Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Peanuts


468

Interlude

Gene Wilder



Gene Wilder died yesterday at the age of 83. Many are writing of him as the man who was Willy Wonka. That is to do him a grave disservice. This is not to say he wasn't brilliant in that film, because he was. He brought a real manic menace in addition to charm and comic talent to a role that could have been too sugary in other hands.

But he was much much more than Willy Wonka. He was really a gifted and anarchic comic actor whose collaborations with Mel Brooks in particular gifted the world some sublime comic moments such as the one above, from the peerless Young Frankenstein.

The Largest Black Holes in the Universe

Black Hole Comparison

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 35 - God Wants Some Serious Worshipping



And so now we're coming to the end of the story. Actually the story is over. We now get six fantastically boring chapters in which we get long and tedious descriptions about making stuff for the glory of this vain, jealous and nasty god.

Back in chapters 25 through to 31 we got another long and boring section, tagged on to the actual commandments about what God wanted from his chosen people. He wanted a Tabernacle, a kind of house of worship - a church for all intents and purposes. It was to be filled with all kinds of gaudy decorations, lots of altars - God loves an altar - and it was to be the place where the people went to give thanks to him. Now we get it all repeated.

First though we get a reminder about the Sabbath. This is very very important. Moses, we are told, came down from his latest chat with God. His commandments we have already been told about, even if they are inconsistent with each other. But one consistent theme is the nonsensical strictures about the Sabbath. They could work for six days but there was to be no work at all on the seventh. They couldn't even kindle a fire. Anyone found breaking this was to be put to death.

Now you might well ask why all of this was so insisted upon. Well that fits in with the rest of this chapter and indeed the rest of Exodus. These sections were written by priests. They are about power. The Sabbath day was God's day. This is to say that it is the priests day. Everyone had to stop work, lay down their tools and go and worship. That meant that the priests got to do their stuff. This entire chapter is about that and that alone.

And so we then get long and tedious descriptions, that we have already had once, about how the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were to be made. The wood had to be a specific kind of wood and there had to be lots and lots of gold and cherubim. All of the materials to make this gaudy palace of bling were to come from the people of Israel. Gold, silver, brass, gemstones, oil and the very best materials. All was to come from a people supposedly living in tents in the desert and who had been complaining not so long ago that they were starving and needed God's help feeding themselves. Now they had time to build this monstrosity, sacrifice endless animals on altars and do no work on the Sabbath on pain of death so that they could bow and scrape to this God of theirs and enrich the priests. I bet they wished they'd stayed in Egypt.

That Time David Letterman Called Donald Trump a Racist

How Many Things are There?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Peanuts


Chauncey Floored in Another Week of Spin Free Triumph



It takes a special kind of genius to keep having the kind of weeks that Labour and its leader keeps having. I was going to call him hapless, but what an inadequate word for such a car crash of a man. And how fortunate for this metaphor that he actually does look like he has just been dragged out of a car crash. And then been forced to sit on the floor of a train.

Chauncey and his team of brilliant spinners decided to go sit on a train floor to illustrate how awful such travel can be for we hoi polloi. We can only assume that these metropolitan muppets from north London are still unaccustomed to travelling to other parts of the country. It is admittedly a complex business. You have to look up the time of the train, book it all online using your expense account paid for by we taxpayers or simply the poor sods who still remain members of unions these days - something Chauncey wants to make compulsory (even for the self employed) - reserve your seat and hey presto, you get to sit down and do so next to whoever you like.

It's said that this has not damaged Chauncey's image amongst the sort of people who back him anyway. This should hardly come as a surprise. Chauncey's supporters see his every utterance as a triumph. When he does that little indignant snort at impertinent reporters they see it as a strike back against the Murdoch media (even when it's the BBC asking the question). When he adopts that patronising tone of voice for people asking something disobliging or awkward it is straightforward, honest politics in action. So clearly those were not empty seats that Chauncey walked past on that train. They were full of little people. Or bags. Or little people's bags. Something like that anyway. Come the revolution anyone who thinks otherwise will be sent for re-education. To Venezuela. Just don't fly on Virgin.



But Chauncey and co are clearly now so upset by this travel to the frozen north on railways that are run by the hated private sector with their nice, new and modern carriages operated by hard working people who have to drive the train and open the doors too, that they are finding ways to ensure that he can stay in London. London, as we all know, has the London Underground. Its trains are not at all crowded and there is never anything other than plenty of room in its glorious, clean and pristine carriages full of happy passengers who have never been up close and personal with the armpits of complete strangers. It enjoys superb industrial relations with staff who are modern and forward looking and completely dedicated to our safe travel just so long as we don't want to travel at weekends or late at night. That would affect their work life balance. It is imperative that they maintain the right to open and fully staffed stations with ticket offices despite the fact that nobody uses them these days because of Oyster. It's a safety issue. Something to do with card clash probably.

Anyway, Chauncey and co want to avoid long journeys and so they have come up with the wizard wheeze of ensuring that their annual conference is called off this year. Why? Because of G4S. Israel backing scabs that's what they are and so clearly they shouldn't be allowed to do what they usually do and organise the security at this year's conference. Except that Labour have been unable to get anyone else to do it and so now they want G4S (bastards!) to do it again. Except G4S have declined this generous offer on the not entirely unreasonable grounds that it's too late now, they don't have the staff and you can't throw these things together at the last minute. This last excuse won't wash with the Labour leadership who throw everything together at the last minute including ideas about videos on trains, speeches and the glorious leader's clothing.


And so it could well be that the next Labour Party conference will have to be cancelled. Seriously, the party that aspires to government cannot even organise its own annual conference, an event that, as its name implies, happens every year at around the same time. This is also the party that tells us, from the floor of a train too, that it would be better at running our railways and various other industries we all rely on than private companies that do so for a profit but who would go out of business if consumers voted with their feet and wallets and took their custom elsewhere.

