Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Deuteronomy: Chapter 1: God's Greatest Hits

So, at the end of the last book of the Bible, Numbers, the children of Israel finally reached the Promised Land and God had even got around to telling them how to divide up the land that he was giving them - that's after they had slaughtered all of the people living there of course. So now, in Deuteronomy, they finally get there and start living there right? Nope. First God wanted a kind of retrospective - his greatest hits to date.

Now Moses gathered his people and told them a story. This wasn't really necessary because it was their story and presumably they already knew it. And presumably Moses had a really big and impressive PA system because there were supposed to be hundreds of thousands of Israelites camped out. But we'll ignore that.

Anyway, Moses began his retrospective. He gathered them near a mountain - he likes to do this kind of thing near mountains for some reason - to give them a long lecture. There is some dispute about which mountain this was supposed to be taking place at. It's called Mount Horeb. But that might be Mount Sinai. Anyway, it was a mountain and the people must have sighed and gathered for yet another lecture, like a really boring Sunday morning sermon in a cold church.

Moses told them that it was time for them to go and take the Promised Land he had given them. It's an odd way of describing it really because he was not giving them anything at all. The land was occupied and they had to go and take it for themselves by slaughtering and enslaving the current occupants. But Moses told them it was now time to stop wandering in the desert - something that God again had made them do - and to start their new lives.

Before this though Moses told them of all of the events of the last few years, several decades actually, on their long and perilous journey. He told of how the Lord God had multiplied them in number, of course he had also slaughtered quite a lot of them and so multiplication had been necessary. Moses mentioned that he had implemented a system of justice administered by wise men from the tribes because he couldn't do it all himself. Spot the agenda there? The authors of this were telling people that they had to accept the law as they told them it was because they were doing it with the authority of Moses, a fictional prophet of a fictional God.

Moses then told of how the people had sometimes pleased God and sometimes displeased him and that he had been forced to punish them accordingly by preventing that generation from entering the Promised Land. He had also said that Moses would not get there either, which seemed terribly unfair. But of course this is why we get all of this before they get to the Promised Land. Moses cannot enter there. So he had to give them this long lecture before they arrived. The authors wanted to use the fictitious prophet one last time.

Moses reminded them of the consequences of their being ungrateful or of them disobeying God. They had tried to fight other peoples without the support of God and had been defeated. But when they fought with the blessing of God they prevailed and without a single man being killed. So that's the message. Do as you're told.

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Friday, 15 December 2017

The Crown Proves That TV's Future is Online

Like many people I've been binge watching the new series of The Crown on Netflix this week. It is every bit as good as the first, which is quite an achievement given the heights that it soared to and the dramatic storylines it told. Not that this second series lacks dramatic storylines, it was just that the first series was new and thrilling. This second settled into the same groove, but it was a groove we had been in before. Here however familiarity has bred only fondness and admiration.

The world of television and film is changing and changing rapidly. That probably explains why Rupert Murdoch has decided to go back to what he knows best and sell large parts of his empire in a mega deal with Disney. The future is going to be dominated by digital colossi like Netflix and the upcoming Amazon, along with new entrants like Apple and Google. These services have deep pockets, endless ambition and shareholders seemingly entirely content to receive no dividends for the foreseeable future as empires are created and extended. Mature companies like News Corp must see the writing on the wall. Only an empire as huge and well regarded as Disney can possibly hope to compete. Even Sky, which has been such a hugely successful new entrant in the world of television must now fear that its glory days are over. If one of the aforementioned IT giants chooses to compete for sports rights, in particular Premier League football then all bets are off.

The Crown is a case in point. No conventional broadcaster can possibly hope to compete with Netflix's spending power. This is not a drama that can be funded by advertising alone. It needs subscriptions and lots of them. But this has proven that people are prepared to pay for quality content. And it's not just the quality but the depth and breadth of them too. Netflix gave us The Crown but has also given us Stranger Things, a new Star Trek series on which I have become hooked, not to mention House of Cards, now sadly killed off in the wake of allegations against its star, a decision that is regrettable if understandable from a purely PR standpoint.

As one of the most renowned centres of excellence in the world for acting, writing and technical talent, Britain can do nothing but benefit from this new model for television production. It does however give the lie to the propaganda that the BBC routinely trots out about public service broadcasting. People are prepared to pay for quality and so there is simply no excuse for the Beeb not to move to a subscription model. Indeed given its huge archive this is something it should be doing with urgency. It has been genuinely innovative and at the cutting edge with its iPlayer service. Yet it now risks being left behind. The days of old fashioned schedules and event television are dying. The future is online. Indeed the only events likely to get us to watch together in the future are likely to be sports and very occasional national events. The Queen's coronation was famously televised in a revolution that began the television age. Maybe, in an ironic twist, her funeral will be screened by Netflix. They could include it in the last series of The Crown.

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Rebel Alliance

Many of us have criticised the negotiating efforts of the Government and Theresa May, notwithstanding the deal done last week. But let's face it, it is hard enough negotiating with the intractable arrogance of the EU and their fanatical zealots who leak and criticise, berate and impugn and then complain piteously when Britain indulges in some politics of its own for the domestic consumption.

But the efforts of Theresa May have not been helped by those on her own benches on both sides of the Brexit divide. Last night's vote on the endlessly supercilious Dominic Grieve's amendment giving the Commons a 'meaningful vote' on the deal was the first defeat, but there have been many moments that have undermined her.

We get it. Many on the Tory benches are very angry about Brexit. They are apparently angry with the British people and consider that we have made a terrible mistake. But it is a decision that has been reached and they claim to accept this. All of which makes their efforts to constantly frustrate and undermine Theresa May so baffling. What are they trying to achieve? Why are they behaving like fifth columnists?

Please don't mistake me. I am not like the Twitter trolls who call Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry names anonymously and threaten and berate them. They are perfectly entitled to vote any way they choose. But what is their gameplan? What are they trying to achieve? Because from here it looks an awful lot like they are trying to stop Brexit altogether or land us with a deal that means we will barely be leaving at all. These are Tory MPs who are undermining their own Government and making its already difficult task worse. What effect does that have on the Tory brand? How will it affect their own chances of re-election? And what effect does it have on the Government's ability to get a deal with the EU and take us out? What effect does it have on our ability to leave at all?

That remains what the EU want. They have extracted some money from us and are pretending to care about Northern Ireland. But their ultimate aim is to either ensure we stay umbilically linked to them or don't leave at all. If we do leave as planned on whatever terms they would then hope that we rejoin at some point in the future and be treated as returning prodigals, proof that you can check out but never leave. Is that what the Tory rebels want? It certainly appears that way.

As the Government argued, all that a meaningful vote means now is that the EU are empowered to play their usual games of timing and pressure and watch as the Government squirms under the unrelenting pressure from both sides. It means we will end up with the worst deal imaginable so that the country will likely wonder why we are bothering to leave at all. That is the EU gameplan and this vote facilitates it.

This has nothing to do with Parliament asserting control over Brexit. It has already done so by voting for the Article 50 process and of course authorising the referendum in the first place. Now they are claiming the right to insert themselves into the negotiation process. Yet how does that work? What happens if the deal the EU condescends to give us is unacceptable to a majority in Parliament? Do they then demand that we start a new negotiation? Do they demand that we stay in until satisfied? This looks more and more like an attempt to stop Brexit happening at all.

