Tuesday, 24 October 2017

North Korea is Worried

It has been reported that North Korea has taken the unprecedented step of writing an open letter to various governments around the world. Australia has confirmed that it has received the letter, although the British Government has failed to do so. We should probably assume however that it too has been corresponded with.

The letter, written in characteristically bombastic and sub-literate language, is a long and angry rant about the United States and its supposed designs on overthrowing the Kim dictatorship. Certainly it is true that Trump has made threats to North Korea. But he has done so because the DPRK, as they term themselves, is on collision course with the whole world thanks to its determination to have nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them. Keep testing nukes and firing missiles over your neighbours and they and their allies will react. Japan has just re-elected Shinzo Abe who is now on a course to rearm his country in response to the actions of the North.

This dangerous military escalation is entirely the fault of the North Korean regime. We all know why they are arming and firing off their missiles. They are worried. But this letter not only illustrates a lack of confidence, it shows that the threats and bombast are covering up a deeply insecure regime that is starting to realise that they have gone too far but cannot admit it for fear of losing face and showing the world how ill prepared for war they really are.

North Korea has nukes and missiles. This is now beyond doubt. But whether or not they are capable of delivering them is less certain. What we do know is that they would be unable to do so quickly. Thus their claims of now being a nuclear power are in fact confirmation that they know that in reality they are not. You are only a nuclear power and part of the delicate balance of nuclear ownership that has kept peace in the world these last 70 years if you are part of its mutually assured destruction. North Korea assuredly is not in that position. If America attacked for any reason it would not be able to respond with nukes. The main reason it has not been attacked is that it would destroy much of South Korea with its conventional but ancient hardware.

War on the Korean peninsula may well be close. All that the North need to do is fire off one of their tantrum missiles and accidentally hit one of their neighbours and they will bring about their own destruction. This letter confirms that they are aware of this. This is a disintegrating regime. Even one of their mountains, Mount Mantap, the site of their nuclear testing is starting to collapse in on itself because of all of the bombs it has endured. That is an apt metaphor for the whole North Korean regime and economy.

If war happens North Korea would quickly be annihilated. It would likely do a lot of damage before this, but it cannot win a war with its neighbours and with America. A sane and rational regime would recognise this and start talking. It would do a deal. But then a sane and rational regime would not have the Fat Leader in charge based on who his father and grandfather was. But this letter is encouraging because it shows how worried they are. The pressure may be starting to tell. Their weaponry is probably nothing like as well advanced as they are telling the world. They would not be able to make good on their threats. I am not advocating war, but if it happens it would quickly be over.

Trump is a disastrous president in oh so many ways and on a daily basis. But though his threats and language on North Korea have been absurdly unsophisticated, brainless and stupid, they may actually be having the desired effect. Having someone as irrational and dumb as Trump in charge rather than the intelligent and predictable Barack Obama has the Fat Leader of North Korea worried. Trump may actually be about to score a major foreign policy win. There would be a turn up.

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Our Accidental Game of Good Cop, Bad Cop

It seems that Britain has somehow, probably by accident, happened upon a good negotiating strategy for how to get something close to what we want from Europe. Fortunately this is happening as a consequence of something the EU hates: democracy.

Britain has for months now been engaged in endless hostilities, arguments, legalism and parliamentary intrigue as we contest the bitter aftermath of the referendum vote. This meant that it took us months to prepare to move Article 50 and for the phoney war to end. It has also seen remainers engage in denial at first followed by various sorties as they have attempted to frustrate, prevent or otherwise stall Brexit. This has seen Labour in particular go through some absurd contortions as they have sought to present themselves as united, when the reality has been anything but. They have ended up with their current position of telling us that they want to honour the referendum result whilst offering surrender to the EU on whatever terms they care to name. This is what socialist internationalism gets you, however they wish to dress it up.

