Sunday, 30 July 2017

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 17 - Flowering Rods of Authority


God has been doing a lot of smiting and taking out his vengeance against his chosen people lately. If he's this bad against his own people think how he would be against people who don't even believe in him. It's all about people not having faith in him and not accepting the power of the priests. Anyone spot an agenda there?

So after all of the killing of chapter 16 now God felt the need to prove his point in a rather less violent way. He told Moses to go to the head of each of the twelve tribes and have them give him a rod, a kind of walking type stick. On each rod was to be inscribed the name of the man to whom it belonged.

So Moses collected all of the rods and took them to the Tabernacle. He also took a rod from Aaron. The man whose staff blossomed as if alive would be God's chosen leader, second only to Moses of course.

The rods were put in the Tabernacle overnight and then the next day brought out. And of course whose rod had flowered and grown delicious almonds? Yes, Aaron's. Fancy that, eh!

Moses took the rods out to show to the people. Then God told Moses to put Aaron's rod in the Tabernacle as a sign of Aaron's authority. How very convenient.

But this just upset and freaked people out even more. They worried that they were going to die and that this nasty and vengeful God was going to keep punishing them. You have to say they probably had a point.


Your Guide to the Latest British Slang

The Beginning of the End of the Trump Presidency

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Peanuts


Paul Owen is Away



The Video Diary is on its annual holiday, but here are some outtakes for your entertainment in the meantime.

Film Review: The Top Ten Worst Movies of the Year So Far Part 1

Top Ten Films of the Year So Far Part 1

Film Review: Girls Trip

Film Review: Wish Upon

Film Review: The Wall

Film Review: 47 Metres Down

Film Review: Hounds of Love

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 16 - Rebellion and the Wrath of God



God is a dictator. He brooks no dissent. You are not allowed to argue with him, doubt him or do anything but obey and revere him. Do anything wrong, transgress his rules, fail to pay taxes to his priests and he will smite you. In particular you had to do as you were told and to follow all of the rules and edicts laid down by priests. Or at least that's what the people who wrote all of this would have you believe. Bear that in mind as we go through Chapter 16 together.

So you'll recall that as the Israelites were going on their journey to the promised land there was some doubt about this great mission. Many wished they had never left their nice easy life back in Egypt and wondered if the Pharaoh would have them back in return for them building him a pyramid or two. Who doesn't need more pyramids after all?

But God had heard their bellyaching and they had been punished. Now they were going to have to stay in the desert for decades until the God of forgiveness and mercy showed them some. Talk about not setting a very good example.

And so now there was a rebellion. You could hardly blame them. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were the ringleaders and they gathered 250 other leading figures and confronted Moses and Aaron. Why were they the leaders? they asked. What made them so special?

Well Moses said that God would sort this out.  He told them to go to the Tabernacle the following day with some incense and God would decide if they were allowed to go inside and talk to him. You can hear the alarm bells ringing can't you.

The next day they went to the Tabernacle and God descended with his big cloud. God told Moses and Aaron to stand aside as he was about to do some serious smiting. Moses realised that he was going to kill the entire tribe. He pleaded with God not to punish everyone for the transgressions of a few mouthy rebels. God relented. Moses was very persuasive wasn't he.

So Moses went to the tents of the ringleaders and told everyone but their families to leave. He then told them what was about to happen and that they should see this as a sign from God. So then God just punished the ringleaders, Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The earth split open and dragged down the three of them plus their wives and families into something resembling hell, although it wasn't called hell then because it hadn't been invented yet.

This, not unnaturally, caused panic. Everyone started running around and generally freaking out. Their panic was heightened by God then punishing the 250 other men who had been part of the uprising against Moses.

Once all of this was done and the rebels had been burnt to a crisp, God told Moses to collect up the censers, the small trays they carried incense in and to bash them into plates. They were presumably still hot from all of the smiting and so quite pliable. These were to be put onto the altars as a constant reminder to do as you are told.

Even then though the people were angry and upset. They blamed Moses for the deaths of all of these men and also for the deaths of their children. They probably had a point there. Isn't visiting the sins of a father on to his children a bit immoral?

But God was having none of it. Now he started a plague. Fortunately Moses was once again the calming influence on the rash and nasty God. He told Aaron to perform a cleansing ritual with incense to placate God. The plague stopped but not before 14 thousand people had died.

That's the message. Do as you are told, don't question the authority of the priests or God will punish you. For ignorant bronze age people all of this was very scary. But now we know better. Don't we?


SNL: Sean Spicer





Russian Sanctions Bill Sets Showdown With Trump

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Peanuts


Paul Owen is Away


This blog is now taking its annual summer sabbatical. There will still be plenty of content here, mostly in the form of videos and music. The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale continues every Sunday as usual as do the film reviews on Saturday but the Video Diary is taking a rest until September.

If something big happens, or if politics continues to astonish and confound us by refusing to take a break from intrigue and endless drama then of course it will be reflected here. Otherwise I'm taking a few weeks off. Have a nice summer, or whatever season you are in in your part of the world.

Film Review: Dunkirk

Film Review: Captain Underpants

Film Review: Scribe

Film Review: Monster Island

Film Review: City of Ghosts

Film Review: Victim

Trump Wants an Attorney General Who Can Time Travel

Donald Trump Had No Filter In His New York Times Interview

Friday, 21 July 2017

Peanuts


792

Brexit Means Talking Britain Up



Earlier this week the Prime Minister accused Chauncey of talking the country down. This was fair enough, although this is hardly new in the career of Chauncey. Indeed he has long regarded it as his principled duty to do so. But perhaps she should have said the same of some of the scribblers who have been writing about the Brexit negotiations this week.

Take the now infamous picture above. A lot has been said and written about it as though it is somehow symbolic. Yet all it really symbolises is the classic British inferiority complex. It was a photo opportunity. British officials and David Davis their boss saw no reason to take documents with them to a photo opportunity, indeed given the antics of photographers in Downing Street they were probably wise. The talks didn't really get underway until much later after David Davis had headed home. But this didn't stop anyone finding symbolism and claiming that this proved that Britain is woefully unprepared for the marathon talks ahead.