And it is this competition idea that Labour's leadership and their supporters need to get to grips with. For you see there are other political parties in this country. They are capable of organising their own conferences and indeed alcoholic refreshments leading to inebriation in distilleries. And it is this competence that tends to impress ordinary voters more than the more idiosyncratic and esoteric attributes of Chauncey. It's why most people who aren't dyed in the wool Chaunceyistas can see that he is a walking disaster and leading the party to oblivion and possibly even to extinction. Still, at least the poor old chap won't have to go through the torment of trying to make a speech to the Labour conference. Wallace used to do them without notes or an autocue and without even a rostrum. The new leader might well have to do that too, but only because the autocue manufacturer's boss once went on holiday to Tel Aviv and so is being boycotted.

Interlude

Facts

Funniest Seinfeld Moments Part 2

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Peanuts


Proxima B: How Far Away is It?



I thought it would be instructive to post this video explaining how vast our own solar system is, let alone the rest of our galaxy. Astronomers claim to have found an Earth-like planet going around our nearest celestial neighbour, Proxima Centauri. If there is life living there, however, they can't just drop in for a cup of tea.

Frankly this sort of story has to be taken with a large pinch of salt. The technology and science behind finding planets has come on in leaps and bounds and is very impressive. But there is an awful lot of inference and guesswork being fed to our ever credulous media, whose reporting of this has been woeful. We cannot know what the planet is like. Scientists were amazed just recently by the reality of Pluto in our own solar system, a planet that completely confounded their predictions. So how they can possibly claim that this planet, Proxima B, is habitable is a mystery. It might be. It is in the right location. But then there is much we do not know and cannot know about it too. It's probably not worth building the Starship Enterprise to get there just yet.

Because of course we would have to do just that. Current chemical rockets take 40 years just to get to the edge of our own solar system. Even if the Voyager craft, launched in the late seventies, were heading in the right direction to get to Proxima Centauri, they would still take thousands of years to get there. They are currently on the edge of our solar system, not even a light year away. We need warp drive or at least to get close to the speed of light before we get to see what Proxima B is really like.

Anyway, we don't need to bother. Proxima B is 4.2 light years away. That means in 4.2 years the signals from our news channels will reach the planet and if ET is watching then he will see himself on TV and will get in touch. War of the Worlds is only half a decade away.

Interlude

Funniest Seinfeld Moments

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Peanuts


Chauncey on the Train: Straightforward, Honest Politics in Action


As you will no doubt be aware, Labour is having a leadership election. Of course, like much of the population, you probably don't care about this. It is probably irrelevant to you what the cult-like Labour Party does with its current useless leader or whether it replaces him with someone who says more or less the same things but is a little more telegenic. And Welsh. Well actually he is a lot more Welsh to be fair.

Chauncey has been caught out this week, as part of his campaign to hang on to his job and take the Labour Party to its destruction, engaging in a bit of spin over trains. Actually, it was less spin and more an outright lie. Chauncey posed sitting on the floor on a train. This despite the fact that there were plenty of seats. Chauncey had walked past said seats in order to pose for his photo. He then went back and sat down and continued the journey. Unfortunately for him, the private operator that runs the trains has invested in CCTV to protect passengers from criminality. Or from criminally purblind politicians on the make.

Chauncey believes in the renationalisation of our railways. He doesn't really know why. It may be something to do with overcrowding. The same overcrowding that he tried to find on the train to Newcastle but failed to find and so he claimed it was there anyway.



And how would public ownership solve the problem? Because queues and rationing never happens with the public sector does it. You want an operation? The NHS will do it tomorrow won't it. When phones were in public ownership you had to wait six months to get one. Chauncey probably chooses to forget that, much as he chooses not to remember the ancient rolling stock and national joke status of British Rail - their advertising was done for them by Jimmy Savile.

Our railways are far from perfect it is true, but most of the problems are down to a chronic lack of investment in the tracks and signalling. These are in the public sector. They were briefly privately owned and then taken back. The trains are privately owned and are mostly modern, clean and efficient. Where they aren't it is largely down to the unions blocking new technology. That is what the strikes on Southern Trains are about. The company want to do what most other train operators do and have the drivers close and open the doors. The unions, backed by Chauncey, aren't having it. They are just about protecting their jobs and sod the passengers.

So when Chauncey claims that he is looking after our interests by wanting nationalisation of the railways, it is actually more to do with looking after the interests of his friends in the unions who want to hold us all to ransom as they do on the London Underground. Oh and there seems to be quite a lot of overcrowding on that too. Its publicly owned. How did that happen?

How Big is the Solar System?

Simone Biles

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 34 - A New Ten Commandments



Now, after being persuaded not to kill all of the Israelites or at least abandon them there in the desert, God gives them a new set of commandments after Moses smashed up the last lot. Interestingly these are very different to the last commandments, the more famous ones that everyone quotes. These don't concern themselves with morality. These are about God being a narcissist.

So God told Moses that he should get himself some new tablets of stone, a blank slate so to speak on which the commandments would be written. God said that he would repeat the words he had written before. Interesting that because he proceeded to dictate completely different words. Perhaps he changed his mind. He does that a lot.

God told Moses to meet him atop the mountain again for this latest head to head, but no other man should accompany him. There shouldn't even be any men lower down on the mountain or even animals. He does love a bit of drama does God.

So Moses did as he was told: hewed the stone tablets and rose early the next morning to climb up that mountain once again to meet his shy but narcissistic friend.

God descended in a cloud to meet him at the top of Mount Sinai and proceeded to give a big speech about how marvellous he was. He was, he told his captive and very select audience, the Lord God. He was merciful, gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth. God said that he was merciful and forgave transgressions, an interesting perspective because only days earlier he had been prepared to wipe his chosen people out for dancing naked around a golden calf. Furthermore this merciful God was preparing to introduce his chosen people into the promised land currently occupied by others he was going to wipe out.