Now you could be forgiven for thinking that this gives to the EU an advantage. And many have made that mistake. Except of course that Brexiters have not taken all of this lying down. We have been arguing that there is nothing to fear from a no deal. It is sub optimal but not disastrous. Indeed given the EU shenanigans and their playing for time it begins to look like our leaving without that deal would be the best chance of an eventual deal, especially a deal that could be sold to the British people. It would take off the pressure and give us greater leverage. Suddenly, having left, our offering them some cash to fill the giant hole in their budget would give us the whip hand. Suddenly their talk of £32billion in addition to £20billion budget contribution during a transitional deal would be something we could smile patronisingly about. Hell we could even borrow a Gallic shrug especially for the occasion.

And Theresa May need not be the bad cop in this. She is the good cop without a parliamentary majority and fighting for her political survival. You have to give me something, she may well have said last week, or else you might end up negotiating with Boris. And he is better at making jokes and sounding insouciant than I am.

In short then, by arguing passionately and ferociously for the no deal scenario, we are doing the Prime Minister's job for her. She can even rein in her own bad negotiating tactics and tell them that she cannot make any bigger offers on cash because she will never get it past the Cabinet, Parliament or the Tory press. The best way to end up with a Brexiter in Number 10 is by holding her feet to the fire on talks and on cash. If she really wants to put the fear of god into them then she should start briefing that we are going to call for binding arbitration on the Brexit bill. All of that confident talk of how much we owe and of sufficient progress would die immediately. There is no legal basis for demands for our cash. It is a political demand that would never survive arbitration and would die a painful death if they force us to leave without a deal.

This blog does not want to leave without a strong free trade agreement. But we should start planning for us not getting one. That is what no deal means. Talk about airlines being grounded and the other talk is ludicrous and can be ignored as yet more project fear nonsense. That is not what no deal means. No deal means us leaving in March 2019 and trading on WTO terms, on the same terms that we do with the whole world. That is not something to celebrate. Neither is it anything to fear. It is also something we need to start planning for along with spending our money if the EU are silly enough to continue overplaying their hand.

Babes in Hairy Arms

Each week the 'debate' surrounding transgenderism becomes ever more Pythonesque. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the above clip was supposed to be a joke.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that a UN treaty should not, according to the British government, refer to a pregnant woman. It is a pregnant person. No, really.

Now surely even the most deranged transgender man who is suffering from the delusion of being a woman does not also think that, in addition to self declaring that they are a different sex, this means they will be able to have babies. But we live in strange times. Maybe, like Stan above, they want the right to have babies. It would clearly hurt their feelings if those of us who paid attention at even the most rudimentary of sex education classes in our bog standard comprehensives we used to attend in the 1970s, were to point out that the facts of life are oblivious to hurt feelings.

Anyway, since this is clearly the way the world is proceeding now I have decided to run with the herd. I am today declaring that I am a woman. I am a woman who sees no reason to have an operation as genitalia are incidental to how I see myself. I'm not even going to shave off my body hair. What I am going to do is declare myself pregnant and then demand 6 months maternity leave.

You might think this is ridiculous but in that same Sunday Times article it was pointed out that there have been two cases of transgender pregnancy in which men have given birth having been given a sex change whilst retaining their wombs and ovaries. This might leave you confused, but clearly not as confused as these 'men.'

Women, even feminists, are up in arms about all of this since they are being told persistently that men can now become women and that they must not be gainsaid for fear of hurting their feelings. Some more aggressive transgender rights activists have even been known to punch feminists who have disagreed with them. Male hegemony has really gone too far when they can claim to be better women than women and then demand the right to violently reeducate anyone who argues that they are in possession of a greater mental health infirmity than the President of the United States. POTUS incidentally is most definitely not an equal opportunities sexual harasser. The bastard

Later this week expect to see that Harvey Weinstein's lawyers have come up with a brilliant new idea. He wasn't a sex addict at all. He is a lesbian. And he's not fat, he's pregnant. Those hormones!

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 29 - More Holidays and Sacrifices

Every once in a while in these chapters, as a kind of interlude in the story, the authors inserted detailed instructions, allegedly from God, for all of the burnt offerings he required from his people. Its quite a list he provided. There were to be regular offerings every day and every Sabbath. And as for the big holy days, well it's a wonder there were any animals left for the people to eat. Maybe that's  how vegetarianism got started.

