31 August 2017

What else can she say?

The BBC reports:
Asked whether she wanted to lead her party into another general election, whenever that takes place, the prime minister told the BBC's Ben Wright in Kyoto that that was her intention.
"Yes, I'm here for the long term. What me and my government are about is not just delivering on Brexit but delivering a brighter future for the UK.
"It is my intention to deliver not just a good Brexit deal for the UK but to ensure 'global Britain' can take its place in the world, trading around the world and we deal with those injustices domestically that we need to do to ensure that strong, more global but also fairer Britain for the future."
If she states anything other than determination to remain in office for the foreseeable future, then the story becomes when will she go and who will replace her.  Ever since Blair promised to step down and dithered, prime ministers have to maintain the fiction that they intend to go on forever.

25 August 2017

Sport or business?

In the good old days, football clubs were owned by a local entrepreneur - a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker.  No longer.  Nowadays, it is global business.  The Guardian reports:
Manchester City’s parent company, the City Football Group, has made Girona the sixth club of its widening portfolio, after confirming a deal to purchase a major stake in the newly promoted Spanish side.
The terms give City a 44.3% share and an identical holding to Girona Football Group, the agency owned by the City manager Pep Guardiola’s brother Pere. The remaining stake is owned by a Girona fans’ association.
Girona are playing in La Liga for the first time in their 87-year history after promotion last season, having reached the play-offs in three of the previous four campaigns. The clubs said negotiations began last year and that Girona’s “on- and off-field potential, together with a positive academy track record” played a significant part in bringing the deal to fruition.
Since Sheikh Mansour bought City in September 2008 his Abu Dhabi-based CFG has acquired the start-up MLS franchise New York City FC, the Australian A-League side Melbourne City, Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos, Club Atl├ętico Torque in Uruguay, and now Girona.
It means CFG is represented in the Premier League and La Liga, Europe’s richest, as well as on four other continents: Oceania, Asia, North America and South America. City are also two years into a five-year agreement with NAC Breda that involves their players being loaned to the Dutch club.

Is this a good thing?  I doubt it.


24 August 2017

Quote of the day

From Hillary Clinton (here):

“This is not OK, I thought,” Ms Clinton says. “It was the second presidential debate and Donald Trump was looming behind me.”

The debate took place two days after an audiotape emerged in which Mr Trump was heard bragging about groping women.
“We were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled,” Ms Clinton says in her book.

“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching: ‘Well, what would you do?’ Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can't intimidate me.’”

Ms Clinton says she chose the first option.
“I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off,” she says.
But Ms Clinton wonders whether she should have chosen the second option.
“It certainly would have been better TV,” she says. “Maybe I have over-learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.”

Did those who voted for Brexit consider the effect it would have on the cost of their holidays?

The pound hits a new low against the euro:

It is now trading at 1.0836 euros to the £, but if you are buying currency for your holidays you will get even less.

My life in Spain becomes daily more expensive.


23 August 2017

Whither Afghanistan?

Is the military really in control?  The Independent  appears to think so:
Trump has been subject to a military coup behind the scenes – this is the beginning of the end for his presidency

He is now so enfeebled that the Generals and Admirals are not just emboldened to ignore his orders with contempt (not a blind bit of notice was taken of his ban on transgender people in the military). They are dictating foreign policy even when it directly undermines the support of Trump’s base.
On the other hand:
In narrowly military terms, the detail he announced on Monday seems irrelevant gesturing. He gave no firm detail at all, in fact, though it is believed that the current US deployment of some 8,000 troops has been boosted to 12,000. Afghanistan was an anarchic hellhole with 100,000 US soldiers on its soil. An extra 4,000 in a country as large and chaotic is purely symbolic.  
If the generals were truly in charge, we might have expected something more than a symbolic gesture ...


17 August 2017

It's a stoater!

