29 December 2016

Quote of the day

Age is not just a state of mind?  Jeremy philosophises:
Corbyn dismissed reports that he has told friends he is ready to step down in 2019 because of his age, saying: “Friends is obviously a very loose term these days – I’ve never said that. I’m very happy doing my campaigning. This is the age of the 60s – look at Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Angela Merkel – look around you. Sixties is the new 40s, I keep fit.”
I don't.  I guess I'm part of the old sixties ...


27 December 2016

Quote of the day

Oh dear, Jeremy.

From The Times (here):
Mr Corbyn, a keen gardener who keeps an allotment, revealed his other foodie love this month. “I find cheese very interesting,” he said.
Yes, well that really illuminates the political outlook for 2017 ...


25 December 2016

Just the start

One down, how many to go?  The Guardian reports:
Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he will shut down his charitable foundation, a response to mounting complaints over conflicts related to the president-elect’s charitable and business interests.
The closure of the Trump Foundation, which was first reported by the New York Times, requires the approval of the New York attorney general’s office, which is currently investigating the nonprofit and issued a cease and desist order to it in October.
The Donald J Trump Foundation was repeatedly the subject of controversy throughout the presidential campaign after a series of investigations by the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold. Trump reportedly used $258,000 of the foundation’s money to pay for personal legal settlements. He also spent charitable funds on multiple portraits of himself and on a football helmet autographed by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
The foundation also made a donation to a political group supporting Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, a longtime Trump backer in violation of tax law. The president-elect has since paid $2,500 to the Internal Revenue Service over the donation.
Who knows what creepy-crawlies will emerge when further stones are turned over? 

24 December 2016

Not the Christmas Story

From The Times (here):
11. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, apart from immigrants, and gays, and women. And obviously Mexicans, who are drug dealers and criminals and racists. Sorry, rapists.
12. “For unto you is born this day in the city of Donald, a Saviour, which is Trump the President.
13. “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, grabbing women by the pussy. Because when you are the Messiah they don’t say anything.”
14. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising Donald, and saying, Glory to Him in the highest floor of Trump Tower, and on earth peace, as long as other Nato members pay for it up front, and good will toward men. But not gays or towelheads or any of those people we mentioned before.


Have they nothing better to do?

It is a little far from earth-shattering ... but, hey, it's nearly Christmas!  The Guardian reports:
Bigger bubbles could make your champagne taste better this Christmas, research has found.
It was long thought that a steady stream of tiny bubbles in a glass of champagne was a sign of quality. But researchers in France’s Champagne-Ardenne region have found that larger bubbles may actually improve the way a sparkling wine tastes.
In a study published in the European Physical Journal Special Topics, they show that the bubbles form a regular hexagonal pattern on the surface. When one collapses, it creates a cavity that stretches the neighbouring bubbles, producing a pattern that looks similar to the petals of a flower, creating an avalanche of tiny droplets that are thrown into the air at the top of the glass.
Far more important: the size of the bubbles in beer.  But do fancy-pants researchers care about the working man's tipple?


22 December 2016

Won't do Alex any harm

Being harangued by the Donald is a badge of honour.  The Guardian reports:
Donald Trump harangued the former first minister of Scotland as “Mad Alex” and accused him of being on a “march to oblivion” in a series of increasingly angry and eccentric letters about windfarms he claimed were blighting his Scottish golf courses.
The correspondence with Alex Salmond, revealed by the Huffington Post after a freedom of information request, demonstrated that Trump’s tone swung wildly between coaxing and threatening as he grew increasingly frustrated with his former ally’s refusal to change his policy on renewable energy.
Trump warned Salmond that his dream of Scottish independence would be “gone with the wind” if he continued to support windfarm developments, accusing the then leader of the Scottish National party of being “hellbent” on damaging Scotland’s coastline.
Now all the SNP needs is for Trump to go after Mad Nicola, and the nationalists will be laughing all the way to the polls.


21 December 2016


The Times reports on the penalty for saying things that displease Ministers:
Theresa May has forced one of the world’s biggest consultancy companies to withdraw from Whitehall contract bids for six months after one of its staff wrote a memo detailing Brexit strains at the heart of government.
A two-page assessment, leaked to The Times last month, reported that civil servants were struggling to cope with more than 500 Brexit-related projects and that cabinet splits were delaying the agreement of a negotiating strategy.
Publication of the memo, written by a Deloitte consultant working on Whitehall projects, infuriated Downing Street. The prime minister was said to have been personally affronted by the note, which criticised her for “drawing in decisions and details to settle matters herself”.
Seeking to draw a line under the furore, the company has agreed not to bid for central government contracts for about six months, The Times understands. Industry sources believe that Deloitte feared a more draconian punishment without such an offer.
It would appear that the government only wants yes-men ...