The likes of Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve et al are the sort of MPs who tell us that they are passionate Europeans. This is a perfectly respectable position to take, except that they are rarely honest about what it means. Because what does it mean? Are they passionate about ever closer union? Or just about the Single Market? The customs union? Free movement? Because by forcing this vote they make it all the more likely that we will end up with one or all of them permanently, something that the British people definitively voted against.

Remainers are fond of telling us that the leave side told lies during the referendum campaign, something of course that they were in no way guilty of with their project fear tactics. Yet their lies were also lies of omission. Because they never told us what they are for. They never argued for their vision of our staying in a club that is trying to forge a path towards a country that is Europe. They hide behind our need to be close to the market and forget what that means. But by forcing this vote they make the chances for our negotiating a decent trade deal all the more unlikely. This was not a vote for our democracy, it will undermine it.

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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Trump Watches 4 - 8 Hours of TV A Day

Revelations in the New York Times over the weekend show what a fruit loop Donald Trump truly is and how he is practically begging to have the 25th amendment invoked for his own as well as the world's protection.

It's not just that he is a narcissist. We know that, although in my own defence I would never have voted for him even if I was entitled to do so.

It's not just that he is an ignoramus. We knew that too.

It's not just that he is so stupid that he keeps getting himself into legal jeopardy thanks to his stream of consciousness angry tweeting.

It's not just that he is a bully and a sexual deviant. We knew that too.

It's not just that he is a serial bankrupt, a sociopathic liar, a corrupt, crooked, treacherous half wit. We knew all of that, although I refer you once again to the first answer above.

Now it seems that not only is the most powerful man in the world obsessed with watching cable news channels endlessly. We knew that. But it seems that he is living in a fantasy world in which he is starring in a TV show. Seriously.

Now I am no psychiatrist, but that sounds, to me, like the man is in the grip of an out of control psychosis that would make him dangerous in many jobs, but particularly in his. What happens if he regards, as well he might, his approval rating as being like the TV ratings? What happens if he decides he needs a big end of series moment to create a cliffhanger to boost those ratings? There is a pattern to his big moments since he became President and they all fit the pattern of him playing a role rather than governing. That is the only way to explain his decision last week to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there. Nobody was pressurising him for it and nobody supports it. The State Department has said it has no immediate plans to actually implement the decision. Trump is playing a role. God help us if he decides he wants his own Vietnam.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Irish Wedge

It was understandable of course after a fraught week, but perhaps our relief that a deal had been done may have blinded us to just how desperate the PM was to do a deal, any deal. It was the best deal available to us under the circumstances, but has almost certainly kicked the can a bit further down the road. Ultimately they will either have to build more road or plunge us all headlong over the cliff.

It becomes obvious now why the EU was so insistent, at variance with logic, that a deal had to be done on Northern Ireland. That was the fatal weakness. They claimed to be concerned about peace. In  reality it was a wedge issue and they deployed it with great skill to the extreme discomfort of the PM. This was fudged last week with language over full alignment. This means that either Britain has the softest of soft Brexits or something else has to give.

People like me are going to argue in increasingly vitriolic terms that there really is no point in our leaving if we effectively agree to align with the EU's regulations and standards. If that is what is being proposed then better that we had walked away. It's understandable that the Irish held out for  this because it is in their interests to do so. But they should never have been allowed to be used as a wedge.

What is required now is for us to create some wedge issues of our own. The Irish are prime candidates. Perhaps that is why the briefing is now emerging that the British interpretation of what is agreed is that full alignment is legally unenforceable and that the only way to get what the Irish want is for them to ensure we get the trade deal we want. Otherwise we walk. That will have an effect of course in the Province, but that too is a wedge issue. There is no need for a hard border in Northern Ireland. Unless you want a border that you want to use to extract concessions.

If Britain really did make a deal last week that is not really worth the paper it is printed on then I applaud the Government for their impressive sleight of hand. The suspicion remains however that they would rather play fast and loose with the truth as told to we the British people and to Parliament than to our 'partners' in the EU. That is certainly what David Cameron did and he paid for this duplicity with his job. The same will be true of Theresa May if she is trying the same game and is intent upon offering us a deal that amounts to the Norway option rather than the Canada +++ option we all want and expect.

The PM made all the right noises in Parliament yesterday vis a vis the so called Brexit bill and our deal with Ireland that is not actually a deal. Not yet anyway. That is a reasonable way to proceed. It was a statement of intent rather than a binding commitment.

For now I hope that Mrs May did her deal last week just because she needed to get past the EU's asinine compartmentalisation of these negotiations. Now the hard part starts. They have the promise of money, but that is contingent upon a trade deal. Otherwise we walk out. If need be we will do so with a new PM leading us out.

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Monday, 11 December 2017

The Grand Tour Goes Back to Basics

The biggest televisual events of the weekend weren't actually on the TV, indeed for those of us who loathe Strictly with every ounce of our being, this was a welcome distraction. No heterosexual male with any self respect should be found watching Strictly anyway and so the alternative of the new series of The Grand Tour came as manna from heaven. Also this weekend the new series of The Crown was released on Netflix. I'll review that separately.

I was a big fan of The Crown. To my mind it was the best TV series of last year in a year in which normal television discovered it had much to fear.

The Grand Tour was a different proposition. It was a reboot of something that had decamped from TV to a computer or similar device near you. It also had a budget that TV can only dream of. As a consequence it often tried a bit too hard, forgetting that what made Top Gear under Clarkson, Hammond and May so entertaining was good old fashioned and cheap wit, badinage and iconoclasm.

On first impressions this new series looks like it has settled down from that first bombastic attempt and has remembered what made them so popular in the first place. Gone is Celebrity Brain Crash, which was funny the first couple of times but then became tedious. This was Clarkson making fun of the fact that the BBC now owns many of the items and features that he and Andy Wilman came up with for Top Gear. The lawyers told him he couldn't have celebrities driving an ordinary car around a race track for fear of being sued. And so he had them turn up and then suffer a terrible accident. It was a little amusing. But that is all.

Now they have relaxed and decided to let rip. Gone is reasonably priced car to be replaced with a rather gorgeous looking Jag. And it will be 2 celebrities instead of one (although TG tried this for a while too). This part, along with when the 3 boys just chatted in the studio was by far the funniest part of this first show thus proving that high production values are not necessarily the be all and end all.

The film that took up the bulk of the show was the same film we have seen done umpteen times before, but with different cars. This was, we were told, the past, present and future vying with one another in the form of a Lamborghini hypercar with a good old fashioned petrol engine, the Honda NSX hybrid car and an electronic car from Croatia of all places by the name of a Rimac. The boys bickered, raced, drove their hyper cars on motorways and tracks and through the narrow streets of a beautiful Swiss town, often struggling to fit them through the narrow streets. This had been done before on more than one occasion.

The point of this contrivance was actually just a gag about the fact that Hammond was driving an electric car and needed to keep plugging it in. In the end they solved this problem by driving it to its destination, a hill climb event, on the back of a lorry. It was safer that way though because, once there, Hammond infamously crashed it. Not that we saw this because the cameras missed it.

