Sunday, 31 January 2016
Now we get one of those characteristic parts of this story where what follows bears little resemblance to what went before. In just the previous chapter God himself told Moses that he should go to the Pharaoh and demand that he let his people go. Now Moses and his brother went to the Pharaoh and, instead of that uncompromising demand, they asked that their people be let go for just three days so that they could go into the desert and have a feast and worship their God.
But Pharaoh asked who this God was that they spoke of. Interestingly, in this story God is referred to as the Lord God of Israel, the Lord God of the Hebrews. But even though he was their God, Moses said that if the Pharaoh did not let them go into the desert and worship him he would send pestilence their way and possibly even slaughter them with swords. What a nice God.
We should remember at this point that God, the God of the Hebrews, had said all of this would happen because he was going to make it happen. He would harden the heart of the Pharaoh and make him say no. But Pharaoh made matters worse. Annoyed at being importuned by Moses and his brother, he now called his managers, the taskmasters, those who set the Hebrews to work, and told them that from now on they would be expected to make bricks without straw provided by the Pharaoh, this making their work even more hard and back breaking than previously. Of course it wouldn't do much for the buildings they were erecting either, but Pharaoh didn't think of that. He was angry. But then of course that was God's fault wasn't it.
The thinking of Pharaoh was that, if the Hebrews had enough time to be worshipping their God - which of course they probably hadn't been doing much of until Moses showed up - then they clearly weren't working hard enough. So he told his taskmasters to work them harder. You would think that God might have foreseen all of this.
So the taskmasters went out and did as they were told. They told the Hebrews that they must gather their own straw for the making of bricks, for none would be supplied. But they were expected to make as many bricks as before and their work to be the same as before. Thanks God.
Of course the Hebrews struggled with this task as it was impossible. They complained to the Pharaoh (who apparently, and not entirely convincingly, gave an audience to these slaves) asking him why he had dealt with them so harshly. But Pharaoh was unrelenting. His heart, you might say, had been hardened. He told them that they had time to waste worshipping their God and so they should have time to find straw. He wanted as much work from them as before, there would be no diminution.
As luck would have it, as they were leaving this meeting with the hard hearted Pharaoh, they met Moses and his brother and they told them what they thought of them with their talk of a God who was going to save them and lead them to freedom. Now they were doing even more back breaking work than before.
Moses then went to God and asked him: what's going on God? Why did you send me with all of that talk of rescuing my people and leading them to salvation? All that has happened is that the Pharaoh has turned on the people and things are much worse. Why have you abandoned us? You've not delivered your people at all. What have you got to say for yourself? Is this you moving in mysterious ways again? We do wish that you would stop doing that. Why does God have to be so enigmatic all the time?
Saturday, 30 January 2016
Friday, 29 January 2016
David Cameron, as this blog observed just last month, is a bit crap. Fortunately for him he seems to be surrounded by people who are more crap than he is. There is of course the entire opposition front bench, many members of his own front bench and his chosen successor: Google Osborne, a man so clearly chosen by the outgoing king so as to make us all yearn for the golden days of Dave after he has gone to the roiling flesh pots of the City of London, or possibly to start a cake shop with Samantha.
Dave shows that, for all of his crapness, he will nevertheless get away with it, like the very luckiest of generals. His half hearted renegotiation has turned into a not very convincing Wilson style talk tough and get your interlocutors to roll around on the floor complaining about how hard you tackled them conceit. And for the record I am referring here to prime minister Harold Wilson, not Sergeant Wilson of Dads' Army who can be heard in a cinema near you asking the men if they wouldn't mind awfully falling in. Other better films are available this weekend.
There is some very fancy footwork being indulged in by Downing Street and Brussels. Dave is still going through the motions of his shuttle diplomacy when we all know damned well that the deal is probably done and that it will be a crap deal by a crap prime minister who really can't be bothered any more, but who is blessed by rosy cheeks, which at least manage to give the appearance that he is trying hard and might even be out of breath. The other interpretation is that he is simply embarrassed by the very obvious crapness of the whole strategy, which seems most unlikely.
Nothing that we were promised is going to be achieved and yet, given the tensions in the competing Leave campaigns, he doesn't seem to think he needs to offer us anything. Yes there is a the worry that immigration might be a spanner in the works. But then Chauncey obligingly swanned off to Calais this week and offered to let all of the queue jumpers, layabouts and mobile phone possessing whingers in. Then lefties got all hot and bothered because Dave called them a bunch. The British people used considerably more choice words as they yelled at their television sets that night.
And this, fellow Eurosceptic travellers, is our best hope. It is that the ineffably smug types who would willingly allow in all of those Calais freeloaders with a wave of their manicured hands, will allow their smug condescension to get the better of them and start patronising the rest of the country in the way that Labour did last May and has been doing ever since. One only had to read the column by the preternaturally smug, well fed and insufferable David Aaronovitch in yesterday's Times to see how it could all so easily go wrong.
Aaronovitch, whom I must admit I have been finding a lot less irritating of late, which may just go to prove that one of us is getting old, constructed a kind of straw man, reductio ad absurdum argument about the ongoing immigration crisis besieging and overwhelming Europe. All we have to do is send in gun boats and sink a few of the little boats, he argued, po facedly, and all will be solved. And in so doing he displayed all of the kind of moral certainty of lefty metropolitans.
Except his argument wasn't so stupid. Okay, nobody is seriously arguing that we should sink the little boats. But what is wrong with picking them all up and taking them back from whence they came? Even the EU acknowledges that the majority are not refugees at all, but are chancers trying to engage in a bit of moral blackmail. So turn them around and take them back.
This is essentially what is already happening anyway, its just that we are going through a pointless charade of due process first. Even the current vogue of just taking children is being exploited by very canny migrants who are using said children as trojan horses to let the whole family in later. That could be countered by simply saying that any parent who is willing to let their children travel alone in such a manner is clearly not fit to be seen as a worthy family member and thus cannot claim the right to a family life under the HRA.