20 December 2016

Hard and soft borders

Even The Times is preaching sedition:
Nicola Sturgeon, perhaps unlike her predecessor, is wary of economic insanity. She has learnt the lesson of 2014, which is that at the ballot box, if only in Scotland, it does not sell. So her strategy is to be the sane one. This, of course, being helped in no small part by sanity being out of fashion, at least in Westminster. For a Unionist, all the old arguments of prudence, caution, and economic soundness can only work if the Scottish separatist alternative can be shown to be even more batshit doolally than the stuff British cabinet ministers come out with every other day.
Sturgeon’s plan might not be. Its details remain to be seen, and on past form it will include holes you could drive a Brexit bus through. Yet the notion of a single market settlement for Scotland alone is not inherently mad at all.
It would be theoretically possible, for example, to retain freedom of movement up north, without a big fence at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Yes, EU nationals could enter Scotland and go south, but so what? Unless we’re planning on terribly strict visa controls, tourists will be able to do that anyway. Freedom of movement isn’t really about movement, but jobs and benefits. Fudge some equivalent of the EU’s border agreement with Switzerland, and the mooted deal with Turkey, and it’s certainly conceivable.
Can't see it, myself.  But let us await what the Blessed Nicola announces ...


French justice?

Eh bien, mes amis - c'est comme ca.  The Guardian reports on the perma-tanned one:
Christine Lagarde has been found guilty of negligence in approving a massive payout of taxpayers’ money to controversial French businessman Bernard Tapie but avoided a jail sentence.
A French court convicted the head of the International Monetary Fund and former government minister, who had faced a €15,000 (£12,600) fine and up to a year in prison. But it decided she should not be punished and that the conviction would not constitute a criminal record. On Monday evening the IMF gave her its full support.
Guilty but unpunished.  C'est la vie ...


18 December 2016

Music of the week


A Christmas fairy tale

It's not a Wonderful Life.  From The Observer (here):
In this modern reworking of the old Frank Capra classic we find George, a former Tory minister who’s fallen on hard times. Just as he’s about to take a header off Westminster Bridge his guardian angel, Arthur appears. Arthur tells him what Britain would be like if George and his chums had never been born.
George is first taken to a giant retail warehouse full of smiling faces and red-coated managers handing out wee treats to their happy workers. There is a well-stocked canteen full of fruit and fibre where staff can buy heavily discounted products. They are all well paid and healthy and paying more into the economy by buying British-made products.
Next, he takes him to Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell, where thousands of workers are manufacturing the steel to make Britain’s next generation of battle cruisers and fancy new office blocks and apartments. The orders from overseas, especially from Africa and the Middle East, which have enjoyed two decades of stability, are especially pleasing.
Next, Angel Arthur takes him to a Glasgow tenement flat where three young children, who have never previously had a visit from Santa, are opening their first ever Christmas gifts. For the first time, their single mother was able to access her benefits and didn’t have to spend them all on gas and electricity following the nationalisation of the energy companies.
Now it’s on to Wormwood Scrubs, where George sees cells full of former bankers and FTSE 100 directors who were found guilty of corruption and tax evasion in the years that followed the 2008 banking crisis.
“All of this would have happened, George, if you hadn’t been born,” said kindly old Arthur with a twinkle in his eye. “So, instead of throwing yourself off the bridge, why not spend the rest of your life trying to make it happen?”
So now, boys and girls, every time you hear a bell ring you’ll know a Tory has found redemption.
Just don't count on it happening soon ...


British values?

The BBC reports:
Civil servants and other holders of public office should swear an oath to British values, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has said.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Javid said people could not play a "positive role" in public life unless they accepted basic values.
These included democracy, equality and freedom of speech, he said.
That would be a democracy where an unelected House of Lords participates in the legislative process and where the head of state is appointed by virtue of birth.  That would be equality where government action makes the poor poorer while the rich get fat.  That would be freedom of speech unless you say things that we do not like, in which case you may be denied a platform.