In fact, as is often the case, we are extremely well prepared and the Commission is wary of us. They are even worried, probably justifiably, that we are spying on them. The British have taken a high powered team to Brussels and are very well briefed. The Commission has made all of the early running on sounding unreasonable, unbending, intransigent and arrogant. We have been polite by comparison, with the possible exception of Boris.

It's still early days of course but there is much to be optimistic about. For a start the Brits are steadfastly refusing to bend on the issue of money and of setting out what we think we should pay. If it is a bill with which we are being presented it seems to be a stretch to ask the payer to set out what it should pay and its reasons for doing so. There is no legal basis to demand any cash at all from us. If Europe thinks otherwise it should justify its demands of us not expect us to make our case. The fact that we may in the past have agreed to pay for various projects and infrastructure - an argument made by the BBC last night - rather misses the point that we made such an agreement as part of the EU. Then we decided to leave instead. Thus any agreements are null and void unless good legal arguments can be made to prove otherwise. If Europe still refuses to budge on this by the end of the summer then perhaps we should walk out in a huff. It's not very British, but it might convey to them we will not be making any compromises on this.

Or on the ECJ. This continues to be something that the EU seems to be sticking to for now at least. Yet what they are demanding is once again wholly unreasonable. Britain is leaving the EU. The EU's argument, such as it is, is that EU citizens who came here to work, did so expecting to be protected by EU law and thus the ECJ should have the final say. This is patent nonsense. EU citizens have been offered the assurance that they will be allowed to stay here. As such they will be protected by British laws. If they really consider that the EU offers such overwhelmingly greater protections for them then they have the right to seek employment opportunities elsewhere. But Britain's legal system is a byword for fairness. There is no need whatever for EU citizens to be fearful should they decide to stay in a country they have made their homes, indeed it is unlikely that many have such fears. This is just EU grandstanding around a non issue.

And that is the greater symbolism of this week, much more than that picture of an empty table in front of British officials. The EU side had their props - they were after all on home turf - but it nicely symbolised their whole stance. It really shouldn't be hard to do a deal with Britain if they genuinely want to do a deal, after all most of what needs to be done is already in place if true goodwill exists. Britain already trades freely with Europe it's just we have exercised our democratic right to leave a club whose goals we do not share. If on the other hand they want to make the process seem as difficult and unwieldy as possible to dissuade any others from taking the same leap then what they are doing makes sense. Ultimately though that is a political choice that will, as usual, have little to do with the best interests of the peoples of Europe and a great deal more to do with the petty concerns of the EU elite and their dreams of ever closer union. They daren't make life too easy for the British for fear of encouraging others to follow our lead. The fact that they are at risk of behaving like the worst kind of autocrats, like China vis a vis Taiwan, is presumably lost on them.

But we will get our deal because standard EU divisions will in time reassert themselves and we will make a success of Brexit because we will be able to govern ourselves again and be more responsive democratic and flexible. Britain was always semi-detached from Europe. Now we are just making that official. In time our leaving will be seen as the right decision for all concerned and cooperation, even if it cannot be agreed initially, will slowly evolve as time goes on. In the meantime stand by for many more months of threats and bombast and depictions of doom and gloom. There will be many more stories about how the French and Germans are intent on destroying the City of London and poaching away our best companies, stories that ignore the fact that the French and Germans were trying to do this before we voted to leave too.

The Media Must Fight Back

Why Good Societies are Pessimistic

The Islamophobia Narrative, Free Speech and the Left's Double Standard on Islam

Was That Tweet from Trump or Shakespeare?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Peanuts


Does the BBC Understand How Markets Work?



So I'm confused. If the top paid employees of the BBC had been more evenly distributed between men and women would that have made it all okay? If the top paid DJ had been Zoe Ball rather than Chris Evans would that have been less embarrassing for the corporation? Is Laura Kuenssberg spitting blood because she came back to the Beeb from ITN and undersold herself?

The BBC's excuse for all of those frankly ludicrous salaries is that this is driven by the market. This is demonstrably absurd. The BBC is by far the biggest broadcasting organisation in the country and in certain key markets is the only game in town. And yet it is paying eye watering sums to presenters despite the fact that there is no real competition for the talent it is employing. Everyone was expecting the top paid presenter to be Graham Norton. And that would be more defensible because there is more of a market for his services. But instead it is Chris Evans who is paid £2.2 million to be a DJ on the only national radio station for which he could work. Would Evans really leave Radio 2 if his salary were cut in half and then in half again? What about the other ludicrously overpaid Radio 2 presenters like Steve Wright, who essentially spends most of his programme reading out the news? Or Jeremy Vine. What other station could he work for?

You can make a case for Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly's vast remuneration as they are presenting a massive hit show and would be in demand were they to leave. You can't however make a case for Gary Lineker's silly salary; he could easily be replaced by any number of perfectly acceptable presenters at much lower cost. People after all watch for the football not to hear his midland tones and perfect pecs when he loses a bet. And how is Alan Shearer worth his mega salary? His fellow pundits don't make the list despite many of them being better at the job and more charismatic.

And go down that list and you see other examples of BBC managers who clearly don't understand how markets work. In order for them to use the defence of them needing to pay the market rate there needs to be a market in operation. There isn't. Are there really commercial rivals vying for the signatures of Jason Mohammad and Mark Chapman? They are good and professional presenters but worth a quarter of a million quid a piece? How are they worth so much more than the excellent Emily Maitlis who isn't even on the list meaning she earns less than £150k? And what alternative employment is Radio 4's Eddie Mair going to find to justify his being paid £300,000? Eyebrows have been raised too about Stephen Nolan's £450,000 a year. Who? Nolan works for late night Radio 5 Live and for BBC Northern Ireland. Perhaps he was part of the deal with the DUP.



John Humphries opined yesterday that it seems odd that he needs to justify his salary by means of showing that he could get more money elsewhere, although at least he was honest enough to admit that he loves his job and loves working for the BBC and so would not seek more money elsewhere anyway. But he misses the point of how salaries are set. That is how the BBC justifies them. It is nonsense. Many of us have loved working for the BBC down the years and did so for normal salaries grounded in reality. Humphries is good at his job and his salary was artificially boosted by offering him a quiz show so as to make him look more value for money. But he isn't value for money. He has a great job doing something he loves doing. He shouldn't be on minimum wage but it's hard to see why he should be paid 4 times more than the politicians he gives a daily grilling to.

