21 December 2017

Christmas wishes

Bullying? Intimidation?

Is Trump behaving like a Mafia boss?   Here is his caporegime at the United Nations, berating the General Assembly about his decision on Jerusalem:
In the letter sent by Ms Haley, she said: “The US is simply asking that you acknowledge the historical friendship, partnership, and support we have extended and respect our decision about our own embassy.”
She added: “The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”
On Twitter, she had written: “At the UN we're always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticising our choice. The US will be taking names.”
And, thus, development aid comes with hidden strings attached.  Not so different from the protection offered by Don Vito Corleone.


19 December 2017

Just an afterthought

Says it all really.  The Guardian reports:
A few hours after the crash, Donald Trump cited it as a reason to support his infrastructure plan, tweeting: “The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!”
Ten minutes later, he tweeted: “Thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.”
The man is a boor.


12 December 2017

Theresa May's problem with Brexit clarity

It's a bit of a muddle but The Guardian tries manfully to elucidate:
The problem is that clarity is the one thing May dare not provide, because the minute anything is illuminated then it’s a target for someone. Her best hope is generating a sort of permanently confused twilight in which nobody (including her own cabinet, which still hadn’t formally agreed the precise form Brexit should take even as the EU agreed we had made significant progress towards it) is entirely sure what’s going on, and therefore can’t be certain yet that they hate it.
So nothing is agreed until everyone finds out exactly what it is that they’re supposed to be agreeing, at which point it is still perfectly possible that nobody will agree to any of it. But the aim is to push the inevitable moment of truth – the point where both leavers and remainers realise exactly what’s going to happen, and someone goes ballistic – as far down the road as possible.
Probsbly not the best way to run a railway ...


Joke of the day

From The Independent (here):
David Davis breezily announced on the radio that “I don’t have to be very clever to do my job, I don’t have to know very much.” 
Just as well.

Or it would be, if he was even half competent.

As The Guardian points out:
Suddenly the whole point of David Davis became clear. After first fantasising he read impact assessments that never existed and then managing to contradict himself within 24 hours on whether the interim deal was legally binding, the Brexit secretary has created the perfect framework for all future negotiations. Thanks to his hopelessness and incompetence, there really is no longer any way of telling what is true and what is not. We have entered a post-modern political world where suspension of both belief and disbelief are one and the same.

11 December 2017


The diet coke addict.  The Times reports:
The most talked-about man in the world rises at about 5.30am and sometimes sends his first tweet of the morning while watching television propped up on the pillows of the White House master bedroom.
Television news coverage will continue to shape President Trump’s mood until he goes to sleep some 18 hours later, according to a survey of many of those closest to him.
He will by then have typically spent between four and eight of those hours in front of a television screen, sometimes with the volume muted, stewing over or relishing the portrayal of his actions and those of his administration on channels that he perceives to be either friendly or hostile.
He tends to share his thoughts on the news with anyone in the room, including the household staff who bring him lunch or one of the dozen Diet Cokes that he drinks most days.

A vision of the future

The machines are taking over.  The Guardian reports:
... in San Francisco, delivery robots have quietly taken to the sidewalks of over the past year. Companies including Marble and Starship are developing “robots as a service” business models, whereby food delivery apps contract with the robot companies to perform their deliveries.
At scale, the robots could significantly cut down on delivery vehicles (and labor costs), but they also take up space on sidewalks, where bicycles, Segways, and sitting or lying humans are already banned. Since taking on the issue, Yee said that his office had become something of a repository for photographs taken by angry residents of the robots clogging the sidewalks amid baby strollers, bus stops, street vendors, and pedestrians.
A coalition of residents, pedestrian advocates, and activists for seniors and people with disabilities lambasted the robots as “aggressively entrepreneurial wet dreams” and “the future Ubers of the sidewalk”.
It will end in tears.


10 December 2017

In praise of millennials

I happened to be in Princes Street last night about 7.30 pm and saw the vast crowds, predominantly young adults, queueing to attend the Sleep in the Park event.

It kinda restores your faith in human nature.  And it was a bitterly cold night.

So well done to all the participants.


