Monday, 31 October 2016

Peanuts


The Federal Bureau of Insurrection



Many years ago now, while working in an office, I spilt some printer toner on the floor. I went to find one of the cleaners to ask to borrow a vacuum to get rid of it all. She informed me that yes I would have to do so because 'we all know' that toner is radioactive. I looked at her as if she were mad. Of course it's not radioactive, I told her, it's just ink. She was having none of it.

Now this was long before the days of the internet and of YouTube. It was way before 9/11. Nowadays there is probably proof, sorry 'proof' of this on YouTube.

My Mum has a neighbour who told me recently that she doesn't believe that man landed on the moon. How does she know? YouTube. I gave her half a dozen reasons, through angrily gritted teeth, why this conspiracy theory is nonsense. I doubt she believed me. Maybe I should make a video about it.

I mention all of this only because I am trying to make sense of the revival, the resurrection in fact, of the whole 'scandal' that is Hillary Clinton's emails. The worst you can say about this particular episode is that it was ill advised and careless. Indeed that was what the FBI said as recently as 4 months ago. Then they took leave of their senses. Or perhaps they were abducted by space aliens and anally probed forcing them to say things they didn't want to say. It makes as much sense as their own explanation.

Because this is a government agency that, just 10 days prior to a general election, has announced that it has reopened an investigation. The person they are investigating? The woman who is currently running to be president and was, until this scandal re-erupted, the clear front runner. Now we live in strange times it's true, but you might consider that they would have to have pretty strong grounds to make such an astonishing intervention in an election. Yet it turns out that the Feds have known about the existence of a cache of emails for a month now and yet nobody has read them. For all they know they might contain jokes about conspiracy theorists or recipes for Halloween. The greater likelihood is that these are just the same emails that they have already investigated and concluded were of no great consequence.

According to the the FBI itself, there was  a small amount of classified material on Mrs Clinton's server, but none of the emails were clearly marked as such. There has been no demonstrable harm caused to US national security. Yet James B. Comey, the Director of the FBI, has clearly panicked and decided to comment on an investigation. Why? Conspiracy theorists. The lunatics have clearly taken over the asylum.

Ms Clinton has been found guilty of no offence. The FBI could find no grounds for prosecution, although in this verdict they already overstepped the mark because it is not for the FBI to decide who should or should not be prosecuted. They are an investigatory authority. But anyway this, clearly, was a case of malfeasance according to the Republican Party nominee, Donald Trump. He was furious that Hillary wasn't immediately clapped in leg irons and so are the half wits who follow him and will be seeing conspiracies everywhere.

How else can you describe the people who are so slavishly devoted to this man? The man who routinely calls his opponent crooked Hillary is himself as crooked as they come. He set up a university in his name that was plainly and demonstrably fraudulent. He has boasted, on tape, of how he can commit sexual deviancy crimes with impunity. He has spent his entire career as a developer using tax laws and chapter 11 bankruptcy laws to ensure that he doesn't have to pay his bills. He has used the money from his own charitable foundation, money donated by others (Trump hasn't donated for nearly a decade) to pretend that he himself is giving money away and has even used this money to settle his own business debts, something that is against the law. He has lied without embarrassment during this presidential campaign to such an extent that journalist fact checkers have been unable to keep up.

And yet this man accuses Ms Clinton of crookedness because she ill advisedly kept some emails on a private server. Remember, nobody is defending what Ms Clinton did. Nobody is claiming that she is the perfect candidate and not capable of dishonesty. But compared to Trump?

The worrying aspect of this presidential campaign is that a substantial number of Americans seem to have a fantastically short attention span. The whole emails issue has boiled beneath the surface for its entirety of course, although this is largely because it is an issue that Trump has kept there with his repeated attacks based on innuendo. It was dealt with by the FBI, to the chagrin of Trump, over the summer. Yet now it raises its head again and suddenly the liar in chief is back and running neck and neck with Clinton. The groper in chief, the chapter 11 president, the man who can lie more times per minute than any other on the planet is close to the presidency based on an investigation that is no more likely than the last time to show anything. Except of course that Trump imagines that one of the powers of the presidency is to lock up your opponents.

America is looking dangerously divided right now. It is a truly terrifying prospect. In just over a week's time the polling places will open. The Republican Party, which just this time last week was staring down the barrel of a landslide defeat, is now daring to dream that it might win after all. But with such a man as its leader? The same party that was encouraging talk that it might prevent the next president from naming a new Supreme Court Justice if of course the next president was Ms Clinton, has run a dangerous, divisive, dishonest and downright despicable campaign under a man they should have been disavowing. Now, thanks to the FBI, the febrile atmosphere could be about to get much much worse. The very least we can assume is court challenges. The other alternatives do not bear being thought about. And that's before we even begin to wonder what Russia might make of the opportunity.

Crash Course Psychology: Social Influence

Does Believing in God Make You Dumb?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Peanuts


Video Diary: The I Went to Specsavers Edition



I've had a few technical difficulties with uploading my Video Diary this week. Fortunately, thanks to much diligence, patience and a robust and expanding vocabulary of the demotic, I finally managed to get it done a whole day late.

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 7: Laws About Food



So we're coming to the end of this long and tedious section about what the tribe of Israel had to do to appease their very needy and demanding God and how to make reparations if they broke his rules. Now we get to hear of what weird and inexplicable instructions he makes about what can and cannot be eaten. You ever wondered where all of that stuff comes from? Here is where it all starts.

So to recap then: we are going through the rules of how God wants his new religion ordered. This was all about ceremony in his big tent of slaughter, otherwise known as the Tabernacle. There were to be burnt offerings. This is is like a whole new Ten Commandments. Oddly these are commandments that nobody seems to worry too much about anymore. Funny that.

But here they are in black and white: The Burnt Offering; The Grain Offering; The Sin Offering; The Reparation Offering; The Peace Offering.

Later we get on to some other interesting commandments about food, giving birth and genital discharges. God is very detail obsessed.

This is all about priestly power of course. We'll see that in the next chapter when they have a big ceremony.

Chapter 7 though is just rounding off the rules on all of these offerings.

And of course there are rules about what can be eaten. Some of the offerings can be eaten and some cannot. If anyone eats what he shouldn't eat then he is cast out. What happens if there is confusion or animals are burnt on the wrong altar by mistake? After all administrative errors can be made and this would be a very busy and blood soaked tent. Anyway, God is adamant about all of this.

And there are rules about when the meat can be eaten. It has to be eaten straight away. No leaving meat hanging around. Any leftovers have to eaten before the third day. If not they have to be burnt. With fire. Quite what else they could be burnt by is left unsaid. Did they have lasers back then?

Anyway, suffice to say that God will allow you to eat some meat, but not others. That if you break the rules you will be cast out. Forever. For eating meat. Yet get something dishonestly and you can be forgiven simply by burning a goat. He's a God of strange priorities isn't he.

Oh and he also has arcane rules about which parts of animals can be eaten. You must not eat the fat or the blood. No explanation for this is given. God doesn't explain.

And you must not eat meat from animals that have died of natural causes or have been killed by other animals. God would have disapproved of roadkill.

