Saturday, 17 February 2018

Fishing with a golden hook

I can't speak for anybody else, but having had a few days to digest Boris Johnson's recent attempt to reach out to Remainers and set out a positive case for Brexit, I'm not convinced.

The Brexiteers' loud and aggressive campaign against freedom of movement for other Europeans won't, Johnson assures us, cause the Continentals to inconvenience UK nationals trying to exercise their freedom to move between jobs, cheap stag nights, or cultural attractions in any part of Europe that takes their fancy. And if you believe that one, Boris has a bridge he'd like to sell you...

I'm more convinced by the rhetoric of another lofty patrician, which our classically-educated Foreign Secretary would have done well to heed before he got himself, and the rest of the country, into this fix:
It was a principle of his that no campaign or battle should ever be fought unless more could clearly be gained by victory than lost by defeat; and he would compare those who took great risks in the hope of gaining some small advantage to a man who fishes with a golden hook, though aware that nothing he can catch will be valuable enough to justify its loss.
Sound, if platitudinous, advice from Augustus Caesar, (according to Suetonius). When every Brexit scenario modelled in the government's own assessments looks worse than the status quo, it seems to me that the Brexiteers are fishing with a golden hook.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Laundering out the taint

Last week billionaire investor George Soros gave 400,000 pounds (€450,000, $550,000) to the anti-Brexit group "Best for Britain." This should be not particularly noteworthy, as the Leave campaign had received over 24 million pounds from some of Britain's richest people: Among them right-wing UK Independence Party financier Arron Banks, investment billionaire Peter Hargreaves and hedge fund manager Crispin Odey. The ultra-rich detest the European Union, probably because its rules impede their quest to become even richer.

So what is a few hundred thousand from Soros? The finance tycoon is of Hungarian and Jewish descent and that seems to change everything. When Nick Timothy, former adviser to Theresa May, kicked off a campaign in Brexit-supporting newspaper The Telegraph, a heated debate ensued over whether or not he had used anti-Semitic tropes, prompting comparisons with the smear campaign against Soros in Hungary.

Hungarian Prime Minsiter Viktor Orban clearly uses the EU and Soros as punching bags and an excuse for his increasingly right-wing radical politics. But British headlines triggered by Soros' donation did not fall far short in venom, either: "Man who 'broke Bank of England' backing secret plot to thwart Brexit" wrote The Telegraph, which described him as a "rich gambler … accused of meddling in nation's affairs." And the Daily Mail called it "tainted money." So why is Soros' money more tainted than that of other, Brexit-supporting billionaires? The suspicion is all too obvious.

Soros, however, is not defeated that easily. Instead, he donated another 100,000 pounds to "Best for Britain" and in the Mail on Sunday deplored "the toxic attacks" against him and his foundation. Welcome to the wonderful new world of global Britain after Brexit.
From Deutsche Welle's Brexit diary.

Good question. Why suggest that Soros' money is more tainted than all that pro-Brexit money? If it's not simple anti-Semitism, maybe it's just that the Soros money hasn't been laundered like some of the pro-Brexit mony.

Such as the money Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) found to throw at the Brexit campaign in other parts of the UK. Money that according to the DUP's own accounts, the DUP couldn't have afforded and which was later found to have come from a group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), an Unincorporated Association, the sort of entity often used as fronts for secret donations. Like so much of the money that bought Brexit, its ultimate source remains a mystery.

No "taint" there - just dark money laundered whiter than white.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Church of Warhammer (now with added dinosaurs! )

I knew that the creationist mythos included dinosaurs on board Noah's Ark. What I didn't know was how the creationists thought that the mighty beasts which got saved from the Big Wet were subsequently wiped out - until I came across this:
...they [creationists] know the dinosaurs disappeared in The Flood, except for the few that were on the big wooden boat, who went extinct when medieval knights hunted them down.
Really? Knights and dinosaurs? Yep, creationist Kent Hovind has confirmed that humans were busy hunting dinosaurs ("dragons") into the Middle Ages and beyond.

This notion would really have appealed to the six year old me. I had plastic dinosaurs. I had plastic toy knights. If I'd known of Kent Hovind's scenario, knights and dinos would definitely have fought one another for possession of the dinner table and sand pit.

It may be nonsense, but if your sole aim is to get the little ones into church, tabletop battles involving knights versus dinosaurs might not be such a stupid idea.

