Friday, June 16, 2017

Defeat From The Jaws


I look stupid, not strong and stable – Teresa May

“The Titanic was steaming ahead under blue skies. Then we created an iceberg and steered towards it.” - Tory party spokesperson.

Dust is beginning to settle after what was, perhaps, the most interesting, ill-conceived and ill-fought election in a generation.

Conservative politicians and pundits are falling over themselves (and falling out with each other at the same time) trying to explain what went wrong? What were the voters thinking? How could Tories have ballsed it up quite so spectacularly after being comfortably ahead just six weeks ago. How could the electorate actually favour Jeremy Corbin and Diane Abbot? (Heaven preserve us – or is that in the hands of the DUP?)

( Prime Minister Harold Wilson - attributed, 1954 "A week is a long time in politics" )

He certainly got that right!

I am a creature of habit. My Sunday is not really complete until I have had a good read of The Sunday Times. I like to think of them as fairly balanced (even though that evil little gnome Rupert Murdock is the proprietor). Get up, have breakfast, read Sunday Times is my mantra.

The Sunday Times generally supports the Tories but in a not very enthusiastic way. I was interested to see their take on the result. I was shocked.

A flavour of their coverage: “The loyalties which centre upon (the leader) are enormous. If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes, they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed.” - Winston Churchill - May must be pole-axed and probably will be. . . . She had a 20 point lead but managed to turn that crock of gold into a crock of shit. (Very unusual Sunday Times front page language!) By the end – in a campaign against Jeremy Corbin, for God's sake – we were even on the back foot over terrorism. That is the extent of the disaster – Senior Tory MP.

Who might the new leader be? Boris Johnson, whose innate laziness and sloppiness and inability to grasp the running of a department are legendary in Whitehall? David Davis, who is combative, insouciant and slightly flaky in equal measure? Amber Rudd, who so nearly lost her seat and whose flip-flop over Brexit . . . suggests flexibility if nothing else. It is as if a whole generation has gone missing, just when we need them the most.

Wading through the vitriol we finally reach page 15 and commentator Camila Cavendish's take on events. . . . “the person who lost most catastrophically was Teresa May. She and her people seemed to think she could triple Cameron's majority without wooing anyone. They were probably not helped by the wild predictions of landslides, Which I and many others believed. We Brits love an underdog and people may have voted to clip the wings of what they assumed would be a domineering Tory majority . . .she went into the contest as a no-nonsense, capable woman seeking a stronger negotiating hand with the EU. But she came to look more and more like an opportunist. This was partly because she had nothing to say about Brexit or at least nothing she wanted to share with the electorate. Mrs May gave the impression that we should trust her to get the deal done, not worry our silly little heads about the detail.”

Ron Liddle is definitely one of my favourites. His ascorbic with and classic turn of phrase lightens any Sunday morning. He says, “The prime minister made her magnificently stupid decision to call a general election while on a walking holiday with her husband in north Wales (I bet that was a barrel of fun!) . . . Look at that hill Philip. It's a large and very firm protuberance, rising up out of the ground. One might call it strong and stable. Certainly one couldn't call it a coalition of chaos. I am like that hill, Philip. I am strong ans stable. I am not like that bog over there. That bog seems to me a coalition of chaos. I am a hill not a bog (bog is a colloquialism for a toilet here in the UK).. . . But the country isn't united on Brexit, patently. And there are divisions at Westminster (as she gave as a reason for an election) because, uh, that's what the place is for, you dumbo. How did she manage to lose? My reasons were these. First, an awful lot of people in the North of England and the Midlands do not like the Tories. They mistrust them, with some justification. And the Labour vote – before the campaign – was still remarkably and even growing at local level. As for Jeremy Corbin: Westinister may think he's unfit to run a whelk stall, but north of Milton Keynes no such assessment was made. . . The Labour manifesto may well have been written by deranged Trots (Trotsky-ites) on acid, but at least it offered something , even if that something was unattainable by the usual laws of economics or even physics. What did the Tory manifesto offer, to anyone? . . . There was no enthusiasm for the Tories even among the Tories.”

MOST UNFORTUNATE CAMPAIGN SLOGAN: A van carrying advertising turned over in high winds on the M6 on Tuesday. Nobody was hurt, but the central theme of Teresa May's campaign suffred a slight dent. Not very “strong and stable” was it?

I doubt any political party will again make the mistake of producing a responsible manifesto.” - Dominic Lawson

Mr Lawson is an arch-Tory with impeccable credentials. Therefore what he has to say ought to be listened to.

. . . if the Conservatives somehow managed to lose seats and failed to gain an overall majority, it would be a near-terminal rebuff to a prime minister who had gamed the Fixed-Term Parliament Act to hold an election of choice – especially as Mrs May has run a clunkily personal campaign . . .a cult of no personality. Wrong again, I should have written terminal and left out the near.

I just can't remember a Tory-leaning paper ever savaging a Conservative politician in quite so systematic, thorough and sustained manner.

Fittingly, the last word goes to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration Of Independence.

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

A Prince, (in this case Mrs May) whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
How long can she last? Consensus has it not long.