Finally we get a couple more offerings. There is the wave offering in which someone cuts off the best bits from the animals and waves it around. Seriously.

There is also the part that is given to the priest, the sons of Aaron, for doing their priestly duty. This is the heave offering. Priests get to dine on the shoulder of the beast after giving the blood and fat to God.

All of this, said God, was a statute forever. It was given to the children of Israel from God via Moses there in the desert around Sinai. Those who quote bits of Leviticus approvingly conveniently forget this part of the same book.

A History of Disbelief Part 3

Picture of the Day


Friday, 28 October 2016

Peanuts


Trump the Loser


It's all gone a bit quiet on the US Presidential front hasn't it. Since the last debate the campaigns have been as busy as ever, Trump has even given one or two interviews to news organisations that are not sympathetic or fawning. But the polls tell the story: sanity is prevailing and this disastrous candidate is getting his richly deserved comeuppance.

Not that this is how he will portray it of course. No matter how the result goes - and we are all pencilling in a Clinton win now, even Trump himself - he will have an excuse for it.

So if Clinton wins by a landslide - something that rarely happens in these elections - then that will be clear evidence of some kind of stitch up. If she wins by a narrow margin - then that will be a clear sign of a stitch up. Nothing Trump ever does or says is his fault, it is always someone else who has failed or done something wrong. He cannot lose this election. Or at least that is what he has in his increasingly deluded head. He only hears the people who agree with him and edits out the millions of people around the country who have been appalled by him or who are laughing at him.

Because what is happening, if you live in the real world, is that America is now giving the election its full concentration. And what they see of Trump appals and disgusts them. Thus the polls are indicating that the outcome may well be something that hasn't been achieved since Ronald Reagan, a clear landslide victory for a woman many either dislike or actively hate. This is all the excuse that Trump needs to question the result. How can it be? How can it be that this reviled woman can beat me so clearly he will shout loudly. It will never occur to him that the American people have looked at the two of them, seen this bragging, brainless, lazy, shallow, preening ignoramus and made the only sane choice.

And so he is now talking in the language of YouTube conspiracy theorists, of the sort of people who claim that 9/11 was a vast conspiracy, of the sort of people who claim that man never walked on the moon. It is nonsense. And it is dangerous nonsense.

In a sane world I, as a Conservative, would be backing the Republican candidate. But the GOP has ceased to be a party that exists in that world. The candidates it has fielded in recent years have been at best hopeless. This latest is a calamity. And it is no use their blaming the primaries system. Trump is a consequence of years of Republican pandering to the kind of mindset that Trump, entirely mendaciously, claims to represent. Instead of having the courage to stand up to this, they have stayed quiet, they have done their deals. Then they wonder why their party has been seized by this Palin hick tendency, this brainless, isolationist, America first, guns are great, 1950s revivalist section of their party.

Trump, more out of his own narcissism than any coherent attempt to disavow the actual result, is going to tacitly encourage the halfwits who support him, possibly all the way to violence. He will do so based on a lie. He is losing this election, an election he ought to have been able to win easily. He is losing it not because of some vast conspiracy but because people can see he is unfit to be president. The polling is telling the story. Like all polling it often confuses, but there is a clear direction of travel. And Clinton is raising far more in donations too. Trump's campaign had $16 million in the bank as of 19th October. Clinton's campaign had more than 3 times that amount $62 million. Is that a conspiracy, or is it people voting with their wallets and credit cards?

The Democrats ought to have been losing this election at a canter. It's not just that Clinton is a bad candidate who ought to have been kept away from the nomination, it's that Obama has been at best an average president with a foreign policy barely worthy of the name. Instead they are set to win 3 presidential elections in succession and this one by such a majority it may well do lasting damage to American democracy. The GOP has fielded a candidate who is racist, bigoted and who sides with his country's enemies. He may well be preparing to question one of the fundamental tenets of democracy - the peaceful transition of government. It is something we all take for granted, it happened here in the UK just this summer. But it is something to be proud of and to defend to our dying breath. Trump may be about to end that.

So whatever the result we are still in a dangerous phase. Russia is watching and possibly waiting. The markets may well take a crash whatever the outcome. Trump is going to be humiliated. Trump will not like that. His reaction will be telling. It may also be disastrous for us all, albeit not quite as disastrous as his winning would have been.

Crash Course Psychology: Biomedical Treatments

Minute Physics: Where Does Complexity Come From?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Peanuts


GBBO: For God's Sake Shut Up About Your Soggy Bottoms


Jimmy Perry died earlier this week as you may well be aware. With David Croft he was responsible for some of the best loved sitcoms of television's golden age, from a time when we all had no choice but to sit around the household's one large set, which many of us rented and watch one of only 3 channels - live. Video recorders had not been invented, colour television was only just being introduced.

Perry deserved the tributes that were written of him, but those who claimed that his programmes are as funny now as they were when they were first shown were guilty of rose tinted spectacles. His shows were of their time. They were well written, proper, character led comedy. But they are not as funny now as when they were first shown. They have been dulled by the passage of time from a gentler era. Our comedy has evolved. Dads' Army would not pass muster nowadays. Evolution has not been kind to the creations of Perry and Croft. Indeed some of their creations cannot be shown on television any more since they would be considered racist or politically incorrect. And for once the political correctness police would not be wrong. But as I say, they were of their time.

In truth Dads Army was never as good as we remember it. The same is true of most of the great sitcoms. It's even true of 90% of the output of Morecambe and Wise - and it hurts me to admit that. We tend to remember the great moments and edit out all of the dross in between. For every 'Don't tell him Pike,' moment, there were some painfully bad moments in Dads' Army. Watch the repeats on BBC2 and tell me I am wrong. How often do you laugh if you are being really honest? Even Blackadder wasn't as good as we remember it, although it is one of the top ten series of all time, notwithstanding the fact it has the Labour leader as a fan - or was it just that it was the only moment of popular culture that had permeated his consciousness during a career of obsessive compulsive drudgery?

But those who this morning are mourning the end of Great British Bake Off should content themselves with this thought. Apparently some people seem to think that this is a genuine moment for great sadness and regret and not just the end (yes I know it is going to Channel 4, but that is a lost cause) of a not very good show about cakes leavened with some crap jokes and Mel and Sue's sledgehammer comic timing. It's even got a leader column in today's Telegraph for crying out loud.

Let me break this to you all gently. This was a show about cakes. It was flotsam and jetsam in the cacophony of digital media we all have fired at us. That's all. They might sometimes have been very impressive cakes, but they were cakes nonetheless. It's audience figures were impressive I'll admit, but that probably just says a great deal more about what was on the other channels or possibly about our own inability to think of anything better to do with out lives.

Television has created some genuinely great moments just in recent years. Breaking Bad,  Parade's End, Happy Valley, War and Peace. All genuinely great television. Comedy has been a little more difficult to find genuinely groundbreaking content and what there is has tended to be American such as the excellent Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock. But recently there has been the startlingly good Fleabag. Still available on iPlayer. Treat yourself.

