Monday, 25 September 2017
Sunday, 24 September 2017
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 25 - The Israelites and the Midianites and a Vengeful God
God, as we are always being told, is omnipotent and omniscient. He's supposed to know everything. Except he repeatedly demonstrates that he knows nothing. He has all kinds of quack cures for things we know would be better treated with antibiotics for instance. And why did he choose his chosen people? As we will see in this chapter, he made a really really bad choice. It's no wonder he has to keep killing so many of them.
In the previous chapter God had told a sorcerer that he must not curse his chosen people because they were protected by him. So the people, unmolested and un-cursed were in Moab and it must have been a bit like Las Vegas or some such place because it was clearly full of temptations that proved too much for the Israelites. They started, ahem, consorting with some of the lovely ladies of Moab in a highly disreputable way. That was all bad enough. But then they started worshipping the Moabite god, Baal. To be fair these other gods are probably more fun that God. But nevertheless he wasn't amused.
So God called to Moses and told him that he was not having this. Moses was to impale all of the chiefs of Israel. No messing about, just impale them.
Now Moses, who was a bit lily livered really, didn't quite do as he was told. Instead he gave instructions that anyone who had been worshipping Baal was to be killed.
Oh and one of the men had married a Midianite woman. Moses didn't see what was wrong with this because he had also married a Midianite woman. You might recall this from a few chapters ago.
However Eleazar's son, Phinehas, was righteously angry about this interracial marriage. And so he went and got his spear and stabbed the happy couple.
Now while all of this had been going on God had started a plague, he loves a good plague does God, as punishment for the sins of the people. He was pleased though by the actions of Phinehas and stopped the plague after it had only killed 24 thousand people. God told Moses that the actions of Phinehas were laudable and that he would reward him.
In the meantime though God told Moses that they had to wage war on the Midianites. They had caused the Israelites a lot of trouble and so God wanted them punished.
Saturday, 23 September 2017
Friday, 22 September 2017
It has long been my settled policy never, under any circumstances to fly with Ryanair. Flying with Ryanair is like choosing to continue eating in a restaurant despite appalling reviews for its food because it happens to be cheap. You know damned well when you fly with Ryanair that it will use every trick in the book to part you from more of your cash than the advertised price. You know damned well that they don't give a damn about how satisfied a customer you are. You know damned well that their schedule, even when they have enough pilots to fly it, is a fantasy designed to ensure it always runs on time. You know damned well that it in the event of your being late for any reason it will do its level best never to pay you the compensation you are legally due. It isn't even that cheap anymore, not if it thinks it can get away with charging you an arm and a leg.
And we all know all of these things about Ryanair. It has a very well deserved reputation for having a cavalier attitude to its customers, the truth and to its own reputation. Oh it has paid lip service in recent years to mending its ways, but this is largely down to it finally hitting its bottom line. That is something it understands. Enough of us finally voted with our feet for it to take notice, or at least to pretend to.
Which is why so many of us are enjoying the shambles that the company has got itself into over its pilot rosters. Ryanair treats its staff even worse than it does its customers and now at last that has had an impact. There is a shortage of pilots in the world. Now airlines accustomed to cutting costs to the bone are finding that pilots are walking off to join rival airlines offering better terms and conditions. It is a market working to the advantage of the employees hitting back at a rapacious employer.
Characteristically Michael O Leary is refusing to back down on the issue of pilots holidays and their contractual terms and is attempting to play his usual brinkmanship game of divide and rule. He was given a vote of confidence by his shareholders yesterday in a move they may come to rue. If the pilots choose to use their industrial muscle collectively they could strike a blow for hard pressed staff and put upon customers too.
Ryanair is a phenomenally successful business. But its methods have brought itself and the industry into disrepute. It has forced other airlines to follow suit with BA choosing to cut down hard on costs too to the point that customers are now rebelling and more industrial strife is looming.
Industrial relations is a balancing act. Back in the 1970s and right here now in certain industries like the railways, it is the unions and their closed shop antics abusing their power. In the airline industry it is employers like Ryanair. Usually market forces mean equilibrium is restored provided that governments keep their interference to a minimum. That is happening right now with Ryanair. It's been a long time coming. Maybe one day I might even feel confident enough to fly with them.
Thursday, 21 September 2017
As we all know by now Theresa May is set to make a big speech tomorrow in which she will seek to set out the approach to our Brexit negotiations and attempt to break the logjam currently preventing progress. This is expected to include an offer of money. Typically of course EU types are already letting it be known that the mooted figure of 20 billion quid during a transitional period is not going to be enough. Yet this is what the EU presently gets from us while we are members. Apparently this in insufficient for them to call progress sufficient.