As ever the production values were first rate, the scenery stunning, the jokes often very funny and sometimes risqué. It was not vintage stuff, but it was certainly better than much of the first series and all of the new Top Gear under Matt Le Blanc and co and their continued attempts to create chemistry between him and Chris Harris and Rory Reid. Clarkson, May and Hammond have it in spades. It is frequently what saves the show.

We're told that The American has been despatched for this series and that is a relief. We have yet to see what will be done if they want to put a car through its paces on the test track. Will the test track even be used again since the new track the celebs will be driving around is now in rural Oxfordshire and is part gravel?

This is still not the very best of what the boys are capable of. It could be that they are simply not capable of reaching their former heights. There is a definite suspicion that they are repeating themselves and are struggling to come up with new ideas. Of course there are always new cars to test, new items of news to riff around. But the old show became so popular because it invented the idea of the races and the challenges in which the cars themselves became mere props. This show was a conscious attempt to recapture past glories, it didn't quite take the chequered flag but it certainly, unlike one of its expensive props, didn't crash and burn either.

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 36 - God's Rules About Marrying Outside Your Tribe

And so we reach the last chapter of Numbers and you might imagine that it would see the chosen people reaching the promised land with lots of happy cheering going on, fanfares, rainbows, God being a little less grouchy and a feast or two. Nope. He's still got a few more administrative measures to talk about. The promised land? Are we there yet? No, we're not.

Now back in Chapter 27 God briefly became a feminist when he accepted that it would be unfair on women whose father died without a son to not be able to inherit land. So God duly gave them that right. The daughters of Zelophehad were duly given property rights.

But now some members of the tribe objected. What if, they said, those daughters then married outside the tribe? That meant the tribe lost some of its land because the land would belong to their husband once they married.

Well Moses pondered this and had a conference with God about it and God agreed. Losing land through marriage would be against the law of God who had gone to great trouble to ensure that the land was divided equally. So it was agreed that the daughters of Zelophehad could marry anyone they wanted, but only in the same tribe.

The daughters in question were fine with this because they all wanted to marry their cousins, as you do. But it was a bit of a retrograde step for feminist God wasn't it.

And that's it. The end of Numbers. No promised land. We're just told that God had told all of this to Moses on the plains of Moab. So they must be saving the promised land for the next book of the Bible right? Well, I wouldn't get your hopes up.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

Mrs May Gets Her Deal

To be fair the deal that Theresa May seems to have done with the EU - remember nothing is finalised yet, this is a deal to continue on to the next phase - is a good one. £39 billion is acceptable, albeit at the top end of what is acceptable. There has been a fudge on Northern Ireland. This may all have worked to our advantage. The EU cannot afford for these talks to fail either. They need our money.

But it is crucial that they have only agreed that the money is contingent on the EU agreeing a free trade deal. If they try to keep this to a minimum then we simply take the money off the table. And it is spread over ten years too. This will help plug the gap in their finances going forward but it also means we have a sanction available to us if they do not honour agreements or come to a decent one in the first place.

There are problems with this though. We have not played the negotiations well and should have been a lot tougher, although to be fair Mrs May isn't in a strong position to force her will through Parliament and so we should cut her some slack. There is a the distinct feeling that we are heading towards something that looks an awful lot like a very soft Brexit, or possibly something that won't look much like Brexit at all, but at a very heavy price. If Mrs May tries that then she can expect to be not long in her job. For now though she has done enough to continue and try to get a deal and make us all consider that heavy price worth paying.

And so, though I have been a critic of Mrs May, I have to acknowledge that she has done a good deal, or at least one that is good enough for now and this will have done her no harm. She cannot remain PM for long because she is a hopeless campaigner and all round politician. But she has accomplished what few of us thought possible only a few days ago and that is to her credit.

Despatch May and Hammond and Save Britain £50 Billion

Philip Hammond let it be known the other day that we are on the hook to the EU for £50 billion whatever the result of the trade talks, despite the fact that these may not even get started at all. Do these numpties have no idea whatever of how to negotiate?

It's been bad enough that, from the start, we have allowed the EU to dictate the way these negotiations have been handled and navigated. Indeed they have even sought to dictate what we are negotiating about and imposed an artificial and illogical compartmentalisation of the talks. Why did they do this? Because they were desperate for our money and knew we wanted a trade deal. But that didn't mean we had to let them.

On the money issue they initially talked about £50 or £60 billion and then upped this to the ludicrous figure of £100 billion. This was a signal that £50 billion was what they really wanted. But that meant of course that we could easily have forced them to settle for less. Instead we have given them exactly what they were demanding. We have done this despite there being no legal basis for the money as has been demonstrated repeatedly and to the intense displeasure of the EU negotiators. But once again we blinked and handed them the cash. We did this, not because the EU had a strong hand but because we have a weak PM who is seeking to buy her continued residence of Downing Street with taxpayers money, money that was promised to the British people as the reward for our leaving the EU.

Now just this week, faced with another wholly artificial EU deadline and that outrageously offensive phrase 'insufficient progress' Theresa May surrendered and offered to sell out part of the UK to appease the Irish who are terrified that Britain might leave on terms that are disadvantageous to them on the geographical periphery of the EU and hugely reliant on trade with the UK. If the deal that Theresa May agreed to on Monday had gone through then we would have effectively remained EU members and paid £50 billion for the privilege. Brilliant strategy!

And we also know that Philip Hammond thinks we should pay up regardless of what happens anyway. We should do this because that is what Britain does. It is what we stand for. And it is this tradition of playing with a straight bat that means they are running rings around us.

This has to end. Theresa May has to go and she can take her Chancellor with her. Install a new leader in Number 10 and tell the EU that the deal is off. They can go whistle for that money and we are going to start preparing for a no deal Brexit. We will pay for it with the £50 billion we are saving by not giving it to them. This may not be the British way of doing things, but then we have learnt the hard way that the British way of doing things does us no favours. We have been trying it for the past 40 years and not just the last few months. It is why we are leaving.

Leavers have been arguing for weeks or even months that Britain has to be prepared to walk out of these talks and to embrace the no deal scenario and that we should have been saying this all along. We should have brooked no talk whatsoever over ECJ jurisdiction for EU citizens living here any more than Brits living in Europe could appeal to the Supreme Court in London. We should have told them that the money would only be discussed once they say what kind of trade deal they were offering. The Irish should be told that their objections to the hard border are a nonsense and that many solutions can be deployed without any of the issues that are being complained of, but that there is no way of figuring any of this out until we see what kind of trade deal is being agreed. And we should have told the EU to stop using the objectionable and plain offensive term 'sufficient progress.' Thanks to the DUP this week the PM has effectively been forced to walk out. But if left to her we would now be signed up to the softest of soft Brexits. Indeed if reports are to be believed then a deal may well have been agreed ready to be signed today. If this has involved another word fudge leading to that soft Brexit then it will be time to call time on Theresa May's tenure.

The EU thinks they have us over a barrel. We should disabuse them. Parliamentary democracy is a wonderful thing. It should rid us of this useless Prime Minister this weekend or early next week. She is by far the worst PM this country has seen in a couple of generations. She is a national embarrassment and should resign in disgrace before she is forced out.  Otherwise the 1922 Committee should be sent the names of enough MPs. This has been humiliating. Jean-Claude Juncker is said to be worried that Theresa May could fall next week. He is right to be worried since it would mean they overplayed their hand and forced the Conservative Party to act. These negotiations are not over yet. Indeed if we play our cards right they should start again from scratch under a new PM. Our opening bid on money is zero. Now show us some sufficient progress to persuade us that we should pay you more.