In a few years time GBBO will be one of those episodes in our past upon which we look back with nothing more than faint embarrassment (not me obviously, I have taste) like teenage fashion or music choices. If you are experiencing regret then I have to sadly inform you that you are wasting your life. Even if you must spend it watching TV, there is lots and lots of good television available cheaply. For god's sake get yourself a Netflix subscription. The first 30 days is free.

The only part of GBBO that will likely live on in any form will be its soggy bottom catchphrase. But that tells you all you need to know about this show, and not in any way that it should be proud of. Anyway, game shows often have catchphrases. On balance though I think Jimmy Perry's were better, don't you.  

Crash Course Psychology: Getting Help

Minute Physics: Do Cause and Effect Really Exist?

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

PMQs: The I Didn't See It Edition



I had intended to write my usual PMQs Review this week, but sadly I missed it. It is the policy of this blog that I only review it if I see it live. It would be cheating otherwise. I watch it live, without the aid of rewinds and then comment on my impressions gained live. If I don't then there is no review. But feel free to review it yourself.

Peanuts


The Heathrow Debacle


I didn't get to see today's PMQs. I missed it. Sorry about that. I'll post the video later.

Instead just a short word about the Heathrow decision unveiled yesterday. This blog is opposed to the expansion of Heathrow. It is opposed because this is short termism of the classic British variety. Yet it is short termism of a peculiar kind. It will take forever to get built, it solves few problems, creates many more (not least what you do with the M25) pushed the can further down the road but at the same time kicks it into somebody's greenhouse smashing the thing to smithereens.

The best thing that you can say about this decision is that Theresa May's Government has at least made a decision. It may seem like the obvious decision, yet all it does is store up problems for the future. Heathrow is a disaster of an airport. It is in the wrong place and hemmed in by homes all around it and by London to the east.

The Government is now going to undertake some consultation. Why? We've been consulting about it for decades. We know all of the problems, we know all of the dangers, we know that this runway will be built and will immediately be full and the airport will then start demanding another terminal. Eventually we will be told that a fourth runway is needed and that it would be disastrous for the economy if we do not build it.

This decision has been made for understandable reasons. Yet it is going to be a political nightmare to navigate and will be delayed by endless protests and legal challenges. There is still a very good chance that it will never be built.

The idea of Boris island was a good one because it would have solved all of these problems. Land to the east of London is less congested and there is sea on the other side. Or there is the option of expansion of any of the other airports around London or further north in Birmingham. Heathrow is a bad decision made because the Government has been kidded into thinking that Heathrow expansion is vital for the economy. It isn't. We need more capacity in the south east. We do not need it to be at Heathrow.

Crash Course Psychology: Personality Disorders

Minute Physics: Why Doesn't Time Flow Backwards?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Peanuts


Being Gay is Now So Trendy You Can Trump the Rights of Other Minorities



Here's an interesting dichotomy, a contrast to be compared if you will. Yesterday we heard that the Christian bakers who politely declined to make a cake bearing a slogan about gay marriage with which they fundamentally disagreed, have lost their appeal. They apparently have no such right to decline business; they must be forced to write a slogan of the choice of their customer in case their refusal in some way hurts his or her feelings. It doesn't matter that there are plenty of other cake bakers out there; all the more so these days, presumably, in this Bake Off obsessed land. No. If you want to order a cake made bearing a slogan about gay marriage, or homosexuality in general we assume, then you have the right to go into any cake baker in the land and have them make your cake, decorated in a manner of your choosing and they must acquiesce to your will, whatever their feelings about pink icing. Do you see what I did there?

This week we have also heard the news that Turing's Law has been passed. This is with regard to Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and computer pioneer, who was responsible with his team of boffins for saving thousands of lives and probably shortening the war thanks to their work on breaking the Enigma Cipher used for encoding the messages of the Nazi war machine, thought unbreakable at the time. Turing was and is a hero. He was also gay, at a time when gay meant something else, but when being homosexual was illegal, or at least the various sexual acts associated with homosexuality were illegal.

Now this new law has been passed, which posthumously pardons Turing and others for crimes, homosexual crimes, that have subsequently been struck from our statute book on account of their being illiberal.

But this is of course a nonsense. Pardoning people posthumously is inherently ridiculous. It might I suppose make their relatives feel better at a push, but generally what is the point? It is revisionism and posturing. It is our way of showing how much more enlightened we are than our forebears, all of which rather misses the point of history does it not. But Alan Turing hasn't benefited. Nobody has benefited. It has just enabled a few politicians to grandstand and show how liberal they are.

And revisionism in historical criminality is problematic in other ways. Our country is replete with examples of people prosecuted, convicted, even executed for crimes we now regard as being unobjectionable or at least excusable. But then the same is true of most countries. The fact that we no longer prosecute and criminalise people for matters such as homosexuality or offending the king is a sign of progress. But where do you draw the line with posthumous pardons? And don't our politicians have something more important to do than pardoning a man who died 62 years ago?

And yet you can be damned sure that the same politicians will be doing their damnedest to avoid opining or grandstanding on the issue of gay cakes. Yet they should. These are living and breathing people who have a right to their principles. Nobody was hurt by their refusal to bake a sodding cake, indeed it wasn't even the baking of the cake. It was the decoration of said cake. That is a clear freedom of speech issue. Had someone walked into the shop and asked for a cake demanding a woman's right to choose could the shop have refused? If not, why not. Remember this has nothing to do with whether you think a woman has the right to choose - this blog is very clearly in the she definitely does camp. This has everything to do with people's right to hold an opinion about it.

All that was hurt by this case was our sense of justice and a small matter of freedom of speech and conscience. Aha! you might say, but what about the freedom of speech of the person, Gareth Lee, who wanted his cake baked. To which the obvious response was that his freedom of speech was entirely unaffected. Nobody was saying he could not say or indeed say in icing on a cake of his choice whatever panegyric on the matter he chose, just that he did not have the right to impose himself on a cake baker who disagreed with him. He should simply have gone to a different baker and got over himself.

But unfortunately those of us who thought this to be the not unreasonable attitude of the law of the land have been proven wrong. The intolerant demanders of greater tolerance have won again.



This preening obsession of LGBT people and their 'rights' has rode roughshod over the rights of others when there was no need to do so. A simple application of common sense and decency would have seen Mr Lee simply shrug, say okay and Googled the name of another baker. Instead he claimed to have had his feelings hurt and so this legal case was launched.

This is the state our laws are in now. The dead are pardoned for no good reason and in a way that offends our sense of history, because the fact that Turing's Law now exists does not obscure the fact that laws against homosexuality did once exist. We should be open and honest about it. Meantime people with non trendy principles are ignored and rode roughshod over because they didn't see why they should be forced to do something that offended those principles. How illiberal.

And finally the standard statement of interests. I am not gay. I am also not a Christian. I consider the beliefs of Christians and indeed all religious groups to be ridiculous and indeed the objections of this Christian firm to the slogan to be ridiculous. I don't have any problem whatever with gay marriage and what consenting adults choose to do to one another in private. Nevertheless Christians are or should be entitled to their beliefs (however absurd) and to refuse to bake a sodding cake if they want to. This is a case that should have been laughed out of court. Instead our liberal establishment has once again redefined what being liberal means. The dead are afforded greater protection than those alive today and in possession of principles seen as insufficiently trendy.

