Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Peanuts


More Schadenfreude About Top Gear


Okay, I promise this is the last I'm going to say on the subject - at least until next week's appointment with a car crash. See what I did there?

The reviews of Top Gear have been mixed. This probably constitutes a bit of a triumph for team shouty ginger bloke. Not everyone hates it. Yay!

Some newspapers were verging on the complimentary about it. They were wrong and are probably feeling a bit exposed. But at least they said what they thought. Good for them.

It probably doesn't bode well for the show though that shouty ginger bloke was reduced to arguing about statistics this early on. It was a ratings triumph said SGB, because they won the best share. They did however fail to get the 5 million viewers he had been hoping for.

This, for those of you un-versed in these things, is the opposite of a triumph. If a show that has been absent from our screens for a whole year and has benefited from more publicity than a knickerless member of the royal family attending the State Opening of Parliament on a windy day cannot get more than 5 million viewers opposite the bloody soap awards and antiques then it is probably in trouble. Audience reaction was mostly negative. Admittedly many tuned in expecting to hate it. But many more simply didn't bother, even out of idle curiosity. Not good.

And boy were those who stayed at the pub right. It was lousy stuff. Shouty ginger bloke shouted (a lot) and looked nervous and puppyishly eager to please. Expensive American import bloke was wooden and incapable of coming up with anything approaching a funny line. If a funny line had approached him he would probably have given it a wider berth than a learner driver on a wet day at an ice cream factory.

And shouty ginger bloke completely forgot to actually review the bloody car he was driving, possibly because he was too busy shouting and trying to convince us all that he was having a good time. One of the other recruits, Sabine Schmitz, who could actually be quite good, was criminally underused. She can drive. Boy can she drive. But she was on screen for seconds. Even then she managed to be more entertaining and interesting that shouty ginger bloke managed for the whole hour.

I have no confirmation of this, but you might imagine that this first show included their best stuff. What happens when they get to the stuff they used as padding? Reports suggest they were struggling for ideas. When they had a year to prepare!

But we don't actually need evidence for this claim because it was there for all to see. There were three films, two of which involved chases, none of which actually reviewed the cars and one of which was a pointless drive up a motorway in cars that haven't been made for 30 years and were always crap. How much money are they paying shouty ginger bloke again? Might they have been better giving some of the money to a team of people with actual ideas and car show experience?

Some are saying that the show was slick and well made from a technical point of view - well shot and edited. But then it always was. The BBC is still the BBC. They are still as capable of engaging the best crews, the best facilities. If only they had managed to engage the best catering none of this would have happened. Instead they have killed their golden goose.

This show will limp on. It might even come back for another series. By then perhaps they will have ditched the old format and come up with some new ideas. But it will take something miraculous to rescue this now. The old show built up slowly. This one had to hit the ground running. Judging by this first show, they would probably miss.

The new show from Clarkson, May and Hammond will of course have a lot of expectation surrounding it too. But it will be helped that they have had to start with a clean sheet of paper. If only Top Gear had thought of that.

Minute Physics: How Far is a Second?

Classic Top Gear: When Top Gear Was Good

Monday, 30 May 2016

Peanuts


New Top Gear: Stuck With Being Old Top Gear


The problem for the new Top Gear is the old Top Gear. Now this may sound like a statement of the obvious, but bear with me, I am making a semi-serious point here.

The problem for this new version is that, such was the success of the old version of Top Gear, such was its huge commercial success in particular, that the BBC cannot do what the BBC would normally be free to do. It cannot, in short, do what it did when the old old version was shaken up and reinvented by Messrs Clarkson and Wilman all of those years ago. They created a new programme that eventually became a monster hit. Better than that: they invented a format.

It is a highly successful format that has been sold around the world. But therein lies its problem. You cannot mess with such success. The BBC wanted more of the same because its commercial partners in this country and around the world wanted more of the same. They will likely, at least on the evidence of this first show, be disappointed. This was dire.

Because it was a format. This was not a new show, this was the old show with new faces, but new faces trying desperately hard to be like the old faces. It just didn't work. They were trying too hard. It was painful to watch.

Such was their complete capture by the old format that Chris Evans even tried to replicate the old Clarkson jokes about the Stig: some say his chest is radial and he is confused by radar jamming devices. All we know is he's called The Stig. Evans couldn't pull it off. Richard Hammond couldn't on the old show when he tried. But why would Evans want to? It's like a comedian doing another's material. Has the man no pride?

And that wasn't the only problem. This was a show trying so desperately to be like the old show it tried to shoehorn the cars into the format. Reliant Robins? Really? To Blackpool? It was desperate stuff. No wonder Matt Le Blanc looked confused and out of place. He was. But then so was Evans. You could tell by his laughter and his desperate pleading. Isn't this great? He kept yelling. No, it wasn't. It was painful. His was the sort of inappropriate manic laughter people make when they are desperate to show how good a time they are having when inside they are dying, or possibly being held hostage by a gun toting member of the Keith Chegwin appreciation society. We the audience were dying with them.

The thing about the old show was that it happened completely by accident. James May wasn't in the first series, some fat used car dealer was in it instead. The much lauded and highly entertaining road trips specials didn't happen for three series. But it just worked. The series had happened upon something golden. It was like when you go to a party and for some reason it all just works, everyone has a glorious time and wonderful memories. But then the following week you invite the same people, do the same things and it feels stale. That's new Top Gear. They really should have shaken it up, dared to be different.

But perhaps, if we are being charitable, this was because they were trapped by the format. Perhaps they were replete with lots of great new ideas for the show but felt they had to stick to the proven formula. Instead they looked like a tribute act doing rather poor versions of somebody else's greatest hits.

The only trouble with this theory is that even when they tried to do something new and innovative it was the opposite. The star in the reasonably priced car was reinvented to the star in the actually quite expensive car doing rally cross. Why? Just, why? And they had two entirely unconnected stars for reasons that were unfathomable, except perhaps it was just to try and look as though they had had some ideas of their own. Clearly they hadn't. The reports from insiders suggest they had been scrambling around for ideas. It showed.

Unfortunately even their scripts for the films sounded like they were trying desperately to be funny and whimsical. Again it didn't work. Matt Le Blanc was however better on his own than when forced to look as though he was having fun with Evans. Even here however his film messing about in a cross country vehicle with only two wheel drive looked like a show trying too hard. Why didn't they just put him in a Porsche? He's actually a very good driver and a real car enthusiast.

It's possible, just possible, that the show will improve over time, as they loosen up and get better at doing it. And yet. Surely this was a show that ought at least to have been overflowing with good ideas. It's not clear there were any. And this is a car show for crying out loud. A car show that has been off the air for a year. The good thing about car shows is that they get to talk about cars. There is always an interesting new car around. The new Ferrari 488 for instance? The Rolls Royce Dawn? The new Mercedes E Class? Perhaps they are coming up later on. Or perhaps instead we will have more films of Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc trying to look as though they don't hate each other and are capable of witticisms. The point about the old show was that it was 3 mates taking the piss out of one another. This looked like two men who had only met the day of filming and who would rather be undergoing a double hernia operation. The rictus grins on their faces as they joshed with one another over the walkie talkies convinced us that this was a distinct possibility.