Give me the child until the age of seven years and I will give you the man.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Traumatised by theoretical snowflakes

This is from an actual letter, published in an actual newspaper:
HAVING just read an article about the obelisk in memory of Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale being up for refurbishment, I hope the campaigners are ready for the shouty snowflake mob to turn up and demand the work cease forthwith and the obelisk be demolished immediately as, having captured or destroyed about 20-odd ships, he is a murderer sending hundreds of sailors to their deaths and should not be commemorated...

...Notwithstanding that a university demanded a statue to Cecil Rhodes be removed, we now have some Canadian chap insisting we cannot say mankind, it has to be personkind!

What is the world coming to – all this PC rubbish is ruining the quality of my life...and perhaps yours too.
Jeff Davis

You might also ask yourself what Jeff, and people like him, are coming to, when the fragile quality of their lives can be "ruined" by a theoretical protest that hasn't actually happened (except inside Jeff's own head), over the possible restoration of a monument to an admiral from two centuries ago.

Either loyal reader "Jeff" is a troll, winding us up with a deliberate parody, or use of the term "snowflake" is becoming the textbook example of the theory of psychological projection.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Boudica's chariot in SPAAAACE!

Everybody knows about the Iceni, thanks to Tacitus and his account of the Roman-bashing exploits of that famous freedom fighter/terrorist/rebel alliance leader, Queen Boudica. But that's about all that most people know about the Iceni - a whole society, remembered only through the life story of one elite individual. Which isn't altogether surprising, given the insane amount of resources elites can dedicate to bigging themselves up with ritualised status displays:
The elaborate metalwork found in Snettisham clearly represents an extremely high status, ritual offering that was committed by a group of social elites...

 ...For such a large amount of elaborate metalwork to be taken out of circulation and then deposited, almost certainly points to some form of ritual offering. A similar scenario is seen in the Late Bronze Age where vast amounts of bronze metalwork, particularly weapons, were deposited by competitive warrior elites (Bradley 1982).
From a description of the Snettisham hoard, a stash of Iceni bling which seems to have been buried in order to burnish the owners' bragging rights/rites.

A lot has changed since some Very Important Person sacrificed the Snettisham hoard. But some things aren't all that different, not if you view a Tesla Roadster as an elaborate piece of metalwork, being ritually sacrificed in the most expensively impressive way possible.

I can imagine some space archaeologist of the far future speculating about the status rituals of the 21st Century elite, based on the discovery an ancient high-status ground vehicle, found inexplicably drifting in the asteroid belt. I don't know how our space archaeologist will write up the find, but I kind of hope it's in a paper called Chariots of the Gods, a great title hitherto blighted by association with a very silly book.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

"Unfortunately I'm too much of a weed to punch a woman..."

"... that's why I have a little man to do it for me."
Yesterday evening that good friend of the violent and racist far-right, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, spoke at University of the West of England Law Society. During the meeting one of his supporters punched a woman in an unprovoked attack. A video clip that shows the Rees-Mogg supporter attacking a woman is here: Rees-Mogg supporter’s punch.
Jacob Rees-Mogg - what a gent.

A less impeccably well-mannered chap would probably have slipped the fellow a few guineas to horsewhip the impertinent harridan. There's breeding for you.

Update - we seem to have a possible ID on the gallant pugilist who took it upon himself to defend our weedy overlord from the monstrous regement of women. The assailant's photograph seems to resemble one Paul Townsley, "a martial arts instructor from the Bristol area who has shared his support for Rees-Mogg in a petition to have Rees-Mogg replace Theresa May as PM":
Interesting, if true. Whether or not the identification proves to be correct, I have no doubt the ever-chivalrous Mr Rees-Mogg will be swift to condemn the white-shirted ruffian who turned a peaceful, if boisterous, disagreement into a vulgar brawl by raising his hand to a lady in anger.


Update 2 - It seems that Rees-Mogg superfan Paul Townsley was the agent provocateur responsible for the scuffle. The only detail still unresolved is whether Townsley lashed out in a purely private capacity, or whether the Milksop for North East Somerset had engaged Mr Townsley's services as a bodyguard, in order to protect himself from being challenged by nasty women and other horrid proles who might make him blub. 

Come to think of it, there is another mystery here. Namely, why the Prime Minister is allowing herself to be pushed around by a self-declared weed like Rees-Mogg. Go on, Theresa, you could take him, easy. Here, I'll hold your coat. Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!