effectively get a vast brain the size of a planet. Those brains fire off each other, talking to one another, inspiring one another, critiquing one another and swapping ideas and experiences.

This started with the development of language, got better with the development of writing, got better still with the invention of the printing press, was given a further spurt by the invention of postal services, then telecommunications came along, these were refined and made more affordable, newspapers spread information easily and cheaply, modern mass communications like radio and television spread it further and more quickly, then along came the computer age, then the internet, then the mobile phone and now here we are in an age in which we are each of us carrying around a device in our pockets that has a million times more computing power than on the Apollo spacecraft.

And with each of these new developments there were likely people complaining that the new technology would cost them money, or put them out of work and they resisted and maybe even went on strike. Maybe they even claimed that it was all to do with safety and not because they were luddites as is happening in the Southern railway strikes.

Yesterday Amazon announced that it had delivered its first ever parcel by drone, a completely automated flight system that delivered a small parcel to its excited new owner only 13 minutes after that customer had pressed the order button. Its in its early stages and is just being tested in a limited area around Cambridge, but this is the future. Of course van drivers will be angry about this. Maybe this is why Argos drivers are going on strike in the run up to Christmas, it apparently having not occurred to them that in so doing, since other retailers are available, they are just costing their employers money and thus endangering their own livelihoods. Human progress may have accelerated but some of us can still be fantastically blind and stupid.

Which brings us back to the current spate of strikes afflicting mostly public services but also other large concerns such as British Airways during periods when they can ill afford to anger customers. If you want to know why modern private companies like Ryanair and Amazon take strict approaches to their employee relations you need only look at the problems afflicting those like BA or our railway companies, which are also private but have legacy problems from their time in the public sector. Resistance to change is baked in to these companies.

Yet change is vital. The robots are coming. The Southern strike is an attempt by the unions to head off the modernisation of the railways that would make them more efficient and better able to cope with the ever increasing numbers of passengers. Southern train drivers are very well paid. Yes they have responsible jobs but then they also have a great deal of technology to assist them. Yet what are they doing? They are resistant to the deployment of that technology that actually makes our railways safer and better adapted to the future.

This strike is nothing to do with safety. Nobody is falling for that. Even Labour MPs can probably see that. This is another attempt by unions to hold back progress and to hold on to their current cushy numbers. Yet cushy numbers like theirs are going the way of the telegram and of letters. You cannot hold back progress. Eventually driverless trains will come along and then what will they do? Go on strike?

Part of the union tactic with this strike is to try and make people angry with the train operating companies so that the calls for renationalisation become louder and more insistent. There is an irony there. Back when the trains were operated by a national concern there were the old fashioned train carriageways with manual doors that could be operated by passengers themselves even between stations. But the unions want a national service so that they can increase their power. They could once again bring the whole nation to a standstill, hold it to ransom for higher wages and demand that the tide of change be held back forever. Think of the way they behave on the London Underground but spread across the whole country. Its what the rail unions are dreaming of.

The Government should be taking a firm line on this strike. It should take the franchise back from Govia because it has dealt with this issue in a remarkably cack handed fashion. But it should also read the riot act to the drivers and guards too. You are in a service industry and yet you are refusing to fulfil that service based on a grievance that is entirely imaginary and unreasonable. Its like a re-run of the miners strike of 30 years ago, a strike that tried to hold the country to ransom so as to preserve in aspic an industry that was outdated, uncompetitive, dangerous and filthy. Thus, the Government should be saying in this modern rerunning,  if you don't go back to work and stop your work to rule you will all be summarily sacked even if we have to change the law to accomplish this.

