Sunday, 31 July 2016


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 31: Bringing in the Builders But Not on the Sabbath

We've had chapter after chapter now of long and boring instructions, from a very vain and pedantic god, about what he wanted for offerings, how he wanted his gaudy palace of bling built and furnished, how he wanted his priests dressed and then how much he wanted from everyone in a poll tax. Now at last we reach the end of this section before we get back to the action. But first, we need to talk to the builders.

In a really bizarre section of this chapter, God apparently told Moses that he wanted all of the things he had just detailed, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, even the clothes and so on, to be built and made by specific people. Why it seeks to name actual builders is a mystery. Perhaps they were just hanging around when they were writing this part. Or maybe the authors owed them a favour. Anyway, thanks to this part God was even prescriptive about his chosen craftsman. No going to Altars and Tabernacles R Us for a better deal.

Finally God told Moses once again that he was serious about his Sabbath. The Sabbath must be kept and respected. He had a bit of an obsession with his Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be holy. Six days of work and then rest on the seventh and give praise to God on it. Anyone breaking this was to be put to death.

And for the avoidance of doubt, God said once again that he had created the heavens and the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh. That was the reason for the Sabbath. No metaphors there. They were genuinely arguing that was why we had to have a Sabbath. It's the most fantastically stupid explanation for anything. So go do your Sunday shopping or go to work without fear.

Finally, almost as a throwaway line at the end, God gave Moses the famous tablets of stone with the commandments on them. They were written with the finger of God. Why didn't he get his favoured craftsmen in to do it?

Minute Physics: Solution to the Impossible Bet

Christopher Hitchens on Mormons

Saturday, 30 July 2016


Video Diary - The Greatest Hits

My Video Diary is taking a break for the summer. It's back in September. In the meantime here is one of my greatest hits from a few weeks ago. It is doing the vlogging equivalent of packing them in. Currently going viral.

Channel 4 want to appoint stammering continuity announcers. I'm thinking of

Minute Physics: Why Isn't the Sky Purple?

Why Can't We Print Money to Pay Off Debt?

This is a little primer in basic economics for the Labour leadership. Now that Chauncey is likely going to be leader until the party collapses under him, here is a small attempt to demonstrate to those who will vote for him why he is an idiot.

Friday, 29 July 2016


Going Cool on Nuclear

One of the best moments of Theresa May's reshuffle a couple of weeks ago was when she also reshuffled the departments and did away with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, folding it into the old Business Department and creating the Business and Energy Department headed by Greg Clark. You could hear the wailing of the greenies. Indeed you could have harnessed it and used it to generate electricity. It was delightful.

I suspect that Mrs May is, in addition to being a closet Euro sceptic, a climate change sceptic too. Of course she would never admit it. It would be politically incorrect - almost as politically incorrect as the pejorative term climate change denier ought to be. Being sceptical of a scientific theory, especially one as speculative and full of holes as the climate change theory, ought to be a given. These days though it is dangerous, especially if you are a politician. Instead you have to send out signals in a more subtle way. That change of names was as subtle as a £19 billion nuclear power station.

Speaking of which, it was supposed to be all systems go on the white elephant in the making at Hinkley yesterday. Indeed it seemed that we were all set for this as EDF's board, not without some hand wringing and resignations, finally signed off on the deal. And then the British Government threw a giant spanner in these giant and ruinously expensive works. They announced, well they announced: not so fast. Hurrah to that.

The Hinkley project is something we would hugely regret. It is old technology dressed up as new technology. Worse, it is is new and unproven and yet still old. It is bad economics, bad policy and bad planning. It is hitching ourselves to something based largely on wishful thinking and outdated thinking. It is also largely a hostage of our unfortunate desire to cut carbon emissions, something we should no longer feel beholden to now that we are leaving the EU. We can now decide our own policy on energy and carbon emissions. We can also decide it is not a terribly good idea to subsidise a French and Chinese joint venture in an unproven technology from which we will gain little benefit other than ruinously expensive electricity. And this is ignoring the potential security and diplomatic repercussions of allowing an increasingly aggressive China a huge stake in such a vital piece of our infrastructure. Quite why we have this fetish for inward investment from China is a mystery. It will not be to our long term advantage. Quite the opposite.

If we must have nuclear power - and I am not opposed to it per se -  it should come in smaller units. It should be smaller and more flexible than the Hinkley mega project. It should also use economies of scale spread over several different sites from which Britain should benefit by acquiring and then maybe exporting our expertise. Why would we want to import foreign expertise and investment to build this for us and then give them a vast profit when we could build up our own expertise? Britain used to be a world leader in this technology. It could be again. Why hand it to the French and Chinese paid for by our higher bills?

But it is by no means clear that nuclear is the way to go. We are sitting atop vast fields of gas that can be tapped through fracking, delivering plenty of cheap and reliable energy for the foreseeable future. We must have secure, cheap and reliable energy if Britain is to prosper in the future. Nuclear can potentially be part of that mix but not at the price envisaged at Hinkley. Renewables can also be a small part of the mix but only as a supplement and only when storage technologies become reliable.

And so that leaves good, old fashioned but very cheap and reliable fossil fuels. It is lunacy to pretend otherwise. Gas plants can be commissioned and built at a fraction of the price of nuclear and in a tenth of the time. It is also, to quote an old and much loved advertisement about energy, very switch on and offable. The same is not true of wind farms or of nuclear. Wind farms only generate when the wind is blowing. Solar farms only when the sun is shining. Nuclear on the other hand runs constantly whether we need it to or not. So called renewables are vastly expensive and leave us powerless much of the time. They, incidentally, receive even more subsidy than this nuclear plant would do if given the go ahead.

If Britain is to make a go of leaving the EU then cheap and reliable energy has to be a given. Our leaving the EU represents an opportunity on many levels. Freeing up our energy policy is one golden example. It is ridiculous to assert that Britain is making the smallest difference to climate change by building one nuclear power plant to cut our carbon emissions in a decade's time. Even if you accept the supposedly settled science of climate change, our contribution to planetary warming is tiny. Making Lib Dems and the Green Party feel good about themselves should not be something we should worry too much about. Happily, with the abolition of the old Energy and Climate Change Department and now this welcome pause in making a catastrophically ill judged decision, we may at last be starting to undo the damage started by Labour under Wallace (Ed Miliband) when he ran that department.

Let us hope that our new prime minister is as clear sighted and logical when she also considers the merits or otherwise of HS2 and Heathrow expansion. The subject of another blog I suspect. When oh when will the silly season start?

Minute Physics: This is Not a Rainbow

Alzheimer's and the Brain

Thursday, 28 July 2016


The Disaster is Still Not Happening Post Brexit

The latest GDP figures are out and......they are just fine. In fact they are robust and healthy. You know how I hate to say I told you so.

This is the quarter just finished. The one that culminated with the referendum. The one that included all those threats of what would happen if we voted to leave. And then we voted to leave.

Since the vote there is zero evidence that anything fundamental has changed. The only survey that has shown this is one of sentiment, something that can change in a heartbeat and must have been affected by the uncertainty for the first couple of weeks after the vote. Now we have a government in place and things are settling down.

The latest GDP figures show that all sectors are doing well apart from construction. Manufacturing is doing well and will have ben given a further boost by the fall of the pound. So long as British companies do not see this as an excuse to raise prices - an endemic British disease - then there is no reason why we shouldn't use the current period as a way of entrenching growth. There is now a very sound case for the Government to invest in a substantial house building programme.