It was always likely that the BBC would struggle with this show. But they made it harder for themselves by trying to preserve the old show. The old show is dead and with it all of the lovely revenues the BBC really could have done with. How fortunate then that that nice Mr Whittingdale has guaranteed their income for another 11 years. It just remains to be seen how much of it they have to pay to Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc to buy them out of their contracts and start again from scratch as they should have done in the first place. Or they could give the show a free transfer to Channel 4 like they did with Formula One.

Minute Physics: Einstein's Proof of E=MC2

Classic Top Gear

Misconceptions About the Universe

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Peanuts


374/5

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 22 - God the Lawyer



Exodus is still dealing with the law of property at this point. We're still talking about oxen. God was mad for property law. You thought he came down to Mount Sinai to give us great ideas about morality? Only a little bit. He cared more about slaves and oxen and an eye for an eye.

So the commandments told his people that they should not steal. But they still put in place some laws in case they did. So if a man stole an ox and sold it he would have to compensate the owner with five oxen or four sheep for a sheep. Clearly God enjoys this kind of arcane detail. It's all very agricultural isn't it. Anyone would think this was a God concerned not with high minded things but with an agricultural subsistence society. Anyone would think God had been made up by them for the purpose of making these laws.

So I'll spare you some of the detail. It's all a bit dull and not very relevant. There's lots of making restitution for grazing in someone else's fields, using someone else's vineyards. There's an odd thing here though. These laws were handed to Moses and from him to his people supposedly at Mount Sinai. But they hadn't got any lands or vineyards. They were still wandering around in the desert. Odd that.

Then we get to the nasty stuff. If a man had sex with a woman who was not his wife then he had to make her his wife. If her father refused to give her to him then he would have to pay for taking her virginity.

Of course he could always claim that he had been bewitched by her. Because witches had to be put to death according to this.

Bestiality was to be punished by death.

Then there was more about not worshipping any other gods. That was not allowed. But are there any other gods? Isn't God supposed to be the only god? Why is he so worried about other gods? Is he jealous?

But it also tells us to be nice to strangers. So that's nice. It says that the children of Israel were strangers themselves once in Egypt, which is a rationale of sorts.

And they also had to be nice to widows and orphans. If they weren't, said God, he would hear their cries and would be vengeful, he would kill them and make their wives widows and their children orphans.

We then move on to the laws of interest and usury. This is a wide ranging God. He wants those lending and taking goods in return for cash to be fair and equitable. If anyone complained about poor treatment, he said, he would hear them because he is a gracious god.

And we shouldn't revile the gods. The gods? So no worshipping other gods but no reviling them either.

And rulers should not be cursed either, so those of us who bad mouth David Cameron or Barack Obama are sinners. Vladimir Putin is pleased though.

Oh and God was in favour of human sacrifice too. He was very keen on it. The ancients were. The first born should be offered to him just 8 days after birth he decreed along with the first fruits of the season, the first liquors and oxen and sheep. For what purpose did God want all of this?

Later Jews decided that God really wanted children circumcised rather than actually sacrificed. So they do that 8 days after birth instead. But that's not what it says is it.

Minute Physics: Einstein and the Special Theory of Relativity

Classic Top Gear: Peel P50

Friday, 27 May 2016

Peanuts


New Top Gear: The Morris Marina of TV


New Top Gear starts this weekend on BBC2. It's fair to say that it will be greeted with scepticism, cynicism and quite a lot of outright hatred. People loved the old show. It was a television phenomenon. BBC executives must be terrified that their golden goose has been killed. They are right to feel trepidation.

Let me say right at the outset that the new show will not be a disaster. It will be okay. Just okay. It will actually be rather like the old show pre-the Clarkson/Wilman reinvention. It will be going back to the old days of William Woollard, Noel Edmonds, Angela Rippon et al. Chris Evans is actually the modern day Noel Edmonds. For all of his cheeky chappy persona and his ego the size of a planet, he is actually Mr bland, Mr light entertainment, Mr corporate. You only have to read his old car reviews in the Daily Mail. They are dull. They are tedious. They get the job done, much like old Top Gear, or those awful video car reviews on newspaper websites like this one.

What made the Clarkson/Wilman version of Top Gear entertaining was their irreverence. And say what you like about Jeremy Clarkson - and I entirely understand why many people intensely dislike him - but he is clever, witty and genuinely funny. His comic timing is worthy of Eric Morecambe at times. And there is no higher praise. Watch that film of Jeremy in the Reliant Robin and I defy you not to laugh. Watch the classic film of him in the Peel P50 driving through the old TV centre. It's been watched 12 million times on YouTube. It's been watched because it is very very funny.



The reason that new Top Gear will fail when compared to the Clarkson/Wilman version is that Chris Evans is not Jeremy Clarkson. They have done what the BBC always does and created a kind of tick box programme. It has covered all of the PC bases. There is a woman, something that old Top Gear defiantly didn't have because it was a laddish show. The BBC hated that about it. Now departed chief tit Danny Cohen in particular hated the anti-PC style of the Clarkson era. New Top Gear also has a black guy. It even has a ginger and a faded American TV star turned chubby.

New Top Gear has tried to create a new presenter line up that will entertain. But it is confected and false. It will fail.

The chemistry of the Clarkson/Wilman era happened by accident. Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond demonstrably were friends as well as colleagues. They got on. They also bickered and competed with one another. That was what made it so watchable and entertaining. The new show will not have it. It will try to replicate the whimsical and joshing style of the old show and it will fail because this is created by producers trying to please everyone. They will end up pleasing nobody.


Minute Physics: Albert Einstein: Why Light is Quantum

Classic Top Gear: British Leyland Challenge

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Peanuts


4 Weeks To Go: History Beckons for Britain




4 weeks today Britain will go to the polls. There is little we really know about what will happen that day. This is for a number of reasons, from the difficulties faced by pollsters in working out what is happening given a lack of a frame of reference, to the confused picture with which we are being presented about what will happen regardless of the result.

The yah boo sucks nature of the debate we are having is of course irritating and exasperating. But perhaps this is not entirely the fault of the campaigns and the campaigners. It is more a product of the fact that economics is not known as the dismal science for nothing. You won't hear this from either of the campaigns, least of all the Remain side, because economics is more or less all that it can really talk about with confidence, but nobody really knows what would happen if Britain voted to leave. There are a number of scenarios, all plausible and on both sides of the argument.

What we can say is this: there will be uncertainty on the morning of June 24th. Mostly, inevitably, if we vote to leave, but not exclusively so. After all we know that the EU is on best behaviour at the moment for fear of rocking the UK boat. But once we vote to stay in, even by a vanishingly narrow margin, they will see that as giving them free rein to go back to their usual wasteful, arrogant, complacent ways. There will be regulations, more pointless directives and we can be damned sure that they will come demanding more money within months in addition to demands for us to do more about the next crisis that afflicts the euro or the EU's borders. Then there will be the expansionist desire too. David Cameron was right that there is not currently a plan for Turkey to join the EU but that can change. The current British government policy is to resist Turkey joining. That is a policy that has changed and very recently. It likely will do so again.



As for the uncertainty after a vote to leave? Well again this can be seen in many ways. But the bottom line is this. There is no obligation on the part of the British government to do as it is told by the British people the moment it is told. It can take its time, consult, draw up plans, negotiate with Europe, consult some more, maybe appoint a new prime minister and government in his or her image. The vote to leave might well have a domino effect across Europe with others at least choosing to hold their own referendums. That, to say the least, would set the cat amongst the pigeons. It might even usher in a looser confederation, the sort that Britain might be more comfortable staying in.