This is a clear case of BBC management failing once again to manage. The vast majority of BBC staff earn salaries that are good if not spectacular but who have the satisfaction of working for an organisation they are proud of. These are not big stars we are talking about here, they are mostly presenters and newsreaders handed extraordinary sums for no obvious reason other than the BBC's usual poor financial control and willingness to lavish our money on things it doesn't really need. Huw Edwards has managed to persuade managers that he is worth half a million quid when he has no obvious alternative employer and certainly nothing like the same opportunity to present such a wide range of programming for so large an audience.

Then there are the mega salaries of various interchangeable soap opera actors or the astonishing fact that the BBC is paying Derek Thompson, who has been playing Charlie in Casualty badly for the last 30 years in its execrable soap Casualty. The BBC has no business making so much of this bilge at all. That it is paying actors with the range of Thompson an arm and a leg just adds insult to the kind of injury they so poorly depict in their dramas.

As for the Radio 2 salaries, well they are out of control and should be curtailed with urgency. Why any of them should be getting paid so much more than the likes of Simon Mayo and Ken Bruce is hard to fathom. Radio 2 has long pursued a policy of employing big star presenters and is clearly paying accordingly. But has it stopped to ask if it could get away with paying less? How is Chris Evans worth so much more than his colleagues. Answer: he isn't and could easily be replaced with little or no consequence for the audience. Not that this would happen. Evans loves his gig. He has nowhere else to go.

All of this does however hand an excellent response to ministers currently negotiating with the EU. When the results of their travails are revealed in the coming months and they are taken to task by the BBC about them they have a perfect response. Given what you were prepared to pay Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Jason Mohammad, it's probably fortunate the BBC was not negotiating for the country.

Here's a tip for managers the next time contracts are negotiated. Just say no. Then see what happens. I think we can all guess that the outcome will not be a mass exodus to ITV, Channel 4, Capital Radio and LBC.

Repeal Now, Replace Later, Reelect Never

A Timeline of Treason

Brits vs Americans: Clothing Words

The View of Titan

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Peanuts


PMQs Review 19th July 2017: Tempora Mutantur, Et Now Mutamur In Illis Edition



Last week, embracing her inner Gordon Brown, Theresa didn't turn up for PMQs as she had an appointment with the King of Spain instead, although why Ashley Giles deserves such preferential treatment is unknown. Chauncey, being the exemplar of the new politics, took the opportunity to spend more time with his manhole covers and recently neglected allotment too.

And this week will be the last session before the summer recess, or febrile leadership talk season as it has become known in recent years. This year, for the second year in succession, the Tories are engaging in this sport. Labour have decided against, not because they don't want to, but because if they do the Momentum hordes will briefly stop daubing swastikas on Tory posters and turn their attentions on them instead. This is, after all, the age of kinder and nicer politics. Just ask the people of Grenfell Tower who would like to know who the raving loons speaking on their behalf are and who asked them to put their oar in.

The Cabinet is currently engaged in the kind of backbiting open warfare that Labour until recently made its speciality. On a range of issues, but mostly Philip Hammond, austerity, public sector pay, Philip Hammond, Brexit and Philip Hammond there is no real consensus. Since government is supposed to proceed by consensus they came up with the cunning ruse of leaking what Phil said before consensus was reached. Brilliant!


Theresa is being urged to clamp down on this idiocy. Or to stand down. Or to step up. Or to bang heads together. Or to blow her own brains out. Or something like that. There is no consensus. One possible avenue for her to go with her head held high was lost at the weekend when the BBC named a female Doctor Who. Sadly Jodie Whittaker got the gig rather than the woman presiding over the gig economy. Still, at least it didn't go to George Osborne.

Nothing is certain in politics these days of course, but it seems unlikely now that Theresa will be removed from power over the summer, something that was once talked about as inevitable. Unless of course she does a Diane Abbott and blames ill health for her inability to carry on. She could then demand a job in the Cabinet as her price, like those tennis players who feigned injury only to turn up for the doubles the following day. Diane Abbott also has diabetes, albeit the sort you get from eating too many pies. Think about it Prime Minister. Or consider it on this year's walking holiday.

And of course Labour has rowed back on its tuition fees and student debt promises. These weren't promises apparently, they were aspirations. Labour also aspires to one day have a coherent policy on Europe, in the meantime it has a policy to waffle endlessly until interviewers give up. If they are from the BBC they probably have other financial matters on their minds.


This week Chauncey was in full sanctimonious mode again on the issue of public sector pay and the current travails of the Cabinet. They are bickering he said, seemingly forgetting the last couple of years in his own party. Labour too are bickering, they are just putting on a more united front in public. Sarah Champion was on the BBC talking to Andrew Neil: paid half of what Huw Edwards is paid. She made various contradictory assertions vis a vis student tuition fees but essentially admitted that the Labour leader lied about 'dealing' with student debt. They can't. It's impossible as many of us pointed out. This looked like a brilliant ruse at the election. Now interviewers, even those paid as little as Andrew Neil, are on the case.

And Chauncey continued his strange sub Dickensian tales of the misery that a pay cap has inflicted on the country. Quite how this can be the case is puzzling. He gave as an example the starting salaries of various public sector workers like nurses and police officers. In so doing he probably gave a boost to recruitment efforts. Apparently playing doctors, nurses and cops nets you a starting salary a starting salary of £23k. Kerching. Across the country people will have been wondering what the hell all the fuss is about. Starting on 20 grand plus? When you are still learning? With better pensions, maternity and paternity rights, annual leave and general working conditions? Sounds great. It's nearly as lucrative as reading an autocue for the BBC. Quite how such salaries lead to the kind of misery and food banks depicted by Chauncey is a mystery. Could it be that nurses are as useless at managing their money as Labour governments?

