Friday, 30 September 2016

Peanuts


Really Good?


There is a new sculpture on the 4th plinth of Trafalgar Square. As ever it is dividing opinion. This time however it seems to be dividing opinion between people who clearly either aren't getting any, or enough or are possibly man haters and those who just think it's a not very good sculpture of a hand.

The piece itself is called Really Good. I don't think it is supposed to have a question mark after it, but it ought to. Then we would know that the artist in question was being ironic. Or possibly taking the piss. Because we all know that it isn't, even those who think it looks like a big penis. Which it doesn't. Perhaps it looks like a big vibrator. I cannot claim any expertise on this.

The artist himself, David Shrigley, has given conflicting explanations for what his work is about. But at best it is perhaps being sardonic about the modern world and our habit of saying things are really good. And yet this is a very limited phenomenon. Yes we may like stuff on Facebook, but we also think a lot of things are really bad. The state of the world for instance. The state of English football. The state of democracy. The state of modern art.

So maybe the sardonic explanation is the best one. How best to respond to a world in which Chauncey is leader of the Labour Party and promising/threatening to nationalise everything in order to make life really good and Donald Trump is currently complaining about how unfair his treatment was on Monday because he was once vicious to a beauty queen who had gained weight. Actually there's an idea for a sculpture the next time around. Just put Donny Little Hands on the plinth. Now that really would look like a big prick.



Crash Course Psychology - The Bobo Beatdown

What is Dark Matter and Dark Energy?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Peanuts


The Platitudes of Chauncey


Chauncey and his friends used to talk about Venezuela a lot. Now to be fair they have been a bit busy of late, not least because several of them have have had to do several jobs all at the same time, and not even the sort of jobs that Tories do. Oh no. These jobs are shadow cabinet jobs vacated by Red Tories who resigned from Chauncey's administration in waiting in order to depose him with Owen Smith. That went well. Chauncey himself does not have several jobs and indeed does not do the job he has especially well. But he does have jam to make. And early evening socialisation to avoid. And biscuits because of his sugar ban. Don't ask what his jam is made of. And for God's sake don't taste it.

Anyway, back to Venezuela. They used to talk about it a lot as an example of the kind of socialist society that they wanted for Britain. Then the whole thing imploded. They stopped talking about it after that for some reason. They do not mention the shortages. They do not mention the queues. They do not mention the increasingly dictatorial government. They do not mention the lack of medicines. They do not mention the hunger. Odd that.

To be fair some at Labour's conference this week did mention Venezuela. It was not the busy jam maker and his pals though. It was his fans. They offered solidarity to Venezuela, by which of course they meant the well fed government of Venezuela and not its benighted people. The ambassador for Venezuela was in Liverpool with them. It was generally agreed, probably by some kind of democratic vote for all I know, that all of the problems of Venezuela lie at the door of the west and of America. Obviously.

I mention all of this because it helps as an introduction to the mindset of the kind of cretins who thought that Chauncey's speech yesterday was a good one. They did not hear what the rest of us heard   - a man more accustomed to yelling at people through a megaphone give a dull, flat and monotone speech recited with all of the excitement of a phone directory. For our younger readers a phone directory was a large book with everyone's phone numbers in them at a time when everyone had phones connected by things called wires and we were all connected by something called the GPO, which belonged to us all and which worked in much the same way as Venezuela does now.

Chauncey's speech was a triumph - for those of us who think he is a feckless dimwit. It was very very funny, albeit not in the places it was intended to be funny. Yes there were 'jokes'. You could tell they were meant to be jokes because he paused and pulled a face to signal the need for laughter. The audience of bearded weirdos and sandal wearers duly obliged. In the future when the great leader tells a joke there will be apparatchiks in place to ensure fulsome laughter and to watch for who stops laughing or applauding first.

Chauncey offered his great vision to the country yesterday and the country watched in fascination as the hall of cretins - many had left earlier leaving only the true believers behind - applauded him for it. If Labour's manifesto of 1983 was the longest suicide note in history then this was it performed on stage. By a tribute act. Who was tone-deaf. And more sartorially challenged.

Oh and he can't count. Or speak English. You haven't been re-elected twice, Chaunce. You have been elected and then re-elected. But perhaps you don't believe it any more than the rest of us.

Not that he is letting this stop him. No he and his friend John are doubling down. They are no longer afraid to mention socialism. Not that they ever were. This was why his party was afraid to let him near the leadership and why he invited so many other people to join the party to outvote them. This is democracy apparently.

Chauncey and co are going to usher in a period of great fairness and of jobs. And of equality. And of immigration. Yes, immigration. If the people of Britain disagree with this then he will simply invite millions of people into the country so that we are outvoted. He's done it with his party and he will do it to the damned country.

Because Chauncey doesn't believe in countries anyway. That's why we don't need an army. Or defences. Or NATO. Or spies to keep tabs on the spies of other countries and stop them trying to kill us. No. We just need to speak softly and carry a copy of the Morning Star and all will be well.

He is going to offer us a foreign policy based on peace, justice and human rights. If only someone had thought of that before. And he's intensely relaxed about immigration and is going to invite in many millions more Europeans into the country, not that they will want to come because he intends to introduce across Europe a policy of uniform minimum wages for all. It takes a special kind of comic genius to say something as brainless as that so deadpan seriously. Except of course he believes every word of it and that it is a brilliant new idea of his, much like his notion of stopping all war by disarming. Presumably he will not have had his mind changed by news yesterday that his friends in Russia were responsible for shooting a plane full of tourists out of the sky. Perhaps he was making jam last week too when they were revealed to have bombed an aid convoy heading to Aleppo. Or was that an American plot too?

The market system, said Chauncey, has failed. Has it? Perhaps I have been making jam too, but I seem to recall that when I went out yesterday afternoon that the shops were still functioning and were indeed well stocked with tasty treats, clothes, consumer goods of all kinds, that tumbrels were not sweeping over the ground and that I wasn't attacked by feral beasts. Indeed you might look at things in Britain today and consider that things seem to be functioning rather well really, especially when compared to, say, oh pick a name at random: Venezuela.

Labour, it is said, is on standby for Theresa May to call a snap general election. She's just got to find an excuse to do so. Labour is currently polling around 26%. It's probably an American plot.


Crash Course Psychology - How to Train a Brain

What is Light?

How Small is an Atom?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Peanuts


Agents Are the Cancer That Needs To Be Cut Out of Football



Okay, so clearly I was wrong. I had thought that Sam Allardyce was the answer to England's serial inability to become at least the sum of their parts if not more than the sum of them. I had thought that his no nonsense style and proven ability to create teams out of bargain basement buys would be what was required. It seems I had also overlooked the man's slightly dodgy nature.

Perhaps we can be forgiven though. After all who else was there to turn to? So desperate were we back in June that some even considered bringing Glenn Hoddle back. As it is Gareth Southgate has now been given the nod, at least temporarily. Don't be surprised if that is made permanent. Seriously, who else is there? And at least Southgate's career in management is sufficiently short to ensure that he has not had the opportunity to be sullied by the excess that made Allardyce so cynical and thus so flawed.

As to football's enduring problems, well it is time that the football authorities took a long hard look at the role of agents. The game is awash in cash and agents are the cynical middle men who have seen their opportunities. Clubs don't need to get caught talking to other clubs' players illicitly - so called tapping up. They get agents to do it for them. Agents feed stories to the newspapers in an attempt to get clubs to offer new contracts lest their stars are enticed away by other clubs who have probably expressed no interest in them. Players are unsettled by talk of how much money they should be earning or could be earning if they demand a transfer to a club that is dangling the cash, whether or not this is the case.