In the next sentence he also added that, though he was merciful, he was prepared to visit the iniquities of the fathers on their children and indeed on their grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Hearing all of this Moses did not leave in disgust or possibly in confusion but made haste to worship this capricious dictator. He begged God to be merciful to his ungrateful people and to look after them.

And God said he would. He would do some truly terrible things to the poor people he was about to drive out of their lands if the Israelites would obey his eccentric commandments and worship no other god but him. They were to destroy the altars dedicated to other gods. There he goes with his altars again. He even admitted that he was a jealous god.

So now we get to the commandments and these are very different. First the Israelite men were to resist the temptations of non Israelite women who would go a whoring themselves to other gods and try to tempt the Israelite men to do the same. It's always the women's fault. It's more or less the only time they get mentioned.

There were to be no more molten gods. No more golden calfs. God was adamant about this. He's jealous after all.

They were to keep the feast of unleavened bread, what would become the Passover. God liked this ridiculous and entirely pointless festival of idiocy in supposed remembrance of another of this merciful god's acts of genocide.

But he was prepared to be more merciful towards first born sons. They no longer had to be sacrificed to God. He would accept a first born lamb or ox instead.

The Sabbath was to be observed strictly and with no exceptions. Even if there was a harvest to be gathered God still wanted his silly Sabbath strictly observed.

The festival of weeks was to be observed. This was essentially like a harvest festival, never mentioned before here. God wanted this and commanded it be so.

Three times a year all of the men were to appear before God even though God was too shy to appear before them. Were they to appear before a big cloud? It's not said.

There was to be no blood sacrifice with leavened bread for some reason and no sacrifices were to be left until the next morning either. No reasons have to be given for this. God doesn't have to explain his silly whims.

The first fruits of the land had to be brought to God or rather to his priests of course. It's a nice living for them.

One final commandment. A kid must not be boiled in its mothers' milk. Very important that one.

God dictated all of this to Moses who carved it into those tablets of stone. God wrote it himself last time. Now he dictated. Maybe he had blunted his finger or something.

And Moses was up there for forty days while all of this was dictated. During this time, we are told, he drank no water or ate no food. Why not? God can hold back seas, bring manna from heaven, demand sacrifices for no good reason but couldn't bring his representative on earth some basic sustenance?

Anyway, once the tablets had been engraved Moses descended from the mountain and his face shone. Maybe it was the effect of malnourishment and dehydration.

Moses had to tell all of the people of Israel all that God had told them. In order to do so he wore a veil to hide his weirdly shining face so that they weren't afraid of him.


How the Lunar Module Launched from the Moon Without Flames

Simone Biles at Home

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 33 - God Shows Moses His Arse



God is an odd and strangely quixotic sort of god. On the one hand he was furious with the Israelites, his supposedly chosen people, for making a golden calf and dancing naked around it - perhaps they would have danced naked around him if he would ever show his face - but notwithstanding this rage he now said he would give them a land of milk and honey. He can never seem to make up his mind.

So God told Moses to depart from Sinai. He was going to lead them to their promised land. Once there he would drive out the current inhabitants of the land. This seems unfair. He's God. Why didn't he make them some new land? Why did he have to drive anyone out? Did this mean he was going to kill the current inhabitants?

Of course this is the most tendentious rubbish. All of this silly story has been about establishing the right of this obscure Arab tribe to the lands they called home when the story was written. It must be ours they were saying because God gave it to us. Oh well, that's okay then.

Anyway, God said he had to do this because he had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It clearly takes him a hell of a long time to keep his promises. Dozens of generations had passed.

God said that an angel would now lead them to the promised land but that he would not join them there. He was still mad at them for their behaviour. They were, he said, a stiff necked people and he would likely smite them if he lived amongst them. Essentially God is sulking isn't he. He did all of this stuff for them, even though they didn't ask him to, then he had given them lots of commandments and demanded burnt offerings and while he had been discussing all of this with Moses they had started worshipping another god. God is like one of those jealous teenage boys who go on gun rampages because a girl called them spotty and ugly and fat.

Nevertheless the people, on hearing that God was mad at them were mournful. The men didn't put on their ornaments. This was probably because God, who hates ornaments for some reason best known to him, said he would kill anyone he saw wearing them. He's like a dictator given to whimsical and irrational likes and dislikes.

We then get a direct contradiction within two verses. First we are told that the men didn't put on their ornaments. Now we are told that they went to Mount Horeb and took off their ornaments.

Moses then pitched the Tabernacle outside the main camp. He was going to have a chat with God. When he did this the people stood and watched as he went in. A pillar of cloud came down to obscure the tent entrance. God didn't want his conversation to be seen or heard. He's a kind of shy dictator. Perhaps he is a spotty teenager. Anyway this cloud trick was very impressive and so the people were impressed and worshipped. Much better than a golden calf.

Stand by for more contradictions. God now supposedly spoke to Moses face to face. They had a chat.

And Moses gave God a good talking to. He was once again reneging on his word. You told me to lead these people and I have done as you instructed. But now you're not playing fair, he said. Moses said that it was important that God accompanied them because otherwise the people would be confused and might not follow him. They would think that God had abandoned them. He had a point. God is very erratic. Moses told him that if God didn't go with them then they would be no different to all of the other people who worshipped the other gods.

God conceded that Moses did indeed have a point. He would do as Moses had asked for he was pleased with him.

Now Moses, we have just been told, had been having this heart to heart chat face to face with God. But now he said to God, 'show me your glory.' But God said you cannot see my face. But they had just been talking face to face we are told. Now Moses couldn't see his face. And anyway, why not?

