31 May 2017

Silly old buffer

I'm not old - I'm a not so active adult?  The Guardian reports:
People should not be called old until they are seriously frail, dependent and approaching death, one of the UK’s leading social scientists has told Hay festival.
Sarah Harper, a gerontologist who is director of the Oxford Institute of Ageing, proposed a different approach to the language we use about ageing, suggesting that people in their 60s and possibly 70s and 80s should still be considered active adults.
“We should not even be calling people old until they reach what [the historian Peter] Laslett calls the fourth age; that time where we will become frail and enfeebled,” Harper said. “Old age should be the fourth age. Everything else should be active adulthood.”
She said there was a danger of neglecting what true old age should be: a time of withdrawal and peace and reflection. It can be a difficult time but “it is a time we need to claim as a special time because we are finite beings … we will die”.
I rather doubt that we wrinklies give two hoots as to the label used to describe us.  But a little more care and consideration on the part of younger members of society would not go amiss.


27 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Two weeks ago, when the Supreme Leader informed the country there was a realistic chance of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, everyone dismissed the idea as scaremongering. It now turns out she was acting on insider information.
Only she knew just how mediocre she really was and that her mediocrity would be inevitably found out. Only she knew that she was planning to release a totally uncosted manifesto with policies that would have to be ditched before the election even took place. Only she knew that she was strong and stable enough to turn a 24 point lead in the polls into a mere five.
As John Cleese once said, " 'It's not the despair.... I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand".


23 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
Mrs May repeated her mantra to Andrew Neil last night that the election comes down to whether she or Jeremy Corbyn should negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU. It remains a fairly strong line, although that is like saying that Victoria Beckham would be a better replacement No 8 for the Lions rugby squad in New Zealand than Nicholas Parsons.


Election poster of the day

More here


22 May 2017

Not so strong and stable?

The BBC comments on Mrs May's latest u-turn, modifying the proposals for social care in England:
Suddenly, only four days after the Tory manifesto was published, Theresa May has added one rather crucial proposal to her social care plan - a limit or a cap to the amount of money one individual could be asked to pay.
She is adamant that she is not budging on her principles, and was clearly irritated by questions after her speech that said she was backtracking.
But the manifesto did not include the notion of a cap, and just yesterday ministers publicly rejected such an idea.
One senior minister told me "we always knew we were going to need to give protection to those with very high care costs".
They said the prime minister sees trying to fix the social care system "as a big, big deal and she is prepared to use political capital to do it".
But having to clarify the manifesto within days creates a whiff of panic.
And I rather doubt that the addition of an unspecified cap will go very far towards appeasing those opposed to the plan.  Further concessions on the way?

This is what happens when party leaders do not think things through and do not adequately consult their colleagues.  It might be described as a failure of leadership ...


21 May 2017

Music of the week

Paranoia of the day

From The Sunday Times (here):
Even the election date has it in for Labour. A change.org petition is demanding the month of May be renamed “Corbyn”. The petitioner rages: “We want a calendar for the many, not the few. The insidious presence of May on our kitchen walls and calendar apps is a clear, unfair advantage to the Conservatives”. 
They may (hah, again) not have noticed that the election date is in June?


20 May 2017

A born diplomat

President Trump takes his usual sophisticated dialogue into conversation with the Russians.  The Times reports:
President Trump told the Russian foreign minister that he was relieved to have sacked his FBI director and allegedly described him as “a nut job”.
Barely an hour after Mr Trump had departed Washington for his first foreign trip yesterday, it emerged that the president had used an Oval Office meeting with Sergey Lavrov to explain his decision to dismiss James Comey the previous evening.
According to a document that summarised the meeting, Mr Trump told Mr Lavrov: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job”.
The Talleyrand de nos jours, he is not ...


19 May 2017

Quote of the day

And after the Manifesto Launch:
Forward together, the Supreme Leader left alone in her five-car motorcade. The cabinet were left to fend for themselves in the broken down bus.