Agents are acting for both players and for clubs and their conflict of interest is there for all to see. The deal for Paul Pogba over the summer earned his agent, Mino Raiola, the obscene sum of £20 million for facilitating the deal. And the footballing authorities wonder why the game has become ever more corrupt. Given the money in the English game it is no surprise to see that the problem is particularly bad here. And given the insecurity of their jobs it is also no surprise to see that some managers are fond of a bung, although the greed of some, like Allardyce, is nevertheless astonishing.

But it is agents and their dealings that is at the core of this. These are the foxes in the coop. This blog has long argued that agents should act for players alone and should perform the role that agents do in other industries: namely negotiate contracts with clubs and take a percentage of the earnings of the players as their commission. They should definitively not be getting paid anything by the clubs themselves and such payments should be banned immediately.

The money washing around in football has corrupted it and made it dirty. Clubs ever more desperate to buy success or to prevent failure have splashed cash and put up with the outrageous demands of agents to gain them access to the world's best players. But if there was a crackdown on agent commissions then that would free up money that would then stay within football. Instead of lining the pockets of agents the money could be used either by the clubs to buy players, to improve facilities or maybe even cut ticket prices for fans! I know. But I had to offer it as a possibility.

But more importantly it would be a way of disincentivising the kind of corruption that the Telegraph has unearthed but that has been suspected for a long time.

Is England the laughing stock of world football again? Maybe so. But at least we are shocked and outraged by such behaviour and at least the FA acted swiftly to remove Allardyce.

Crash Course Psychology - Altered States

Neutron Stars

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Peanuts


Trumped


Well that was embarrassing wasn't it. Trump, the champion of bragging, invoked Sean Hannity as a character reference and told the world that he has a better temperament than Clinton. This coming from the man who abused the grieving parents of a dead serviceman and told the mother of a crying baby to get out of the room.  It was a claim, needless to say, that brought guffaws from the audience.

Hillary had a few sticky moments over her emails, but that was the worst of it as she might have expected. Early on Trump tried his trick of trying to talk over her and bully her, but she was having none of it and it just made him look like the low rent car salesman that he really ought to be. His taxes came up of course and his rambling answer on that was revealing. He even repeated the line about them being audited, something that the IRS itself has refuted. As usual the quiff with the little hands said that he will be happy to release his tax return and will do so if she releases those emails. He also said, revealingly, that he is only not releasing them on the advice of his lawyers. So that means he could in fact release them doesn't it. So why doesn't he? Lawyers don't get to dictate to the great Donald surely? So that was two admissions that he is not releasing his tax returns because he chooses not to, not because he cannot.

And then there was the whole birther argument. Once again Trump tried to deflect the blame for this and only made himself look ridiculous and dishonest. Had he adopted the approach of his opponent over her emails and simply apologised and moved on he would have looked gracious and almost presidential. He just doesn't have it in him.

I would score it as a pretty clear win for Clinton, even if she did insist on being called Secretary Clinton.

Trump was every bit the frat boy who refuses to grow up that we have always known he is. Most questions were deflected, most of them involved him bragging about how great he is, how clever, how rich, how he has businesses in all of the towns that were being mentioned. He came across as an oaf. More than that he was an oaf with a pronounced sniff. It was ultra-noticeable. Maybe he has pneumonia.


Labour's Economic Policy - Purblind Illiteracy


Let's be fair - John McDonnell, like his friend and leader, does a very good impression of being a genial, open-minded and reasonable man. Just take a look at his interviews. When he is asked an awkward question about some inconvenient snippet from the past, or some of his unfortunate associations, or anything really that he has said or done before last September and he smiles indulgently. If it is a particularly awkward question he even giggles coquettishly like a schoolgirl caught fancying a boy.

Unfortunately however McDonnell and Chauncey cannot help themselves. They have spent too many years preaching to the converted and are finding the transition to being proper politicians rather than rabble rousing zealots too difficult. And so their real opinions and intentions keep intruding.

Yesterday Chauncey's chief consigliere, Seumas Milne surreptitiously changed the speech of Clive Lewis who is ostensibly in charge of shadow defence policy. Lewis knew nothing of this before he actually gave the speech. It's quite a comic image when you think about it as shadow ministers are told what to say right up until the last minute. If Lewis had done a comic double take and his eyes had popped out of his head cartoon style it would have surprised nobody. This is Chauncey's Labour. It's how we are all feeling.

Now he has his second mandate Chauncey and friends say that policy is what they say it is. Or what they can make people say. If only they could have got Hilary Benn to make that speech to parliament via autocue history might have been different.

And they feel emboldened to use the S word. Yes, socialism is back. But this is socialism red in tooth and claw. This is full on socialism. This is the sort of socialism that keeps destroying jobs, ingraining uncompetitiveness and hands power back to politicians and unions. It is a recipe for the very kind of decline that Britain suffered in the post war period up to 1979, saw nationalised industries have to be subsidised by the taxpayer and unions hold the country to ransom for ever more outrageous pay rises.


McDonnell yesterday spoke about entrepreneurialism. But what he is proposing would destroy any hope of entrepreneurialism in the country and drive it abroad. McDonnell is proposing a top down approach to how business is run and even how businesses are created. He is seriously telling us that Labour, the party that cannot even conduct a reshuffle of its shadow cabinet, should be responsible for choosing where money is invested and what businesses to back. He is seriously telling us that he should be allowed to choose what businesses exist based on how 'socially useful' they are. Socially useful? Defined how? By whom? Chauncey and co fetishise manufacturing and coal mining. But are they socially useful? Surely not if you believe in the environmentalist creed. What about businesses that build our naval ships or warplanes? Socially useful? What about Rolls Royce that builds aircraft engines and turbines for ships? Socially useful?

The bankruptcy of these claims is illustrated beautifully by McDonnell's promise to ban all fracking in Britain. Now whatever you may think of fracking (this blogger wholeheartedly supports it, probably because I am an evil Tory I expect) but it can easily be argued that it is in fact socially useful. Fracking would provide us with cheap, reliable and domestically sourced energy. It would enable us to generate electricity cheaply and thus mean that the poorest in the country, those most disadvantaged by the fuel poverty of recent years caused in part by higher costs but also by political posturing, would benefit. Now that, by an definition, has to be socially useful doesn't it?

And Britain is now a post manufacturing economy. It is time that politicians of the left accepted this new reality. We simply cannot compete with the rest of the world on making some manufactured good. It is economic nonsense to suggest that we can. Indeed importing such goods from lower cost countries around the world is more efficient. It actually makes us richer and not poorer. Those who complain that Britain doesn't make things anymore are guilty of the most outdated and unsophisticated dogma.

But even if trying to recreate Britain as an industrial country was a good idea and viable, the worst way of doing it would be by government fiat. It's not as if we have not tried this before. The nationalised industries of the post war era were a disaster. They were businesses that required taxpayer subsidy.


This is precisely why a market is the best way to drive these sort of decisions. Because no one man or woman or bearded socialist with a messiah complex gets to decide what is and is not 'socially useful.' Businesses are created and if they have a product or service that people want to buy then they succeed and even thrive. In the end, if they are successful enough, they get to employ lots of people and create lots of revenues for politicians to spend and often waste as civil servants prove that they are incapable of controlling costs. The other way just sees those politicians waste money at both ends of the scale and bankrupt the country.