So this chapter is a long list of animals that had to be sacrificed for the glory of God. On these days the Tabernacle must have resembled an abattoir. Blood must have been everywhere.

So without going into all of the tedious detail which we have gone through before, but God does like to repeat himself, there were literally dozens and dozens of dead animals required by God on his big holidays. The Passover we covered in the previous chapter. But there was also Rosh Hashanah. No work was done on this day and there was to be a great sounding of trumpets. Then some sacrifices naturally. God wanted bullocks, lambs, goats. He had wide ranging tastes, although he did like his meat very very well done. Not  a very sophisticated palate clearly.

On Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, it was another holiday. On this day the people themselves had to fast all day. God? Not so much. He wanted yet more sacrifices.

Then there was Sukkot. This was a humdinger of a festival. It lasted for 8 days and God had very specific recipes for what meat and other offerings he wanted every single day. The people must have been relieved when they could go back to work after all of this. And the animals? Well if there were any left they must have breathed a sigh of relief too. All in all though God does love to waste his food doesn't he. Oh sorry, of course he doesn't, the priests eat it.

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

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Friday, 20 October 2017

Trigger Happy Students

Perhaps they have not read it because of a trigger warning, but 1984 has certain parallels to the way some of our students are seeking to operate at the moment. The students are revolting, although of course they would no platform me for saying so. They seem to think that because they may have had an impact on the general election by bothering to turn out and vote that they must now have their every whim indulged and accommodated. Well they may find the next few years dispiriting to say the least. Fortunately they will protect themselves from reading about it by erecting safe spaces around the history books and will petition to the internet to protect them from hearing other opinions.

Its fascinating to hear them defend this illiberalism masquerading as tolerance and open mindedness. They want to be inclusive we are informed before preventing anyone who disagrees with them from arguing the opposing view.

Take the current buzz subject of transgenderism, something that, our Prime Minister assured us just yesterday, is most assuredly not an illness. Actually, Theresa, that is exactly what it is. If you insist that you are a different gender to the one that your genitalia and chromosomes tell us you are then you have an illness. The rest is just virtue signalling cretinism.

Now in a free society I am entitled to express this point of view and you are free to passionately disagree with me. But not on university campuses where my opinion is forbidden for fear of offending people who would be traumatised. There it is condemned as transphobic. And if I refused to address you by the pronoun of your choice on account of my being acquainted with the English language and on account of your demand making no sense, then this would also make me transphobic. This is the state of discourse in our universities today. I put it down to students these days leading such mollycoddled lives in a world altogether too comfortable that they feel the need to get righteously angry about things that don't matter and make no sense.

How are these delicate (insert pronoun of your choice, there are too many to list) going to function in the real world? Unless they are planning to work for the BBC (which already has an other box to tick when it asks for your sex) they are going to struggle. In a world in which our students genuinely think that people should be able to self define their gender and, presumably, that they can change their minds on a daily basis it is all going to get terribly confusing. The unsuspecting employer is going to end up being sued for not sexually harassing the bloke they took on the previous week when he started calling himself Cecily and wearing high heels and talking in Pythonesque voice. And presumably these dudes will soon start demanding the right to maternity leave.

The government is taking a firm line at last on the safe space, micro aggressions nonsense permeating universities. But it should never have come to that. Universities are places that take young adults and make them think more widely and critically of the world around them. You can't do that if some subject matters are considered off limits and if you demand the right to respect from everyone regardless of how vapid your beliefs. To be clear once again, everyone has the right to dress as they wish, to be called what they wish and even to believe themselves a different gender to the one that nature 'assigned' them. That does not mean that the rest of us have to acquiesce to their stupidity and refrain from sniggering at them. Being sniggered at is a rite of passage for teenagers everywhere. It used to be that this was merely for their clothing and musical choices. Now that is the least of their worries. Those pictures they die of embarrassment in 30 years time are going to be hugely entertaining. Thank god for ubiquitous smart phones eh.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

At the EU Summit: Why Not Walk Out, Prime Minister

I am never going to be Prime Minister, I am more or less resigned to this uncomfortable reality, although you never know given who is currently leading the Labour Party and the current poverty of choices in the Conservative Party. I mean even Vince Cable says he thinks he stands a chance.