But all of these arguments are difficult ones to make. And so instead we are left with the kind of campaign we have had instead, the one with big scary sounding numbers, of predictions that bear as much scrutiny as the horoscope columns of the late and unlamented Jonathan Cainer, of name calling and bombast.

That is most likely what we are going to hear for the remaining four weeks. We are also going to hear the same arguments trotted out, about how Britain is better looking outward than inward. This is rot. Britain has always been an outward looking nation, we have always been a welcoming nation, a nation that takes our international obligations seriously and has often paid a heavy price for doing so. We are a trading nation, we are a nation that has friends and friendly relations across the globe. The British passport is accepted visa free in more nations across this planet than that of any other major country.

We are not an inward looking nation. What we are is a nation that is suspicious of Brussels bureaucrats posing as peace bringing Europeans forging new prosperity by the curious methodology of strangling us all in red tape on such weighty issues as how powerful our vacuum cleaners should be and what receptacles olive oil should be contained in.

It is perfectly true, as some argue, that Britain sometimes limits its own sovereignty by signing up to other supranational organisations like the WTO, NATO or the UN. But what we do not do is allow any of these bodies to force legislation through our own parliament. That is the material difference. The EU is not a supranational body in that sense. It is trying to become a nation in its own right, one that rides roughshod over the wishes of this country in the name of some slippery concept called European solidarity, a convenient fiction that suits politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats.



There is a positive case to be made for Britain outside the EU, Britain that is still a friend and trading partner of the EU, that may very well be a member of the semi-detached EFTA instead, at least in the interim, which might very well be the best of both worlds. We would be able to conclude our own trading deals with the rest of the world in quicker time because we would only have to please ourselves and not 27 other nations with competing or at least different interests. Legislation passed by government would have to pass through our parliament and have to be argued for and justified by ministers rather than nodded through simply because Brussels decrees it, something that is a democratic outrage.

Britain can do so much better than this and that is why we need to vote to leave. We can do better in any number of ways, some of which nobody has even thought of yet. But the worst answer is to vote to stay in this mess, to be scared off by the absurd claims of Remain into voting for something for which we have no enthusiasm and often considerable disdain. It is a decision we would bitterly regret, much as many who voted to stay in in 1975 subsequently came to regret it. My generation is getting the first opportunity to choose next month. Let us not make the same historic mistake.

Minute Physics: What are Years and the Galactic Supermassive Blackhole

String Theory

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Peanuts


PMQs Review: 25th May 2016 - Angela Has a Chauncey Moment Edition


Dave is at the G7 this week and so avoiding PMQs. He's avoiding a few at the moment. Last week it was the State Opening of Parliament, next week it is the recess, then he will deign to turn up for a few weeks before we have another recess for the referendum. Then again since the last PMQs lasted for 45 minutes, perhaps he feels as if he has been putting in overtime. It overran by such an extent last time because of the length of Chauncey's questions. Or at least we think they were questions. It's difficult to tell. Anyway, it has clearly exhausted the poor old chap because he gave today's session a miss too and sent in to bat Angela Eagle against George Osborne.

Maybe Chauncey is missing because he's campaigning so hard on the referendum? Have you noticed his fiery rhetoric on the subject? Actually my theory is that Dave mentioned war, as you are not supposed to do, precisely to try and encourage a Chauncey intervention. We all know how against war he is, that is apart from the war that our enemies are waging against us of course. He's quite keen on that kind of war.

Dave and George have been firing off their dodgy facts, statistics and threats of course. It's why they are doing precious little actual governing. Dave has had chance to go to a summit with people like him rather than we hoi polloi who may disoblige him.

Anyway, George and Angela had a good outing the last time they did this and so I have decided to break with convention and actually write about it.


The first question of the day was on the renewal of Trident. George invited Labour to speak up for it.

Angela got to her feet. This is the return of proper punch and judy style politics. How we've missed it. This is about barbs and nyahh nyahh nyahh politics. She said that the government should bring on the Trident vote, which they are holding back until after the referendum as a way of uniting the currently warring Conservative Party and causing endless ructions in the peace loving Labour Party.

Interestingly Angela Eagle seemed to have decided to talk about Tory divisions. This is not to deny of course that the Conservative Party is bitterly divided at present over the referendum. Indeed this blog would happily rid us of this prime minister and his chancellor the following day, whatever the result. But you had to admire Labour talking about divisions. There was a wonderful sang froid about it, to use the kind of phrase that will be banned when Britain leaves the EU. By law. The EU won't allow it.

Now this blog is no fan of George Osborne. He would be a terrible leader and prime minister and his election to the role would make the chances of a Chauncey government more likely - if still unlikely. But he was good today. He was funny and best of all he was brief. Angela Eagle on the other hand seemed to have taken a leaf out of her leader's book and rambled on endlessly, often interrupted by heckles from the opposition benches and the Speaker. She made a few good points and barbs, much better than her leader. But then that is starting from a low base.


Opposition leaders have a technique, pioneered by Wallace, of answering the point just made by the prime minister or his deputy and then moving on to something else in the hope that their interlocutor forgets to respond and so they get a free hit. George made no such mistake. He kept asking Angela why she had not questioned the tax arrangements of Google. Eagle seemed a bit annoyed that he had done his research and so parried her attack about this and George's announcement earlier this year that a deal to extract tax from Google had been done.

Eagle also tried the technique of claiming that Tory ministers had said things that they had not done, claiming that the excellent Priti Patel had called for a bonfire of workers' rights on us leaving the EU. She had of course done no such thing. Eagle then claimed that by not answering her directly George had clearly agreed with Len McCluskey. It was a peculiar kind of reasoning. But then this is a campaign in which mere mention of Adolf Hitler creates confected revulsion and anger from ludicrous figures like Michael Heseltine. Ange was adopting a similar technique.

To be fair Eagle made some decent jibes along the way. But there were too many of them and she was too long winded. She would have been better trying to be a bit more curt, more apposite and less like a lawyer who had a lot of material and wanted to use it all. George finished with a flourish, pointing out how many Labour front benchers are currently planning on leaving and going and running things, something they are most unlikely to be doing any time soon under the present leadership.

I covered this one, despite it being the B teams, because I was told that last time Angela Eagle had been very good. She may have been. This time she wasn't. George dealt with her effectively, his big boy's hair cut and withering, scornful looks deployed to good effect. And it is a measure that she was only a little better than her leader that this PMQs took only 3 minutes fewer than the last endless session from which we are still recovering.

Not that Angela was wrong about Tory divisions. They were there for all to see. George and Dave have been playing nasty and the troops don't like it. They hit back hard. This is a party that is going to be very difficult to reunite, at least under the present leadership.



Brexit the Movie

Minute Physics: Theory of Everything: What is Matter?

What is Gravity? Newton vs Einstein

25 Most Bizarre Galaxies in the Universe

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Peanuts


Whatever Happens Next Month, Dave is a Goner


What impact do the prime minister and his chancellor imagine their increasingly hysterical warnings to the British people are having? Given George's rather low reputation at present following his latest budget, it might not be the best strategy they could employ.

