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 ...