Since writing the above the PM has got her deal that we have made 'sufficient progress' and it is a deal that most Brexiteers can probably live with. £39 billion is acceptable, but only if we get the trade deal. Otherwise they get nothing. That is the bottom line.

I remain of the opinion that Theresa May has to go sooner rather than later. But after a torrid week she has emerged with the deal she needed to buy her time and to progress the talks. The country will heave a sigh of relief. But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

President Stupid Makes His Stupidest Move To Date

Supporters of Donald Trump will no doubt claim, even if they do not necessarily believe, that the great dealmaker's gambit on Israel yesterday is a genius move that once again trashes the established order of doing things. The argument that can be advanced to support this, and indeed was advanced, after a fashion, by Trump, was that the established way of doing things has failed for decades. Perhaps Trump genuinely believes that it is time to shake things up and try something new.

No. That is not why Trump did this. He has the naive belief that he needs to make good on the promises made on the campaign trail and shore up his base, as if the kind of hicks who voted for him care much what happens 6000 miles away or could even point to Israel on a map. Does he care about Middle East peace even? Only insofar as it would burnish his own image and enable him to claim that the dealmaker has done the ultimate deal. In his head he is the man shaking up Washington and showing them how it should be done. The man with the epic inferiority complex born of the fact that he really is as dumb and ignorant as he appears has wondered out loud how difficult peace in this most intractable of disputes can be. Until January he didn't even know what the two state solution is. Judging by this move he still doesn't.

You can tell that the President had no real clue what he was talking about because he stuck so rigidly to the script that had been written for him. This was just an opportunity to play once again to his base, to big himself up and of course to distract from all of his other travails as Mueller gets ever closer. But the only voters who care about this are the kind of evangelicals who were somehow persuaded that a vote for this man was the Christian thing to do. They are the kind of people who believe that the Bible is an accurate historical account and that Israel is a consequence entitled not only to exist but to occupy all of Jerusalem.

Unfortunately for Trump this is not a deal in which one side can win and the other lose, although of course that is true of international diplomacy in general (although tell that to the EU). This is not a zero sum game. But with this move Trump has simply handed even further advantages to the side with all of the best cards. He has now handed them the Trump card, presumably because he considers that possession really is nine tenths of the law.

It is of course the case that president after president for decades has been promising to do what Trump did yesterday. That is a principal reason why he did it. The dummy just saw that and will now boast of it. It will not occur to him that his more intelligent predecessors hesitated because by doing this peace will become much less likely. Indeed it might well make violence more likely. There will not be war. Israel's neighbours are focused on other things. But it makes the two state solution more or less impossible. That is why the issue of Jerusalem was always put off. It is the most intractable issue of them all. Trump has just succeeded in making it more so.

This was not a deal that needed to be done. But that is because Trump no longer thinks in terms of deals. He thinks in terms of politics. He thinks like a politician. It's just that he is not a very good one. Of all of the many boneheaded moves that he has made, this is by far the worst because it is potentially the most dangerous. And it has been done for no good reason. Nobody was calling for it. Nobody was complaining about it. But Trump did it anyway. He has been saddled with a number of difficult issues to contend with as President, most notably North Korea. On that it might well be that he has to take the choice we all hope he doesn't and it would be difficult to condemn him for it. But this was done just because he wanted to. It is by far the stupidest move of a very stupid man.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Step Up Conservatives

I make no apologies to coming back to the inadequacies of Theresa May and the urgent need now for the Conservative Party to get its act together and despatch her before it is too late. There is too much at stake now for us to continue listing as we are now. This is not just about Brexit, vital though that is. This is about the very real possibility of a Marxist Labour government if the Tories do not sort themselves out.

It isn't as if Marxist Labour is presenting a coherent case for being an alternative government. When the talks broke down between Britain and the EU on Monday, on Tuesday Marxist Labour did not put up a spokesman on any of the main broadcast channels. Why? Because Labour is clueless, divided and incoherent on Brexit.  Theresa May's government has no clear sense of direction on the issue thanks to it being led by a woman catastrophically out of her depth. Chauncey however drowned some time ago. It's not at all clear that he has yet got his head around what the Single Market and customs union are. When he went for an interview with GQ magazine recently he didn't even know to wear a suit. The young hipsters who went to interview him were ready to be impressed. They left underwhelmed.

Marxist Labour has no answers on so many of the pressing issues of the day, but is getting away with sloganizing posturing instead. John McDonnell has still not come up with answers to the questions he was being asked a fortnight ago after the Budget on borrowing. Why? Because he cannot get his head around the detail but wouldn't want to tell us even if he could. He prefers to offer economically illiterate fatuous answers that he has probably been reciting by rote since he was a teenage socialist. Nationalising businesses for reasons of dogma and burdening the country with excessive debt because of it is not a coherent economic plan. And no, it would not pay for itself. Quite apart from anything else, this pat answer makes no sense on its own terms. Marxist Labour claim they want to nationalise the utilities and railways for instance so that the profits being paid to shareholders are instead reinvested. Yet at the same time they tell us that nationalisations would pay for themselves by using profits to pay for the debt. So which is it? It can't be both. And if profits are going to be used to pay the debt interest then why not just keep the businesses in the private sector and leave well alone?

And Marxist Labour and the left in general keep repeating their egregious lies about worrying levels of income inequality. From this bogus statistic they go to claim that there is widespread poverty. Yet the way that poverty is measured is a statistical nightmare that no government can ever hope to cope with. The more prosperous the country becomes the more the 'gap' grows and so the more difficult it is to lift those on the lower incomes. They are not poor, except as measured by this bogus statistical anomaly. It is the governmental equivalent of a dog chasing its own tail. Yet still the tendentious, virtue signalling report of the Joseph Rowntree Trust was reported uncritically this week and was illustrated by the likes of the BBC with piteous tales that are entirely unrepresentative. Nobody is arguing that there isn't poverty in Britain and some of them were of course included in the reporting. But we do the poor no favours by lumping them all in together and assuming equivalence between all of them. The real poor are being neglected as a consequence of this tail chasing.

Yet this Conservative government is not making these basic Conservative arguments and about an Opposition so incompetent and deranged they are still using the same policy pronouncements that teenagers make when they discover they know everything about the world. It's like being found jokeless at a roast for the England football manager or being the only prize recipient at the MOBO awards who can't dance.

There is a chance that Mrs May was trying to bounce not only the DUP but her entire party into a soft Brexit that would amount to barely any Brexit at all. If so we all owe the DUP a profound vote of thanks. And we should be demanding the PM's head on a platter. It's bad enough that she has been offering no resistance at all to the unreasonable and intransigent demands of the EU. She has more than doubled the cash offer to them when we need make no offer at all. The spin has emerged that she  'put her foot down' over the ECJ. Yet what then emerges is that the ECJ will 'only' have jurisdiction over EU citizens living and working here for 5 years. Again there is no need to offer them any jurisdiction at all. That is one demand that should have been summarily dismissed from the start. There is compromise to be done on cash provided they talk about trade. We should simply refuse to talk about the ECJ at all.