And, with four weeks to go until the referendum, and having already warned us of war, recession, higher prices and terrorism what do they have left to try to scare us rigid with? Famine? Pestilence? Zombies?

The latest Treasury warnings, made just prior to the period of purdah imposed on government departments forcing them to keep out of something they should have been kept out of from the start, made some heroic assumptions and massaged the figures to an extent that could be described as dishonest if I were feeling uncharitable. George wore his best big boy's haircut and tried not to make his voice sound too squeaky, he used the best methodologies, not of statistics gathering but from the Gordon Brown playbook of how to stick it to your opponents. Unfortunately for him his opponents are wise to him now and retaliation in the form of rebuttal followed swiftly. George, as so often, was talking out of his, what his friend, the head of the IMF would call, la derriere.

But it is David Cameron's behaviour we should be questioning most. He is the man who only at the beginning of this year was telling the country, in all seriousness, that he held out the option of recommending that we leave if things did not go his way. Then things did not go his way. We know this because both he and his campaign have stopped talking about his renegotiation almost since it was announced. Yet Cameron is careering around the country making ever more hysterical and ridiculous claims about what will happen if the country votes for something that a few months ago he claimed to be considering himself. Making that choice, he now tells us, would be 'morally wrong.' Making that choice would cause huge unemployment and a recession of early 90s proportions. If things are that bad, prime minister, why did you allow yourself to be manoeuvred into the position of having to call the referendum at all? Why, if such vicissitudes await, if such moral hazard, did you bow to pressure from your own backbenchers and call the referendum? Why, in short, did you behave like the short termist, essay crisis, unprincipled shyster we all know you to be?


The answer is of course that both David Cameron and George Osborne are playing this as they play everything. They are tacticians but not strategists. These oh so clever boys are not clever enough to plan that far ahead. They would make lousy chess players. Their game plan isn't so much move and counter move as: shit, look what happened there, what the bloody hell are we going to do now? I know let's call a referendum and kick it into the long grass. If and when Dave loses this vote that is what the EU enthusiasts will say. You can bet its what his fellow EU leaders have said to him. Why the hell did you call a referendum? We do our best to avoid them. That's what the EU is all about.

But the real question here is for after the referendum. David Cameron is behaving this way because he is worried. He is worried that he is not winning the argument and things are not going his way. He knows that, with the polls all over the place, this is probably too close to call and Britain may well end up voting to leave as many of us hope. What then for Dave?

Allow me to answer my own question: On the morning of June 24th, as the final total is announced and Leave has won, David Cameron should do the honourable thing and resign as party leader. He should announce a leadership election to choose his successor whereupon he will resign as prime minister. That would be the only honourable choice. But it would also be the only viable choice for him and the country. After the arguments he has made, how can he continue having said what he has said, having threatened and lied and cheated to such a degree? And how can we as a country trust him to go into negotiations with Europe, with a prime minister who so miserably failed in his renegotiation precisely because he never bothered negotiating in the first place? Given his cosy relationship with leaders who tried to stitch up a British remain vote, he would clearly not be the man to make history and start the process of negotiating our leaving or indeed of seeing what else was on offer.



Let's be clear, the nightmare scenarios conjured up by the Remain side are not going to happen. On June 24th we will, I am increasingly convinced, wake up to Britain having voted to leave. All will be calm. The markets will probably react negatively at first but will have bounced back within days. Nothing else will happen. Life will go on. Britain will remain part of the EU for the foreseeable future while discussions take place about our next move. The government will be in no rush. The only rush will be to get a new prime minister. That will be an urgent task. Some might argue it ought to be our urgent task whichever side wins.

Minute Physics: The Tacoma Narrows Fallacy

5 Mysteries of Space

Monday, 23 May 2016

Peanuts


Will the Left Show Some Self Knowledge Over Venezuela?


One of the most endearing features about lefties I've always thought, in addition to their humourlessness and their absolute conviction that they and they alone hold the moral high ground, is their serial inability to apologise when they are wrong. Since they are so frequently wrong I suppose this is just a defence mechanism, but it would be refreshing nevertheless. Then again, if you are possessed of a conviction you might as well hold it until the bitter end I suppose.

But surely on Venezuela? Surely the likes of Seumas Milne, communications director to Chauncey, Little Owen Jones, Ken Livingstone, Diane Abbott, Chauncey himself might allow themselves a moment of introspection as they survey the chaos currently engulfing that nation, a nation that they only recently described as a socialist utopia and example to us all. Indeed Seumas Milne told anyone who would listen that Venezuela represented the great hope for us all instead of the failed neoliberal systems. Neo liberalism, for the uninitiated, is capitalism, the system we live in today and which seems to be the opposite of failing. Does it have its problems? Of course. But by and large we live in a country and indeed a western system that tends, unlike Venezuela, to keep the lights on. Oh and we have toilet paper too. We have a choice of toilet paper actually. That's neoliberalism for you. Compare and contrast as they say.

Venezuela, in case you haven't been reading the reports, is heading inexorably towards disaster just as those of us of a neoliberal persuasion predicted when that old fraud Hugo Chavez was still alive and as he was in full battle cry as he turned authoritarian as they always do in the end. The reason this is happening is because, despite Venezuela being a country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world, it is run badly with its government indulging in the very kind of naive economics Chauncey and co would like to try here having apparently not noticed that such policies inevitably lead to queues, inflation, corruption, economic stagnation, a balance of payments crisis and shortages of essentials leading to misery, squalor, death and serious illness.

Chauncey and co like to bemoan austerity. That's the kind of austerity that sees Britain still borrowing £80 billion a year. But Chauncey would like to end austerity, such as it is, completely. He would like to open the spending taps considering that this would mark him out as caring and at one with the working man. Actually it would be more to do with the non working man. The working man resents forking out for non working man's benefits. But you wouldn't expect a posh boy who has never done a proper job like Chauncey to understand that.

Venezuela is a country that is suffering power cuts and hyper inflation. The bolivar is becoming ever more worthless. Foreign currency reserves are near exhausted. The country cannot afford to buy even the most basic and inexpensive of medicines like the more commonly available antibiotics. Hospitals are treating patients, insofar as they can be treated, while they lie on the floor in corridors. They cannot even provide water to wash the blood off operating tables.



How has this happened? Because a socialist government came to power imagining that it could control prices, give state handouts to all and sundry, crack down on private business, raise taxes and that none of this would impact on the economy. Even when the oil price was high - oil accounts for 98% of all Venezuelan exports - the Chavez regime was spending all revenues with no regard for the future, for saving for a rainy day. In other words they were doing what socialist governments always do, imagining that government spending creates a vibrant economy when in reality, if it gets out of control, it sucks the life out of an economy. Under socialism government spending always gets out of control. It is an inevitability. Its not so long ago that Gordon Brown was in charge of the nation's finances after all.

It happened in Britain the 60s and 70s until the Thatcherite reforms. It would happen again were Chauncey and co to get their way, except under them it would be even worse with their plans for nationalisation without compensation, money printing, an end to austerity and rampant spending which, they imagine, would somehow magically cause the economy to grow, create jobs and then enable them to stop borrowing ever more to pay for it all.