Crash Course Psychology: Eating and Body Dysmorphic Disorders

Is Renting Always A Waste of Money?

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 6: Holy Meat



Leviticus is still concerning itself with sins and atonement at the moment. But in this chapter we get down to the nitty gritty of what happens in that Tabernacle. And surprise surprise, the priests are allowed to eat some of the meat. Well who saw that coming eh?

So God supposedly told Moses that there was yet another type of offering that had to be made. This was if someone lied or got some property through dishonesty. Fair enough you might well think. Turns out that God will forgive this. How? By taking yet another burnt offering. This time it has to be a ram. A heavy price indeed. Oh and there has to be full restitution of the goods or chattels that were gained dishonestly. Plus 20 per cent.

Then we get into the real nitty gritty. You may have noticed that Leviticus keeps repeating itself. It does so again now. More talk of all of those burnt offerings. But we are told something interesting. The fires under the various altars for burnt offerings have to be kept burning in perpetuity. Imagine how much wood that would take. There are several altars remember.

And we get some talk of ceremony too. The priests - all descendants of Aaron of course - have to go in and change their clothes, probably because they are blood soaked and then they change clothes again and make the burnt offering.

There are subtly different ceremonies to be performed and different rules according to the different burnt offerings that God has decided are necessary. But, and this is the really important bit, for some of these burnt offerings the priests, the descendants of Aaron are allowed to eat the meat and the bread. Who would have thought it eh? You could knock me over with a feather.

So there are lots of rules and laws about what people have to do. People have to make regular burnt offerings just to keep God happy. They also have to make burnt offerings if they break the rules, even if they do so by accident. And the priests get to eat the leftovers. It's a nice living. And just by the act of eating this meat and other tasty treats the priests are rendered holy. So says God.

A History of Disbelief Part 2

Friday, 21 October 2016

Peanuts


The Virtue Signalling Refugee Crisis



I was in my local corner shop the other day.  Ahead of me in the queue to be served was a girl or possibly a young woman - I am not a dentist and so was unable to tell. The girl/ young woman wished to buy some alcohol. She was asked for ID. At this point a large woman wearing dungarees muscled in and told the shopkeeper in no uncertain terms that this request was unconscionable and that there was probably some kind of offence against human rights or The Guardian or something like that.

This of course did not happen. The rights of young people to purchase alcohol are never championed by self righteous lefties. They are far to busy championing the rights of men, many of them not even young ones, to enter a country and get lots of free stuff to which they are not entitled under false pretences.

But how can we check if the men are young? Other than by wondering out loud if a full beard and crows feet are compatible with the age of 14? Well apparently dental checks are one way.

Yet this is apparently also unconconscionable. I must confess that I don't understand why. Someone is claiming refugee status in this country, even though they are already in a safe country, on the grounds that they are below a certain age. They have no supporting documentation for their claim. And so a check that they cannot beat by lies, evasions or destruction of documents seems to be rather sensible does it not?

Apparently not. This is akin to the Nazis we are told by no less a figure than Stella Creasy MP, a one time dungaree wearer and permanent wearer of full sanctimonious outrage. And yet it turns out that exactly the same measure was considered by Labour when in power, something now confirmed with admirable honesty by Jack Straw.

The newspapers are outraged that yet again the British are being taken for a ride by the perfidious French who of course have rules about this sort of thing meaning that we cannot perform checks despite their ignoring rules about these refugees when it suits them - as it so frequently does. The Sun newspaper published a picture of a claimant for refugee status who was clearly a grown man. This, a charity smugly and condescendingly informed them, had actually been an interpreter. Various Twitter celebs and other bandwagon jumping virtue signallers piled in to express their outrage. Except it wasn't. The man claiming to be a child had indeed been a supposed refugee.

As usual the Home Office, instead of doing its job properly and actually defending our borders properly and resolutely, is kowtowing to the legions of Twitter and the sob fest about their supposed desperation. And yet dental checks would solve the problem, that along with a few phone calls ascertaining where the relatives of these kids are and why they were abandoned in to fend for themselves in the first place if they have relatives here.

The vast majority of this army of the supposedly desperate are young men. They are mostly also economic migrants. They are not refugees at all in other words. The virtue signallers thought they had won a victory this week when the Government caved in. Instead there is public uproar and a lot of people are wondering what in God's name is wrong with dental checks.

The whole situation is a farce. But it is a farce because we allow it to be a farce. We are victims of our own stupidity and of government by Twitter. If there are children, proper children, in that camp then that is clearly something of concern. For the French who allowed this to happen and for the charities who watched it happen. Britain is not the cause of this. The cause of it is the kind of bien pensant sanctimony we have seen this week. People keep pouring across the Mediterranean and queueing up at Calais precisely because of the sort of people who thought it outrageous to ask for some proof before allowing someone claiming to be a child into this country. Fortunately their own absurd reaction to this harmless idea has exposed them for the half wits they are.

Crash Course Psychology: Depressive and Bipolar Disorders

Quantum Computers Explained - Limits of Human Technology

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Peanuts


Trump Did Not Win - He Just Failed to be Disastrous



Many are saying this morning that Trump won the third and final presidential debate. He didn't. You don't win just because you didn't perform so appallingly as in the previous three debates.

Certainly he was calmer and didn't fall for the traps. He did score some hits against Clinton too. But all of this illustrates is that this was for the Republicans to lose. They are up against a woman who is smug, has an epic sense of entitlement and simply does not perform as well on these stages as she should. Add to that her failings and failures like the email scandal and her reset policy with Putin to name but a couple and she ought to be more beatable than any candidate the Democrats have put up in living memory.

But this is Trump. Even on best behaviour he would not acknowledge that the result of the election must be respected. He seemed to be saying that Clinton has no right to be standing. He was childish and petulant. When she called him Putin's puppet he blurted out 'you're the puppet.' When she made a quip about his serial tax avoidance he called her a nasty woman. He might as well have also said nyahh nyahh nyahh, stuck out his tongue and told her she smells.

Trump has a sense of entitlement that would make 16th royalty seem diffident. He is arrogant, disdainful and disrespectful of others. He seems to find it difficult or impossible to imagine that anyone thinks he is anything but admirable. If they do then they are evil, deranged or nasty. He refuses to accept advice and dismisses the clear opinion of experts that Russia is responsible for hacking and attempting to influence the American election. That is practically a declaration of war. It's certainly a declaration of cold war. Trump just shrugs his shoulders and sounds admiring of Putin the dictator and mass murderer. When challenged on Putin last night he simultaneously claimed not to know Putin while saying that he knew for a fact that Putin has no respect for Clinton.

Therein lies the problem for Trump. He suffers from what Churchill once called terminal inexactitude syndrome. But more than that his use of language is as lax as his approach to customer and investor relations. He uses phases like 'I know for a fact,' or 'I guarantee you.' He means nothing of the sort. But this is a man whose word has generally meant nothing anyway. A promise from Trump isn't worth the air he expelled making it. Does such a man deserve to be in charge of the destinies of 300 million people and a major influence on the lives of all of us?

