Friday, 31 March 2017
It's been a heavy few days for news and so let us finish the week and month on a lighter note ahead of the frivolity of April Fools' Day. On such occasions this blog likes to laugh at North Korea. Thankfully they often oblige us by doing something bat shit crazy.
This week John McCain, a man not above calling his own president a few choice names for the very good reason that he is an orange moron, has got into trouble with the North Koreans for insulting the dignity of their Fat Leader. Incidentally, just think if he were the same colour as Trump he would look like Buddha.
McCain was interviewed last week on MSNBC and got onto the subject of the 'crazy fat kid that's running North Korea.' North Korea - which, incidentally, doesn't like being called North Korea despite the fact that it is the northern part of the Korean peninsula that was divided this way after the Second World War and by the war that the Fat Leader's grandfather started back in 1950 - has reacted in its usual way - by threatening grave consequences for this terrible slur against their beloved leader. McCain's comments, said the mouthpiece of the regime, the KCNA, delivered with revolutionary fervour by that angry shouty woman who sounds like an evil character from a Muppet movie, were 'blasphemy.' Yes, blasphemy and this has insulted the entire country, or at least it would have insulted and gravely offended them were it not for the fact that they are likely too busy trying to escape or to feed themselves on scraps. You can't help speculating if they ever wonder why, if their country is such a glorious socialist paradise, that only the Fat Leader is able to eat enough to make him fat. Here in Britain it's the poorest who are fat. Now that's proper equality.
Anyway, McCain, gloriously, responded thus:
What, did they want me to call him a crazy skinny kid? https://t.co/Ym3juRfBev— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 29, 2017
North Korea is as ever threatening war. McCain and Ted Cruz, another who has offended the North Koreans who are not North Koreans, are, they said, like puppies who know no fear of the tiger. Puppies? In North Korea? No chance. Koreans from whichever part like to dine on dog. In the North though a puppy chihuahua would provide good eating for a family of four for a week.
Incidentally if you want to know how fat the Fat Leader is here is a picture of him from space blotting out the lights from his entire country.
And here is one of him buying his weekly ice cream allowance.
And here is one of him stuck in a submarine on his way to buy his weekly ice cream allowance and while someone fetches a tin opener.
And so it starts. There is to be an interregnum between our invocation of Article 50 on Wednesday and negotiations commencing. The EU must talk amongst themselves for a while with us shut out of the room. They do so in full knowledge that the clock is now ticking and that, after delaying for so long while we found ourselves a government, got all of the preparatory work done and then went through the small matter of court challenges and parliamentary procedures, we are now ready but have handed the advantage to them. They now mean to be as bloody-minded and awkward as possible. They could have started the process of deciding what their approach would be at the same time that we were doing so of course and probably have if truth be told, but they mean to make us wait. And sweat.
Well we shouldn't give them the satisfaction. Take your time. How very European to insist on sticking to the letter of the law when it suits you. And you wonder why we are getting out.
This is going to be an instructive few weeks. The noises coming from Brussels and European capitals is that they are determined to present a united front. Well we shall see. For now they are sticking to their line that we must discuss money before anything to do with trade. Well that will be a short discussion because there will be no money. We don't owe them a penny other than for the pensions of British officials entitled to EU pensions. Even that is debatable. We might be prepared to pay for certain schemes into which we may wish to opt on a case by case basis. But that is the approach we ought to take. We are leaving the EU precisely because we no longer wish to be a part of its one-size-fits-all approach to everything. We are leaving for self determination. Why would we do so and then agree to carry on paying into a common pot from which we have derived so little benefit and so little thanks just because the EU thinks it has us where it wants us?
On this issue we should let them chunter away for a few weeks. That will make them feel better. No doubt diplomatic channels are open and discussions are already taking place. We may already be having some success at dividing and ruling. But they should be left in no doubt whatsoever: Britain voted to leave to regain control of our borders, our trading relations, our regulations and our money.
The demand for a divorce payment makes no sense anyway and they know it. It is probably calculated to irritate. At that at least it has succeeded. If there is to be a bill to be paid then logically there should also be a division of assets. So what do we get back? Which buildings? We must have paid for a good proportion of those grandiose and faintly ridiculous buildings around Brussels and the EU. So do we get some of that back? How do you calculate the worth of a white elephant? And, as this blog has pointed out before, if a net contributor to the EU budget, one that has paid in over half a trillion pounds since we joined has to continue to pay even after we have left does that mean that a net beneficiary of EU funds like France or Poland would receive annual cheques even after leaving? Is that a precedent they really want to advertise?
If the EU is really insistent upon this before we get around to talking about trade then it is clear that there really isn't anything to talk about and we should walk away. Indeed not only should we walk away we should end the process of leaving and announce that we are leaving early and taking our money with us with immediate effect. Indeed we should start the process of extrication straight away, announce that we are opening free trade talks with a host of countries around the world and that the EU may soon have to go to the back of the queue. We should announce that we are taking control of our fisheries immediately, that we will take over responsibility for British agriculture and subsidy payments meaning that money will be kept here for that purpose and that we see no reason to continue to pay any sums to the EU for it to be sent back to the UK with an EU flag on it. As to the other £10 billion a year we pay for the right to be a member of the EU and of the Single Market? Well, if they are saying that we are not even allowed to talk about that then why should we continue to pay for the privilege? We'll keep that money here too.
The EU is clearly of a mind to show any other countries thinking of leaving that to do so is folly. Britain should be equally determined to show that it is actually a sensible and pragmatic decision in the face of such arrogance and purblind stupidity. Britain wants to remain friends with our European neighbours. But this is not a marriage we are dissolving it is a contractual relationship that we are severing. We wish to discuss like grown-ups a new relationship. We will not do so with a gun to our heads. Quite apart from anything else, our guns are bigger than theirs and they need them.
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Is it me or did the PM's statement yesterday, at least the first paragraph anyway, sound a little like Chamberlain's famous address on the radio announcing that Britain was at war with Germany? A couple of the sentences sounded rather similar.
Happily though for many of us yesterday was a much more joyous moment as we hopefully avoid all out war with our European neighbours. We never dreamt this time last year that we would be at this point now. We were up against the establishment, the Government, the Government machine, the EU itself and the self perpetuating groupthink of those who call themselves progressive. Just think back to that piece of chicanery they indulged in prior to the referendum campaign when they spent £9 million of our money sending out a propaganda piece to every household. I threw mine straight in the bin. Now I wish I had kept it as a souvenir.
This ultimately though is the reason why they lost. Britain had never, whatever many say now, been particularly enamoured of the great EU project. Mostly we were at best tolerant of it. Often we were angry. That anger slowly boiled over as incompetence piled on top of arrogance and that special continental disdainful froideur as exemplified by Jean-Claude Juncker.
We could see some of the advantages of our membership for sure. It was quite convenient to only have one currency for the whole of Europe, it was just that we were glad we were not in it. We could also see the advantages of not having to pay additional charges for using our mobiles on the continent. But by the same token we did seem to be paying an extraordinarily high price for our membership and were at the same time importing everyone else's unemployed and exporting our benefits. The NHS, schools, roads, housing were all under pressure all for some great ideal that was neither sensible or sustainable. When the referendum campaign got underway they consequently tried to frighten us with consequences for leaving rather than arguing for the advantages of staying in.