It is to be hoped that the Bank of England will now hold off on an interest rate cut next week or further QE. There is simply no evidence of a substantial slowdown. Britain is still in the EU for the time being and negotiations have not even started. All we have had is the initial conversations and a game of who blinks first on invoking Article 50. Europe is demanding we set out our stall. We should do so and make strong demands about what we want. No pusillanimous deal a la Cameron is acceptable. If not we simply walk away. It would definitively not be the end of the world if we were to have access to the single market the way that the rest of the world has access to it. But given how important a market we are to the EU we can ask for much much more and get it.

The mood music coming out of Brussels, most of it spin, is that free movement of people is and remains non negotiable. Well, we shall see. Given the way things are in Europe at the moment, given the state of security and the increasing anger of people in Europe's two biggest remaining states, that resolve may well be tested at the ballot box soon.

Britain is scouring the country and the world for trade experts to do our deal. While these experts are recruited and our negotiating position worked out we should simply hold off on sending that Article 50 letter. The referendum was an instruction from the British people for us to leave the EU. But it is now the responsibility of the Government to actually do the deal. There is no rush. There is no need to accede to some artificial timetable created by the irascible, arrogant and rude leader of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Indeed the more we hold off and refuse to do as we are told the better. Britain has voted to leave. But we will do it to suit ourselves.

This is particularly the case since Juncker has appointed as his lead negotiator, even before he has had the letter sparking those negotiations, Michel Barnier, a man every bit as federalist and disdainful of we Brits as Juncker. It is a signal that they intend to play hardball - even if the signals from governments, whose decision it really is, are mixed. His official title is: chief negotiator in charge of leading the Commission taskforce for the preparation and conduct of negotiations with the United Kingdom. He will have to be given an office with double doors just so that there is enough acreage to get that displayed. This is the EU for you. It is why we should be very pleased that we are getting out.

Minute Physics: Why is the Sun Yellow and the Sky Blue?

Where Did Earth's Water Come From?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


The Despair of the Daesh Nihilists

The latest nasty, small-minded, bigoted inadequates to commit murder in Europe were not opening up a new front in the ISIL war on the west as some half wits in our newspapers have written. They were simple common or garden murderers. How brave do you have to be to go into a church and kill? How much of a warrior do you have to be to kill an octogenarian priest and hold a few peaceful women as hostages? How big and brave does it make you and your supposed cause look?

Yes there seems at the moment to be an unrelenting stream of these murders. But that is all they are. They are murders committed by men who are trying to legitimise their hateful acts as being something more than simple acts of nihilistic savagery.

The latest killer, Adel Kermiche, was known to the police. So French police seem to have failed yet again and that is something for politicians to answer questions about. Certainly there seems to be a failure of imagination, of organisation, of resources, of intelligence. This in a country that has been in a siege mentality now for the better part of 2 years.

But when you are up against an 'enemy' that goes into churches and commits acts upon elderly, defenceless men. When you are up against an 'enemy' that commits murder by zig zagging a truck up a crowded street full of parents and children enjoying a national holiday then you are not up against an 'enemy' in any real sense. You are up against a bunch of hate filled anarchists who have somehow been persuaded that they are fighting for something noble when in fact they are not fighting at all. They are slaughtering. Fighters are those who meet their enemy on equal terms. Murderers usually take their victims unawares.

And these latest pathological half wits clearly did not understand what they were fighting for either. They are said to have yelled out the name 'Daesh' as they bravely stormed their church and slashed an elderly man's throat. Daesh is a pejorative term for ISIL adopted by we heathen westerners and non murderous Muslims for precisely that reason. If these two brainless cretins could not get that through their thick heads then how committed or even cognisant of their cause were they?

Why is all of this happening? Because Daesh is losing. It is losing its war - the sort actually waged against soldiers who fight back - and so it is having to lash out at soft targets abroad. It is no longer drawing in lots of credulous young cretins brainwashed into heading to Syria and the supply of silly little schoolgirls to be their wives seems to have dried up too. Reality is dawning and so they are having to think of ever more desperate ways of killing and maiming.

But this is not a war. We are not fighting a war. This is just a crime spree, a nasty, meaningless and futile spree of angry young men with an incoherent rage at life for being unfair. These are no different to those gun sprees that are suffered regularly in America. We cannot protect ourselves against all damaged young men who suddenly and inexplicably become convinced of their need to kill. But we don't need to. Because most of us are normal, well adjusted and civilised. We have to remember that. It's why terrorism will always fail. The decent majority will always have more firepower than the murderous nihilists who believe in nothing.

Minute Physics: Antimatter Explained

Ferrari 488 vs Porsche 911 Turbo S

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Nationalise Dodgy Philip Green

Is Philip Green the unacceptable face of capitalism? You bet he is. But then this has been true for years. Not being given to shopping in his nasty and meretricious stores, I always took for granted the assertion that he is some kind of retailing genius. It turned out instead that he is just someone who knows how to cut costs and asset strip. Oh and employ clever accountants and tax lawyers.

In recent years we have had all kinds of fury levelled at the Starbucks and Googles and their inventive tax avoidance. But even they were never as cynical as to live in Monaco and fly in and out of the UK by private jet to run a business he claimed was owned in the sole name of his wife, who of course lived there full time unlike him. It is an absurdity. How can someone be married to someone and for her to own assets he manages from within the UK thus dodging liability?

But what should make us even more furious is that we live in a system that allows this. It is bad enough that we have tax havens. But where we have them surely it is not beyond the wit of man (or the tax man) to ensure that such plainly farcical and abusive tax arrangements are outlawed? I suspect  that even the Greens cannot believe that they have been able to get away with this for so long.

Solution? Stop letting them get away with it. It is plainly a case of tax evasion and not even of aggressive avoidance. Outlaw it. With immediate effect. And indeed aggressively investigate their every dodgy deal and the money sent via these arrangements. To hell with simply taking away the worthless bauble of Green's knighthood. Take away what these notorious vulgarians really cherish, their cash and their gaudy lifestyle of excess and greed.

At the very least Green should be shelling out the money he can easily afford to make up the shortfall in the BHS pension fund, a shortfall he was effectively trying to dodge when he sold the business. That is an attempt to perpetrate a fraud on the pensioners and on the state that would have to pick up part of the tab. But that should only be the start. If he fails to do so then he should be disqualified as a director. Then he should be informed that his current tax arrangements will be curtailed forthwith.

It is astonishing that this situation has been tolerated for so long, presumably on the premise that Green employs a lot of people and our authorities were worried about rocking the boat. Fortunately there is only so much asset stripping that he can do. And fortunately he cannot threaten to take a retail empire abroad. Since we are at a new point in governmental relations with business under a new prime minister why not simply threaten to nationalise the whole dodgy business. Since dodgy Green tried to have the nation pay for his pension shortfall it is the least we can do in return.

Minute Physics: Why Are Stars Star-Shaped?

Why Korea Split into North and South Korea

Monday, 25 July 2016


The Trump Horror Show

Donald Trump. The nominee for the US Presidency of the Republican Party. It still sounds farcical. It ought to be farcical. Instead this is the reality we all face and one that can only get worse. Trump shows no sign of railing back on the rhetoric, of pivoting to the centre. He shows no sign of stopping in mid sentence, pulling a face and telling us it all a joke or perhaps pulling off a mask and revealing that he is really Meryl Streep in the greatest role of her glittering career. How did we get here?