She did get some respite owing to the tragic loss of life in the west London tower-block fire. Some respite, but only for about an hour until she turned up and did not meet with any of the residents. Meanwhile Jeremy was on the streets hugging people.

If a week is a long time in politics she may not make it past June 20.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cricket Subsidising Supermarkets


 We Don't Like Cricket - We Love It


Looks like the pendulum is swinging my way on the subject of cricket teas.

About time too. I have borne the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and hoots of derision far too long for suggesting that the tea interval (and the tea itself) is not really necessary and may be actually counter-productive.

Writing in the Eastern Daily Press under the title “Let then eat cake? It's just not cricket”,
Sharon Griffiths, a regular columnist, makes the case for dispensing with teas altogether.

“Cricket teas are under threat because they cost too much to prepare and take too long to eat often up to forty minutes.” (Even with the extension to 30 minutes in the NCA teas can last the 40 on occasion. The NCL still specifies 20 minutes for tea.)

This makes a long game even longer and young chaps less inclined to play. They have better things to do than eat cake, even on Saturday afternoons, so some clubs are thinking of cutting rations and cracking on.” Unfortunately, she does not specify the “some” clubs.

Amazing, really, the cricket teas still exist. Many many years ago I was besotted with a batsman and spent Saturday afternoons gazing adoringly at him . . . buttering my way through loaves of Mother's pride and pouring gallons of tea. . . Other wives and girlfriends were there too . . .the men played and the women fed them, admired them, and the children got bored and everyone waited until the men were ready to go home.

Well that was not going to last for long . . . The Sixties began to swing, bras were burned and women found they had other things to do with their time.

Thirty years later I had a brief stint of turning up with plates of sausages when my boys were playing in the local village team. By then mothers swooped in with their offerings and out again . . . no-one expected them to stay and watch an entire match.

At a wedding once I met a lovely lady who'd won a competition for cricket teas (Rocklands CC?) and had been invited into the Test Match Special box at Lords. Wonderful. She was rightly proud.

But that was then. No one starting from scratch would put a great big tea in the middle of a sporting match. Pretty bizarre, really. Other sports get by with nothing more than a slice of orange and an energy drink. Anyway, now the boys play cricket in the sort of leagues where they all go to the pub. Which probably seems a much better idea all round.”

I have been banging on about this for years. Essentially the cricketing fraternity is subsidising Tesco, Morrison's and Sainsbury. Money which could be used to improve the clubs is going, instead, into the “hard-pressed” Supermarket's coffers. This is crazy.

Clubs which still choose to provide teas should charge the opposition, say £2 a head. Clubs which do not choose to provide tea should provide a drink, tea or squash. If you want anything else, bring it yourself. Match fees can be reduced to account for the reduced cost. Time can be saved by only having a ten minute break. Get your drink, munch you home-made sandwich, crunch your crisps and get on with the game!

Simples!

Friday, May 19, 2017

UK General Election


Maggie All Over Again

My usual plan to have a summer break from blogging in favour of umpiring cricket has been scuppered by Teresa (Megalomaniac) May's plan to take over the world – or at least her little part of it.

Not only is a week a long time in politics, it can also seem interminable if you are trying to keep pace with some astounding developments. May's plan to put the Labour Party out to pasture (and perhaps out if its misery as well) came as a bit of a surprise, but it did reveal the kind of ruthless streak reminiscent of Maggie herself (Ding Dong!)

Meanwhile, Donald (Megalomaniac) Trump is well past the 100 day mark and is showing no sign of being, or even acting, like a President of the United States. His high-point so far was probably holding Saint Teresa's hand – obstensively to steady her – but who can tell with him what he was really up to? Mr Macron started a political party and won the French Presidency. Fat Frau Merkle looks like winning again in the autumn German elections. Madam LePen has gone back to being a Madam. Nigel Farage has disappeared, along with the rest of UKIP. So, it's not a surprise that May may get a big win, provided all the UKIPPERS faithfully troop the polls and return to the Tories in droves.

Why not call an election? In the end the temptation was just too great. A thumping majority is on the cards and few politicians could resist that kind of temptation.

(Remember Maggie more or less engineered the Falklands War to turn around a large deficit on the polls in 1984)

The odd thing here is that when folks are asked about policies they quite like the Labour ideas. When asked about leadership they fall grovelling at the feet of Teresa. When asked about Tim Farron (Lib Dems) they just shrug their shoulders and say, “Tim who”? The Scots are revolting and Ms Sturgeon is blowing the bagpipes as heartily as ever, but they will probably lose a few seats to the Tories.

Meanwhile the Brexit negotiations loom large in the background and Teresa's plea for a big majority to show those Europ-wallahs what's what plays nicely into the the hands of the Little Englanders, Oicks, Shitkickers, Numpties and Chavs who voted to leave.

In that respect, the election is a side-show. The Brexit negotiations are really the only game in town and the voters seem more than slightly averse to letting Jeremy and his team anywhere near them. In that respect the voters are probably correct. It will be up to Jeremy's successor after five more years of Tory twaddle to try to clear up the mess.