The endless hand wringing and pass the buck politics of the EU is demonstrating once again why this intrinsically flawed and hypocritical organisation needs a healthy dose of British realpolitik. We will once again have to play the bad guys to the embarrassment and consternation of our pusillanimous governing class. And I mean all of them. We don't necessarily want a Donald Trump in this country, but it would be lovely to disoblige those who smugly try to bully us into continuing their EU gravy train of backslapping, anti democratic club of sybaritic panjandrums high on their own importance but low on basic competence. Even those who are Euro sceptics haven't the gumption to stand up to our crap prime minister and tell him that he is trying to pull a fast one and taking us all for fools.
This, I promise you, is what a sizeable proportion of the British people, those who do not live in leafy north London, will have been saying to their television sets this week as they watch the immigration debacle unfold. It is why Dave decided to call that bunch of would be freeloaders a bunch. He neglected to add the would be freeloader part. That is something I added. Maybe it should be me who takes Dave and the likes of Alan Johnson on in the debates when the referendum is finally called. Someone who says stuff that north London liberals don't like would scare the bejesus out of the Remain campaign. Okay it would make me hated by most of Islington and all of Twitter and it would mean my chances of ever being asked to work for the BBC again would disappear, but on the plus side it would get us out of Europe.
And would it even do that? If we know anything about Europe it is that they never knowingly take no for an answer. So the best way to get a proper renegotiation, one that is not crap, is to vote to leave and then ask for something better or else we'll go through with it. Oh and of course we would have someone negotiating for us who isn't crap. No, not you George, sorry, Google.
Thursday, 28 January 2016
You won't often find this blog quoting the words of Alex Salmond approvingly. But for once we are in accord. Interestingly this is on the subject of Donald Trump. Not that Alex and I have always been as one on the subject of the hirsute disaster. I have always considered him a buffoon and a charlatan. Alex used to suck up to him as though his publicly subsidised trews depended on it.
And anyway, we are only actually in accord because we both agree with what someone else has said, namely Cher, the actress and singer. She had this to say on Twitter:
Trump NOT Doing FOX Debate Cause Of MEGAN KELLY😂Some1 Get Him TOE SHOES,fkng PRIMA DONNA. HOW CAN HE FACE ISIS,HE CANT FACE A CHICK ON TV.🐈— Cher (@cher) January 27, 2016
Its hard not to agree with that.
Trump pulled out of the latest debate, one of the interminable debates being held even prior to voting in the Primaries gets under way. His reason was supposedly that he didn't much like the way he was being treated by Fox News, the hosts of the debate. In reality he probably just felt that he would be humiliated and a whipping boy given his obnoxious behaviour towards Megan Kelly.
But the other reality is of course that Trump probably feels that he doesn't have to worry about anything much now. It doesn't matter what he does or what his opponents try to do to him. He cannot lose. He has reached the point at which he can more or less say anything he likes and it will guarantee him endless free coverage and a further surge in the polls.
How is this happening?
Well it is happening because this is America and American politics is trenchantly and bitterly divided in a country in which many Americans, especially small town, conservative America, have always had a deep suspicion and loathing of Washington and its gravy train politicians. Trump is like the anti Obama. 8 years on from all of that hopey changey stuff with which Obama regaled and enthused the nation, 8 years on since his rhetoric surprised and delighted the world, America is more bitterly divided than at almost any time since the civil war. Obama, the smooth, educated, urbane, effortlessly cool left wing demagogue, high on promises but woefully short on delivery has changed very little of substance except in the sense that he has made the world a more dangerous place, not least because America has lost its sense of purpose and of its own exceptionalism. His failure of leadership, born of his lack of desire to lead, led only to a power vacuum, and we all know how nature and the human race abhors a vacuum.
And so we have Trump. He is the ranting opposition to the smooth talking Obama, the revenge of the patronised and the ignored of middle America. All conventional wisdom suggests that Trump, though he may well win the Republican Party nomination, cannot win the presidency. More than that he may well damage that already dysfunctional party beyond repair, since much of that party could not in good conscience vote for him let alone exhort others to do so.
Sound familiar? Sound like our own Labour Party? Well, up to a point. Except Chauncey can only dream of the levels of support being seen by Trump. That much vaunted mandate he keeps waving at everyone in the manner of a famous Belgian fountain is in reality not much bigger than the collective majorities he and half a dozen of his fellow safe seat MPs enjoy to give them their seats in the Commons. As a percentage of the electorate it amounts to a pin prick. As a percentage of the votes he needs to win back those who voted Conservative last May it is barely a ripple.
The other difference is that his own softly spoken form of rabble rousing, though it enthuses his mandate, actively turns off the rest of us. His decision this week to go to Calais (where there are no British voters) and implore the British Government to let them all come here 'because there's only 3000 of them' was as brainless in its own, diametrically different way, as anything Trump has said.
But then they are both saying what needs to be said to enthuse their base. The difference is that Chauncey is already the leader of his party and its current nomination, if you will, to be our next prime minister. Trump at least has the excuse that he needs to be saying this crap to get to that position. Whether he is then able to cast off red neck Trump and to become a bit more consensual seems open to doubt. Chauncey is showing how difficult it can be. He isn't even willing to dispense with his trademark brown jacket and ill matching trousers ensemble. Indeed he has been wearing them now non stop throughout 2016. You would think someone in receipt of his salary could afford some new clothes. But then you would think someone who is a billionaire like Trump could afford a decent hair cut.
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
You do sometimes have to wonder if Chauncey really believes in his leadership of the Labour Party and the official opposition, or whether he is just engaged in a kind of fantasy he knows won't last. He displays the zeal and enthusiasm of someone let loose in a chocolate factory or one of those dreams where you can be invisible for a day and can do whatever you like.
This week, after the empty submarines debacle, the confused old duffer, looking for all the world like Private Godfrey from Dad's Army, told ITV's This Morning that his party are all getting along fine and dandy. You have to wonder what would have to happen before he would admit that things are a bit fractious. Even Philip Schofield laughed at him.