The model that McDonnell and Chauncey espouse has been tested to destruction around the world countless times and yet still they refuse to see the evidence for what it is. The system we have is not perfect, nobody is pretending that it is. But it is phenomenally successful at the things that socialist countries routinely fail at, namely providing millions of jobs and putting food on the table. Better than that, they have provided for people a lifestyle that is comfortable, leisure filled, well fed and in which our greatest problems are associated with living too well and for too long. It is not socialism that has delivered this, it is capitalism. Capitalism in third world countries has also taken hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty.

Which are the countries currently struggling? They are socialist countries, Venezuela being a case in point. The country with the world's greatest proven oil reserves cannot feed its own people and is having to resort to forced labour to get the crops in. Venezuela, it need hardly be pointed out, is a country that the likes of Chauncey and McDonnell used to lionise as a great example of socialism in action. It has, typically, become a nasty, reactionary proto dictatorship. Chauncey and co don't talk about it anymore.

Why does capitalism work and socialism fail repeatedly? Because capitalism does not concentrate power in the hands of a few people who think they know best. Capitalism works because it is organic,  it works because it is driven by people's natural desire to do their best for themselves and for their families. It works because people take risks with their money in the hope of huge reward. If they lose they lose their money and maybe that of investors who knew what they were risking. Capitalism is the most efficient way yet created to apportion risk and to reward enterprise, hard work and inventiveness. And Capitalism, unlike socialism, is not a theory created by some wonkish middle class dreamer with no grasp on reality. Capitalism isn't a theory at all. It is just a word we use to describe the most natural order of things, the way that we tend to organise ourselves in any society. It is natural and effective. It's not a theory, it's just normal.



Capitalism grew organically in most societies around the world once we started organising ourselves in societies and started specialising and offering goods and services to customers instead of being hunter gatherers. Capitalism went from a means of selling excess produce to a means of creating the things that societies need to function in addition to food. Capitalism drives progress. It is efficient and effective. Capitalism was the reason why science and technology were created. The first telescopes, the first medicines, the first steam engines, the first trains, the first microscopes were all created by people wanting to make a fortune. Capitalism drove the modern societies we all take for granted. Capitalism has delivered our modern world of computers, smartphones, the internet and its myriad options of free apps and software giving us everything from maps to a wealth of information available in a fraction of a second. State owned telecoms in this country delivered us six month waiting lists for phones.

And the McDonnell approach, in addition to proposing failure is also proposing eye watering tax rises to fund fantasy economics that would lead inexorably to decline and real austerity. We have not had austerity in any real sense since the last recession. Spending has gone up every year since the Tories came to power in 2010. In the meantime unemployment has fallen and real wages are rising again. But still McDonnell wants to raise the minimum wage to over £10, a policy that would force people out of work. Then he wants to repeal the trade unions legislation which has stopped them from holding the country to ransom - except in the public sector of course.

This is idiocy of the highest order. It is fanaticism. It is ideology with no basis in common sense. This is like the fantasies of politicians, not so much of the 1970s as the 1930s. They seem to think that we can create autarkies, that we can cut ourselves off from the market forces of the entire planet. Were Britain to take the route espoused by the Labour leadership jobs would be destroyed, money would flee the country, investment would halt. In no time at all we would find ourselves in serious fiscal and monetary trouble again and the dole queues growing. Labour have never left office with unemployment lower than when they entered it. Never.

Chauncey and co and their legions of followers carp about the Blair/Brown governments for reasons that can only baffle. Brown as Chancellor was more redistributive than any Chancellor in modern history. They put up taxes hugely. What did we have to show for it? Record levels of borrowing and an economy that had tanked. And since those days the country has been borrowing without end. Borrowing has doubled over the last 6 years as the Cameron administration struggled to get on top of Labour's legacy of profligacy. Yet McDonnell wants to borrow hundreds of billions more and bring an end to austerity that the country has simply not experienced. Spending has been reined in for sure, but we have not had proper austerity. The economic policies we have had have created six years of growth and continually falling unemployment so that we are now at a level that economists would call full employment.

McDonnell and Chauncey would endanger that with their schemes of huge spending and huge taxes. They would bankrupt the country and drive successful people abroad. Back in the 70s we used to worry about the brain drain as smart people left to look for better opportunities. That was driven by socialism. If Chauncey and co ever get into power, they would make Labour of the 1970s look like economic geniuses.






Crash Course Psychology - Sleep and Dreams

The Ultimate Conspiracy Debunker

Mirrors

Monday, 26 September 2016

Peanuts


What the Experts Say


So what did we learn last week? Well most importantly never invite a bunch of lefties to a party you might be thinking of holding. Chances are that they will invite all of their friends too, hold a democratic discussion followed by a vote and then have you thrown out of your own home. By the time this happens they will have convinced themselves that not only are they entitled to take over your home and have you thrown out of it, but that they will be morally justified in doing so because of the purity of their intentions and because their leader always mouths his vacuous platitudes in such a lovely soft voice. Even when he's refusing to condemn people for being racist or aggressive or issuing death threats. What a lovely man.

We also discovered last week that experts can be remarkably inexpert and just as capable as the rest of us of  bias, prejudice, groupthink and cognitive dissonance. Britain is not in recession and seems to be getting by very well since we voted to leave the EU. This was not supposed to happen. The experts told us. They were remarkably unanimous about this. The British people paid little attention to them, which is fortunate, since the experts seemed to have little idea what they were talking about.

But this sparks an interesting question. What other issues could experts be wrong about?

Take education and in particular grammar schools. The experts are remarkably unanimous about this too. Grammar schools are not good, they assure us, at promoting social mobility. For proof of this they produce the, to my inexpert mind, blunt instrument of the free school meals metric. This shows that the number of pupils in receipt of free school meals is not as high in grammar schools as in local comprehensive schools and thus there must be a problem with social mobility.

There are so many problems with this as a measure it is hard to know where to begin. First there are bound to be more pupils in receipt of free school meals at a comprehensive school. It goes with the territory since comprehensive schools are, well, comprehensive and thus take pupils from all sections of society. A selective school is less comprehensive and thus the numbers will inevitably be lower. Secondly grammar schools are few and far between these days and tend to be in leafier areas and thus will tend to be more middle class. And anyway, free school meals are not the sole determinant of someone's deserving an excellent education. Are we to design an education system that seeks to cater to one narrow part of society to the exclusion of all others?

Grammar schools are generally good at educating the people who are lucky enough to get into them. The objection of those who are opposed to them is that this means that those who do not get into them are somehow disadvantaged. But this is only the case if you accept that this means we would have to return to a system like that we left behind 50 years ago: of grammar schools and secondary moderns. Nobody is advocating any such thing. If grammar schools are good at educating people and are oversubscribed then that is a case for creating more of them, not rationing them because of ideological objections.

It is simply not the case that a modern education system has to be as divisive and unfair as this is painted. We should be designing a system that can be tailored to the needs of each student. Where they are very academic then a grammar school can be highly advantageous. But this is not to write pupils off at the age of 11. Surely it is not beyond the wit of modern oh so sophisticated experts to come up with a way of testing pupils, spotting potential by means of something better than the old 11 plus and of spotting late developers along the way. Surely if educators are as clever and sophisticated as they claim to be then they should be able to create a range of schools that give kids opportunities that work for everyone, giving parents proper choice. Grammar schools would just be one part of a range of schooling for people of all abilities and interests. You could have stage schools, schools dedicated to sports, to science, to maths.

