The Voynich Manuscript has mystified scholars for 500 years. The illustrated text has baffled and intrigued everyone who has come across it, and despite the best brains being put to the task, no-one has yet decoded it. Until now. I claim that honour. It is the blueprint for Theresa May's Brexit plan. Now let anyone prove me wrong.
More meaningless words
"Our name is a clue to our difference. It signals a sense of place and a pride in being a bank. By supporting our community, businesses and individuals, we want to help grow a bright and prosperous future for the region." [emphasis added]
So says the website of Clydesdale Bank (aka Yorkshire Bank) today. The latter's slogan is "We care about here." [wherever that is, but possibly Yorkshire] But words are only words. The merger of Clydesdale (and Yorkshire) with Virgin Money is coming about because:
"Iconic national brand and customer-focused cultures: Virgin Money's iconic national brand and both CYBG's and Virgin Money's complementary customer-focused cultures and award-winning customer service provide the foundations for strong, digitally-led customer acquisition and retention across the UK;" [from Clydesdale's website]
Since when was Virgin Money iconic? Like in Virgin East Coast perhaps? Naturally, this customer focused merger has not in any way involved the customers, who one presumes are simply expected to become 'Virgin Money' customers, and will no doubt shortly receive messages in adolescent American-style Virginese, like 'Good to go' and most importantly 'awesome.'
How irritating. In old fashioned Yorkshire, it's bollocks.
Donald Trump's campaign against the environment and particularly action to halt climate change, given the president's obvious ignorance of the issues needs intellectual bolstering. I've just been alerted to an article which is of that kind, continuing to seek to cast doubt on the now well established science that climate change is being caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The article, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 18th - a Murdoch owned paper - was penned by climate change denier Fred Singer. It suggested that sea level rise was not attributable to CO2, whilst at the same time accepting that sea levels are rising. Without going into the scientific arguments, which I am not competent to do, it is clear that Singer's claims are false, and are comprehensively debunked here. What worries me is that POTUS will be able to use published material, which is for want of a better word 'fake' to continue his monomaniacal demolition of such things as the Environmental Protection Agency and his promotion of fossil fuels. Fred Singer, the author of the piece has been debunked more times than Inspector Lestrade, so how is it that his piece could see the light of day in the Wall Street Journal? I accept that at the age of 87, Rupert doesn't himself have much of a stake in the issue of climate change. Fred Singer, by the way is 93.
Despite sending the Chief Executive of OFCOM a reminder about my email relating to the regulator’s ‘investigation' into the broadcast licence of RT I still have not had a reply. I guess I will have to rely on snail mail to deliver my next reminder. It seems OFCOM is not that brilliant at errr… communicating.
I heard Failing Chris Grayling (Sec. of State for Transport allegedly) on the Today programme this morning disclaiming responsibility for ‘running the railways.’ Just wait for a good news story about the railways and I bet he changes his tune. There is something about Failing Grayling which brings the whole government to mind.
The same government which today has declared it does not support the Swansea tidal barrier. Yes, they can support a new nuclear power plant at Hinckley, at enormous cost and risk to the taxpayer and huge benefit to the Chinese. But hey, what if the Moon falls down and we lose our tidal flows? What then? As with the government’s case for Heathrow runway three, it turns out that Theresa May is all gob and no muscle when it comes to climate change. Who does that remind me off? Boris Johnson of course, whose bravery does not actually extend to lying (lying?) in front of a bulldozer to stop the expansion. Well, he may convince some fools that he’s not cowardly shunned voting against the runway today, but I suspect there are no bulldozers in the ‘No’ lobby. They’ll appear later, and he will have ample opportunity to redeem himself.
When I was away a couple of weeks ago I received a parking ticket. The combined powers of North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Borough Council could not it seems rise to the challenge of giving seven days’ notice of a temporary parking restriction, to allow road repairs to take place. Naturally, I have appealed the Parking Notice Charge and await the result. From what I heard, the repairs consisted of a couple of sacks of tarmac being brought to the street and emptied into the potholes without much ado. The potholes needless to say will reappear in no time at all. What a shame I don’t live on the route of the so-called Tour de Yorkshire, where road surfaces are as smooth as a dinner plate. Still, who dares complain about this fantastic showpiece of our magnificent county, regardless of its cost to the Council Tax payer? Only ne’er do wells and nitpickers would say it’s a complete waste of public money and that local businesses might be more interested in paying for it.
There could be some confusion
People who haven't followed the debate on climate change here in the UK may be forgiven for getting a little confused. Today's news tells us that a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2) is about to hit the carbonated drinks market - just as the World Cup takes off! Apparently, the factories that manufacture the stuff have either broken down or are up for routine servicing. Sometime next week, fizzy drinks may run out. The Campaign for Real Ale assures us that this will not affect real beer, so there's some good news. My fear is that Donald Trump hears about it. Quite apart from being another failure located in Europe, he, in his sincere stupidity may conclude that a vast reduction in CO2 emissions is being achieved without any need to act on his part.
Words about words
(1) I have received a message from Virgin Trains East Coast which says: "You may be aware that Virgin Trains East Coast is transitioning to become London North Eastern Railway (LNER) on 24 June 2018." Transitioning? This must be the most moronic use of the English language to emerge from this disaster of a rail franchise yet. Their complete and utter failure to do what they said they would do is merely leading to a transition to something called LNER - as if it were just a fresh coat of paint. Awesome! Good to go!
