Non!

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Charles De Gaulle, born Nov 22nd 1890.

A career soldier nicknamed the Big Asparagus by his classmates because he was so tall.  A veteran of two world wars he was frustrated at the British describing them as too slow.  Undoubtedly brave he was wounded a number of times and at Verdun in WW1 he was bayonetted in the leg whilst reeling from a shell blast and was captured by the Germans, the only member of his unit to survive.  He spent the latter half of the war as a prisoner despite 5 attempts to escape.

He rose into the world of politics by WW2 and as leader of the Free French he was sentenced as a criminal by the Vichy French Government.  He held a difficult position in London.  The French offices were filled with British spies, the phones were tapped.  When his aircraft was sabotaged and he almost died the British blamed the Germans.  De Gaulle blamed the British.

When the European Community was founded in 1957 the UK elected to go their own way.  They joined the EFTA instead.  As the 1950’s progressed and the Continental Europeans experienced economic expansion the British regretted their mistake.  They applied to join in 1963.

Famously and very publicly De Gaulle said “Non!”

It was a field day for cartoonists!

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What is Erasmus?

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Born Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus ; Erasmus of Rotterdam in Netherlands was to the Northern Renaissance what Petrarch, the Father of Humanism, was to the Italian Renaissance.  For this reason Erasmus was called the “Prince of the Humanists”.

Erasmus trod the “Middle Way” between the corrupt Conservatives of the Catholic Church who resisted all reform, and the Protestant revolutionaries who wanted to tear down and rebuild the rotten edifice of Christianity.

The EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students is a very tenuous acronym for the EU programe which aims to integrate students from EU member states at a time of their life when people are most open to meeting people from different backgrounds.

Erasmus grant funds students to study in Universities outside their home country, and to meet and integrate with students from other European countries.  The aim of the programme is pan-European integration, the formation of a “European Identity”.

The Erasmus Mundus programme is a parallel initiative aimed at integrating Europeans with students from outside the European Union.

In 1987-88 some 3,244 students participated.

In 2006 150,000 students took part.

In 2016 330,000 participated.

With association comes understanding and this goes hand in hand with a reduction of xenophobia and the fear that arises from a lack of understanding of the positions of distant populations.  It is highly significant that the “Vote Leave” campaign in the UK received greatest support from older, more insular and less educated people.  The young and educated are far more open to an integrated Europe.

Brexit is an initiative of old people, who will suffer none of the consequences, to make life difficult for the next generation, and possibly for generations to come.  If the UK had postponed the Brexit vote by just 5 years sufficient old people would have died, and young new voters would have registered to swing the vote the other way.

Today the EU agreed to an extension of Brexit to January 31st.  Today happens to be the Birthday of Erasmus who was born Oct 28th 1466.

 

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Happy Birthday Wordsworth

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Wordsworth facepalm predates Picard

For any who hold to the power of nominative determinism William Wordsworth is a fine example.  Who can give more weight to words than a poet?  Born with the name Wordsworth it is a natural segue into poetry.

What Wordsworth is best known for is his love and appreciation of nature and especially of his native Cumbria.  Much of the popularity of the Lake District as a tourist destination can be attributed to the poet.

In these dark #Brexit days as the UK retrenches into insularity it is interesting to note that Wordsworth’s first publication was in “The European Magazine”.  He went on a walking tour of Europe.   He was an admirer of revolutionary France until the Reign of Terror separated him from his lover and his child.   Clearly a man who would vote to Remain.  Wordsworth suffered the negative impact of a hard border.

But if William Wordsworth remains relevant today it may be as a canary in the coalmine for the impact of mankind on nature.  Long before the landscape of England was ravaged by industrialisation Wordsworth was a Cassandra predicting how mankind would harm our world.  The advent of the anthropocene has made him even more relevant.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
and are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
for this, for everything, we are out of tune,
it moves us not.– Great God! I’d rather be
a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
so might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

 

Revoke Article 50

 

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This petition will hit 5 million signatures today.  The March in London yesterday had 1 million participants.  How many British People have to ask before the Government give them an opportunity to have a say, now that the British people understand what it actually means to leave Europe?  What exactly is wrong with Theresa May and the Tory party?  Why is it a betrayal of the people to ask them “are you sure about this?”