But if I were PM right now I'm not at all sure I would be bothering going to the latest EU summit meeting in Brussels, a meeting at which European leaders will meet first with Chauncey so that they can hear his brilliant negotiating tactic of giving them everything they want in return for us agreeing to effectively stay in the EU. What a coup de grace that would be for them by the way. Get the British to sneak the bearded wonder into power, have him declare unilateral negotiating disarmament, pay them even more than when we do as full members, continue to allow freedom of movement, give them some more fish and beg them for their forgiveness for ever having the temerity to ask the great unwashed for their opinions. The people's republic of Chauncey is going to be one of those democratic republics that isn't too keen on democracy it would seem.

Labour's position on Brexit is absurd. They have claimed that they would not countenance a no deal. In so doing they might as well hand Brussels the keys to the Treasury and tell them to help themselves. If they will not countenance a no deal then what does that mean? I would really really love to buy a house off these guys. They would end up paying me.

Britain is making such heavy water of these negotiations in part thanks to the game playing stupidities of the remainers and of the endlessly confused Labour Party. Presumably Labour will relish explaining to the British people why we should in fact be paying more to the EU than £20 billion. How do they imagine that will go down?

One of the arguments being put forward by remainers is that those voting to leave were not voting for a no deal. Well first of all people voted for lots of reasons and I for one was entirely relaxed at the prospect of no deal. But in any event it kind of was what everyone who voted leave voted for. It was made explicit that we would be leaving the single market and by extension the customs union, although few people back then really knew what the latter was. But there was always the possibility that the EU would indeed play the kind of games they are playing. And so there was always a chance that we would leave with no deal. This need not be the end game. There is no need for this to be the final word on the issue. There is no need for us not to have separate talks about other matters such as air travel cooperation and to play hardball on things like security cooperation and access to the City of London's huge lending markets. But leaving with no deal on free trade? So what? It's really not the end of the world. I seem to recall saying so last year. Even if we crash out, there's nothing to stop us negotiating once it is all over and when time constraints are no longer an issue. We will be negotiating with the rest of the world of course, but they are welcome to join the queue. We Brits love a good queue.

Think about it. We currently have a free trade agreement with the EU. Yet we voted to leave despite this. So therefore the point of our leaving was over other issues. Would a free trade agreement be better for all concerned? Undoubtedly. But if the EU wants to cut off their noses to spite their faces, if they are willing (once again) to imperil people's jobs for the good of their ideological fundamentalist outlook of ever closer union then so be it.

And this is why Mrs May should no longer put up with their grandstanding. When they all cold shoulder her later today, instead of standing around and looking sad and lonely she should just leave. She should walk out and give a short press conference. Britain is leaving the EU in March 2019 she should say. We have made a good offer. That offer is now time limited. Start talks on trade by November or we will assume that the EU has no intention of engaging in such talks in good faith and so there really is no point in talking anymore. We will then start preparing for no deal. We will have been left little choice. The plus side is though that we get to keep all of that money and the EU will have to either find someone else to pay or will have to rein in their spending. We want our money back they said last week. This at least shows that we have donated our sense of humour to them as well as our cash.

But what of parliament you might well ask. Well what of it? Parliament has already accepted that we are leaving the EU. Deal or no deal does not enter into it. There is the EU Withdrawal Bill but that is just a procedural device to make our leaving bureaucratically easier. We leave at the end of March 2019 and that is the end of it. Even if the Commons were to vote against the government they would be rejecting our lack of a deal but offering no alternative. And we are leaving at the end of March 2019, deal or no deal. The Conservative manifesto in June was a flawed and listless document that got us into this mess, but it did explicitly state that the Government was prepared to countenance no deal rather than a bad deal. Since the EU will not even talk about a deal then that is where we are. No deal is being offered and so we will have to just go ahead and countenance it.