Is there any hope?

Not a lot. Perhaps Teresa will be filmed at Tory spanking session? Perhaps most voters will think it's all over and go to the pub instead. Even on a low turn out she still wins but maybe by not enough to silence the real assholes – David Davies, Bonking Boris (so late a convert to Brexit that even he didn't know he was in favour) Liam Fox, John Redwood (perhaps the most detestable man in politics except for Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel (perhaps the most mis-named politician of her generation) and the other Teresa (who is even odder-looking) Villiers.

I loved the bit where some ding-dong put a large bet on Labour to win (at quite generous odds for a two-horse race). The bookies seldom get it wrong and they like the Tories, and they like them more than just a bit – they like them a lot.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

True Brit


The Light Brigade

True Brit

The UK ambassador to the UK is about to hand in the letter from Mrs May triggering the departure of the UK from the EU.

Reminds me of that other famous note which triggered the charge of the Light Brigade:

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854, in the Crimean War. Lord Raglan, overall commander of the British forces, had intended to send the Light Brigade to prevent the Russians removing captured guns from overrun Turkish positions, a task well-suited to light cavalry. However, due to miscommunication in the chain of command, the Light Brigade was instead sent on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery, one well-prepared with excellent fields of defensive fire.

Although the Light Brigade reached the battery under withering direct fire and scattered some of the gunners, the badly mauled brigade was forced to retreat immediately. Thus, the assault ended with very high British casualties and no decisive gains.

One has to hope the result of the withdrawal from the EU will not be similar.

At first glance, there are no real similarities between the two events. However, they both provide an insight into the British psyche and character which has evolved through many years of great success and great disappointment.

I once read a book called True Brit. I have tried to track it down but with no success. Since I don't know who wrote it, Wikipedia has not been very helpful.

I can tell you the gist of the thesis of this book: many of the ideas associated with Britain are just rubbish and the product of the English penchant for myopia and myth-generation.

So, the idea that (for example) that Parliamentary democracy is Britain's gift to the world, so widely accepted by the British, is really an excuse for poor government which betrays most of the principles of representative democracy.

Whoa! That can't be right, surely! (Don't call me Shirley, please,)

What the British fail to recognise is that the UK is not a parliamentary democracy – it's a Kingdom. Sovereignty resides with the monarch – not parliament. Convention – in the absence of a written constitution - (the absence of which is a perverse source of pride to the British) has evolved into the idea that the monarch has no political power and that Parliament is sovereign. But, it is only a convention. The fact is: there is no real, effective check on the powers of Parliament. Essentially, Parliament can do anything.

Witness the EU Referendum. Most people don't realise that the Act of Parliament setting up the referendum established a consultation. UK politicians were not obliged to do anything after the result. So, what happened? They wimped out and fell over themselves to spout the party line. Result: the Tories make all the running and Parliament is mostly over-looked.

(Whoa, just today (18 April) Mrs May has called a snap General Election! Well, actually she didn't: she wants to but has to ask Parliament to overturn the Parliament Act which legislated for fixed term five year Parliaments. Once again the mother of Parliaments proves itself completely powerless to hold the executive to account! Democracy? Not a chance.)

Another pillar of the True Brit is the legal system. Parades of judges with funny-looking wigs on is supposed to inspire awe in the populace and insure legal scrutiny of the executive. The actuality is that the English judiciary is a hide-bound, antiquated oligarchy which is there to protect the status quo – not insure justice for the majority of people.

Examples of the judiciary working against the rights of citizens are wide-spread. Let's just focus on Brexit by way of example. Great play was given when judges prevented the PM from triggering Article 50 – the part of the EU treaty which provides for countries to leave.

(BTW I'd love to find out who the brilliant EU strategist was who decided to put Article 50 into a treaty. Folks might remember the USA had a costly civil war on the subject. One of the contentions was that the Confederate States had a right to secede from the Union. Good thing there was no Article 50 then!)

What actually happened was that the judiciary had no framework to account for Brexit, so they made one up as they went along. The lack of proper scrutiny again worked in favour of the Establishment. Result, a delay and a lot of self-back-slapping before Article 50 was invoked. The funny thing? The judges were pilloried by the rabid Brexiteers for daring to uphold the rule of law. You couldn't make it up!

How about the True Brit police? More drivel is pedalled by the Establishment about the police than any other pillar of True-Brit-ism.

Just a small example. You may remember that poor Brazilian John Charles de Menezes. He's they guy who was sitting on a tube and got shot 7 times in the head for his troubles. Tragic. A big mistake! Everyone agrees on that.

Who was in charge of this operation – none other than the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick. She is and will always be the most aptly named police person in history.

True Brit holds that Britain is an orderly, well-disciplined and law-abiding society. Crap. Throughout history Britain has set new standards in lawlessness and barbarity. Only recently did this myth of a namby-pamby UK appear.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Obamacare


Affordable Care Act Revisited

So, the POTUS does not do deals very well. Who'd a thunk it!