Now the same people who made those bad arguments are making the same for what will happen now. In truth nobody can know for certain what will happen since we don't know how our erstwhile partners will behave. We will play a straight bat as ever in much the same way that we always imposed EU directives and played by the rules while others ignored them. But this is not to say we will be rolled over. We will start off seeking a good and fair deal for all. If the EU tries to play hard ball and to punish us for doing what they pushed us into doing then this time they will reap what they sow. David Cameron had the same cards that Theresa May has now at his disposal. He chose not to play them. Theresa May, I feel confident, along with her triumvirate of sceptics, will not be so much of a pushover. Britain has a very good hand to play and we can play just as hard as the EU if they push us that way. They tried to call our bluff last year with their phony deal. The British public called that bluff on June 23rd. Now we will bide our time, smile benignly at the grandstanding and silly bombast. Ultimately an EU that talks of demanding €50 billion from us as a price of leaving knows that it does not have much of a hand at all.
Still the Remainers carp and moan and try to think of clever ruses to keep us in. Still they predict doom for this island, the fifth biggest economy on the planet and the second biggest contributor to the EU budget. Quite what they imagine will happen is a mystery. I have never understood their argument. You can argue that Britain has advantages as a member of the single market for sure, but our leaving will not cause some great existential rupture. Employers are not going to flock to other shores because we have left the EU, for the simple reason that the EU is a production line of pettifogging interference, corruption, venality and vanity. Britain has the advantage of our language, our culture, our history, our tolerance, our timezone, our geographical position, our stability, our legal framework, our democratic history, our robust and growing economy, our default free credit history and our own free floating currency. We have always been a nation built on trade and we will remain so.
All that we are doing by leaving the EU is detach ourselves from one poorly performing form of government and substituting it with a proven system that made this country one of the richest on the planet, with Europe's most powerful military, its best security and intelligence services and trusted and largely corruption free government machine. Europe on the other hand has endemic problems many of its own making. More are headed its way this summer including elections, a likely further euro crisis and the annual refugee and immigration crisis in the Mediterranean.
Britain is getting out of the EU. I confidently predict that in a few years time we will look back and wonder why we left it so long and why we were worried when we did. In much the same way that most of those who used to extol the virtues of the euro now prefer to keep quiet (except the ever ludicrous Paddy Ashdown on the Daily Politics yesterday who continues to claim that we should have joined and thus just proves how utterly deranged and extreme the Lib Dems are on the issue of Europe) so will those predicting disaster for Britain go quiet once all turns out to be fine. Brexit is not a panacea, Britain is not about to become a paradise on Earth just because we left the EU, but we are about to govern ourselves once again. We will be able to trade with whom we like, do deals with whoever we like, decide our own policy on mergers and acquisitions, regulate our own industries, water and other vital services, regain control of our fisheries and agriculture and buy our food from anyone we please at a lower cost once again. And we will still trade with the EU, more or less as we do now. Brexit is about self determination. Its going to feel wonderful to be free again and in the years to come we can watch and laugh as the European leaders attend their silly summits and nothing is ever decided upon. It will be as entertaining as the Eurovision Song Contest, not least because we won't be paying for it anymore.
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
By the time this is written and you are reading it the letter of about 7 pages will have been handed over by the world's best paid postman, our ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow. We will be on our way out.
This has sent the nation all unnecessary. Ukip have set out their conditions for the use of legs and Labour have set out their own conditions too, which are the exact opposite. Both are deliberately unrealistic in the hope that, when the PM fails to use her legs in the correct manner they will be able to leap up and down (on their legs) and tell us that they told us so.
The front page of the Daily Mail was of course ludicrous but then the reaction to it has been ludicrous too. Two powerful women with nice pairs of pins. This is outrageous apparently rather than merely trivial and stupid. Are we really saying that men like David Cameron, Gordon Brown, George Osborne and Tony Blair to pick a few at random did not also suffer from such tabloid treatment? I submit the following pictures for your consideration. Viewers of a delicate and sensitive nature should look away now.
And then of course there is Chauncey. How he must wish that someone would write something, anything, that was in any sense complimentary. Does he have nice legs? Should he start wearing shorts to the Commons? I rather suspect that he has scrawny legs in keeping with his hessian politics of miserable asceticism, but I could be wrong. Anyway this is the least of Labour's worries because the confused old chap continues to be a drag on his party, which is languishing 20 points behind in the polls with May elections heading our way as rapidly as a Daily Mail headline about the fashion choices of party leaders. They are even haemorrhaging members now with thousands letting their memberships lapse for a variety of reasons. Even Labour Party staffers are leaving in droves to go back to jobs working for charities, unions or even for the private sector. No, really. What would happen if the confused old chap were to finally give up and go back to his ethnic date selection? Do any of the prospective replacements have nice legs? Someone needs to start thinking about this kind of thing before Theresa pulls on a pair of leather trousers and calls an election.
Speaking of elections they might have to have another one in Northern Ireland since Sinn Fein and the DUP have been unable to reach agreement on a new power sharing arrangement meaning either fresh elections or direct rule from Westminster. Another possibility, with Brexit now looming, is that they could have a referendum on whether or not to unite with Ireland and thus stay in the EU. This is apparently a realistic scenario. Sounds great doesn't it. Talk about a win/win for the rest of the country. Leave the EU and get shot of Ireland at the same time.
One piece of good news though, Nigel Farage, always supposing he does not become the next as well as the last leader of Ukip has said that he will go and live abroad if Brexit turns out to be a disaster. How would he define disastrous do we think? Is he a Guardian reader? Where abroad will he go? Will Ireland have him? We'd send him with a knighthood as part of the package......
Something truly and properly historic happened today. Forget about leaving the EU, today for the first time in this blogger's memory, Chauncey actually took the option of splitting up his questions. His first three questions, which were at least questions unlike on some occasions recently, were on the subject of the police and security services, issues that have only concerned him in the past when he railed against them at protest marches and accused them of complicity in something or other. They probably spy on him. Today, in addition to praising them and their work he asked if they had the resources they need. The PM, hardly surprisingly, said that they did. Chauncey then effectively asked the same question again another couple of times. The PM, hardly surprisingly, gave the same answer and contrasted the Government's actions on cash with the pronouncements of Andy Burnham, the former Shadow Home Secretary and now one of those rats trying to leave Chauncey's sinking ship.
Angus Robertson this week wore his angry face and asked why oh why Scotland is once again being ignored. If only we could ignore them, or at least the SNP. Imagine a world in which they had nothing to complain about. If they ever get independence they will probably complain because they are no longer able to sit in the House of Commons and blame others for their historic mistake.