Aw diddums ...

Infamy, they've all got it infamy.  The Independent reports:
Donald Trump has said that “no politician in history...has been treated worse or more unfairly” than him.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” the US President told cadets graduating from the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. "
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I'll go and eat worms ...


18 May 2017

Not exactly encouraging ...

OK, so he's not an Einstein.  But even so, this seems excessive.  The Times reports:
Speeches at President Trump’s first Nato summit next week will be limited to four minutes, in order to keep him engaged.
Nato officials may also adopt tactics from the White House, such as repeating the president’s name and using maps and graphs, to keep him interested in proceedings. Mr Trump asks his staff to restrict memos to one page and few of his meetings last more than 15 minutes.
The National Security Council officials have taken to including Mr Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned”, a source said yesterday.
Treat him like a child, and he'll act like a child.


17 May 2017

Chaos theories

The tide of daily revelations about the state of affairs in the White House is beginning to have an effect on the real world.  Bloomberg reports:
Growing concerns over the turmoil engulfing President Donald Trump’s administration weighed on risk appetite, boosting the yen and gold and sending U.S. stock futures lower.
S&P 500 Index contracts declined with equities across Asia on reports that Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The dollar was already in retreat after a report that the U.S. president shared terrorism intelligence with Russian officials, an action he has since defended. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dropped for a sixth day, crude extended losses and volatility indexes climbed.
“At the very least the view is that Trump’s economic policies will be delayed over this, and the dollar is being sold,” said Tomoichiro Kubota, an analyst at Matsui Securities Co. in Tokyo. “At the moment there’s a strong sense of investors trying to gauge how far this will go. It’s a situation where you can’t completely rule out the possibility of impeachment down the road, so it’s difficult for investors to buy.”
That pre-supposes that you regard the financial exchanges as part of the real world.

Poster of the day

h/t Norman

16 May 2017

Stuff for Jeremy and Kezia to think on

Another Labour manifesto and, once again, the focus is on income tax and corporation tax, perhaps understandably, as these - together with VAT - form the bulk of tax receipts at the national level. But is the Labour Party missing a trick or two? Here are some other areas which seem to me to be ripe for attention.
1. When I buy shares on the stock market, I am charged stamp duty of 0.5% of the purchase price, the proceeds of which go to the Treasury. Is there any reason why this should not be increased to 1% or 2%? Certainly, share investors would squeal, but they are not short of a bob or two; otherwise they would not be putting their spare cash into the stock market.
2. I am allowed to earn capital gains on the stock market of up to £11.300 annually before such gains become eligible for income tax. Why is there this exemption from income tax? Like anyone else, I benefit from the standard income tax allowance. Why do share investors get this extra tax benefit?
3. Similarly, I am currently allowed to receive £5000 in share dividends before I have to pay any income tax on such receipts (although that was scheduled to be reduced to £2000 in 2018-2019). Once again, what is the justification for such favourable treatment for those not obviously in need?
4. Of course, in addition to the above, I can avoid any tax liability (other than stamp duty) by putting £20,000 a year into a stocks and shares ISA. Nice for me, but what does it contribute to the common good?
Can we afford these tax fripperies for the middle class when the NHS is going down the plughole, when welfare benefits are being hacked back, when schools are grossly underfunded and when there are serious financial problems providing care for the elderly?


In the doghouse again

The dangers of amateurism:

More here.