Well there's a shocker! What does he do now? Blame everyone else? Call it fake news? Spit out his pacifier? Play more golf? One thing is for sure, he now knows that the business model of shouting at and bullying your opponent does not really apply in politics.

Regarding Health care of course, we have been here before:


The real problem with the Affordable Care Act is in it's name. It's just not very affordable and that is what drives the Republican agenda for repeal and/or redrafting.

This is not an altogether bad idea. After all, the one thing most folks can agree on is that the “Affordable” moniker is a misnomer. It's just way too costly.

Why?

Voters should focus on facts. Healthcare in the US is about seven times more expensive than in other western industrialised countries. Yep that was seven, not six, not five, not four not nothin! That's a lot of money and by definition a lot of waste.

Most of the nonsensical objections are driven by the same agenda as opposition to Social Security legislation in the 1930's. Check out: http://classroom.synonym.com/opposition-social-security-1930s-23530.html

I assert and have always done so that having passed legislation to create Obamacare Congress will never repeal it. They may as well try to repeal Social Security.

Therefore critics of healthcare legislation should be working on ways to make it truly affordable!

Some simple improvements: stop doing so many unnecessary tests – doctors are so afraid of being sued for negligence that they order a barrage of tests for conditions that just don't require t hem. Not blaming them, so would you in that situation. Solution? Limit the amount of compensation to reasonable amounts for conditions ancillary to the original complaint. Simples. Move people through the system quickly and efficiently – too many patients are just hanging around waiting for this doctor or that doctor to show up. Doctors, I'm afraid need to work reasonable hours not play golf every Friday. Overhaul the hospital “ambience”. Do we really need barrels of flowers and haute cuisine? Cut down on the bureaucracy – how many admins does it take to change a light bulb?

I'm sure greater minds than ours can find lots of ways to save cash.

More affordable heath care is required – not a repeal of Obamacare. Get over it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Love That Dare Not Speak It's Name


Teresa comes a cropper!

You must remember the scene – it's the Poseidon Adventure and Gene Hackman, having led his odd band of fellow travellers to the main passageway which runs the length of the ship encounters another group of survivors, led by the Purser, and they are gong towards the bow. Gene pleads with them - explaining that the bow is under water and the only way out is via the engine room where the hull is thinnest.

His exasperation as the Purser's group insist they are going the right way is a absolute classic in frustration at man's stupidity in the face of an alternative and ultimately better reality.

So is it with politics at present

I am getting more and more discouraged by the performance of politicians as we approach the triggering of Article 50 which begins the process of extricating the UK from the EU.

Firstly, how did we get in this mess.

Did you know?

The referendum wasn’t legally binding, but there’s plenty of scope for argument about whether politicians should feel obliged to implement the result anyway.

"The [EU] referendum was an advisory referendum”

Dominic Grieve MP, 10 October 2016

This was not an advisory referendum”

John Redwood MP, 7 November 2016

Given that the meaning of the French Revolution is still contested, it’s no surprise that there are arguments over the EU referendum.

The word “advisory” crops up a lot in the debate at the moment. Here we’ll look what people mean when they say that the referendum was, or wasn’t, advisory.

Start with the law

The referendum was not legally binding. There’s no one source that can prove this statement true (although here’s a respectable one). That follows from the fact that the European Union Referendum Act 2015 didn’t say anything about implementing the result of the vote. It just provided that there should be one.

The EU referendum result is not legally binding so in theory Parliament could ignore the will of the people by deciding to stay in the EU. This is because Parliament is sovereign and the EU vote was an “advisory referendum”, as opposed to a “binary” referendum which has a fixed outcome.

In other countries, referendums are often legally binding—for example, because the vote is on whether to amend the constitution. The UK, famously, doesn’t have a codified constitution.

Why then are politicians of all parties so adamant that they are implementing the will of the people? What are they afraid of?

Following the referendum no day has gone by when some politician somewhere has not mouthed the mantra that we must respect the result of the referendum. They are correct. That result must be respected. But, for how long and in what manner?

No-one is speaking about this and it is wrong, very wrong.

The fact it you can have as many referenda as you like. Thanks to Dave Cameron the genie is truly out of the bottle.

However, government by referenda is bad government. You have only to consider how few there have been in the UK (Referendums in the United Kingdom are by tradition extremely rare due to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. As of 2017, only three referendums have been held which have covered the whole of the United Kingdom: in 1975, in 2011 and most recently in 2016.)

Why then has the result of the EU referendum achieved cult status. A new religion has sprung up! Why is there no real debate on the outcome? Why are politicians doing “duck-speak”? (George Orwell – 1984 Duck-speak is a Newspeak term meaning literally to quack like a duck or to speak without thinking.)

I honestly wish I knew.

Now we have Nicola Sturgeon throwing an enormous spanner in the works with a call for another Scottish Independence Referendum. The PM is in the very illogical position of defending the UK position on the EU Referendum whilst denigrating the Scots for doing the same thing!

David Davies in testimony before a select committee admits the government had no real plan to leave the EU and are making it up as they go along.

This is beginning to make Donald Trump's administration look competent – and that is no mean feat.