14 December 2016

Thanks for nothing

See Microsoft!  The BBC reports:
An update to Windows software has caused problems for personal computer users trying to connect to the internet.
"Some customers using Windows 10 have reported difficulties connecting to the internet," said a spokeswoman for Microsoft.
"As a first step, we recommend customers restart their PCs.
"If this does not resolve the problem, visit our website for further support."
But if you cannot connect to the internet, how do you visit the website?

12 December 2016

He's, like, a smart person?

Would a smart person ever say that?  The Times reports:
Donald Trump dismissed the importance of the president’s daily intelligence briefing yesterday as a rift grew with America’s intelligence agencies over alleged attempts by Russia to meddle in the election.
Asked about the top-secret briefings given to presidents every morning, and offered to presidents-elect, he said: “I get it when I need it. I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”
Has he never watched The West Wing?


Handbags at dawn

Like ferrets in a sack.  The Tories descend into childish yah-boo politics:
Nicky Morgan insisted that she would continue to be a thorn in Theresa May’s side yesterday after it emerged that she had been banned from No 10 for publicly criticising the prime minister’s decision to pose in a pair of leather trousers costing £1,000.

Text messages published by the Mail on Sunday show that Fiona Hill, Mrs May’s chief of staff, promptly disinvited Mrs Morgan, a leading advocate of a soft Brexit, from meetings at No 10 following her trouser comments. She had previously met Mrs Morgan and Alistair Burt, another Tory MP, and asked them to a meeting with Mrs May next week about their views on Brexit. After the interview Ms Hill texted Mr Burt to tell him: “Don’t bring that woman to No 10 again.”
Mrs Morgan texted Ms Hill: “If you don’t like something I have said or done, please tell me directly. No man brings me to any meeting. Your team invites me. If you don’t want my views in future meetings you need to tell them.” Ms Hill, believed to be referring to the pair attending the previous meeting, replied: “Well, he just did. So there!”

The wonders of the age?


I have been enjoying Planet Earth II, much of which you can still watch on the BBC i-player. Superb photography.  But David Attenborough does rather spoil it with his anthropomorphism (attributing human feelings and emotions to animals) and his hyperbole (natural features being described as the world’s tallest, greatest, most extensive, etc, with only the most obvious of dubious assertions being preceded by an “it is estimated that”).  I also find it confusing that viewers are expected to guess when the programme slips into fast-forward mode (watching grass grow for example) or reverts into slo-mo fashion.  I suppose I’m getting old and cranky (though not as old as Sir David).

Anyway, Sir David is a National Treasure and therefore well above footling criticisms like those above.

11 December 2016

How to combine apologising with bragging ...

... not to mention name-dropping.  Niall Ferguson explains in The Sunday Times why he endorsed Remain in the referendum:
Why? The answer is partly that 14 years of living in the United States had taken their toll. Americans since the 1960s have wanted the Brits inside the EU to counterbalance the French, whom they do not trust. Writing Henry Kissinger’s biography, I had started to think that way. But a bigger factor — I must admit it — was my personal friendship with Cameron and George Osborne. For the first time in my career I wrote things about which I had my doubts in order to help my friends stay in power. That was wrong and I am sorry I did it.
Is he really sorry?  Doubtful ...


10 December 2016


Tremendous result for Glasgow Warriors, beating the glamour boys - Dan Carter and all - of Racing 92 by 23 points to 14, in Paris.


Music of the week


09 December 2016

Quote of the day

Oh dear.  The by-election in Sleaford.and North Hykeham,  The New Statesman sums it up:
What's increasingly clear: the further anti-immigration turn of Theresa May's government has fixed the Conservatives' Ukip problem, but they've acquired a Liberal Democrat one.  Labour, meanwhile, hasn't fixed its Ukip problem and now has a Liberal Democrat one to match. 


08 December 2016


Oh dear - Boris in trouble again. The Guardian reports:
Boris Johnson was not representing the government’s views on Saudi Arabia when he accused the state of abusing Islam and acting as a puppeteer in proxy wars, Downing Street has said.
The foreign secretary was setting out his own views on Saudi Arabia and Iran at a conference in Rome last week, the prime minister’s spokeswoman said on Thursday, but would be sticking to the government’s line when he visits Saudi ministers this weekend.
Johnson’s remarks, published in the Guardian, came at an embarrassing moment for Downing Street, emerging shortly after Theresa May returned from a two-day trip to the Gulf where she spoke repeatedly of the closeness of the relationship between the UK and Gulf states.
Perhaps No 10 would let everyone know in advance when the Foreign Secretary is pursuing his own agenda and when he is speaking for Her Majesty's Government.