Chauncey scored his only real victory on this subject at PMQs before the recess. Clearly Theresa May, a grammar school alumni herself, had not properly marshalled the arguments. But they are not hard to dream up. Nobody is proposing a return to the bad old days of the 11 plus and a life of factory fodder failure for those who are rejected at the tender age of 11.  The world has moved on. Back in those days kids were still leaving school at 14. Now we are in an age of schooling to 18 and of a lifetime of learning for all. Grammar schools would be a valued and valuable part of that mix and one that demonstrably lifts people of ability into careers that they would not have been able to dream of otherwise. The best grammar schools send as high a proportion of their pupils to Oxbridge and our top universities as the top fee paying schools. This is an example of excellence in the public sector. It is something to be proud of, not to condemn.

As can often be the case the loudest critics of the grammar school system are those who either benefited from such schools themselves or who went to fee paying schools. Chauncey himself is one example, Diane Abbott of course not to mention Seumas Milne, Chauncey's egregious chief of strategy. The argument against grammar schools do not stack up. They are self serving and typical of the kind of bovine, blinkered, prejudiced attitude we will see coming from Chauncey's Labour in the coming months and years. The evidence is there for all to see that grammar schools work. If they are not the engine of social mobility that we would like them to be then build more of them, put one in every town. Quite apart from anything else grammar school pupils often end up as MPs, even Labour MPs. It's a party that is clearly desperate for new talent. One day some of them might even be working class.

Crash Course Psychology

Everything You Need to Know About Earth

Quantum Entanglement

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 2: Bread for the Lord



Leviticus is about rules. It is supposed to be the word of God, delivered to Moses about what he wants in return for his protection and for the Israelites most favoured status.

We should note once again, that there is ten times more detail here about how God wants his tent of worship made and furnished and how his burnt offerings and other oblations should be offered to God (who has a hearty appetite) than he spent on all of that morality stuff in Exodus. You know, the Ten Commandments. Why mess about telling people that they must not kill or commit adultery when you can devote your time to specifying how you want your meat slaughtered and bread baked? 

Chapter 2 is all about how God wants his biscuits made. 

God wanted offerings of meat as we have already seen. But he also wanted regular offerings of a special kind of bread made with frankincense. This, conveniently, would also have been eaten by the priests. They eat very well do the priests. Oh and by the way, frankincense, when cooked in the way specified, has certain hallucinogenic qualities. 

God was very specific about how he wanted his bread baked. It was like a recipe book handed down from God to Moses. Like the great biblical bake off. The bread of course was not to contain yeast. God really hates yeast. He likes his bread flat. 

All of this had to be taken to the altar by the priests and offered unto the Lord we are told. This was supposed to be the bargain that the chosen people made. God had given them their lands and had made them bountiful. This was the price they paid, a percentage for the Lord and for his hard working priests, the children of Aaron. 




How the Stock Exchange Works

Crash Course Psychology: Perceiving is Believing

Friday, 23 September 2016

Peanuts


Labour Will Die Tomorrow Lunchtime



Indulge me just for a moment and let us together go on a short flight of fancy and imagine that we are all wrong about tomorrow's Labour leadership election result and that Owen Smith has pulled off a shock of the sort of proportions not seen since last year's leadership election and won it. Oh how the moderates would high five one another. But then what?

Well then they would look at Owen Smith and.....oh shit! They would find they have someone even more flimsy and unimpressive than Wallace leading them. Still at least he would be their useless and unprincipled shyster. A huge improvement.

Smith's USP for this election seems to have been that he doesn't disagree with Chauncey about policy. But he would be a better leader. Run that by me again? You, a sometime Blairite, now a dyed in the wool lefty but not quite so much of a zealot. A kind of moderate lefty, a socialist lite offer greater leadership?

Say what you like about Chauncey but you cannot fault him when it comes to consistency. He is still holding the same vacuous, absurd positions on more or less everything that he was when he first started obsessing about politics back in the 1970s. He is the anti Blair, the anti politician. He is the sort of politician that people say they want until they realise that this is what he looks like when they get him. Unfortunately the polar opposite of Chauncey seems to be Owen Smith, a man who says he agrees completely with Chauncey about everything, but would do so looking smarter and would be firmer about it.

We are currently engaged in open mouthed wonderment on this side of the Atlantic at the depravities and inanities of the American Presidential election. How is it that the two parties in America ended up with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? But this is is our own party of opposition and it cannot remove someone as deranged, facile and bovine (even for a vegetarian) as Chauncey, a man who cannot even answer a question about biscuits without sounding like a new puritan bore.



Where does Labour go from here? Where can it go? Chauncey will sweep all before him and entrench power. His opponents have shot their bolt. What can they do? Where can they go?

Do they go back to his shadow cabinet? They came up with the brilliant ruse that shadow cabinet positions should be elected by the PLP, but Chauncey looks to have seen that one off. So do they go back anyway? Do they serve at his pleasure? If they do, how do they answer the question that will be asked of them endlessly all the way to the next election: do you consider a man you resigned from serving under as fit to be our prime minister? How so?

Alternatively do they stay on the backbenches and mutter and chunter away in the background until they find another excuse to depose him? What happens if he refuses to go again?

In truth this is a leader who is useless and delusional at the head of a party that is deranged and has been taken over by entryists and trots. But those who call themselves moderates are little better. They consider themselves to be the progressives and the true standard bearers of the left. Yet they have lost touch with Labour voters just as surely as the middle class metropolitans who have flocked to Chauncey's banner have lost touch with them, if indeed they were ever in touch. Labour is a party that doesn't know what it is for anymore and that represents only themselves and their narrow mindset. Chauncey and his fans are talking to themselves and imagining that they are part of some new and exciting mass movement. The moderates are talking to themselves just as they have always done and ignoring the views of the people whose votes they always complacently relied upon until those voters decamped to the SNP and Ukip and even to the Tories.

Just imagine what might have happened if only someone truly inspiring and bold and forthright had taken on Chauncey these last couple of months. Just imagine if someone had told him that he is a hopeless and hapless figure who is a career politician, the accidental leader, a man stuck in the 1980s and seemingly determined to continue his selfish and self indulgent path to disaster. He has spent a career rebelling against his own party only to now demand fealty and allegiance from those who disagree with him. Just imagine if someone had laid into his teenage politics, his appeasement of our enemies, his sorry and pathetic excuses for his terrorist friends and dictator friends. Just imagine if someone had laid into this silly little man who is not sufficiently organised to get himself a decent suit and tie. He could have bought several from Savile Row just with the money he has earned from working for Iranian television or Russian television.

This is a pathetic excuse for a politician, a man who thinks that looking and sounding authentic is to wear brown, grow a beard and talk softly of how awful it is that people are rude about him. A man who is as banal as his clothing and talks in slogans and passive aggressive language dressed up in a mellow demeanour. He hates his own country and is on the side of all of its enemies. Our enemies are his friends.

There are many people within the ranks of the parliamentary Labour Party who have aspirations to be leader, but who did not have the balls to take on a man they consider to be useless. Why is that? It certainly cannot be loyalty. If only one of them could have stepped up rather than leave it to little Owen Smith or indeed to Angela Eagle then perhaps Labour could have been saved from itself. Anyone with an ounce of charisma and gravitas would have seen him off, but Labour has nobody. So now there is simply no hope for it. Whatever happens it is hopelessly compromised and unelectable. Its best and only hope is that Theresa May calls an early election and puts it out of its misery.