Well has anyone considered the possibility that this has all happened entirely by accident and that even Trump himself never expected it would go this far or that he would be taken this seriously? This is a presidential candidate who is promising to build a big wall across the Mexican border for God's sake. This is a man who holds conflicting opinions about issues, often within the same speech. This is a candidate for the Republican Party who once donated to Hillary Clinton. This is a candidate who has been both for and against guns, for and against abortion. This is a candidate for the presidency who is claiming to be against free trade and for immigration and yet his business empire would be built on even more shaky foundations than it already is were it not for those things. This is a man who lies apparently without really knowing that he is lying. This is a man whose business acumen's almost entirely absent and was replaced, possibly surgically by epic levels of bravado, braggadoccio, bombast and vanity.

If Trump is really as successful and rich as he claims to be how can he possibly need and indeed afford to spare the time to mount a presidential campaign? If Trump is as wealthy and successful as he claims to be then how is it that much of his business empire seems to be down to epic levels of debt? If Trump's business empire is as glorious as he claims then how does most of it seem to be based on the brand he has created and little else? Why would a property developer of Trump's apparent success need to create his own transparently fraudulent Trump University? Why have businesses and investments with which Trump is associated have failed so often and been made bankrupt so often?

Could it be that Trump ran for the presidency simply as a further attempt to distract attention away from some of the more worrying aspects of his business empire, the shadier deals, the legal issues that continue to assail and plague him? Could it be that Trump's empire is in more trouble than he lets on and so, like the snake oil salesman we all know him to be, he decided to try some more classic misdirection?

And it has all worked in a way that even Trump's epic self regard could not have hoped or wished for. But he was helped by a confluence of factors. First he was up against a huge number of candidates vying for the Republican nomination, which split the field and meant that nobody got any momentum. He was also against a remarkably lacklustre parade of minimal talent. In truth this is something the party has been living with for years and it is why Trump sensed his opportunity. But how was this man with no political experience able to beat off the leading lights of the party? Precisely for that reason. They sounded dull and anodyne. He sounded anything but. In vain did they point out that he was talking nonsense and that his promises were meaningless and contradictory. Trump seems to be able to get away with that. He would simply respond by throwing out insults, talking about how rich he is. He once told a meeting how well educated he is. I know big words, he said, I know lots of words. Pity he couldn't think of any.

But in the race for the Republican nomination this seemed to work. Being constantly in the headlines worked for him and denied the oxygen of publicity to his rivals. None could make any headway because they played safe, they did what candidates are supposed to do. Trump did the opposite and it won him enough votes to make headway. But in doing so it made others sit up and pay attention, people not so enamoured of his tried and tested modus operandi, his brainless appeals to the lowest common denominator, his standard approach to selling himself. In his usual line of business there probably is no such thing as bad publicity. This is not his usual line of business.

In truth Trump probably knows that he is in over his head now. But he is incapable of admitting it. It is said that he offered one of his potential VP candidates the opportunity to run all domestic policy. Why? Because he has no clue what he is going and no ideas about what to do if he is elected. He has over-promised and, though much of what he says is nebulous and incoherent - make America great again - other supposed policies are very specific and difficult, even for a shyster like Trump, to dodge. It's likely that people will notice if no great wall of Texas is built.

And some of his other policy ideas, far from making American great again, could easily make it poorer, less secure, angrier, more fractious and the world more dangerous. On one level he is not wrong that European nations have been getting away with low defence spending propped up by America. But all that destabilising NATO would do would be to create a vacuum into which Russia would gratefully step, making war more likely. Diplomacy is a subtle and often frustrating art form. Subtlety is not something that Donald Trump is renowned for.

But Trump never expected to be here. He just expected some publicity, a bit of barnstorming, maybe the opportunity to do a deal here or there with politicians willing to hand him something in return for his endorsement. He never expected to actually be in a position to win the presidency. He is likely terrified at the prospect. Trump wants to be loved. He would be the most reviled and despised president in American history. He could easily cause rioting, a depression and even an existential war.

Trump is a man with a personality disorder so grave, so fundamental, he ought to have been disqualified from being a company director. He has committed serial lies, frauds and evasions throughout his business career. One cannot help but be reminded of that other great narcissist, liar and confidence trickster - Robert Maxwell. A man who ought never have been allowed to perpetrate his crimes on Mirror Group and its pension fund.

Donald Trump's personality is remarkably similar, but his worst excesses many times more egregious.   He is attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the entire American people, of empty and meaningless promises, hyperbole, vacuous soundbites, dangerous and divisive rhetoric, outright racism and bare faced lies. Never has there been a candidate so utterly unsuited to be President of the United States.

Minute Physics: How to See Without Glasses

Seth MacFarlane Performs Family Guy

Sunday, 24 July 2016


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 30 - Altars, Incense and Tax Collecting

Okay, so we are nearing the end of this long and tedious section in which God supposedly told the children of Israel that he had freed them from servitude so that they could start a new period of servitude under him and his chosen ones who would demand sacrifices and taxes. This fantastical and entirely fictional story of Moses, his brother, the flight from Egypt and a new God to compete with those foreign gods seems to have been concocted entirely out of god envy. Oh and as a means of justifying some laws and taxes.

We have an odd mixture of the boring, arcane stuff here about altars and incense and then, thrown in at the end is a demand for a poll tax. But we'll get to that.

First there were more instructions about altars. You might call them altar-ations. God, who seems to be fantastically vain, wanted a lot of veneration. For this he needed altars. It wouldn't be so bad if he demanded something interesting like pyramids or giant cathedrals to be built for him. But no. He just wanted altars. They had to be of a certain size, with definite dimensions he specified and made of a certain type of wood. This one he specified now had to be covered in gold too. And there had to be horns too. God seems to have really lousy taste in interior decor and architecture.

God then specified where this latest altar had to be put in his temple of bad taste and gaudy furnishings. On this altar Aaron, his chosen chief priest, was to burn incense every morning, perhaps to mask the smell of all of the blood God had had sprinkled everywhere. God wanted incense burnt perpetually like this. Then once a year there was to be an atonement made at this latest altar.

Then we make a tangential jump.

God told Moses, apropos of nothing that went before, that, when he went down from the mountain, he was to conduct a census of all of the adult men over the age of 20. In return for God looking after them and ensuring that no illnesses befell them he wanted a sum of money, a poll tax, from each of them. Because everyone had to pay the same, both rich and poor, old and young, in sickness and in health - or perhaps God would give them a refund if anyone fell ill.

All of this money, half a shekel each, was to be given to the Tabernacle as atonement to God for their souls. So the people of Israel had been freed by God and he was now making them pay for being their chosen people. He wanted sacrifices every day, he wanted olive oil to burn on one of his many altars, he wanted clothes for his priests, he wanted constant obeisance and worship and now he wanted cold, hard cash too. Anyone would think that all of this had been written in by priests. It's hard to see why God needs cash.

Then God told Moses that outside the Tabernacle there was to be a special vessel full of water for Aaron and his fellow priests to wash their hands and feet in before they went in and started burning dead animals. They had to do this or else they would die, said God.

Finally God told Moses that he wanted him to make a very special and holy perfume made of special ingredients of spices, myrrh, cinnamon and so on. This was to be a holy anointing oil. But this was a special perfume for anointing the Tabernacle with and not to be sprayed willy nilly on man. Oh no. If they did that then that man would be cut off from his people. This was a holy perfume just for the Lord. He's a God of very strange tastes isn't he.