It cannot go on like this.  I suspect resignation - or sacking -  is on the cards.


Headline of the day

From The Independent (here):
Carrier union boss: Donald Trump ‘lied his a** off’ about saving 1,100 jobs from moving to Mexico
So what's new?


07 December 2016

Happy birthday ...

... to Professor Noam Chomsky, father of modern linguistics, 88 years old today.

Syntactic Structures and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax are among the most prized possessions on my bookshelf.

I am sad that way.


Not going well for the government?

The Guardian reports progress before the Supremes:
With the government’s case – what there was of it – complete, the rest of the afternoon was handed over to Gina Miller’s barrister, Lord Pannick. Seldom has a man been less well named. Pannick exudes a sense of calm and has the uncanny ability to make you think you understand legal doublespeak even when you don’t. 
A Pannick attack is a thing of zen-like beauty. He doesn’t need to shuffle his papers because he never forgets a reference. Nor does he ever miss a beat. In his hands, a legal submission is more a cosy bedside story than adversarial confrontation.

“If the government is right,” he began, “the 1972 European Communities Act has a lesser status than the Dangerous Dogs Act.”
You could see the tension ease away from the 11 justices. They knew they were safe in Pannick’s hands and whereas their line of questioning to the government’s barristers had been provocative and sharp, they now turned into gentle pussycats.

06 December 2016

Déjà vu, again ...

He thinks that it’s a toy train set.  The BBC reports:
The way that England's railway network is run is set to be overhauled under plans outlined by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
He wants each rail franchise to be run by joint management teams, including representatives from both the train operating company and Network Rail.
Mr Grayling said: "I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways."
The changes will start when each franchise is renewed in the future.

It was (allegedly) Petronius Arbiter who said it best:

"We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."

05 December 2016

Worth dipping into?

If you are mildly obsessed with progress on the Supreme Court case on Brexit, you can watch it live here, from 11 am on.

Just don't expect drama along John Grisham lines ...


04 December 2016

is common sense re-surfacing?

Probably not, but still ...  The Sunday Times reports:
“The most significant thing that happened last week is what didn’t happen,” an aide to a cabinet minister said. “DD talked about paying money into the EU budget and no one from Downing Street machinegunned him in the street.”
DD is David Davis, the minister for Brexit. When he told MPs on Thursday that the government “would consider” continuing some payments to Brussels to “get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market” it caused consternation among Eurosceptics.
Immigration is a total red line; budget contributions is where they will try to compromise
While Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have seen many of their public pronouncements on the shape of Brexit quickly contradicted by May’s aides, this time No 10 left Davis alone, saying payments would be “a matter for negotiation”.
Those familiar with the government’s internal discussions say Davis’s statement shows that in private Theresa May is contemplating a softer Brexit than she has been publicly letting on. They say this coincides with Davis adopting a moderate approach to negotiations and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, retreating from his original position that the UK should stay in the European Union single market.
It is now nearly six months since the referendum.  The government appears to be taking an inordinate amount of time to decide what it wants and what it thinks it can get from the Brexit negotiations.


02 December 2016


Maybe a big boy did it and ran away?
Lord Howard of Lympne has been convicted of a motoring offence after telling a court that he “could not remember” who was driving when his car was caught speeding.
The former Conservative leader, 75, said his wife, Sandra, 76, could have been behind the wheel when their Toyota Prius was recorded at 37.3mph in a 30mph zone.
The couple admit that one of them was behind the wheel while returning from a weekend at their home in his former Kent constituency of Folkestone and Hythe to their Westminster address in January.
Given their age and dodgy memory, should either of them be allowed to drive?


Do these guys know what they are doing?