This seems to be the prevailing response now to more or less everything that the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition says. Is this necessarily healthy for our democracy? It certainly isn't for the Labour Party. You only have to look at the expression on Labour MPs' faces at PMQs. The chortling of Tory MPs has been described by certain lefties as a symptom of fear. Errr, no. Its a symptom of ridicule and incomprehension.
Chauncey is set to address a crowd at a rally in Trafalgar Square calling for unilateral nuclear disarmament we are told. Certain excitable elements on the left are saying it will be attended by 50,000 people. We'll see. Maybe it will just be attended by those millionaires who have lately been joining the Labour Party from places like leafy Islington. Most of them seem to live in one street. At the rally Chauncey will probably call for a show of hands for nuclear disarmament and then call it his mandate. He does love to talk about his mandate. Oooh, look at the size of his mandate. If only he could enthuse people who don't live in Islington.
Elsewhere this week the Tories, given a free pass by the inadequacies of Labour are talking about Europe more or less non stop. In this case though we should be talking about the apparent inability of our government to get Google to pay tax when our European neighbours have managed to extract much more. Google is probably paying about 3% tax its reckoned. We can only say probably because it has not been revealed. But then it is a probably we can take as probable, much like the probably applied to Vlad the Botoxed sanctioning the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Donald Trump doesn't believe a word of it. Has anyone asked Chauncey? He likes working for Russia Today after all and thinks Vlad's invasion of the Crimea was NATO's fault. The murder of Litvinenko was probably our fault too.
But George Osborne screwed up on this. Announcing it as a triumph that a company is running rings around him and HMRC was not so much an open goal but an own goal in which he side footed it in and then did a lap of honour. Its really very simple, George. Change the law. What Google and other companies are doing is an abuse. It is moving money artificially and is the sort of thing that brings capitalism into disrepute. Still, for those of us who think that George would be a disaster as leader and PM all of these missteps he keeps making, trying to be too clever by half, this was a welcome warning of a potential future.
Chauncey decided to talk about tax today, a brave decision for a Labour leader who wants to go on a spending binge if elected and who last week went to Calais and offered a Merkel style open door to the thousands currently camping there in the hope of coming here and availing themselves of our hospitality.
Chauncey raised the 3% figure and asked if it was accurate. An especially combative prime minister was having none of it. This is a deal done in respect of taxes going back to the days when Labour was in power he said and rejected the 3% figure, although he didn't give one of his own. Chauncey, as is his default response, said that Dave had not answered the question. This actually wasn't true. Dave had answered the question, albeit in a way that Chauncey didn't like. But coming from the man who claimed that Labour are all getting on swimmingly it seemed odd.
Chauncey then claimed that corporation tax receipts have gone down under the Tories as a percentage of GDP. Dave directly contradicted this, albeit by comparing a different statistic. To Chauncey's question about someone called Geoff who wanted to know if he could pay the same rate as Google he said that Geoff's tax rate is going down while Google's is going up. He couldn't know this of course. It might well be that Geoff is one of those millionaire socialists in Islington that back Chauncey before going home for a kitchen supper made from organic ingredients. The rich pay lots of tax. Most of it actually. If Chauncey got into power we would probably see a French style exodus by the rich, including those who live in Islington.
Because Chauncey went on the big story of the day, a story that ought to be good for Labour given public anger, he ought to have done better. He stuck limpet like to his script though as usual and made no headway, he probably even scripts the bits when he says the PM didn't answer the question. He doesn't even read the script well. At one stage he seemed to say that Google has paid billions in tax. It was like when he read out his stage directions in his big speech to conference.
Dave had pre-prepared lines but they were good pre-prepared lines and they were delivered with gusto. The idea, he said, that those two - pointing at Chauncey and McDonnell - would stand up to anyone is laughable. They met with the unions and gave them flying pickets - he might have added empty submarines too. They met with the Argentinians, they gave them the Falklands. They met with a bunch of migrants in Calais and they said they could come to Britain. The only people they never stand up for are the people of Britain. It was strong, it was forceful and it was largely true. You can tell it discomfited Labour because since they have been complaining about Dave calling the throng of would be benefit claimants in Calais a bunch of migrants. What's wrong with bunch? What collective noun is acceptable for people gathering in France with the intention of breaking the law and endangering those travelling legally?
The problem Chauncey faces every week is that his various deranged and stupid public utterances which just keep his own supporters happy but outrage the British people give Dave a free pass. Whatever he says, whatever has gone wrong for the Government each week, something worse has gone wrong for the Labour Party beset by civil war. There is even civil war in the leader's own office. His last question of the day was on Yemen and the war there. He probably wants us to surrender to them too, even though we're not involved.
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
The Labour Party under Chauncey is currently attempting to prove that satire is dead, pointless and jejune. How can anyone compete with reality?
But now it seems that the BBC has remembered one of its greatest ever satirical shows and is using it for tips. Witness the above sketch about the Beeb's Points of View show, then presented by Barry Took, impersonated here by Griff Rhys Jones. Various correspondents write in to tell the BBC how marvellous it is and how cheap and reasonable the licence fee is, something that decades of BBC trailers have been telling us too.
Now, according to this report in The Times, the BBC is set to recruit a bunch of grey haired luvvie luminaries to try and persuade the over 75s to eschew their entitlement to a free television licence in order to pay for the brilliance of the BBC. After a deal done between the Beeb and the Treasury, the cost of free licences for the over 75s is now picked up by the BBC itself. Actually of course it is paid for by everyone else, as is the way for all universal benefits handed out by politicians to buy themselves votes. The brilliance of this scheme is that it makes the BBC pay for it by having to cut some of the services it provides out of its licence fee revenue. But it is difficult for the BBC to do anything about this because most people at the BBC are very much in favour of doling out other peoples cash to people they have deemed worthy.
Of course your average BBC employee - and remember I have been one - leads a gilded life doing not very much work for a very generous salary. And so this invidious choice between their lefty instincts and their own comfortable existence is a splendid one. They really don't know which way to turn.