This is what lefty governments always do. It always has the same result. Will the former apologists for Venezuela apologise for being so wrong? Of course not. They have just gone quiet instead. It's a surly, grudging silence. Before long they will start making their excuses for this latest chapter in a long and tragic book of socialism gone wrong and causing misery for the very people it is meant to help. That is socialism's greatest tragedy. A lack of contrition is only to be expected.

Minute Physics: How Lasers Work (in Theory)

7 Mysteries Science Can't Explain

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 21 - Slave Law



So now we come to the bits of Exodus that most people avoid, if only because they are inconvenient. These are the other commandments. What? You didn't know about these? Exactly.

Essentially these are presented as the word of God, but are in fact standard laws of property and contract that were common across the ancient world at this time. So we go from one chapter setting out commandments that Bible proponents claim are the basis for all of western morality and moral thinking to legalese concerning slavery. They conveniently ignore that part.

God supposedly passed all of this to Moses as his commandments. God is a property lawyer apparently. How very convenient. Presumably he did all of this pro bono.

So the nitty gritty is that God thoroughly approves of slavery. But there are rules.

If you were a Hebrew slave you only had to serve six years as a slave before being set free. More casual racism and prejudice there. Any children born to slaves were the property of the owners of those slaves. The children were born into slavery. If you were a female slave then you could be used as a concubine. If you were a slave who for some reason did not want to be set free because you loved your master so much, perhaps because he used you as a concubine, then you could choose to remain a slave. If this were so then you had to have the mark of slavery put on you and you stayed a slave forever. No second thoughts.

A man could sell his daughter to be a maid. Women had no rights in the same way as men. This is made quite explicit. However if she failed to please her new master, we assume in the bedroom although this is not made explicit, then he could not just cast her off. If she became married to his son then she became one of his daughters, although since daughters had no real status this was of limited worth.

If the man then took another wife, this is implicitly allowed, then his first wife should not have her allowances of food and clothes diminished. If he did not do any of these things for her then she was free to leave. But she had no rights to money or any worldly goods from him. So she would be destitute by God's own laws.

Then we get to violence. If a man killed another man then he should be executed. If someone killed someone by accident then God would be a little more merciful.

Anyone who killed their father or mother would be executed. Stealing a slave and killing him was also a crime punishable by death. The ancient world protected property rights in slaves.

Simply cursing your father or mother was punishable by death.

A man who beat his slave to death should be punished we are told, although the form and extent is left unsaid. However if you slowly beat your slave to death over more than two days then this was okay. After all they are your property and yours to do with as your please.

If men hurt a woman so that she miscarried then they would have to pay a sum to be determined by judges as compensation. This is almost like a Biblical approval for abortion in the hands of a clever lawyer because only if the woman herself dies is there to be more radical punishment.

Then we get the real Biblical approach to justice that everyone knows. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound.

If a man injured a slave's eye then he should let the slave go free, although given that it has just said that an owner could beat a slave to death as long as he did it over a few days then that doesn't really make sense. So the Bible says if you hurt a slave's eye so that he loses that eye you might as well beat him to death over the next few days because he's going to be set free anyway.

And if an ox gored a man so that he died then the ox had to be stoned to death. They couldn't even eat the ox afterwards. The owner of that ox was responsible for it. If the testimony was that his ox was generally unruly, a delinquent ox if you will, then if that ox killed a man then the owner had to be put to death too. But if the ox was usually docile and then out of the blue killed a man then that was okay.

Oh and if you dug a pit and an ox fell into it - it could happen - then the pit digger had to pay compensation for the ox but the now dead beast was his. If an ox gored a slave then the owner of that ox had to pay the owner of the slave 30 shekels of silver. And the ox had to be stoned to death.

Minute Physics: The Hairy Ball Theorem

The Evolution of Humans

Friday, 20 May 2016

Peanuts


The Positive Case for the EU? At Least It Would Frustrate Labour From Being Labour



You know, far be it for me to tell David Cameron and his increasingly desperate Remainers how they should go about their campaign - not least because I am on the opposite side - but they might think about pointing to the opposition. No, not those of us in the same party but currently on the opposite side of the argument. I'm talking about Dave's juvenile opponent. The leader of the Labour Party. That chap who is willing to talk to terrorists and anti-Semites, even Ken Livingstone, but all in the name merely of promoting peace you understand, but who could not bring himself to engage in meaningless small talk with a Tory for the television cameras this week at the State Opening of Parliament.

And yes I know that Chauncey is hopeless and he struggles to ask a coherent question of the prime minister, much less actually be him. But accidents do happen. The fact is that it is looking increasingly likely that it will be Chauncey leading Labour all the way to the next election. An opinion poll last week showed that his even more deranged supporters not only thought that Labour had done well in the local elections, but that he is doing well as leader of his party. To be fair he does manage to get up in the morning and remembers to get dressed - well, up to a point - before he goes out to meet the press each morning. So that probably counts as a triumph for the confused old chap.

But I bring you back to the question of the referendum and how pointing to Chauncey might help the Remainers make their case, even to people like me who are dyed in the wool Brexiteers and have been since years before that idiotic tabloid term was coined by someone who should be made to spend their life sorting through the BBC recipe archives for mention of soggy bottoms.

You see the problem in a democracy, as our cousins across the pond are currently discovering, is that anything can happen, indeed those of us on the Leave side are relying on it. And so an accident could happen in the run up to the next general election in this country. The Tories could commit ritual suicide and elect Alan Duncan, Adam Afriyie or even George Osborne as leader. There could be a vicious recession. There could be a war to which the Tories were found to have sent their battle-bus without declaring it on the right form (seriously, as 'scandals' go has there ever been anything less scandalous than this?). David Cameron could be found to have had an affair with Diane Abbott and covered it up with a super-injunction. Whatever. It doesn't matter. I tend to the opinion that the British people would still be incapable of the level of brainlessness currently afflicting the US because we have the good sense not to be as stupid as the Labour Party or indeed to repeat the recent experiments we had here with open primaries. But others worry that it could happen, in the same way that it is theoretically possibly to be struck by lightning more than once or even for Britain to win the Eurovision Song Contest. After all, Donald Trump, a pathological liar and sufferer from a narcissistic personality disorder who makes Hillary Clinton look electable, is the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States.

But we do have the fall back position that, even if we were to be afflicted by democracy biting us in the nether regions in this way, we would still be protected by the EU. Because, as we all know, the EU doesn't really do democracy. And so, even if we were to have a Chauncey government determined to spend with abandon, nationalise everything without compensation, unilaterally disarm, pay reparations to all of our colonies paid for by printing money at a level last seen in Zimbabwe, the chances are that there is an EU rule, regulation or pending decision by the ECJ or commission that would prevent it. It's quite reassuring in a way.

And perhaps this is the positive argument that Dave and co should be making. They have struggled in that department in case you haven't noticed. Their project fear is born of their paucity of other options. They cannot plausibly claim that the EU is a noble project because it isn't. Why else did they feel the need to claim that they were reforming it? But, by god, if there is one thing that the EU is good at it is frustrating the democratically elected governments of this country from doing what they know the British people want them to do.

