Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trump: spot the racism, Guardian-style

My brother assures me that Mr Trump has, prior to his Presidency, shown racist traits in his employment practices and I never doubt his veraciousness.

Mr Trump uploads another tweet

But the latest prigs-on-steroids hoo-ha is far from a clear example, even as reported in the Guardian newspaper under the headline (they always find a cute angle) "'His only tool is racism': why Trump's bigoted tirade could be a vote winner."

If you take the trouble to click on the Q&A inserted in the story (why not in the main body?) you will find this concession to contextualising:

What did Trump say in his racist ‘go back’ tweets?

On 14 July Trump sent a series of tweets saying:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

The US president did not name his targets, but the attack was directed at congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Only Omar, who is from Somalia, was not born in the US.

One cannot hope to attain the transcendent wisdom and moral purity of Guardian journalists in a single lifetime, but I have trouble finding the specifically racist element in this outburst - I see it more as defensively nationalist. Typically, the hypersensitive Trump has got some detail wrong, in this case place of birth (though do they see themselves as hyphenated Americans?), but he knows from which direction he - and Joe America - is being got at.

And I would like to see some more context - such as, what exactly these four people have been saying that provoked the so-easily-entrapped Mr Trump.

But it may not be safe for me to ask these questions. A series of video piss-takes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) by a young girl has been taken down by her parents because of death threats, in a country that has more firearms than people.

American conservatives, or violent, up-themselves SJWs? What a choice!

Perhaps, when I have more time and patience, I will look up what the four picadors were doing to enrage the bull.

Or maybe the Guardian will get round to telling us all, disinterested seekers after truth as they undoubtedly are.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

If we weren't already in the EU...

If we wanted to join a federation that is militaristic, has imperial ambitions, identifies Russia and China as potential enemies and inteferes on the African continent; allows people and money, goods and services to move freely within its borders, while challenged to prevent illegal migrant incursions; is run largely by and for a small elite and offers in a number of its member states carefully-structured vehicles for secretive, tax-efficient squirreling of capital; has runaway debt and a zombie banking system close to collapsing; then a better ready-made solution can be found in the USA.

At least there, individual states stoutly assert their sovereignty and the President, for all his other faults, isn't a drunk.

cf. https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/if-we-werent-already-in-the-eu-who-could-make-a-valid-case-for-us-to-join/

Friday, July 12, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Paul Verlaine - French records, by JD

I have been listening recently to the CD "La Chanson Bien Douce" which featured the poetry of Paul Verlaine set to music by Billy Cowie and sung by Cathryn and Lucie Robson. I included two of the songs in a music post a couple of years ago - https://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2017/06/friday-music-billy-cowie-by-jd.html

And I have noticed that YouTube has been 'recommending' other music set to the words of Paul Verlaine's poetry -

A lot of it is very good and I had not realised until now that Debussy's 'Clair de Lune' was inspired by Verlaine's poem of that title so I have included that also, played by Debussy himself in 1913. All very inspiring and a pleasant interlude in this troubled world.

Clair de lune

"Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres."

Paul Verlaine

Monday, July 08, 2019

En Primeur: a popular con? - by Wiggiaatlarge

Firkin nonsense but tuns of fun... Wiggiaatlarge explores the hoo-ha around early-bird wine buying:

This little piece comes on the back of having been suspended from the Wine Society blog, for the second time. I believe I am the only person to be suspended once never mind twice, so it's a sort of badge of honour.

Why was I banned? For asking a question that was not answered, so I asked again and still no answer despite me ‘helping’ the comment maker with a hint; he then 'lost it' and in doing so gave the answer I wanted at the start, but by then I had apparently ruined his day and everyone piled in to say I was a bully and it was not cricket to pursue the question. All very strange and it shows that a vociferous minority on there are living the latest ‘everything is offensive’  ‘everyone is offensive’  and asking a simple question is akin to a hate crime. Replying that if the commentator had answered in the first place that would have been the end of it resulted in my suspension; the strange world of wine appreciators strikes again.

But I digress, somewhat. Every year the wine trade winds itself into a frenzy over En Primeur - "EP" - this is the annual release by the top Bordeaux château of their yet to be bottled wines from the last vintage, 2018, to the public through wine merchants here.

It is all based on the wine critics going to Bordeaux in the early part of the year to taste cask samples, wine still fermenting in barrels, and then pronouncing their judgement on it and giving it points rather like in gymnastics, 9.9 or less or more, except that most - and this is where the general public will become baffled - almost to a man/woman, score out of a hundred; which is strange, as they start at 50, it's rather like a gymnast being given 5 out of 10 for turning up, but that's what they do and everyone waits with bated breath for the results... well, almost everyone.

Plus it is no guarantee that the wine will ever taste as their predictions say.

A little of the background to EP. It originated as a way to help wineries with their cash flow until the wine was ready to sell. For a discount you could buy wine in advance, so all things being equal you gained and the winery got some money up front to help with the cash flow.

But that all changed markedly after the ‘82 vintage which turned out to be superb. Those who purchased EP in those days would buy on the assumption that their purchase with discount meant in effect they got some free wine in the long run, but ‘82 saw a lot of buyers piling in to take advantage of the vintage and many later sold much of their stock at hugely inflated prices as the vintage matured. Some people made a lot of money, though of course you had to lay out a lot and take a chance as in those days profit was not a given.

The châteaux saw all this and said to themselves 'we want some of this' so started to jack the prices up as the end of the eighties approached and they have been ratcheting them up ever since. This was made easier for them as the affluence of the late eighties meant many buyers of wine, conveniently for the châteaux, forgot all about how EP came about and purchased whatever they wanted at these inflated prices. Strangely the crash of ‘89 did not see much of a check on the sales of EP and the sales and prices kept going up, until the 2008 crash; this time the sales did take a hiding and have not really recovered despite much hype and the explosion of the Chinese market. In America EP has always struggled as a concept because they cannot, rightly, see why you should pay in advance for anything, especially when it will still have to be cellared for years.

So despite all this and the fact that apart from one or two rare occasions when EP makes some sense, it makes no sense at all to older people who will be dead if they buy the latest vintage that needs at least ten years to be ready to drink. People here, as we are at the forefront of this folly, still believe for some reason despite the diminishing market, that EP is a good idea.

This video gives the good and the bad but doesn’t give the ugly, greed, and contains a portion of total bollox, to be expected as they are promoting EP, Ever Present in their case.

The trade of course push EP as it is part of their annual sales and get ever more hyped about it. The annual circus that surrounds EP has become a love-in for yet another vintage of the century despite the fact no one will find out if it is, and many of the 'vintages of the century' turn out to be merely good, for perhaps twenty years, by which time several other vintages of the century will have been promoted.

If anyone who is interested in wine as a drink they have to look no further than the broker's sales list to see that buying wine EP is pointless There is hardly a wine from all the good recent vintages that is not available, many ready to drink, so what really is the point these days of purchasing that way, as on top of the inflated prices unless you have a cellar you will have to pay for storage charges every year as well.

Here is an article by the respected Jancis Robinson on the current state of EP, and even this still has the underlying notion that it is a good thing, ignoring its raison d'être.