Chauncey stood up for his second batch of questions and returned to the subject of education and education spending. He asked a couple of weeks ago about the schools budget and got a response from the PM. This, he has now decided, was unsatisfactory. He asked her if she wished to reconsider. This is excellent. The Commons has seen many brilliant performers in its long history. It has heard many excellent speeches, heard many witty and clever rejoinders. Chauncey tries to join this noble history. It's just that it takes him a couple of weeks to think them up.
And even then, though the PM's answers were hardly fluent, he still didn't have her on the ropes. He had a list of organisations including the Public Accounts Committee, telling us that spending on schools has fallen. Mrs May's answer, using a rather narrow interpretation of spending in cash terms rather than real terms, sounded repetitive and embarrassed for the good reason that it was and is. But Chauncey once again failed to capitalise. He had delivered a blow and had a point about spending. But he lacked the wit, intelligence or capacity to forensically examine what she said.
At the end, as so often, she delivered her best pre-prepared lines about Chauncey always calling for ever higher spending. Her cheerleaders behind her parroted the lines.
Ultimately though none of this mattered. While she was answering questions the letter was delivered. Britain is leaving the EU. The PM delivered her confirmation of this after this truncated session of PMQs was finished. She will then answer more questions on that narrower subject.
Oh and one final point in the week when the nation has been admiring the legs of the Prime Minister and the First Minister, may I just point out that Priti Patel was looking especially splendid today.
Tomorrow Parliament rises for the Easter recess. The next PMQs is on 19th April.
So today the day has finally come. The waiting is over. Today Britain takes the historic and unprecedented step of leaving the EU.
There are many still in denial about it of course, not least in the gilded (with our money) corridors and offices of Brussels, but it is happening and now the real game begins. Europe is talking a tough game of course. But it simply does not have as good a hand to play as they would have us believe. The EU has any number of problems going forward as we start the process of leaving, not least that we are leaving with our money. This is why they are angrily demanding that we carry on paying for the foreseeable future so as to not inconvenience them.
But we will come to all of the horse trading in the coming months. Suffice to say that we are leaving and that those of us who argued for it and have been arguing it for years, without once flirting with Ukip or playing the nationalist card, are thrilled and excited by this day.
So take a look at the video I made last June in the week before the big vote. All of the arguments are there. It's why Britain voted to leave last June and shows no sign of regrets. It is Europe that has the problems, problems of a lack of legitimacy and democratic authority. It has problems with growing anger and dissent. It has problems with elections that may well cause chickens to come home to roost in at least one of the core European countries not to mention the very good chance of further existential problems for the euro. All in all Brexit may turn out to be the very least of their problems.
Britain has a great hand to play. We have a large and growing economy and an openness to world trade. We are not cutting ourselves off from the world, but embracing free trade. Neither are we cutting ourselves off from Europe, just from the EU and its byzantine regulations and sub-democratic arrogance. We will cooperate with Europe but we no longer wish to be ruled by Europe and this bizarre and unrealisable dream of ever closer union. We will share security and intelligence. We will be good and friendly neighbours. We will trade with them, buy their goods and sell them ours. We will probably do a deal about the millions of Europeans living here in the UK and the less than a million Brits living across the continent. A deal really shouldn't be too hard to do if everyone shows willing and approaches this in a spirit of concord. Or should that be concorde?
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Do you think that Nigel Farage is missing the limelight? Now if your answer to this question was a snort of derision followed by guffaws followed by 'of course he is,' then you are clearly wrong. The correct answer is: Nigel Farage is not missing the limelight since he retired because he has scarcely been out of it ever since he took leave of us. If he had been riding off into the sunset someone would have to ask serious questions about whether or not the Earth really is an oblate spheroid after all.
Farage was at it again over the weekend and just yesterday as the man who now has his old job made a speech setting out Ukip's demands for Brexit. Yes Ukip, the party with no MPs and which will soon, thanks to Brexit, have no MEPs either, is setting out its demands of the government's negotiation with the EU. These negotiations will commence some time in June or possibly a little later once they get around to them. The clock will be ticking by then and, after the long delay before Article 50, they will be in control. They are still of the opinion that our leaving can be stopped, not least because of all of the competing demands of various parties, which cannot possibly be reconciled.
But back to Ukip. Now I have largely ignored Ukip in recent months, since the referendum actually and since Farage made an arse of himself on referendum night by conceding defeat, then rescinding his concession, then claiming victory and then claiming credit for it. Truly this is a man who just had to be a good friend of Donald Trump.
But as of the morning of June 24th Ukip became a pointless party, even assuming that you ever saw much point to it anyway other than scaring the wits out of David Cameron and forcing him to concede the referendum he eventually lost, although nobody, least of all Farage, made Cameron make such a hash of his 'negotiation' or of his campaign to keep us in.
Then late last week Douglas Carswell quit the party, supposedly on the grounds that Ukip has achieved what it set out to do, but largely because they were about to chuck him out. Carswell, who should never have left the Tories as I argued at the time, never really got on with Farage because he disagreed with him and this is not allowed. He also failed to defer to him and this is not allowed. And he thought him a bumptious oaf. This is not allowed because if Ukip were to have rules against bumptious oafs it would not be a proper nationalist party (see the SNP) and would have no members and so would not, strictly speaking, be a party at all.
Fortunately Ukip is well on the way to not being a party on the grounds that Douglas Carswell outlined. What, really, is the point of a party that has achieved what it set out to do and so is having to reinvent itself, albeit not terribly successfully. It has as its leader Paul Nuttall, a man set up to fail and indeed who did so in Brexit supporting Stoke only recently. Thus Nigel Farage may well soon have to ride to the rescue yet again. You can see him secretly yearning for this to happen whilst of course denying any such intent in much the same way that he denied wanting a knighthood. He will be asked the question of course and will deny it using the standard and accepted form of words. I have no ambitions in that direction. But of course if the party or the country were to call on me to do my duty then I would have to consider it. Anyway, the pictures of me supping a pint and wearing that gormless smile I use on these occasions are developing a sepia tint. And Donald Trump hasn't offered me a job yet so I am at a loss for anything to do.
Ukip nearly died on the last occasion when Farage quit and actually stayed quit for a year or two and so it is only a matter of time before he is back. Or there is an alternative idea. He could start a new party only this time he should dream up a better name for it and one that is not so prone to making it pointless. Or he could always do what his friend Donald did and stage a hostile takeover of a venerable party already in existence. If entryism worked for Chauncey.......
Monday, 27 March 2017
Traditionally the first 100 days of a presidency are supposed to be the most important: the time to set the agenda, hit the ground running, utilise the power of a fresh mandate to get things done. Now I confess I have never entirely bought into this particular truism, which is nevertheless repeated as if it is an established fact. Why 100 days after all? Why not at least 365 before the midterms start to loom? Why not 150? 200?