Or do they just twist in the wind, telling audiences what they think they want to hear?  The Times  reports:
Britain is leaning towards a softer Brexit after ministers admitted that they were considering plans to allow low-skilled migration and could pay to access the single market after leaving the European Union.
The government does not want to end up with damaging labour shortages, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, said last night amid growing signs that ministers were moderating their stance.
Mr Davis told a CBI dinner in Wales that the government would be “ending free movement as it has operated before”, adding: “We won’t do so in a way that it is contrary to the national and economic interest . . . Britain must win the global battle for talent. No one wants to see labour shortages in key sectors.”
Earlier in the day Mr Davis, a longstanding Leave supporter, told the Commons that Britain could keep paying into the Brussels budget in exchange for access to the single market. The government was not ruling out the move to “get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market”, he said.
Any sign of a strategy?  Or a plan?  Apart from making it up as you go along ...


I wonder why?

The Guardian reports:
Boris Johnson will issue a warning that democracy is in retreat across the world 
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that clowns such as he have risen to near the top of the political tree ...


27 November 2016

Viva Cuba!

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I spent a greatly enjoyable three weeks on a Ramblers' holiday in Fidel Castro's Cuba.  Super country, super people.

Desperately poor, in many ways an economic disaster.  But I remember the schoolkids, smartly dressed in their uniforms of white shirts and maroon shorts or skirts,even out in the rural areas, who looked happy and well cared for.  I remember the universal health service, with a better mortality rate then the USA, where newly qualified doctors were required to spend a number of years providing a service in the landward villages.

I hope that they can keep the good things in their society.  And I hope that the almighty dollar does not force them back into reliance on the worst kind of casino tourism.


25 November 2016


I'm in a nit-picking mood this morning.  The Independent reports:
Every household will lose a staggering £1,250 a year because of the Brexit vote, independent forecasters say – as they painted a devastating picture of falling living standards, including no increase in real wages for at least another decade.
No, no, no.  The IFS did not say that every household will lose £1250 per year:
IFS economist Andrew Hood said: “The OBR’s figures are for real GDP per household to be £1,250 lower in 2020-21, as a result of the vote to leave the EU.”
In other words, the average loss per household will be £1250.  But some will lose more; some will lose less.



The BBC reports:
Craig Gordon says Celtic have proved they are not inferior to the elite clubs in the Champions League.
The goalkeeper says his team have learned valuable lessons which they can carry into their domestic form and next year's European qualifying campaign.
He is adamant, though, that Celtic have shown their worth in the competition, despite finishing bottom of Group C.
"Our performances have been good enough. We can compete at this level," Gordon, 33 said.
"There's nothing I've seen in any of the games that suggest we're inferior to anyone else in our group."
How can finishing bottom of the group mean anything other than that Celtic are indeed inferior to the rest of the group?


24 November 2016

Brexit and all that

Leaving aside the question of access/membership of the single market, the Article 50 negotiations are likely to be complicated.  The Independent reports:
Article 50 has all the ingredients to become a fight about money. Here are some of the thorny issues that need resolving: Britain must be untangled from the European Investment Bank, and its 16 per cent share of the bank’s capital – nearly 40 billion euros – must be returned. EU grants will need to be repaid and fishing quotas adjusted. Someone will have to pay for relocating the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority from London. In turn, the UK will claim its share of EU assets – from EU offices down to the Commission’s wine cellar and cutlery. Lawyers on both sides will have a field day.
Not to mention the question of the British staff (and ex-staff) of the European institutions and their pensions ...


22 November 2016

Problems, problems ...

At the moment, it's probably not much fun being a government lawyer.  The Times reports:
Lawyers from every Whitehall department are trawling through tens of thousands of pages of EU directives and regulations going back more than 40 years. According to some estimates there are more than 40,000 legal acts in the EU, as well as 15,000 court verdicts and 62,000 international standards. Some are already incorporated into UK law, but will need amending; others are not and will need incorporating.
A senior legal source with extensive experience of drafting legislation said he had seen a government email this week calling for commercial help from outside Whitehall to identify the legislation that needed changing. He accused the Department for Exiting the European Union of not having “the faintest clue what they’re up to”, saying that the legal team had the “wrong seniority, the wrong levels of experience, the wrong skillset”.
Other legal experts said that it would be next to impossible to incorporate such a vast body of law into UK legislation on a blanket basis because so much of it was relevant only while the UK was a member of the EU.
“You can’t just take the whole of EU law and plonk it into the UK legal system because so much of what the EU does is inherently cross border in nature,” Michael Dougan, professor of European law at the University of Liverpool, said. “Once you have left the EU that doesn’t make sense any more. It would be rather preposterous to leave the EU and still give full legal recognition to thousands of foreign decision-making bodies.”
Is the ba' on the slates?  You betcha!