Minute Physics: Relativity Isn't Relative

Friday, 22 July 2016


The Slow Painful Death of the Labour Party

It's official then - the Labour Party is dead. We know this because today Chauncey more or less declared this to be the case. He did it in that voice he uses when he is being passive aggressive of course, but he did it nevertheless. That is always assuming that he knows what he is doing. Many suspect otherwise.

What? You still think that this is a genial old gentleman who really cares about the poor and the sick and the workers? Well, maybe that's how it started. But now Chauncey has tasted power and rather likes it. It's what gets them all in the end. It probably usually takes longer than 10 months, but they often start in the right place

My own theory is that Chauncey honestly thinks, like many lefties, that he is on the side of the working man and woman. He really does. It's just that he prefers not to actually listen too hard to what they actually have to say. He prefers to have their opinions filtered back to him through their representatives. Oh he hears their complaints about low pay and poor working conditions, of expensive housing and all manner of ills with society with which we are all familiar. It's just that he has standard hard left solutions to all of those problems, or at least what pass for solutions. They are nothing of the sort.

Chauncey claims that the great problems afflicting our society today are: inequality, neglect, discrimination, prejudice and insecurity. Inequality? That's one of those issues on which Labour does a lot of talking, a lot of posing, a lot of harrumphing and pink bus driving but not a lot of doing when push comes to shove. Neglect? Neglect of what? By whom? Discrimination and prejudice? Aren't they really more or less the same thing? Insecurity? Of what? Of a country that some might refuse to defend based on prejudice and tendentious reasoning?

Many of those rebelling MPs say they agree with Chauncey on policy. But not only does he not have very much policy to deal with the matters he says concern him, the problems that he identifies are incoherent, nonsensical and contradictory.

This is why the attacks of Chauncey's own MPs have been so useless. Labour has this peculiar antipathy to what it sees as being disloyal. But this would be disloyalty to a man who has spent his entire political career being not only disloyal to his party leadership but also actively campaigning against it. He would no doubt claim that he has always been loyal to his principles. But wouldn't the truly principled man he claims to be have been better off in a different party, one that better reflected his own politics? Wouldn't that have been more honest and straightforward of him?

Therein lies the problem. Chauncey has always been in the wrong party but was tolerated as harmless. Now he is its leader. Labour has been seized by a zealot and one who now has a messiah complex in addition to his former sanctimony. I suppose its inevitable when all of those people are chanting your name and telling you that you are the answer. But in truth people like Chauncey have always had a lot of self belief. How else could they keep going when everyone is laughing? In truth we are all still laughing. Except his own MPs. They are shouting furiously at him. As he told Channel 4 yesterday, no he really said this, 'how unkind of them.' Parody could have been invented for the likes of Chauncey.

Yesterday, in addition to launching his bid for his own job and giving various facile, supercilious interviews to the broadcasters, Chauncey revealed what we have all known all along. He is going to try and attempt to force his MPs into reselection battles to pay for their disobedience. The man who never knowingly voted with his own party when a backbench MP now demands completely loyalty and fealty. Or else. You will serve at Chauncey's pleasure or be burnt as a witch.

This, to say the least, is impolitic. But then why should we be surprised? This is a man who insisted upon voting against his party's own Trident renewal policy this week, refused to honour his own commitment to refer to that policy during his speech and who insisted upon all of this despite being defeated on this at last year's party conference. He had the unions for once lined up against him on this issue and yet still refused to back down. Some might  call that principled. Most would call it pig headedness, hypocrisy and astonishing conceitedness.

This is the monster that has been created. Now watch him devour his party.

Because now this is the leader who cannot lead, who claims to want debate but surrounds himself with the like minded and tries to silence his critics with threats of deselection. He claims that he will try to re-unite his parliamentary party behind him if and when he wins and yet how can that happen now?

If, as seems likely, Chauncey wins his job back in September, then how can the party unite behind him? How can they exercise their own judgement over policy and over the performance of their leader if Chauncey's lynch mobs are poised to strike each and every time they are less than 100% slavish in their devotion and obeisance to the great leader? How can they serve a man who refuses to condemn the abuse and violence against them?

And so, with his latest attempt to pander to his cult, Chauncey has made another schoolboy error. He has forced his parliamentary party to the point of no return. All he had to do was to be nice, to be diplomatic and, given the pusillanimous nature of his party, they would most likely have come back in sufficient numbers to at least enable him to not to have to ask his front bench team to do two jobs. Now, with reselections hanging over them, what do they have to lose? It would have been hard enough going through to the next general election and then claim that they were happy to follow the man they had hitherto tried to defeat because they thought him incompetent. But now they have been given an easy choice. Kill or be killed. They might as well form their own splinter group or simply detach themselves from him and the Labour Party that will soon be deselecting them anyway and form their own parliamentary party. If they can get sufficient numbers they can even become the official opposition and deny Labour and Chauncey the power, the influence and crucially the money that goes with that designation.

That is the all out war option. It is what this blog has been recommending for months now. But then I'm a Tory. We would never have been so stupid as to elect Chauncey, but if we had we would have had him out and back working for RT or Press TV again months ago. Still as a Tory I am delighted by all of this. Never in our wildest dreams last year did we actually think that Chauncey would win. Then he won and never in our wildest dreams did we think he could survive this long. Now not only has he clung on but the cack handed attempts to get him out may well have strengthened him. Thus the Labour Party is about to commit suicide and split in half.

Theresa May has had a great week as our new prime minister. She will have a wonderful, carefree summer too even if she does have to work hard throughout on actually governing. But the autumn is looking even better. She's absolutely right, there really is no need to rush to have a general election.

Minute Physics: How Do Modern Light Bulbs Work?

What is Consciousness?

Thursday, 21 July 2016


Big Sam's Our Man

It would seem that the FA is about to do something right for a change and appoint Sam Allardyce as the new England manager. Now I'm not claiming that Allardyce is a shoo in for this job in the same way that Brian Clough was all of those years ago. But to me he seems like the obvious choice.

Yet it seems that the FA have come to this decision largely thanks to their being turned down by Arsene Wenger and because their other choiceshave recently become either unavailable or unviable. Oh and Gareth Southgate said no. Thank god for small mercies.

Yet why wasn't the name of Big Sam at the top of the list? He's English. Vastly experienced. Respected among his peers and players. Is a great deal more tactically astute than he is given credit for.

But most of all he gets the best out of his players. Let me say that again. He gets the best out of his players.

Surely this, after the season we have just had, is the bottom line. After Leicester City? After Wales at the Euros? After Iceland beating England?

The problem England has faced and has been facing now for years is not a lack of talent but a lack of belief. This was not something that seemed to afflict other teams and so why England? I know our press are not nice to failures, but they are hardly a lynch mob.

The serial inability of England team after England team is down to poor man management, an inability to motivate multi millionaires who seem to suffer no such problems for their clubs and the inability of manager after manager to decide on a fixed system to play and to select players to fit that system rather than trying to shoe horn the various players he has at his disposal into any system he manages to think of just prior to each tournament.

I could be wrong but I do not think that these are problems that will afflict Big Sam. Sam, if faced with the Gerrard/Lampard conundrum would simply select whichever one of them was playing best or accepted his methods and leave the other on the bench. Big Sam would not have taken Raheem Sterling to France with him at all, let alone play him repeatedly in preference to others when he has been out of form for months and has been in the process of proving what this blog said about him when he moved from Liverpool for stupid money. Big Sam would not play players out of position just so that he could get them in the team. That is something that you have to do sometimes at club level: needs must. At international level it is necessary only through desperation or a paucity of ideas.