And it is Theresa May who is the problem. She was supposed to be on borrowed time, only one more mistake away from doom. Well she has made that mistake and, after an all too brief period in which she looked half competent, she is now looking hapless again. The problems over Brexit are really not so difficult to solve, but they will require talents that she simply does not possess. She needs charm, panache, imagination, charisma. But she also needs ruthlessness, guile and cunning allied to the guts to call the bluff of her rivals. Her school swot reputation is not enough. The kind thing to do now would be for the men in grey suits to pay her a visit before she does any more damage. She should be removed before the year is out.

White House Christmas

Crash Course Biology: The Endocrine System

Trump Tweet-Confesses Obstruction of Justice

Robert Mueller's 12 Days of Christmas

The Invisible Box Challenge

This is the modern equivalent of moon walking that was all the rage when I didn't have a bad back.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Brexit and Northern Ireland - If Only We Had a Time Traveller To Help

The 'magical thinking' of the EU and of all who support this 'progressive' conglomeration of countries that aren't at all in it for what they can get, is a wonder to behold. It's almost worthy of an episode of Doctor Who.

In case you missed it, Steven Moffat, the outgoing chief writer of everyone's favourite time travelling police impersonator, has let it be known that he, of course, would have liked to have introduced the first ever female doctor. What stopped him? Brexit. Or actually Brexiteers. Doctor Who is not exclusively watched by remainers apparently and we who voted for Brexit would not have been open to the idea of a female doctor. 

There are a number of problems with this facile revisionary theory with a sideline in bigotry. Firstly Moffat has been writing Doctor Who for the last 10 years and oversaw two regenerations. Both took place long before Brexit was even a remote possibility, before the referendum had even been called and so the term Brexiteer was at that time unknown. So where was the female Doctor? During his tenure and indeed before, when the audiences were much larger, there were endless gay story lines, especially under his predecessor, Russell T Davies. The audience, when we watched blissfully ignorant of the fact that we were separated by our allegiance to Brexit or otherwise, somehow managed to cope with these storylines without demur. Also of course The Master became a woman and even changed his name too. Yet the portrayal of Missy by Michelle Gomez was generally regarded as a high point, even amongst we knuckle dragging lovers of national autonomy and democracy. Further, Moffat has been dropping hints as subtle as a brick shaped Tardis of a future female Doctor and so it hardly came as a surprise. There was little dissent.

Finally and most obviously, Doctor Who is a bloody fictional character who travels around in a blue box time machine that is bigger on the inside than the outside, manages to keep regenerating into people who are bigger and smaller, older and younger and whose storylines frequently contradict themselves. Its science fiction. Brexit is real life. Most of us can see the difference.

Remainers do love to kid themselves that they are the enlightened, 'progressive' ones. Yet only last week Michel Barnier made what sounded like a suspiciously nationalistic, historically tone deaf speech in which he said Britain was abandoning Europe at a time when it was under attack. Yet you only have to look at the debate surrounding the Northern Ireland issue to see who is pulling up the drawbridge and who is trying to be adult and to come up with reasonable compromises. The Northern Ireland issue isn't an issue at all, unless of course you want to make it into one. Europe is trying to create a border whilst complaining that this is what we are trying to do. Why? Because it is worried that Britain will import chlorinated chicken? What exactly is the problem? Nobody wants a hard Irish border and so the solution is obvious isn't it? Just don't have one. Indeed give us the free trade deal we have said repeatedly that we want and there won't be a need for a border any more than there the need for one now. There are already differences between north and south with different money, different regimes for duty on fuel and alcohol. Yet these don't seem to present any problem. The technological solutions put forward by Britain may not be perfect but that is because they are a compromise. Once again the ideological puritans of the EU show their true colours. 

The EU always has been and continues to try to be a protectionist union rather than the peace creating oasis of progressive hope its admirers claim it to be. Once again it is willing to sell down the river its own people to defend its inviolable principles. Tet what are those principles? Its not clear at moments such as these. This is especially the case when they are prepared to play political games with Northern Ireland, a country of savage anger and violence within very recent memory.  

Of course we in the rest of the country should be extremely unhappy with the DUP for holding up a deal as they seek to cleave to us when we are at best ambivalent about their continued membership of our own union. Theresa May however, the great negotiator, came unstuck on the very first foray to do any serious negotiating. Ireland is being used as a kind of Trojan Horse to try and get us to agree to convergence on regulations that would once again mean this would not be Brexit at all. Having agreed to pay up to get the illusion of progress, the EU progressives are once again refusing to negotiate at all. They are holding to a line. Finally, if only because of the DUP, Mrs May had to say no to the EU. Unless of course this is all very convenient for Mrs May and she means to use this as a stick to beat her recalcitrant Brexiteer Cabinet colleagues.

You have to wonder don't you, if Theresa May knew all of this was going to happen. It all seems distinctly odd. Distinctly convenient. Are we really supposed to believe that she went to Brussels expecting a deal to be done having not run it past the DUP? Or was this all a bit of theatre? Is she trying to bounce the country into a soft Brexit for fear of the DUP calling time on her government and ushering in Chauncey? In retrospect it seems timely that Jeremy Hunt went on TV over the weekend and warned us that there might be no Brexit at all if Mrs May is forced out of Downing Street. Either this was a not very convincing ruse or an almighty cock-up. Knowing this PM as we do it was probably a cock-up. I'll repeat it for the umpteenth time since the election, she has to go. 

Has there been sufficient progress? There has not. Now we should tell the EU and Ireland, in the inimitable style of Priti Patel, to sod off. Oh and we'll be keeping our money too. If they don't make sufficient progress this week in being reasonable about a notional border, then there will be no deal and we will begin preparations for the no deal Brexit. Oh and it might be as well if we find ourselves a new Prime Minister, one who believes in Brexit and who has some ideas for how to govern as a Tory. Perhaps the new Doctor, male or female, could go back a few years and find us another female Prime Minister and bring her back. We need to use her handbag. 

Stephen's Greetings: 2017 Late Show Year in Review

Crash Course Biology: Your Immune System

The Prize for This Year's Best Christmas Advert Goes to.....the BBC

Emails Show Michael Flynn Was In Close Touch With Senior Advisers

Monday, 4 December 2017

ECJ Jurisdiction After Brexit Is Not Brexit

Jeremy Hunt, the useless perennial Health Secretary whose name is regularly and justifiably mangled in favour of another more salty word, went on television yesterday and claimed that Brexit will not happen if Theresa May is ousted. This is almost certainly not true. But the reason Tory rebels are letting it be known that they may rebel is that we are hearing alarming reports of what is being planned by the Government. If what they are planning vis a vis the ECJ and EU citizens rights is as being reported then Brexit effectively will not happen.

It is worthwhile reflecting on what happened last week. The Government came to what is being reported as a tentative deal on the money we will pay even though we don't owe any. Brexiteers, including myself, accepted this without much demur. We can see that offering up a sum of money, spread over a decade or so, is small beer if it is in return for a decent trade deal. That would be a deal that we could accept provided that it is contingent on the EU offering us that deal. They need our money and so we should strike a hard bargain.

But accepting ECJ jurisdiction over EU citizens living here is unacceptable. It is unnecessary and it is also an outrageous demand. That is a red line or ought to be. If Theresa May accepts this then she should be removed without delay. She would have gone too far. The woman who became PM by accident when the field cleared around her would have outlived her usefulness, although I persist in the opinion that she did that last June when she lost the election.