Technology is coming that is going to put many people out of work in the coming years. It is inevitable. But there is no need to be gloomy about this. We will get smarter and new technologies will also create new jobs, maybe even whole professions. But we will not hold on to our jobs by resisting change. And if you are a Southern driver, you may find yourself out of work even sooner. The robots are not yet ready to take over from you. But there are plenty of people only too willing to do your nice cushy jobs for six weeks holiday, a short working week and £45k. Hold on to them while you can. And shut your own doors before a robot comes along and does it for you.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Gerrymandering

Musical Advent Calendar



Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Peanuts


PMQs Review 14th December 2016: The Have I Got Leather Trousers For You Edition


It seems that these days our politicians are embracing their inner football managers in these post truth and populist times as they seek to make excuses for their having been on the losing side. As a rule losing football managers tend to blame the referee for their woes. The same is true of politicians. It's just that in their case there are thousands of referees to blame. Or sometimes even millions.

Populism is the new accusation being levelled at foes responsible for their defeats. How dare they come up with better winning lines and strategies. Because of course those now bemoaning populism never sank to such depths themselves. Perish the thought. Tony Blair never talked of being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, never promised education, education, education and never hoped against hope that nobody realised that these were meaningless and vapid slogans. David Cameron never promised his triple lock on pensions or to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. It was probably out of high principle that he promised the referendum that saw him undone and not just as a counter bid to the popular appeal of Ukip.

I always thought that being popular and appealing to as many people as possible was kind of the point of democracy. Clearly this was hopelessly naive of me. Clearly the politicians of the past few years with their focus groups and their appeals to narrow interest groups, their constant photo opportunities and refusal to answer straight questions were all engaged in a rarefied form of politics that these populists have undermined. Awful isn't it.

Fortunately we have in our midst a man who eschews such populism or indeed anything popular at all. Chauncey is the modern day antidote to these fly by night politicians. Not for him such low tactics. He is the real deal. His party's pathetic performance at recent by elections including just last Thursday in Sleaford and North Hykeham where they came 4th was probably a sign of his anti-populism as will be the next general election result. Sure, they will tell us, we have been reduced to only Chauncey and Diane Abbott in parliament, but look how authentic we look. Well, apart from Diane obviously. It is this inspiring approach to the new non populism that means that Chauncey, if he can think of nothing to say, simply stays out of the way and says nothing. Which reminds me, have you seen him lately? He has sent out a Christmas card though.


Or at least I think it is a Christmas card. Its clearly the sort of non populist card that somebody who doesn't even believe in Christmas and is a bit bah humbug about all of that crass commercialism and excess would send. This is the man for us. Well some of us. Well about 25% of us actually according to the latest polls and indeed the last two by elections. The man who is an antidote to populism is remarkably unpopular. Although Labour did, frustratingly, manage to not lose their deposit last Thursday. They really must try harder. Or not try. Something like that. This new non populist politics is terribly confusing isn't it. We've probably all been hacked by the Russians.



Meanwhile, in the real world, Brexit continues to rumble onwards, or at least it will do if the courts give their consent. The big case last week was watched by the world who were baffled by lots of technical arguments and the absence of wigs. There were some very garish ties though.

But at least there were no leather trousers. This is a faux pas apparently. Not for Supreme Court judges you understand, that would have added to the gaiety of the nation enormously, even more than the ties and would certainly have taken our minds off the arcane and abstruse arguments. No, it was apparently a faux pas of monumental proportions for the PM to wear leather trousers, or at least expensive ones, for a photoshoot for a newspaper feature. This was the opinion of Nicky Morgan, former not very good Cabinet minister who is not at all bitter and twisted and out for revenge. Oh no. Oh and she has a handbag that cost more that the trousers. For a lot less leather. If you are Santa, could you please send her some leather trousers? We all want to watch what she does with them. Nicky Morgan has reportedly pulled out of an appearance on Have I Got News For You this week. I'm told she would have appeared but has not had the time to visit Primark to buy her outfit for the show.


This was the last PMQs of a year that few of us will forget easily. It seems odd that it is going out on such a whimper as a row over leather trousers. But then it has been a most perplexing and contrary year. It's not been a good year for experts or for pollsters. And we end the year with a prime minister who wears leather trousers. No experts saw that coming I'm pretty sure. What do they know, eh?