Why are the Tory party driving forward to the worst possible outcome?  What is wrong with taking time over a decision that is going to have such a huge impact on Britain?  Who is profiting from this haste to leave?  Who is profiting from the chaos?

One thing I am certain of.  The ordinary British person on the street is not profiting from this, and will never profit from it in any way.

And I still blame David Cameron.  History will be very unkind to that man.

Brexit March

 

Telling lies #10: Weasel Words

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Ovid in Metamorphoses, describes how Juno orders the goddess of childbirth, Lucina, to prevent Alcmene from giving birth to Hercules.

Realising that Lucina is using magic to frustrate the birth Alcmene’s servant Galanthis announces outside the birthing chamber that the birth has been a success.

Lucina, in her amazement, drops the spells of binding and Hercules is born. The furious Lucina responds by transforming Galanthis into a weasel.

So we come to the term “weasel words” which are vague, unsubstantiated and easily deniable claims. Weasel words abound in the modern world. Colgate were banned from using their claim that 80% of dentists recommend their toothpaste when the Advertising Standards Authority analysed the basis of the claim.

Anti-vaxxers continue to quote the work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield long after the work has been discredited as junk science.

Once the #Brexit referendum was won the #VoteLeave campaign admitted that there was no £350 million for the NHS.  It was a chimera, a phantasm.

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There is an entire body of pseudo-academic work aimed at spouting out clickbait studies with small, highly biased, carefully selected “judgement” samples, dubiously leading questions and highly conjectural results.  These studies are funded by “interest” groups to deliver on foregone conclusions.  They are then trotted out as though they are science.

Politicians are particularly adept at using weasel words.  If you cannot make your point using science, statistics or aggregate national data then you resort to telling the story of Joe the Plumber.  Go for the down homey personal story of the plucky underdog who nobody can seem to track down.

Journalists will use weasel words to give spice to a mediocre story.  If the police raid the home of a white collar tax cheat the story is unlikely to set the world on fire.  The police will probably seize papers around the house to use as evidence.  They will put the papers in a bag to carry them to the squad car.  The bag may also contain several weapons.  The bag may also contain cocaine.  The bag may also contain undisclosed cash.  The bag may also contain a ham and cheese salad for lunch, but who wants to read about that?

If you find yourself on the receiving end of weasel words alwasy get specific.  “What scientific study are you referencing?  Who are the researchers?  Who paid for the research?  What was the original stated aim of the research?  What questions were asked?  Who was sampled?  How does the sample match the general population?  What is the sample error?”  You need to be very, very specific.

How would Nigel Farage have coped if any decent journalist had hauled him fully over the coals on the NHS £350 million?  How would Boris Johnson have coped if anyone sat down and ran the calculations in front of him and forced him to justify the numbers?

Advertising standards authorities actually impose considerable discipline on commercial advertisers, especially in response to complaints from consumers.  Politicians face no such discipline.  Politicians have the greatest freedom of any group in society to spout lies to the voting public.  Politicians have no interest in passing laws against the telling of lies, because politicians are perfectly happy to continue to use weasel words to fool most of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time.

Weasel Words from the Swamp

 

 

 

Tonight’s the night

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Tonight’s the night.  Theresa May faces a no confidence motion in her leadership.  The UK parliament faces the vote on the Brexit deal.  The five years since David Cameron first promised the Brexit referendum come to a head tonight.

Westminster is imploding under the weight of imperialst bombast.  Clowns to the left of her, Jokers to the right, Theresa May is stuck in a limbo not of her own making.

I thinks she has done a wonderful job with a terrible hand of cards.  She leads a party split between Hard Line Brexiteers, disillusioned remainers and confused Euroskeptics.  She is reliant on the Lunatic fringe that is the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to prop up the Conservative majority in parliament.

Her opposition is lead by the very confusing Jeremy Corbyn who seems to stand against the interests of his core vote by supporting the Brexit.  But he wants to undermine any realistic deal of a Brexit that is workable for the British Economy because in addition to supporting Brexit he has to oppose Theresa May.