But even if we accept that conventional wisdom is faulty, it is hard to argue that Trump's first 65 days, have been anything other than one disaster after another. What makes them worse is that so many of the disasters have been entirely unforced and simply been the consequence of Trump being Trump. There was no need to get into a confected row over the size of his inauguration crowd the very first weekend. There was no need to make such a mess of his much vaunted immigration ban. There was no need for the diplomatic spats with Australia of all countries or latterly with the UK over CGHQ. There was no need to appoint such controversial and disruptive figures as Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions. There was no need to falsely accuse Barack Obama of wiretapping him. There is no need to have such a combative relationship with the press. There is no need to have such a combative relationship with his security services. There is no need to tweet so often and so incoherently just because things piss him off. There is no need to keep lying. He is a pathological liar. He lies for no reason other than that he is serially incapable of ever admitting a mistake or an error of judgement. When caught in a lie Trump doubles down on that lie or blames someone else. So when asked if he now regrets or wishes to apologise for accusing GCHQ of spying for Obama he shrugs and says he was just quoting someone on Fox.
On the wiretap claim it was revealed last week that some Trump associates may have been caught up in investigations into other parties as a kind of collateral damage. Trump saw this as vindication, which of course it is not. But that is the way the man who is now president rationalises things. That is if he even bothers. Most of the time he just barefaced lies. He did it at that press conference when he lied about his electoral college results only to have a reporter read back the facts to him. When Trump is caught in a lie he simply shrugs and deflects instead of doing what any normal human being would do and say sorry I was wrong. We are all going to get very accustomed to his stock of techniques for dishonesty, techniques he has been using his entire life. The difference is - and what he cannot get through his thick head - you cannot get away with it when president. People are watching you and taking note of what you say. The scrutiny means that what you say matters. Your lies will be caught. Often within minutes.
The reason that the Trump presidency is already suffering such appalling approval ratings in the polls is down to many factors but mostly to do with the fact that Trump himself is proving to be as spectacularly unsuited and unqualified to the job as we all said he would be.
And now this last week we have seen him exposed not only as a liar but as hopeless at the very thing that some hoped might be his USP. The great businessman and dealmaker failed to do what he is supposed to do best. Obamacare remains law and the reforms had to be withdrawn. Trump used all of his techniques of charm - no, I can't see it either, but apparently he is said to be very charming - bullying, dealmaking, bluffing and bullshitting and still couldn't get the deal done. The president in his first 100 days and at the zenith of his powers couldn't persuade his own party to get the job done, to repeal legislation they have been railing against for 7 years and replace it.
What has been Trump's response? Typically confused and yet revealing. First he blamed it on Democrats, an odd accusation since his party controls both houses and the executive branch. Then he said that he would wait for Obamacare to fail and make Democrats own that failure, this from the man who said he had inherited a mess and was going to fix it. Remember Trump said that he had a beautiful plan for healthcare that would see people covered and at a lower cost. Turns out of course that he had no plan and indeed professed surprise that healthcare can be so complex. This was why he bought into the plan of Paul Ryan. He didn't understand it of course and had to keep asking advisers if the plan was any good. It wasn't and that was why it failed.
What is truly terrifying about Trump though is that he keeps making these unforced errors. His administration is dysfunctional, has struggled to fill vacancies in its corridors meaning that work is not being done. He presented a budget that was cack handed and incompetent and was rejected out of hand. Repealing Obamacare was supposed to be a key priority. They bungled it. So what happens if and when something unexpected happens, when a crisis comes out of the blue? How will this president cope, how will he manage to get his head across the issues and to act decisively, expeditiously and wisely?
It's still early days and perhaps he will grow into the job and surprise us all. But so far those of us who were appalled by his election and genuinely fearful are being entirely vindicated.
Sunday, 26 March 2017
We have observed before that Leviticus's agenda is so obvious it might as well be lit up in ten foot high letters in neon. This is where they create a religion. The previous two books were about creating the myth of the Israelites and their God leading them to the promised land. Leviticus is about the rules for being a member of this exclusive club. If you are a red sea pedestrian then certain standards of decorum are expected of you, plus unbending allegiance to your vengeful and nasty God.
Now, as we come to the end of Leviticus, God starts to sum things up and repeat himself once again. So, said God, no graven images, no worshipping of other gods. They were to keep his Sabbaths just because he said so, because he is God.
In return however he was going to take them to their promised land where he would give them a life of plenty. Keep his statutes, he said, and he would make it rain in the rainy season and the land would produce food for them.
He would bring peace to the land and protect them from their enemies. No matter how mighty the armies of their enemies, five Israelites would see off a hundred of them. It's quite hard to reconcile any of this with the subsequent history of the Israelites isn't it.
God was saying though, in his less than subtle way, that he was a God of his word, something that previous and indeed subsequent events would suggest was not true. But he nevertheless gave his covenant of protecting his people from harm and of feeding them and making them multiply in number.
But, he said, if they didn't do what he had told them in this book, if they didn't keep his commandments then he would visit upon them terrible plagues and hunger, their enemies would prevail over them, their land would be ravaged and they would be enslaved again.
There is more and more of this, endless increasingly lyrical ways of describing how awful their lives would be if they didn't do as they were told and obey God's commandments. Hunger, barrenness, servitude and misery. See what I mean about this being about creating a religion? Do as we say, give us sacrifices, obey the priests and life will be good. Otherwise life is hell. This is all of course written for a bronze age ignorant people. Why anyone should heed any of it today is a mystery.
For, said God, he had led them from Egypt and saved them. He had made covenants with Abraham and with Jacob and with Isaac. He does like to remind them of that doesn't he. But again this is about creating a religion. The children of Israel and their children and their children's children were to be grateful for this forever. Even though none of it actually happened or was remotely true. They were just another Arab tribe in the desert.
These, said God, building up to a climax, are the statutes, judgements and laws of God given to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai delivered by Moses. Of course they are!
You know it tends to be forgotten now, but back when I was growing up in the 1970s, when most of the country listened to BBC radio because that was all that there was except in the larger towns and cities where commercial radio had been launched, Radio One DJs were the epitome of cool. I wanted to be one. And in particular Noel Edmonds, yes Noel Edmonds, was the most popular in the land. As you see in this fascinating documentary comparing him to the great old BBC announcer John Snagge.
Radio One has changed a lot since then. Now it is focused exclusively at a very narrow audience of young people up to the age of 30. Back then it was listened to by kids like me right up to our parents and even grandparents. Pop music was what everyone was listening to. And most of them heard it on Radio One and Radio Two.
Saturday, 25 March 2017
Friday, 24 March 2017
Back in 2013 when Fusilier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by a pair of callous and deranged wannabe murderers it very quickly became obvious that they were typical of their type. They were zealots and converts, they had both been low level criminals and they were both angry young men. We don't yet know much about Khalid Masood, the man the police have identified as the perpetrator of the London attack this week, but we do know that this was not the name he was born with. This suggests a convert. They usually are.
Like many people I lose patience with many of the platitudes that our politicians are obliged to repeat on occasions like this, but where Masood is concerned they are right. His actions were senseless, barbaric and pointless. They will not change the way we lead our lives one iota. His attack, though it will certainly garner headlines, will be a failure. Life went on as normal yesterday. Where normality had not quite returned it was only because the police are still gathering evidence.
The Islamic State of course claimed that Masood was one of their soldiers. This is unlikely to be true. Even if we accept that a man who drives a car at children can be termed a soldier, his contact with ISIL will have been no greater than most of us get by watching the news on TV.