14 May 2017

Music of the week


Trouble at t'mill.  The Sunday Times reports:
The Today programme has long been known for annoying the nation’s politicians. And, with its weekly reach of more than 7m listeners, the Radio 4 show has also not been immune to its own internal rivalry.
Now two of the presenters are understood to have raised concerns with senior BBC bosses about the “uncollegiate” behaviour of Nick Robinson, who joined Today in 2015 after a decade as the corporation’s news-breaking political editor.
One of the presenters went to Gwyneth Williams, controller of Radio 4, while the other went to Gavin Allen, controller of daily news programmes.
Their worries centre on Robinson’s sharp elbows as well as tussles over who is on the rota to appear for big occasions, such as post-budget and after the election when Robinson wants to be on air.
With a team of five presenters — Robinson, Humphrys, who has been on Today for three decades, Justin Webb, Mishal Husain and Sarah Montague — there has long been an element of rivalry.
With the exception of Ms Husain (who seems to be relatively normal), the other four are a bunch of patronising plonkers, so far up themselves as to be right pains in their respective fundaments.

Bring back Naughtie, even if he does on occasion ask the most convoluted questions.


13 May 2017

Dinner in the White House

Time Magazine explores President Trump's culinary preferences:
The waiters know well Trump’s personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else. 
When you're the Donald, you get to eat what you want, even if it is childish ...


12 May 2017

Off the leash

Trump lashes out:
Donald Trump has said that he "was going to fire" former FBI Director James Comey regardless of input from the Department of Justice – contradicting claims from his own White House staff.
"Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey," Mr Trump, said in an interview that marked the president's most extensive comments since the firing of the former FBI Director, whom he referred to as a "showboat" and a "grandstander".
"The FBI has been in turmoil,” Mr Trump claimed. “You know that, I know that, everyone knows that.”
The comments, in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, departed from the White House line: that a meeting with the Justice Department convinced Mr Trump to dismiss Mr Comey. Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had claimed that advice and letters from two Justice Department officials swayed Mr Trump's hand.
The FBI may or may not be "in turmoil" but the White House certainly is.  And it is less than dignified for the President to be abusing a former employee.

This would never have happened under President Bartlet - where is CJ Cregg when you need her?

10 May 2017

Quote of the day

The New Statesman gets lost in labels:
No liberal globaliser or free-market ideologue, Mrs May believes in social cohesion and a strong state as well as reducing immigration. Her language is communitarian and softly nationalist. Her government is not neoliberal: more accurately, it is post-Thatcherite. From the beginning, Mrs May has been clear that she would wish to regulate as well as intervene in markets that are perceived to be rigged or broken. Ed Miliband would approve. You could say that she is Britain’s first post-liberal prime minister.
Well yes, you could.  But would it add to the quantum of human knowledge or understanding?


09 May 2017

Promises, promises ...

Why do politicians make promises that they know cannot be delivered?  As The Guardian notes:
“Imagine if Jeremy Corbyn were to be prime minister,” the Supreme Leader said. No one in the room, or indeed the country, had been considering this possibility for a second, but the May Team, that happy band of brothers – not to forget a couple of token sisters – closed their eyes and did their best to pretend. Labour’s promises were all undeliverable, Kim Jong-May insisted, before outlining several undeliverable promises herself.
Starting with reducing the number of people coming into the country to the tens of thousands. A target she had consistently failed to get anywhere near during the six years she had been home secretary. There was no contradiction. The Supreme Leader was always right, even when she was wrong. She had got away with it then and she would get away with it now. Anything to get the Ukip vote out. Strong and stable leadership demanded nothing less.
Even if she were to succeed (which is far from being on the cards), what would it do to the economy? Or to the health service, which is reliant on immigration?

The Tories are making ridiculous promises in a cynical attempt to sway those who are concerned about immigration.


07 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Observer (here):
There are only two people in the country still trying to sustain the fiction that the general election is competitive. One is Theresa May. “I don’t take anything for granted,” she says, with the most implausible humble-bragging. The other one playing pretendy politics is Jeremy Corbyn, who has to maintain the line that four weeks of further exposure to him, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell will miraculously change the country’s estimation of their suitability to form the next government.
Depressing ...