What Labour also never mention is that public sector workers get automatic annual increments to their pay regardless of performance. They are called pay bands. Nurses and teachers also move around within the NHS or education system and increase their salaries accordingly. Pay freezes are only part of the story. In the NHS in particular, nurses frequently set aside their devotion to the service by doubling their pay by going and working for agencies and thus fleecing the good old NHS of much needed funds.

It would be churlish however not to admit that, though much of what he says is inaccurate and dishonest Chauncey has got much better at saying it. His confidence is there for all to see. It's the same old impecunious drivel about spending money we don't have and throwing it at any and all problems and hoping that solves them. As usual Labour make the mess, Tories are left to clear it up and then get blamed for being hard hearted. It's part of the cycle of politics. It would be dreary and depressing under normal circumstances, but with Chauncey in charge and a possibility to take charge of the whole country it is alarming because he would be so much worse and more vindictive. Imagine the devastation he could wreak on the country as we leave the EU. He doesn't even understand what the Single Market and customs union are.

The PM has to a large extent got her mojo back. She is never particularly good at these sessions but she was good enough to hold her own against a Labour leader who remains better than expected but still not very good. Maybe Labour could put that on a poster.

Presumably the PM will still be the PM when we meet again on 6th September. But you never know. Today's performance certainly won't have done her any harm.


The Cure for Unrequited Love

British Animals You Won't Find in America

New Horizons Flyover of Pluto

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Peanuts


Grow Up Conservatives and Get a New Leader



From Thursday Parliament rises for the recess and we all get a chance for a breather and to take stock. For many, this blog included, it cannot come soon enough.

They say however that, though MPs are certainly looking forward to the break and ministers too, it will only take a few days before they get back to what they have lately been so good at - making Labour look coherent and electable. Let us implore them then to think twice before leaking, before backbiting, before briefing against colleagues. And if they do, well Theresa May should sack one or two of them and make examples of them.And yes that includes Boris and David Davis or their 'friends'.

Yes it is true for now that the possibility of a Labour government has receded. But that doesn't mean Tories can relax and recede into the same complacency that got us into this mess. Labour have not made themselves look electable. They are as divided, confused, dishonest and plain nasty as they were before and during the election campaign. Conservatives are somehow contriving to make a Labour Party led by a Marxist, terrorist supporting, Britain hating, nuclear disarming, impecunious fantasist who lied and lied again during the election campaign, not least on the issue of Student tuition fees and loans, look electable. That is not the achievement of Labour. It is the achievement of the hopeless Conservative Party.

I come back to what I wrote several weeks ago not long after the election in which I called on Theresa May to go. I stand by every word. Because this cannot go on. Remember how the Tories drifted listlessly during the 92-97 parliament until they were finally despatched from power? Well the same could be happening again now, except this time it would be power being handed to a Labour Party run not by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but by Chauncey, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.   Imagine what they could do with the country in possession of a big majority. Will the last person to leave the country turn the lights out?

Theresa May has to go. She has to go because she has no authority and because her Cabinet is behaving like a kindergarten run riot with a hand painting set and a box full of whoopee cushions. They need to get together, be brought together if necessary, heads banged and decisions reached. Things are not so bad yet that we must be spared a leadership election, although that would be preferable. If we must have one then we must have one. But wouldn't it be nice if the party could show some maturity and agree a replacement for Mrs May and then get on with governing in the national interest. The national interest is to deliver Brexit as painlessly as possible, to do so with a minimum of civil war and then to get on with the remarkably easy task of forensically exposing the weaknesses and idiocies of every policy position of Chauncey's Labour Party. Why not start with asking him to explain the difference between the Single Market and the customs union. Sit back. Buy popcorn. Feast on the waffle and that soft voice he employs when he is trying to disguise his mounting panic.

I know all the arguments about this not being the time for a change and that the country would not wait while the Tories choose a new leader. Well the country should have thought of that before it voted for Chauncey in such large numbers - some of them even did so more than once by the sound of it. Such enthusiasm. But the fact is that Theresa May was a terrible mistake. I am as guilty of it as anyone else. Now that mistake needs to be urgently corrected. I am open minded about who should replace her. David Davis would be fine. As would Boris. Those are the only two realistic candidates for now. So make your choices and get on with it. Do it this summer. Forget personal ambition, forget silly antagonisms. Choose a leader and get behind him. This time it will be a him. We cannot afford another month of this.

British Schools Explained

Have We Got Enough to Impeach Trump Already?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Peanuts


The 13th Doctor



So they've done it. They've actually done it. The next Dr Who is going to be a woman. Now this has been one of those slow burners that has been coming for years. They have been softening us up for this moment for several series and even since a couple of doctors ago. There were those early hints that Time Lords can change sex when they change bodies. Then there was Missy. I must admit that Missy removed any doubts that I may once have had. Then this last series there have been so many oblique references and jokes to sex and gender that all doubt was removed. This was clearly a done deal.

And so yesterday the BBC revealed that Jodie Whittaker is to be the 13th Tardis traveller. I didn't see that coming admittedly, but I knew it would be a woman for all of the reasons stated above.

And it's obvious with the benefit of hindsight. Chris Chibnall, the new show runner, has worked with Jodie before in Broadchurch in which she was terrific. She is a great actor, great looking and still young and fit enough to do the more physical side of the role. She is also good at light comedy, something essential if Doctor Who is to return to its best.



Yes, inevitably, there has been a mixed reaction. Some are pleased at this leap. Others furious.

I am open minded. I do understand some people's irritation even if I don't understand naked anger and hostility. You could see it as yet more political correctness. But this is a sci-fi show. So why not? And surely we should at least give it a chance. The next series won't be on until next year and nothing has even been shot so far other than the initial scenes as number 12 transforms into number 13.

If I have major reservations it is about Chris Chibnall and not the new Doctor. He is clearly a great and talented writer but can he pull off series after series of Doctor Who? Will he be able to reinvent it, bring in other top writing talent to supplement him and take it back to its glory days of high audiences and better stories?

Looking at it that way a new female doctor may help mightn't she. She will change the aesthetic and the feel of the show. She is younger and will change the dynamics of the role and the way she interacts with others. There will also be opportunity for lots of new jokes. Either way haters of the internet shut up and stop being so vile. A fictional television character with two hearts who time travels in a blue box and is 1000 years old has now become a woman. Are we really saying that this is implausible?