Of course he likely also watched videos on the internet and longed to be one of the fighters for Allah and probably idolised Jihadi John before he was evaporated by a missile. That sums up the likes of Masood. They have achieved nothing with their lives and this makes them angry. It is what psychologists call deflection. Their failings are the fault of others and so they become angry and murderous. It is a form of narcissism, a form of solipsism. That this was a man in his 50s, the same age as me, only makes him so much more pathetic.
Masood was apparently known to police but not for any terrorism type offences. He will have served time in prison, likely for violence and will have led a life constantly dodging and diving, committing petty frauds and crimes. He will have been radicalised by a combination of the internet and quite likely whilst serving time in prison. Suggestible stupid people of low intelligence and little education are the usual prey of the sort of preachers of hatred who will have encouraged Masood to commit his murderous rampage, even if they did not specifically direct him to do what he did on Wednesday.
That is what the security services and police are up against as they try to keep us all safe. The issue we all face is that anyone could do what he chose this week to do and though security will be tightened at places like parliament there is little we can do to prevent this kind of thing happening and indeed the more it happens the more likely that imitators will come along. Fortunately most of us are not as bovine as Khalid Masood. Fortunately most of us have things to live for, things we cherish or are simply possessed of civilised principles and decency. That ultimately is what protects us from these maniacs, these jihadist cretins as Christopher Hitchens memorably described them. We certainly need to be on our guard against them, but we have nothing to really fear since they are a pathetic rag bag army of dimwits and fantasists whose reek of failure is the real cause of their fury.
Thursday, 23 March 2017
As I write this late on Monday night, the horrific, brutal, sadistic but inane and pointless attack on London yesterday was only a few hours ago. The police have shot the man who perpetrated this and are currently looking into his motivations and connections. But it is still very early days. We should all assist them by not speculating about it and journalists should not probe into the man and hinder the police by publishing what they find about him. It will all come out soon enough.
It behoves us all not only to assist the police and security services by being vigilant, turning over whatever footage and information we have but also to praise them for a job well done thus far. The media will start asking questions and indeed are already doing so. But we all knew this day was coming and that Britain has had a lucky run now since the Woolwich murder of Lee Rigby and before that the atrocity of 7/7. The police and security services have foiled countless attempts at similar or worse attacks in just the last 4 years. Even if it turns out that the attacker was known to them it does not necessarily follow that they have failed. They are called upon to make judgement calls constantly and usually get them right as their record in recent years has amply demonstrated. Most of us when we make bad calls simply count the cost in financial terms or in lost time or maybe face the police deal in higher stakes.
Some are already questioning how the attacker managed to get onto the parliamentary estate. That is a travesty of the truth, which is that he barely did so and was shot almost immediately once he did. Some are questioning how the gate was policed and whether it should be kept locked at all times. This is nonsense too. It's an extraordinarily busy thoroughfare. It is opened and shut many times every hour. But even if it were shut each and every time that would just create new vulnerabilities. How soon would it have to be opened in advance when the PM's car is coming for instance? Should she be left waiting on the road while they open it? Presumably whoever planned this did so knowing that this was a vulnerable point to the security. But that is because it is a gate. Our parliament is already surrounded by barriers, armed police and airport style scanners. What else must we do? Close Parliament Square to traffic? Ban all marches and demonstrations just in case? Make pedestrians go through the square on the other side? At what point do we consider such restrictions would be too draconian, too limiting on our democracy?
The brave police officer who lost his life, PC Keith Palmer, did so after trying to stop the maniac only to be slashed at by a large knife, possibly a machete. But overall the police and emergency services response was quick, efficient and well organised. Parliament and its environs went into lock down, the area was quickly flooded with armed officers and the preparations and rehearsals for this event kicked in. It was impressive and it was reassuring. Now the Met, which has not always covered itself in glory in recent months, will have to investigate this crime and unravel whatever conspiracy led to it. But they performed admirably yesterday, only the usual smart asses are being critical. No doubt there will be lessons to be learnt and security will be improved or at least tweaked. But there is only so much that can be done as we have always known.
One final point, one of the reasons that terrorists are now resorting to these low tech attacks carried out by enraged madmen is thanks to the success of the police and security services at detecting the more sophisticated attacks that were once their hallmark. Lone wolf attackers driving vehicles at crowds are fantastically difficult to detect in advance and thus to stop and pretty difficult to apprehend without use of lethal force as we saw yesterday. But another reason that they have resorted to these kinds of attacks is because they have been alerted to the techniques used by security services by the leaks of Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Wikileaks all of whom have blood on their hands as do the sanctimonious halfwits who encourage their treachery in our media.
It takes a callous maniac to drive a car along the pavement of one of the busiest roads in the capital and plough into people including school children. They have done nothing to provoke such hatred but then none of us have no matter what the jihadist cretins tell themselves. We live in an open, democratic and free society, one governed by rules, laws and by the very institution that was attacked yesterday. This blog believes wholeheartedly in the freedom of the press but those who abuse that freedom should look long and hard at themselves and at their stance vis a vis our security services. They should be held accountable for sure and that is what the press if there to do. But that freedom can be abused too, just as that maniac abused the freedoms of our open, free and tolerant society yesterday afternoon.
Still today we will all go back to work, parliament will resume, Government will govern and the police will diligently pursue whoever facilitated this attack. That is what our society does. It is why last night, though there was nervousness, the people of this country were out enjoying themselves and carrying on as normal. Just like the other countries around Europe that have been attacked in this manner or worse, we won't be beaten by cowards and bigots. But let's not help them either.
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
It is not April 1st. George Osborne really is the new editor of the London Evening Standard, an MP, a well remunerated consultant for BlackRock, the chairman of the Northern Powerhouse (his diary secretary combines this with the occasional visit to his constituency) a speechmaker and an academic. If, like me, you did a comic double take when this news emerged on your phone last week then you will have then checked the date. Of course it could just be an Osborne joke brought to you early because his diary is too full on 1st April. We all know how adept he is at jokes. The pasty tax? That voice he used to use when delivering his Budget? It's said that he once introduced a tax change just because he had thought of a really good joke about it at Labour's expense. Are you confident his editorship isn't a joke?
Either way its completely buggered up my 1st April joke about David Cameron's new career as a swimwear model.
We are a nation that is fond of a laugh of course, although how anyone explains Mrs Brown's Boys is an enduring mystery. But the joke that the Labour Party played on us all a year and a half ago is wearing very thin now isn't it. Chauncey last week gave a performance that was so catastrophically bad that it is said that he has been offered a part in the aforementioned execrable sitcom. Meanwhile his party is now engaged in open warfare as they plan for the succession and a way of inserting a lefty onto the ballot so as to follow in his exalted footsteps. You will recall that the only way that Chauncey managed to get nominated in the first place was by some Labour MPs lending him their votes so as to ensure a full and open debate. Since even Labour MPs are unlikely to make the same mistake twice (although I would point you in the direction of Owen Smith) the lefties are trying to change the rules to ensure that whoever stands for them next time only needs 5% of the available vote, or Diane Abbott, whichever is larger. Chauncey is actually playing his part in this process though if you think about it; if he remains leader up until the next general election then the resultant decimation of his parliamentary party will probably mean that he is the only MP left and so he will immediately nominate himself again before rebelling against his own policy on Trident.