I'm thinking, what would old Churchill make of all this? Now, he was probably not one for joining Europe, but he would understand the importance of maintaining a position of principle in the face of everyone else – no matter how the numbers stack up.

The majority are not always right, and when the majority is paper thin and mostly contrived (the franchise was not inclusive by any stretch of the imagination) then real politicians should get their heads above the parapet and call spades spades.

Only the Lib Dems are even close on this one. The Labour Party are all over the shop. The Tories are obstensively together, but watch this space.

I see a blood bath coming and coming soon.

Here's a thought – could that Remainer Teresa May be playing a very clever game. Could she secretly be hoping the Scots et.al. force her hand and make her accept a “soft” Brexit which she may have wanted all along.

Interesting?






Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Post-Brexit Pre-Brexit


Big Tone Rides to the Rescue

An abiding image from this week: Teresa may hovering wraith-like beneath the throne in the House of Lords trying to insure that their Lordships don't much mess with the bill providing for the triggering of Article 50. I'm beginning to conflate her real visage with the one I have in my head of the spitting-image Margaret Thatcher. They are beginning to coalesce. It’s bit brightening if I'm honest.

Meanwhile, in True Brit fashion the focus shifts to the machinations of the True Believers and the Remoaners. Tony Blair has put himself forward as the Remoaner-in-Chief. He replaces the Leader of the Liberal Democrats (whose name escapes me – and indeed escapes the rest of the country as well) Tone has begun to advocate the love that dare not speak its name. He wants a second referendum. Or a third, or a fourth, or a fifth?

I managed to get our for a game of golf this week – yes the weather was that good. (It won't last, believe me) My partners had coffee and the discussion turned to Brexit, as it almost inevitably does now-a-days. The lack of understanding of precisely how they are governed as evidenced by the average British citizen always amazes me. They just have not got a clue. Pressed, they did grudgingly acknowledge that another referendum is possible, though not according to them desirable. “You can't just keep having referendums until you get the result you want!” was the mantra.

Oh, yes you can, should and probably will. Just ask the Scots who correctly assert that they voted to stay in the Union because it protected their EU rights. Now that the situation has changed, they want another vote. At the end of the Article 50 process. the people must have a vote on whether what ensues is what they want or not. Another referendum must be held.

The biggest mistake that David Whats-His-Name, you know Samantha’s husband, ever made (and he made some doozies) was introducing the idea that referenda are a good idea and a sensible way to govern the country. Wrong on both counts. All he did was unite the Tory Party behind a policy that he and the lovely Teresa and many others did not believe in. Thanks, David. I really hope you get sleepless nights. Many. Often.

People voted to leave the EU. Fact. Why they voted the way they did was unknown. Fact. Is the vote sacrosanct? No. Should it be? No.

Yet advocating another referendum has become akin to legalising paedophilia. Why should this be so?

Deep down the public know that they were diddled; not just by Brexiteers but by all sides. They cried out for meaningful facts on which to base their judgement. St John crying in the wilderness had more success. Now they people must cry out for a meaningful say in the result of the negotiations. I think that is what Tone was saying, but he is, of course, so toxic that the message is lost in vitriolic condemnation.

BTW, his crime? He got Parliament to support him by hook or crook (a policy which UK PM's have been following since Walpole) and he had since made a lot of money pimping himself around the world. Unforgivable.

The people must be given a chance to change their mind. Simples. To oppose this is undemocratic. Simples.




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When the legend becomes fact - print the legend

  The Trump Presidency so far
The presidency of Donald Trump is now off and running and the road is hard and the road is long and the road is rocky.

The traditional honeymoon period never really got started and it is his fault and the fault of those who are advising him.  Therein may lie the problem.

Clean up the swamp is an attractive campaign slogan.  To many of his supporters it was music to the ears.  The “professional” politicians had done nothing for them, now they were going to get their own back.  The Donald heard this and he took it on-board.  There would be no professionals in his administration.  Business professionals yes, political professionals no.  The mantra has echoed from one cock-up to the next.

To his hard-core supporters this is music to the ears.  No matter how ineffectual or incompetent the administration becomes the more they cheer from the side-lines.

Why?

Well they would say he is delivering on his campaign promises and that's why we voted for him.

Promise number one – Make America Great Again.  Jury is out on this one as it obviously will take some time to make a judgement.  How long?  Hard to say, the voters, even the hard core expect some tangible results.

Promise number two – Build the Wall

We should let the administration speak on this one;

http://www.breitbart.com/california/2017/02/02/wall-retired-marine-general-john-kelly-promises-build-trumps-wall-2-years-less/

Now, I'm assuming the intention is to keep the “bad hombres” out.  That's how the President described the rationale.  I believe most Americans support this.  Why wouldn't you support a plan to keep bad people out?  The questions are how effective will it be, how much will it cost and who is going to pay for it?

Effective?  A wall must slow down illegal immigration from Mexico.  Common sense tells you it will prevent some people from crossing the border illegally.  Will it stop all of them?  Not very likely.  What will it cost?  Estimates range from a few hundred million to billions.  Where will the money go?  Most of it to big business who will do the actual building, but there will be jobs created.  Moving to South Texas has never seemed so attractive.  Is this a plan to revive the economy?  The President says so.  He wants to be known as the greatest job-creating President ever. 