Virtually no raison. Going back to the late lamented blog, when I put this point to the over-excited adults foaming at the mouth about proposed purchases of EP  they were obviously upset that it should be criticised, and would reply with childish notions of it being exciting. I cannot get my head round giving inflated prices in advance for a product you can buy at any time ready to drink, all with my money. Exciting? Stupid, yes; exciting, no.

And still the châteaux ramp up up the prices. The trade make light of 7-8% price rises over last year, another contender for vintage of the century. Will the bubble burst? It should, but the châteaux have become greedy and are loath to set fair prices while gullible buyers still exist; but even the Chinese, who have hardly helped by buying anything and everything at these ridiculous prices, are cooling as they become more knowledgeable and start to realise the real value of things.

What also doesn’t help in the war against inflated prices is the auction houses. Certain wines especially Burgundies that by their nature can never be made in quantities to satisfy demand have gone stratospheric, thousands of pounds for a bottle in some cases, for wine that is now a commodity not a drink is purchased and sold around the world by collectors, not drinkers who treat a case of wine like an art work. It isn’t of course it is a beverage but you would never guess.

So  what next in the arcane world of the wine trade, who despite moving eventually into the 21st century on many levels have brought much of the baggage of the past with them, EP being the prime example of something that lost its purpose long ago?

I give an example of how inflated prices have become, it is one I have used before. In the seventies I was browsing a wine outlet in Queensway, Bayswater, London and espied on a rack of bin ends (wines that are few in number, for clearance) a bottle of Burgundy vintage ‘66. It doesn’t matter for here what it was except it was a top winery in a good year. I thought for a while: should I, could I buy it? and I did. The exact price I have forgotten but it would have to have been around a maximum of £10. Out of curiosity I looked up the same wine: it would cost you over £2000 a bottle today, absolutely bonkers, but we are where we are and as long as people treat wine like an art work or a commodity or a talking point for the rich prices will remain ever more out of reach for the wine drinker who just likes the stuff.

Have I purchased EP? I would be a hypocrite if I said I hadn’t. I did buy the odd case long ago for the purpose of drinking when the prices were sensible and I did buy some after the 2008 crash as a way of spreading what little cash I had in what was a hopeful money-making project - it wasn’t and I came out with what I had put in, just about.

So the strange world of the upmarket wine trade bumbles on, its arcane set-up with EP (plus the matching language of the oenophile and wine taster, an article on its own there) remains. In a normal commercial environment, En Primeur would die a natural death, but I have my doubts. Whilst people still treat the whole annual jamboree as fun with your own money, it is a world apart, almost masonic in its rituals and habits, and will probably stagger on and who knows even revive while people retain that attitude.

For the more sane wine drinkers there has never been a better time to enjoy the choice, for the whole world has never been bigger more varied or better. Enjoy!

Friday, July 05, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, by JD

Another slice of Americana, this time from Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. Guaranteed to raise a smile, a very 'tongue in cheek' celebration of the roots of America's musical history. Behind all the fun is a very good slide guitar virtuoso with a gravelly voice which is a reminder of Charley Patten, Son House, Howling Wolf, Captain Beefheart and many more. Music is alive and flourishing if you turn away from the usual bland sameness offered by the mainstream radio and TV channels and look elsewhere!

Friday, June 28, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: John Hartford, by JD

You may not be familiar with the name John Hartford but you will most certainly know his most famous song, "Gentle On My Mind".

John Cowan Hartford (1937 – 2001) was an American folk, country and bluegrass composer and musician known for his mastery of the fiddle and banjo, as well as for his witty lyrics, unique vocal style, and extensive knowledge of Mississippi River lore.

He liked to joke that the song had been good to him. He once said that royalties from Gentle On My Mind gave him the security to indulge himself with a steamboat on the Mississippi river.

As well as being a talented songwriter, banjo picker and fiddle player he had a habit of tap-dancing while he was singing and playing as you can see in the videos which follow.

Following the success of the film "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" all or most of the artists who had contributed to the film's sound track gathered together for a concert which was filmed and released on DVD under the title "Down From The Mountain" John Hartford was the compere of the show as well as making his own musical contribution to it.

When I first heard that song I thought it was just another typical whim of Hartford's very fertile imagination combined with his wry sense of humour. But no, there really was a steam powered aeroplane. Designed and built by the Besler Brothers in 1933 in Oakland, California.
You can read all about it here - http://rexresearch.com/besler/beslerst.htm

And this is some archive film of the test flight -

Monday, June 24, 2019

Home Economics, by JD

After last week's televised 'pantomime' in which five potential 'future Prime Ministers' demonstrated why they should never be allowed anywhere near the job, along comes another one today if this report is correct-


One of the bright ideas is -

"The proposal to scrap the Capital Gains Tax exemption on main homes would force owners to pay income tax on the profits when they move home." 

They never learn, do they? When politicians interfere in the 'housing market' they always, always cause problems.

The Heath Government of 1970-1974 was a chaotic diaster for many reasons: the first 'oil shock' when prices rose sharply, the miners' strike, petrol rationing, power cuts etc and worst of all, joining the Common Market.

What will have escaped the notice of most people studying that period was the introduction of 70% grants for home owners to improve their property and specifically for kitchen and bathroom improvements. 70%? That was and is madness! When the government hands out 'free' money there is bound to be a scramble to get a share of it. It didn't take long for the cost of materials to skyrocket and it didn't take long for £300 of building work to cost £1000. For the home owner the cost remained the same - £300 - but the price paid to the builder was £1000 thanks to a generous government.

The many local Councils up and down the land decided to take advantage of these grants, and there was no reason why they should not benefit. So in the early seventies there was a boom in council house improvement works. I am told there was a building workers' strike in 1972. My response to that was and still is, strike? What stike? At the time I did not know of any tradesman who was unemployed. And I knew a lot of tradesmen, I employed more than a few. I met them all the time in the local Working Mens Club. And all of these tradesmen were earning money. It was in many ways a sort of mini 'golden age' of full employment and money to spend. There was a knock-on effect in the housing market generally and this was when the phrase 'gazumping' entered into public consciousness.

Fast forward to 1979 and more government interference with the sale of council houses to their tenants. A good idea in principle, in theory but........ They were sold at a discount but they had also been improved during the earlier reforbishment programmes thanks to the aforementioned government grants. So, in a way, the buyers were receiving a double discount on their price. (House tenants living in privately rented homes were not so lucky and so continued to save for the deposit for a home.)

The council houses sold were not replaced with a further building programme. The revenue from the sales was, as far as I can ascertain, never spent on anything and was 'ring fenced' for some unspecified future use. As far as I know it is still unspent.

How do I know all that? I know it because I worked in house building in the sixties and seventies, on sites as well as in offices.

And then I moved onto other, larger building projects in various parts of the world so lost track somewhat of the UK's mismanagement of home ownership. Looking at that story in the Mail, our politicans are as clueless as ever. I also know that interference, in the form of new building regulations, suggests that politicians and their academic 'experts' are never going to learn anything about house building.

I know that new houses are badly designed and badly built. I can see that for myself and it is not just houses. Every new building I have seen or visited is, for want of a better description, rubbish. Ask any Estate Agent.