God said that nobody could see his face and live. Again, why not? He's God. Surely he can do anything he likes? Also this is a contradiction because we were told in Genesis that God had spoken directly to the man he named Israel.

But God now said instead he would allow Moses to see his back. Well, actually it says he would allow Moses to see his back parts. So maybe he was showing him his arse.






Minute Physics: How to Go to Space (with XKCD)

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Peanuts


Interlude

My Annual Optimism About the Football Season



It is the opening weekend of the Premier League football season and so there now follows my annual post in which I express optimism about the prospects for Liverpool.

It's slightly different this year. Actually I believe it may be fundamentally different. Last season it was Brendan Rodgers in charge and, for all that he achieved great things in one season, there was a growing belief that this may well have been a fluke and largely down to a man called Suarez. For once last season Liverpool became a sacking club and dispensed with the services of Rodgers. They did so for the very good reason that Jurgen Klopp was available and willing. The deal was done.



And last season Liverpool, once Klopp was in charge, showed very real signs that they can go far. Two cup finals in a season are not to be sneezed at and there were some performances that demonstrated that the group of players he had inherited could and should achieve great things. In particular there was a sublime performance against Manchester City and that heroic fightback at Anfield against Dortmund was a wonderful and inspiring moment.

In the close season Liverpool have not splashed mega cash, although there may still be deals to be done before the end of the month, but there has been a strengthening. Mane in particular looks like a great signing. More importantly this is a side that Klopp has fashioned to be closer to what he wants. Players who don't fit or who will not work as he demands have been let go, not least Jordan Ibe. And Klopp has had chance to work with his players and coach them in the all important summer break. An early sign that this may bear fruit was a stunning victory over Barcelona just last week.



And so I find myself optimistic for the new season. But this is a different type of optimism. It is not the blind optimism of any fan when the table is blank before a ball has been kicked and all are temporarily equal and on terms. This is an optimism born of having a good side who, under a great coach, can achieve great things. Liverpool are a good side. We saw last season how being a good side with a great team spirit can lead to being more than the sum of those parts.

Sure other clubs have spent big money. Manchester United have spent ludicrous sums of money. I imagine that their fans have mixed feelings about that. In particular the fee paid to an agent is disgusting. It is high time that the authorities and clubs put a stop to the activities of agents. They should be there as representatives of players and should take a cut of players wages and other earnings. Clubs should definitively not be paying fees to agents.

So what is my prediction for this season? I don't do predictions any more. Suffice to say I find myself more than usually optimistic about what is to come. And I am a serial optimist about most things. Liverpool may well be the surprise package of the season. It of course entirely depends on how other clubs perform. If we have another season like last season then anything could happen. Last season was a missed opportunity for many clubs who looked at what Leicester achieved and wondered why they had not done the same. This season, without the distraction of the Europa League, could allow Liverpool to capitalise. After all the last season we were distraction free Liverpool came second and might have won it but for a slip by Steven Gerrard.

Minute Physics: Why it's Impossible to Tune a Piano

Friday, 12 August 2016

Peanuts


Interlude

Minute Physics: How to Detect a Secret Nuclear Test

Simone Biles - Floor Exercise: Sublime



I know I'm rather late to the party. I'm not usually a big follower of gymnastics, but I do tend to watch it during the Olympics. But I'm just bowled over by Simone Biles. Utterly utterly brilliant and wonderful. I could watch her over and over. Probably the greatest athlete on the planet right now, a status only heightened by the fact she is charming and lovely. And all packed into less than five feet.



Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Peanuts


Shami Chakrabarti: The Reason the House of Lords Should Be Abolished



There has been, as you will have seen, an awful lot of fuss about David Cameron's resignation honours list. And there are an awful lot of cronies on it. The reason it is so packed with cronies and people who have just been doing their jobs has been overlooked amidst the fuss. Cameron was expecting to be in Downing Street for a couple more years after winning the referendum. He would have been able to have a slow drip drip of honours to his pals. Instead he had to have a splurge.

This isn't an excuse. But it is a reason. But I honestly cannot see what all of the fuss is about. Honours are a fact of political life. Why should we care that donors and staffers, the politically useful, are given medals and baubles and honorifics? If people are willing to stump up a six figure sum to buy themselves a knighthood then great. It saves the money coming from taxpayers. Our political parties have to be funded somehow.

And what is the problem with a former prime minister doing this? We are lucky to live in a country remarkably free of corruption. Our honours system helps that. This is a prime minister rewarding people who worked for him and supported him after he has left office. That is something we should be trumpeting from the rooftops. He is just saying thank you with a few medals and titles. Better than the alternative.

Many of those rewarded worked extraordinarily long hours for not very much money all to try and make our lives better and to protect us from harm in these troubled times. I don't begrudge them a CBE, OBE or a knighthood. Give Dave one too. He worked bloody hard for ten years and suffered a lot of abuse all for less money than we pay the chief executive of Birmingham City Council - a city that still does not have a properly functioning social services department. Dave was not a great prime minister. But he was a good one. He left office with remarkable good grace and got us through a very sticky period that could have turned disastrous. Give him his last list of honours  with the same good grace.

Where we should have a problem is with the House of Lords. This is peerages being handed out to cronies and with it a nice living on the taxpayer and the opportunity - for life and without the means to remove them once they are there however badly and corruptly they behave - to legislate. That is so demonstrably wrong you can only wonder that it still survives.

The number of peers entitled to sit in the House of Lords, draw expenses that look suspiciously like very decent salaries and to hold up and otherwise amend legislation from the elected House of Commons is getting on for 1000. Added to that number will soon be Shami Charbarti - part of the lefty elite who always think they know best and who always think their morals superior to the rest of us. Yet the soon to be Lady Chakrabarti traded her place for a blatantly flawed and corrupt report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. There isn't any, she said, now give me that peerage.