Donald Trump often reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt.  (I'm sure the Donald would be flattered by the comparison)  They are both nominal rather than real Republicans.  Therein the comparison starts to run thin.  They both had big construction projects in mind.  Panama Canal and Mexican Wall.  The Panama canal was a great success despite having to engineer a fake revolution in another country (Colombia) and costing an astronomical amount of money (The Panama Canal cost Americans around $375,000,000, including the $10,000,000 paid to Panama and the $40,000,000 paid to the French company. It was the single most expensive construction project in United States history to that time)  I can't even begin to calculate how much that is is today's money!

The Mexican wall will cost a lot.  Some of this spending will be beneficial.  Some perhaps not. 

Promise number three - Temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States

We know how this one is going.  Again, there is wide-spread support for keeping extremists from entering the US.  Why would anyone be against this?  It's very attractive at first glance.  Notwithstanding the difficulties in court, which are well-documented, how effective and sensible is this policy?  Answer?  Not much. 

It should be assumed that terrorists, real terrorists, are not going to turn up at JFK with a Somali passport and no English skills at all.  The ban will certainly stop them.  What about the terrorist with a fake German passport, good English and a ticket from Frankfort to Montreal via Canada Air?  He gets off and drives over the longest undefended border in the world.  The fact is number three is a nonsense designed to pander to the worst elements in the Trump supporters club.

Number four - Bring manufacturing (jobs) back’

Forgetting the wall, this is a real tough one.  There is an old saying which the President, I'm sure, is aware of – you can't buck the markets.  Nobody, even die hard Trump supporters, is going to keep paying over the odds for products which are made the USA.  It simply cannot be done. 

Number five - Impose tariffs on goods made in China and Mexico

Can do.  Why?  The American consumer is addicted to washing machines made in Shanghai and they will not pay over the odds for one made in Santa Fe.  Tariffs will make all washing machines the same price – higher.  Crazy.

Number six - Renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Renegotiate implies the other side is willing and able to make a new deal.  Optimistic in the extreme.

Number seven - Full repeal of Obamacare’ and replace it with a market-based alternative

Obamacare is flawed, always has been.  Can Trump suggest a better alternatives, having in mind that the very folks who elected him in Pennsylvania are the same ones who have been enjoying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  Tough circle to square!

Number eight Renegotiate the Iran deal

Old story, it takes two to tango and the Iranians have said no to a renegotiation.

Number nine - Leave Social Security as is

Political suicide to do anything else.  Easiest promise to keep.  Just do nothing. Good call.

Number ten - Cut taxes

All politicians, even experienced one, promise this.  It will not happen, but the voters will not hold it against him.  Nor should they.


Number eleven - Bomb’ and/or ‘take the oil’ from ISIS
A better analysis than mine:
“A twist on his decade-old idea to seize Middle Eastern oil as repayment, Trump repeatedly makes this promise on the campaign trail, arguing it’ll cut off funding to ISIS.
The United States has already been bombing oil assets under ISIS control for quite some time, though.
"It’s like saying there won’t be a meteor strike in 1812," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
As for how he would "take the oil," Trump told the Washington Post’s editorial board in March he would "circle" and "defend those areas" with ground troops, but wouldn’t commit to a number.
To keep this promise, Trump would have to invade Syria and convince the Assad regime to give up their claims on oil and gas in the country, according to Matthew Reed, vice president of Foreign Reports, a consultant firm specializing in Middle East oil politics
"If Trump wants to take oil from ISIS, he needs an invasion plan and an occupation plan covering years, plus a reconstruction plan worth billions of American dollars," Reed said.
Given that the United States and its allies have been systematically taking territory from ISIS without resorting to a full-scale invasion, Cordesman called the promise "purposeless" and "imbecilic."”
Ditto.

Bottom line: Trump is poorly advised.  Mostly this is his fault (the buck stops here) but he can still turn it around.  I give him another month to begin the process or it's circle the wagons time.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Wards in Jarndyce


Terrace Tribulations

People will know that I am no fan of Dickens. I have only ever read Dickens under sufferance and with great distress. I'm not even much in favour of TV adaptations or films based on his books.
Nevertheless, I confess to having watched Bleak House when it was on the BBC in 2005. I watched. I even became mildly interested. I even got the book from the library and read a bit of it. It did not elicit any lasting appreciation of Dickens writing.

Fortunately, Dickens is not really the subject of this rant.

It's football.

So, where's the connection? Easy – so much gloup is written about football that it resembles nothing so much as the fixation with the Wards in Jarndyce - the glue which holds the Bleak House narrative structure together for Dickens.

Recent events bear this out. Let's focus on just two.

The Glasgow Celtic – Glasgow Rangers is, some people decry, a special case. The excuses for poor behaviour amongst supporters is mired in sectarian prejudice and violence. Somehow this is used to “excuse” the excesses and simplify the situation.