The Irish border is more than a three-pipe problem.  The Independent explains:
The reason why the Irish border issue hasn’t been sorted out more than a year after the Brexit referendum is that it cannot logically be the same as it is now – frictionless and seamless. When the UK leaves the EU customs union, with or without transition arrangements, some mechanism will be necessary to certify origins, to ensure that goods imported into the UK cannot travel into the European Union, ie Ireland, without some notification of their origin and whether they conform to EU rules and have paid EU duties, and vice versa. Otherwise the EU’s common tariff barrier and [with] the rest of the world cannot work. Modern technology and licences granted to trusted companies can help assist this, but the fact remains that some fresh bureaucracy, even if mostly digital in form, will be required, and human beings will be needed to police it.
Even if the customs union problem could be settled with countless ANPRs (automatic number plate recognition cameras) and CCTV posts, that still leaves the even more fraught issue of the free movement of people. There is nothing today to stop, say, a Lithuanian flying to Dublin, taking a train to Belfast and entering the UK.
In other words, David Davis, Michel Barnier, the Irish cabinet and all the other clever people around the capitals of Europe have failed in their quest to make two plus two equal five. It is as if a team of mathematicians had promised to make two plus two equal five because that is what everyone agrees it should be – there is lots of goodwill behind the idea, it would make life a lot easier, and it would be much worse for peace in Ireland if two and two actually made four. Of course they could be locked in a room until the end of time and still not find a way to make two plus two equal five, because it can’t, and no amount of wrangling will make it happen.
The only solution (and it is essentially a non-solution) is for everyone to ignore the problem.  Maintain the status quo on the border and simply accept that there may be leakage of goods into and out of the EU Customs Union and of a modest amount of uncontrolled emigration from the EU into Northern Ireland (and thence into the UK)..  Would that be so bad?

15 August 2017


Ryanair are being public-spirited?  The Guardain reports:
Ryanair has called for a crackdown on alcohol sales at British airports after claiming that airlines are saddled with the consequences of passengers getting drunk before flights.
Europe’s biggest short-haul airline has proposed a ban on early morning sales of alcohol in bars and restaurants, and limiting the number of drinks sold per boarding pass.
The call comes after figures showed a spike in alcohol-related arrests at airports or in the air, while a major survey of cabin crew found most had witnessed drunken and disruptive behaviour on board.
I have never noticed Ryanair being reluctant to sell booze in-flight, at any time of the day or night.  But, of course they charge a fiver for a miniature of spirits and, presumably, make a handsome profit in doing so.


Wishing and hoping

The government's new proposals for a temporary customs union do not take us much further.  The Guardian reports:
Ministers hope to strike a temporary deal with the European Union to retain the key benefits of the customs union for an interim period after Brexit, to avoid cross-border commerce grinding to a halt.
The government will use a position paper published on Tuesday to reveal that, for a brief period, it will seek a deal allowing the transit of goods across borders to continue as now – perhaps by striking a “temporary customs union”.
Ministers hope this will avoid economic disruption by giving businesses and officials time to gear up for a new customs regime; while sidestepping the constraint that full members of the customs union are not allowed to strike independent trade deals with non-EU countries.
The government will say it wants to create “the freest and most frictionless possible trade in goods between the UK and the EU”.
Yeah, and I want to be a billionaire married to Scarlett Johansson.

Why would the EU allow the UK access to a customs union if the latter is simultaneously permitted to negotiate external trade deals?  And how much would the EU expect the UK to pay for the privilege?  And would the ECJ not have to adjudicate disputes?  And, thus, we are back to the same old, same old ...


12 August 2017

General confusion

When General "Mad-Dog" Mattis, US Defence Secretary met General Kelly, Trump's new Chief of Staff:
John F Kelly is the new chief of staff. He also used to be a general. No special nickname. Today he tells me that Kim’s escalating rhetorical war with POTUS is worrying him enormously.
“The guy is a maniac!” he says. “He’s unpredictable! He could drag the world into war without even meaning to!”
“He’s unstable!” I agree. “His inferiority complex and fragile ego are a danger to us all!”
Then we both suddenly look at each other, and blush.
“Out of interest,” says Kelly, carefully, “who were you actually talking about?”
“You first,” I say.
Something to  do with the hairstyles, probably ...

11 August 2017

Quote of the day

Trump again (here):
"I will tell you this, if North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us they can be very, very nervous.
"I'll tell you why… because things will happen to them like they never thought possible."
 "I will tell you this, North Korea better get their act together or they're gonna be in trouble like few nations have ever been."
He sounds increasingly like some local  mafia enforcer.trying to put the squeeze on the local shopkeepers.  I will tell you this, he is sorely in  need of a better scriptwriter.


09 August 2017

Quote of the day

President Trump would not appear to be calming matters:
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," he told reporters, referring to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. "He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Hyperbolic bombast.


06 August 2017

Kids get it in the neck - again

Now that the silly season is upon us, it is time to whack (metaphorically) the nation's children.  The Observer reports:
The children’s commissioner has warned parents that they must intervene to stop their children overusing social media and consuming time online “like junk food”.
As web use reaches record highs among children, Anne Longfield has attacked the new methods social media giants are using to draw them into spending more time staring at tablets and smartphones. In an interview with the Observer, she said that parents should “step up” and be proactive in stopping their children from bingeing on the internet during the summer holidays.
So the present culprits are the social media.  Before that, it was video games; and, before that, it was watching too much television.  In the days of the caveman, kids were probably spending excessive time chasing baby dinosaurs.