Chauncey, who once said he would not hand out any peerages, was so desperate to have him and his party exonerated by the biddable Ms Chakrabarti, that he explored any and all avenues for getting her that peerage she so coquettishly denied wanting. This is the new more honest politics that Chauncey's supporters are so passionate and angry about.

And this is why the House of Lords should be abolished forthwith. There is a perfect opportunity coming up. Soon our MPs and peers will have to move out of the Houses of Parliament for a much needed multi billion pound repair and refurbishment and to stop Big Ben falling over or turning into the leaning tower of Westminster. When this happens alternative arrangement will have to be provided. With nearly 1000 peers this is problematic. But why bother? Just abolish the lot of them. Result? Lots of new space for our elected parliamentarians and the opportunity to refurbish our constitution too. The House of Lords could be reconstituted as a purely ceremonial body that would be drawn from amongst properly deserving people across the country. Winners of the X Factor or Strictly would have more democratic legitimacy than current members of the House of Lords. It would meet only for the State Opening of Parliament once a year. The rest of the time the House of Commons would suffice.

Of course there are other alternatives for an upper house. It could be elected by various means. It could be a senate. It could be a means of addressing the current imbalance between the rest of the country and England, with no parliament of its own. But anything would be better than the current system of sending people there just because they have been in politics for a long time, done political favours, scratched the right backs or given political parties a great deal of money. That is, or ought to be, untenable.

Shami Chakrabarti used to be the very high profile director of Liberty. I used to rather like and admire her, not that I often agreed with her. But I liked her principled stance on the rights of the individual. I also liked her because she was a total babe - I have this thing for strong, clever, lefty women with pixie haircuts. I just do. I once passed Shami going the other way on the stairs in the Houses of Parliament and nearly fainted from excitement. It wasn't as exciting as the time I saw Yvette Cooper outside the Houses of Parliament wearing long leather boots but it was close.

But now Shami has gone the way of all of them. She has sold out. She whitewashed for Labour. Her report into anti-Semitism was disgusting, biased and an attempt to exonerate Chauncey and his party's vile and nasty stormtroopers. Yet we can all see that they round on anyone who disagrees with them and that they have a problem with Jews.

But this is what the Chauncey project is all about. They can be guilty of the most appalling hypocrisy, venality and double standards. But it is all of no consequence because they are all about control of Labour, of gaining a platform for their teenage protest politics. Anything and everything is justified by the cause. The fact that they do not even know what that cause is anymore and that the people who they claim to be doing all of this for don't agree with them is immaterial. It justifies their self serving, jobs, pensions and titles accruing activism. And they can ignore the charge that they look no different to the very people they claim to be an antidote too.

That is the real story of David Cameron's resignations honours list. And he is blameless in the affair.

Minute Physics: How to Subtract by Adding

John Oliver on Donald Trump

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Peanuts


Interlude

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Exodus: Chapter 32 - All Hail the Golden Calf



So now, after all of that mumbo jumbo about priests, Tabernacles, owning slaves and so on, we finally get back to the action. Not that any of this makes any more sense of course, but at least it's entertaining. Stand by for a golden calf.

Now we have already established I think, in the preceding chapters, that the children of Israel, this vast tribe that started off at just 70 people and somehow managed to become six hundred thousand in just a few years, well they don't seem to be very bright. They are very easily distracted, very easily led and given to complaining a lot. Then again they didn't actually ask to be taken out of Egypt in the first place. This guy Moses arrived with his God in tow and now they found themselves in the desert, at the foot of Mount Sinai and he had disappeared for 40 days. For 40 nights too, not that we needed to be told that really.

So now, after being left like this, they started to wonder if Moses was ever coming back. Was this all a big trick and now they had been left in the lurch? Or was he dead? He was quite old after all.

So a big crowd of them gathered before Aaron, the man God, in his usual wisdom, was supposedly said to be wanting as his chief priest. So good a priest was he going to be that God wanted him, his sons and all descendants in perpetuity as his priests. Yet now this priest told the people that he would make them a new god. In the ancient world there were no problems that could not be solved by making a graven image

Aaron gathered a lot of gold from the ears of all of the women, a bit like one of those cash for gold people you see outside supermarkets, and he melted all of the gold down. Then, and this is really impressive, he was apparently able, there in the desert, to not only get a fire hot enough to melt all of this gold but then to cast it as a huge golden calf. If he failed as a priest he could always turn his hand to making jewellery and graven images for a living.

Then again he did seem to be quite a persuasive priest because Aaron now told the people of Israel that this new god he had just created, this golden calf, had led them from Egypt and was the god they should be worshipping. He even built an altar before it. But it's all God's fault because he never showed his face. How did they know he wasn't a golden calf?

The people then started a big party around this new god. There were burnt offerings. It's not mentioned if they made a burnt offering of a calf. That would be ironic.

Meanwhile, up in the mountain, God had seen all of this and was not happy. He is after all a jealous god. You'd think, him being so jealous and vain, he would have demanded a golden statue of himself. But we never get them. Anyway, God told Moses that his people were behaving badly and that therefore he was going to smite them. Don't worry, he told Moses, I will make a great nation for you again. We'll start again from scratch.

But Moses pleaded with him. Why did we go through all of that trouble of bringing them out of Egypt, he said. He might have added that he was now an octogenarian and creating a great nation might be beyond him.

Moses said that if God killed all of the people the Egyptians would look upon him and think him an idiot. Well, to be fair, they would have had a point. As god's go, God isn't very bright.

Moses told God that he should remember the promise he had made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel of making for them a great nation. He shouldn't now destroy the nation they had all created, albeit with a lot of highly questionable exponential breeding.

God repented of the act of genocide on half a million people he had been about to commit.