Now we have the Celtic manager, Mr Lennon, being sent letter bombs along with other prominent supporters. The killer for me was a responsible police spokesman describing the situation as “nothing to do with football” Therein lies the mistake.

It is everything to do with football. In a era when sectarian conflict has almost been eradicated in Northern Ireland, how is it that responsible journalists and others can pretend that football has no role in perpetuating the problem.

Ask yourself: would the mindless prejudice and violence continue if there was no Rangers – Celtic match to provide the focus? I think not. The bigots would still exist, true. Perhaps they might migrate to Murrayfield and start a riot when Scotland play Ireland? Seems more that unlikely. Why?

The fact is the pea-brained bigots who perpetrate the violence just would not get the idea of a sporting rivalry – one that recognises that both teams are trying to win and are worthy of respect for their endeavours. Likewise the fans. Fans of the opposing team are not degenerate sub-humans but genuine supporters who want to see their team do well but recognise that the other team may win if they play better.

No, football, uniquely, has the capacity to engender mindless optimism and even more mindless degeneracy.

Personally, I'm fed up with people who, whilst seemingly stable and reasonable, insist on believing that that opponents and their fans are “scum” - which seems to be the only term of abuse they know. Comment on that mental capacity if you will.

It's even worse in East Anglia. Normal, responsible, educated and personable friends lose all mental perspective when a Norwich – Ipswich game approaches. The try to outdo each other in their vitriol towards their neighbours. Their version of trying to wish their team well and support the player's efforts consists of name-calling and foul abuse. This is not supporting their team – it's simply showing how loutish and vile they have become.

My suggestion: Rangers and Celtic should be relegated – one to the Highland League and one to the League of Ireland. They should not be allowed tickets to away games at all. They should have to stay their for a minimum of 3 seasons and if any trouble ensues – extend their exile to five years for each occasion. Even the troglodytes on the terraces should be able to understand this.

As for the East Anglian brethren, simply require anyone who really, truly believes that the team down the road is vile and their supporters are epsilon minus morons ( which may, or may not be accurate ) is deported to their city focus of hate and made to go to every home game and cheer their rivals on.

Maybe deport them.

Shakespeare


-->
Willm Shackper

That's one of the ways he signed his name.

Rash statements are my speciality. Consistency in the rashness is less obvious. One exception: I have always said that I would do a deal with the Devil in order to spend just one day with Shakespeare when he was alive and writing. I would gladly trade all the rest of my days for just one in his company. Just give me a week to get my things in order and then I'm definitely up for it.

Why? He was just the most incredible of writing geniuses. I would like to know how he did it. I would like to try to understand how anyone could so consistently produce genius, seemingly at the drop of a hat. It still awes and amazes me every time I consider it.

It was not always so. At the age of 15 my introduction to the Bard was both late and uninspiring. In the 60's studying Shakespeare was based on the text; and, as I am very keen to point out to modern students, not very satisfying, imaginative or interesting.

Studying like that was, and is, boring and almost guaranteed to put you off for life. What “saved” me was the play chosen for study - Julius Caesar.

I have always been interested in Rome and Roman history, so Caesar was a natural for me. I like history (in the 8th grade I won five dollars in the Daughters of the American Revolution history contest – I got 49 out of 50 questions correct I missed the one about Teddy Roosevelt, I knew that FDR was a Democrat so I guessed that Teddy was one as well – no – he was a Republican and a Progressive – damn Ol Teddy he cost me another 5 bucks and the first place glory).

Caesar in the dark ages – i.e. before video tape, cd's, dvd's – was a challenge for pupils and teachers alike. Why?

Simple. I told pupils why for more than 30 years. Skakespeare wrote plays, not books. Plays are meant to be acted on a stage (or as a movie). They are not meant to be read, either out loud or silently to yourself. To make sense of what is going on you have to see it!

Witness (and slip in a real good moan at the same time) the BBC – a venerable and mercenary broadcaster. Between 1978 and 1985 the Beeb commisioned and screened all 37 plays. They are quite truly wonderful, as they featured some of the most expert and famous actors of the day.

Then in a feat of the most uninspiring and possibly criminal opportunism and shameless exploitation of the long-suffering license-payer the BBC steadfastly has refused to air them again – as soon, and if you think this is co-incidental you need professional help, as video recorders became generally available. You can of course see these marvellous productions provided you buy the video from the BBC – and they are not cheap.

So much for inspiring a new generation of Bard fans. Thanks Auntie.

I do have a collection of plays that were aired co-incidental with modern technology and I used them extensively during the 90's and noughties.

Thus Shakespeare became a joy to teach. The language came alive and pupils suddenly “got it”. Fantastic.

After Caesar I moved on to Richard III. I say moved on but it was more like struggled on really.

Firstly, a rather attractive girl I knew invited me to spend the weekend at her Granny's farm. Could I say no? Not likely. As luck would have it, my weekend was promised to reading Richard III as well. Now truly it was a “winter of discontent” even though it was May.

My amorous adventures turned out to be non-existent, but I made little progress with Richard either. Why? This may be Shakespeare's most difficult play, though it was, apparently, very popular in his time. Why so?