16 November 2016

A right dog's breakfast

Brexit is becoming a mess.  Further it gets messier by the day.  The Guardian reports:
A supreme court judge has raised the prospect that Theresa May would have to comprehensively replace existing EU legislation before the government could even begin Brexit, in a move that could seriously delay the process.
In a speech that angered leave campaigners, Lady Hale said the supreme court judges could go further than simply forcing May to publish a short piece of legislation to approve the triggering of article 50.
The deputy president of the court said that next month’s case – in which the supreme court will hear the government’s appeal against a high court ruling that MPs must approve the triggering of article 50 – raised “difficult and delicate issues” about the relationship between government and parliament.
“Another question is whether it would be enough for a simple act of parliament to authorise the government to give notice, or whether it would have to be a comprehensive replacement of the 1972 act,” she said in comments to law students in Kuala Lumpur that were published online on Tuesday. The European Communities Act 1972 took the UK into the then European Economic Community.
It is becoming equally clear that the government is bogged down in the morass without a scooby as to the way forward.

And Boris is compounding the shambles:
Britain is probably leaving the EU customs union, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has claimed, despite Whitehall warnings that it could seriously harm the economy.
The cabinet minister made the revelation in an interview with a Czech newspaper, despite Theresa May’s insistence that her government will not be providing a running commentary on Brexit.
According to the interview, which was reported in Czech, Johnson said: “Probably we will need to leave the customs union, but this is a question which will be dealt with in the negotiations.”
The move is likely to alarm businesses that move goods to and from the EU as it would mean extra checks at the border.



14 November 2016

Fur coat and no knickers

On the one hand (here):
Donald Trump has said he will deport two to three million undocumented immigrants “immediately” upon taking office.
In his first television interview since winning the presidential election, Mr Trump insisted that he is going to carry out his hardline immigration policy proposals, while insisting that he would build a wall between the US and Mexico.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably two million – it could be even three million – we are getting them out of the country or we are going to incarcerate,” Mr Trump told 60 Minutes.
On the other hand:
...  it still remains unclear how Mr Trump plans to carry out this proposal. Undocumented immigrants are entitled to full removal proceedings in immigration court. And as the courts already have a major backlog of hearing, there would be no immediate removals. Additionally, he fails to explain how his policy would be different from the current law in place under the Obama administration, which prioritises removal of immigrants convicted of criminal offences. 

09 November 2016

A so-called financial expert opines

Just shows how much I know.  The FTSE100 is up by over 40 points, while the FTSE250 has risen by over 100 points.  Adding jam to the butter, the pound sterling is up to over 1.13 euros.



Oh dear

Trump past the winning post.  Now for absolute carnage on the stock market.  And who knows what else ...

As The Guardian points out:
The people of America have stepped into the abyss. The new president elect is an unstable bigot, sexual predator and compulsive liar; he is capable of anything.


08 November 2016

Cartoon of the day


By their actions shall ye know them

Well, there's a surprise (not).  The Guardian reports:
The UK government is fighting a rearguard action to prevent Guernsey, Jersey and British overseas territories from going on an EU blacklist of tax havens.
At a meeting of EU finance ministers on Tuesday in Brussels, David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury, will tell his counterparts that the UK opposes attempts to put territories with a zero rate of corporation tax on an EU list of “non-cooperative” jurisdictions.
The EU vowed to draw up a blacklist of tax havens following the revelations in the Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Brussels pledged to throw light on the shady “treasure islands” that help multinationals and wealthy clients avoid paying tax.
So much for the government's protestations about fighting tax avoidance ...


Aw diddums ...

Jeremy gets himself in a lather:
Jeremy Clarkson has described plans to make the BBC reveal the pay of stars who earn more than £150,000 as disgusting, saying management should be trusted to pay enough to keep them from joining commercial rivals.
Asked about his earnings from new Amazon show The Grand Tour, which reportedly cost £160m for three series, Clarkson lashed out at those he said were “obsessed with money”.
“Take the business of BBC talent. What country are we living in when we want to know how much people are paid? It’s disgusting,” he told the Radio Times.
Some of us might regard this as rather more disgusting:
Until he was dropped last year from Top Gear after allegedly assaulting a producer, Clarkson was on one of the largest salaries at the BBC, thought to be around £1m a year.
He had also earned millions in dividends from Bedder 6, the company he formed with long-time production partner Andy Wilman, which exploited the Top Gear brand globally. In 2014 the pair sold their stakes in the company to existing shareholder BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, taking Clarkson’s total earnings for the year to more than £14m.
His salary at the BBC was paid for from the licence fees levied on the public.  Why should that salary be secret?


