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.


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;

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."”

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.


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.)