For many of us the issue over the EU has always been the ECJ and its federalist direction along with the Commission. The issue of immigration was always a side issue set alongside the central one of sovereignty. Britain has been more than fair in these negotiations but the issue of ECJ jurisdiction should have been ruled out from the start. This is not a central issue for the EU, other than it is part of their ideology. But it is an ideology rejected by the British people in the referendum. Thus the sway of the ECJ should end.

And the demands of the EU are a nonsense anyway. EU citizens who come and live and work here will be welcome to stay if they wish. That offer had already been made. But they will do so under British law and not European laws. That is something we all accept if we move abroad. By coming here or staying here they will be making that choice. It isn't as if Britain is a lawless place that will impose terrible depredations upon them. Most of them came here for a better life. There is a deal to be done over health care and what if any benefits or other entitlements they might be allowed to claim. But that would depend on what reciprocal deals are being offered in return. Either way this should have nothing whatever to do with the ECJ.

The notion that Brexit would not happen is an odd one. As things stand Britain will be leaving come what may, or should that be come what May, in March 2019. This will happen regardless of what deal is or is not done. So what is being negotiated will be an adjunct to that central fact. It might create transitional arrangements, it might not. But we are leaving. The central issue is that we have offered to pay them a substantial sum of money, but only if they give us a decent and mutually beneficial deal. Otherwise we withhold out money. If they want it they should be told to shut up about the ECJ. It is not happening. Brexit rebels are right to offer warnings. Brexit with ECJ jurisdiction is not Brexit. If that happens we should just leave and keep our money. That is what the people voted for after all.  

Damian Green Is the One Being Harassed

It's not clear to me what Damian Green is supposed to have done wrong and why there continues to be doubts over his ministerial status. I would aver that most members of the public feel the same way and regard the furore over him as absurd. The allegations of Kate Maltby amounted to little more than her imaginary offence at being brushed lightly and over an old family friend being familiar with her. That was how this whole debacle got started.

As for the behaviour of the police and two ex officers in particular, they are a democratic outrage. The raid on Green's office back in 2008 should never have happened. He had done nothing wrong other than to embarrass the Home Secretary of the time by doing his job as an shadow Home Office minister. The police have since admitted that the raid should never have taken place.

But even if the raid had been justified, no charges were ever brought. In the course of their investigation they found information that was not revealed at the time since it was not germane to the case. It is a private matter. Again no offence had been committed. Pornography viewed on a computer  is none of the police's business so long as it is legal, which it was. It is immaterial who was viewing that material. It is hard to see how a busy MP and shadow minister would have had time to view so extensively pornography and would be very ill advised to do it on a work computer anyway. Few of us have not looked at pornography in our lives, but most of us have the sense not to do so at work or where we can be seen.

The officers in question, Bob Quick and Neil Lewis, have committed an act of malfeasance. They might have been justified in bringing the pornography to the attention of the relevant authorities within the Met and maybe the Cabinet Office, but since no criminal act had been committed even this is questionable. But they had no right to make their accusations and/or evidence public. This is no different to a solicitor revealing private discussions or a doctor revealing medical details. The police are in a position of trust given huge powers over all of us. Few of us do not have embarrassing aspects of our lives that the police could discover in a trawl of our private lives and computer hard drives. But if we have committed no criminal act then these should remain private under all circumstances. That the police have done this to a democratically elected MP is abhorrent.

There is due to be a report land on the Prime Minister's desk this week. In relation to the alleged acts of sexual harassment then that is one issue where, if there is evidence, then Green might have to go. But in relation to the tangentially related issue of the contents or otherwise of his computer it is irrelevant and should never have been revealed. The police owe Damian Green an apology.

Spending A Day On Earth 200 Millions Years Ago

Crash Course Biology: The Muscular System

Exposing the Lies of the Trump Administration

The Black Hole Tipping Point

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 35 - The Rules About Murderers

So in the last chapter God set out how the land, the promised land, was going to be divided up between the chosen people. So in this chapter you might imagine they would finally get to that much talked about land of milk and honey. Nope! Afraid not.

God now wanted to set aside some land for the Levites. These, if you recall, are the people, men actually, who look after the Tabernacle and the priests and whose lives are entirely devoted to it. God wanted 48 towns, yes 48, devoted to the Levites. Now 6 of these would be cities of refuge - we'll come on to that in a moment, it's a humdinger - but the others would be devoted to the Levites. Here's a question though, if their job was to look after the Tabernacle, how could they do this from 48 towns dotted around Israel? Presumably this meant there would be more than one Tabernacle now, which makes sense. But what about the Ark of the Covenant? Where was that going to go?

And then, for no very obvious reason, God wanted to talk about murder. Now back when he gave Moses those commandments, remember those? there was ten of them? Well he was pretty unequivocal. Thou shalt not kill he said. Now, it turns out, there are exceptions, although we've already seen that when he commanded his people to slaughter the Midianites including children and women who were not virgins.

Now we come back to those cities of refuge I mentioned earlier. These are places that someone who has accidentally murdered someone can flee to and where they could not be touched. Putting my lawyers hat on for a moment. If you accidentally murder someone then it's not murder is it. But anyway, you could flee to one of these cities to await trial. But, said God, if the killer didn't make it to one of these cities then a relative of the victim could hunt them down and avenge them by killing them right back.

Killing someone accidentally then meant you could seek refuge. Doing it intentionally meant you couldn't. How anyone was supposed to know this before a trial is a mystery. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Let's say, for example, that you beat someone up or hit them and that they died, even though you didn't actually intend to kill them. Then you were still a murderer. Then a relative could hunt you down and kill you and God had no problem with this. An eye for an eye and so on.

If on the other hand you accidentally knocked someone over or dropped a rock on their head then you would go to trial in front of the community and it would decide. Fair enough. In the meantime you could go to one of these cities of refuge. The trouble with this is how does it get decided who is deserving of refuge until they've faced trial? God hasn't really thought this one through has he. But then he seldom does.

Here's where it makes a little more sense. If you faced trial and were found not guilty then you were free. Except it was still permissible for someone to avenge their relative's death. So that was when these refuge cities came in. You went to one of these and you were okay. Oh and you could return home again if the priest in your home town died. Why? I've really no idea. But before that you were only safe in one of these cities of refuge. God has some strange ideas.

And murderers? Actual murderers? Well they were only actual murderers to be punished with death if there was more than one witness to the crime. On the plus side though, if you were rich you couldn't buy your way to freedom again. So that's good. God didn't want murderers, unless you could somehow commit your murder with no witnesses. Sounds like God is a fan of Agatha Christie.

Internal Waves in the Strait of Gibraltar

What Are Years? And the Galactic Supermassive Black Hole at the Centre of the Milky Way

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Troll in Chief

Donald Trump may be one of the cleverest morons in history. Don't get me wrong, the president is a buffoon, a pig ignorant racist who has lied and cheated his way to every achievement in his life. But he does have talent of a sort. His talent is as the greatest exemplar of bullshit and insouciance that could ever be imagined. He says and does what he likes and almost always gets away with it. He contradicts himself, often in the same sentence, but gets away with it. He bluffs and blusters his way through interviews and press conferences and nobody ever nails him. He admitted sexual assault and got away with it and then, when it looked like he might be in danger, he denied, without embarrassment, that it was him we could all clearly hear. He set up a fake university that was a con from start to finish and got away with it. Then, when he was sued, he paid up and pretended it was because he had a country to run. He ran a campaign for the presidency he now besmirches and brings into disrepute, by lying and libelling his way to power and then, on being inaugurated ranted about the size of his crowd and of how he would have won the popular vote but for all of the illegal votes, all of which clearly went to his opponent. Now, the man who complains about fake news and gets away with it, retweets fake news by fascists and sees no reason why he should apologise.