And so, people of Britain, if you should ever take leave of your senses and wish to have your country turned into Venezuela by electing Chauncey and chums. If you should ever want the country turned into a sub-branch of the NUS, probably with that annoying Rhodes Must Fall racist, Ntokozo Qwabe, at the head of some special re-educating the whiteness out of white people department, then rest assured that the EU will stymie you at every turn, subject everything to qualified majority voting and in the end only allow us to commit economic suicide if we first agree to pay unemployment benefits to unemployed Romanians who cannot afford to come to Britain to work here. This is clearly discriminatory.

You see, Dave, the positive case you have been looking for.

Minute Physics: Vomit Physics

Will We Ever Visit Other Stars?

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Peanuts


PJS and YMA: The Asses of the Supreme Court Rule



Last month I wrote a post on this blog in which I named the 'celebrity' who had taken out an injunction to prevent a newspaper telling the sordid tale of his extra marital threesome. The post was enormously popular: read by thousands. So much so it gained the attention of this non celebrity's highly expensive solicitors. They petitioned Google, the hosts of this blog, and the post was censored.

That is what freedom of speech has come to in this country. I can be prevented from naming a man who has been conducting an affair whilst posing as part of a happily married gay couple. He can claim the need for the protection of the courts by spuriously and wholly dishonestly claiming that it will damage his children if he is named. He might have thought of that before engaging in the behaviour in the first place.

Today the Supreme Court will rule on this farce and we will most likely be allowed to name him once again. This man who is only famous because he is married to someone who actually is famous will finally be stripped of the wholly undeserved protection his lawyers won for him.

It will be interesting to see what the court's reasoning for this will be. It may be on the narrow grounds that everyone knows who the 'celebrity' in question is anyway and so the continuation of the injunction would be an absurdity. A braver and more acceptable ruling would say that it is unacceptable to allow such injunctions on the spurious grounds of privacy and the protection of family life. If the celebrities in question are so worried about their privacy and family life they would be better advised to show greater fidelity to their families thus making injunctions unnecessary.

This whole saga has been an absurdity and has made this country and our confused legal system look ridiculous. This is all thanks to human rights laws and the way they are being interpreted and abused. Parliament has long threatened to do something about it only to be lobbied by the usual vested interests and the sort of lefties who think that Chauncey is doing a good job as Labour leader: what we might call not so much the Militant tendency as the Charlotte Church tendency - dimwit dilettante socialists whose political awakening would be more acceptable if they would actually wake up and smell the coffee of reality.

Human rights laws are an ongoing disaster in our legal system and have been ever since Labour ill advisedly incorporated them into our laws. The judge made law that has followed has created absurdity after absurdity and abuse upon abuse. Yet this government has continually been frustrated in its attempts to rein in this abuse and bring our laws back under the control of parliament where they belong.

Today the Supreme Court, one of Labour's better ideas, has the opportunity to begin the process of bringing some rationality and reason back into our legal system by stopping this abuse of process and of our freedom of speech. I and most people don't give a damn about the sex lives of minor celebrities and footballers galore and never read the red top tabloids. Nevertheless, provided that such papers are printing stories that are true then they have the right, or at least should have the right, to publish  whatever they see fit to publish. Publish and be damned, published and be sued if you get it wrong, but it should not be publish and be censored by courts protecting wealthy adulterers and hypocrites.

The celebrity couple in question, plus a number of others who have sought protection via such injunctions on spurious grounds will today, all things being equal, be named. This blog will publish all of their names and their misdeeds. It's entirely possible that there will be some I have never heard of, such is my unfamiliarity with the pop culture zeitgeist. Nevertheless there is a principle at stake here. We don't have a constitution in this country that protects freedom of speech. We used to think that we didn't need one, that our parliamentary system and courts were a good model that worked. The Supreme Court today gets the opportunity to prove this true. If it doesn't then parliament has the duty to bring it back into line.

PS

Against all common sense the obstinate asses of the Supreme Court have decided to keep the injunction in place. This despite the fact that foreign and even Scottish newspapers have named the couple and so has social media. Everyone knows who they are and yet the judges have ruled that their privacy must be kept intact. Parliament must legislate on this matter urgently. In the meantime an MP, any MP, should use parliamentary privilege to name them. I feel so strongly about this I might even stand for parliament myself.

Minute Physics: Football, Physics and Symmetry

Is Your Red the Same as My Red?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Peanuts


Dave and George's European Folly



There is no PMQs today because it is the State Opening of Parliament, an occasion now moved to the spring so as to facilitate our new Liberal Democrat dictated parliamentary calendar and possibly the fact that we have a 90 year old head of state.

Under normal circumstances the Government would be going into its second year of a five year parliament with all guns blazing and the legislative agenda full to overflowing. But of course these are not normal times. The referendum is clouding and crowding that agenda and skewing everything like a black hole bends and curves space time around it.

You can only assume that my black hole analogy is especially pertinent for the two men at the top of government, so ridiculous have their interventions become. Boris has been getting all the flak this week over his ill-advised, although not in the least offensive remarks re Hitler, which have been wilfully misreported by the media all week. He did not compare the EU with Hitler. He was making the point that many have in different ways tried to create a united Europe, some more acceptable than others. He was arguing that the EU is as doomed to failure, albeit for different reasons, than all of the others. The remarks were ill advised for sure, but not because they were wrong, merely because they were impolitic and gave his enemies a stick to beat him with.

And the enemies of Brexit need little excuse to deploy their phoney, tendentious, mendacious, brazen and increasingly desperate arguments to convince the nescient hordes they must clearly so despise. David Cameron is obviously feeling the pressure and might under other circumstances be accused of being tired and emotional given how little sense he is making for all of his breathless campaigning. Invoking the threat of war was bad enough. Yesterday he claimed that ISIL is secretly crossing its fingers and hoping for Britain to vote to leave. That will bring down the infidel, they will be telling themselves. That damp little island will be at our mercy the moment they vote to end their relationship with the wise and secure city of Brussels in which we hid our brave jihadis for months on end. I assume it was this that Dave was driving at anyway. You never can tell. Maybe he meant that ISIL are hoping we vote to leave so that duty free returns on our ferries and plane journeys. Actually that might be the winning argument for Brexit if you think about it.

But it is George Osborne who is really taking the biscuit in this campaign. His interventions and his deployment of dodgy statistics have been bad enough. This week he seriously informed us, just days after nodding along as those denizens of economic forecasting the IMF gave their verdict - that's the same IMF that has been famously wrong about the British economy twice every year for the last dozen years and once told us we had to join the euro or else pretty much the same fate would befall us as they are now threatening if we leave - that we would lose the suspiciously specific sum of £250 billion in investment if we vote to leave. It's official. George has turned the Treasury into the ministry of guesswork.

And then there's the language. George, the man who has screwed up around half of all of the Budgets he has ever presented, seriously accuses others of economic illiteracy. He even uses the sort of language that the global warming brigade deploy when campaigning for their unravelling agenda, you know language like the debate being over and accusing the other side of being conspiracists and illiterate. He is deploying facts, he assures us, while we are brazen in our lies. His forecasts of the future are also facts, even if they bear as much scrutiny as those computer models that global warmists used to rely on before the weather disobliged them. That's why we are now regularly told that the year we have just experienced was the warmest ever when it was nothing of the sort. It's amusing to contemplate what will happen if Britain votes to leave and the economy goes on much as before, jobs and investment too. Will they tell us how much better things would have been had we stayed in the EU? Will they do this while the continent is continuing its present path of sclerosis, unemployment, stagflation and another currency crisis? Will they try to blame the next Greek crisis or even one in Italy or France on us?