May herself started from a position of “Remain”.  Yet she is the only Tory who seems capable of delivering any sensible exit strategy.

To say that the entire omnishambles is like a scene out of the Office being led by David Brent would be an insult to David Brent.  His managerial capabilities are head and shoulders above anything exhibited in Westmister in the last few years.

It is on days like this we should remember the great words of Winston Churchill:

We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in Felixstowe, we shall fight in the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confusion and growing strikes in the air,
we shall destroy our island, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight each other on the beaches,
we shall fight each other on the stairs and landing,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills;
we shall fall asunder, and if, which I firmly believe may be the case,
this island or a large part of it were penniless and starving,
then the European Union beyond the seas, assisted and guarded by the British Fleet,
would carry in supplies and famine relief, and with all its power and might,
step forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old farts who voted to leave.

 

 

Theresa May Prevail

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On the birthday of William Blake here is what is probably, in England anyway, his best known poem.  It is one of the most popular and patriotic English hymns of the Anglican Church.

It is the essence of what it is to be English.  The English Rugby song is “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.  Queen Boudica, that very embodiment of Britannia, is portrayed riding her Celtic Chariot.

As the British Parliament prepare to vote on the Brexit deal with the EU it is not the Northern Irish that matter, nor the Welsh, nor the Scots.  This is England Theresa May.  This is the time to embody England, to don the mantle of Alfred the Great.  To hell with those pesky Celts, this is an Anglo-Saxon matter.

Jerusalem: by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
on England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

For Brexit Posterity

Resigned

Dominic Raab_________________ Esther McVey________________ Shailesh Vara

I wonder will anyone even remember their names in five years time.  Big news today as they resigned posts in the Tory Party in rejection of the Brexit deal agreed with the European Union by Theresa May and her dwindling cabinet.

The British Press continue to push hard to see the most hard landing of Brexit realised.  How do we know this?  The following Tweet puts it perfectly:

Mogg Tweet

As the Tory Party implodes you get the sense that everyone just wants the pain to end.  You can almost imagine Theresa May praying that the dissenters reach their target of 48 letters to the 1922 committee to trigger a no confidence motion.

As one columnist put it today it is far easier to criticise the Cabinet for failure to deliver the promised herd of Unicorns, than to engage in the tricky task of Unicorn breeding.

The cabinet may accept the deal only to be rejected by the party, the parliament or even the people, who might just vote the Labour Party back in.  Not that Jeremy Corbyn deserves a crack at the whip.

I have no further predictions.  The plot of the Brexit story reads a lot like G.K. Chesterton’s “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” where the people defy all political predictions on national direction by stagnating.

Anniversaries

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This is our wedding anniversary.  On this day in 1993 I tied the knot with Louise in Holy Cross Abbey, 24 years and still muddling through.

It is Anne Frank’s birthday.  When she was 13 years old, on this day in 1942, she received a diary as a birthday present.  She wrote in it regularly for two years and two months until the family were captured by the Germans and interned in concentration camps.  Only the father, Otto, survived the war.  He found the diary and had it published as “The diary of a young girl”.

Today my daughter, Esha, sits her Maths 2 paper in the morning and the Irish 1 in the afternoon.  This is the busiest exam day in her Leaving Cert Schedule.  Esha is 18, an age never attained by Anne Frank.

Over in England people are fuelled by Brexit jingoism and xenophobia heightened by recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.  In the recent election Theresa May was leaning in favour of internment of suspect terrorists and deportations.  Effectively she was speaking about an assault on civil liberties.  That is a dangerous road.

The last time the British Government tried internment was as a solution to violence in Northern Ireland.  Far from solving the problem Internment was responsible for bringing the leading lights of Sinn Féin and the IRA together, facilitating them to organize and acting as a recruitment drive.

Anne Frank was born a German citizen in Frankfurt. Her family moved out of Germany in the early 1930’s as the Nazi’s dismantled the civil liberties of certain sectors of the population including communists, gypsies and Jews. By 1941 Anne Frank no longer held citizenship and was effectively a stateless person.