Except they do. They have decided to start a campaign to try and persuade those entitled to free licences but who could easily afford to buy them anyway to do so. If they do, it will be claimed, the money will go towards paying for all of that splendid stuff that the BBC does for us every year out of the goodness of its heart. Expect lots of trailers with David Attenborough in them.
But what particular part of the BBC do they think our undeserving elderly would wish to pay extra for? Wasting £100 million on an IT scheme that never worked perhaps? The various salaries and expenses of Alan Yentob? Paying for the new, misfiring version of Top Gear and its £3 million presenter now that the old and highly profitable one has been donated for free to Amazon? Providing an endless alternative employment revolving door for employees of The Guardian, especially on Newsnight? Paying for the entirely pointless but fantastically expensive redeployment of staff and facilities to Manchester, but only the bits that senior management won't be too inconvenienced by? Buying nasty meretricious entertainment formats for Saturday night television? Mrs Brown's Boys? Still Open All Hours? At least the latter does seem to have been made with the elderly in mind, although presumably it assumes that they are all suffering from dementia and cannot recognise a stale rehash of Last of the Summer Wine when they see one.
Yes all across the nation the over 75s will no doubt be going online immediately to stump up their cash to pay for our glorious national broadcaster and its legions of smug, self satisfied staff. Who wouldn't want to pay for the privilege of having this self selecting bunch of metropolitan luvvies preaching at us and telling us how wrong we are about everything from immigration to climate change? Its a lot like the Labour Party really, lots of people who live in London and think the rest of the country is only really good for having safe constituencies in or paying the licence fee.
Monday, 25 January 2016
There is something wonderful about the fact that, in the week after we were all regaled with stupid stories trotted out by lazy, can't be bothered to check or ask questions, know-nothing environment and science correspondents about last year being the hottest ever, the weather chose then to hit north eastern America with its biggest snow storm ever. Its touch and go whether the federal government in Washington will be able to work tomorrow. Congress is suspended. Even the great cheerleader for global warming and saving the planet, President Obama, was affected when he flew back into DC as the storm got underway and his motorcade was held up. Its hard to obey a flashing police light telling you to get out of the way if you can't get any traction from your tyres.
But this of course is just weather. We on the sceptic side of the argument can't have it both ways.
The story about last year being the hottest ever was rubbish though. Its propaganda dressed up as statistics. It belongs to the same category as that Oxfam report of a couple of weeks ago, the same one they release every year just prior to Davos, in which they claim that the richest (choose your own small number) own more wealth than the bottom (choose your own large number, preferably in the billions). This is deliberately misleading. It should not be reported. The same is true of spurious claims about one year being the hottest.
First and foremost we know that this is spurious because it is based on suspect numbers. The satellite data shows no warming now for the last 20 years. Yet the data that is relied on to make this claim shows the opposite. Guess which data the warmists rely upon. It should be noted however that the data on which these claims rely is suspect because it has been adjusted to the point that the data is meaningless. Temperatures at ground level are prone to all kinds of errors from differing methodologies to urban sprawl. They can also be affected by localised errors, such as the famous example last summer when the Met Office claimed that the hottest temperature ever had been recorded near London. What they neglected to tell us was that the place in question was Heathrow and the record temperature had been caused by a passing plane.
Something else they don't tell us is that the satellite data is more reliable because they cover the whole of the planet. The surface temperature is less reliable because it misses out the vast majority of the planet. We cannot, by definition, have weather stations across the planet's oceans, in the vast areas that are uninhabited or sparsely inhabited, on mountain ranges, in deserts, across the plains of Africa or the rainforests. Oh and the satellite data is also corroborated by radiosonde data sent aloft on balloons measuring temperature. Last year according to this data was only the 3rd hottest, not ever, but since 1979. We also know that the planet has been warmer, substantially so, in the past. There is well documented evidence of this. Thus the current small scale warming is no big deal.
This is not to say that there is not a warming trend. Of course there is. The planet is warming up from the last ice age. This is established and well known. But it is also well known that, since the last ice age, the planet has been both substantially warmer than now and substantially colder. There are peaks and troughs that are entirely natural, have much to do with the sun and which were happening long before man started burning fossil fuels.
But look behind the figures. That is what journalists should be doing before reporting this story. Do your jobs properly. The hottest year ever? By what scale? We are talking here about something that is mere guesswork. You cannot accurately measure temperature across a global scale and come to a meaningful average for the planet. Or at least you can but not without vast uncertainty. The uncertainty is, perhaps, 0.2 of a degree. Yet the difference between last year being the hottest ever and not being the hottest is a matter of a few hundredths of a degree. So in other words the difference between last year being the hottest ever and not being that big of a deal is what would be dismissed as insignificant in any other field of science. If they were being honest they would simply say: we don't know or our data is incomplete or conflicted. If one set of data, one which has been heavily adjusted, conflicts with the other data from satellites then that ought to give pause for thought, unless of course you want to believe something and so dismiss the data that is inconvenient.
Look at it this way, the temperatures for the surface temperatures have been adjusted. This, they tell us, is because there is uncertainty about the measurements. But they are adjusting their figures by 0.2 of a degree, albeit they always adjust their figures to show warming. Funny that. But they can't have it both ways. If they are having to adjust their figures then that means there is some uncertainty about the figures. Hence? Hence the claims about it being the hottest ever are meaningless. There is no way that science, proper science, can be that specific about something over such a short period of time when there is such a huge margin for error.
So the only conclusion that we can reach is that the stories last week were propaganda and spin. Why do they need to engage in that if their science is so incontrovertible, if the science is settled? And why are they still spinning after last year's climate change conference at which, we were told, a great new far reaching deal was reached to save us all?
We are being lied to brazenly and systematically. Fortunately, like all zealots, the warmists are so arrogant they don't realise how ridiculous their scaremongering has become and how contradictory their claims have become. Last year was not the hottest ever. The fact that they feel the need to lie about it says everything you need to know about the state of the great global warming swindle.