Trump does not play by the rules and still nobody has figured out how to counter him. His latest reTweets of far right videos are the latest example of him breaking the rules and then sitting back and watching the fall out. Millions of outraged words have been written. And what is the impact on Trump? Nothing. He knew he would get away with it and so he does it. He probably didn't really know that the videos were not what they purported to be. He didn't care. He just saw something from one of the very few people he follows on Twitter and that was an end of it. President Trump hit the Tweet button.

Trump may not be a sophisticate but he knows what he is doing. It gets him attention and it gains him notoriety. He gets lots of publicity and there is no such thing as bad publicity as we all know. Of course what long term effect this is having on his brand is another matter, but for now it gets him what he wants. He just has to say something irrational, nonsensical, illogical or plain offensive and he sets the news agenda for a day or even for weeks. It doesn't matter how crazy, the news media plays along. Take those Tweets about Obama spying on him. It was nonsense. But the media analysed it and played along. Trump had successfully changed the subject.

His tweeting has reached a crescendo of crazy in recent weeks as the pressure grows on him. He tends to Tweet when he is angry and frustrated about something. He tends to Tweet about how successful he is being when the opposite is the truth. Conclusion: he's not quite as dumb as he appears. He does have self knowledge. In truth he probably loathes himself as much as the rest of us. He has a colossal chip on his shoulder born of an inferiority complex. He knows he is pig ignorant, he knows people mock him and consider him stupid, he knows he lacks the class, education and style not to mention the brains of others. That is why he so hates Barack Obama, apart from the obvious reason. He hates Obama because of his easy charm, his wit and the fact he has a beautiful wife who clearly loves him. That is why he is so desperate for that state visit to Britain next year. He wants to be seen with people he regards as genuinely classy and sophisticated and to enjoy the pomp and glory.

Should we carry on with the state visit? Well on the one hand we regularly play host to much worse regimes than the Trump one, most of which cannot be removed by a procedure in Congress and the Constitution or by an election. So, in much the same way as we have been forced to make an accommodation with the EU over money we don't owe them, we will probably have to suck it up and host Trump. Fortunately, such is his ego, that he may not be too keen to come here if it is made clear to him that his visit will not be met with such indulgence by the people. I for one would go out of my way to boo him and lob abuse. I see it as my civic duty. Anything to dissuade the orange halfwit from coming. That's why he prefers autocrats and non democracies I suppose. You see democracy really is the least worst system after all.

Crash Course Biology: The Skeletal System

50 Famous Goals

10 Actors Who Could Play James Bond

Why December Has the Longest Days

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The 'Magical Thinking' of Remainers

If Britain and the EU have the basis for a deal on the money - and who are we kidding, this was and is all that the EU are really after - then you might have imagined that this would be a cause of celebration. Even we ardent Brexiteers, who would have accepted a no deal and WTO terms if necessary, are not complaining at the reported bill.

Yet the remainers are not happy. Foiled again seems to be what they are effectively saying. Had Theresa May walked out or refused to hand over more of our cash they would have resumed their blatant campaign to undo Brexit by whatever means they could manage. Now that a deal has been done that will enable us to talk trade another cause of the anger and anguish has been evaporated. Now they must hope we get a bad deal.

I genuinely struggle to understand the remainer mindset. They didn't want to leave. We get that. They think that the EU is wonderful and something noble, we get that too, although none of them made that argument during the referendum campaign, preferring threats and project fear instead. But we are leaving so you might imagine they would wish the best possible terms for the UK and a genuine partnership with our neighbours. But no. They seem to want us to descend into chaos and anarchy and destitution. Why? Just so that they get to tell us that they told us so?

And what happens if the Government emerges with a good trade deal after all of this, something that is made all the more likely given the price we are paying for it? Well expect the grudging mumbling to become deafening.

What must really enrage them is that, having lost the referendum arguments so badly by not making the case for the EU, they are now losing the arguments over how we should leave. Instead of arguing the case for a soft Brexit, of staying in the Single Market perhaps or some such compromise, they have been using any and all underhand methods to try and undermine our own case and thus to keep us in. It remains the case that they have been singly incapable of actually arguing why this would be preferable. They have preferred simple name calling and abuse. All leavers must be racists or stupid they allege and regard it is a winning argument. You can't help wondering if they really know why they want to stay in at all.

And this will particularly be the case if Britain gets the deal that many of have always wanted. This is why there have been so few complaints from leavers about the money issue. We always said we would be prepared to pay up provided it was in return for the trade deal. What we may well end up with is the sort of thing David Cameron ought to have been pushing for in the first place. We would be out of the Single Market and customs union. We would be out of the jurisdiction of the ECJ. We would be free to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world and to continue trading on as free a basis as possible with the EU. While this is sorted out we will have a transitional deal to smooth progress. That to me sounds like a good deal. That we might have to pay out £3 or £4 billion a year for a decade sounds like an excellent compromise. It means that those of us who argued that leaving was the best way forward would be vindicated. The remainers would probably eventually just go quiet, although some will forever dream of taking us back in just as some persist with wanting to take us into the Euro.

What Keeps Communism Going?

Crash Course Biology: The Excretory System

Dave Allen on Religion

10 Serious Movie Moments That Are Unintentionally Hilarious

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Deal Or No Deal? Depends What We Get in Return

So a deal has been done. It looks as though Theresa May, who won her job in part because of the notion that she is a tough negotiator, has not so much blinked first but shut her eyes and bent over backwards. The PM has done the deal because she feared the ramifications for her and her Government were she not to do so. It's the rest of us who have to pay for it. The quid pro quo for this should be a demand that the Government cuts back, not on defence spending, but on the wasteful and infuriating aid budget.

Nevertheless, it is not necessarily the case that this is a bad deal. It is simply too early to say. And it still depends on whether or not the Government gets something in return for our cash. An all encompassing free trade deal akin to something close to what we have now and that would be money well spent. If the EU still insists that we have ECJ jurisdiction over EU citizens living here who choose of their own volition to stay here then that is where I would part company with them and so would many others.

The Government has not negotiated well and should, in Priti Patel's words, have told the EU to sod off a little more often during these negotiations. They want and need our money. We have extracted very little back from them in return thus far. If now they return wanting more in the form of further concessions and still don't give us the trade deal we want then we should turn things over to new management without delay. Priti is waiting in the wings for starters.

It was always likely that a deal of some kind would be done and that it would be attacked on both sides as being inadequate. But we Brexiteers are nothing like as unreasonable as we are often painted.  In fact we are paragons of equanimity compared to some of our arch remainer cousins. I readily concede that a good free trade deal is well worth paying for. Already the pound is surging on the news that a deal has been done on the money. Businesses will also breathe a sigh of relief and may start making preparations accordingly. It may even give a boost to the economy thus junking the dire predictions of just a week ago in the Budget. So yes, £40 or £50 billion is worth it if we get what we want. But only if we do.

It is to be hoped that the money agreed is contingent on the EU now negotiating at last in good faith. It is a petty point, but their insistence last week that Britain will not now be home to a city that is the European capital of culture is a sign of their bad faith and vengefulness. It doesn't matter, but it leaves a sour taste behind. Quite how the remainers explain away such pettiness is a mystery.

So yes, if the we get a free trade deal, if the EU shuts up about ECJ jurisdiction and if they leave the matter of Northern Ireland until a trade deal is done so that we know on what basis the border will exist then it is a deal that we can probably live with. But the EU must be left in no doubt, this deal is not done until it is all done. That money is what we are prepared to pay in return for a comprehensive trade deal and continuing cooperation and partnership going forward but with Britain no longer a part of the EU and no longer subject to its rules, regulations and ECJ jurisdiction. We are going our own way because that is what we voted for.

Britain has, from the start, been reasonable and reasoned and always been willing to compromise. Our negotiating stance has not always been helped by the whingeing of the remainers and the game playing in Parliament by Marxist Labour and some Tory MPs who should be ashamed of themselves. But if now, having done this deal on cash, the EU still refuses to be reasonable then we will be able to walk away having seized the moral high ground. Nobody would be able to blame our Government for the failure. That should be the bottom line when Mrs May meets next month. We have agreed to pay some money in to meet obligations and then some. Now do a trade deal, a deal that is in your interests as well as ours and would mean that there is no issue over the Northern Ireland border.

And if they do continue with their obstinacy and intransigence? Then they kiss goodbye to all of that money. We don't owe them a penny as has been argued all along. That money is to be paid ex gratia but only if they start behaving like adults rather than entitled toddlers. Oh and if they could gag Guy Verhofstadt for the duration we'll slip them an extra billion. If they can deliver that then we are even ready to put it in writing. Money well spent.

Crash Course Biology: The Digestive System

10 Movies Responsible For Weird Cinematic Milestones

Joe Lycett's Parking Ticket Correspondence

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Marxist Labour Still Won't Come Clean On It's Debt Pile

As I wrote yesterday, at the weekend John McDonnell was offered another opportunity to answer the questions concerning the debt that Britain would accrue if he were to be Chancellor and go on his spending binge. McDonnell affected modesty and contrition, told us how sorry he was if he had appeared arrogant, did that false laugh he uses nowadays when avoiding the question or answering a different one, and then once again failed to fill in the gaps. How much would it cost the country to service his additional borrowing? He won't tell us. It's not that he doesn't know, he must do by now at least. It is that he won't tell us. I wonder why that could be.

And so, inevitably, others are doing the calculations and telling us. The Taxpayers Alliance, a pressure group that does what it says on the tin, came up with the figure of £270 billion in interest payments alone over the course of a Parliament. Now I must say that this does seem a bit on the steep side, but it is not a wholly unreasonable figure.

Not that Marxist Labour took this lying down. They went on the attack and questioned the way that the TPA calculated the debt.

Now it doesn't really matter does it who is right. What matters is that Marxist Labour has got itself into a mess entirely of its own making. And there is a very easy solution. They should set out how much they think their policies would cost and then tell the country how much the borrowing would cost to service. This matters. It matters because when the country borrows money, especially the vast sums that Marxist Labour is proposing, and that money has to be repaid. The interest payments on a huge and growing pile of debt come out of current spending budgets meaning that there is less to spend on the very things that Marxist Labour says it cares about. A large deficit and resultant debt mean either higher taxes or lower spending. You cannot borrow your way to prosperity based on some spurious notion of investing paying for itself. Governments do not invest in the same way that businesses do. Building lots of shiny new hospitals are all very well but they do not pay for themselves and still have to be run and staffed. If we have spent all of the money on paying for the borrowing that is how austerity become inevitable. It is what always happens when the country elects Labour. A Marxist Labour government would be ten times worse.

Which of course is why Marxist Labour and its Marxist Shadow Chancellor won't provide their working. They know it would expose their sham policies as the back of a fag packet wishful thinking of juvenile liars and fantasists. It is entirely within their power to publish fully costed and audited plans for their brainless schemes. The fact that they are still refusing to do so but attacking those who try to fill in the gaps speaks volumes. Chuckles McDonnell has been caught out. And he knows it.

21st Century Royalty

I don't care for or about the Royal Family. But my antipathy has softened in recent years to mere lack of interest. I don't loathe them as I once did. I just regard them as a curious and antediluvian very British curiosity. But those of us who would like to replace them with something meritocratic and democratic have to accept that there is no appetite for such change amongst the public. And we also have to accept that our royals are a very useful branding tool for the country at large.

And you have to say that Prince Harry is one of the more impressive of this family of bland nonentities. He has personality and a curious kind of integrity allied to a rebellious spirit and refreshing lack of stuffiness.  His creation of the Invictus Games has been a real triumph. And now he is set to marry a commoner. Not only a commoner but a foreigner and a divorcee and one of mixed race. Three cheers for that giant leap from the stultifying traditions of the royals of the not so distant past. Such a leap would have been impossible earlier in the reign of the Queen and meant the end of the short reign of her uncle. But now the royals are simply catching up with the rest of us in the dating and marriage stakes in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything, globalised Britain.

Of course Meghan will make a very interesting addition to the royals in the same way that Kate has. She will bring much needed glamour and will make them even more popular and a source of fascination in America than they are already. Listening to her on the news yesterday, having never seen Suits or anything else she might have been in during her acting career, was to be extremely impressed. She is educated, intelligent, articulate and, judging from this few minutes, a good deal cleverer than her intended. There's a blow for the House of Windsor. One cannot help but wonder how well they will cope with that and with her. Or she with them and their ridiculous traditions and insistence on 18th century etiquette and conventions.

The great tragedy is that she may well be silenced by them and made to be just a wallflower when she could be so much more. Let's hope they have the good sense to let her talk more often, rather than give dull speeches. Wouldn't that reinvent the monarchy in a fascinating new direction.

All of which made Labour's discomfort on this subject highly amusing. The other parties joined in with the congratulations. Marxist Labour did too, but it wasn't at all convincing.

When a reporter asked Chauncey for his views on the royal engagement there were boos from the assembled revolutionaries come to hear the thoughts (or what pass for thoughts) from the dear leader. He mumbled out some very extemporaneous remarks about what a great campaigner for mental health Harry has been, which is true but simple congratulations and the hope that they will be very happy might have been more appropriate. But then Chauncey is incapable of being gracious and unsanctimonious about anything. This was the best that he can do, something made all the more remarkable because everyone knew this was coming. So why hadn't he and his team thought this through in advance, so that he could be made to sound more gracious?

At least he resisted his natural inclination, which would have been to go on a rant about the iniquities of royalty and people with half a dozen homes when there are people homeless on the streets of London. And how much did the engagement ring cost? And bloody hell just think what the wedding and wedding dress will cost too. Wouldn't they have been better eloping and sending a cheque to Palestine instead?

Chauncey of course didn't say any of this because he knows that royalty is more popular amongst the British public than any politician could ever hope to be. And so Chauncey toes the line of half hearted reverence for something he clearly loathes. It's another example of his high minded honesty in action.