Moses then went down the mountain, holding the commandments God had written in stone. He, a man of 80 plus, carried two stone tablets down the mountain with him. What a guy!

Then Joshua, who was apparently with Moses even though he had never been mentioned before, heard the cavorting and merry making of the Israelites.

Once Moses saw what was happening he was furious. Moses, in his fury, threw down the stone tablets that God had just given him. He then, and this is where things get really silly, took the golden calf that they had all been worshipping, threw it into the fire and burnt it, by some process unknown to science. Then he ground it into dust, mixed it in water and made the people drink it. How long did all of this take? And, since there were six hundred thousand people, drinking must have taken a while and would there have been enough to go around anyway?

He then turned on Aaron and asked him what the hell he was up to doing this and leading the people astray in this way. But Aaron, setting a precedent that priests and holy men follow to this day, lied egregiously. Aaron blamed the people. You know what they're like, broth, he said. They wondered where you are and they wanted someone to worship and they threw all of their gold into the fire and, what do you know, out popped this calf.

At this point Moses noticed that the people were naked, something you'd think he might have got an inkling of before. They had been dancing naked around the golden calf. You see this is where God goes wrong. A bit of naked dancing and cavorting is what makes a religion. Even I might be tempted.

Moses went to the gate of the camp and stood and asked the people who was on God's side. The sons of Levi gathered together and came to him. Moses then told them that the commandment of God was to do some killing as vengeance. They were to kill three people each, neighbours and so on. Actually this makes no sense either because we have just been told that all of the sons of Levi came to Moses but now he told every man to kill among others his brother. So it was like a circular firing squad.

Anyway, we're told that, notwithstanding this problem with the small print, they went forth and killed 3000 men. So much for the commandments eh?

Once all of this was done Moses told the people that they had committed a great sin and that he would now go up to God again and ask if he could make an atonement for their sin.

So up he went again, he must have known the way with his eyes closed by now, and spoke to God. You would think that God would come down the mountain and visit his fury upon the people himself. But no.

Moses pleaded the Israelites case but told God to blot him out of his book that he had written if he could not forgive. No, I have no idea what that means either. God said that whoever had sinned against him would indeed be blotted out of his book. Then he told Moses to follow the angel that he would send to take them to the promised land. But he would also punish the people by sending a plague upon them. It's not clear what kind of plague, but then God has a wide range of plagues at his disposal as we have seen.


Minute Physics: How Do Airplanes Fly?

Christopher Hitchens on Islam and Mohammad

Friday, 5 August 2016

Peanuts


How The GOP Can Rid Themselves of Donny Little Hands


Here's a question for you: how would you feel if someone wrote an article or broadcast something in which it was alleged that you have small hands? Would you:


a) Shrug and get on with your day?
b) Look at your hands, shrug and then get on with your day?
 Or c) would you become apoplectically furious about this and continue being furious for 20 or more years?

If the last, then how good would you be at running for, let alone being President of the United States?

This, in case you are in any doubt, is the man that the Republican Party, the Grand Old Party of American politics has as its nominee. A man who is touchy, to the point of fury, about the size of his hands. Incidentally, it's true, he actually does have small hands. Not freakishly small, but small for his stature. And you know what they say about hand size. Maybe there is a reason he likes building those tall phallic towers and putting his name on the top. Just a theory. Actually maybe that is why he wants to be in charge of the nuclear codes. He would get to launch missiles. And you know what shape those are, right? I just wonder if he will be able to press the button with his small hands. Maybe if he uses both.



Trump, for it is he of whom I write, is finding out what it is like to be a presidential nominee now. Scrutiny does not begin to cover it. And there will also be a lot of hate, a lot of abuse and a lot of the above. An awful lot of taking the piss.

Donald does not cope well with people disrespecting him. You would think that he would have become accustomed to this by now. His name is not synonymous with luxury and style as he seems to think. It is synonymous with gaudy excess, vulgarity, shysterism and shady deals. Oh and bad hair and small hands. In short, most people, the exact numbers will become clear in November, think of him as a bad joke and a comical figure who has somehow managed to become rich, although how rich is a mystery since he is curiously reluctant to publish his tax returns. Perhaps he is not that rich at all. Who would have thought?

It is said that his party, the GOP, is despairing of him. They are wondering how they could be rid of him. But they have concluded that they can't. No matter how many families of war heroes he gets into days long slanging matches with; no matter how many lies he tells; no matter how much brazen bigotry and bona fide racism he displays; no matter that he is already trying to concoct excuses for backing out of the debates or of losing in November. They cannot be rid of him.

Unless he resigns.

Now I admit that this seems unlikely. His ego would not permit it. Unless of course he can find some narrative that permits it. He has already, whether consciously or unconsciously, started to uncouple himself from this campaign. He is already concocting excuses. He has claimed that he doesn't want to hold debates at the same time as NFL games are scheduled and even claimed that the NFL had written to him about this. Of course they had written no such letter. This was an invention in the head of Donny little hands.

And he is talking about the vote being fixed. We are still three months away from the vote and Donny little hands is making his excuses. Nothing is ever Donald's fault you see. It will be because the media were against him and the system was fixed.

So all that his party has to do to push him towards resigning is give him the excuse to walk away with his quiff held high and his little hands raised in a salute - or it might be a rude gesture, it's difficult to tell with hands and fingers that small.

Here then is what must be done.

There should be a succession of declarations by leading Republicans that they have no confidence in him, love their country too much to support his divisive candidacy and are therefore backing Hillary, or asking Britain if they can join the Commonwealth and have the Queen as their head of state instead. This should be staged day after day, insults flung, accusations about the smallness of hands dished on an hourly basis.