09 December 2017

Music of the week

Quote of the day

The Guardian channels Juncker's thoughts at the presser:
Theresa pressed on. Britain would be meeting its financial obligations. Juncker checked his spreadsheet. Correct. He’d always budgeted for a €40bn payout. Tick. EU citizens rights had been agreed. Well, sort of. Up to a point, at least. It was still desperately unclear just what role the European court of justice would play. Or for how long. But that could wait for another day. As things stood, it could turn out that every woman rushes off to give birth in Northern Ireland just to secure an EU passport for their baby.
As for Ireland, all anyone had agreed was to kick the problem a bit further down the road. Juncker shrugged. If that was the way it had to be be for now to keep everyone happy, then so be it. The Brits could call it regulatory alignment if they liked, but for the life of him he couldn’t work out how the prime minister could guarantee there would be no hard border unless Britain to all intents and purposes remained in the single market and the customs union. To him, it seemed like madness. Hand over €40bn and relinquish all rights to influence the regulations just to end up roughly back where you were when you started. It was a curious way of taking back control. But not his problem.

08 December 2017

Still flummoxed

This is an extract from this morning's written agreement between the EU and the UK:
“The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border… In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”
I find it difficult to interpret this in any way other than that the UK will remain in the single market/customs union.  If it is not an actual member, it will nevertheless faithfully conform ("full alignment") to all the rules and requirements of the single market/customs union.

In these circumstances, the UK cannot possibly negotiate separate trade agreements with, for example, the USA, as these would not be compatible with the single market.  So no chlorinated chicken.

Do the brexiteers realise thisWhat happened to "taking back control"?  How will Liam Fox, trade minisiter, spend his time?

I should stress that I am personally entirely content that the UK should remain in the single market/customs union.  But, if that is the outcome, then what is the point in the UK leaving the EU?  The only difference is that the UK no lomger has any say in determining the governing rules.

 Or am I missing something?


The Independent offers an explanation:
... it was being pointed out that the text that had been agreed merely postponed all the difficult decisions to a later stage. In particular, the bit about the Irish border that caused difficulties with the Irish government on the one hand and the DUP on the other – this was solved by promising to do something implausible at a later date.
But that is how international negotiations work. You agree the bits you can agree and put off the difficult bits until later. Again, it is the EU side that has given ground. It refused to move on to the talks about trade until the first three subjects, including the Irish border, had been agreed. This was then downgraded to “until sufficient progress had been made”. There hasn’t really been any progress at all – just a number of mutually contradictory declarations of intent – and yet the EU has agreed to move on. 


Doesn't work for me

You can follow the blow-by-blow reaction to the magnificent (maybe) success in Brussels here.

I regret to say that I cannot really understand how matters have progressed since last Monday.  Unless the entire UK is to retain membership of the single market/customs union, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is inevitable.  Alternatively, if there is no hard border between NI and the Republic, then there has to be a hard border between Ireland as a whole and the rest of the UK.  And, if the UK is to remain in the single market/customs union, the Tory backbenches will go doolally.

I'm flummoxed.


"Deal by dawn"?

So it's an early morning dash to Brussels.  (Have these people never discovered telephones?)  The Times rather over-dramatises:
Theresa May negotiated through the night to hammer out an Irish border compromise as Brussels raised hopes of a deal by dawn.
After a day of intense talks involving London, Dublin, Belfast and Brussels, negotiators were said to be moving closer to agreeing a new joint text allowing talks to progress towards a potential trade deal.
In a sign that an agreement may be close, the European Commission said Mrs May was likely to fly to Brussels for meeting at 6am British time with Jean Claude-Juncker, president of the commission. Donald Tusk, head of the European Council, set an effective deadline by saying he would make a statement 50 minutes later.
Earlier in the night the commission said negotiators were “making progress but not yet fully there”. Government sources said that the gap between the sides had narrowed but cautioned that talks could continue into the weekend or beyond. Mrs May repeatedly delayed flying to Brussels this week after the Democratic Unionist Party vetoed a deal at the eleventh hour on Monday amid fears of an effective sea border with the UK.
Under a compromise being worked on, language which drew DUP objections would remain but “interpretation” would be added “to make it more palatable”, a Brussels source said.
That last paragraph suggests a fudge rather than a realistic attempt to square the circle.  Which probably means that, even if a suitable form of words can be cobbled together, any agreement is likely to fall apart sooner rather than later.

Deep fried avocado?

The Guardian reports:
Marks & Spencer has begun selling a stoneless avocado that could help banish the pain of “avocado hand”.
The so-called cocktail avocado is 5cm-8cm (2in-3in) in length and has a smooth, edible skin, meaning it can be sliced or eaten whole.
Earlier this year, the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons identified the problem of increasing numbers of people turning up at A&E after cutting their hands and fingers while trying to remove avocado stones, and called for safety labels to be put on the fruit.
Charlotte Curtis, a food technology specialist at M&S, said: “We’ve had the mini, the giant, ready sliced and we’re now launching the holy grail of avocados – stoneless. This amazing fruit has been on our radar for a couple of years and we’re very excited to have finally been able to get hold of some for our customers to try.”
Curtis said she expected them to sell out quickly, adding: “My top tip is to try them deep fried.”
She must be Scottish.