Theresa May can show good reasons for removing civil liberties as a means of protecting the populace from terror attacks but there are better reasons for protecting civil liberties.  Remember the poem by Pastor Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is England – Theresa May

 

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Armed police on the beach, guarding the donkeys from Islamic terrorists.  Or are they there to protect old blighty from the immigrants?  Will you “fight them on the beaches”?  Those nice Polish men who erected your garden shed, or changed your car tyres, or unblocked your toilet?

This is the England being created by David Cameron and Theresa May today.  It is a land of fear and suspicion.  It is a world of hate.  It is a place where wealthy people become more wealthy, making armaments to sell to despots and dictators, rebels and freedom fighters on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in South America.  And when those distant people have had enough of killing each other sometimes they take a notion to visit violence on the brokers of death.

This is an England where the wealthy resent the very fundamentals that make Britain Great.   The social contract between the people and the state that was forged from the blood sacrifice of two world wars.  Basic housing provision, social welfare, a national health service, public transport and a civil service built on principles of fairness, honesty, trust, service, you know, old fashioned English public schoolboy stuff.

The puppet masters of the Tory party want to dismantle the public contract.  They want a descent into what they have in the USA.  Richer rich and poorer poor.  They have already dismantled British Rail, British Gas, Water and Electricity and sold off the family jewels.  Now they are going after things like the minimum wage, healthcare and housing.

The European Union was in their way.  The EU demands a social contract as the price of membership.  This does not suit the oligarchs.  To get the world they want they needed Britain to be outside the EU.  They sold Brexit to the working class British by dealing in fear, hate, xenophobia, racism and greed.  Basically they sold the seven sins.  And Britain bought them.

Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.  If you buy the seven sins then you get to live them.  What that means, in a real sense, is armed police on the beach on a sunny day.  This is England!

For those of you out there who blame all this on muslims, I give you a poem to think about.  Sassoon wrote this after witnessing the carnage of the Battle of the Somme.  It is violently anti-Christian, and he never published it in his life.  Islam is an excuse given to you by the Oligarchs to engender you with fear and suspicion of “others”.  If you wipe out all the muslims they will find another target for your hate.  They have a manual for this plan, it is called “1984”, written by George Orwell.

 
Christ and the Soldier; by Siegfried Sassoon

The straggled soldier halted — stared at Him — Then clumsily dumped down upon his knees, Gasping

‘O blessed crucifix, I’m beat !’

And Christ, still sentried by the seraphim, Near the front-line, between two splintered trees, Spoke him:

‘My son, behold these hands and feet.’

The soldier eyed him upward, limb by limb, Paused at the Face, then muttered,

‘Wounds like these Would shift a bloke to Blighty just a treat !’

Christ, gazing downward, grieving and ungrim, Whispered,

‘I made for you the mysteries, Beyond all battles moves the Paraclete.’

II

The soldier chucked his rifle in the dust, And slipped his pack, and wiped his neck, and said —

‘O Christ Almighty, stop this bleeding fight !’

Above that hill the sky was stained like rust With smoke. In sullen daybreak flaring red The guns were thundering bombardment’s blight. The soldier cried,

‘I was born full of lust, With hunger, thirst, and wishfulness to wed. Who cares today if I done wrong or right?’

Christ asked all pitying,

‘Can you put no trust In my known word that shrives each faithful head ? Am I not resurrection, life and light ?’

III

Machine-guns rattled from below the hill; High bullets flicked and whistled through the leaves; And smoke came drifting from exploding shells.

Christ said

‘Believe; and I can cleanse your ill. I have not died in vain between two thieves; Nor made a fruitless gift of miracles.’

The soldier answered,

‘Heal me if you will, Maybe there’s comfort when a soul believes In mercy, and we need it in these hells. But be you for both sides ? I’m paid to kill And if I shoot a man his mother grieves. Does that come into what your teaching tells ?’

A bird lit on the Christ and twittered gay; Then a breeze passed and shook the ripening corn. A Red Cross waggon bumped along the track. Forsaken Jesus dreamed in the desolate day — Uplifted Jesus, Prince of Peace forsworn — An observation post for the attack.

‘Lord Jesus, ain’t you got no more to say ?’

Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier shifted, and picked up his pack, And slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.

‘O God,’ he groaned,’why ever was I born ?’

… The battle boomed, and no reply came back.