04 May 2017

May's wobbly Wednesday

Just because she's paranoid does not mean that Johnny Foreigner is not out to get her.  The Guardian reports:
As her limo returned to Downing Street from Buckingham Palace, Kim Jong-May strode purposefully towards the lectern set up in front of No 10. It was time to address her subjects.
There were dark forces at work, she said gravely. The lights were going out all over England. She had tried to be reasonable with the enemy by telling them exactly on what terms Britain was prepared to leave the EU. But the untrustworthy Johnny Foreigner had just thrown it back at her. The continental press had deliberately misrepresented her plans for intergalactic domination. Stick-It-Up-Your-Juncker had dared to say he thought the negotiations might involve negotiation. Deadly threats had been made against the UK. 
All of these acts had been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general coronation that would take place on 8 June. There was a global conspiracy at play to make sure she was deposed as Supreme Leader and replaced by the EU collaborator Jeremy Corbyn. Forget the opinion polls that suggested she was heading for a landslide victory. They were just part of a Brussels dirty op. Unknown to everyone in the country but her, the EU had secret agents waiting inside every polling station to stop every Conservative voter.
Only one thing could save Britain at a time like this. “Strong and stable leadership,” she said, sounding ever more deranged and unstable. Kim Jong-May’s eyes glazed over in rapture. All her life she had waited for this moment and now she had got her wish.
What would she be like if Labour actually did pose a threat to her hegemony?


02 May 2017

Is Theresa May a bit of a plodder?

I'm beginning to wonder.  Her constant reiteration of "strong and stable leadership", her avoidance of  interaction with any voters other than committed conservatives and her failure to answer perfectly reasonable questions appear to suggest a lack of emotional empathy.  While, by all accounts, the Tory manifesto will say as little as possible about anything.  Now we have reports of this latest bust-up with EU representatives, suggesting that she has yet to come to grips with the realities of the Brexit negotiations.

Is there evidence of a cool tactical brain behind the bland and blunt - if dogged - refusal to engage with her interlocutors?  Or is she just not up to the job?  Who knows?


Sticks and stones

Is there any real need for the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to descend to the level of the Foreign Secretary?  The Guardian reports:
Boris Johnson will be subjected to a Boris-style attack on Tuesday from the deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, who will describe the foreign secretary as a “cheese-headed fopdoodle”.
The description follows Johnson’s description of Jeremy Corbyn as a “mutton-headed old mugwump” in his first intervention of the election campaign.
In a speech to the shopworkers’ union Usdaw’s annual delegate meeting in Blackpool, Watson will say: “Boris Johnson is a caggie-handed cheese-headed fopdoodle with a talent for slummocking about.”
A fopdoodle is defined online as a stupid or insignificant fellow, a fool or a simpleton. Cheese-head, confusingly, is a name for a type of screw with a raised cylindrical head, while a slummock is an untidy or slovenly person.
Good fun and all that, if a little strained.  But such name-calling is not raising the tone of the debate; nor is it adding to the enlightenment of the general public.


01 May 2017

It has a certain comedic charm



Tory tax bombshell!

Well, that's clear enough.  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May is likely to abandon the Tories’ “triple tax lock” commitment and has ruled out increases to VAT, but signalled that she could allow a future Conservative government to raise national insurance and income tax.
The prime minister, whose government was recently forced into an embarrassing U-turn over plans to raise national insurance for the self-employed, said she did not want to make promises that she would be unable to keep. As such, she would not commit to renewing her predecessor’s policy that prevented the government from increasing any of the three major taxes: VAT, national insurance and income tax.
So vote Tory and prepare to pay higher taxes.  And, if you''re a pensioner, say cheerio to the triple lock.


It's only 25 big ones ...

I don't suppose he needed to increase his mortgage:
Former Prime Minister David Cameron has found a new way to chillax with his morning edition of City A.M. after he bought a £25,000 "shepherd's hut" for his garden.
The hut, made by Oxfordshire-based Red Sky Shepherd's Hut, now sits in the Camerons' garden.
 Nice for some ...