(2) Theresa May never looks more shifty than when she's having to answer questions, even the soft and somewhat sympathetic ones that Andrew Marr throws her. It's not her fault I suppose that she can't smile without turning her mouth into a lop-sided smirk, nor that this form of tic is getting worse as every day passes. It makes her look ever more dishonest, which doesn't help when she's trying to convince us that her announcement of £20 billion more a year for the NHS is anything more than a rather shallow ruse to grab a headline. The trouble with Marr, who is ever so polite is that he doesn't pursue his own questions when she doesn't answer them. There were a number of times when he could simply have said "Could you be more specific?" and Theresa's smirk would have swallowed her whole body. Where does this figure of £20 billion come from? Everybody is asking that question now. What did she mean when she said that since 2010 the government had put more money into the NHS, when we know it's less than the annual pre-2010 average? Following each of her waffling generalisations, Marr should simply have said "Could you be more specific?" The answer of course is that she can't, because the whole exercise was a back of the fag packet exercise which, by the time sometime in the future when the dosh is meant to flow, it will be well forgotten - just another piece of specious Tory NHS gaming. Having said that, and for the sake of fairness, the figure of £20 billion does ring a bell. I seem to recall in New Labour's early days Gordon Brown making hay with such a figure, which I believe was a rehash of a previous announcement. But despite that slip, Labour did put more money into the NHS. It is unlikely that this government will follow suit.
The American political scene is surely becoming more challenging, and not just in the U.S. Interpreting what's going on and speculating where things will end up defies customary rules of engagement. That's why I made this little film called 'The Fog Of Knowledge' to assist your understanding of these uncertain times. I hope you find it useful.
Some infamous person said that all political careers end in failure. There is some truth in it. But who makes that judgement? It seems rather harsh. But then it can't be any harsher say, than Winston Churchill's rejection at the hands of the electorate in 1945, when to cap that humiliation said voters delivered a landslide to the man Churchill famously described as being 'modest, with so much to be modest about.'
I am minded to think of the issue of political failure having just read a review by John Booth on the Lobster website of An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered Up the David Kelly Affair by Miles Goslett. I was an MP at the time of Kelly's death and looking back, I now regret not having done anything about it. Others did of course, raising questions, etc. I may have signed Early Day Motions on the subject but that would be about it.
I think much of what goes on in parliament is delegated by colleagues to those MPs who take an interest in particular issues. Most MPs have their specialities, and of course no individual can specialise in everything. My specialisation became climate change, and I found that developing a reputation in that field led to a certain amount of delegation to me by other MPs who trusted me to get on with it. This form of trust is endemic, to the rather obvious point where you simply have to trust 'your side' to do the right thing, by and large. Most MPs (possibly all, but I can't say that for sure) will troop through the lobbies voting for or against legislation they haven't the vaguest idea what it's about. Indeed, much of their understanding where it exists, particularly on the more contentious issues will have been gleaned from lobbying from pressure groups or special interests.
Reading John Booth's review (I haven't yet had the chance to read the book) I would now support the call for a proper inquest into Kelly's death. There are too many unanswered questions - questions which perhaps were not raised in parliament at the time. I wish I had raised them, and regret I didn't. But to support the call for an inquest now is one way to make amends. 38 Degrees have a live petition on the subject here. It has about 7,000 signatories so far.
Credit where credit is due
HM Government's shambolic efforts to reform the welfare system with the creation of 'Universal Credit' (UC) have been savaged today by the National Audit Office. As ever, some hapless junior minister is put up to defend the indefensible. Rather than admit that their baby has so far proven as disposable as the bathwater, we heard, for example, that UC claimants had 'double the chance of finding work' than those not on UC. What we're not told is whether that is double as in 1% to 2% or half of one percent to one percent. Later I heard some policy wonk from Iain Duncan Smith's policy think tank, the Centre for Social Studies saying that the fact that UC is costing a hell of a lot more to administer was never a central part of its inception. Of course not - that's 'millions of miles away' from the real intent, which has left thousands relying on food banks. My question is this: how was it that the United Kingdom ever fell under the spell of such a useless plank as IDS? How is it that this behemoth of stupidity is given regular airspace to ventilate his asinine Brexit bleatings when his record in office is humiliatingly dismal? Or is that part of a BBC plot to keep us in the EU?
An unenviable task
I don't envy the Nobel Peace Prize Committee their job this year. What if Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Um is a success? Success in this context could mean anything of course, even just getting some kind of process started, which is what Trump himself has now downgraded the talks to. One tangible thing that most likely could emerge as a success would be the ending of the technical state of war between North and South Korea. Given that the Nobel Prize went to Obama, so far as I can see merely for being elected, I could well understand it if Trump, following his meeting with Kim tomorrow, did not get the prize. But where would his getting it leave the prize? As someone said, when Kissinger got it, satire died. Can satire die twice? Or should we be forced to reassess the Donald?
I almost forgot - if the Tony Awards in New York last night are anything to go by - then no reassessment will be required soon. Robert De Niro, on the stage said he had only one thing to say: 'Fuck Trump.' In fact he repeated it, and got a standing ovation. Since Oprah appears to have ruled herself out of the next presidential race, perhaps De Niro could take up the baton. He's only three years older than Trump. You lookin' at me?