Football is a simple game that our highly paid managers seem to manage to overcomplicate constantly. This does not mean that Allardyce need live down to the image of him as the cynical pragmatist. Allardyce has always claimed that he can play the beautiful game beautifully. Now is his chance. But that doesn't mean you have to play it naively. Look at Jose Mourinho.

Sam Allardyce is a hairdryer type manager, he is a manager who gets players to play out of their skins for him. He gets the best out of journeymen but is equally adept at managing rough diamonds and polished diamonds. But he is, I would aver, the sort of manager who will not hesitate to make tough decisions and leave players out where necessary. He will not have favourites who get selected regardless. He will just select the best players to get the job done and is big headed and arrogant enough not to worry about what the press writes about him when he does. He knows it is all about results and he is a manager who has usually got the results he needed, albeit without ever managing right at the very top. Most of all, he is the kind of manager who can get his team to defend and would see it as a personal affront to him and his country were England to concede a goal from a knock down after a long throw in by a team whose players mostly play in the Championship or lower.

Maybe this is the kind of manager England needs, one who understands that England will only win, not by trying to play the tiki taka purist football favoured for years, but the kind of football that suits our players, the kind of football we see week in and week out in the Premier League - high speed, high intensity, high work rate.

If it is happenstance and serendipity that leads us into the promised land of Allardyce then so be it. We've tried every other way.

Minute Physics: Evolution vs Natural Selection

Chauncey The Movie: The Never - Has - Been Labour Cannot Get Rid Of

Wednesday, 20 July 2016


PMQs Review: 20th July 2016 - The Snarling Thuds of May Edition

It's fortunate that this is the last PMQs for a few weeks and that parliament is now going into recess. It will give Chauncey plenty of time to conduct his latest reshuffle, one made necessary by the government one last week - bloody Tories. How dare they cause difficulties to the great leader.

It's been hot this week. Damned hot. I however have it on good authority that Chauncey was seen out and about in London yesterday still wearing that nasty brown jacket of his. Another good reason for a recess. Have it steam cleaned. Maybe they should consider having him refurbished at the same time as the Houses of Parliament.

Labour, like the venerable Palace of Westminster, is in the process of disintegrating. It cannot fill all of the shadow roles it needs to in order to be a functioning opposition and yet Chauncey sees no reason why this should cause him to quit. He is clinging on, not so much like a limpet, but like a proton to a neutron by means of the nuclear force. That is a quantum mechanical joke. Chauncey's opponents should try it to try and force him out. They've tried everything else. Chauncey hates all things nuclear.

There was a debate and a vote on Monday to decide whether to renew Trident. Chauncey gave the same speech he has been giving all of his life, a sophomoric, naive, blinkered and facile argument delivered with his usual teenage assurance.  It is immoral to have weapons, he said, although he doesn't seem to mind when those weapons are bricks flung at his critics' windows. Critics of nuclear weapons cannot seem to get their heads around the fact that the point of them is never to use them. They then turn this around, without noticing the contradiction, by claiming that it is a huge waste of money when the weapons will never be used.

The SNP asked Theresa May, making her debut at the dispatch box as PM, if she would ever use the weapons to kill hundreds of thousands of people. 'Yes,' she said, ' the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it.' This elicited oohs and aahs in pantomime style from the SNP who have a longstanding and similarly deranged dislike of nuclear weapons. In their case however they mostly use these weapons as weapons in their continued campaign for independence. According to the SNP - who of course speak for all of Scotland - this is another example of England imposing something on our northern neighbours. They overlook that it provides thousands and thousands of Scottish jobs.

The Trident vote was passed by a majority of 355. Only 47 of Chauncey's MPs voted with him and against Trident. 140 voted with the Government. In doing so, it should be pointed out, they were merely voting in accordance with Labour Party policy, something that of course has done nothing to appease the cult of Corbyn brick throwing tendency who are mad as hell and aren't going to take this anymore. Anyway, there was us thinking that Chauncey is a democrat. He was roundly heckled and abused by his own MPs throughout his speech since not only was he going against Labour policy but breaking his own promise to them to refer to Labour policy in his speech. It's that straightforward, honest politics again I expect.

Oh and the attempt to depose Chauncey is proceeding with the efficiency that seems to characterise the modern Labour Party. They were not even able to agree a single candidate, although to be fair, given the choice they had, trying to get one half decent candidate worthy of the name has proven challenging. Angela Eagle finally stepped up to try and depose the great leader and then someone that nobody had ever heard of called Owen Smith joined in. He is the Andrea Leadsom of the Labour Party. Owen Smith is a man who makes Andy Burnham look inspiring. Hell, he makes Wallace look inspiring. Why would Owen Smith wake up in the morning and think: actually I think I can be the next leader of the Labour Party? Then again this is the Labour Party we're talking about. It elected Chauncey last year. If he falls under a bus Diane Abbott is going to have another crack at it.

Polls suggest that Chauncey would thrash Smith and Eagle too before she dropped out. This is hardly surprising. Labour has been described by many as a cult. But it's worse. It's more like one of those death cults they have in America that barricade themselves in and then blow themselves up to establish their true love for the leader and their doctrinal purity.

Labour doesn't know what it stands for. Many of those opposed to Chauncey suggest that they don't disagree with him on policy, even though he doesn't really have any policies other than being pro chaos and the causes of chaos. Leadership is just something that weak leaders do.

Chauncey would claim that he is anti-austerity. Anti- austerity is not a policy. It's a T shirt slogan masquerading as a policy. We're all anti-austerity. It's just that sometimes you have to have austerity because, you know, there isn't enough money. Anyway, we still have a huge deficit so it's a peculiar form of austerity. Fortunately Owen Smith is going to solve the whole problem of austerity by reintroducing the 50% top rate of tax. Christ! Why didn't anyone think of that?

To be fair Chauncey's established 30 year stance of being anti nuclear weapons is a policy. But it is not the official Labour policy. It is also idiotic. What do they think unilateral nuclear disarmament would achieve? Putin would throw down his weapons and usher in a period of peace and tranquility in return for being allowed to cheat at the Olympics?

Until Labour decides what it is for rather than what it is against, until it gets someone to annunciate this in clear and popular language, it is doomed to its current fate. That is why Chauncey won last year and why he will win again this year. He is the accidental leader who is incapable of leadership and who is going to take his party to accidental oblivion. He is a protest politician protesting at his own party's policy. The party is going to either follow him to extinction or split and maybe, just maybe, reinvent itself. Its problem is that the only people it could find to challenge Chauncey were Angela Eagle and Owen Smith. The two have at least agreed to become one. This is something of breakthrough moment for Labour. They have come to a firm position on who is going to be humiliated by a pathetic never has been whose idea of firm leadership is to hide in his office refusing to see anyone who might shout at him.

How they must be laughing in the Conservative Party. Can they really resist putting off a general election?

Anyway, to the first PMQs of our new prime minister.

Mrs May stood up and it was as if she had always been there. She looked composed, relaxed, she even cracked a joke or two and wished Edward Leigh a happy birthday. Chauncey expressed the wish that they would have the kind of exchange he had wanted from the beginning of his time talking to Dave. He wanted a debate he said. He then got one. Well, kind of. PMQs is not really the place for debates. But this was the closest approximation we get. And Theresa was on top of it. In fact she kicked him around the ball park. Her only real failing, for entirely understandable reasons, was when Chauncey brought up some of Boris's past indiscretions.