When will the next general election be? Downing Street insist that it will not be on May 4th. In order for this to be the case they would need to fire the starting gun by next week. They insist this is not going to happen, notwithstanding their 20 point lead in the polls. Don't be surprised however if they perform a U turn on this 20 minutes before PMQs once Chauncey has finalised and printed out his questions and created an organic tableau on his desk made of dates and nuts depicting his triumphant progress.
This time next week we will have begun the process of our leaving the EU. The PM, always assuming she hasn't called an election in the meantime, will have sent off her letter to Donald Tusk and the much vaunted Article 50 will duly have been invoked.
This of course has made the SNP very very angry. They are beside themselves with anger about this and feel the need to have a referendum about it. The will of the people must be heard, that must be different people to the people who thought that this matter had been settled only a couple of years ago and for a generation. I know inflation is back but who knew that years are worth less than they were.
Given the uselessness of Chauncey there seems to be much more fun to be had watching First Minister's Questions up there than can be had at Westminster. Ruth Davidson shows how opposition should be done. Yesterday, in a comedy tour de force, she told how we are all wise to the SNP game in which they make an impossible to agree to demand, wait for the Westminster politicians (preferably Tories) to say no and then rush to the nearest microphone wearing their angry face. Nicola Sturgeon affected to be amused by this but she was just masking her angry face. Bugger! They may be on to us!
I love Ruth Davidson. I would propose marriage and offer to have her babies but she is spoken for.
After his single worst ever PMQs performance last week Chauncey got to his feet this week with the several pages of his script clasped to him as if they were the Communist Manifesto. One thing he didn't need a script for though was his tribute to Martin McGuinness, the murderous hypocrite who died this week after a short illness but having lived to an age denied to most of his dozens or even hundreds of victims. It might well be the case that he was the worst serial killer this country has ever produced and yet here they all were paying tribute to him. The PM did so of course as did Angus Robertson. Chauncey was actively passionate about him though and called him Martin. The man who once invited the IRA to parliament to meet with him despite his being at the time an inconsequential backbencher a million miles from power was as eloquent as he is capable of being about his old friend.
This week he wanted to talk about education and even returned to quoting members of the public as he did when he first started asking questions at PMQs, perhaps in the hope that this would render him more articulate. He talked of cuts in education funding, a dishonest way of terming things because the Government is merely talking of changing the funding formula to address unfairness, a problem that has been ignored for years and sees a wide disparity between different schools in different parts of the country. It hasn't happened yet and will likely be tinkered with, but when you change a formula that inevitably means that some schools will gain and others will lose. Those schools and dishonest politicians will inevitably bleat about it. George Osborne has talked of it, perhaps in his new capacity as a newspaper editor, even though he was behind the new formula in his former role with the grander title. And Eileen had written about it and indeed written to Chauncey too who read her out to an enthralled Commons. Eileen said she has to buy her own pencils and pens for her pupils. Now far be it for me to doubt Eileen, but as I recall we used to have to buy our own pens and pencils, protractors, compasses, calculators and had to cover our exercise books in wallpaper too when I was a lad. They don't know they're born these days do they.
Will education funding be another Government U turn? Well probably not, not least because the policy hasn't been confirmed and firmed up yet. But this is a Government that is fighting on many fronts and screeching U turns are a possibility at least unless and until a general election, which of course they still say won't happen until 2020 as scheduled.
Mrs May for the first three questions was in speak-your-weight automaton mode on these questions, delivering the Government line and not especially convincingly. Chauncey is at his best, relatively speaking, when on domestic subjects like this. He rarely asks questions about international matters at all. For the first three questions, while he certainly didn't have the PM on the ropes he sounded effective for a given value of effectiveness. But when he switched away from the funding formula and on to a broader philosophical point about the types of schools he aroused Mrs May's passions. She spoke of the need for choice and diversity in schools and pointed out how many Labour front benchers exercise choice for themselves whilst advocating it be denied for the rest of us.
Chauncey as ever asked why the Government is cutting funding for schools (it isn't, well not really) when it can afford to cut taxes. Again, this is a travesty of a point because tax cuts for companies is intended to drive growth and bring more jobs here, something that Chauncey probably simply doesn't understand or is too purblind to see.
At the end Mrs May reached into her folder and with a flourish ripped out a page. What was this? What had she got? Had they found footage of Chauncey praising a banker? Had he spoken of his great grammar school education? Had he kissed a Tory? Sadly not. She referred to a video he made earlier this week in which he asked his divided and infighting party to unite for the good of the movement. That was the difference between Labour and her party said the PM: they fight for the good of their party, Tories fight for the good of the country.
And Angus Robertson this week, what do you think he wanted to talk about? Well at least he didn't put on his angry face. Robertson doesn't do angry faces. He does passive aggression instead. Why oh why won't the PM consult the nations of the UK on Brexit he asked sadly.
He was making the SNP's usual bogus argument that if the Commons and Lords got a say on Brexit why shouldn't the Scottish Parliament. Mrs May hit back in her second answer to him: she was respecting the votes in two referendums, the Scottish independence one that the SNP lost by 10 clear points and the referendum last year on the EU. Robertson, she said, was respecting neither.
Chauncey was better this week but the PM was imperious and got stronger as the session went on. Labour united because they were able to go into full on sanctimony mode on selective education. The SNP were just the SNP, shaking their heads sadly at having once again to demand a referendum. The SNP is never happier than when demanding things, especially when they know the Government will say no.
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
In truth we didn't really learn anything new from the House Intelligence Committee yesterday, because we already knew everything they confirmed. But what they did confirm, without saying so, is that the president is a liar, that his White House is corrupt because it also lies at his behest, that the president is willing to say anything that comes into his head in an attempt to distract from his other problems and expects his underlings to follow suit.
We learnt that there were no wire taps of Trump Tower because that was always a nonsense. We learnt that there was no involvement by GCHQ because that was an absurdity and an offensive one.
We also learnt that the Trump campaign may well have had communications with Russian officials and that this is being investigated. Oh and Sean Spicer effectively admitted that this was known to them anyway because he said that those doing the communicating were hangers on. But wait, hangers on with access to Trump Tower? To what were they hanging on and with what level of access? Hangers on seems an odd choice of phrase for something with national security implications doesn't it?
And of course Trump is refusing to apologise for his lies about Barack Obama. This is characteristic of the man. It is just what Trump does. But when will he learn that sometimes you have to retreat? His advisers will probably tell him now to simply go quiet on the subject and leave well alone. The media will eventually move on. The problem is that this tantrum throwing toddler president is incapable of admitting he is wrong, mistaken or of apologising. And so when an interviewer raises the subject he will simply repeat the lie, or make it worse. He has been doing that now for the past fortnight.