Just another tale from Broken Britain. Broken by our dysfunctional political class.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Crazy Christians in America, by Paddington

Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets in two sentences - without dinosaurs - and yet, as Paddington shows, some American churches have added and altered until unrecognisable...

As a sequel to my piece on US evangelism last week, I offer some tidbits.

1. In the last few years, the Texas School Board has held hearings on textbooks and curricula, with a great deal of pressure from fundamentalists. This is very important, as Texas buys the books for the whole state, which in turn affects the offerings of publishers. Among the proposals was the watering down or elimination of evolution (replacing it with 'change over time') and any Science which indicates an old Earth (most of it). Then there was the rewrite of History, marking Moses as one of the most significant people ever (he is a composite of several, including Sargon), and claiming that US law was based on the Ten Commandments and Leviticus, rather than Old English Law. Then, there was the cheery description of the slave trade, describing Africans as climbing on boats to come and work in the New World (technically true, I suppose).


2. The fundamentalists have this bizarre concept of 'interpreting the Bible literally', and the assumption that it is totally inerrant, which leads to a significant level of doublethink. So much so, that adherents are forced to ignore most of Science and much of History. It can lead to some significant absurdities, such as the Smithsonian museum survey some years ago, in which 60% of respondents replied that the Earth was less than 10,000 years old, and 60% replied that dinosaurs lived on the Earth millions of years ago.


3. Last week, we had the latest end-of-the-world prophecy. The 'literal' reading of the Bible, especially Revelation, makes this a fun game. I have talked with adherents who can't wait for the Rapture and End of Days.

https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/the-world-ended-yesterday/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapture

4. This week in Alabama, the buckle of the Bible belt, Roy Moore announced that he is once again trying for a seat in the US Senate. He was narrowly defeated the last time, when it came out that as a city prosecutor in his 30's, he was banned from a local shopping mall for trying to pick up girls as young as 14, and was accused of assaulting some. He became famous for planting a 10-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments in his court building, when he was elected as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He refused to remove this blatantly unconstitutional decoration, and was removed from his post. He was elected again as Chief Justice, then suspended for ignoring US Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. After leaving office, he set up a religious charity, of which the primary beneficiaries appeared to be him and his wife.


5. Also in Alabama this week, we have the news that the governor has authorized one of the most racist churches in the state (quite a high bar) to have their own armed police force, with full arrest powers. And Americans worry about Sharia law!


Friday, June 21, 2019

Boris and Brexit: What Is To Be Done?

Well, now we know who won’t be doing it. The day of the Ascot Gold Cup opened with Rory Stewart the media fascinator barred from the enclosure, as it were; then it was out with Sajid Javid, about whom I have had serious doubts since he threw dumb teenager Shamima Begum and a culpably mistreated Julian Assange to the wolves.

And finally Michael Gove, who shot himself in the foot (again) with his comments on forestalling No Deal, by far the strongest card in our hand provided the player can credibly threaten to use it.

We’re left with perky Hunt, the Debating Chamber face-puller, and BoJo the runaway steamroller. Hunt is making noises about having been a Remainer but now being pragmatic about Leave. Boris has the energy, bullishness, skill and experience to lead a team of colleagues rather than just civil servants, but we still can’t be sure to what destination.

Of concern are the rumours I’m getting that Boris is hoping to manoeuvre the EU into dropping the Irish backstop but is otherwise prepared to countenance the gist of May’s WA. That, I think, will be the end of the Conservative Party, sooner rather than later, and no amount of hand-clapping will revive Tinkerbell. It will also be the end of the country, not with a bang but with a whimper, after its four decades of forced decline. Plus the end of hope for what’s left of the British working class. We will become what Ken Clarke has always wanted, merely a minor, fog-prone arrondissement of the European superstate.

If I might make a suggestion, Mister Johnson?

Work feverishly, now, on the assumption of winning the leadership. Call in your campaign manager and liaise with Farage’s team, wrap wet towels round foreheads and burn the midnight oil to draft our very own Withdrawal Agreement. Make it such a reasonable one that if Barnier and co. turn it down the world will know whom to blame.

You’ll need to do this ASAP in any case, since you’ll be answering questions on this when the membership hustings begin. Get the detail people in, just brief them that, have no doubt, we are going that way.

Don’t fly over to Europe as UK leader, like a whey-faced supplicant. They’ve manipulated, mocked and abused us when we did that. Send the draft with an emissary who can look the EU’s team full in the face and tell them it’s their last chance, not ours. Dangle the £39 billion carrot.

And tell them that if they can’t get it together to agree WA 2.0, then hello to WTO Section 24 for an interim working arrangement – maybe, just maybe, with a sweetener, but how much that might be is conditional on their showing signs of sincere effort to conclude a mutually acceptable deal.

Parallel with that, instruct our team/s to make detailed plans for the No Deal scenario. The better this is prepared, the less likely it will have to be used; but like the nuclear deterrent, everything depends on credibility.

Be ready, be strong.

Or give up, now, and watch the nation dissolve into lasting disorder.

FRIDAY MUSIC: Midsummer Medley, by JD

Today, 21st June, is 'the longest day' and officially the start of summer. We know when it is summer because the nights are lighter and the rain is warmer!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Leaders' Digest

Well, despite the media's suspiciously sudden fascination with Rory Stewart, he wasn't in the running today. Coincidentally, Ascot Ladies' Day has banned fascinators this year.

I'm glad Javid is out. I see him as someone who is prepared to throw third parties to the wolves - the dumbish teenager Shamima Begum, the heavily oppressed Julian Assange.

As in the last leadership contest, Gove outsmarted himself. He was making noises about preventing the possibility of a No Deal Brexit, when that is the strongest card in our negotiation with the intransigent EU. I think the Remainers' star is waning as we get closer to the deadline: the WA is completely unacceptable and there is neither time nor the slightest sign of willingness on the EU's part to refurb it; my suggestion to our side would be to prepare a fresh trading-focused agreement from scratch and offer it to them as a last chance.

My objection to Hunt is visceral - he's so cocky (even in the Debating Chamber) that one clenches one's fists. But the noises he is making are about having been for Remain and now being prepared to accept Leave, as a pragmatist.

Johnson? I think he has the energy and bullishness to get what he wants, and the skill and experience to build and lead a team. Goodness knows where he'll lead it, though.

I wonder what (should he win) his Cabinet lineup will be? Surely Eeeyore Hammond and some other blockers will have to go.

Perhaps you can tell me.

Rory Stewart, the stopped clock that's right only once

Here on The Conservative Woman:


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Brits have ***no idea*** about US-style Christianity! - by Paddington

My observation, based on the 40 years that I have lived in the US, is that the average Briton does not grasp what religion means to so many people here.

If the subject comes up, people might tell you that they are Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Methodist and so on. But, if they answer with “I am a (Bible-believing) Christian”, they are almost certainly Evangelical Protestants, and very likely Southern Baptists, or the more extreme Pentecostalists, Seventh Day Adventists or one of their offshoots.