05 August 2017

Music of the week


Getting hotter, maybe.  The Guardian reports:
Eleven southern and central European countries have issued extreme heat warnings amid a brutal heatwave nicknamed Lucifer, with residents and tourists urged to take precautions and scientists warning worse could be still to come.
Authorities in countries including Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia are on red alert, the European forecasters’ network Meteoalarm said, and swaths of southern Spain and France are on amber.
Highs in Spain, including in popular holiday resorts on the Costa del Sol and on the island of Majorca, are set to reach 43C this weekend, with extreme conditions also forecast in Seville, Malaga and Granada. Ibiza and Mallorca could hit 42C, Spain’s Aemet meteorological service warned.
But the local forecast for my part of the Costa del Sol is 30C for today and 28C for tomorrow, pleasant but tolerable, especially with a cool glass of something.



Oh dear ...

This will make life a little more complicated for those of us who regularly spend time on foreign shores.  The Independent reports:
Brussels has published the draft legislation for dealing with “visa-exempt third country nationals”, which is what British travellers will become after the UK leaves the EU.
The new regulations will increase the cost and complexity of holidays and business trips to the Schengen Area, which includes 22 EU countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Red tape for travellers will be more tangled, with UK passport holders forced to pay for an online permit even for a “booze cruise” to Calais, a weekend in Amsterdam or a Northern Lights trip to the Arctic.
A proposed “EU Travel Information and Authorisation System” (ETIAS) aims to identify anyone thought to pose “a security, or irregular illegal immigration or public health risk”. The scheme aims to reduce risks by obliging prospective visitors to anywhere in the Schengen Area to fill in a detailed online form. They must provide details of “his or her identity, travel document, residence information, contact details, education and current occupation”.
Travellers will also have to answer questions about their state of health, particularly any infectious diseases.
Thus, millions of on-line applications will need to be checked and maintained, while the fees will need to be received and accounted for.  Do you suppose that our masters are remotely capable of effectively administering such a system?



04 August 2017

Poem of the day

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
   If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
   If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,   
   Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
   Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
   And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
   If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster   
   And treat those two impostors just the same;   
   If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken  
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
   Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,    
   And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings   
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
   And lose, and start again at your beginnings    
  And never breathe a word about your loss;
  If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew    
  To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
  And so hold on when there is nothing in you    
  Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,      
   Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
   If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,   
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
   If you can fill the unforgiving minute   
   With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,      
   And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


03 August 2017

Concocted panic?

Can it really be true that Europe will be cut off from the UK?*  Mr O'Leary appears to think so:
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary thinks you'd better line up a stay-cation for 2019.

The airline CEO told the BBC that the UK is in denial over Brexit, and that it’s entirely possible that if David Davis and chums don’t pull their fingers out, there might not be any flights between here and the continent during the Brexit summer.
September 2018 - only just over a year away from now - is the cut off date for airlines when it comes to scheduling for when the UK is formally out of the EU.

If there’s no deal on air access by then, there will be no flights, for at least a couple of months and perhaps for longer. That will create problems that go way beyond people not being able to get to Spain for their summer break (assuming things remain gummed up for that long) unless they’re willing to fly via Boston.
I would have thought that the economic consequences for the tourism industries of Spain, Portugal and Greece (and perhaps even France) would be so severe that some kind of arrangement would be patched up.  But - as with so many of the other consequentials of Brexit - who knows?

* A bit like fog in the Channel


02 August 2017

Empty threats

A government with no teeth used to be known as a gummy wonder.  I rather doubt if the energy companies will be quaking in their boots.  The Guardian reports:
The government has warned energy companies it is still prepared to legislate for an energy price cap, after British Gas announced a 12.5% electricity price rise for more than 3m households.
The increase would add £76 to a typical annual electricity bill, and some experts warned that it could kick start a new round of price rises from the so-called Big Six energy companies.
A senior government source said Ofgem had to act fast to safeguard poorer consumers and had the powers to do so – and repeated warnings that the government would be forced to legislate if the regulator’s proposals were inadequate.
“It’s never been off the table, but Ofgem has the power to make the reforms and can move quicker than legislation. But we will legislate if it comes to it,” the source said.
 Note the "if it comes to it".  How much more justification do they need to implement the price cap promised in the Tory manifesto?


01 August 2017

RIP Jeanne Moreau

One of the greats.

No fandango for Scaramucci

From Wikipedia (here):
Scaramuccia (literally "little skirmisher"), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell'arte (comic theatrical arts). The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman). Usually attired in black Spanish dress and burlesquing a don, he was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice.
Seems appropriate, somehow.  But now despatched from the stage, something of a loss to the gaiety of nations.