Labour will die tomorrow lunchtime when Chauncey is named leader again. It will die whatever happens. If his parliamentary colleagues continue to refuse to work under him as they must in good conscience do, then it will die. If they do what this blog has been recommending they do and create a mini constitutional crisis by mounting a parliamentary coup against him and thus deny him the votes to be leader of the opposition, then it will die. If they continue their war of attrition by other means, then it will die. And if they grumpily agree to serve under him until the next time they find an excuse to resign, then the nation will fall about with laughter at their stupidity. And then the Labour Party will die.

There is no honourable, respectable or reasonable outcome. Labour is dying. It has been dying for some time because it no longer knows what it is for. It turns out that this is probably what it is for.


Black Holes Explained

Crash Course Psychology: Sensation and Perception

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Peanuts


The Meaning of Life on Europa


NASA is going to make a big announcement on Monday about Europa, one of Jupiter's moons and a subject of great scientific interest because it is icy and thus a potential home to life.

Sadly, NASA say that they are not going to tell us that they have found space aliens. Presumably that would be quite hard to spot with a telescope.

Having said that if you were on Europa and pointed a telescope at Earth you would quite clearly be able to spot that the Labour Party here in the UK is about to reappoint a half wit with all of the credibility of a socialist dictator left in a mausoleum for 60 years and who cannot even answer a question about a biscuit without being sanctimonious.

Not that we can crow. America may be on the cusp of electing a serial liar with a personality disorder so big it could be seen from space or indeed from an icy moon of Jupiter. Even from Europa you would be able to tell that his continued refusal to release his tax returns is suggestive of a man so arrogant as to be dangerous and who uses elaborate ruses to pay no tax. Other revelations this week show that he uses charitable donations sent in by other people to his charitable foundation to pay his debts. His tax returns would likely show that he is not at all rich. Without the money from Russian gangsters posing as statesmen, he would likely have been bankrupt years ago. His presidential run is just a way of distracting from his dodgy business.

But all of this is to digress. The press conference will be held Monday afternoon at 2pm EDT. That's 7pm UK time. They say they have found something very interesting. Not ET, but possibly something suggestive of the possibility of ET. For those who are confused, Europa is not what Britain has recently voted to leave. NASA will not be announcing that we have invoked article 50.

Brexit 3 Months On



It's 3 months since the referendum. We know this because the BBC marks every month with a series of programmes and debates, interviews and vox pops. Since the couple of days after the initial vote the Beeb has dispensed with its former approach of interviewing toothless inarticulate people and has seemed to concede that some of us may have voted for reasons other than immigration or because we are ill educated, racist northerners who lack the sophistication of our southern compatriots.

And now the Beeb and various experts are also having to acknowledge or in some cases admit that the jeremiahs were wrong about what would happen after a vote to leave. As many of us pointed out in those early dog days, nothing has happened yet. Why would it make any difference?

Not that we were listened to of course. Recession would follow we were told. That they are now surprised by the data, proper hard data, that this has not thus far happened, says much for their powers of deduction and empathy. Why would a country, more than half of whom had voted to leave and a substantial portion of those who voted the other way had a certain sympathy with us, then plunge into despair when we got what we wanted? It made no sense. We have kept on spending and buying and employing and going on holiday because for many of us, most of us I would aver, life has gone on just swimmingly. The people who complained on Twitter or social media, the people who marched in London are about as representative of the bulk of the country as those who are voting for Chauncey to continue his triumphant leadership of Labour are of the rest of us.

And this is why Britain is doing entirely fine. Yes the pound has stayed low, but then that is all to the good. The stock market has shrugged off its early losses and is now testing its recent highs. The economy is going to manage, according to the latest forecasts, around the same level of growth that had been forecast when all of the supposed experts were expecting us to vote to stay in.



And as a country we are still performing notably better than most of the rest of the EU, despite our voting to leave its tender embrace and despite the threats that are being sent in our direction.

What should we learn from all of this? Well firstly that experts are only expert if they leave their prejudices behind. But more importantly that Britain is a strong and vibrant economy whose flexibility is proving to be our strongest suit. If we can use the opportunities of Brexit to enhance that flexibility, to build on it and enhance it then there is no reason why we should not emerge stronger as a consequence rather than weakened and dispirited as so many appear to want for us.

The EU is a just a not very well designed, not very efficient, not very accountable, not very flexible, not very democratic form of government. We have voted to leave it and govern ourselves. That's all. There was never really any basis for the panic stories about what would happen after Brexit. There is much to be argued over, much give and take and an awful lot more bellyaching from European politicians who still refuse to admit that they and they alone are the cause of their own travails and woes. But ultimately all that has really happened is that we have chosen to substitute one way of governing ourselves with another way of governing ourselves, but one we will have more influence over. As we make a success of it there is every chance that the rest of the continent will watch on enviously. But then that is what they are afraid of isn't it. But perhaps they should consider that and dwell on it. If they are worried that Britain will be successful outside the EU, then perhaps there is no need for an EU at all.

The Hubble Photo That Changed Astronomy

Crash Course Psychology: Getting to Know Your Brain

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Peanuts


Sink This Yacht Talk


The Lib Dems have been holding their annual conference in Brighton this week, although you could be forgiven for being either unaware of this or uncaring. The party whose big policy seems to be to ignore the democratic will of the British people, or at least - like their heroes in Brussels - to force us to vote again and again until we give the right answer, are strangely bemused about their unpopularity with the electorate right now. It seems that all of those years of trying to be all things to all people, of facing both ways, of being the push-me-pull-yous of politics did them no good at all because the moment they got their wish and became the great ameliorative of politics they had always claimed to be everyone saw them for what they are. They then voted accordingly.

Someone called Tim, a fantasist whose belief in God and Creationism seems if anything less fantastical than his belief that the Lib Dems have the answers to our woes, said something truly astonishing at his big speech. He said that Labour did some good things in government.

Now it has become an article of faith for the modern Labour Party under Chauncey that this is patent nonsense. Even the Good Friday agreement, a bona fide achievement with which even this blogger can find no quarrel, was of course not Mr Tony's achievement at all. Oh no. That was because Chauncey and John McDonnell had spent all of those years praising IRA terrorism and thus winning their trust to get around the negotiating table. What? Chauncey and John played no part in the round table discussions? Clearly a lie.

What other things did Labour achieve? Ask those who still call themselves new Labourites and they will tell you that it achieved things like building new schools and the minimum wage. Even in this they err. The minimum wage is the sort of thing you consider an achievement if you are the sort of person who pays it rather than receives it. The minimum wage became a ceiling rather than a minimum for millions. Employers, who, until it was brought in, might have felt compelled to pay a local market rate according to skills, availability of labour, length of service and so on felt emboldened to pay the statutory minimum to everyone always and entirely regardless of any of the above because that was what the government said they should pay. This has now become their prevailing philosophy. They have got away with it and are still getting away with it because politicians think they did something great by inventing the minimum wage. It became a ceiling and trapped millions on a pay rate that is inadequate, so much so that it has to be subsidised by the taxpayer through the Gordon Brown invented wheeze of tax credits. Tax credits are a system of welfare, not for the low paid, but for employers.

Taken in combination, the minimum wage and tax credits have been a failure on an epic scale. Created with the intention of helping the poor they have succeeded in making the poor poorer, have entrenched their poverty, made them reliant on the state nevertheless and have subsidised employers so that they can keep paying them poor wages. They have trapped the poor in poorly paid jobs and given employers no incentive to pay more. Oh and they've also added to the national debt thus making us all poorer and succeeding generations poorer. Brilliant!

You will look in vain for any economists to tell you any of this though which is why politicians refuse to believe in it. But then that is because economics is just guesswork given a fancy and scientific sounding title enabling people to be paid well above the minimum wage for work that even British Leyland would have considered shoddy.



No, the only real achievements of Labour when in government were the aforementioned Good Friday Agreement; the smoking ban, which has added to the merriment of the nation by forcing those who are so addicted to their little white cancer sticks that they are prepared to brave the British weather in order to inhale their own noxious fumes rather than inflict them on others; making Gordon Brown and Mr Tony pretend to like one another for a decade and of course the scuttling of the great national gin palace of Hitler sympathisers otherwise known as the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now it seems that some are seeing the Brexit vote as the signal to bring back this ridiculous throwback to an era of warm beer and rationing for the hoi polloi to prevent them becoming corpulent gut buckets on fast food. The excuse for this is that it was terribly good for international trade don't-you-know. Well, far be it from me to doubt this argument but it is the same one they use to get something to do for Prince Andrew. He too is supposed to be good for international trade. It's probably no coincidence that his nephew Harry is at a bit of a loose end these days and would quite fancy the idea of cruising around the world with a bevy of beauties drumming up world trade. As euphemisms go for international rutting that takes some beating doesn't it?

Seriously, when are we going to get over this idea that the world sees our royals as anything other than a curiosity? Sure they are often fascinated by them but even this fascination is usually  accompanied by sniggering. It's a national embarrassment. Sure tourists might enjoy standing and gawping outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, but then the same is true of Versailles and they used to take a dump in the corners of the rooms there.

This is not to say that our royals don't appeal to the snobs of the world and to various middle eastern potentates who set a great deal of store with being compared with our more down at heel royals. But that is not a good reason to bring a ship out of much deserved retirement so that a few lickspittle civil servants and ministers can ingratiate themselves with the palace.  Of course it would bring a smile to the face of the Queen, something we usually only see after the 2.10 at Ascot. But this is not really a good reason for the expenditure of millions of pounds of taxpayers money. It would be cheaper to just bribe a few jockeys.

Anyway, the Queen is 80 now for crying out loud. How many more birthdays must the sour faced old bag be expecting anyway?  Given the length of time it takes us to do any kind of major project these days there is zero chance of her living to see the old boat refloated. If it's given the nod tomorrow, there is just about an outside chance that the Royal Yacht will be back sailing the seven seas in time to see the next Lib Dems in government. And, since their first move will be to take us back into the EU anyway, it will all have proven to be a fantastic waste of time.

Why Mars Died and Earth Lived

Crash Course Psychology: The Chemical Mind

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Peanuts


Chauncey Takes the Biscuit


Do you remember Rowan Williams? He used to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now I am by no means a violent man, quite the opposite in fact, but had I been unfortunate to have to interview Williams and listen to that whispery, patronising voice speaking dull, facile platitudes and had I been handed a baseball bat at this inopportune (or opportune, dependent upon your point of view) moment, there is a good chance I would have, not so much beat him about the head with it, as inserted it into him rectally.

The arch bish was fantastically irritating. Even for a vicar. Listening to him answering the standard question about why God allows evil in the world was wont to make the ears and eyes bleed, not through some kind of sudden onset brain injury brought on by that amount of concentrated fatuous imbecility, but because the listener or viewer would prefer to render themselves deaf and blind by means of a hat pin than listen to the sanctimonious tit any longer.

God has this effect on true believers of course. It's not really their fault. No, actually it is. It is their fault. They don't have to believe this crap. Unless you believe in nurture trumping nature of course. There's probably a kind of poetic justice about that when you think about it.

But this does bring to mind the current and likely future leader of the Labour Party. Chauncey is probably cheering up god botherers a lot. Ha! they are saying. You see? It's not just us. Atheists can be just as stupid, purblind and twattish.

In case you missed it Chauncey went on to Mumsnet yesterday. This is a kind of rite of passage for political leaders these days for reasons that nobody can adequately explain. It's a website apparently and it has clout because Mums not only like Iceland they like sharing tips about things with one another and asking questions of politicians. Politicians have to pretend to care and to be interested in their points of view. It serves them right. I bet sometimes the chauffeur driven cars seem like the very least they deserve.

Anyway, as part of the process of appearing on Mumsnet, one is generally asked the biscuit question. This, for the uninitiated, is when our great thinkers and prognosticators are asked what their favourite biscuit is. This is why I could never be a politician. I would tend to be indecisive on this point, although in my defence I am fond of biscuits and have a wide range of favourites: from the humble digestive to the fig roll, from the chocolate hob nob to the bourbon.

Generally speaking our leaders, knowing that this question will come up, have an answer prepared for this in the same way that they have an answer prepared for their attitude to austerity, grammar schools or Scottish independence. It is best to have something not too fancy and utilitarian as a favourite biscuit. You can't go far wrong with a hob nob, although the dunking question may arise to try and flummox you. For the record if you are a dunker then you are someone who is clearly a sociopath and should be drummed out of office.

We knew that Wallace would never become prime minister, not after the infamous bacon sandwich incident, but when he answered the biscuit question by claiming he favours jaffa cakes. Jaffa cakes? They're not even biscuits. There was a famous court case. How can anyone possibly aspire to be the leader of our country if they claim to like jaffa cakes?

But what was Chauncey's response? It was something that Rowan Williams would have been proud of and which would, if there were any justice in the world, have necessitated an urgent trip to A&E to have a baseball bat removed from his innards. Chauncey offered that he was totally opposed to sugar on health grounds, so eats very few biscuits.

Genius!

The sanctimony of the man makes you punch the air in delight doesn't it if only because the man himself is not in proximity. It so beautifully sums him up.  It is so him. It typifies him in the way that even his dirty brown jacket would struggle to do. You can hear him saying it in that faux sincere way of his, you can hear him breathing slightly heavily as he shakes his head sadly at the terrible iniquities meted out on the poor and the dispossessed by Tories and big sugar giving people biscuits. Truly they are the opiate of the people. Or the biscuits. It's the same really.

Chauncey and his new puritans have already informed us that they mean to ban us all getting together for early evening socialisation after work and now we will probably be banned from having a biscuit during a tea break while we're still at work too. In his brave new world that the legions of Momentum are planning on delivering to us all whether we like it or not, biscuits will be frowned upon and indeed biscuit eaters will have bricks thrown through their windows.


How Magnetism Works

Crash Course Psychology: Psychological Research

Monday, 19 September 2016

Peanuts


The Great British Television Swindle



It was a strange week for news last week wasn't it. Hillary's pneumonia, Dave's resignation, Chauncey's finally winning a showdown against the Tories in parliament, a decision on Hinkley C that was not notably different from the one that Theresa said she was delaying to reconsider, yet another ceasefire in Syria that is being routinely ignored and Russian hacking of the private medical details of athletes as part of their serial chippiness about the perfidies of the west and our determination to do down the not at all dishonest, mendacious and outright lawless Russian state out to recreate the glories of the Soviet Union.