The short explanation that I can give as to the significance of these identifications is to imagine that 10% of the British population were following clones of Northern Ireland's Ian Paisley, but a little more aggressive. This is not an accidental comparison, as he was educated at the Fundamentalist Bob Jones University.

For the longer version, we need a little history.

The precursors of the Evangelicals were the Pilgrims who arrived in 1620. They had been thrown out of the liberal Netherlands for being intolerant, and encouraged to leave England, after they tried to tell King James how his church should be run. They came with beads to trade, and guns to steal with, but no skill in construction or farming. Had it not been for a few skilled sailors who landed with them, and the help of some local native tribes, they would have starved, and nearly did. A few generations later they had almost exterminated the local native tribes, and were starting to persecute and kill fellow Christians, like Quakers.

Their descendants were quite happy with the idea of slavery. So much so that the Southern Baptists were formed to support that very issue. Racism and exclusion have been a hallmark of the sect ever since. As late as 1916, there were Church picnics in Southern towns, centred around lynchings of African-Americans (https://www.cvltnation.com/nsfw-american-terrorism-lynching-postcards/).

Just as Voodoo and Santeria took African animism and combined it with Catholicism, the Southern states took Christianity and made it American. Take generous helpings of Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus, plus the nastier writings of Paul, throw in the miracles of the New Testament, but ignore the Beatitudes, and you have some of the flavour of the typical teachings, delivered with the energy of a used-car salesman in a bad hairpiece.

I did not understand the adherents and their views of a hateful God until it was explained to me that all of the vengeful ideas and proscriptions were for other people. Members of these churches believe in the idea of faith over deeds, which is expressed as “Once saved, always saved”. In theory, it is supposed to mean that followers of Jesus will be good thereafter. However, followers will tell you that once you are saved, you are going to Heaven, no matter what you do. Hell is gleefully reserved for everyone else, especially Catholics and Jews. While there are current alliances with both, the former are used to get their way with the government, the latter because Revelation describes a massive genocide of the Jews in Armageddon, and they need to be kept around for that.

In short, the whole belief system was a shock to me, having been raised nominally in the Church of England, complete with required Religious Education and church services 5 days a week.

Friday, June 14, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Golden Olden, by JD

Thought I would offer some more by the mostly anonymous composers of olden times. Good music is timeless!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Give It To Me Now, by Wiggiaatlarge

Tim Worstall found a piece in the DT which provoked a sledge of similar comments…..


Not surprisingly they all came down one way or another on the side of the father who was “squandering” the son's inheritance. I can’t add anything to the comments as I agree with nearly all of them, yet there is a theme that runs through all this and it was not mentioned as all commenting assumed that what they said was the norm. It isn’t.

In recent years I have met many people and have family members and friends who somehow believe their offspring should receive everything and often before the parents die.

I could give various examples and not anecdotal, but I will for detail regale you with one in the not so distant past concerning a friend and neighbour who herself had been the beneficiary of as her father said “a good divorce” - not the first, either.

The father did more than his bit in the RAF as a pilot and then was successful in business. From all I gleaned over time he and his wife when alive had done everything to help their children and grandchildren.

His rather splendid house in need of serious updating took second place to financing the grandchildren and that was after he cashed in a large part of his personal private pension to help buy a house for one of them who married - that went well, as a quick divorce followed .Gifts of cash when needed went out on demand and the house was subjected to equity release to carry on funding all and sundry.

Was he helped when he became frail and ill? Only to a degree as help had to be on hand and this cost money, “their inheritance” and of course the longer he held on to this wonderful world the more the equity release ate into their remaining inheritance - it was spoken about in those terms. He did fortunately get put in a very good nursing home for his last days, some sort of solace I suppose and the daughter did really care about him but in the same breath would talk of this entitlement. There was a lot more that is not for these pages, still I think you can get the drift.

Isolated case? Hardly. I have found this attitude to be quite common. Another I know has a daughter who speaks to him like sh*t in front of strangers, me, and yet they do way over the top in helping her. It's not their fault she and her husband have over-reached themselves with a ladder-climbing house; and the demands on them which they never refuse means that (despite their limited means) all their spare time when they should be having a holiday on their own is spent taking the children's kids on holiday - and they do not live round the corner. Every time they return the stress is etched on their faces. Part of being a parent? There are degrees of of commitment in everything. I can assure you they go way beyond what is required and yet are treated as though that is the way it should be.

Another was a lovely lady we got to know years ago who after a divorce that devastated her returned to Kenya where she and her husband because of his work at the time had lived for twenty years. Her children still lived there and persuaded her to come back and make a new life there; big mistake.

I knew it was going to be a disaster after meeting them a few times in England. Nice enough to talk to, yet as anyone who has spent time in places like Kenya with ‘colonials’ knows the lifestyle is such that everyday things like chores are for someone else and a form of idling one's life away with the least effort is quite normal. My wife and I spent two long holidays out there with her and we had a marvellous time, with the exception of anything to do with the children and the extended family who were milking her dry.

The lady ran an upmarket safari business and the youngest daughter (who if she ever got her finger out of her backside would have been an asset as she spoke Swahili and local dialects, but no) just used the business for her own purposes, appropriating food and drink purchased for the safaris for parties and taking the Range Rover on a regular basis to go to Tanzania to see her boyfriend - she had her own car but preferred to use the gas-guzzler on company petrol.

The other daughter and her husband actually had the cheek at dinner one night to present a bill for milk used by the family. They had a smallholding, the mother was paying for the private schooling of their two offspring and when she said something about the bill and the school fees were mentioned the reply was ‘It is what mothers are for'; we left, as I would have said something.

I have a cousin who has a small legacy but has refused to touch it despite only scraping by for some years. When I asked him one day why this was, he said he was saving it for the children. Not one of them gives the proverbial about him and they all have good jobs and homes of their own, he hasn’t, so why this almost masochistic attitude with parents who even when abused by their offspring and milked for the majority of their lives still believe they should be a money box to be dipped into at will?

Me, I am of the bugger-off variety, but many are not. My oldest friend in Australia is not rich but they gave their son, who at best can be described as morose, their last 10k of cash after the son divorced. He for reasons only he knows has not spoken to or seen them since, an utter little sh*t as he has been all his life.

So why does this being a parent trump all common sense? The belief that parents are duty bound to hand over when they go - or before, in many cases on demand - anything they have is a growing trend. I hear older parents speaking more of this in the last couple of decades. pressure is being put upon many to pay for things the children won't save for or work harder for. Somehow it is seen as a divine right that it should all go to them and the sooner the better.

Ah but blood is thicker than water, the call of duty, the ties that children have to their parents and all the other clarion calls for one to be seen and do the right thing even when the parent knows it is not the right thing. Times have changed: there is little deference to the old. The young today, openly in many cases, call it their right, their inheritance. The modern child who is raised in many middle class families never goes without, has only to say ‘I want’ and it is delivered; no "thank you", no appreciation of any work or effort on the part of the parent to supply the goodies, just a simple expectancy it will happen and it does. When they are raised like that it is hardly surprising that the calls for more go beyond childhood.