Sunday, 24 January 2016
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 4 - God Gives Moses His Bag of Impressive Tricks But Then Nearly Kills Him Over A Foreskin
At this point Moses objected to God's plan, not because, as you might imagine, he thought it would be a lot easier for a so called God to be a bit more godly and just get his people out of Egypt by some miraculous means or have them steal away in the night, or even that he wondered why God had allowed them to be captured and to stay captured for so long. All perfectly reasonable objections. No, he was worried that, when he went to speak to the elders they would not believe him when he said that he had been sent by God.
God, who had obviously grown bored these last few years, once again promised lots of tricks for Moses to deploy to convince people that he was in earnest. Given that he had all these tricks why had he let all of his people exist in servitude for so long?
God told Moses to throw his rod from his hand and as he did so it turned into a snake. Moses, entirely sensibly but not especially bravely, ran away from it. God told him however that he had to grab the snake by the tail. When he did so it turned back into a rod.
God then showed him how he could turn his hand leprous and then back again to a healthy hand. And all without antibiotics. He also showed him how he could turn water into blood when he poured it on to the ground. These three tricks would convince the elders that Moses was a messenger from God, in much the same way that we are all convinced that magicians these days are telling us something profound about the world. It does beg the question why God didn't simply go and speak to them himself and tell them he was sending them a messenger. He could have sent them all a burning bush for instance. God never does things the easy way.
But Moses was still hesitant. He argued that he was not eloquent. He seemed to argue this quite eloquently. God assured him that he had made man, had made their mouths and that he would speak through Moses and make him eloquent and persuasive.
Still Moses had his doubts. He asked God if he could send someone else to speak for him. God detected that Moses would be met in the days to come by his brother (who had never been mentioned before and how did he have a brother when he had been adopted by the Pharaoh?) God decided that Aaron, Moses brother, would be his mouthpiece to talk to his elders and people.
So Moses, finally accepting his fate as a prophet of God, went to his father in law and asked for permission to go to Egypt. He took his wife and sons - we have only been told about one of them, but this chapter seems to be full of this kind of revisionism and hasty editing - and God told him that he could safely return to Egypt because all of the men who had been hunting for him were now safely dead. Quite why this mattered when he had a big bad God on his side is unclear.
God told him to go to the Pharaoh and to do all of those tricks that he had been shown. But, and this makes even less sense than the rest of this story, God said that he would harden the heart of the Pharaoh so that he would refuse to do Moses' bidding and let his people go. Why? Why would God send his emissary to demand the release of his people but then ensure that the Pharaoh would say no? The answer is of course that this whole story is once again an attempt by this obscure Arab tribe to make themselves as important as the mighty Egyptians and to lay claim to having a bigger and badder god on their side.
At which point and for no obvious reason we now get a brief interlude.
Moses was on his way to Egypt and stopped off along the way and camped for the night. During the night God, who is supposed to be a god remember, suddenly discovered that Moses's son was not circumcised and so he tried to kill him. It is unclear whether God tried to kill Moses or his son. But anyway, circumcision is clearly very important to this god of the seriously peculiar priorities. So Moses' wife cut off the foreskin of her son with a rock (ouch!) and threw it at his feet.
Now you may well be asking yourself what the point of this digression is. If there is some part of you that has a lot of questions about this then you are not alone. Few can explain or understand it. It makes no sense whatsoever. Presumably it is meant to tell us how important circumcision is. God tries to kill you if you don't get it done, which begs the question why he gave us foreskins in the first place. After all earlier in this chapter he was boasting to Moses how he gave men mouths and so he could easily control talking. Could he not control the growth of foreskins?
Anyway, this brief and weird interlude over, Moses went out and met his brother and told him all that God had told him. Then Aaron went and gathered the people and elders of the children of Israel and told them what he had been told about God's message. He might also have told them that they had better make sure that they and their sons were circumcised because God set a lot of store in this pointless and ridiculous tradition. Anyway, they believed and worshipped their God and at no point did it occur to them to ask what the hell had taken him so long. Some questions are too troublesome to ask. Just cross your legs and get on with it.
Saturday, 23 January 2016
Friday, 22 January 2016
To the surprise of nobody, except perhaps the leadership of the Labour Party, yesterday Vlad the Botoxed and his cronies were implicated in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. We knew this of course. The wheels of the British system move very slowly, but they do usually move, slowly and ponderously towards the truth and thus to justice. Not for poor Marina Litvinenko, the widow of Alexander though. She will call in vain for further sanctions against the kleptocrats of the Kremlin. She'll be lucky if we so much as expel a few diplomats we know to be spies. We did call in the Russian ambassador though and tell him we considered him a jolly bad egg.
In case the halfwits of the Labour Party are wondering, the reason that Vlad was so angry at Alexander Litvinenko, enough to send two not very efficient spies to a foreign capital to kill him, was because Litvinenko had accused him of being a paedophile. We have no supporting evidence for this of course, but then this could simply be because Vlad now has the power to expunge all such evidence from the record. Before that, Russian politics being what it is, such embarrassing accusations would have been hushed up. Once Vlad became a rising star he became too powerful. In other words he became like the Russian equivalent of star nonce Jimmy Savile.
Vlad is similar to Savile in other ways too. He is adept at self publicity, even if that self publicity is often ludicrous. Hence Vlad likes to play the butch and macho man of action. Hence his bareback horse riding and idiotic treasure dive of a couple of years ago which made him the laughing stock of the world.
But Vlad is also essentially a thug, the head of the world's greatest mafia cartel. There are far too many stories of this kind of behaviour to be discounted. There was the occasion when he was shown a 124 diamond ring, the sort beloved of Russians everywhere - at least until their economy became bombed out by Vlad's brainless economic policy and expansionism. Vlad examined the ring with delight, expressed his admiration for it and then pocketed it. He was promptly surrounded by his security detail and refused to hand it back.