Oh and we should demand his tax returns. Why not have someone go forensically through his accounts. Why not have someone explore his various bankruptcies. Why not wonder out loud how he would cope with the serial provocations of North Korea or Russia for instance. Does America necessarily want a president who is even more infantile than Kim Jong-Un? Does it want its president to see the presidency as a launchpad for becoming a fully fledged Russian oligarch in the pocket of Putin? With hands that small he would probably fit.

Donny little hands should be assailed with so much vituperation, so many insults, so many resignations that his little hands cannot tweet his responses quickly enough. He should be put into a frenzy of anger not seen since the last time he tried to build one of his garish and taste free hotel resorts with somebody else's money and on somebody else's property. He should not have heard so much laughter since the last time he went to see his tax accountant or went to buy a pair of gloves.

For the sake of America, for the sake of the world, Donny little hands must be made to feel that the world is against him and that he stands no chance. Because it is and he doesn't. He must be made to resign. He never meant to get this far anyway. He just wanted to shout his mouth off for a while. He's had his fun. Now let's have ours.




Minute Physics: What Is Angular Momentum?

Why is There a Moon?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Peanuts


The Bank of England: More Inexpert Experts


Today's interest rate decision by the Bank of England is another very clear and stark example of so called experts not knowing what the hell they are talking about. There is simply insufficient evidence at the moment to know what is happening to the economy and so they are proceeding on a hunch backed up with what are effectively opinion polls dressed up as economic analysis.

All that they have are polls reporting sentiment. Sentiment is bound to have been affected by the knee jerk reactions of the same people who are actually making this decision today. It is idiocy on a grand scale. It's as if they want us to have a recession, because they are doing a damned good job of talking us into one.

There is absolutely no reason right now for Britain to be uncertain or uneasy other than the Jeremiah predictions of supposed experts. Britain remains in the EU, we haven't invoked Article 50 yet and probably won't for months. There is every reason to believe that we will be able to negotiate a good deal, not least because doing otherwise would be a classic case of the EU cutting off its nose to spite its face. We have a strong and strengthening bargaining hand.

All the more reason then for this half baked panic measure this lunchtime to have been avoided. There was no need to take any action and indeed it is part of an ill thought out policy in the first place. It is by no means clear that QE has had the effect desired of it, indeed it may be helping to suck money out of the economy since it is stopping banks from making decent profits and thus lending. An expansion of this policy is only going to make that worse.

When are politicians and central bankers going to realise that they cannot buck the natural business cycle with their interventions? Economies naturally expand and retrench as part of that cycle. It is natural and healthy and ensures that businesses remain viable and profitable. It is one thing to cut interest rates when the economy is in recession. It is only natural to take part of the strain in such circumstances with additional public borrowing, indeed this is unavoidable if we are to avoid self defeating massive cuts to spending. But economists and politicians have persuaded themselves that they are modern Canutes, they can hold back the naturally ebbing tide by their ever more desperate interventions and smooth out the naturally occurring troughs. They call this Keynesianism. It is vainglorious idiocy on a grand level and will eventually create devastation on an unprecedented level unless they unwind their positions and let markets operate as they must.

We are now in a ridiculous position where banks are cutting interest rates and going on massive bond buying binges just because they worry we might have a recession based on the economic equivalent of a wet finger in the air. Economics is the exact opposite of a proper science as economists keep proving.

Of course a quarter point cut is not huge in the big scheme of things and is unlikely to do much harm. It won't make much difference either. It is the Bank trying to be seen to be doing something. In other words it is acting politically, something that an independent Bank of England was supposed to avoid.

I have held off from criticising Mark Carney over his injudicious words over the referendum campaign. I have held off until now. Because he now has the appearance of a man who wants to try and justify his predictions of what would happen to the economy. Instead of waiting for the evidence and then acting on it, he is pre-empting that evidence and acting on anecdotal evidence instead. That is the opposite of what an impartial Governor should be doing.

The pound has taken a dive today as it was always bound to do. No doubt the markets will otherwise stabilise. The pound will eventually bounce back too. In a world of competitive currency devaluations Britain has beaten them all at their own game. Yet of all the major world economies ours is doing about the best. Brexit will likely make no difference. Indeed the world economy on the whole is doing better now, something that will be helped by a once again falling oil price. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Something the Bank of England seems determined to stoke.

Interlude

Minute Physics: Astronomically Correct Twinkle Twinkle

Water

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Peanuts


The Boring Byron Lefties and My Fetish for Orgasms


You see? I started with every intention of not writing anything today and then I saw something in the news and felt compelled to do so.

A branch of Byron Hamburgers, in Holborn in London - an area I know well since I lived there when at university - had to close yesterday because it was picketed and effectively attacked by a bunch of lefties in full sanctimonious cry. What had it done to offend them? It had obeyed the law and cooperated with the authorities.

Byron had unknowingly employed several people who were illegally seeking work. They had provided forged documents to support their applications and been employed as a consequence. The immigration authorities had however detected this and advised Byron. It was arranged that the employees, from places like Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt would congregate together in central London, ostensibly for a human resources style meeting. There the immigration authorities were waiting for them. They were arrested and deported.

Yet according to the lefties this is disgusting and immoral. How?

One of the self righteous halfwits claimed that this was entrapment. Wrong. Entrapment is when the legal authorities, by some ruse, entice someone to commit an offence they would not otherwise have committed. Here the offence had already been committed. All that the company was doing was enabling the authorities to arrest people who had knowingly and deliberately broken the law and committed a fraud. What particularly annoys the lefties is that, by this action, the employees were given no warning and so were unable to escape the clutches of the law. All of them have now quite rightly been deported.