I had a wonderful example of that in a customer of mine whom I got to know quite well over the years. The only son was lavished on: as a young child he had for example every single piece of Action Man, when he played football with his friends in the garden he would continually stop to go inside and change into the endless football tops his father had got for him, signed shirts from Brazil and Italy through his business collections; he even had his own fully-stocked fridge with lollies and ice creams. He was spoilt to the point of smothering. He also turned out in his latter teens to be a little sh*t, but the parents were blind to it. Private school, private sports coach in various sports in an attempt to find something he was good at, failed. They even got him a girlfriend as he was so obnoxious no normal girl wanted to know. How can anyone brought up this way ever appreciate what the parent did to reach this level of wealth? It is always there to be cashed in on demand.

If this sounds like a down on the modern younger generation, it is. But the parents are the ones who have create this mind set: it is they that believe giving all will make them more loved, more complete as a family. How wrong they are.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Old Age and Beyond, by JD

Bruce Charlton asked the question recently "What is the purpose of old age?"
He asks the question in the context of his observations that so many people are trying to maintain their youthfulness by various means, by having facelifts or engaging in vigorous (and inappropriate) exercise, by behaving as they behaved in their youth with drinking and partying or trying to climb Mount Everest. That last one is not a good idea as we have seen recently.

He partially answers his own question when he observes that these efforts to stay forever young are a fear of old age and ultimately a fear of death, which is a recent phenomenon. The Victorians had no such fears or doubts, they accepted it as a fact of life and that acceptance lasted well into the 20th century for most people. All four of my grandparents died in their own homes with family members at the bedside, the last one in 1973.

But there are far worse fates than death -

Bette Davis was correct because old age brings with it new and unwelcome problems. We all begin to creak and crumble and fall apart with aching limbs, arthritis, rheumatism etc. In my case it is sciatica and a mysterious ache in my right foot which turns into pain if I walk too far. Also I find that I can no longer do the things I used to do; climbing a ladder is now inadvisable, running up or down stairs is no longer an option, and as for moving furniture - is it a lot heavier than it used to be? And then the unspoken difficulties like trying to cut your toenails or struggling to remove the tops from jars. Rescuing food from its packaging has undoubtedly prompted an endless stream of profanities on a daily or weekly basis up and down the land!

But we have to adapt to the infirmities and the difficulties of old age because the body lets you down, eventually.

Old age brings other worries of course. Not least who is going to look after us all when we need it. The latest statistic I can find (for 2017) shows almost three million over 65s living alone. But that is another story for another time. The question here is 'what is the purpose of old age' and the cold hard truth is that old age is a time for facing up to the inevitable end of this life and to prepare ourselves for death and transition to the next life. The poet John Donne (1572 - 1631) expresses it here very clearly-

"Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before."


If you will allow, I shall burden you with my own understanding and how I have approached old age and death. My father was 58 when he died after a short illness and that was too soon but we, the family, had to accept it. Thus began my own search to try to make sense of it all and I rapidly became aware of my own mortality and very quickly came to terms with the fact. So life went on but with a slightly different perspective on anything and everything. Like Bruce Charlton, I would read a great deal and travelling and working in other countries and cultures added fresh insights into how other peoples dealt with these things.

Many years later a very close friend of mine had a severe stroke and was left unable to talk and was in a wheelchair having been paralysed in her right arm and leg. I say close friend but in fact she was by my side when my father died and was very much the shoulder to lean on. After almost five years in that condition she died, coincidentally on my father's birthday. Her sister said to me "she didn't want to be here any more" She had decided to go and she did.

It is difficult to explain how I felt at the news of her death because the feeling was and is beyond words. She was here and then she was not here. Science holds that energy can be neither created nor destroyed so what happened to her life energy, that which animates the body? Where did/does that go?

The effect on me was profound and lasted a long time and may well have been a contributory factor in my subsequent epilepsy. And then one day, a few years later, she came back! I know that sounds absurd and you can dismiss it as wishful thinking if you like but I know what I felt and it was not brought on by thinking about her. But it happened and it happened during what I now understand to be a lucid dream. She was here with me and it was real, in fact it was much more real than everyday reality in a way which cannot be explained. It was real but there was no 'great revelatory message': the content was fairly mundane, as in real life. In a way it was shocking because it was beyond any normal experience, bewilderment is the best word to describe my feelings. I had some very long conversations with the neurologist at the hospital but she could not offer any explanation. She knew of the concept but had little experience of it with patients or among colleagues. Science is, after all, just another belief system, a secular faith.

F C Happold in his book Mysticism writes -

"An experience of the sort which may, without justifiably stretching the meaning of the word, be called mystical may happen to anyone, sometimes quite unexpectedly; but when it occurs it is clearly recognizable. It may happen only once in a lifetime; but, when it does happen, it brings an illumination and a certainty which can rarely, if ever, be reached by the rational consciousness and may change the whole tenure of a life."

And change me it most certainly did. I still cannot articulate how and why it has changed my outlook on life, I just know that it has. For a time I genuinely lost the will to live but it was replaced by a feeling of being more alive than before. Over recent years I have relaxed into a sort of low level reverie and now have a form of hyperaesthesia making colours more vivid and visual awareness is heightened such that I am aware of things actually vibrating, usually described by poets or art critics as shimmering. I have even tried to depict the vibrating nature of reality in a few paintings. Perhaps I am just going mad, I don't know but it is a delightful, divine madness.

It may be that we need some kind of shock or a 'revelation' to remind us why we are here. If it happens in old age it helps to focus the mind on what is important and to realise that there are more years behind us than ahead and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

“To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

This is my own personal response to Bruce Charlton's question. You may have a different view, you may have a different experience or possibly none at all. No matter, we are all different and we must all deal with old age and beyond in our own way. There are many roads but only one destination.

And finally from Bob Dylan a beautiful meditation on our final years. As always with Dylan the meaning is ambiguous and we can read into it what is most meaningful for us. There is an interpretation of the song on Dylan's website and the writer speaks of a Taoist concept of “Darkness within Darkness, the way to all understanding” but I prefer the words of the metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan (1622 - 1695) -

"There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazzling darkness;"
- and I know that dazzling darkness is a darkness filled with light!


"Disobliging Reality" by Frank Juszczyk, PhD

"A Dog's View of Love, Life and Death" by J R Arnold

"Gifts of Unknown Things" by Dr Lyall Watson

"Lucid Dreaming" by Celia Green and Charles McCreery

"Mysticism" by F C Happold

Henry Vaughan's - "dazzling darkness"

Spiritual Science

N.B. My reference to science being a belief system, a secular faith is not some throwaway insult. In F C Happold's book there are quotes from St Augustine of Hippo, Nicolas of Cusa and Max Planck all saying exactly the same thing.

Friday, June 07, 2019


The Band were originally a backing group called The Hawks for the rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. After they left Hawkins they were 'adopted' by Bob Dylan and were with him on the world tour of 1966.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Man Made? by Wiggiaatlarge

Guilt-edged profits: Wiggiaatlarge has a go at the eco-panic industry...

Saving the world for fun and fame

We have been hearing an awful lot from the eco fanatics, scientists with an agenda, various public  organisations, NGOs and of course celebrities on how ‘we’ are slowly bringing the world as we know it to an end, whether it be the results of climate change or bio diversity in the plant and animal world, everything, absolutely everything is ‘our’ fault.