How Well Do You Know British Comedy

Trump Lawyer's Absurd Defence

One Week Older

Why We Only Learn When We Repeat



Sunday, 16 July 2017

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 15 - Yet More Rules About Sin



So in the previous chapter the people doubted God and he very nearly killed the lot of them. Fortunately Moses stepped in and talked him out of it. Now God uses this as an excuse for yet more demands for sacrifices.

The people, following the terrible sin of doubting God, were wandering around in the wilderness as a punishment. While they were doing this God took the opportunity to demand some more animal sacrifices from them.

Essentially this was just another form of taxation. God got all specific. He wanted, or at least his ever hungry priests wanted, a tenth of all of the food that the people ate. Oh and wine too. They needed something to wash all of the food, sorry, sacrifices down. This whole chapter sounds like a menu. I won't bother you with the details. Suffice to say that offerings of lots of dead animals and bread were required.

Interestingly God said it was possible to commit a sin even if you don't know you are committing a sin. Break God's rules and strict liability was demanded. Oh and a sacrifice to atone for it.

If a stranger stayed with them then that was okay with God. But he had better make offerings too. This is odd of course because in previous chapters God had said that strangers were forbidden. Not if they came bearing gifts it would seem.

Breaking the rules deliberately and not caring meant that the sinner was cast out.

And then, almost by design, as they were wandering around in the desert, they came across a man who was gathering sticks. But, shock horror, it was the Sabbath. As a side note how did they come across a stranger if they themselves were not wandering and thus working on the Sabbath? But never mind. Anyway, they took this terrible sinner into custody and asked Moses what should be done with him. Sure enough God wanted him killed. And so he was stoned to death.

Then God told Moses that the people must decorate their clothes with a snazzy blue fringe around the hem. This was to serve as a reminder to keep God's rules.

Brendan O Neill's Beef With Millennials

Stephen Pinker's Brilliant Logic

Friday, 14 July 2017

Peanuts


Chauncey and the Politics of the Bleeding Obvious



You know it's almost as if Labour are divided and have no settled policy on Europe. Asked repeatedly  yesterday what his stance would be on staying in the Single Market or customs union Chauncey resorted to the sort of platitudes he accuses the Tories of using. At his slightly absurd and very presumptuous meeting with Michel Barnier Chauncey used the kind of evasions you might expect a normal politician who is avoiding the question to use rather than the straightforward and honest chap we all know him to be because that is what his supporters always tell us.

Labour, he told us, in those measured tones that some people seem to find reassuring rather than throw-something-at-the-television-infuriating, wants a trade relationship with Europe that enables our manufacturing and services industries to continue trading with Europe. Got that? So Labour's policy is to continue trading with Europe. This is a statement of the bleeding obvious that even Diane Abbott could have remembered without looking it up on her iPad. Perhaps that's why he took her along with him to Europe. As Guido has said, does Chauncey even understand the difference between the Single Market and customs union? It's not clear that he does. His answer claims to have set something out when he has set absolutely nothing out. He is using the form of words the Government used just after the referendum. This has now evolved because that was a year ago. Labour still has no position on this.

For the record even if Britain were to walk away having told Brussels to go whistle for their money and got no deal at all we would still be able to have our industries continue trading with Europe. It is whether or not we do so with tariffs, without tariffs, setting and levying our own tariffs on non European nations or not and what this means for freedom of movement that is the issue being discussed. So what is Chauncey's answer? He doesn't have one, or at least not one he is prepared to share with us because it would infuriate half of his fractious party. Or more than half.

Or perhaps they genuinely haven't got a policy. After all it worked for them during the election and they seemed to get away with it and so they seem intent on doing so for as long as possible. They are a government in waiting, they keep telling us, it's just that they haven't decided what they would do on the single most important and difficult issue to affect this country in a couple of generations. They just hope that they can keep stating platitudes and that nobody notices. Well we have noticed. And we mean to keep asking the question.

The Truth About Taxes



The Office for Budget Responsibility, the official watchdog of the nation's finances and independent of the government, warned yesterday that we are becoming worryingly, dangerously dependent upon taxing the rich to make ends meet. This is under the current government which has imposed so called austerity on us all. Just imagine what would happen if Labour were to get into power and actually put those taxes up.

Many of us have been making this argument repeatedly now for years and yet this has was ignored by those who voted for every other party but Conservatives at the general election.

Yet here it is in black and white from the OBR: over the last decade the top 1% of taxpayers in the UK have gone from paying 24.4% to 27.7% of all taxes. To put it in more prosaic terms, not only are the paying more than their fair share, we have become reliant upon them staying put and continuing to do so.

A sane response to this would be to thank them very much and pledge that taxes will not be put up. Indeed a sane response would be to pledge to lower the top rate of tax further since we did that during the last 10 years and it raised more money.

This is why a punitive, envious, hateful Labour government would do such profound damage to the British economy. The rich 1% would take their money and run. And who could blame them?

Not that this situation is healthy in any event. It is profoundly worrying that the country has become so reliant on such a small number of people to pay our way. Were we to suffer a serious recession or a Labour government then the shock to the public finances would be devastating, borrowing would shoot up and we would quickly find ourselves having to make deep cuts to spending rather than the ridiculous spending spree dreamt of by Labour. Within a year of Chauncey gaining power he would face a number of unpalatable choices as a consequence of the crisis of confidence his policies would engender amongst those we rely on to pay our way. Either Britain would have to start printing money meaning roaring inflation or we would have to default on our debt for the first time in our history or he would have to impose the kind of swingeing cuts we last saw in the 1970s and 80s.

There are no easy choices with tax and spending as Labour pretends. Britain does not exist in a vacuum and other countries would dearly love the opportunity to offer to our wealthy elite and the companies they work for a haven from punitive levels of taxation. To raise taxes is always risky. To raise them to the levels advocated by Labour would be reckless. To do so at the same time as Britain leaves the EU would be lunacy.

This, as we tried to point out during the election campaign, is the real choice. Austerity is not something that is done through choice but through necessity. The country cannot afford to keep spending money we do not have. Just putting up taxes is not the easy choice Labour claim it to be. And their promises of free tuition fees, cancellation of student debt, lavish spending on hospitals, schools et al? It simply would not happen. It would be a promise they could not keep paid for by taxes that would never raise enough. That is the reality of socialism. It always runs out of other people's money to spend.

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Peanuts


May the 4s Be With You



Channel 4, it is reported, fresh from fighting off privatisation, is now intent upon pushing back against talk that they might, brace yourselves, have to move out of London to somewhere - and I'm sorry there's really no way of sparing you this - like Birmingham. Or Manchester.

Just imagine it. How are the highly remunerated executives of Channel 4 to cope with living in a place where the houses are cheaper, where people are friendlier, where you are closer to the countryside and where their mega salaries will stretch even further?

But, I hear you ask, what about all of those programmes that they make? Will they not be impacted by such a move? Well fortunately this is nothing we have to worry about since Channel 4 don't make their own programmes. They commission them. Even Channel 4 News is made by ITN, meaning that Jon Snow will still be able to suck up to his left wing chums from their studios in London and Channel 4 will be further away from him and his loud ties.

Oh and of course Channel 4 would have more money to poach programmes away from the BBC.

I never really understood what the objection to privatising Channel 4 was. After all few people knew that it is a nationally owned channel anyway on account of its adverts. It makes a profit after all and invests in British content. It could even have its precious remit preserved, although how that remit works for the channel that brought us Big Brother, Gogglebox and has bought up the Great British Bake Off is a mystery.

But resisting moving to a different city? On what grounds? Birmingham and Bristol are both less than 2 hours away by train or car. Both have great and proud cultural histories already. Manchester is only a little further away and is already home to a great deal of Britain's commercial television and to large parts of current BBC output. Why do executives who only commission programming need to be in London anyway? And in particular why do they need to do so from hugely expensive headquarters in the heart of by far Britain's most expensive city. Britain is not a big country. We are a small island and even if we weren't I hear that telephone calls and even video conferencing is available for those high powered meetings that need to be held to discuss the latest cutting edge offering about how awful the Tories are and to discuss soap operas on sofas.

The board of Channel 4 could simply refuse to sanction this move and thus the government would need to legislate. Let's hope it comes to that. Nothing could add more to the gaiety of the nation in these troubling times than forcing luvvies not only to leave the EU but to relocate away from London and become northerners themselves rather than merely be the makers of patronising programmes about them. Indeed I for one want to watch the fly on the wall documentary about the big move. Or perhaps they could have a competition in which the cities vie to be the new home of Channel 4. Provisional title: May the 4s Be With You

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

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PMQs Review: 12th July 2017: The Conventional No Show Edition


As a rule the PMQs review appears here but the PM has grabbed, Gordon Brown style, at the excuse of the arrival of a head of state and the ceremony surrounding that. Now during the election Chauncey made great play of turning up to a debate he had previous said he would not attend if the PM didn't. Yet he still persists in this bizarre recent convention of the Leader of the Opposition not attending PMQs when the PM doesn't. It's ridiculous. What happened to the iconoclast, the new politics?

In a week when the PM has reached out to him for his help and he mocked her for it - we thought he was ready for government - here was an opportunity for mocking her for making excuses about PMQs too.

So, as is the convention of this blog, when they can't be bothered neither can we. I will however post the video later.

Formula One is Dying of Greed



And so, only months after Bernie was booted out of Formula One and days since one of his daughters began divorce proceedings meaning he might soon need to make another wedge, his ignominious legacy of greed and rapacious demands is once again coming home to roost. The great traditional Grand Prix venues of Europe are slowly dying as they find that, however popular they are with paying spectators, they simply cannot stump up the cash to the travelling circus in the quantities demanded of them.

Yesterday Silverstone announced that is will invoke a break clause in its contract with F1 meaning that it will no longer host the British GP so that its current bill of £12 million per race weekend does not increase to £27 million.

It has reached the point now that the only nations who will soon be able to afford these eye watering sums will be those in the grip of vicious dictators, Arabian potentates or some combination of the two. All of the new venues are hosting races in billion dollar shiny new venues and paid for by states keen to show off to the world.

Ecclestone used to loudly complain that the British Grand Prix received no governmental aid or subsidy. To which the answer is clearly: why should it? Formula One is a fantastically wealthy sport paying its star drivers exorbitant sums making them the world's highest paid sportsmen. It is a sport awash in cash, high technology and glamour. The British Grand Prix is by far the biggest spectator event in the UK, with the last event attracting 300, 000 people over the the course of the weekend. If that still cannot turn a profit then something is woefully wrong with the economics of this sport.

And indeed this is the case. The greed of the organisers has meant that they not only got to keep the money from all of the various commercial sources and from television, they even charge the venues themselves to host the race weekend. No organisation would be able to turn a profit that way. Yet Ecclestone demanded that instead of his cutting his fees Silverstone should receive a subsidy from taxpayers.

Silverstone is right to back out of this contract and if Silverstone is doing so then no other racetrack in the UK will be able to step into its shoes. It has already taken races to satellite TV meaning that big audiences are gone forever and now the main live event is set to be killed off too. F1 is a great British tradition with most of the major teams based here too. But it should no more be subsidised by you and me than should Manchester United. The only disappointment is that they weren't able to tell Bernie Ecclestone himself to get stuffed.

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Peanuts


Enough Emoting


Do you recall 2016? It was popularly regarded as being rather a bad year, although looking back it seems like a simpler, happier time. Sure quite a lot of famous people seemed to die at the time, including a number of cultural icons, but back then the Tories had won a majority for the first time in a generation, the SNP had yet to redefine a generation and Labour were led by a man that all right thinking people considered would justifiably doom them to oblivion for a generation. In truth 2017 has just continued the trend that 2016 started and added a few more nasty and even grisly shocks on top, including a general election we didn't need to call to cap the unnecessary referendum.

Looking back, the current febrile atmosphere could be discerned in that referendum that David Cameron didn't need to cal had he called the bluff of his EU interlocutors rather than sided with them against his own people. The peoples of the world have reacted with disdain to the elites of the world, sometimes understandably and other times considerably less so. Typically the French have elected someone who managed to sit astride both camps as an outsider who seems to want to turn himself into a new Napoleon. He probably thinks that the Eroica is his personal anthem.

In Britain a substantial chronically ill-educated subset of the population imagines that Chauncey and his gang of anarcho-syndicalists are the answer to the nation's ills. They seem to have come to this conclusion because he dresses differently, speaks softly and promises lots of stuff with other people's money. He promises to end austerity. What he means is that he is wont to go on an unprecedented spending spree, something that is a long way removed from merely reversing austerity. And quite what giving students free money has to do with ending austerity is anyone's guess. Anyway, Chauncey's breakthrough moment seems to be traced back to his having hugged someone after a disaster. Because that is the sort of thing one needs in a leader. Obviously.

And when did we all start emoting? What happened to British stiff upper lip?

The fallout from the Grenfell fire is still continuing and yet I for one no longer understand why. This is not the same as saying that we are wrong to be concerned, merely wondering why the hysteria has still not subsided. A very difficult situation has been made worse by political grandstanding and brazen lies allied to some egregious malfeasance on top of the other problems we think we are now beginning to understand pending an official inquiry and criminal investigation. Grenfell Tower was full of people who had no right to be there and yet the authorities are still getting it in the neck because they have struggled to identify and name victims. Offers of new accommodation have nevertheless been made to residents, who are turning them down whilst demanding that an inquiry becomes an inquisition under the chairmanship of someone they deem acceptable.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick is a fine and estimable lawyer whose career to date has been excellent preparation for the rigorous inquiry that is being demanded. He will be able to marshal the facts quickly and efficiently and get to grips with the many competing laws and regulations that seem to have contributed to the confusion and official torpor that led to this tragedy. British courts are world renowned for the fair and impartial way that they deal with complex and abstruse technical language and issues. It is one of our great exports to the world and is, incidentally, one of the reasons why the EU's objections to our courts rather than the ECJ looking after its citizens is the purest bunkum. But the residents of Grenfell, both legitimate and otherwise, should have no worries that their case will be investigated without fear or favour. In truth many don't. It is those who are scoring political points rather than the making the pursuit of the truth their main aim that are mostly to blame for that. It is a product of our times, of this current suspicion of the ruling elite, even those who have become part of the elite after a lifetime of having proven themselves entirely worthy of that status. Sir Martin is a highly educated, white lawyer who has never lived in a tower block. That is apparently a knock out argument.

Which brings us on to the facile and infuriating case of little Charlie Gard who was born with bad luck, bad genes and rather stupid parents whose only excuse for their behaviour is their understandable grief. But they should have been offered counselling and care rather than the indulgence of the courts and the already thinly stretched NHS. This is another product of this age of entitlement, of suspecting everyone and trusting nobody. The doctors and other healthcare specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital, a great icon of British healthcare, a tertiary level centre of excellence on a par with the best in the world, to which many international patients are brought on a regular basis for its cutting edge care, are of the honestly held opinion based on their experience and the latest science, that Charlie is now no longer alive in any true sense of the word. He is suffering, probably in great pain and should be allowed to die by having treatment withdrawn. This is an opinion that is difficult for the parents to accept. But it is a good faith opinion offered once again without fear or favour. It has been tested by judges and lawyers and they have all concurred in that opinion.

As I say, the only excuse for the behaviour of the parents is that they are in denial and are grieving because deep down they know that their beloved son that they never really got to know properly, is lost to them. But the behaviour of others leaping on to this bandwagon is beneath contempt. Donald Trump we might expect this of. The Vatican and others should be deeply ashamed of themselves. This is not morality. This is putting your idiotic and irrational beliefs ahead of the suffering of a tiny dying child.

The greatest failing here is that our rulers are now terrified to rule, are worried that the mob will come for them. On the Grenfell fire disaster and its irrational fallout to this forlorn child whose parents cannot let him go, in this age of emoting nobody will take charge and call a halt. Start the inquiry under this eminently qualified judge and have him lead it as he sees fit. Tell the parents of Charlie that they are being ill used by bad people and that they have to let go. But stop indulging this tide of idiocy. Emotions are not something we need in leaders precisely because it is this kind of chaos that emotions lead to. That is why we deal with facts, science, the law and we deal with this carefully, rigorously and without hugs. Enough!

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Peanuts


A Statue of Thatcher Is A Great Test For the Civility of Labour



It probably says a lot about the current dysfunction of the government (we must hope that this is a temporary function of recent difficulties and that they are now getting their act together) that it cannot even decide what to do about a statue of Margaret Thatcher in Parliament Square. What is the problem? Quite apart from anything else, this is a Conservative government and Margaret Thatcher remains head and shoulders about every other PM in recent history. She ought to have her statue.

Actually, if you think about it, this is a good experiment for these modern and confusing times. A statue of Mrs Thatcher may well become a magnet for protesters and virtue signallers of the left. But why should it really, given that students these days don't appear to appreciate the dangers and folly of socialism and of us living beyond our means? Mrs Thatcher ceased to be Prime Minister in 1990. That is ancient history to modern students. And so the only reason that they would object to a statue of her is if they were merely following the crowd. I suspect that an awful lot of the current vogue for all things socialist and spendthrift and anti-austerity is a simple inability to think objectively and not follow the crowd. A statue would be a good test of it.

What would Chauncey say about a statue of Margaret Thatcher I wonder. I do hope someone asks him. He attended a rally of Durham Miners at the weekend, an event from which many Labour MPs were excluded because they have been insufficiently slavish in their appreciation of and devotion to Chauncey. Chauncey is a great adherent of miners folklore. He even at one point promised the reopening of Britain's mines, a promise that was entirely counter to his policy on tackling climate change. He has also of course promised an inquiry into the so called Battle of Orgreave, which is essentially Labour's attempt to rewrite history. Do students and young people care about this too? If so why?

But this is part of the mental infirmity that afflicts many on the left. They have a serial inability to learn the lessons of history and of experience due to history's persistent and infuriating refusal to acquiesce to their prejudices about human nature and the way things should be. How dare capitalism be so successful when socialism is the opposite. And so they just ignore this or look at other things instead. And so capitalism, though fantastically successful at providing food, shelter and the finer things in life like culture and cuisine, is condemned for the inequalities that it often produces. This infuriates the lefties, although it's not clear why. It seems to be a teenage anger that life is not fair. It's an odd way of looking at the world. After all we would not all be born equal even if we we born to families with exactly the same income and forced to live in identical houses. Our talents and abilities would soon see to that. So why the fury with Capitalism? Capitalism is not an ideology. It is just a methodology for making our lives work that has evolved from barter to modern highly complex market economies. It is also the single greatest driver of human progress that has ever been invented, something that is probably because nobody actually ever  invented it.

Margaret Thatcher is still regarded as a bete noire of the left because of her defeat of the miners in the 80s. The fact that she had only the year before been re-elected by a landslide is overlooked and ignored. Her defeat of the miners should be celebrated by all right minded people because the miners were trying to hold the country to ransom. They were demanding that they be kept in their jobs in perpetuity regardless of the economic benefits of doing so. No doubt had they won that battle they would now be demanding that they be kept in their jobs despite coal being a polluting fuel that is thought to lead to climate change. How would we all feel about that? Do people have a right to jobs even when those jobs are no longer necessary and indeed may be damaging to the planet?

The miners strike was a great symbol of the Thatcher years because she dared to take on the vested interests of the left and of the unions and won. Before her Labour had actually closed many more mines than Tories had, it's just that they had done it more slowly and less dramatically. But Thatcher typically refused to pussy foot around on an issue that needed addressing when money was tight and when the British economy needed fundamental reform. The miners were part of an outdated British economy that had grown fat and bloated on public subsidies. We were making products that the world didn't want because they were outdated and of poor quality. The future was in high end manufacturing and in a service based economy. The future was in industries like those in the City of London and in software and aerospace. The future was in embracing new technologies and new methods of production. All have reaped rewards and now we build as many cars as in our heyday. The difference is that we build them well and the world wants to buy them.

Mrs Thatcher got us to where we are today because she faced down the naysayers and the lily livered in her own party. She forced Britain to embrace change and we are now an infinitely more prosperous society for it. Better still we no longer need to send men down shafts in the ground to risk their lives digging up coal.

This is not to say that there are not very many challenges ahead and new ones for which we need a new Thatcher. New technologies are threatening livelihoods again and there are challenges ahead for those in the modern equivalent of factories or indeed coal mines. The internet has revolutionised the world but has decimated huge parts of its economies. But this is what Capitalism does. It creates change by spotting gaps in the market and exploiting them. Creative destruction preys on weak companies and replaces them with stronger new ones. But it cannot do that if the weak are propped up by the state with subsidies.

Mrs Thatcher understood all of this and had a gift for explaining it to the British people. She was so successful that she changed the whole conversation, extirpated a whole hateful ideology from British politics for a generation and exported many of her ideas around the world becoming an icon into the bargain. The left has hated her for it ever since. Not really for the reasons they claim - that she was a heartless harridan who didn't believe in society. She wasn't and she never said the latter in the way that has been dishonestly attributed to her. No they hated her because she took them on and beat them by exposing how bankrupt their ideology and beliefs are. As she once said: the trouble with socialists is that they always run out of other people's money.

Now it seems we must refight her battles once again as the socialists try once again to impose their facile beliefs on us all. So let's build that statue to her as soon as possible. Seldom has it been needed more. Will they try to vandalise it? Of course they will. But that would typify them. Either way we shouldn't allow them to keep her from her rightful place.


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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Peanuts


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 14 - God's Hissy Fit Over Doubters



You have to say that this needy, nasty, vain and self aggrandising God and his chosen people deserve each other really. He had taken them out of Egypt and led them to Mount Sinai where for no reason he had delayed their journey to the promised land to stop and tell them to make a tent and to issue them with instructions. Oh, and to count them. Now, it turns out, their promised land is already occupied. And by giants.

So Moses had sent scouts out to have a look at the promised land. They had returned agreeing that it really was a lovely place but that it had people already living in it. And among them were giants. There was no way they would beat them in a war.

The people heard all of this and were understandably upset. They had come all of this way for nothing, they wailed, why had they left Egypt where, okay they had been slaves, but life hadn't been as bad as this, or as bad as being slaughtered by giants.

Caleb, one of the scouts who had come back with his reports and who thought that killing the giants would be no problem, pleaded with them not to provoke God. With Jacob he told them that all would be well but not to doubt God. God would get angry.

Sure enough God had heard all of this and indeed was angry. How dare his people doubt him. He had a good mind to kill them all out of spite and then start again with a new people born of Moses and co.

But Moses told him to calm down and not be such a nasty God. If he killed his admittedly whinging people then the Egyptians and others would hear of it, that the God of the Israelites was not all that great. The Old Testament is obsessed with the Egyptians. It has a very well deserved inferiority complex to this sophisticated people with all of their fancy Gods. That's why they made up their own God and all of these stories about how powerful he is.

So God pouted a little and said 'Oh I suppose so.' I wanted to smite them. But I suppose I won't. I'm going to smite some of them though and anyone over the age of 20 is not going to get to the promised land and he was going to make them wander around in the desert until anyone over that age was dead. Now we know why they inserted that pointless census into the story.

God said that he had performed all kinds of miracles to impress his people and yet they still doubted him. So that was to be their punishment. So there!

And then God started killing people. Not all of them, just some of them. To make himself feel better. He started with 10 of the scouts who had returned from their reconnaissance mission and come back with tales of terrible giants. The 2 scouts who had said all would be well, Caleb and Jacob, were spared. They and their families were okay with God.

Moses then went to the people and told them what God had decided he was going to do. The people were upset by this. Sod it, they said, we're going to go and take the promised land ourselves without need of God. This is a weird and stupid turnaround isn't it. First they were scared to fight for the promised land and wanted to go back to Egypt and now they said they were going to go and fight those giants after all. So Moses said no, you mustn't do that. God will be angrier still.

Nevertheless, off they went, albeit without the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, and sure enough they were beaten back by the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived there. They're a bit dim these people aren't they. But surely God should have known that before he rescued them. After all he chose them.

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