Biggest story of the week for many though seemed to be that the BBC was losing Bake Off to Channel 4.

Now let's from the start be clear: I don't watch Bake Off and never have. I would rather watch the Paralympics and that is nauseating enough.

But here's the point you see. Why do people care that a twee programme full of double entendres and comic timing from the 1970s - oh and cake and bread - is moving from the BBC to Channel 4? Channel 4 is just the BBC with adverts. And surely commercial breaks to facilitate the making of tea is a boon during a programme full of tasty treats just crying out for a good dunking.

Channel 4 has mounted a seemingly successful campaign over the last year or so to prevent itself from being privatised. This is despite the fact that many would have assumed that it was already privatised. But no, dear reader, Channel 4 belongs to you and me.

And this is where the similarities with the BBC become ever more stark and revealing. Because while Channel 4 and the BBC nominally belong to you and me they do not in any meaningful way belong to you and me. They belong to the smug people who run these organisations. They do not even belong to the people who work for them since most of them will be freelance. Sure, some of them will be paid shedloads of money for doing so, but these things can disappear in the blink of an eye. Just ask Jeremy Clarkson or Jonathan Ross. For the people who run both organisations though, the serried ranks of the moneyed and not extravagantly talented middle managers made good, once they reach the top of the greasy pole, then jobs can be had at high remuneration in perpetuity. And Channel 4 pays even better than the BBC, despite being owned by little old you and me.



How does Channel 4 pay better even that the BBC for its ex BBC execs? For the same reason that Channel 4 can apparently afford to pay out £25 million for a show about cakes. Because Channel 4 is a commercial enterprise that is not a commercial enterprise. It is currently embarking on a battle to keep from having to move its headquarters in Westminster to a new location in Birmingham or Manchester. Why anyone at Channel 4 should object to this move is a mystery. Channel 4 does not make its own shows. It commissions them. It is not immediately obvious why it needs to do so from a fantastically expensive headquarters in the capital as opposed to much cheaper premises in our second or third cities.

But the real question of last week should have been: if Channel 4 can afford to spend that kind of money on a show about cakes, then why could it not just be a privately owned and run commercial television company like ITV, Sky, Channel 5 etc? Channel 4 claims to need its protected status because it is distinctive and different. Yet Channel 4 makes very little drama of consequence and yet can apparently afford to outbid the BBC for a show about baking and indeed for Formula One racing. The rest of the time it seems to spend its time making exploitative trash TV like this summer's Naked Attraction in which people stood naked in front of potential suitors and were judged entirely according to their bodies.

Channel 4 would of course claim to have a substantial public service element. But what is that? Programmes about Benefit Street? Programmes about travellers? Channel 4 News, the Guardian of the airwaves which seems to spend its time being preachy, hectoring politicians and poaching staff from Newsnight.

And then there is the Paralympics. Now I am all for people with disabilities being able to take part in sports. But to turn it into a big cavalcade is a sick joke quite frankly and that is before we get on to the arcane and fundamentally absurd rules about what is a disability and what is just an excuse to become a disabled sportsman. How does someone having fingers missing qualify them as a Paralympic cyclist?

Despite the best efforts of the BBC and Channel 4, the British public is not terribly interested in the Paralympics because we can see that all sport is not equal however much they may try to convince us that it is. There is nothing wrong with the Paralympics per se except the attitude of those who try to turn it into an Olympics equivalent. Because it isn't and most people can see that it isn't. How can it be? It's a sporting tournament for people who are not terribly good at sports.

I myself have a disability. I have a number of them actually, only one of which is a frustrating lack of talent at all sports. But the Paralympics is a parody of sports. It is laudable to encourage people from all walks of life to take part in sports. But this whole everyone should have prizes modern approach is ridiculous and damaging. We cannot all have prizes. Some of us are born with unique talents. Most of us have a talent of sorts. Occasionally when combined with the right level of determination and luck this can be turned into a winning streak. Telling people with disabilities that they have as much right to be elite athletes as anyone else is dishonest and rather cruel.

This is not to say that Channel 4 has not done a good job of covering the Paralympics because it has. But it has done so because it is subsidised by you and I so that a bunch of metropolitan luvvies can indulge their view of the world and impose it on the rest of us.

And that is why the Guardianistas of Channel 4 want to keep it the way it is. It is one of their bully pulpits from which to preach to the rest of us about how the world should be and what our attitudes should be on a range of subjects. It is why Channel 4 News now seems to be on a quest to have a representative of every minority group in the country including confused old gentlemen with a penchant for loud ties and socks who used to be good reporters.

So I ask the question again: if Channel 4 can afford to spend £25 million on GBBO then why is it any different from other commercial TV channels? And why does it deserve its protected status?



Zap, Crackle and Pop: The Story of Electricity

Crash Course Psychology

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Leviticus: Chapter 1 - Laws About Burnt Offerings



And so, after all of the excitement of Exodus, we now move on to Leviticus. Leviticus is heavy going. It is lots of instructions about how to worship God. That's about it really. Exodus is the story of why God is God. Leviticus starts the serious business of constructing a religion to worship him. Leviticus is about rules and laws. Leviticus is where we start getting heavy about sex. There was plenty of this stuff in Exodus - lots of instructions about how to build the Tabernacle, how to decorate it and the like. Leviticus has lots more of it. Lots more.

These days modern Christians and Muslims and Jews are very disparaging and condescending about the heathen practices of Pagans. Yet the roots of their religions are right here in Leviticus and they are all about rites, about animal sacrifice. What's the difference? Answer: there is no difference. This was this tribe of goat herders concocting a new religion and imagining it superior to the religions they were supplanting.

So God called on Moses and gave him a set of instructions. Yet more instructions. He's very prescriptive about how he wants to be worshipped is God.  And he issues an awful lot of instructions.

Now to be fair this wasn't necessarily God demanding animal sacrifices. This was a tribe of ignorant goat and animal herders and they were accustomed to making animal sacrifices. This was just the creators of this new religion going with the flow and adding a few new rituals to distinguish themselves from the other religions. Presumably the people wouldn't have been impressed by this new religion if it hadn't involved lots of elaborate rituals and animal sacrifice.

So we get instructions about how all of this is to be done. Animals have to be killed and then arranged in specified ways and all of this has to be done of course by the sons of Aaron the priest. One family has a monopoly on the priesthood. It's not hard to imagine why. Leviticus is all about entrenching power and wealth.

We even get a hierarchy of animal sacrifices. God would prefer his animal sacrifices to be an unblemished male sheep or goat. But if the donors of these sacrifices couldn't afford such largesse, then they could instead give a dove or a pigeon. It's not hard to imagine there being a great deal of competition in this society as to who gave the best and most frequent sacrifices to their imaginary friend in his Tabernacle. The priests would have been rubbing their hands with glee. After they had wiped the blood off of course.

The Inquisition

Friday, 16 September 2016

Peanuts


The EU is Fatally Underestimating Britain



The 27 other leaders of the EU's member states are meeting in Bratislava this weekend to try and come up with a post Brexit plan and to try not to appear like rats fighting in a sack as is their wont. Meanwhile, as is their wont, the sack (the EU Commission and Parliament and its five presidents) is pretending that all is harmonious and that all will be well if we just have more and more Europe, ignore the will of the people (not just the British people) and continue on regardless. Eventually we will all be aligned and conjoined under the benign dictatorship of the EU and all will be sweetness and light.