The American people face an invidious choice at this election. But Clinton is the most experienced, the most mature, the most likely to not cause world war 3. Clinton may well pleasantly surprise us in office. More likely she will just be as disappointing as Obama has been. Trump on the other hand would be a disaster, would likely cause a recession or a depression and possibly even war. He is temperamentally unsuited to the highest office and is crooked, dishonest and downright contemptible. His campaign has been a disaster. Think how he would perform if handed the powers of the presidency. He would be clueless and dangerous.

It's only 3 weeks to go now. The world is on tenterhooks. Do the right thing America.

Crash Course Psychology: OCD & Anxiety Disorders

Donald Trump on Voting

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Peanuts


PMQs Review 19th October 2016 - The Reality of Bone's Birthday Edition


A slightly truncated review this week, for which apologies. This is owing to my own brush with the NHS. I have to report that, barring the usual problems with appalling administration, I always get excellent treatment. Note to politicians, the NHS would be fine if only you could get in some half competent people to run the bloody thing.

Before we get underway this week we should of course point out that Boris Johnson yesterday spoke in Italian in the Commons. This has excited much comment in the papers this week, albeit in a week in which Chauncey has had little to say and so politics has seemed rather sensible and boring.

Theresa May has not yet adopted this approach, she prefers her own rather more pedestrian way of dealing with answering questions in the Commons, or indeed of not answering them: an approach in which she is masterful. Yet this week we did get a rather risqué moment. The first question came from Peter Bone, bete noir of Mrs May's predecessor. He proclaimed himself happy. This was not just because it was his birthday today but because of recent Europe related events that have made the Bone household as cheerful as an Italian at a White House state event able to look on with appreciation at the outgoing first lady's magnificent Versace outfit.



Mrs May wished Peter Bone many happy returns of the day and expressed the wish that Mrs Bone, who was often a party in her husband's questions to David Cameron, would be doing her wifely duty to give Mr Bone a happy birthday too. The House chuckled in a kind of dry Sid James like manner and Mr Bone himself had the decency to look embarrassed. It was all a bit Ooh Err for a full minute, with the cuckolded Speaker getting in on the act too as is his wont.


Fortunately then Chauncey got to his feet to kill the mood. He wanted to talk about dead children and the NHS. Actually the dead children were those who died 50 years ago at Aberfan, something the Commons was commemorating. Chauncey went full on on the issue as only he can do. You felt he wanted to blame the Tories for it but couldn't quite find the words.

Then he proceeded to talk about the NHS, starting with mental health. This is said to be the Cinderella part of our NHS, but then mental health issues are something of a Cinderella aspect of health at the best of times. Psychiatrists are just people who couldn't be proper doctors after all. These days stress is supposed to be a mental health issue. Students probably claim stress and mental health issues if they are not given safe spaces and trigger warnings about Enid Blyton books, or if old colonial statues are left in place. Anti-depressants are handed out like sweets or even like antibiotics.  Perhaps our mental health system is breaking down because we cannot decide what is and is not a proper mental health issue and thus those in genuine need of help and a mental health beds are crowded out by those just in need of few days off or a stiff talking to. This probably makes me sound unsympathetic. But then this is why I didn't become a politician. I come from Birmingham. We have an accent that makes us sound as if we have mental health issues.

The PM made a stout if not particularly inspiring defence of the Government's record on the NHS. It's always about funding of course. The Government line is that they are pouring ever more money into the bottomless pit. Those of us who would like honesty on the issue and so cannot as a consequence be politicians would point out that the NHS is never going to operate in anything other than a crisis because it is trying to do what no other system in the world does funded purely by tax and being free at the point of use. It is routinely abused and overused and pouring ever more money into it will not work. We have a system that tries to keep people alive when suffering from cancer whilst trying to wean them off cigarettes, not being nasty to fatties and giving cosmetic surgery to women who want bigger boobs due to mental health issues.

Mrs May did say all of this in a roundabout way, well not all of it obviously. She said that Labour always make terrible claims about the NHS or of what the Tories are going to do to it. And so they do. If only the Tories would or could take the lefties on over the NHS and point out how doomed it is without reform. But then this is the great unsayable in politics. Much like delivering a new runway for the southeast.

Mrs May is never going to be a great performer at these sessions. But she does seem curiously unprepared and hesitant at times, her innuendo about Mrs Bone notwithstanding. It's either that or she just cannot bring the facts and figures to mind. Are her powers of recall not up to the job? She is succeeding in making Chauncey look half competent, even when he spouts his usual socialist claptrap about funding and bottomless pit economics. Fortunately he is sufficiently hapless, even on the issue of the NHS to still come off second best. Today he kept talking about the reality of things. The reality? When did reality ever intrude on Chauncey's mindset? He cannot even conduct an inquiry into his own party's brazen anti-Semitism problem without handing out peerages to buy himself an acquittal. Maybe she should address him in Italian, if not in an Italian dress. He might not even notice.



Some Thoughts on Experts


There is a good chance that I shall be unable to offer my usual coverage of PMQs this week owing to a medical issue. I shall not trouble you with the unpleasant and painful details. I am therefore writing this post the night before, during my sleepless hours while I await the opportunity to see my doctor and await his or her verdict and chosen course of action. I know what is wrong with me. So do my doctors. We just don't know what to do about it other than the liberal use of painkillers, various tests (some most painful and embarrassing) and much head scratching over difficult and invidious choices.

This brings to mind the issue of expertise.

Experts have been in the news a lot recently as you will likely have noticed. There is said to be a rising up of peoples against the experts. This of course is a travesty of the truth. There has not been a rising up of people against most experts. Neither are people, as Michael Gove famously opined, rather sick of experts. But it does rather depend on what you mean by experts.

There are, after all, experts and there are experts. A doctor is an expert in medicine and in human health. But some doctors become more expert even than other doctors in certain fields while others remain generalists. Still others become experts in research. Others prefer not to study proper medicine at all and waste their time in psychology, but that's a different story.

But I assume that you take my meaning. Expertise is relative.

One can be an expert in weather and yet one can get the weather forecast wrong. And I'm sure I don't need to remind you of what has been happening recently to economic experts and their predictions. Indeed it seems to have been happening to economic experts since economics became a field of inexpertise. Forecasts about how economies are going to perform a peculiarly pointless activity. They are always wrong. On the rare occasions that they are right then it is usually more to do with luck than any actual expertise.

Science in general is not actually very good at predicting things. Think about it. Even in the well known fields of medicine a doctor cannot tell you whether or not you will contract a disease, she can only tell you that you have it once you have it. They cannot tell you with any precision what exactly will be your symptoms and how long it will take you to recover.

Think of how many times you have read stories about how surprised and thrilled scientists are by a new discovery. This is particularly the case in planetary science. Look at how surprising our journey to the outer solar system has been. We have glimpsed things that scientists had never considered a possibility, from volcanoes in the moons of Jupiter to startling revelations about Pluto that everybody had dismissed as an uninteresting frozen planetoid.