Or there was the time in the Guggenheim Museum in New York when he was shown another piece of Russian meretricious tastelessness: a glass replica gun filled with vodka. Vlad liked it, decided he wanted it and so one of his henchmen, on a signal from the president, walked off with it. Diplomatic immunity and big burly bodyguards can be so useful when you are a crook.
Vlad is said, despite his habit of stealing stuff, to be fabulously wealthy. Then again perhaps that is how he became fabulously wealthy. When a deputy mayor of what was then the impoverished city of Leningrad, Putin helped himself to several million dollars earmarked to buy meat for the starving city. The meat never turned up because Vlad kept the cash for himself. It was the start of a pattern at the inception of an inglorious career of entitlement and that steely stare.
Some of these stories may of course be untrue or exaggerated, although many are corroborated by witnesses who were there at the time. What it does reveal is that Putin is a man who gets away with things because he has the brass neck to try and then to bluff his way out of it or to threaten or murder his way out of it. Mostly people acquiesce, or make a bargain with the devil. This is essentially what the British government is arguing it must do now for the greater good of Syria, a greater good that Russia itself threatens with its cynical manoeuvres. Yet it would not take much to call the bluff of Vlad who is presiding over an impending economic disaster as the oil price on which the sclerotic and corrupt Russian state depends continues to plummet. Economic pressure was already starting to tell on Vlad after his adventure in Ukraine. But like the gambler he is he doubled down in Syria. We should not be rewarding him for that by allowing him literally to get away with murder.
Incidentally, if I end up dead in a few days time I hope it won't take ten years to figure out who did it.
Thursday, 21 January 2016
2015 was a great year for space exploration and astronomy, especially with the amazing discoveries about Pluto sent back to Earth, which as usual surprised and shocked scientists who had been so confident about what they would see.
But now could we be about to see the discovery of a new planet. Not a small Pluto type object - Pluto used to be a planet until it was relegated - but a massive object 10 times the mass of the Earth.
Back in 1846 Neptune was discovered, first by mathematical means by Urban Le Verrier who told astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle where to point his telescope simply by inferring where the planet should be according to his calculations. Galle found what was subsequently called Neptune within an hour of starting his search.
Now researchers in California have done something similar by observing the peculiar movements of various objects in the Kuiper Belt and inferring the presence of a massive object with an eccentric orbit out there. The only difference between this story and that of Le Verrier is that they used a computer simulation rather than painstaking calculations.
Now our rather more powerful modern day telescopes can be pointed at the point of the sky where this new object should be. It shouldn't be too hard to spot either, despite the fact that it is so far out it could take 10 thousand years to orbit the sun, or possibly 20 thousand. Until we see it and work out how big it really is and where, we can't know.
If it is found then it will require a further rewriting of our theories about how the solar system was formed. It will also of course require a name. I think it would be remiss not to give serious consideration to naming it after two of the men currently proving on a daily basis that they inhabit different planets. Which do you favour: Corbyn or Trump? I of course favour Corbyn: after all its emerged out of nowhere, it defies all logic and reason, but we have always known it was out there lurking somewhere and find it strangely fascinating if weird.
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
There have been a couple of reports issued this week, one of them a little reluctantly, that have been pored over by the political class. First, how was it that the opinion polls were so hopelessly wrong about the election? Well it turns out that it was because they were asking the wrong people. Then those who actually did ask the right people decided not to publish their real figures or adjusted them so that they said the same thing that all of the other pollsters were saying. We who read these things had been told that the debacle of 92 could never happen again. That these things were much more sophisticated now. And so we trusted the science of psephology instead of our own instincts. Thus we were as guilty as the pollsters. Well, nearly.
Another report this week was published by Labour. They are still trying to figure out why they lost the election. They could simply have blamed the pollsters. Instead they blamed the electorate. And the Tories. Those bastard Tories stopped at nothing to win and said things that Labour didn't like. That's why they won. Some have claimed that this means that Labour remains in denial about why they lost. But that's just the bastard media again. Bloody Tories.
Interestingly this comes in the week when Chauncey went on to television and said that if he becomes prime minister he will continue to be against nuclear weapons. He has already said that he would never push the button to actually launch our nuclear weapons. Some had thought that this meant he would be against renewal of Trident. But not so fast. Chauncey had a cunning plan. Since that would have put thousands of people out of work he decided that they would still get to build their submarines as planned. Its just that they will not be armed. They will just sail around as they do now and will be safe and sound in the event that anyone decides to nuke Britain. So that's okay then.
Chauncey, before he became very busy leading his party - or at least his pastiche of doing so - was a regular contributor on Russia Today where he regaled viewers with his appreciation of Vlad the Botoxed and his terrible depiction in the other media, you know the bastard part of the media that isn't run by Vlad. Indeed he and his fellow travellers on the Labour left think that Vlad the Botoxed is a much misunderstood man. Its probably the fault of the Tories again. Or the bastard media, the parts that aren't run by the not at all corrupt and murderous Kremlin. Or NATO. Or America. Bastards. Vlad had to invade people and have men killed in London cafes because of NATO. Or possibly the media. Or maybe it was the Tories. One of them anyway. Vlad is a lovely chap and has had lots of lovely things to say about Chauncey and his pals. He probably really likes Chauncey's idea about nuclear free subs. Not that he will be following suit of course. He can't because of NATO. Or the media. Or the Tories. Its all a conspiracy you know. Like those opinion polls that were fixed by the Tories. Or NATO. They even made that Edstone you know. Whenever Chauncey says something really stupid that's because of the Tories too. Or the media. Bastards.
Our hard pressed and hard working MPs got together this week at parliament at a very well attended debate about Donald Trump. They lined up one after the other to stick the boot into the bewigged one in response to a petition calling for him to be banned from the UK. Not that they had the power to do anything about this of course. The Government has opined that it might not be very sensible to ban from these shores the man who is currently part of a democratic exercise to lead this country's most important ally. Still, MPs know a bandwagon when they see one and piled on. Chauncey would have liked to have attended but he was probably still doing his reshuffle, which is still going on. Its like a perpetual motion machine. He did however let it be known that come the revolution not only Trump but all Americans will be banned from these shores. He's going to keep them out by sending in our unarmed submarines to blockade the Atlantic. That'll show 'em.