There may genuinely be nothing to the Russian links. It may well be just normal communications. But the FBI does not investigate something without cause to do so. And the media is asking questions not based on silly conspiracy theories like Trump alleged over Obama, but based on circumstantial evidence that suggests there are questions to be answered. That is not the same as saying that something definitely happened. It is just looking at the evidence and wondering why Michael Flynn lied, why communications were covered up, why Trump so frequently defends and praises Putin, why there are so many in Trump's inner circle during the campaign like Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Flynn, Sessions and adviser Roger Stone who have had contacts or financial dealings with Russia or Russian entities. It may be nothing. But it may not be. Only by investigating will the FBI find out.
Ultimately though, if this is nothing then why not be open and honest, cooperate with investigations, open up communications, release tax returns? Why do they persist in making it look as though they have something to hide? That is why the suspicions have just been getting stronger and stronger. Is Trump making matters worse for himself just because this is what he does, because he cannot help himself? Or is he genuinely fearful of what might come out, what has been going on? I suspect it is the latter. But we cannot know for sure at the moment and Trump is his own worst enemy. His style has always been pugilistic and to never ever back down. It may well be what brings him down and sooner than we all think. If they have something to hide then the FBI's acknowledgement that they are indeed investigating will have sparked fears, especially given that James Comey, the FBI Director, declined to go into any more detail than to confirm the existence of the investigation. No amount of deflection is going to get him out of this. Humility, apologies and openness just might if there genuinely is nothing to these suspicions as they keep claiming.
And so we're off. Or at least we will be in just 8 days time when Theresa May will finally send that letter beginning the process of our leaving the EU. Typically the EU will then take 48 hours to respond to said letter, but Jean-Claude Juncker has let it be known early that they will present us with a €60 billion bill and that until we agree to pay up there will be nothing to talk about.
Well, we will see about that.
It is easy at this stage for the EU and in particular the Commission to talk tough and present a united front. But one of the reasons that we are getting out and why the whole ridiculous farrago is so dysfunctional is because it finds it impossible to talk as one voice, to present a united front. The EU cannot even all agree on the threat that Russia poses, let alone what relationship they should have with a country like Britain that has the biggest defence budget on the other side of Europe and is a net importer of products from the EU. Furthermore we are a major employer of their citizens, have industries and businesses integrated with their own and our banking industry is one they rely on. It's all very well for a panjandrum like the always bumptious and effete Juncker to try and talk tough. He is unelected. Proper politicians know that a deal will have to be done for the sake of their own economies, workforces and businesses. Britain is a huge loss to the EU. But an accommodation means that it need only be our annual contribution that is lost.
To be clear the demand for that €60 billion is about as meaningful as the SNP's demand for a referendum because they wish to stay in the EU, something that is not politically or legally possible or Nigel Farage's demand for a knighthood, something that is......well, something that just isn't. They do not have a legal leg to stand on with this 'demand.' Hence Juncker's getting his retaliation in first. Perhaps the jumped up buffoon thinks he can pressurise us early on. There are many ways we can seek to retaliate if they insist upon this imaginary bill. As net contributors for the next two years that is €20 billion of leverage we have straight away. More than that though this notion of demanding €60 billion is so very very EU, fantastically blinkered, elitist, purblind zealotry. If they were actually serious about this, this made up number, would it actually make sense to demand that of us or else suggest we walk away? Are they really willing to jeopardise a market for their exports that earned them £290 billion and with which they enjoy a substantial trading surplus? Are the Germans happy to wave goodbye or at least au revoir to a marketplace that buys a fifth of all of their entire car output? Is Europe, as opposed to the EU Commission, really willing to risk a recession just because they don't like democracy very much?
There are of course going to be many bumps along the road in the coming two years, many highs and lows, much intrigue, much briefing and counter briefing, leaks, leaks of leaks, much confected anger. But the bottom line is that the phoney war is now over. Theresa May now has all of her files in place, her team ready. Britain is leaving. As we said all along, we are not leaving Europe, we are just leaving the EU. We will remain friends and neighbours, trading partners, security partners, providers of high quality intelligence and a vast market for a continent that is finding growth hard to come by. We will get a deal, precisely because Europe is corrupt, venal and divided, but also because it is always about looking after number one and nothing to do with 27.
Monday, 20 March 2017
Donald Trump thinks that he is a genius. This much is obvious and is part of his epic narcissism. It is why he surrounds himself with sycophants and yes-men and women and has marched off the premises anyone who has in the past written or spoken of him in less than admiring tones. It also explains why the brat in chief actually refused to shake the hand of Angela Merkel last week in full view of the press only to then claim that they had got on like a house on fire and that any suggestion to the contrary was fake news. You have to question, don't you, the sanity of a man who says things in direct denial of what we have actually seen and heard him do. But then he does it over and over and over again and gets furious with others for pointing it out.
Even those who are sent out to defend him don't take this process seriously any more. Sean Spicer actually laughed (see above) when asked why unemployment figures were a fraud on the American people under the Obama administration but are a sign of Trump's all consuming genius now. It takes quite a feat of genius, incidentally, for a man who hasn't actually announced any economic policies and whose budget was criticised by both sides of the aisle last week to claim he is having any kind of impact on the economy, still less on unemployment, the lead time on which is at least a year and likely more. But doesn't that just typify the man? He thinks that just by becoming president he is creating jobs and creating prosperity. What he will do if the economy turns down is an interesting subject of speculation. Fake news? Fake statistics? Fake unemployment queues?
Trump has been in power for two months now and has almost nothing to show for it other than a few furious tweets. In the debit column he has a forced resignation after only 24 days and his attorney general forced to recuse himself from an investigation owing to a conflict of interest, one unsupported calumny against his more popular predecessor, one absurd claim that the crowd for his inauguration was bigger than we all could see it was, a ridiculous counterfactual about his election, a brazen and easily googled lie about his electoral college win being the biggest, an executive order that was thrown out by the courts with another currently on hold, an angry phone call with one of America's strongest allies and and furious denial from the spy agency of America's closest ally that it was involved in Trump's invented calumny. And the list could be longer. A lot longer. But you get the drift.
It's hard to know exactly what is going on in that orange head of his, although I for one subscribe to the theory that he is in possession of such a massive ego, allied to an equally massive inferiority complex, added to a fear of intimacy, added to unresolved issues regarding his father, added to just being a spoilt and nasty brat who has managed to bully and bullshit his way through life because of his one and only real talent that he is effectively simply off the scale nuts. This is a man who not only shouldn't be allowed to visit the Oval Office let alone work from it, he should be committed for our and his own protection.
The problem we all face is that, for reasons few of us ever understood when he was just a gaudy and unpleasant celebrity and entrepreneur, he keeps winning and pulling the wool over people's eyes. So why wouldn't he believe that he is a genius? He isn't of course. He is just very very lucky and in possession of epic levels of self belief and a refusal ever to back down.
His standard modus operandi is to never ever admit that he is wrong, never ever to back down, always to hit back and hit back hard. It explains his success to date. It actually, if you think about it, explains why he got elected. His opponents simply did not know how to counter or defeat him because he broke all the rules. The media didn't know how to handle him and let him off the hook just because his determination to dominate the news cycle kept him in the headlines. He was as surprised by his success as the rest of us.