Then there is climate science. Next time you hear them tell you that it is all settled science just remember that so is medical science and yet medical science cannot tell you if and when you will catch a cold and how long you will have it for. It cannot even tell you if this year's flu immunisation will prevent you catching the disease. It probably will, but probable isn't definite is it. Look at how successful the various predictions about climate change have been in recent years. Remember, that by now the Arctic should have been ice free and a whole generation of children should have grown up without seeing snow in large parts of Britain.

And don't get me started on the social sciences. There is no evidence, we keep being told, that grammar schools aid social mobility. That is because that is a clear example of them asking the wrong question and of having all the wrong kind of data with which to answer it. It is a clear example of the so called experts starting off with an answer they want to find and then conducting the study they need to provide the proof. And anyway, as anyone knows, an absence of evidence is not proof of anything. Education is not something that is conducive to the scientific method in its purest form as it would be almost impossible to create a fair and objective experiment to prove the effectiveness of grammar schools at aiding social mobility. How would that work exactly. What we can safely conclude is that grammar schools are very good at educating children. Just don't expect the experts to admit that. They prefer to muddy the waters. Which makes us wonder why they should be seen as experts at all.

And look at the mess that the so called experts of the world's banks are making of the economy of the entire planet. Emergency measures brought in after the crisis of 2008 are still with us nearly a decade later. They are creating the next crisis as we watch. You don't have to be an expert to see that zero or minus interest rates and money printing are damaging our economies, are destabilising economies, sucking money out of productive investment and into destructive borrowing and creating a crisis that we may well find it impossible to extricate ourselves from. We could be heading for a depression or even worse. It could be a depression that leads to protectionism and to political instability or political extremism. It will be a crisis that will have been created by experts.

The trouble with experts then is that, though they may have an expertise they remain human beings like the rest of us and prey to the same weaknesses, the same partialities, the same need or desire for approbation, remuneration or other social rewards. Politicians like to claim that they have experts on their side because it means that they cease having to make an argument. If you can claim that science and scientists are on your side then why bother with a convincing argument? Except there is no such thing as settled science. Science, by its nature, is never settled. Science is a constant state of flux. What modern scientists think is settled now may one day be regarded as laughable and backward by generations to come. We laugh now at people who thought that the Earth was flat or at the centre of universe. Now we accept that Earth is a minor planet in a solar system of billions and that we all came about thanks to a big bang about 13.7 billions years ago. Except even that is probably wrong. It's just that, for once, the experts in cosmology, have not yet reached a consensus about what new theory should replace it.






Crash Course Psychology: Psychological Disorders

Trump Unshackled

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Peanuts


Donald's Blame Game



It has taken its time but it seems that finally the unforgiving light being projected at him by the presidential campaign is causing the Trump campaign real damage. It is retreating into its comfort zone of friendly media organisations and interviewers, of rallies where even then they have to exaggerate the number of participants and of insulting anyone and everyone who criticises him or asks awkward questions.

Trump is a man who could not be easier to parody or to ridicule. The best part is that he becomes so furious when he is parodied and ridiculed making those doing the ridiculing only more keen to do so. His reaction to Alec Baldwin's impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live is a classic of the type. The vanity and narcissism of the man means he still refuses to see himself the way the rest of us see him: as an ignoramus, a bigot, a liar, a preening, bullying, nasty, uber troll. He is the losers loser. That is what makes his campaign so tragic. There is real anger out there, there is real fury at the state of politics. Yet the focus for that fury is this inadequate, feckless imbecile. And he still cannot see it.

The man doesn't know when to quit. The polls are telling the story of an imploding campaign, of a campaign that is now looking increasingly in danger of losing states that ought not to be losable. He is not just losing in the swing states now, he is in danger of losing in states he should not be having to campaign in.

And so what does he do? He does what Donald always does. He blames others. It's not that he has a history of being misogynistic, abusive, bullying and obnoxious and this is coming back to bite him. Oh no. It's the fault of the media and of 'crooked Hillary.' It's the fault of his Republican allies. It's the fault of those women all of whom are telling lies about him even though he was caught on tape boasting about how he assaults women with impunity. It's the fault of the establishment. It's the fault of the entire democratic system that is going to defraud him.

And the best part about all of this? It's that the ultimate example of hubris may have its ultimate hubristic denouement. Many of us have advanced the theory that Trump's venture into the world of politics was in part to do with his love of the sound of his own voice but also of his recognition that no publicity is bad publicity. He may be about to disprove that particular cliche.

It's said that many of Trump's hotels are like ghost towns and staff are having to pose as customers to make them look busier than they really are. I would never have set foot in one of his gaudy palaces of bad taste and bling anyway, but many saw them as being strangely desirable. No more it would seem. Could it be that the bankruptcy king may soon be heading for chapter 11 once again, this time terminally?

The Trump empire, such as it is, is based on borrowing and other peoples' money. A lot of that money is now sourced from abroad so far as we can tell, probably much of it from dodgy investors in Russia, hence Donald's reluctance to criticise anything about Vladimir Putin or his country. But no matter how many investors Trump may ingratiate himself with, no matter how much bluster and bravado he may display, they will be able to see for themselves how ruined the Trump brand will now be.

This is a presidential campaign that is heading for much deserved bankruptcy. Could it be that Trump himself is heading that way too? Will he end up exposed as the sham we always suspected him of being? I'm willing to bet a substantial sum that the whole Trump Ponzi scheme will unravel within months of him not very graciously conceding defeat next month. It's possible that this whole campaign was created as a way of distracting us from the fragility of this house of cards. The House of Trump may be about to totter and fall once and for all in a free for all of bankruptcies and lawsuits. As Trump himself would describe it: it's going to be beautiful.

Crash Course Psychology: Let's Talk About Sex

Trump Groping Allegations

Monday, 17 October 2016

Peanuts


What's Wrong With Politicians Who Weigh Decisions Properly?


Boris Johnson stands accused this week of being.....actually I'm not really sure what he stands accused of. By his own admission he was very conflicted about whether or not Britain should leave the EU or remain in it. Like many of us he gave David Cameron the benefit of the doubt over his renegotiation strategy only to be be profoundly disappointed by the result.

Disappointment is actually a very diplomatic way to describe our reaction to that renegotiation and its resultant deal. It was a sham, a lie, a travesty. David Cameron, instead of butting heads with his fellow heads of government, instead of holding the sword of a referendum above their heads, simply gave up. Remember, there was no need for Cameron to call his referendum last June. The promise he had given was that it would be called by the end of next year. He had plenty of time to keep demanding more from the EU, to refuse to accept the shoddy compromises we were being offered. Britain had managed deals like that on many occasions in the past. It was how we got our various opt outs, it was how Margaret Thatcher got our rebate, it was how we stayed out of the euro.

As he considered what to do earlier this year Boris rehearsed the arguments. We all knew what they were. Even those like me who never wavered in our determination to take Britain out of the unholy mess that is the EU, could see some of the downsides if we got our way. We were often afflicted by doubts. Many of our countrymen would have had the same doubts, the same hand wringing as they decided in which box to place their cross. It was a huge and weighty decision that will change all of our lives.

I for one consider that the revelation that our now Foreign Secretary considered carefully the pros and cons of the case for and against our leaving to be rather reassuring. That surely is the least we can expect from our senior politicians.