To be completely fair, Chauncey has improved at these sessions. He even managed to depart momentarily from his script this week in order to insert into it a word that the PM had used: 'aspiration.' Unfortunately for him he did rather display in so doing that he doesn't really understand what it means.
The subject matter this week was student grants and student debt. The crowd sourcing of questions was back. There was a question from Liam who is set to be a maths teacher we are told but will end up, like most students, with a large debt. But as a maths teacher he will be in demand. There was a story in the Sunday Times this week concerning the desperation of head teachers for people like Liam and their willingness to offer all kinds of incentives.
Dave didn't say this, but he did point out that people don't have to repay their loans until they are earning above £21k. And there is a further threshold of £35k before he has to repay it in full. Chauncey quibbled that he had already said Liam is earning £25k. So Liam is complaining that he is already on a decent salary after only recently completing his training and is upset because he now has a long and well paid career ahead of him but will have to pay back the cost of making him so employable. Perhaps he should have chosen the Chauncey path: just drop out and go and work for your pals in the unions before spending decades as a no hoper MP waiting for your party to suffer a nervous breakdown.
Of course Liam could well go down the Chauncey path for his control of students. The staring over the glasses at hecklers isn't working any more. But he is using teacher training techniques on his Tory tormentors opposite. I wonder if he had to pay for the lessons.
The techniques aren't really working. A better idea would be for him to dazzle the House with his wit and incisive questioning. Unfortunately staring over his glasses and saying 'we're waiting' is the best that he can do. One week he will probably ask some of the giggling Tories to come up and explain to the whole class what is so funny. The answer? You, Mr Chauncey.
After a decent start Chauncey fizzled out once again. Dave is very good at answering a different question to the ones being asked of him and he did that again today. But in the week of Chauncey's idiocy on nuclear weapons and other thinking out loud about secondary picketing the PM had an open goal gaping at him and he duly thumped the ball in to it with aplomb.
Labour, the whole party, is a threat to our national security and to the NHS Cameron said. We want more nurses, British nurses and Government reforms to student funding, a process started by Labour, have demonstrably not stopped poorer students from going to university. Ordinary taxpayers cannot be expected to fund a university educated elite. Aspiration is key, something shared by the British people as we see another large drop in unemployment. Labour once again didn't want to talk about that. They are making the same mistakes identified in their own report into why they lost the election. But that report wasn't really necessary. You only have to look at Labour, at their virtue signalling intellectually bankrupt approach. You only have to look at the brown jacket wearing, middle class poseur asking questions with faux concern. They are hopeless, hapless. An empty vessel, like their proposed submarines.
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
One of the great problems of religion - there are other more egregious problems obviously, but I'll leave those for other occasions - is that believers have a tendency to assume that they are somehow morally superior to those of us with different, less stringent or no beliefs.
Now in the case of most of the world's religious this is merely amusing or at worst irritating. If you want to believe that you are morally superior because you sit in a draughty church every week, or because you arrange flowers on the altar then that is up to you.
The problem arises when this innate feeling of superiority makes the believer think him or herself not only morally superior but possessed of the right to tell the rest of us where we are going wrong. In certain circumstances this can be dangerous. If the believers gain some kind of power over the rest of us they are wont to abuse it. It has happened throughout history. Or of course there is a problem where one religious group lives in a society that is liberal and multicultural. If you think that you are somehow morally superior to the rest of us then you will take this otherness and turn it into a desire to ghettoise yourselves, never once noticing that this makes you appear at best rude and ungrateful and potentially threatening.
Now of course we should caveat this as usual with the standard disclaimer about not all Muslims subscribing to this mindset. But that is a lie really. We know that a substantial minority amongst Muslims, possibly a third or more of them, agree with an extremist worldview. They agree with the argument that British foreign policy is ranged against Muslims. They consider any and all criticism of their idiot religion as being tantamount to racism. They actually consider themselves a race rather than mere believers in a transparently stupid superstition which requires them to pray five times a day and starve themselves once a year thus endangering themselves and anyone unlucky enough to be their patient, passenger or simply a fellow user of the roads.
What about moderate Muslims I hear you ask. Well moderate Muslims aren't the problem. But that is because moderate Muslims are on the long but rewarding road to not being Muslims at all. They are on the long but rewarding road to ceasing to define themselves by a brainless belief. Seriously, what other group in our society does this, with the exception of Jews? Even then there are historical reasons why Jews tend to be defined by their religion even to the point that actual belief is optional. Muslims have no such excuse, much as they may pretend otherwise. Most people in this diverse country of ours define themselves or actually resist being defined at all. Our identity is surely a great deal more multifaceted than by virtue of our religion. Does that not make you ridiculously shallow and narrow minded? There are any number of elements to my personality and lifestyle. I am English. I am a Liverpool fan. I am a Tory. I am a Brummie (yes, a Brummie Liverpool fan - get over it). I am a Trekkie. I am a fan of the Beatles. Why let yourself be defined by one small part of yourself and the part which makes you look the most stupid and blinkered too?
I only mention all of this because yesterday David Cameron, in the mildest way possible, suggested that it might be an idea to get Muslim women to learn English. He suggested this because it is a good way of countering various third world practices which subjugate women and ensure that they are unable to take full advantage of the many opportunities that life in a first world country offers.
But why is he singling out Muslims said the usual voices? Well that would be because we are all worried that Muslim otherness and their strange sense of superiority is distinct and different from any other group in our society. Nobody is worried about being bombed or shot by Hindus or Sikhs. They are somehow able to celebrate their religions without feeling threatened and without the need to issue threats to those of us who believe differently or believe that all religion is for morons. Whilst many other groups in our society might have practices at which many of us look askance, the most medieval are excused by reference to Islam, even when it actually has nothing whatever to do with Islam.