06 December 2017

News management?

I suppose it is just a coincidence that these two stories appeared on the same day in The Guardian. This one here:
Security officials believe they have thwarted an alleged plot to assassinate Theresa May by terrorists who would first bomb their way into Downing Street and then kill the prime minister, it has emerged.
Two men were arrested last week following a joint operation by MI5, the UK’s counter-terrorism security service, and police.
Security officials believe the alleged Islamist plot is the ninth to have been thwarted since March this year.
And this one here:
Ministers have vowed to overhaul Britain’s fight against terrorism after a report revealed chances to thwart the Manchester attack were missed and the leader of the London Bridge assault struck while under investigation by MI5 as a threat to national security.
The findings followed this year’s spate of atrocities that killed 36 people, and come as the level of threat is assessed by counter-terrorism experts to have markedly increased, with warnings more attacks will get through Britain’s defences.
Internal reviews by MI5 and the police cleared themselves of making serious mistakes that allowed terrorists to strike. But a summary of the findings revealed that the attack on Manchester Arena that killed 22 people might have been prevented if different decisions had been made by MI5.
I cannot believe that the security services would stoop to bringing up the first story to distract attention from the second.


They don 't know wnat they're doing ...

The Independent reports:
For over a year, the Government’s handling of Brexit has reminded us of England teams in recent tournaments. The ones featuring players who, although supposedly top-class professionals, appear to have been randomly selected by computer from the national insurance database of every British 18-35-year-old male, given an hour’s training in a game they never played before and a 90-second lecture on tactics they couldn’t begin to understand, and sent out to represent their country as part of some unusually cretinous reality TV show / pop psychology experiment.
You could no more expect them to compete against Germany, Brazil or mighty Iceland than you would expect the Prime Minister and her allies to hold their own against Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and the mighty DUP. 

05 December 2017

Quote of the day

Neatly put, from The Times (here):
Sadiq wants what Nicola wants and Nicola wants what Arlene can have. But Theresa says Sadiq and Nicola cannot have what Arlene has and Arlene says she doesn’t want what Theresa says only she can have. Welcome, people, to the latest Brextucker challenge, where everyone except Kezia Dugdale has to swallow something vilely disagreeable.
Reality comes at you hard and fast, however. For 18 months, UK ministers have insisted that there can be “no return to the borders of the past” on the island of Ireland and that there can be no opt-outs from the greater British Brexit process. “Brexit means Brexit”, remember. For all that time it has been obvious that you can have one of these things but not both. But then, apart from the Leave campaign, who ever thought Brexit would be easy?


04 December 2017

What did she expect?

Did Theresa May believe that she could bounce the DUP into accepting an arrangement whereby Northern Ireland remained in the customs union/single market while the rest of the UK went a separate way?  If so, she has now been disabused of the position.

Did she not expect any such arrangemnt would immediately evoke "me too" demands from Scotland, Wales and London?

Where does she go from here?


Quote of the day

From Nicola (here)
"If one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with EU and effectively stay in the single market (which is the right solution for Northern Ireland) there is surely no good practical reason why others can’t."

02 December 2017

Would anybody miss either of them?

Politics is a dirty business.  The Independent reports:
​Brexit Secretary David Davis has reportedly made clear he will quit if his cabinet colleague Damian Green is dismissed over allegations of pornography being found on his work computer almost a decade ago.
But Mr Davis’s defence of his cabinet colleague was immediately ridiculed. The Labour MP Jess Phillips posted on Twitter: “David Davis. Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on your way out.”
“David Davis your red line, your hill to die on is really something. ‘What made you want to become an MP?’… ‘Great question, I really wanted to fight hard so people can w*** at work,” she added.
In any case, Davis has left himself a get-out as Green would no doubt be allowed to resign.


01 December 2017

Quote of the day

From The New Statesman (here):
It was entirely predictable that Brexit would go wrong. It was arguably avoidable, even after the vote. That we are rushing headlong towards the cliff anyway is entirely the fault of a Conservative Brexit elite that long ago began to believe its own deluded, post-imperial bullshit.
None of this is the fault of Remainers, you know. You won, Brexiteers: get over it. This is your mess, now. Own it.

Unfortunately, this is just a movie