And it is hard to have a debate, even when six questions are allocated to the Leader of the Opposition (albeit one whose MPs don't support him) when he keeps changing subjects from question to question. He could choose a more forensic approach, try to zero in on inconsistencies. This isn't really Chauncey's forte. He hasn't the brains for it. It was announced this morning that he is going to be appearing in a court case challenging the recent NEC decision to allow him on to the Labour leadership ballot. Then we'll see him on the receiving end of some forensic analysis.

Today though he asked about Orgreave, a peculiar obsession of Labour from the 1980s. Maybe they are trying to get a replay of the miners' strike. If they win then all of the mines would have to reopen and Arthur Scargill would make a triumphant return alongside Chauncey and Len McCluskey. Then Argentina would invade the Falklands and the IRA would make a comeback, all cheered on by Chauncey and his Shadow Chancellor. The PM told him that the Home Secretary would be making an announcement on this later today. I'm sure the nation will be on tenterhooks.

And the PM gave a short sharp lesson on all manner of issues to a flailing Chauncey. He talked about housing (as usual) he talked of austerity, he raised zero hours contracts for the umpteenth time on a day that unemployment has fallen again. She explained to him the economics of home ownership in Britain (prices vary across the country) she had even memorised some of the average home prices. And, though the government has rowed back on its promise to cut the deficit, she reiterated that plan. And she explained to Chauncey that this is not austerity. It is living within your means. She may not be a soundbite style prime minister, but she knows how to deliver a withering line nonetheless.

There were even jokes. Yes, jokes. Chauncey asked about unscrupulous bosses. What? said Theresa, deadpan, you mean bosses that don't listen to their workers, who require some workers to double their workload without additional pay, a boss who exploits the rules to further his own career? Did this remind him of anyone? she asked. Chauncey did not respond. He probably wished he could go and hide behind his office door again.

And she took on the SNP. Angus Robertson wanted to know how her talks with Nicola Sturgeon had gone. Why doesn't he just ask her? She's his party leader. The PM didn't say this. She said that her discussions with the first minister had been constructive and cordial though they clearly had much they disagreed on. Then Robertson continued the SNP theme of Scotland somehow and mysteriously staying in the EU - something that is legally and politically impossible. The PM was having none of it. She pointed out that the SNP campaigned for Scotland to leave the UK less than two years ago. That would have also meant leaving the EU. Now they try to use the EU as a wedge issue. Their dishonesty knows no bounds.

And so, as we expected, Theresa was a class act at PMQs. She has hit the ground running and her new less flashy style has impressed the country. It also seems to have impressed her party. The Tories looked as united as Labour are a rabble of surly, angry, muttering children. Mrs May looked as though she has been in her position forever. Labour are in the business of ensuring that she is.

We reconvene in September when Labour start the process of falling apart in earnest. In the meantime I think we've all earned a break.

Minute Physics: Why is the Solar System Flat?

Carpool Karaoke with Michele Obama

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Channel F F F F F Four Jumps the S S S S Shark

As I pointed out at the weekend, we live in a strange and confusing world at the moment. Politics is in turmoil. Our official Opposition does not have enough people to do its job of holding the government to account owing to last month's mass resignations. Yet the Leader of the Opposition sees no reason why he shouldn't cling on. But I'll come on to that in a separate post.

There is the continued threat of terrorism of course. Another post.

It's going to be a busy summer. Maybe this year I won't be able to have my traditional period of going dark for a month. Well, it's never really dark. It's more like subtle lighting.

Fortunately we have Channel 4 and the BBC to keep us entertained with their bien pensant idiocy. The Beeb still refuses to use a pejorative name for the Islamo fascists of ISIS, calling them so called Islamic State to save offending Muslims. Perhaps we should start calling them the so called British Broadcasting Corporation. After all they seem to be offended by many of the things that make us British.

And then there is Channel 4. Last week I noticed this advertisement on their website.

They want some new continuity announcers. But they don't want people who can talk well with a nice gravelly voice. Oh no. They want people with unusual tones, accents or an audible disability. For instance, they say, someone with a stammer. To work on the television? Live? Presumably viewers will just have to wait an extra five minutes whilst the announcer struggles to say Gogglebox.

You couldn't make it up. Actually you don't need to make it up. The BBC and Channel 4 are there to provide an hilarious alternative.

Most of us accept that there are natural and normal impediments to our doing certain things in life, talent and ability being the most obvious. I for instance cannot be a footballer owing to my age, my malfunctioning leg and my only having nine toes. Of course I could never have become a footballer anyway because I was crap at it. But these days you have to wonder. Would this be acceptable? Will football clubs start having to give me a fair chance? It's only a matter of time before they are forced to have female players in their squads and even teams.

Because it is now apparently okay to become a continuity announcer even if you cannot, you know, talk. Or even if you have such an impenetrable accent that only 1% of the population understand you. It's called being inclusive. The fact that it excludes 99% of the population is somehow overlooked.

Our confusing world just gets more confusing. We live in a world in which a man can ignore the fact that he has a penis and decide that he is now going to be a woman. This despite the fact that there is no evidence whatever that this is anything other than a psychological condition and one that is peculiar to western liberal and wealthy societies who have run out of things to get angry and bothered about. And all that can be done for this confused individual is give him some cosmetic surgery and cut his dick off and turn it inside out. This does not turn the confused man into a woman, it turns him into a man who has had his dick cut off, taken some hormones to grow some tits and talks like a character from a Monty Python sketch.

I would have liked to be a pilot. I couldn't because I am colour blind. Take a look at this test. Can you see a number? I can't.

But why should this stop me flying a plane? Now I see that denying me the opportunity to fly around the world and get off with the cabin crew was shameless bigotry. My feelings are hurt. How dare they refuse to allow me to endanger the lives of thousands of people a year simply because I cannot see properly.

And so this makes me part of a minority. How exciting. I've always wanted to be part of one and now I am. I am a sufferer from so many disabilities and afflictions I would require a Venn Diagram to explain them all to you. I had thought that I would need to become homosexual in order to get on in the world, or to announce that I am now a (very hairy) woman called Paulette. Instead I can now announce that I am a gammy legged, partially sighted, nine toed man from Birmingham. I did think I might apply to become a Channel 4 announcer. Now I see that this is aiming too low. I want my own series.

Minute Physics: Why the Full Moon is Better in Winter

Is Anything Real?

Monday, 18 July 2016


A Message to Britain in 2016 from Britain in 2012

The BBC ran an Imagine Special last night about how the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony came together and then brought the nation together in a way we so seldom experience. We forget now how our natural cynicism led many of us to dread that opening ceremony, dread how embarrassing it would be, especially as we were following on from the giant spectacle of Beijing just 4 years earlier.

And yet what we saw was Britain making the most of the volunteer spirit and our can-do attitude. Our creativity and sense of humour more than made up for our inability or at least unwillingness to lavish as much money as the Chinese had done as they desperately tried to show themselves off to the world. They succeeded of course, but only in showing how desperate they were to show themselves off to the world. Impressive as their Games undoubtedly were, they often betrayed a nation not at ease with itself and trying too hard. Britain succeeded because we had the confidence to just be ourselves.