There are many similarly difficult decisions approaching this Government in the coming months. Theresa May, though she may not write a newspaper column about them, will presumably be similarly conflicted over issues like a 3rd runway at Heathrow with all of the concomitant political issues that will follow. Broadly there is an economic case for another runway at Heathrow but even that is filled with doubts and caveats. There is certainly a pressing need for more runway capacity in the south east of England. But the case for it to be at Heathrow is actually about as convincing as the SNP's claims about Scottish independence whilst staying in the EU.

Mrs May, it is said, will finally announce her decision this week. It is probably going to be for Heathrow expansion. Just as with her delayed decision on new nuclear capacity at Hinkley Point, that will be a wrong decision, albeit one made for understandable reasons.

Heathrow is a disaster waiting to happen. It will break a manifesto promise made by the Tories. It will anger broad swathes of people right across London and the south east. It will require some spectacularly mendacious science with regard to pollution and emissions. The economic case is nothing like as convincing as is often made out. There will be mass protests and legal challenges. There may well be a Tory backbench rebellion. Britain's chronic inability to build anything expeditiously will once again be exposed for the whole world to see. And this at a time when we are trying to show we are open for business and confident in our future.

Quite why the idea of a new airport rather than a new runway has been dismissed so airily is a mystery. Heathrow is, by common consent, an airport in the wrong place and a hellish experience most of the time. So why make it worse? Why not build a brand new, state of the art airport in the Thames estuary, one that is future proof and connected to the whole country, one that will have space and will not create pollution and congestion?

Heathrow wants a third runway because at the moment it is full. But that makes it extraordinarily lucrative. It means it can charge huge fees to airlines and that is passed on to you and me. There is a lack of competition between our airports and that is creating higher costs. The Government, instead of giving the go ahead to Heathrow expansion, should say that it is at capacity and that its expansion is in nobody's interests. In reality they ought to close the whole thing down, build houses on the land and shift the whole airport east.

We are a small island whose capital city is distorting the rest of the country with its economic mass. If Theresa May genuinely believes in the good that governments can do then here is an opportunity to prove it. We have lots of underused capacity around London and into the midlands. The Government is committed to spending billions on a new railway line to speed people around the country. So why not use that investment to link up our airports?

When the decision is announced on Heathrow it will no doubt be called brave. This is not necessarily a recommendation. One could write articles recommending Heathrow expansion and arguing vehemently against. But deep down we all know that the former is a bad decision and one that is the establishment view, one of groupthink and lack of imagination. Boris probably won't lie down in front of the bulldozers as he once promised to do, but he was and is right about Heathrow. Just as he was, eventually, with Brexit.


Crash Course Psychology: Emotion, Stress and Health

Political Family Feud

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 5 - Reparations and Sin Offerings



We're still doing sins and reparations at the moment. God wants his price paid if people do things of which he disapproves. Interestingly many of the things are described as sins through ignorance. Is this saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse? If you sin without realising that you have sinned is it actually a sin? And how would you know? Does God send a message?

So the latest of the sins dreamt up here - anyone would think that they were trying to dream up sins so that they can keep the Tabernacle in business - is the sin of touching an unclean person or animal carcass. What does this mean? What is unclean? Well we'll get to that later.

If you touch the uncleanness of man then you are guilty. Uncleanness of man? Use your imagination.

If you fail to do what you say you will do, it's yet another sin. Guilt and sin - it's what the Bible thrives on.

And what do you do if you are guilty of these sins? Yep. You have to sacrifice yet another animal. It's a wonder this tribe of herders had anything left to herd.

These animal sacrifices are a little less elaborate than the ones we've had before. Perhaps they were getting bored or the Tabernacle was backed up with dead animals or something.

And then we move on to yet another offering. The reparation offering. This essentially is the law if you do something wrong and it causes damage. Under these circumstances you have to not only give an animal sacrifice to God for what you did but you also have to put right the loss to whoever was your victim. In addition you pay a premium on the top.

The priests were making a very nice living out of all of this of course. It was in their interests to create sins. Some say that much of the book of Leviticus, probably all of this section about sins and reparations, was added on later. It's not hard to see why they might have done that. Religion isn't really about God at all. It is about creating ritual and laws. And sin. For a properly functioning religion you have to have lots of sin and lots of guilt and lots of atonement.

A History of Disbelief

What Are You?

Friday, 14 October 2016

Peanuts


The Case For a General Election


Theresa May has resisted calling a general election. She has done so for entirely understandable reasons. Constitutionally she is well within her rights. The Lib Dems, who are most prominent amongst those who want an election, are one of the chief reasons why having one is more difficult. It used to be at the discretion of the prime minister of the day with the permission of the Monarch to dissolve parliament and call an election. The Lib Dems foisted the Fixed Term Parliament Act upon us, an act of vandalism that was entirely unnecessary and yet had long been a fetish of many on the left. Effectively this parliament and all that follow it will be bound by the coalition that ruled us between 2010 and 2015.

Under the circumstances that prevailed prior to 2010, an election might well now be regarded as necessary and even desirable. We have a new Government following a referendum that is going to change Britain. This is an outcome that people like me regard as wholly desirable and necessary. Yet there is a majority in parliament and in the unelected House of Lords that is intent on stymying this if it possibly can. They will use every tactic at their disposal. Their first in a long list is the claim that simply invoking Article 50, essentially a letter from the Government to the EU to begin the process of negotiation and Britain leaving should only take place with the consent of parliament. This is patent nonsense. Take that to its logical conclusion and parliament would have to have a vote every time the prime minister held a meeting with anyone. That is not the way our system works and never has.

But this is why an election is desirable and is probable. We have had a referendum and yet some do not regard this as binding on them. We need a general election in addition. As things stand this would lead to a much larger and more comfortable Conservative majority and would silence the kind of empty and self serving rhetoric we are hearing from Labour MPs like David Lammy and of course from the SNP who are threatening another referendum that the Scottish people clearly do not want and would likely vote against. Just like the referendum we have just had in the whole of the UK, the SNP do not accept the result of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence because they didn't like that result. They should be punished for their obsession by the Scottish people. Indeed they were this summer when they lost their majority in parliament even if they remained the largest party. The second largest party in Scotland is the Conservative Party - an avowedly and unashamedly unionist party.

The farcical part of all of this is that in reality all of the parties are in broad agreement with the possible exception of the serially opportunist and mendacious SNP. The people have spoken via the referendum and we must leave the EU. We must do so by maintaining the best trading relationship vis a vis the Single Market that we possibly can, but we must also regain control of our borders. But it is impossible to set out at this stage how things will turn out. That is the stated aim of the British Government and we have a good negotiating hand. The EU will try and resist this, largely to deter others from following our example. There will be a long drawn out game of bluff. But Britain will get a deal eventually. And we will prosper. We will do so because, as with Schengen and the euro, we have had the good sense to resist and now reject the worst excesses of the EU.

Ultimately though, given the state of denial of the remainers in our midst, the only way we are going to settle this is by calling an election. Mrs May should consider it anew.