07 November 2016

The fake

Not the Real Thing.  For that you'll have to wait until Thursday.


Was he leaned on?

You have to feel sorry for James Comey, FBI boss, the J Edgar de nos jours.  In July, he controversially cleared Hillary of illegality with regard to the e-mails on her private server.  Ten days ago, he - again controversially - re-opened the case anent some 650,000 e-mails found on a laptop (some laptop!) owned by ex-Congressman Wiener.  Yesterday, after extensive FBI analysis (man, they really got through all those e-mails!) he admitted there was nothing to look at and could everyone just move on, please.

As a result, he has offended just about everyone in every quarter of the political establishment - Hillary for re-opening the case and the Donald for then hurriedly dismissing it.  Lesson for young James?  Don't mess with the big boys ..

A storyline for The West Wing?  Not likely - too improbable.


23 October 2016

Factoid of the day

From The Observer (here) (my emphasis):
Britain’s biggest banks are preparing to relocate out of the UK in the first few months of 2017 amid growing fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to get out before Christmas.
The dramatic claim is made in the Observer by the chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association, Anthony Browne, who warns “the public and political debate at the moment is taking us in the wrong direction”
Browne warns that both British and European politicians who appear to be pursuing “anti-trade” goals need to recognise that “putting up barriers to the trade in financial services across the Channel will make us all worse off”.
Browne, whose organisation has been in intense negotiations with the government, further warns the EU that banks based in UK are currently lending £1.1tn, therefore “keeping the continent afloat financially”, and that this arrangement is at risk.
Not a lot of people know that ...


22 October 2016

Music of the week

Theresa at the European Council

From The Guardian (here):
The time passed slowly. Ten o’clock came and went. Eleven o’clock came and went. Midnight came and went. Just after 1am, a steward tapped her on the shoulder to let her know there was a spare five minutes if she had anything she wanted to get off her chest while the few remaining people still awake finished their coffee.
“I’d like to talk to you all about Brexit,” Theresa had begun.
Parlez à la main,” shouted a lone Belgian, before falling off his chair.
Theresa continued, determined not to be distracted. “I’m here to tell you that Brexit means Brexit and that the UK remains committed to getting whatever deal with the EU we can manage to negotiate once we’ve got some sort of a clue what it is we really want. Mercidanke.”
Silence. Two people staggered off to bed without saying a word; the rest remained asleep in their chairs. The épaule had never seemed so froide.
“I think that went quite well on the whole,” Theresa said later to one of her advisers.
Plus ça change ...

19 October 2016

Quote of the day

Boris at Parliamentary Questions (here):
Boris appeared disappointed to find so many people doubting him on both his own and the opposition benches and when Labour’s Ben Bradshaw drew attention to an American chamber of commerce report that suggested the US was planning to withhold $600bn of investment from the UK due to uncertainty over the single market, Boris had had enough. “All this bremoaning gloomadon popping is getting me down,”  Pangloss  moaned. “Let me tell you here and now that everything is going to be absolutely brilliant. Why can’t you all just cheer up a bit?” Because they’d all read the foreign secretary’s article saying it was all going to be a nightmare. That’s why.

Not getting off the pot

A Tory Prime Minister faced with a deeply divided Tory party has little option but to kick the can down the road.  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May has retreated from holding a parliamentary vote on airport expansion this autumn after the government was warned that Tory MPs could resign their seats if ministers backed a third runway at Heathrow. Two Conservative sources said Downing Street had been warned by whips that May could face resignations and byelections in seats that could be lost to the Liberal Democrats in south-west London.
The prime minister appeared to prepare the way for a decision in favour of expansion at Heathrow on Tuesday, as she revealed cabinet responsibility would be suspended for longstanding opponents of airport expansion in west London. This would allow Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Justine Greening, the education secretary, to carry on voicing dissent on behalf of their constituents.
However, May also signalled there may not be a major vote in parliament on the issue until winter 2017/18, despite the belief of senior government and opposition figures that a vote would take place this autumn.
But it merely postpones the problem; it does not resolve it.  And, meanwhile, the adverse consequences for business and the economy continue to mount ...