Simple. It's a soap opera. And just like Eastenders if you don't know who the characters are and how they are related to each other you have little chance of making sense of it.

When I taught it for A level, I always spent a week (figuratively that is) in the 1480's. Unless you understand how society worked then you have little chance of understanding Richard III.

I need another blog to move the story on. I promise to do it soon.

Super Bowl 51


Super Bowl 2017 - an upset?

I have been putting it off for as long as I can. Firstly, a bit of history – my Super Bowl picks are notorious for their inaccuracy. I study hard and then come up with the wrong analysis and, inevitably, the wrong winner. Nevertheless, here goes.

Looking at it from a Chiefs perspective, having beaten the Falcons in Georgia this season you might think it's a done deal – Pats to win. Of course, it is not quite that simple. But for the Grace of God go the Chiefs to the Super Bowl where they may well have been favourites over Atlanta. But, as we all know, that didn't happen. And like all teams Atlanta are not the same team as in early December. Neither, of course, are the Patriots – who the Chiefs did not play this year.

The point? We are stuck with analysis. You can of course rely on the bookies. The problem is they are still licking their wounds after taking a pasting on the Donald and Brexit. How about Vegas? The Pats are about 3 point favourites. That seems about right to me.

The Patriots have no obvious weakness, and they have Tom Brady. That's worth about 3 points.

The Falcons may be susceptible to the run and their pass defence is not great. They will have to play an almost perfect game to win.

The Pats do not make mistakes. They protect Brady well and have a serviceable running game. Their short-passing game means it's difficult to get to Brady and disrupt his timing.

The Falcons have an explosive offence. They have multiple weapons and in Julio Jones a real star. They are going to score points – the question is how many and how often. Can they get Brady and Co. off the field? Can they avoid fumbles, etc?

My record is based on defence. I firmly believe that defence wins Super Bowls, but only if it matches up well with the opponents offence.

I'm not sure the Pats match up well.

It's the kiss of death, but I'm taking Atlanta by a touchdown. (apologies to all Falcons fans.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

One and Done


Chiefs EoS

Well, the Chiefs 2016-17 adventure is over with the 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Am I disappointed? Who wouldn't be. Am I upset. Oh, yes. Am I despondent? No, not really, for the whole thing was fairly predictable.

Way back in September I wrote: As usual, the rock is on Alex Smith's shoulder. He was brilliant in Week One and very ordinary in Week Two. Consequence? We are one and one.” For one and one read one and done.

Reams have been written about the Pitt loss and a lot of it makes sense, about the lack of a run game on our side and the inability to stop theirs; about the way the Chiefs kept them out of the end zone all day for all the good it did them; about the play-calling, the penalties, the dropped passes, the everything.

At the end of the day, Alex just wasn't good enough. Not for this game. Maybe not for any game.

Let's be fair. Back in September I thought that Nick Foles might get a shot at starting if Alex faltered. That didn't happen. I thought that the running backs would be the mainstays of the team. I foresaw Charles coming back and having a big year. He didn't. How much better would Alex be with a real running game? How much was Charles missed swinging out of the backfield catching passes in the flat? Who knows, but you ought to be able to put a number on it and the number would be large.

I wrote then: The problem is Charles has yet to play. Ware and West have shared the work and whilst both are capable, Charles has really been missed. If the running-back-offence starts to click when he does then fine. If not – big trouble. 

I was right again.

On to the real problems. Here's what I had to say about the receivers:

The wide receiver corps has been revamped. (About time too!) Jeremy Macklin leads. Chris Conley is now a second year receiver. Tyrek Hill is listed but is really a kick returner. The rest? De'Anthony Thomas who has mysteriously been inactive for the first two games, Demarcus Robinson, a rookie and Albert Wilson a 200 pound 5' 9” receiver (very out-of-date in the NFL). You can still make a case that this group is not going to scare anyone and not going to help Smith very much in his quest to become an elite QB.


What about the O-line: I'm not convinced that this is their year. Maybe in 2017-18 but not today. 

I just about got this right.

Defence? Turning to the defence which, as everyone with a brain cell knows, is what wins titles and Super Bowls. What was a strength is now just about average. 

Yep, nailed it!

Finally, I turned to the coaches: The coaching is what it is. There is no pressure real on Andy Reid. They are stable. They have good, experienced and capable coaches on the staff. They need to earn their money now. Anyone can coach an exceptionally good team. Can they make winners out of some mostly average talent? We'll see.

They made us winners all right. We won the AFC West. We got a play-off bye. Compared to the other 31 teams we did very well. But in the NFL only one team wins the Super Bowl. I have a notoriously bad record of picking the Super Bowl winners. I seen New England as too good in Foxborough for the Steelers to handle. I can't see the Packers stopping the Falcons. It's always hard to bet against Coach Belichick, but I'm picking Atlanta.

We move on. The draft. WR! WR! O-line O-line Linebackers Linebackers

Next year may be our season. At the end of the day (cliché) it was injuries that hurt us most, but that's true of all the other teams as well!