In the lull in the non-going Brexit negotiations a golden window of opportunity for all these with vested interests has been given, a chance for all of them to come out of the shadow of Brexit together in full battle mode, led by a sixteen-year-old girl who no one has heard of but who everybody with a bandwagon to jump on has attached themselves to like limpets, a saint for the green movement in waiting.

Both the CCC and the UN have made big statements of impending doom and time frames are put out as the D day for all this to come about lest we adhere to ‘conditions’ they put forward as solutions, conditions of course that cannot be questioned as all those who question are deniers and therefore beneath contempt.

By chance ? The other affiliated eco health warnings and suggestions have come out of the woodwork at the same time. Never has there been so much about what we eat and drink that is bad for us and never have so many animals been the target of the green/vegan lobby for not just making us less healthy but also the animals must stop farting as they are polluting the world.

Billions of trees must be planted, a trend started by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who promised Londoners 2 million trees to counter traffic pollution. No numbers of trees planted are available, but he is well on the way to bringing London to a standstill, which according to all those same voices is a good thing, though of course London will be open to drivers with special dispensation ! And those others who can afford the ridiculous fees, with traffic being restricted to electric vehicles in the not so distant future.

Now at the same time we have the Royal College of Physicians piling in, stating our air quality  is killing 40,000 people a year. I am never sure how they arrive at these figures ie filtering out people who would have died from respiratory diseases anyway from those who have directly from the current state of our air we breathe in.

I don’t think anyone would not want to live in a world that did not have a decent environment, that has never been the problem; the problem as with so many things from the top down these days is what the message really stands for. Is it just for our own well-being and that of the planet, or as many sceptics rightfully point out the globalists who have found a new vehicle with which to soak the general public of their cash or plastic as it soon will be? Seems fine for plastic to be used for this purpose but evil for everything else.

What repeatedly is never discussed in this quest to cleanse ourselves of all the world's ills, is the feasibility, the damage to our country and above all the cost. The cost of course to those who will see us rubbing sticks together to keep warm is a cost worth paying so they can feel good about themselves and pretend we are showing the way to the rest of the world, who will be eternally grateful, not a message any time soon that will be getting through, yet we must persevere with the message - it is our duty ! There is a total intolerance to any divergence from that which is put out as truth.

As with all these many green ‘issues’ when articles are put out by all of the bodies concerned and individuals everything is headlined and taken at face value, no one seems to be questioned as to the authenticity of anything, if they say the word scientist then that is the magic password for the piece to be unquestionably true in every aspect. It has become so silly that even solutions that are patently absurd are tacked on to these statements and put out as something you can do to save the planet. There is a long list but a couple of examples are, that sharing your cordless drill with your neighbour is going to make a difference, apart from the fact your neighbour will already have a cordless drill, everyone has one and using the thing at the same time would involve having a task to do anyway is laughable.

Banning the school run from dropping the darlings off within the school precinct: wonderful, do grown up people sit around a table and say, "that’s a good idea, put it in the piece?" The darlings will simply be dropped off a hundred yards short and the nuisance for householders will simply be moved that hundred yards or so.

The more serious subject of converting everything to electric and doing away with the evil internal combustion engine has already started by the banning in towns of entry for certain types of vehicle; nothing wrong with it in principle but what of the shortcomings of that move and the further controls on car use?

There appears to be a lemming like attitude with politicians who jump on bandwagons to please minorities in almost every sphere. The green agenda is being pushed from many different organisations with differing points of view as to what is important, but the hand of big business is in there somewhere: subsidies are par for course in the drive towards emission-free vehicles and all that is necessary to power them and provide for them.

The costings for infrastructure needed are constantly lied about and the infrastructure is not there and nowhere near available for the dates supplied to end the use or production of carbon-fuelled automobiles, never mind where will the power come from.

A government that on one hand is closing down coal- and now gas-powered power stations and cannot get one new nuclear power station off the drawing board after god knows how many years is playing games. So-called green power is nowhere near to providing current needs and certainly however many windmills they build will never be able to supply the total necessary when and if we go carbon neutral (whatever that means), and on a still day you would be well advised to invest in a hamster in a treadmill.

On the one hand the government has sanctioned 6000 offshore windmills, which will never plug the gap and on the other hand the back up power stations are being closed (coal) apart from the Drax stations that import wood pellets from Canada and pollute the atmosphere more than coal does and of course at greater cost ! The cost of maintenance of offshore windmills has been largely hidden as it is still a relatively new source of power, but offshore maintenance is high because of the environment the windmills are in,  and the replacement time span short and very expensive.


What is also notable by its absence is the efforts to make coal and gas clean. There have been several feasible methods put forward but all are ignored, why ? Clean coal can be viewed with a sceptic's eye, but apart from a mixed success/failure in the US it has been shelved elsewhere. There must be a way to overcome some of the other problems outside of CO2 but no one wants to know, well here anyway. It doesn’t make sense: the cleaning of coal is relatively cheap and we are sitting on hundreds of years of the stuff; if it can be used cleanly then why not ?

The electric car is also not the saviour of the planet it is deemed to be. Each battery costs 17 tons of CO2 to produce, not exactly eco friendly and the stage when these same batteries have to be replaced at enormous cost has not been reached yet so the enormous job of recycling them if it is possible has not even started.

The costs plusses and minuses of battery versus ICE powered cars can be seen here, it is not nearly as clear cut on several fronts as one would like to think.


So despite not having a long time objection to the electric car, there is a long way to go before they are the go to form of transport and all the other matters have to be in place, something that is not going to happen within the target years projected.

It is also a convenient fact that is buried that along with the replacement of gas and coal, the cost of electricity will rise not by the percentages we are being fed now as a cost worthwhile but by as some say as much as double or more. Not only is electricity more expensive to produce this way despite our being told wind power is now affordable (conveniently forgetting all the latent limitations on production that way) and the fact that you have to have back up power stations at the ready for when the wind doesn’t blow, but also the claw back from fuel duties not received and subsidies that are not sustainable to the green energy industry.

From the first claims that we were destroying the planet there has been data supplied forecasting impending doom. There will be no snow in winter after ten years, said one notable climate scientist: yeah right, sea levels will start to inundate eastern England... hasn’t shown any measurable rise at all despite the fact the east of the country is sinking. "The Arctic ice is melting": graphs and maps show this it seems every year, oh and polar bears are nearing extinction,; actually, polar bears are increasing in numbers and the Artic ice has increased and decreased as a natural cycle says NASA - or not if you believe some other organisation !

The sea levels have certainly risen world wide but not because of anything man has done. Since the last glacial age several thousand years ago we have been warming up and the ice sheets have slowly melted. This has nothing to do with man it is simply a natural cycle, and no doubt one day the world will return to a glacial phase. What can we do about it? Nothing.

And remember the ozone layer and the big hole all caused by CFCs? It's not for me to say it was or not, but the ozone layer was not discovered until 1913 and the hole in it, not a hole actually but a thinning, was discovered in 1976. If the banning of CFCs has caused the thinning to stop or slow, well done, but there is no record of whether the thinning existed before 1913 so we cannot be sure it is not just a natural cycle.