There is a reason that our society has become less religious. Its not that we are all slaves to mammon or indeed to the devil. It is that we are better educated, freer to exercise our own judgement and no longer prey to societal pressure forcing us to conform. Its called progress. Progress comes by education and by honest and open debate. Its what David Cameron was calling for yesterday. He was just being more polite about it than he should have been.
Monday, 18 January 2016
It was bad enough when they elected this confused old guy who looks like someone in his 60s but who behaves like a surly teenager who thinks the world would be a better place if only he were running it. It was bad enough when he tried to turn PMQs into a radio phone in. It was bad enough when he tried to put together a shadow cabinet and neglected to put any women in the top job and then refused to answer any questions about it. It was bad enough when he did a speech to conference and read out his own stage directions or when the speech was lifted from someone who had written the same stuff for the last half dozen leaders and been rejected. It was bad enough when he made a man who has actually praised IRA murderers his shadow chancellor. It was bad enough when he put Diane Abbott in there too. It was bad enough when he had a reshuffle only three months since the last one and it took him a week and a half to complete it and this was a reshuffle as revenge even though he then neglected to move the man who they wanted vengeance against. It was bad enough that that reshuffle was a revenge for people voting against him in a free vote. It was bad enough when Chauncey said that he would never, as prime minister, authorise the use of nuclear weapons, despite the fact that this would mean that our deterrent would not deter. Oh and he's also against the naming of cats. But let's put that down to simple eccentricity, unlike his determination to hand over the Falklands to Argentina despite the wishes of the islanders. Democracy only means something if you vote the way Chauncey wants you to.
But now the man who announced that he would like to reopen Britain's coal mines even though he is committed to delivering cuts in CO2 has announced his genius policy on nuclear disarmament. Oh we are not going to have nuclear weapons if Chauncey has anything to do with it, but he doesn't want to do anyone out of jobs and so we will still have submarines built - its just that he won't arm them. They will presumably sail right up to our enemies and speak softly to them. If they're lucky Chauncey might let them carry a big stick. A blunt one.
With the kind of consummate timing we have already come to recognise, not to mention his unassailable grasp of logic, Chauncey chose to reveal this genius new move on our submarines at a time when Iran has been allowed to blackmail the world into dropping sanctions against it. It was that or it would pursue nuclear weapons. Its only a few days since North Korea claimed to have the H bomb too. It seems that these are lessons that Chauncey has not learned however. He prefers his standard approach of refusing to hear any and all counter arguments and then repeating the sort of blithe drivel most of us grew out of when we stopped getting spots and mooning over that girl in the 6th form common room.
Is this all an elaborate joke or does Labour have as its leader a man who seriously suggested this week that we spend £137 billion building and maintaining submarines with no weapons just so that the unions won't nuke his delusion about unilateral disarmament? They say that he is a man with no measurable sense of humour. I bet the next shadow cabinet and PLP meeting will be full of people falling over themselves with laughter.
Sunday, 17 January 2016
Moses was now looking after the sheep of his father in law, although there is some confusion over who his father in law was. In the previous chapter he was called Reuel. Now he is called Jethro.
Anyway, Moses was looking after the sheep and he and the flock came to a mountain portentously described as the mountain of God, or Horeb if you prefer.
Suddenly Moses noticed a burning bush. Well, the bush seemed to be burning - there were flames - but the bush itself was not actually being burnt. Spooky.
Moses, who was given to talking to himself, announced that he was going to go and check out this bush to see what was going on. God then spoke to Moses via the burning bush. 'Moses, Moses,' he said and Moses responded 'Here am I, which is impressive when you think about it because most of us would have either run like hell, done a comedy double take and then looked at the alcohol we had been consuming or at the very least sworn and said 'bloody hell, it's a burning, talking bush.'
Moses of course did none of these things. He was made of sterner stuff. He didn't even disagree when the talking bush told him to take off his shoes as this was holy ground he was standing on.
The bush then introduced itself. 'I'm God,' it said. 'I am the God of your (unnamed) father, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'
By the by, there are supposed to have been several dozen generations of people since Jacob, enough for them to go from 70 people to hundreds of thousands, yet none of them are mentioned other than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Moses wept anyway, possibly because of this glaring and ridiculous inconsistency. He also hid his face as he was afraid to look at the face of God, although we have just been told its not the face of God. Its a burning bush.
God then told Moses that he had seen the awful affliction of the Hebrew people and that he was going to do something about it. He was going to liberate them all and take them from Egypt to their own land, a bountiful land, a land of milk and honey. God told him that he must go to see the Pharaoh and rescue his people and take them home.
Moses, not unreasonably, objected to this plan. Who was he to go and see the Pharaoh he protested.
God said that he would be with Moses all the way and that once he had led his people from Egypt he should bring them back to this mountain to give thanks to God. God is a very needy God. He needs to be needed. But more than that he needs to be worshipped. Clearly his people had not been doing enough worshipping lately.
Moses said: 'but when my people ask me who has sent me to them what shall I say your name is. And God said that he was God. He was the God of their ancestors, albeit ancestors who hadn't had anyone very worthwhile to talk about for a long time since the days of Jacob.
God assured Moses that when he went to the elders of Israel they would harken to his voice, especially when he told them the God bit. He should then go to the Pharaoh and demand that his people be released. The Pharaoh, said God, would surely refuse this. At this point God would get out all of his bag of tricks and miracles and that would free the people of Israel so that they could go and start paying God some attention again. He's a bit of a show off God. Actually he's a curious combination of a show off and extremely needy and vain.
Its either that, that God is vain and needy or this obscure tribe of Arabs wanted a God as impressive as the Egyptian Gods. They had a bit of an inferiority complex where Egypt is concerned.
As a final inducement, God said that, when Pharaoh relented and let them go, the Hebrew people should steal all of the golds, silver and fine clothes from Egypt for good measure. That's just setting the story up for later. But we'll come to that.