Crash Course of Psychology: Brains vs Bias

What if there Was a Black Hole in Your Pocket?

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Peanuts


Jess Ennis Retires


Congratulations to the lovely Jessica Ennis-Hill who has decided to retire at the top. She came so close to repeating her gold medal performance at London in Rio this summer and has been at the top of her sport for years. Prior to this year's Olympics she defied all expectation by becoming world champion again. Some of her individual events in the Heptathlon would have been good enough for a medal had she competed in those events. She was and is a remarkable athlete and of course the poster girl for British athletics in 2012. She was the face of British athletics. She has fully deserved the success and popularity she has enjoyed since her feats in London.

Goodbye then, Jess. Let's hope we now see you forge a new career, perhaps in the media. But enjoy your retirement and spend time with your husband and son. You deserve it.


Crash Course Psychology: Controversy of Intelligence

How to Date a Planet



This is for all those Creationists who wonder how we know how old the planet is. The answer is we don't know for certain, not to an exact date as some religionists claim to, but we can make a pretty good estimate based on solid science that our planet is roughly 4.5 billion years old.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Peanuts


PMQs Review 12th October 2016: The Coulrophobic Edition


We're back and Brexit still means Brexit. People are now wondering what this means. The Government would love to tell us, it really would, but this would give the game away - it's possible that the game here is that they are not really sure what it means.

Meanwhile Labour have had another reshuffle. It's been called the revenge reshuffle. The revenge seems to be that Diane Abbott has been promoted. This has caused consternation among all those who have ever listened to anything that she has ever said. Perhaps however it is a cunning move on Chauncey's part. She and he will soon be competing for the successor constituency in their part of north London from which most of his shadow government is drawn. He may be softening her up. He could always offer her a peerage like he did Shami and then put her in a position of prominence again. In the meantime we look forward to her questions about issues that are either inaccurate, about the wrong country or otherwise risible. It will certainly add to the gaiety of the nation for which we should be grateful to Chauncey who has been shouldering that burden himself now for a whole year.

There is Boris of course. Boris has this week suggested that Chauncey and his Stop the War pals should probably be protesting outside the Russian embassy about their fondness for waging war on innocents in Syria and in particular Aleppo. They claim to be waging war on terrorists. It would be rather like if we sent the RAF in to bomb certain parts of Alum Rock in Birmingham because of what they have been looking at on the internet.

Fortunately anyone asking questions of their MPs about any of this in an intemperate way will not now be protected from the ire of said MP. They will be free to be as rude as they like to their constituents. That's parliamentary privilege for you.

Apparently there is a worrying outbreak of clowns around the country. Insert your own joke here about Ukip/Labour/ Donald Trump. Coulrophobia is being heartlessly overlooked by those who seem to think that this is amusing. You would think that the recent part conference season would have sated their appetite.


Parliament is back though in the long slog to the next recess in a few weeks time. Parliament is demanding some kind of role in our Brexit process. There is a legal challenge trundling down the track. Today though it was the newly elected leader of the Labour Party trundling down the track like a drain cover.

He sounded confident though to give him his due. He spoke of his latest mandate. We had to hear about that a lot last year. Now we will have to listen to more about his latest, presumably until next year's Labour leadership election.

Fascinatingly, Chauncey chose to talk today about the subject de jour: our leaving the EU and what it will mean. Quite what Labour's position on this is unclear. Chauncey himself was conflicted on the issue to the point of staying silent about it for most of the referendum campaign. That was why he had to fare a leadership election after all.

Mrs May had started with heartfelt congratulations to Chauncey on his leadership victory. In truth though she is yet to really hit her stride in these sessions. She lacks the panache of her predecessor and can stumble when giving her answers. Nevertheless the scripted approach of Chauncey makes life easier for her. He asked awkward questions about the Government's confusion and conflicting statements on Brexit - perhaps it is all a clever ruse to confuse out negotiating partners - but he can never follow up. He is like a barrister who produces a killer document and then moves on to ask the witness what their favourite colour is. Perhaps this is why he has surrounded himself with such brilliant parliamentarians as Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry. He's not exactly a rose among thorns but his thorn looks slightly sharper at least.



Chauncey even objected to the notion that those seeking NHS care should be required to provide documentation to prove their eligibility for the same. The PM gently pointed out that this really ought not to be contentious. Or are Labour saying that we should have an open door policy for all immigrants - Chauncey's favoured position - and treat the world's sick and deliver their babies too?



There was a final flourish from Mrs May. Chauncey had tried to invoke the words of Ken Clarke from his excellent memoirs given to me as a birthday present this week. In return the PM alleged that Emily Thornberry, shadow Foreign Secretary (no, really) wants the country to have to vote again on our leaving the EU. An odd position this because Labour are demanding that parliament has more say. Which is it? But anyway, as the PM pointed out, Labour have recently discovered that having a second vote is not necessarily a wise move.

The EU and Brexit is of course the big subject and the Government is insistent that parliament will have its say and that we will try and get the best access to the single market that we possibly can whilst respecting the wishes of the British people. It's hardly an unreasonable policy position. Some seem to be claiming that this is all being pushed through without any kind of democratic consent (what was it happened on June 23rd?) At the end, in response to a question from Angela Eagle, one time contender for the Labour leadership, the PM listed the various ways that parliament will indeed have its say. Article 50 will be invoked next year by the Government. But we will only leave the EU formally by repealing the legislation that took us in. It's really quite simple.

On a larger and possibly even more important matter Mrs May said that there is unlikely to be a no fly zone over Syria, however much we may wish there could be. So we have at least averted World War 3. Best just go and protest outside the Russia embassy. Chances are you won't see Chauncey and his pals from the Stop the War movement there though.



Royal Yacht? Here Are Some Better Ideas


There are a number of halfwits, more or less all of them Tories I'm ashamed to admit, who are advocating that we bring back the Royal Yacht Britannia. Quite why is a mystery. The excuse is that this will somehow help with our winning trade and doing deals once we are out of the EU. You have to wonder that these people are allowed anywhere near government.

There are some also arguing that we should use part of the Overseas Development budget for this. Now here they are on stronger ground.

But why spend the money on a floating gin palace? Why not spend it on the Royal Navy for instance? Or the Air Force? Or the Army? These are real examples of British power that can be seen around the world and that spread our influence. The British Army rode to the rescue when the Ebola crisis was at its worst. The Navy is still to this day helping out in the Mediterranean as people nearly drown trying to reach Europe. The Air Force is in the Baltic states helping to deter Vlad the Botoxed from invading.

Overseas Development is the greatest example of Cameroonian idiocy we have seen and should be abandoned immediately. It is absurd to set arbitrary limits on how much we should spend year on year on aid. How can we know what will be needed before it is needed? Let the department make proposals and then let parliament decide if it is appropriate.

Defence on the other hand is something that needs long term planning. The money being frittered away on aid and often wasted would be much better spend on our pared down forces.

And even if there were a case for some large vessel to project British power around the world, isn't a large floating palace a bit 19th century? Why not a British Air Force One? It could be used by royalty and ministers alike. It could be bedecked in union flags. It would be a source of pride. Why not bring Concorde out of retirement?