The trouble with all these projections is they can never be questioned. Anyone who does is called a denier which is patently untrue, but when scientific papers - on which countries base future dealing with climate change - are totally discredited as were those of the UEA you have a problem of belief in those that do the research and questions arrive as to their motives. So many new organisations spring up on the back of potential world catastrophe; it is a whole industry in itself and a very profitable one for those that can get associated with it.


Plastic has become the whipping boy for the eco fanatics. Almost everything about plastic is bad, from being ingested by sea creatures to litter to excessive packaging and on. The fact is that plastic being a by-product of oil is, as night follows day, bad by association. There is nothing wrong with plastic: it has made so many things possible that were impossible or extremely difficult and costly to produce, before becoming an  everyday product with the use of polymers. The use of plastics is so universal, so engrained in everyday life it would be virtually impossible to replace it at this stage of our evolution. There is nothing wrong with plastic, only how humans misuse it and dispose of it; that is not a fault of the product but of man.

The ongoing onslaught on the meat industry is again interesting, but not from the point of view of whether should you eat meat or not - that should be a personal choice, not a diktat of government or vegan extremists.

But an article in the Times business section showed how the way forward is planned: cattle, you see, are contaminating the atmosphere and we should reduce the number of cattle and our meat intake to help this aim of reduction in CO2 emissions. At this moment in time vegans account for 1% of the population with a further 12% of what they call flexitarians, I don’t know either, but for some reason we are being told by big business we should get with the movement. The article speaks of a business that many are getting behind, the next big thing, so institutions are pulling money from anything that can be tainted as a possible climate pollutant and putting it into schemes such as faux meat production. The CEO of one such company described the meat industry as “on a cliff edge” - well, he would say that.

In the same article as with so much else, there was a hint that to help the fledgling new faux meat industry (and naturally you would be helping yourself), tax on meat should be expected at some time if people do not change their wicked ways.

And the government has just announced it is forcing pension funds to put their money into renewables and not fossil fuels. How dare they tell anyone what to do with OUR money? If renewables show a better return so be it, but no company should be forced to put people's money into something just to massage a politician's credentials.


Organics were the trend not long ago, a good message but very expensive. You only have to compare  the two products in a supermarket to see how much more you would have to stump up to be organic in total. And organic farming is not the saviour of the soil it was made out to be: as with so many of these ‘natural’ ways there is a downside.


The downside is never ever made public in the same way as the supposed gains, never when there is money involved.

Monsanto are a favorite whipping boy of the green movement. If you believed all the reports about Monsanto you would think they were the devil incarnate put on this earth just annoy us. Glysophate has been touted as a cancer inducer and campaigners want it removed from use at once. The problem is not a single study actually comes down on the side of the greens on this, it is all maybe.

Every time a chemical is withdrawn , and many have been for good reason, there has to be found a substitute. In most cases this is a much more expensive item than the one it is replacing, again putting pressure on margins and in the end consumer food prices. Glysophate has been an extremely effective weed control agent, there is not anything else that comes near at this moment in time and for the moment it has been reprieved, but that is not good enough: more tests have been promised under pressure from the green movement, they will not stop until it is banned, whether justified or not. The amounts found in land and crops are miniscule and have no threat to health, but the fact traces are there gives the green movement the means to justify carrying on. This has been going on for years and still they can’t find proof positive of harm: all chemicals and all ‘natural’ substitutes leave traces in soil and food, yet all the papers giving glysophate the all clear are ignored. As with everything else the zealots appear to have people on the inside who persuade, and of course they do, lobbyists who work for organisations, subsidised to a large degree unwittingly by the taxpayer.

What to eat and drink and what not to eat and drink? The message changes constantly. Red wine? Ah, that is a good one: according to the Times today ‘researchers are suggesting that a diet of Mediterranean oily products (heard this before) and red wine can help with dementia. There was a time when I drank red wine to forget about everything but there you go !  Red wine has been good for you and alternatively bad for you almost on a yearly basis, depending on which research group has issued their papers on it. You would think by now they would have given up but I am sure another group are waiting to publish on the evils again as I speak.

The elephant in the room is not a new one: it is the explosion of world population. Nature no longer takes its toll on birth statistics by controlling with disease or famine, much (rightly) has been corrected by the west and science, but now that the family survives, they still have the same number of children and in the likes of Africa the numbers are frightening. All are to be fed, housed and clothed, none can afford the ideals of the west's eco movement and so what will happen to the aspirations of the green movement? Absolutely nothing of consequence: the sheer numbers of people will swamp any progress made. You cannot impose restrictions on people who have little in the first place; to them it is all about survival. Wood burning stoves, vegan diets, wind power? They couldn’t give a stuff, there are more pressing things in their lives.

The huge damage that has been done to the likes of the Amazon basin by man is a visible thing, it is tangible unlike so much else which is hyperbole, but how do you stop forest clearance when it is done either to further big business that all governments are in thrall to, or to provide food for the burgeoning population.

Common sense of course does not subsidise new eco projects but it does massage politicians' green credentials and throwing a few billion around at these various schemes is not that difficult when it is other people's money.

At the end of the day common sense will be trumped by virtue signalling and endless amounts of money will be spent on schemes that will do little for the planet but will hurt us as a nation. There is no point being world leader in something the bulk of the planet ignores or could not afford to follow.

Perhaps there is no long term answer. Only a population reduction will effectively halt the demands on the earth and where have we heard that before?

Saturday, June 01, 2019

The Left Has "A Dream Image" Of The EU

It was almost a joy watching Labour’s Barry Gardiner mansplaining Norway and Turkey options to the Brexit Party’s Alex Phillips on Question Time, forgetting that the EU has just disbanded its Brexit negotiating team  to emphasise Juncker’s long-held position that it’s May’s Withdrawal Agreement or nothing.

Not that Gardiner was addressing the audience question, which was asking whether the Tory leadership contest was akin to changing the captain of the Titanic after it had hit the iceberg. Or indeed that it was his turn to speak (do get a grip, Fiona.) But at least it bought a bit more time for Rory Stewart to scribble notes, his drawn face bent over his notepad.

The one thing that won’t have been on Rory’s jotter is a fully-articulated political philosophy – the Conservatives have long prided themselves on not having one. In this respect they resemble Labour and LibDem, for all of them have become debating-point opportunists; and that is why, with luck, they are doomed.

For all the splother from our mainstream parties, none of them shows any understanding of the EU. On they bang about economics, when anyone who takes the trouble to read can see that the EU is a political project aiming for Empire. Why, Verhofstadt has just said it openly. To Remain is not to stand still, but to keep seated on a train headed for an unpleasant destination.

The train won’t get there and it would be well for us not to be on board when it derails. One reason is that we are jointly liable for the EU’s debts and can be called upon to make good shortfalls or even bail them out in a major crisis, as the Bruges Group explains.

But it’s about more than finance, and it’s time for us to reconsider our principles - even if, on the Right, they are rather fuzzy (as giant corporations come to dominate, is freedom a Left issue, or a Right one?)