This is what we and the Government are up against. We are up against a club from which we have resigned which thinks we might be persuaded to change our minds if they are just as awkward and intransigent as they can possibly be. And to be fair they are hardly being unreasonable in this assessment since they are being encouraged in this stance by whole sections of the establishment here in the UK. From the Treasury to the CBI to the Labour Party and even the Lib Dems, all are making noises about how awkward they intend to make things. Some are even threatening guerrilla warfare. The Lib Dems have now decided that they are so keen on the EU and that second word in their title they seem to have trouble understanding that they want to have a rerun of the referendum in the hope that the British people will change their minds. Classic EU.
You have to wonder what the policy of the Lib Dems will be once we have actually left the EU. Will they start a campaign to take us back in? Or will they finally accept the will of the British people and of Parliament?
What seems to be confusing people about this process is that, for all of the talk of negotiation, we will leave the EU at the end of March 2019. If we do so without a deal then we will still be out. That is what Article 50 meant. That was why it was such a big deal. We are leaving. It is a done deal. What is being negotiated is the terms of our leaving not the fact of it. We can decide to apply for a kind of semi-detached relationship meaning all kinds of compromises or we can go for the full fat walk away option. The Article 50 process does not specify any of this. That's why negotiations take place. It just says that some kind of free trade deal should be negotiated. It doesn't say how and on what terms. It also, it should be noted, says nothing about sufficient progress or of bills to be settled. As our negotiators have pointed out, there is no legal basis for such claims. The British Government can choose to make payments out of a sense of moral responsibility or we see the steadfast inflexibility of the EU and choose to tell them where to go.
Here is where the PM's speech should lay things out. It needs to be clear that we are negotiating in good faith and that we have every intention of honouring whatever legal obligations we have made in full. Anything else is a matter of negotiation and good faith on the part of the EU. Thus far they are refusing to show their hand for the simple reason that it is a weak one. Hence the rubbish about sufficient progress. They know we want a trade deal. That is their strongest hand and they are playing it. Our strongest hand is that they want our money. Thus the stalemate. It is hard to fault the stance of either side. But we are British. We play fair.
Hence the talk of £20 billion. The offer of that £20 billion seems to have been very well trailed now and so it is probably correct. And in truth most people, even arch sceptics like me, would probably shrug at such a figure if it were to be agreed. But only if the EU now stops playing its silly games and starts negotiating in good faith. This sufficient progress nonsense has to stop. You cannot artificially separate areas of negotiation with Chinese walls erected for the convenience of the EU. This deal won't be done until it is completely done. It cannot be done until they negotiate about all of it. Money is the quid pro quo for them showing sufficient progress on trade to justify us handing over money they have no legal basis for demanding. That is a better way of putting it.
Mrs May needs to be fair in her speech but also firm. You might call it strong and stable. She should offer up some cash as part of an interim deal - a compromise. That helps them fill the gap in their spending. But only if they offer us sufficient progress on trade and other talks. Otherwise we should now be prepared to walk away. The Government is in a stronger position to do that than many realise. It would actually be something the British people could applaud. It is simple and easy to understand. The bottom line is this, it is true that we agreed to various finding commitments alongside the rest of the EU. Then we had a negotiation with the EU about a change of relationship and they refused to accommodate us. So we had a referendum and the British people voted to leave. The British people are the bosses and it is our money. Any commitments were rendered null and void by that vote and by the invoking of Article 50. The EU must now either find new ways to find the money or spend less. Either way there is no point demanding that we honour our commitment. We're leaving. It's not our problem. We will offer you some cash to ameliorate this awkward impasse. But what are you prepared to offer in return?
Money is the easiest of red lines to draw. No open chequebook without trade talks. If the EU is prepared to talk free trade with the rest of the world then why wouldn't it want to talk free trade with a country with whom it already enjoys such a relationship? You might imagine that such a deal would be pretty straightforward. Sure there would be many technical details to work out. But we are not paying for the privilege. Neither are we offering unfettered access to our jobs market for EU workers. And the ECJ continuing its jurisdiction? Forget it. Those are our red lines. Show sufficient progress on them or we walk away and take our money with us. Boris has an idea about how we can spend it.
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Think back a few years to the days when we were regularly assailed by banner headlines in certain newspapers and the BBC would often lead its main bulletins with terrible 'reports' about how bad climate change was going to be. These were usually based on computer projections. Nobody at these news organisations thought to question the veracity of these predictions. Nobody stopped to wonder how they could be entirely accurate and trustworthy since we cannot accurately predict the weather more than 4 days ahead. They were taken as gospel. The gospel according to the models.
When people like me questioned the accuracy of these predictions we were labelled of course as deniers. We weren't deniers. Nobody serious was denying that CO2 is a greenhouse gas - although did you know that this is based on 19th century science? Nobody serious was denying that the planet has undoubtedly warmed, although of course it hasn't warmed as much lately, which the models everyone was relying on did not predict. Nobody serious was denying that mankind has clearly had an impact on the climate and that our CO2 emissions need addressing, something that was going to happen anyway as we weaned ourselves off fossil fuels, in much the same way as we have weaned ourselves successively off whales, candles, gas lighting, horse drawn carriages and steam trains.
Where questions arose they were to do with the reliability of the data, the extent of natural variability in climate as a contributory factor, pointing to inconsistencies in the models and the lack of supporting evidence other than simple correlation. For this we were branded deniers.
People like me were not deniers, we were sceptics. We were and are sceptical of some of the science that is often called settled. It was never settled - science, proper science, never is or shouldn't be. It should always be questioned, never accepted. It can always be improved, our understanding broadened. Our scepticism was always to do with some of the more outlandish and hyperbolic claims of the climate change industry, of the five years to save the planet kind as trotted out by Prince Charles and of course the likes of the BBC, Guardian, Independent and Washington Post
All of which makes the report this week from Oxford University very welcome. It says that things are nothing like as desperate as we had been told and that the aims of the Paris summit are achievable. We even have more time to do this, meaning that some of the more idiotic pronouncements of our own and other governments around the world seeking to cut emissions and ban cars are ridiculously over the top. As was always the case, we will be able to adapt and let new technology take the lead. Electric cars will happen but the technology is not yet in place. Energy storage making renewables viable will happen but we are not there yet. But humankind has always been good at adapting and technology moves at such a pace that all of this will likely be transformed in a few short years. There really is no need for the panic measures forced on us by credulous, virtue signalling politicians. It also means, by the way, that Trump was not wrong about the Paris deal. It will make no significant difference to anything.
None of this will of course get anything like as much attention as the old doom laden predictions of the early part of this century. But let's put that down to human nature and not just bias shall we. We're going to be fine. The planet is not going to fry. That just doesn't make for such a great banner headline.
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Very mixed reviews of mother! everywhere. Oh and by the way it is supposed to be spelt with a lower case M and with an exclamation mark. That kind of sums it up really. It is an emperor's new clothes type film that has wankers who think they are intellectuals pretending they know what it is about when in reality the director doesn't really know. It is supposed to be a retelling of the creation myth. Okay. Fine. But what the hell for? And what does it have to say about it? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Oh it is all allegorical they tell us. But usually allegorical stories are allegorical for a reason. This is allegorical for the sake of being allegorical so that people can spot the references and pat themselves on the back for how clever they are. Yes, we spotted them. That doesn't make it clever or in any sense interesting. It makes it every bit as much of a borefest for people who think that they are film experts. It's like a student film made by someone with a really big budget.
Don't go to see this film. It is pretentious bollocks. You will walk out of the cinema, if you are honest, and be furious at the loss of 2 hours of your life plus 20 quid you are never getting back.
I hated this film so much I have posted about it twice this week already.
The Emmy awards were at the weekend. TV is on a roll at the moment and cinema has just had its worst summer in a decade. Why? Because it makes films that are either about boring comic book heroes (Wonder Woman is an exception because it was rather good) or it makes tosh like mother!.
Actually that is spectacularly unfair. There have been plenty of excellent movies this year and last. But TV is consistently doing a better job of engaging the audience and making thought provoking intelligent comedy and drama full of rounded and well drawn characters without being pretentious and having to resort to telling us that their boring drivel was an allegory. Note that nobody can even agree what the bloody thing is about. This is because nobody really knows. It is unclear. That is because it is a crap film. Here's a hint: allegories are fine but they still have to say something intelligent otherwise they are worthless. What is happening here is that lots of 'film studies' students are going in to see the film and coming out smugly and telling us that they get it. Unfortunately they then proceed to disagree about what it was they got. Again, that is because it is a crap film. Don't get me wrong, it is well executed, beautifully shot and as ever Jennifer Lawrence gives a superb performance alongside a stellar and generally excellent cast. But they have been sold a pup too. They can't agree what the film is about either. Just look at the promotional interviews about it.
Ultimately this is just boring. It is tedious. It has nothing whatever to say. This film is worthless and I speak as a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence. Had she not been attached to this film it would never have been made and even if it had it would have been ignored. It deserves to be. Jen, you should hope that it is quickly forgotten. Go back to making action movies wearing tight fitting outfits for a while and hope that David O Russell gives you a call.