And so the triumphant, funny, inspiring and beautifully realised, very British opening ceremony was something that galvanised us and made us proud. It was the start of a magical fortnight in this grey little island for its very colourful people.

Perhaps we should look back on the spirit of London 2012 again now. For all kinds of reasons.

First and foremost, we should look back on the spirit of 2012, of this celebration of modern Britain looking back with wonder, astonishment and pride at our history and achievements. It showed how we can be patriotic from whatever background, whatever our individual stories and histories. The day after Britain was announced as the hosts of the 2012 games we suffered the terrible 7/7 attacks in London. These were attacks on our way of life, the very thing that the Olympics celebrate. You had to wonder as the world watched that opening ceremony how the kind of people who perpetrate these attacks were feeling. They hated us for being us. So as we look across at the awful events in Nice last week, we should remember that it is this about us that the jihadist cretins so hate. They want to divide us, to make us turn in on ourselves. They cannot be allowed to succeed. We need to continue as we always do, to not give in to the haters, to celebrate our way of life and to be proud of it.

And then we should think of the narrative that some have been weaving in the wake of the Brexit vote, about how little Britain cannot possibly be alone in the world without the EU. Well tell that to the confident, proud, self deprecating nation of 2012. Tell that to the world that watched on and laughed with us and enjoyed our display. In truth we should never have doubted ourselves back in 2012. Because we know we can do this stuff. We produce some of the best stage shows, the best films, the best music, the most creative people in the world. It is our soft power. We need to remind ourselves of that now.

How has this country achieved this? By being open, by being tolerant, by being willing to bring in the best talent of the whole world, its best ideas.

We don't need to be part of a homogenising project trying to iron out our individuality to create something European. We are a proud nation that can trade and be friends with the whole world, including the EU. But we don't need to be part of this stultifying trade block to achieve great things. We have a proud history of doing so that long pre-dates the EU. We saw it in that ceremony. We are at our best when we are open and accommodating, but also when we are free to be ourselves and to express ourselves and to do things the British way. The EU is the opposite of the spirit of 2012. It is not this modern, progressive force. It is a protectionist assault on the very things that make us great.

This time last week Britain faced more uncertainty and rancour as normal government languished and nothing was resolved. Since then our system has worked beautifully, democracy has reasserted itself, a new government has been appointed in a manner and with a brevity that makes other countries gasp. We have a new prime minister who has seized the opportunity afforded to her by the stunning turn of events of recent weeks. She has remade the government, created whole new ministries, abolished old ones, dispensed with the meaningless and the jejune and revivified her party and Whitehall.

The British system works. It showed it last week. It is why it has stood the test of time so well and been exported around the world. And it is why we need to stop being so down on ourselves. This is a country admired around the world for all kinds of reasons, not least perhaps because we don't take ourselves too seriously and don't always realise how strong, dynamic and truly great we are. For a time we realised it in 2012. Now is the time to remind ourselves.

Minute Physics: What is Sea Level?

The Peanuts Movie

Sunday, 17 July 2016


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 29 - Slaughtering and Burning Animals for God

If you were in any doubt what this whole boring section about priests and the Tabernacle and altars is all about, here it is made explicit. It's about power and the priesthood. It is also about creating an hereditary priesthood. Priests wrote all of this stuff and inserted it into the text. For no particular reason, God favoured Aaron, supposedly Moses' brother. But, since both of these men never really existed, that means that later priests could claim a lineage to him. In the ancient world having a direct line to people, even mythical people, counted for a lot.

Chapter 29 is all about priestly power and of God decreeing that Aaron was to be his anointed priest from then on and his sons and descendants thereafter. Given what Aaron was about to do, this shows a stunning lack of judgement on the part of the supposedly omniscient god. But we'll get to that later.

So this chapter, even more than the others, was probably inserted into the text to make Aaron look powerful, and remember they have been doing that from nearly the beginning of this story when they inserted him, entirely gratuitously, into the story of Mose, the Pharaoh and the plagues. Aaron was the smooth talker in this tall tale. How convenient for a would-be priest.

Now we get all of the details that God supposedly decreed for Aaron and the priests that came after him. There was to be a ceremony to make them holy and respected. For this yet more animals had to be killed and sacrificed for the greater glory of a god. More pagan rituals.

God wanted the very finest, unblemished animals for this ridiculously wasteful ceremony. I'll remind you again, the Israelites were complaining of lack of food only a few chapters ago. Now they have plentiful supplies of animals to be slaughtered, burnt but not eaten.

God goes into detail about all of this. There was to be a bullock and two rams. There was to be unleavened bread. There were to be unleavened cakes and olive oil, wafers and flour. Where they were getting all of this from is a mystery.

All of this was to be brought to the Tabernacle and Aaron was to be dressed in all of his finery. Now we see the true purpose of the Tabernacle. It wasn't for God at all. It was for the Aaronite priests to reside in in luxury and with lots of nice food supplied free of charge along with gold and jewels. It's a living.

Once Aaron was in his full regalia he was to put his hands on the bullock which would then be killed. Then the blood and horns of the bullock had to be put on the altar. All of the organs and innards of the bullock had to then be burnt on the altar. They then did much the same with the rams, except they didn't have to be disembowelled first. They had to be burnt whole. But the blood of the rams had to be taken and some of it put on Aaron's ear, some of it on the big toe of his right foot. I'm not making this up. Then blood had to be sprinkled around the altar. Then some of the blood had to be sprinkled on Aaron and on his nice new clothes. Maybe they had a very good laundry there in the desert. Or maybe they just liked smelling of offal.

Then they had to take the bread and put it into the hands of Aaron and of his sons and waved it before God. This was a wave offering. I wonder if there was much giggling while this was going on.

And then they were allowed to eat some of the food. Aha! But of course, and who would have thought it, only the Aaronite priests were allowed to eat this food because it was holy.

And there was to be a bullock offered every day for this daft ceremony as an offering to God. And a lamb too. With bread. A bullock and lamb sandwich a day keeps God at bay. And gives very good eating to his priests too.

This is all supposed to be symbolic of something, possibly that God was a halfwit. Seriously, any half intelligent person listening to this gibberish would have gone into the desert and found himself another god, or possibly decided that these gods just weren't worth bothering with at all. They seem to be a bunch of genocidal, contradictory, narcissists with terrible tastes in clothes and interior decoration. And they waste food.

Minute Physics: 3 Simple Ways to Time Travel


Friday, 15 July 2016


Cordon Sanitaire de Boris

There's a beautiful irony about the hysterical reaction from some about the appointment of Boris to the position of Foreign Secretary. The man often accused of buffoonery is the subject of the most ridiculous and exaggerated claims from across Europe and here at home. Angela Eagle's hilarious reaction on hearing his appointment has made all the news programmes today, yet it made no sense. Boris is a highly educated, multi-lingual, former Brussels correspondent, former magazine editor, highly remunerated columnist and victorious Brexiter. He is a perfectly natural choice as Foreign Secretary.

Yet the reaction from Eagle was by no means isolated. Newsnight immediately dredged up some old quotes from Boris. Journalists are currently trawling through old newspaper and magazine articles to find his most quote worthy and undiplomatic words - anyone who has ever written for a living or tried to do so knows that you increasingly have to outrage at least a little to make any headway these days. Fine words don't necessarily do the trick.