Chauncey the vegetarian is of course furious about the leather trousers, but then what do you expect of Tories. Fortunately he devoted his six questions to less populist matters.



First question of the day came from Labour MP Peter Dowd who wondered if Boris is really the best choice for Foreign Secretary and whether he should have seen the letters FO for Foreign Office as an instruction instead. The PM, notwithstanding Boris's joke about her leather trousers this week in which he argued that she is very cosmopolitan because she wears lederhosen, defended Boris. She said that he is doing an excellent job and is an FFS - a fine Foreign Secretary. For the record, when I write FFS on texts and tweets, that is what I mean. Just so you know.

Chauncey this week wanted to talk about social care and was in full righteous angry mode. He did start proceedings however by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and by encouraging us all to download a single in honour of the late MP Jo Cox murdered by a British Nazi. The PM of course agreed with this and is even having her picture taken for the single apparently. Sans leather trousers?

The single is by MP4, a parliamentary rock group. It is bad as it sounds.

Chauncey then began to shout about social care. He got so angry he sounded like an elderly uncle of mine when asked to pay for anything. This is the kind of issue that exercises him of course. That's Chauncey, not my uncle. On such occasions he can be quite impressive, so long as you don't actually listen to what he is saying. He has his passions and they aren't all jam or manhole cover related.

Social care is the 'crisis' de jour. It is what the likes of the BBC, The Guardian and Labour are talking about at the moment. It makes a change from the crisis about to afflict the NHS this winter I suppose. In truth it isn't really a crisis. It is one dreamt up by the media in relation to an enduring pressure that governments have been struggling with for years as the PM pointed out. Labour in power talked about this endlessly and commissioned report after report. But they didn't actually do anything. All of that money they frittered away when it was plentiful and yet just talk on social care.

The problem is that we are all living too long and we all expect the state to provide whilst objecting strongly to having to pay for such care ourselves from the proceeds of family homes or pension income. There was a time when elderly relatives - not so elderly as they are living to now - were routinely cared for by family members. This remains the case in more family orientated immigrant families who show a good example to us all. The care in many homes is appalling and often leads to a miserable existence for those unfortunate to be sent into them, often hastening their death.



But Labour, as always, regard this as a financial issue. Chauncey fulminated about tax cuts for corporations as is his wont. It simply doesn't compute for Labour that a tax cut for corporations actually adds to the nation's wealth rather than subtracts from it. They simply cannot get their heads around it.

The PM was on the defensive on this issue, although, even on an issue such as this, Chauncey never really had her on the ropes. Being angry and shouting about something probably pleases the sort of people who think he is wonderful but more thoughtful people would wonder how Labour would improve matters given his predilections. In fact the best point in the argument was the last question of the day when Philip Davies, a Tory, asked why we are sending so much money abroad in aid when money is needed for social care.

Mrs May has promised to get a grip on the issue of social care and it is certainly one that needs addressing to take pressure off the NHS and end bed blocking. The Government is struggling on this issue with talk of local government precepts and additional spending from Council Tax, which is really dodging the issue.

There have been endless reports on this and endless talk of new approaches. But here's the point, albeit not one the PM made: pensioners do very nicely out of the state with their pensions and freebies and of course are the biggest drain on the NHS budget. Social care is hugely expensive and only set to get worse. The Government is said to be casting around for answers. But ultimately it is about money. It's not about just spending as Chauncey claims. It is about forcing our growing legions of pensioners to pay out for this in the form of insurance or by selling their homes. The answer simply cannot be to treat social care like the NHS and fund it from general taxation. As a nation we cannot afford this.

The trouble is, pensioners vote. Forcing this on them would be the opposite of populism. They are unlikely to vote to have to do any of that. It would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

That's it for 2016. PMQs returns on 11th January.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Election Basics

Musical Advent Calendar

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Peanuts


Reasons to be Fearful Part 1



I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that the next president of the United States has dismissed a finding of his own country's security services, siding instead with a foreign leader who is currently the subject of sanctions for an illegal occupation of a another nation's territory, is currently being roundly criticised by the international community for his behaviour in Syria and who has perpetrated various human rights abuses and even murder on his own and foreign soil. Does Trump not know any of this or simply not care?

He blithely dismissed the allegations against Russia and Putin's interference in his country's elections as being a conspiracy. How do they know that it was Russia? said the man who thinks he knows everything and yet who demonstrates every time he opens his mouth or tweets that he knows almost nothing.

Let's be clear. Again. This is not about the election. You won, Donald. Nobody is claiming otherwise; although you did not win by a landslide. You won because in three states you won just 1% more of the vote than your opponent. Neither was it an historically large electoral college win. It was actually the eighth largest electoral college win out of the last 10 presidential elections. You won, Donald. But you lost the popular vote and your electoral college vote was one of the lowest of recent elections. You scraped over the line by fluke. But you won.



A sane and moderate leader, in the light of this less than convincing win, might be moderate and reach out to his critics and opponents, perhaps appoint some of them to his cabinet. Not Trump. He is doubling down, appointing cronies and admirers. He is surrounding himself with the like-minded, the similarly inexperienced. And he has a peculiar fondness for those who are friends and admirers of the dictator in Russia.

America and indeed the whole world should now be looking at this incoming administration and wondering what is it with him and Russia. This is now looking more and more worrying. It's not just the refusal to accept the opinion of experts - that's people who actually know what they are talking about, Donald - and who can tell by forensic trails who was doing any hacking, it's the fact that Trump is actively surrounding himself with people who are equally as keen on Russia as he seems to be.  Reports suggest that he may be about to appoint Rex Tillerson, an oil executive who has been sucking up to Putin for decades and was even given an award by him as his Secretary of State. The man has no political or diplomatic experience whatsoever, but he does have the ear of Putin and is considered a friend of Russia. What, as they say in America, gives?



Or there is the fact that Trump has spoken in the past of his admiration for Putin and his strong man approach to politics. There was a time when the men who have held the office that Trump will be taking over in a few weeks time stood up to Russia and called it an evil empire or refused to blink when that country was sending nuclear missiles to Cuba. Now Trump expresses admiration for a Russian president who manipulated the Russian constitution so that he could have more than two terms in power and who has his enemies killed, including enemies here in the UK.

Trump famously refused to publish his tax returns during the election campaign. Maybe we are starting to realise why, although there was always a suspicion. What are his financial ties to Russia? Eight years ago, Trump's son acknowledged that his father's companies were seeing a lot of Russian money pouring in. Yet they have refused to tell us anything about this as he stood to be the man who sets American foreign policy and is Commander in Chief.

This blog has long been suspicious and nervous of Putin's intentions. His behaviour has been ever more brazen in recent years, especially thanks to the foreign policy failings of Obama and Clinton and their idiotic Russian reset, which Putin saw as a white flag. But how much worse could things get with a president in office who is willing to make excuses for Putin and who sides with him over his own security agencies?



Trump is going to be the big story of 2017 by far. That much is inevitable. But Trump and Putin is going to be huge too. What is the Republican Party going to do? Are they going to sit blithely by and watch as his nominations for key positions are confirmed? Are they going to ignore the CIA's findings too?  At what point do they put their country ahead of their party and start pushing back?

Here's a test for Trump and his new 2017 version of a reset few ever imagined possible. Last week there was a report published into the activities of Russia, presumably with the connivance of the authorities, in systematically subverting and corrupting drugs policy so that Russian athletes could cheat and thus win medals at the London Olympics. Why doesn't someone ask the president elect what he thinks of that report. It is not about his opponent. It is not about him and his election win. It is about an organised conspiracy to cheat and it goes to the heart of everything that Putin's Russia represents. It is symbolic of their cynicism across any number of other spheres, from seeking to influence democratic elections in other countries, the theft of intellectual property to their military's disgusting and murderous behaviour in Syria amounting to war crimes. Someone ask Trump what he thinks of that report. His response will be instructive.

Crash Course US Government and Politics: Political Ideology

Musical Advent Calendar

Monday, 12 December 2016

Peanuts


The March of the Populists



2016. It's not been great has it. Not that there haven't been some great moments. The Olympics. Andy Murray. There has been some superb TV including some peerless dramas from new entrants and old alike. It seems like a long time ago now, but at the start of the year we had a succession of big hit dramas from the BBC including War and Peace, The Night Manager and Happy Valley. And some superb factual programmes too such as David Attenborough's latest triumph.

On last night's final episode of Life on Earth we learnt that city dwelling raccoons are now demonstrably more intelligent and with better skills than their country dwelling cousins. I was going to suggest that the same may be true of humans. But the whole Donald Trump phenomenon has rather disproven that, not just the people who voted for him - country dwellers and urban dwellers alike - but Trump himself in his great gaudy citadel in the sky. Like a venus fly trap for the unprincipled and bovine.

Week after week, no matter how much we try to give him the benefit of the doubt, Trump keeps demonstrating why the electoral college voters really ought to consider doing what the constitution requires of them and electing someone else instead for fear of what he might do once in power. This weekend the next President of the United States dismissed the reports of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, concluding that the Russians tried and to some extent succeeded in interfering in the US elections as being some kind of stupid conspiracy theory. Seriously. 'Every week,' said Trump, 'it's another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory.'

Excuse me? A massive landslide victory? Your opponent beat you by 2.5 million votes and you managed to get an electoral college win by virtue of 80, 000 votes distributed across 3 swing states. It was a victory for sure and a perfectly legitimate one. But a landslide?

But more important than this classic piece of Trumptastic hyperbolic bollocks is his continuing refusal to accept any criticism of Russia. What the hell is going on there? Why? America should be very very worried about what is going on in the mind of Trump and they should be wondering why he is doing this. This is Russia we are talking about - the former evil empire currently slaughtering the people of Aleppo and menacing eastern Europe.

Why would Trump keep sucking up to them? Do they have something over him? Is he beholden to them for some reason? Will the Republican Party ever do their duty by their country and start asking him some awkward questions about all of this?



I understand why America voted for Trump. I understand that they were disgusted with the corrupt and corrupting way of doing things. But so many of them voted for him despite their knowing that he is unsuitable temperamentally, intellectually and morally. Now we are starting to realise that he may be a Soviet sleeper agent.

This is why those of us who voted for Brexit get annoyed when we are compared to Trump voters. We were not voting for anarchy and conflicts of interest when we voted for Brexit. We were voting to get our country back from a corrupt and cloth eared system of government that was not working in our best interests and indeed actively making our lives worse in any number of ways. Americans love their country and so they had no option to leave their union. Even those who voted to Remain would not claim to love the EU. That was part of the problem with their campaign. They were signed up to an idea, but an idea that simply does not work.

It was precisely because Europe doesn't listen and has been created seemingly for the convenience of people who don't want to sully themselves with mere democracy that we voted to leave. We voted to leave because we could see that, for all of the entirely laudable dream about a continent of states working together for the common good, the dream had become a nightmare. But it is a dream that seems to have a peculiar hold on people nevertheless in a manner I and many struggle to understand. It's not just the caterwauling we have seen since the vote or the angry denunciations of those of us who voted to leave. Its their belief that theirs is the enlightened view, the only viable one. Being outside the EU is equated with something primitive and somehow unworldly. Its a viewpoint that has a peculiar hold on people regardless of common sense. People like the increasingly perverse and irrational Matthew Parris, who I used to admire. Or Niall Ferguson who I still admire but made arguments that were entirely at variance with everything he had hitherto written, although happily he recanted this week and admitted that he had been wrong. Or of David Cameron himself, who used to be a Eurosceptic and then went native. Ferguson says that he only argued for Remain because of loyalty to Dave.