It's a parody but one that we will all recognise. The EU is in crisis but has responded in its usual way. Disdain for people who disagree with it and a demand for ever more powers, ever more spending, ever more projects that will eventually win over the people of Europe who are revolting. It is fair to say that the EU commissioners think we are revolting in a particular sense of that word.

The papers are reporting today that the EU hopes that if they stay tough and refuse to make any concessions to Britain that we will give up on the idea of Brexit and return to the fold. You do not have to be a reporter with sources in Whitehall and Brussels to know this. It is obvious. This is the way the EU always behaves. It treats the democratically expressed will of the people in EU elections and in referendums as something to be waved away as not in full possession of the facts. The Irish have been forced to vote again on a couple of occasions after defying the will of Brussels. The British are a little more difficult to ignore, especially as we have voted to reject, not a treaty or a constitution but our membership itself. But this remains the intent of Brussels. They do not believe in the nation state and so why should they pay any heed to the will of one such state.

But they also see that Britain, though it voted clearly for our leaving, there is dissent and much opposition. They see this as their opportunity to divide and thus continue to rule. They even see the possibility that they might use this to their advantage. They have already advanced plans for an EU army that the British have been vetoing for years. But if we were to return to the fold we would be emasculated. The EU would march on and the last opportunity to reform it and to rein in the federalist zealots would be lost forever.

Not that Bratislava will discuss any of this. They will be discussing how to react to British secession. They will want to be tough. But many will caution, entirely for selfish reasons, that being too tough will be damaging. It is all very well the EU saying that a bit of economic pain will be worth it to bring the British to heel but the EU Commission doesn't have elections next year and a rise of anti EU right wing parties to contend with. The EU has been a stalwart defender of the idiotic euro after all, but it doesn't worry about mass unemployment. The project is all.

Britain has not even begun negotiations or invoked Article 50 and yet we have been excluded from this big meeting while they talk about us. We should probably invoke Article 50 soon now, although not before an approach is agreed and a full team in place. But when we do it would be as well to start the process of extricating us from this byzantine nightmare immediately. It would show intent and that we mean business. Let's invoke Article 50 and at the same time announce that we are withdrawing with immediate effect from the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy. That would mean we could reduce our contribution to EU coffers with immediate effect too. The beginning of 2017 would seem an appropriate time.

If the panjandrums of Brussels really think that they can bully the British with their usual arrogance then they fundamentally misunderstand our character. We are a tolerant, easy going people, slow to anger. But we resent being pushed around and being told what to do. If a so called hard Brexit is what we have to have then so be it. It won't be so hard as many seem to think. And it might concentrate a few minds. The EU is trying and failing to negotiate free trade deals with large parts of the world. It doesn't seem so very difficult to negotiate one with a country that already has such a relationship. The difficulty is of course with the Commission and its federalist president. He should be dumped with immediate effect. David Cameron did try to warn them about the jumped up, fat, hypocritical alcoholic.

Theresa May has started making decisions now. She has got it wrong over Hinkley Point, although I understand why she has made the difficult decision she has. Saying no to Hinkley would have been unfortunate at this point when we need friends. But she needs to get tough with the EU over Brexit. It is going to happen. The people have spoken. Even in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has overplayed her hand and is going to have to acquiesce. Britain's negotiating position is strong and strengthening. It is the EU that is divided and that is its fatal weakness. As a rat that has left the sack and is now looking on with amused disdain we are in a position of strength.

Where Did Russia Come From?

10 Things North Koreans Actually Believe

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Peanuts


Were The City Airport 'Black Lives Matter' Protesters Guilty of Cultural Appropriation?


So, as you will be aware, last week there was a protest at London City Airport that brought the airport to a standstill for several hours while the police negotiated with a bunch of middle class professional protesters. Instead of simply wrestling them away and possibly tasering them if they resisted, they were indulged.

They claimed to be protesting for Black Lives Matter, a protest movement that has spread, entirely gratuitously, to this country. As was also noted at the time and yesterday when they appeared in court, none of these protesters are actually black. As a black friend of mine said: 'not in my name.'

But this brings a thought to mind: are they guilty, these white middle class wankers, of cultural appropriation? They claimed to be protesting about climate change and its alleged disproportionate impact on black people. This is wilfully mendacious, specious nonsense. And they know it. But even if it were true, how would they know?

The real reason they were protesting, as we all know, is because they like protesting and had to think of an excuse to do so.  They chose City Airport because a) it is easier to break into but b) because it is frequented by wealthy people who work in the City. So this was just the Occupy movement by another name. Why the judge didn't lock them up is a mystery. It would have been good for them. They could have met a lot of underprivileged people and maybe learnt a thing or two.


Just Say No to Hinkley, Prime Minister


There are alarming reports emanating, one assumes from the Government, that a decision on Hinkley Point is imminent and is going to be in favour. Now we have to take these reports with a pinch of salt because the reports are confused and conflicting. But nevertheless we should be alarmed.

After a good start Theresa May is now coming up against the realities of governing. Having spent six years at the Home Office however this will come as no surprise. Decisions are tough, can be frustrating and however long you take over them there will be many who disagree, sometimes aggressively and rudely. Lawyers may get involved, vested interests will definitely get involved and the civil service will often put obstacles in the way or simply prove incompetent at implementation. The advice will often be conflicting or plain wrong. Often it will be opinion dressed up as expertise. That is governing. Theresa May knows this.

There are two issues currently in Mrs May's in or pending trays. I have already written about grammar schools but I am going to come back to that later in another post. It's important and it has to be got right. Mrs May was not good at PMQs on the subject. She is not a natural performer in this bear pit as Dave was. We shouldn't judge her for that. But it is why she needs to get the arguments straight in her head and rehearse them constantly.

But like I say, I shall come back to that.

But Hinkley Point is actually a pretty straightforward decision. It should be abandoned with great alacrity. It is a bad deal being done for the wrong reasons, at too high a cost and being built with the wrong technology by people who are out to do us harm. And that's just the French.

Seriously, the Chinese, who must always be viewed with suspicion, are the last people who we should be allowing to invest in so critical a project. It is just as simple as that. if that does short term damage to Anglo Sino relations then so be it. They are pragmatists and cynics. The next deal will bring them back to the table. Britain remains an open economy. But we have to demonstrate that we are not for sale at any price. It is a price too high in this case.

The technology is also fantastically expensive and unproven. It is going to cause huge problems down the line. It should be abandoned for that reason alone.

And big monstrous nuclear plants like this are yesterday's technology masquerading as the future. Smaller plants can be built at a fraction of the cost.

Oh and then there is the issue of gas and fracking. Gas generators can be built quickly and easily and for tiny fraction of the cost of these mega plants.

Yes it is appealing that Hinkley would generate so much electricity but at what cost? And are we sure it will ever work? Are we sure that it will not bankrupt EDF and mean that the Chinese have to step in and take complete ownership?

All in all then there are several reasons why this decision should be very easy to make. So please make it Mrs May. It will annoy the French and the Chinese. But these are just bonuses. Most of all it will show that you are able and willing to make tough decisions that break with the past and show that Britain, while open to investment and to the rest of the world, will not be taken for mugs.

PS

This post was written on Wednesday night. The Government has now confirmed that Hinkley is to go ahead. Not unexpected but disappointing. It will come back to haunt Mrs May, although by the time the bloody thing is built and operational she will long since have gone into retirement I expect.