16 October 2016

Quote of the day

Niall Ferguson in The Times (here):
In the age of the smartphone it’s too good an analogy to pass up. Increasingly, as his presidential campaign flames out, Donald Trump is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 of US politics — a phone so hurriedly assembled that it spontaneously combusts. That would make Hillary Clinton the iPhone 7. She’s essentially the same as your current president but harder to connect to and with inferior email security.

14 October 2016

Infamy ...

... Trump is now channelling the late Kenneth Williams.  The Guardian reports the latest carry-on:
Donald Trump scrambled to dig himself out from an avalanche of fresh abuse allegations on Thursday after a series of women came forward to dispute his claim that his comments about sexual assault were only empty boasts.
The torrent of accusations, which includes claims from beauty pageant contenders who allege he burst into their dressing rooms to ogle them while they were nude, added nearly a dozen new names to the tally of women who have accused the Republican nominee of inappropriate behavior.
Many say they were galvanised into speaking by Trump’s denials during Sunday’s presidential debate, where he dismissed a recording of him bragging about groping women as “locker room talk” and insisted they were “words not action”.
But with allegations to the contrary casting an ever-growing shadow over the campaign, Trump instead sought to dismiss the accusations as a vast establishment conspiracy, orchestrated by his opponent Hillary Clinton “as part of a concerted, coordinated and vicious attack”.
"A vast establishment conspiracy"  - yes of course.  The whole world has it in for him ...


10 October 2016

In charge of the asylum

Bizarre.  The Times reports:
Doctors, nurses and other NHS staff need to be more positive at work, the new whistleblowing chief for the health service has said.
Henrietta Hughes said that low-level grumpiness could harm patients and contribute to a mistrustful “toxic environment” in which staff were reluctant to speak out. She said that “every single person” in the health service had to help to make it a happier place to work and end a culture of bullying and poor care.
The NHS needed more of the “trust and joy and love” hormone oxytocin, Dr Hughes said, citing the happy embraces of reunited families at the start of the Hugh Grant film Love Actually.
“If you think about that scene in Love Actually where everybody is meeting at the airport, that’s the oxytocin feeling. So wouldn’t it be better if oxytocin was the predominant neurotransmitter in the NHS?”
Speechless!  Underpaid nurses, overworked doctors, forget your troubles and be happy ...


06 October 2016

That speech

It's all going downhill.  The Guardian reports:
A change was gonna come. Theresa was gonna build hundreds of thousands of new homes. Huge swaths of green belt would be concreted over. She didn’t know how she was going to pay for any of her promises, but that wasn’t the point. She just had to hope that no one noticed her policies were as brittle as her performance. It would take a while for her to acquire the easy rubberiness of her predecessor. Still, she had to say something about money so she threatened to clamp down on tax-dodgers, but none of the millionaire Tory donors in the hall batted an eyelid. They knew no change was gonna come. Their cash was safe. Politicians always say they are going to tighten up tax loopholes, but they never do.
A change was gonna come. The vision Theresa wanted to leave us with was of a Britain where the Brownlees were an example to us all. One brother stopping to help the other across the finishing line. Back in hospital, a second grown man cried. George Osborne rubbed his chest. He still had the bruises from where Theresa had kicked him unconscious before taking the tape alone. Do as I say, not as I do.
A change was gonna come. The prime minister tried to convince the conference that she alone cared for the working-classes and that it was Labour who were now the nasty party. Some of the more gullible even believed it and gave her a standing ovation. She lapped it up, as well she might. A change was gonna come. It was just as well no one had bothered to enquire if the change would be for the worse.


05 October 2016

Quote of the day

The Guardian's John Crace at the Tory Party Conference (here):
Back in the main hall, Jeremy Hunt was trying to prove that he wasn’t an automaton like the rest of the cabinet by having the lectern removed and speaking to the hall from the front of the stage. It was a move that badly backfired as it just made the strings operating his arms and legs even more visible. “Let’s give a clap to all the hardworking people in our NHS,” he said, his arms being yanked together by an apparatchik up in the flies. After that, his legs repeatedly kicked the hardworking people in our NHS by telling them they could all sod off back to wherever they had come from because British people only wanted to be treated by British doctors and nurses. The audience loved that.