But this is why he is behaving as he is now. It's not a strategy. It is just what he does.
Trump knows he's not cut out for his new job. He's not that stupid. He knows that he lacks the intelligence, the education and the attention span to do the job. But he is serially incapable of admitting it. And when he is attacked he always hits back hard. Yet he always yearns for approval. He always wants the praise of the very same news organisations he angrily dismisses as fake news.
And this is why he is doomed to fail as president, possibly catastrophically so. The danger is that he keeps upping the stakes, keeps seeking newer and more outrageous ways of upping the ante. Its a fortnight since he Twitter bombed Barack Obama because of the continuing coverage of his Russia connections. Yet since then things have not really improved. The Russia story is still bubbling under the surface and his accusations about Obama will be called the lies we can all see that they are in the coming days. His budget has been roundly criticised. His and the party's proposals on healthcare are in trouble.
What then will he do to change the subject?
I point you, tentatively, in the direction of North Korea. Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, has been in Asia this past week and sounded a distinctly hawkish note on North Korea including discussion of the possibility of new options being considered. Now this might just be language designed to stir China into action. Equally it might be an attempt to worry the North, although that in itself is not necessarily a sensible approach given their volatility. But we also must consider another alarming possibility, that Trump's administration might do something about the North, possibly to distract us all from other woes and maybe in the probably mistaken belief that he can lead a quick, short and sharp campaign against one of the world's most vile regimes and win plaudits for doing so.
It is certainly true that there are no good options where North Korea is concerned and someone should have done something about it a long time ago. But they didn't for the very good reason that it could all easily go very wrong very quickly and embroil America in another foreign war that at best would be ruinously expensive, could easily plunge the world into a recession or depression, a trade war or something more existential.
I hope I am just fearing the worst here. But given how disastrous Trump's first 60 days have been, at a time when administrations are normally at their most dynamic, bold and energetic, you have to wonder what he is capable of. We are already starting to learn that he is incompetent to an astonishing degree and is leading an understrength, inexperienced, arrogant and twitchy administration. The possibilities for miscalculation are terrifying.
Sunday, 19 March 2017
So we are now coming to the end of Leviticus, which will come as a relief to us all I'm sure. There has been no continuation of the story of the Bible and of the Israelites at all. No stories of burning bushes, no prophesies, no coats of many colours, no arks or talking snakes. It's all been rules rules rules. And the last three chapters are the same too. Coming up we have yet more rules and edicts from God. In this one we have rules about property and what to do with it. Plus a nice phrase that the writers of the King James Bible came up with that people liked so much they put it on a bell.
So God once more, we are told, spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, it must have been one hell of a chat. He's quite the talker isn't he, God. Anyway this time he wanted to tell him about what they should do with the land he was going to give them.
So, said God, when you get to the promised land, the land of milk and honey, you are to use that land to grow your milk and honey for six years but then give the land a rest, a Sabbath if you will, every seven years. On this year there was to be no reaping and selling of produce. Whatever the land produced could however be used as food. This, by the way, is not unreasonable and, in the days before modern agriculture techniques and fertilisers, a sensible approach to land management. Even land needs a rest once in a while.
Then, said God, they were to count off the Sabbath years 7 times 7. So, when they reached the 50th year there was to be a great sounding of trumpets and a Jubilee declared. This was a kind of property reset. On this year all property purchased during those previous 49 years returned to its previous owner. This was to prevent vast accumulations of property by the rich and is again sensible. On this year everyone was to return to their own ancestral property and to their clans in a kind of big family reunion, which is nice.
Also on this Jubilee all slaves were to go free, something that was noticed by anti-slavery campaigners many years later in America. In this 50th year they should proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. That's a phrase liked so much they put it on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
God comes across more like a property lawyer here doesn't he. And he even introduces a kind of early leasing system with a raising and diminution of prices according to how many years there were before the next Jubilee. There is one exception though, the Jubilee did not apply to property in towns and cities, so urban developers and gold obsessed builders of phallic towers need not worry.
God then went on to lay down rules about how landowners must not exploit the poor and could not enslave other Israelites or otherwise exploit them. Enslaving and exploiting anyone else was of course perfectly okay and indeed recommended. Heathens, said God, those who didn't believe in him, were ripe for exploiting and enslaving. So much for that liberty throughout the land eh?
God was effectively telling them that he had given them this land but that consequently they owed an allegiance to him. They were his people. Unto me, he said, the children of Israel are servants, for he had freed them and brought them to this land of plenty. And he intended to exact a price from them in servitude, obeisance and animal sacrifices forever.
Saturday, 18 March 2017
Friday, 17 March 2017
The Telegraph reports that Theresa May may take on the tendentious and self serving campaign of Nicola Sturgeon and seek to call her bluff. Sturgeon has called for another referendum but is also demanding the right to call that referendum at a time of her choosing claiming, as all nationalists do, to be speaking on behalf of and in the name of the entire Scottish people. She has absolutely no mandate for this, contrary to what she claims and is being opportunistic, dishonest and treacherous.
Sturgeon is under pressure from her own party to call another referendum. They don't care what excuse she uses for it, they just want another crack at it. She knows however that her chances of winning that referendum are slim and will be enhanced, not by an honest appraisal of the benefits of independence, which are illusory, but with an emotional appeal. As such demanding the right to call a referendum from a Tory government in London, a demand that the PM cannot possibly accede to, gives her the opportunity to paint Theresa May as being unreasonable and anti-democratic.
Of course this is a travesty of the truth. It is anti-democratic to ignore the fact that the last referendum was only two and a half years ago and delivered a substantial majority for those wishing to stay in the Union. There is no evidence to suggest that people have changed their mind and indeed plenty of evidence to the contrary. Furthermore there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Scots do not want the trauma of another referendum so soon. Leaving the EU is an irrelevance to them. In truth it probably is to Sturgeon. It certainly is to a substantial number of her fellow Nats who can see the inconsistency inherent in calling for independence only to rush to hand over hard won sovereignty to Brussels.
And so the Prime Minister is well within her rights to simply say no, or at least not yet. If the reason for this new referendum is really that Britain is leaving the EU then Scotland needs to wait and see what terms are agreed and to see what transpires when we have left. That implies at least three or four years. Possibly even five or six. There is a case for a delay until after the next Scottish elections. Either way the PM is absolutely right to simply refuse to discuss another referendum for the time being.
Nicola Sturgeon took a gamble this week. The PM is calling her bluff. Sturgeon will claim to be outraged and bombastically talk of exploring options to get her way. But there is little she can do about it. Logic, the law and recent history are all on Theresa May's side. Scotland voted to stay in the UK in 2014. As such it acceded to such decisions being made in London and not in Edinburgh. Plenty of powers were devolved to the Scottish government in the wake of the last referendum, many of which have not been used. The SNP is still ignoring what it is elected to do in favour of agitating for independence and another referendum. Scotland is being protected from these zealots by a Tory prime minister in London.