The unions have even got involved, arguing that a decent employer would have enabled these employees to get proper advice so as to make their employment status legal. But these were people who had lied and misled their employer. Is that employer really obligated to do anything for them under those circumstances? It's no different to someone lying about their former employment or qualifications. Oh, except it is. Because this was not only a lie, it was against the law. They used counterfeit documents to get a job they were not entitled to apply for. They behaved illegally, fraudulently and indeed immorally. The employer, under such circumstances, is entitled to do exactly as Byron did and wash its hands of them and bid them good riddance. Why would you want to employ someone prepared to lie to you and cheat you from the outset?

It is claimed that 1000 people turned up to protest about this. It was actually about 100, no more. If you know Holborn you will know that it is busy, the pavements are narrow and clogged with people. There were no more than a few dozen nasty, self opinionated zealots and anarchists there making trouble and seeking to impose their half baked values on a company that has done no wrong and was behaving responsibly and entirely ethically.


Oh and another issue has come to my attention too. You might have seen in the papers yesterday an item - a silly season story - about the female orgasm. Scientists claim to have discovered what it is for and why women have them. In today's Telegraph, Radhika Sanghani, feminista sista and token joyless harridan of that publication, says that this is fetishising the female orgasm.

It is doing no such thing. It is a matter of genuine scientific inquiry. The female orgasm, unlike the male one for obvious reasons, seems to have no purpose from an evolutionary standpoint. So why do women have them? That's the question. This isn't fetishisation. The female orgasm is a genuinely puzzling, if pleasing, evolutionary dead end. It serves no purpose that we can think of other than acting as a challenge to men and women ever since we discovered them. This, as we all know, was some time around 1960 when Lady Chatterley's Lover was unbanned. Yet we have them. When did they develop and why? Are they a modern phenomenon? Are they something humans have evolved since we became humans?

Now you could argue that scientists ought perhaps to be investigating something more important, but that is not the same as fetishising is it?

Money and Power in North Korea

Minute Physics: How Airplanes Are Made

Monday, 1 August 2016

Peanuts


Trumping All Over August


Under normal circumstances this blog takes a break during August. Indeed this was my intention until just last week. But so much is happening, so much is in flux, so much in turmoil it is hard not to want to write about it.

That has always been the proviso anyway. My annunciation at the start of August is generally that I am going away for a few weeks and so the blogging will be light or possibly non-existent, unless of course something happens.

But this year it is happening.

We have an American presidential election in which Americans are left looking at the choice they face in bewilderment. How can it be that they have to choose between a man with such a huge personality disorder it can be seen from space and a woman who can at best be seen as flawed and with a sense of entitlement that can be seen from the same height? How has that happened? How can it be that a nation of 325 million people could not present them with a better choice this time around? Are these really the best two left? Do they really have to hand the presidency to one of them?

Do they really have to choose between a woman whose policy of resetting relations with Russia in part created the vacuum into which they have gratefully stepped creating so much chaos, death and destruction across eastern Europe and the middle east? Or do they choose a man who seems intent on creating an even bigger vacuum and would create a volatile situation that could lead to something close to war? Trump's shoot from the lip style has endeared him to some because he is different. But the reason proper statesmen can be so infuriatingly anodyne at times is that shooting from the lip in foreign relations is dangerous and destabilising. Imagine this man behaving this way - the only way he knows - as POTUS. Imagine him saying the sort of thing he said last week about Russia hacking his rival's email account.

Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States. That he is this close is terrifying. The man is not just a liar; he is a pathological liar. He lies even though he knows we know that he is lying. He is still denying that he acted as his own spokesman numerous times by creating a separate persona. Why did he do this? Why does he still deny doing this? What was the point? And what does it say about the sanity of the man?

Why is he still refusing to publish his tax returns? His excuse about it being audited is nonsense. No such proscription exists. It certainly would not prevent his publishing tax returns from previous years.

That he is still refusing to do this suggests that he has something to hide. It could be simply that he is nothing like as wealthy as he tells us he is. But then we already know this. His wealth is a lie like everything else about him. After all, look at how many times he has been bankrupt.

It could be that he doesn't pay as much tax as he ought to do through avoidance schemes. We can probably take that as read. But the man who claims to be standing up for the working man and woman and who feels their pain is probably using elaborate schemes to avoid paying tax.

This liar and narcissist is treating this all like a game. For him that is what it is. He believes in nothing and can make contradictory statements about those beliefs within the same paragraph. He will say whatever comes into his head and whatever he imagines people want to hear. He just enjoys the attention. He just plays to the gallery. So long as it gets him airtime and column inches he is happy. He doesn't even seem to care that this is damaging his brand - such as it is. Truly, the man is a loon.

He has a certain kind of intelligence of course, but it is the sort deployed by con tricksters, by fraudsters and criminals. That is effectively what he is. He has spent his entire career lying, cheating, bending the rules, breaking the rules and getting away with them. He uses the threat of the law to get his way. He bullies and cheats and dodges bills. And then he decided to use the same modus operandi to try and win the presidency. He has no policies, just slogans. How would he make America great again? By isolating it from the world behind a big wall? He is an empty, vacuous, brainless, ill educated, arrogant, nasty vulgarian. But most of all he is dangerous. The world is far from perfect, we all know that. But Trump is not the solution. He is a quack cure that would only make matters worse, possibly existentially so.

And so, just as this blog devoted much of May and June to campaigning for Brexit, it is now transferring its attention to the election of a US president and keeping Trump out of the White House. I of course have no vote, but like many I shall be watching with rapt attention. I hope to be there when it all happens. If I did have a vote I would be holding my nose and voting for Hillary. I suspect that in the end that is what will happen en masse. Let's hope for Trump to lose by a landslide. That might be something that even he cannot shrug off and dismiss with that characteristic sneer of his. Then he can go back to what he does best: talking about himself and his alleged business acumen. Let's hope lots of people call in their loans and bankrupt the son of a bitch once and for all.


Minute Physics: Why is it Harder to Drive Backwards?

North Korea: The Great Illusion