Having oh so cleverly promised us this referendum and then tried to kid us into believing that they achieved reform with their bogus renegotiation - note that even they have given up this line of argument as hopeless, hence the project fear approach instead - it has been clear for some time now that Dave and George don't believe a word of what they are saying but know that their collective goose is cooked if they lose next month. With the polls still showing that this is too close to call, their panic is now palpable. It's only five weeks to go now. All it would take now would be for something to go wrong, some kind of economic implosion, some kind of immigration crisis, some kind of, God forbid, terrorism outrage and suddenly the smug twosome would be well and truly hoist.

People of Britain, I give you yet another very very good reason to vote to leave.

How Big is the Solar System?

Minute Physics: Round Triangles

25 Reasons North Korea is the Most Ridiculous Dictatorship Ever

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Peanuts


Europa League: Yes; EU: No



It's remarkable you know, but even though I am one of these people who wishes to plunge Britain back into the dark ages, to plummet into recession, subject our nation to endless security risks, possible nuclear war and watch our housing stock halve in value because I want us to leave the EU, I am nevertheless very keen for my football team, Liverpool, to win the Europa League tomorrow.

How can this be, Paul, you may well be asking. Surely you are a terrible xenophobe, an anti-European, a racist and an obscurantist.

Au contraire, I might well respond, thus further confusing you I have no doubt.

It's odd to recount but it is possible to be an enthusiast for many of the delights of European culture, of its sport, its music, its literature, its architecture, its food, its languages (even the dead ones) even the bloody Eurovision Song Contest (actually I hate that too really since I am heterosexual, but you take my point) its possible to want my club to continue its recent miraculous run of form, win the Europa League and then qualify for the glorious Champions League next season while at the same time despising the EU.

And this is not to deny that the EU was started with noble intent. It is to deny that it any longer has very much that is noble at all about it. It is a racket, an undemocratic, Kafkaesque nightmare that even its greatest enthusiasts find it difficult to enthuse about. This is why they are reduced to their ever more bizarre and ludicrous threats and dire predictions about what will happen if Britain dares to leave. Its better than try to think up a positive case for us wanting to stay in. The British are a pragmatic and sensible people. They would see through such effrontery within seconds.



Because the EU has become something arcane and absurd. It has become a monolith, a leviathan of lassitude and scleroticism; a jungle of vanities and absurdities that is strangling an entire continent. What started as a bold vision for a peaceful future is turning into something that is causing bitterness and rancour precisely because it cannot resolve anything and is forever prone to shoddy compromise and arrogant disdain for the opinions of those who disagree or object.

We are seeing that with this referendum. Those of us who back Brexit are even being insulted on American satirical shows. Yet those same shows are remarkably selective about how they portray this behemoth. Oh yes, they snigger, it tried to regulate bananas, but at least it has fostered peace and cooperation. But what of the waste; what of the endemic corruption; what of the perpetually unaudited accounts; what of the peripatetic parliament; what of the referendums that have been held before and ignored; what of the unelected commission; what of the parliament that can spend as much as it likes, not least on itself, but doesn't have to raise the money; what of the unending pettifogging bureaucracy; what of the interference in matters beyond its remit; what of the ever expanding remit justified by virtue of an interventionist court; what of its disastrous interference in Ukraine that has created war and misery; what of its failings in the former Yugoslavia; what of its failings in Libya; what of its disastrous common currency that has created poverty, debt and rampant unemployment?

And those who want us to remain will probably shrug at that long list and say that we are better off staying in and arguing for reform from within. But we have tried that. All that happens is we get outvoted and then the whole racket continues as before. The EU is not unlike FIFA, which after making all of the right noises just a few months ago is up to its old tricks again under a new president who is ensuring that he cannot be held to account in the way that brought Sepp down and wants to be paid the same salary as that old crook too. The EU will do the same. They are holding back their more contentious issues until the referendum is held but then they will have free rein. Expect a demand for more money and more regulations the moment we vote to stay in.



And that is why we want to leave. It is not that we dislike Europe or our European neighbours. It is because we disdain the EU project, this bastard child of an out of touch European elite who see democracy and nation states as old fashioned and irritating. They imagine that they are pioneers for a new way of thinking when in reality they are just softly spoken dictators unwilling to listen, convinced that they are right. This is why Boris was spot on when he compared them to others who have attempted to dominate the continent by different methods.

The only way to reform this club is to vote to get out, to force them to listen. Sometimes the only way to create something new and better is to destroy what is in the way. The EU is in the way. A better way for our future is either to forge a new path outside, or to tear it down and to create a looser confederation in its place. This is what the British people thought they were joining when we joined the then EEC in 1973.

Liverpool has had many glorious nights in European competition down the years and I am confident we will enjoy another tomorrow in Basel. We will do so under a German manager with a team of players drawn from around our continent and beyond. Yet they will be playing for a quintessentially English team with quintessentially English and British sensibilities and traditions. Happily we have recruited a German manager with a very British sense of humour. If only the rest of Europe were so accommodating there would have been no need for this referendum at all. This country has a long record of resistance to the worst excesses of European idealism, but we have have often been borne out by events as the chaos of the euro and Schengen show. Britain voting to leave will not be an act that is unEuropean, it will be an act that saves Europe from its arrogant political class.




Minute Physics: Why are Stones Round?

Earth Past, Present and Future: How the Continents Evolved and Will Evolve

Monday, 16 May 2016

Peanuts


Boris and Hitler (and Napoleon)



I know that Adolf Hitler was not a very nice chap, you know: dictator, bigot, likely pervert, murderer, vicious anti-Semite, anti-democrat, conspiracy theorist and possessor of only one ball, but have we reached the point now when his name cannot even be mentioned? Is he like Voldemort?

Mention of him by Boris Johnson was, entirely predictably, described by some as offensive yesterday.  Yet Boris spoke of others as part of the same comparison, Napoleon for instance or the Romans, who were trying to achieve what is the avowed intent of the EU: ever closer union. They are trying to create a country called Europe.

Just because the EU may have a more benign intent does not make it any less hubristic or wrong headed. This was Boris's message and argument. The EU is trying to achieve something that has failed many times in the past. Why? Because Europe is not a country. It is a continent with a wide range of differing and disparate polities and political traditions, of experiences of union and in which many constituent members have only recently thrown off the shackles of an empire every bit as evil as that Hitler was trying to create but that actually succeeded.

Was what Boris arguing hyperbole? Yes of course. But then the same is true of much we have heard from the Remain side in just the last few days. Starting with the ludicrous invocation of war in the argument of David Cameron, to the claims of certainty about how everything from our housing market, the stock market and the British economy will perform from Mark Carney and the Bank of England. Or the IMF, who eschewed intervention in our election a year ago but see no reason to do the same over a once in a generation referendum.

What the Remainers seem to be most worried about is that Boris, being a formidable campaigner and someone that the public actually like, might actually gain some resonance with normal people in amongst the noise of a referendum in which a decent proportion of the electorate seem to have tuned out completely and may even be unaware of what is going on.


Under such circumstances all sides are using hyperbole, some invective, some intemperate language, a great deal of exaggeration and no small amount of naked dishonesty.