I particularly enjoyed the assertion that it was somehow outrageous that Boris kept a long planned appointment to play cricket the day after the referendum. What else was he supposed to do? Don a tin hat and dig a fallout shelter? Hire a removal van and start packing our goods and chattels so that we could remove ourselves immediately? A similar claim was made that it was somehow wrong for Boris to withdraw from his party's leadership race when it became clear he had insufficient support. Again, what else was he supposed to do?

There seems to be a lot of schadenfreude being enjoyed across at least part of the EU at the small amount of chaos we have endured in Britain since the referendum. This was, as this blog predicted well in advance of the vote itself when I was one of a few lonely voices confidently predicting a Leave victory, inevitable. In truth it hasn't been that bad. The pound bombed for a while and is now coming back up. The stock market panicked as it always does and has since recovered its composure. Most importantly the Bank of England decided against a much anticipated interest cut yesterday because we just don't know what is happening yet. It's too early to say. It may be that nothing much is happening except that some people are believing the jeremiahs and imagining something catastrophic will happen. But what? What do they think will happen for crying out loud?

Because in truth nothing has changed. Things are going to change of course. The British system has worked remarkably well and we now have a new prime minister in place. She has wasted no time appointing a new cabinet and a new Chancellor of the Exchequer who has rightly said that there is really no need for an emergency budget, no need for panic measures, we had better just wait and see, enjoy the summer (such as it is) and stop worrying so much. The cool, calm demeanour of our new prime minister and her obvious determination to enact change is refreshing and invigorating. She is so far more that justifying our faith in her.

And the appointment of Boris alongside David Davis and Liam Fox is a further sign that we are getting on with things. More than that, it is a sign that we will not be pushed around or bullied into doing too early what we would be well advised to hold off until we are ready. The snide reaction of Boris's French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault and of Frank Walter Steinmeier of Germany is typically dishonest and typically cognitively dissonant. It speaks of the same old arrogance, the same old detachment from reality.

Instead of acknowledging the unhappiness of millions of people across Europe and here in Britain, they have decided on a narrative that we were all fooled by Boris and co and their lies. But which lies do they have in mind?  How would they feel if I countered that the British people are quite capable of filtering this information for ourselves, that our unhappiness with the EU is longstanding and entrenched and that the Remain side were incapable of offering any positive reasons for staying in the EU and so had to engage in a campaign of lies themselves. George Osborne famously told the country he would inflict a punishment budget on us if we voted to leave. How does that fit on the spectrum of lies? Alongside the 3 million jobs lie? Or the lies about war and security?

In truth the Leave campaign won despite having the government machine ranged against it and much of the establishment. It won, not because of lies, but because the British people resent and are angry with the EU and its arrogant disdain for public opinion. The Remain side had all the advantages and yet still lost. There is a lesson there if only the EU would listen. Instead they prefer to kid themselves that it was all due to lies.

Instead they are telling themselves that we are going to get our comeuppance for our treachery and disobedience. Yet, though it has certainly been an uncomfortable couple of weeks,  the period of uncertainty, though it is not over, has probably peaked. Many of us argued that the 2 months of proposed campaigning for someone to take over from David Cameron was too much. Happily good sense has prevailed. Now we have a new government being formed, new ministers reading their red boxes of files and getting up to speed. And we have new ministries being formed to take on the issue of Brexit and ensure that it happens just as the British people have demanded. That is why the EU is so dyspeptic. It has got an answer it does not like and cannot see any way this time of forcing us to have a rethink as it has others in the past. No means no. Brexit means Brexit. It's no wonder they are so grumpy.

And the worst thing for them is that they know damned well that we will probably get a deal in the end. Why? Because the EU, for all its talk of solidarity, is always trumped by national interest. The French, who do so like to lecture the rest of the continent, are the worst offenders. That is why the parliament shuttles between Brussels and Strasbourg after all and why the Common Agricultural Policy is so unreformable. Britain will get its deal and we will be freed from the EU's shackles. Its quite possible we will have free trade deals with a number of other countries in short order too. If our new Chancellor, after taking his time to look over the books, decides on a programme of investment and tax reforms and cuts there may well be many other countries casting envious eyes our way and thinking of joining in.

The period of uncertainty is coming to an end. Now let the optimism flow. And let's enjoy the fact we have Boris as Foreign Secretary. Oh and it annoys the French.

Minute Physics: How to Destroy a Magnet?

A Brief History of Everything

Thursday, 14 July 2016


Changing of the Guard

Who knows, there may be greater shocks to come today and over the next couple of days as the new government is formed by our new prime minister. But somehow I doubt it. I think this last couple of weeks of seismic shocks and many even greater after shocks is finally coming to an end. There is nothing at all shocking about the current state of the Labour Party after all. We all saw this coming and I think we can all see where it is going too.

All of which makes what is currently happening in the Conservative Party even more important and indeed encouraging. We started this week staring down the barrel of Andrea Leadsom. Now a party that looked like it might implode like Labour is in the process of coming back together again. Hell, we even have Boris back.

In truth nothing very surprising happened yesterday, so long as we exclude from that Chauncey's making a couple of half decent jokes and looking half smart for a change.

David Cameron's final PMQs was a gracious, charming reminder of why he could have been a really great prime minister; the British did the business of changing prime minister with our characteristic understated, undemonstrative efficiency. And we now have an understated, undemonstrative prime minister in place too. We even have an understated and undemonstrative chancellor next door replacing the catastrophic, sub-Brown, nothing-like-as-clever-as-he-thinks-he-is George Osborne, who has been sent to the backbenches where he belongs. It's all very reassuring and not at all shocking.

Boris has been sent to the Foreign Office where he can do what Boris does best by simply being Boris. He's not good at running things. Even when he used to edit the Spectator he largely used to leave it to his secretary. At the Foreign Office he will leave things to his civil servants and to his SpAds and get on with waving the flag and occasionally annoying foreigners. Fortunately the business of doing trade deals with the rest of the world has been delegated to Liam Fox and the business of negotiating Brexit has been delegated to David Davis. Quite what is left for Boris to do is a mystery, but he will no doubt do whatever it is with great wit and panache.

We knew that Theresa May would likely have a plan ready and waiting for the moment she got through the Number 10 door and so it proved. Within minutes Philip Hammond was strolling up the street and we all knew what that meant. Then Amber Rudd and we all knew what that meant. Sure, we were a little surprised by Boris, but it makes sense when you think about it and there was talk of him getting that job not that long ago under Dave and so it is hardly out of a clear blue sky.

Perhaps there are further surprises to come. I like to think that Theresa will eschew convention and deny Andrea Leadsom a big job. She has done nothing whatever to deserve one. Maybe she judged that Boris, Davis and Fox would appease Brexiteers. So long as the divine and much more talented Priti Patel is given a major role I shall consider myself duly appeased.

We should further not be at all surprised if our new PM dispenses with some of the silly voguish department names invented in recent years along with a redistribution of what they do. Universities back to education would be something that has the logic of, well, logic. DCMS merged with a business department? A department or two abolished or at least merged completely? International Development back to the Foreign Office? Do we really need separate Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland offices in the era of devolution? Cut the Cabinet back and dispense with this modern trend of giving ministers part time Cabinet rank to make them feel important?

Oh and one final plea for our new prime minister. Across Europe there has been a sigh of relief that the dislocation is finally over and we have a new government being formed. Will we now get on with invoking Article 50 so that they can start saying Non to us again? May I suggest to our new prime minister and her new Secretary of State for European Relations that we should give a very firm English No to that question. Why on earth would we do such a thing without getting anything in return? That should be the firm statement of policy of the new government.