As I say I am unlikely to be PM and I certainly won't become PM by this afternoon. But if I were that would be what I would be preparing myself to say in the teeth of the EU's inevitably hostile reception. If Mrs May were to do that she would likely win rave reviews for her bulldog spirit. It might even get her a deal after all. Either way it is better than our current position.  

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Philip Hammond Should Be Sent To Spend More Time With His Spreadsheets

The future of Philip Hammond, our yawn inducing Chancellor of the Exchequer, is hanging in the balance it would seem. This is mostly because he has managed, with an acuity previously only seen on the Labour front bench, to have alienated both sides of his own party in the great Brexit debate. Leavers and remainers both want him gone. It is only Theresa May now who stands between him and the end, an ironic turnaround given his prospects prior to the election.

Like many people I have been irritated by his interventions on Brexit, not least because it was always my understanding prior to the referendum campaign that he was a Euro sceptic. But then his flip flop on this issue was in common with many leading Tories from the current Prime Minister to her predecessor to several in the current Cabinet. In many cases this was simple pragmatism or ambition. Hammond however has displayed the zeal of the convert in his Brexit interventions. It's no wonder he has become so universally loathed. 

But the reason he should be removed from post is not because of his arrogance on Brexit or his irritating lack of any political nous. It is the fact that he has proven to be such a lousy Chancellor. Thus far, admittedly in his short tenure, the most interesting and inspirational thing he has done has been to announce that there will be no more Spring Budgets. In the annals of great reformers, this will hardly have them readying a plinth in Westminster. 

Hammond is a dream for the pen pushing killjoys of the Treasury and HMRC. He has been entirely captured by them and has bought into their worldview. This man who is so pleased with himself has failed to challenge them. Only a year into the job he lacks any kind of radicalism or imagination. He is a dreary manager, dullness and uniformity personified. His NICS debacle of earlier this year was entirely down to the fact he was presented with this reform by his civil servants and simply waved it through unchallenged without thinking through the political consequences or wondering whether hitting the self employed was really a terribly Conservative thing to do. The Treasury had been trying to get a Chancellor to slip this reform through for years to no avail. Hammond handed it to them without a word of protest. Is he even aware that he is allowed to protest? Or to say no? 

What is needed now from our Chancellor is real radical thinking to make a success of Brexit, to get the British economy firing on all cylinders again and to demonstrate to our feckless youth that socialism is not the answer to their problems, or the bringer of peace, prosperity and goodwill to all men. There have been encouraging noises coming from Number 11 that Hammond is considering the idea of offering a lower rate of tax to younger taxpayers. But his inclination to pay for this by hitting older taxpayers demonstrates that he still hasn't learned the lessons of NICS or the general election. Generational fairness is a great election slogan. But actually making it a fiscal reality is a different matter. The electorate always say they are prepared to embrace higher taxes to pay for things deemed desirable. The electorate tells lies. 

No, Hammond will just have to get more creative. And he will just have to accept that we will have to borrow more to pay for the tax cuts we need to demonstrate Conservative ideas and principles. We need reform of stamp duty and to reverse the ruinous Osborne regime. We need a new tax deal for the young. I would like to see people offered a lower rate of tax for the first few years. Maybe even a lower rate of tax or even a tax holiday for the first couple of years after full time education. Could tuition fees be made tax deductible? Could Corporation Tax be cut even further? Could we prepare the ground for a no deal on the EU by offering such a deal to companies? That would concentrate minds as negotiations continue.

Most of all we need a big, eye catching scheme to build hundreds of thousands of new homes during this parliament. This requires some generous tax breaks for developers and, if necessary, massive public spending to build. That is proper investment in things the country needs. It is the sort of borrowing and spending that is desirable and even mandatory in a prosperous, successful and fair society. 

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I'm sure that many are wildly expensive and maybe even impractical. Some may be illegal in European law. But then we are leaving Europe and so this represents an opportunity, always provided you are prepared to embrace this new reality and recognise its potential. For that we may need someone with more imagination than Spreadsheet Phil. 

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