But the point Boris made was a perfectly reasonable one and one that has been reinforced in this last week as the campaign proper got under way. The elites of Europe and beyond are combining in an attempt to browbeat us all into acquiescing with their preferred way of doing things, a way of doing things that suits them just fine. Yet so uncertain are they of their arguments, so well aware of how little loved the country called Europe is amongst those of us who are governed by them and who have come to a different viewpoint, that they seek to terrify us with their ludicrous claims and forecasts of the future.

This blog has said it before and will keep saying it all the way to June 23rd and probably beyond: what they are really worried about is that we ignore them, vote to leave and that all of their terrible predictions of disaster do not come to pass. Because what then?

I'll tell you what then: the whole project unravels. The whole glorious farce unravels. And do you know what then? Nothing. Or at least not much. There might be a short term glitch on the markets, the pound might lose a little for a while, the stock market would bomb for a few days until bargain hunters returned. And then slowly, or probably quite quickly, we would all realise that nothing much had changed.



Except everything would have changed for the better. Because someone would at last have drawn a line in the sand, someone at last would have said no and this from a country that could not be overruled and told to go back, stop being silly and think again. We would have struck a blow against the patronising, smug, non tax paying elitists who can think of no better argument for voting for their club than that it will reduce us all to dwellers on a grey island somehow mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world and turned into a dingy 1950s tribute act.

But could it be that they are actually worried that we and the rest of the EU might discover that we can get by without them, that we do not need to be part of a club that charges us for the privilege of buying more from them than we sell back and imports their unemployed into the bargain? Could it be that we would show the way to a continent that is increasingly sceptical of this anti-democratic corporatist conspiracy against the working class, that offers us lower wages, higher prices and calls our complaints about its worst excesses racism or xenophobia.

And perhaps on June 24th, much as they protest now, they may discover that the world goes on and that they might after all be able to offer a better deal or accept that their model is broken and in need of proper reform, the sort of reform our prime minister should have asked for had he been more willing to deny his own people rather than his peer group across the capitals of Europe.

Either way, the hysterical fear mongers of the Remain campaign are trying to have it both ways. Only months ago Cameron tried to kid us all that he really was contemplating recommending that we leave. Now he says that if we did all manner of hell would inevitably follow. The man and his friends have lost the plot. It really is time we showed them who are the bosses now, take back our country and show them proper democracy in action. It was the free will of the peoples of this continent, their yearning for self determination and freedom that helped them liberate themselves from all of the despots that Boris mentioned. Now it can set us free from the tinpot despots of the EU and their crony politics.

Minute Physics: Tides

Picture of the Day




Sunday, 15 May 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 20 - The Commandments



Now, after the big firework show and build up, God finally got around to his big announcement. He was going to give them a big set of rules about what to do and what not to do. It was mostly what not to do. For this they had to get all dressed up in their finery and they had a bath.

This of course is by far the most important part of the whole Old Testament. It is the founding document of three religions and of Judaism in particular. From this all things proceed. Note that at this point all of this was done orally. No tablets of stone.

I am the Lord thy God, said God, by way of a preliminary. He told them how he had freed them from servitude in Egypt and so now they had better do as they were told.

1) Firstly, and most importantly, they were to have no other gods but him. Does this mean that there are other gods? Was God jealous of other gods, the ones with more interesting names and who dressed in togas? Was he worried about those more cerebral and peaceful gods from the east? Anyway, he told his people that he was their god and he would get really annoyed with them if they worshipped anyone else. There has been some debate about the translation of this. Did God say there should be no other god before him or beside him. Two very different meanings there. Either way, God is a jealous god.

2) So secondly they should make no graven images or idols, no statues of anything from heaven and earth above. They should not worship any of these objects. This sort of thing was of course quite common in the ancient world and that was what the authors of this nonsense were worried about. They were trying to create just one god, so no other gods or idols were allowed.

3) More showing respect for God. Now he wanted to proscribe taking his name in vain. Essentially they wanted to make the very mention of God's name something that made people tremble. You shouldn't just use it flippantly. This was a God who was very very needy and yet with a massive ego.

4) Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. This was one of the more pointless commandments, but one we had a preview of. For some reason God wanted it memorialised that he had created the planet and the heavens in six days and then had a rest. Remember this is all based on Genesis, a ridiculous fantasy account of creation that we all know is absurd. And it's not a metaphor whatever anyone says. It says quite specifically here that God laboured SIX DAYS and then rested on the seventh. No metaphor there, just centuries of ridiculous interpretations over what is and is not allowed on the Sabbath in recognition of something that didn't happen.

Having said all of that, having a day off is not in and of itself a bad idea. This was something that was at the root of civilisation and enabled everyone to have a rest. Unfortunately it was seized upon by zealots as a way of forcing people to various places of worship and as an excuse to punish people for being insufficiently pious.

So note that, whatever anyone says about the commandments and morality, the first four commandments here have nothing whatever to do with morality or doing the right thing. They are all about appeasing God and establishing him as the only god.

Then we get to the commandments we have little argument with, these were actually common throughout the middle east region at the time and were probably borrowed.

5) Honour your father and your mother. No arguments there, although you would hope that this was something that didn't need to be decreed. It's a breakthrough in some ways: after all honouring mothers as well as fathers when women were treated as second class citizens was quite something.

6) You shall not kill. Or possibly you shall not commit murder. The translations disagree here. And its another thorny problem. After all God was always killing people. Moses killed someone. Is it sometimes okay to kill or murder? When? God gave no guidance. But then he's inconsistent about most things, why not on killing too?

7) No committing adultery. Here's another one that creates problems. After all the children of Israel were the product of the loins of Jacob and Israel and multiple wives. Is that committing adultery or is that okay? It seemed to be okay. The law was really for the benefit of men and not of women. Women could have only one husband and could only have sex with him. Men could have multiple wives.

8) Thou shalt not steal. Yet the Israelites had just helped themselves to all of the gold and jewellery of the Egyptians. And they were being led to a land that belonged to other people: the Canaanites. Theft. And of course we won't even mention the subject of modern day Israel.

9) No bearing false witness against your neighbour. Again this is down to interpretation. Is this a proscription of all lying or simply of lying on a witness stand? It's not clear.

10) Don't covet your neighbours goods and chattels. Note here that wives and daughters are put in the same category as cattle. Possessions. What happened to honouring your mother? Of course envy in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There is already a commandment dealing with theft so why one on envy? Surely coveting something is not the same thing? And coveting nice things is a way of ensuring hard work and thrift too.

And that's it. Except it isn't. There is more to come in the next chapter.

These commandments were very much a product of their age and their location. They are heavily influenced by other civilisations and tribes in the area. All of these tribes and civilisations produced similar lists. It's just a list trying to impose order on a society that was trying to become civilised by those trying to rule it. Invoking God was just part of that strategy.

Getting back to the story, all of this was said directly, from his cloud, by God to his people. But it seemed to freak them out because they didn't want to listen to God's words directly any more. They preferred to hear them from Moses.

Then God told Moses he wanted another altar. He likes an altar does God. He wanted another altar with lots burnt offering on it. But he said that this altar should be made of stone that had not been carved in any way. Oh and it shouldn't have steps leading up to it as this would allow people to see up the priests skirts and that wouldn't do at all would it? Why not? Oh, who knows?