David Cameron last week claimed that he had been unceremoniously dumped from power because of populism. No, Dave. You were dumped because you wouldn't listen. Nobody made you side with your peers in the European Council over the electorate of your own country. Nobody made you lie to us. You didn't have to have your referendum for another year. There was plenty of time to demand a better deal or threaten to walk away. You didn't do that. It's not populism that did for you. It's not a British Donald Trump. The British didn't fall for his friend Nigel Farage. They kept not electing him to parliament. What did for you, Dave, was your arrogant disdain for democracy.

And yet, despite all of this, still the remainers bleat and plot and stall in the hope of something coming up. It's why the EU, despite what happened last June and is still happening across Europe still refuse to accept that this is their fault. They are not seriously accepting that Britain is going to leave or that their project is in existential danger.

What has to happen before they accept that their cherished dream is not going to work, that people don't want it and that it is doing the opposite of all that was claimed for it? The euro may well collapse in the coming months. 2017 may well turn out to be worse than 2016. I know we have been predicting the end of the euro for years but it will happen. It's just a question of when. There will come a time when a politician, the sort dismissed as a populist, puts the interests of his country and his people ahead of an impossible dream of European unity.


The great irony about those who dismiss all of this as populism, these liberals who don't much like democracy, is that they are signed up to this great homogenising project of Europe and yet at the same time practice a divisive agenda of identity politics, of separate and discrete communities as and when it suits them. They are signed up to the notion of sharing sovereignty and of working for the greater good but see no clash between this aim and allowing ethnic minority communities to ghettoise themselves, have separate legal systems and practice racist, misogynistic, bigoted cultural practices as well. The same people who tell us we should be willing to set aside petty national differences are those informing us that we must not culturally appropriate.

It is their policies, their insistence that it would be racist to ask everyone to operate by the same norms and rules, that has created the conditions that have created ghettos and have aided radicalisation. It was political correctness that enabled the notorious case in Rotherham of Pakistani men enslaving young white girls and using them for their own vile and perverse pleasure whilst hypocritically claiming to be pious Muslims. None of the apologists for this can imagine the notion that people with brown skin are capable of being racist. Yet that was as clear an example of racism as you are likely to see outside an American presidential campaign featuring an orange candidate with mental health issues. Men who would never dream of tolerating such behaviour in their own wives or daughters were happy to treat white girls as sluts. In this they were indulged by authority figures who were so seized by the instinct to propitiate the gods of multiculturalism that they lost their own moral compasses.

It is this sort of thinking about which people are rebelling and voting I would suggest. It is this arrogance and refusal to see that these modern shibboleths of the left are broken. In America, because of the absence of decent leadership elsewhere and someone to take on the lies and corruption of a vain and ignorant man, it has led to the election of that man and the concentration of power in his hands and those of his cronies. It is not democracy's finest hour it's true. But it's not populism either. It's just that the great liberal liars forgot that democracy is about listening to people. They created their focus groups and their sophisticated polling but their models failed to identify that those who were not being listened to were not being listened to by the pollsters either. They had been sidelined and ignored for so long that the pollsters forgot they exist.

Those of us with our ears closer to the ground could hear it. I didn't see Donald Trump coming it's true. But then I am 3000 miles away. Donald Trump is an unfortunate exception to a developing new rule. Politicians and commentators like the ineffably smug Matthew Parris had better start listening. Many show no signs of doing so. We could be marching headlong to an even worse 2017, a disaster born of arrogance and of calling democracy doing what democracy is supposed to do mere populism.