Some on the Left side are starting to draw designs on their pads. Here is Costas Lapavitsas, ex-MP in the Greek Parliament, giving the rationale for his recent book “The Left Case Against The EU.” It's well worth watching, but for the time-poor I give a rough summary below.

He has written this book for three reasons: the public is ill-informed about the EU; the Left has a false ‘dream image’ of the EU and lacks a coherent argument for its position; others can learn about the EU’s approach from its treatment of Greece’s Syriza government in 2016.

The British Left used to be Eurosceptic but now has a ‘completely imaginary picture’ of the EU. Also, it has lost its belief in a socialist alternative to neoliberalism.

On the common currency/EMU: it was created by the French to ‘tie Germany in’ after the latter’s reunification. That was a miscalculation – the Euro has helped German business, especially in exports, and Germany has emerged as the ‘hegemonic power’ of Europe. France is losing to Germany economically and politically.

The Eurozone crisis was systemic, but that was not obvious to EU functionaries. Lapavitsas had thought they would see sense and rebalance the member economies, especially Germany’s, but no.

The EU’s behaviour towards Greece was ‘abominable’, with a disregard for democracy. Greece was treated as ‘a kind of new colony’ [RN: remember Verhoftstadt’s aides saying the same about the UK on camera?  Here’s a Greek word for them: hubris.] And in Cyprus, the EU took savers’ money to rescue the banks.

Since Maastricht the EU has been a ‘paradigm of neoliberalism’, the ‘four freedoms’ acting as ‘powerful levers’ and enforced by the ECJ. The EU is a neoliberal ‘juggernaut’; Brussels is ‘one of the main lobby points for big business.’

The Left has advocated ‘Remain and reform’, claiming that what it wants can be achieved within the existing structures of the EU. Lapavitsas replies (a) in that case, why is reform needed? Actually, the EU blocks such attempts; (b) It’s been tried and found wanting, as Greece discovered in 2015. It failed immediately. Britain may be bigger, but will get the same opposition.

The EU has ‘a long history of democratic deficit,’ widening over the last two decades. (1) Economic policy has been ‘depoliticised’ and the democratic vote means very little – a Left Greek government and a Right Italian one were both told to comply with EU policies. So what is the point of voting? (2) See how the EU intervenes when challenged: forcing re-votes after a referendum result it doesn’t like; asserting the power of the Council of Ministers and replacing Greek and Italian governments.

The vaunted ‘freedom of movement’ is not about individual rights, but corporate ones: the EU favours capital and allows it to relocate labour as it wishes. Lapavitsas says ‘the local community also has to be protected’ and the Left has forgotten its tradition of workers’ internationalism.

Corbyn’s Labour is conflicted It needs a more radical program than 2017’s. It needs a profound industrial strategy, less dependent on the service sector and the City. It needs a plan for State aid, public procurement and financing, in a way that the EU will not allow. The EU imposes severe restraints, the WTO less so. We need to address inequalities of income and wealth, and to reform trading practices.

Where does he see the EU in ten years’ time? It faces existential crisis, not only among peripheral countries but most of all in its core. Italy is stagnant. France cannot compete with Germany and if it adopts German policies will fail; the public are rebelling. Add in the democratic deficit and people’s sense of powerlessness and the EU finds itself in a very difficult position.

Lapavitsas cannot see monetary union surviving – it will probably go, in the next global crisis. After that the EU will change into a loose alliance, an ‘empty shell’; the Maastricht years won’t come back.

The European Left needs to get its act together ‘or the political outcomes will not be very good at all.’

Friday, May 31, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Creative Chaos, by JD

In the middle of all this current political chaos, fake or otherwise, I think we deserve to have some real and creative chaos which is genuinely inspiring and joyful.

If you are of a nervous disposition, look away now (as they say on the telly) but if not, fasten your seatbelts and turn up the volume for the unique and legendary Rahsaan Roland Kirk!


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Voter Suppression in the USA, by "Paddington"

In the good old days, the primary paths to power were generally simple. Things like birthright, marriage, assassination and conquest.

Now that most countries are democratic, at least in theory, one must claw to the top of some power structure, and then be elected.

One way to do the latter is to convince enough voters that they need you. This carries a high risk of failure.

To increase the odds, one could take the route favoured by Saddam Hussein, and famously described by Stalin, “It doesn't matter how the people vote, only who counts the votes”. While effective, this method requires a large conspiracy, which is hard to maintain.

In some places of the US, such as Chicago and Miami, Florida, a popular method used to be what is called the 'graveyard vote', having people impersonate dead voters. In New York, they just got enough street dwellers drunk and marched them to the polls.

With better modern record keeping, these methods are much less effective. In fact, despite claims by Republicans of millions of illegal aliens voting, and massive voter fraud, repeated investigation has only uncovered a handful of cases nationwide in the past two decades. Most of those were Republicans, claiming to 'test the system'.

It is the South, now primarily Republican, which has outdone itself, with the simple tactic of voter suppression.

We can begin with the founding of the Republic. The slave-holding states realized that their population was mostly slaves, and so apportionment of Congressional seats by population would leave them with little power. Hence, the allocation of two Senate seats per state, and the famous '3/5 compromise', where slaves counted as 3/5 of a regular person.

After the Civil War, the 14th and 15th amendments now allowed all former slaves to vote, so a new tactic was needed. The answer was to arrest the now-homeless freemen under vagrancy laws. Not only could they not vote while in prison, but also were generally prevented from doing so if they ever got out. An added bonus was that slavery was still allowed for people in prison, so they were a tremendous source of free labour, a system which lasts through today. This method was supplemented with poll taxes, which the African-Americans couldn't afford to pay, and literacy tests, which were strangely harder for people of colour.

Under the cover of claiming massive voter fraud, there have been major moves to require 'valid' identification to vote. This sounds reasonable enough, doesn't it? Now consider:

1. Texas accepts a state-issued Concealed-Carry Weapons permit as valid, but not a state-issued university ID card (those 'liberal' students)
2. Many older African-Americans in the South cannot get their birth certificates, as most were not born in official hospitals, and so cannot get ID.
3. In Arkansas, the single office to get a state ID (for those without a driver's license) is only open for a few hours on the fifth Wednesday of a month (not a joke).

And then there are the other clever techniques used most recently in 2018:

1. A bus in Georgia was taking a group of African-American retirees from a nursing home to the polls. The white workers at the home stopped the bus, and dragged them off.
2. In Georgia, there is automatic voter registration when a driver's license is renewed. But, it only registers the person for the national elections, not the local and state ones, keeping things like the Sheriff's position away from 'those people'.
3. A law in Arizona required voters to have a street address. Most Native Americans use rural post boxes, without one.
4. Dodge City, Kansas, closed its single polling station, and moved it a mile out of the city, miles away from any bus route.
5. The state party in charge after each census gets to decide the Congressional map for the state. In the last elections, Republicans have so gerrymandered the districts that they were awarded 12 of 16 seats in Congress for Ohio while only getting 52% of the vote.

While our leadership lectures the rest of the world on democracy, we behave more like a banana republic.

Further reading (Ed.):


... and a recent example from Texas: