Sunday, 26 June 2016

Friday, 24 June 2016

HM The Queen could provide an escape route from Brexit UPDATED

Ultimately Britain is a constitutional monarchy as well as a democracy. This provides a potential escape route from the Brexit disaster which would break up UK and EU.

It could justified by the fact that Leave won the vote with an extremely small margin

  1. Reigning Monarch dissolves current government (whose sitting PM is about to resign anyway)and calls for a general election
  2. New government after election refuses to invoke Article 50 kicking off the process
  3. Brexit never happens (unlikely - see bottom)

"The Queen previously wielded the power to dissolve Parliament and call a general election, but the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act put an end to that in 2011. Now a two-thirds vote in the commons is required to dissolve Parliament before a five-year fixed-term is up."
"While the overwhelming majority of the Queen's prerogative powers are devolved to her ministers, there is one exception that allows her to wield power herself. Only "in grave constitutional crisis," the Sovereign can "act contrary to or without Ministerial advice." With no precedent in modern times, it's not clear what would actually constitute this, but the possibility remains."

The Monarch functions as a major force for national cohesion. Not only does this give her the right to intervene on this extremely divisive issue, she would probably be the only voice that the Leave campaign would respect.

It would also be one in the eye for the tabloid newspapers which have falsely claimed she backed Brexit, and which have been the bane of the lives of the Royal Family for some time.

"A vote for Brexit will not be determinative of whether the UK will leave the EU. That potential outcome comes down to the political decisions which then follow before the Article 50 notification. The policy of the government (if not of all of its ministers) is to remain in the EU. The UK government may thereby seek to put off the Article 50 notification, regardless of political pressure and conventional wisdom."

There is an incredible theory that a Brexit won't actually happen even if the public votes for it

After a nights sleep I can't see a way of avoiding Article 50. The way the vote was formulated, with a simple majority required rather than 60-70%, was a recipe for disaster and national division. Even if the vote had gone for Remain with this margin I think we could still have been looking at serious disaffection and trouble (but without the massive worldwide political and economic consequences).

I can see a case for having Article 50 implemented by a new government in a hugely changed situation. Not a new government formed by a treasonous political entity which has no mandate to govern whatsoever.

If you claim to stand for the United Kingdom but enact measures which you know will break up the United Kingdom (via Scottish independence) you are nothing but an English National Party in hiding.

This is what Facebook felt like today

UK Independence Party to be renamed the UK Demolition Party (after Scottish Independence)

I respect Cameron's decision to hold the vote, but his judgement, in having the vote after 8 years of the worst austerity we've seen, created by a London based banking crisis, is worst decision by a British Prime Minster since the Suez crisis.

I'm even more annoyed with the Labour party.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Engine Behind Brexit

I highly recommend this from Tuesday 24 March 2015 by Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour
to foreign readers bemused by the forces driving Brexit. It's a Long Read article from the Guardian, hardly a xenophobic tabloid. It would seem there are a large majority of Labour (and Conservative) people who have yet to read it.
I do still consider myself a Labour voter by the way.


"In the wake of the party’s defeat in the 2010 election, there was a brief mass mea culpa about immigration, but even now Labour struggles to explain to a core part of its electorate the decisions that were taken on its watch."

"Between 1997 and 2010, net annual immigration quadrupled, and the UK population was boosted by more than 2.2 million"

" In the early years of the Blair government, income levels in most of the 15 member states were on a par with UK levels. Migration from the three poorer EU members at the time – Greece, Spain and Portugal, which joined in the “southern enlargement” of the 1980s – was relatively low, thanks in part to the generous EU funding of infrastructure projects in those countries."

"In 2004, 10 more countries – eight of which had been part of the eastern bloc during the cold war – became members of the EU."  ..." In anticipation of the enlargement of the EU, Blair’s government took the precaution of asking academics to assess the likely levels of immigration from countries in central and eastern Europe that were noticeably less well off. Per capita GDP, as measured in purchasing power parity, of the eight new member states was less than half the EU average.
The report that was produced by the Home Office, published in 2003, did not predict a dramatic increase in immigration from Europe."

"The projection of 13,000 net migrants per year over a decade"...." was based on the assumption that all 15 EU countries would open their labour markets to the newcomers, ensuring that the migrants would be reasonably evenly distributed across the EU. In the end, just Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened up. "

"Virtually all politicians now agree that the failure to impose transitional controls was a mistake."
"“The research looked well founded and evidence based,” ...(Former Minister John Denham)... "says of the Home Office predictions. “It is what government is supposed to do. The whole irony of this is that in some respects Tony Blair was obsessed by immigration, particularly about illegal immigration and abuse of the asylum system, but on EU migration there was a catastrophic failure of the civil service machine.”

"The response from the Whitehall machine to Denham’s memo was largely indifferent. “I sent a warning message to government about the impact of immigration in Southampton, saying Whitehall was not picking up quickly enough what was happening on the ground, or what the wider electorate were saying in response,” he recalls. “To be fair to government, it was probably true the impact at the time varied enormously from area to area, and there was real uncertainty about how long the impact would last. The reaction to migration was seen very differently in London, for instance, to other places.”

"Outlining the impact on the everyday lives of his constituents, Denham argued at the time that resentment of immigration would grow. “One of the problems was that people were supposed to register if they were employed but many came as self-employed,” Denham says. “The biggest impacts were in self-employed trades like construction, where you didn’t have to register.” In the memo, Denham stated that the daily rate for a builder in the city had fallen by 50% since 2004. He also noted that hospital accident and emergency services were under strain because migrants tended not to use GPs as a first port of call. It also turned out that the local further education college had to close its doors after 1,000 migrants attempted to sign up for an English-as-a-second-language course on one day. Whitehall, Denham argued, was wholly out of touch with the concerns of his constituents."

"Jacqui Smith, who was home secretary between 2007 and 2009, when the financial crisis began, agrees with Denham that Whitehall appeared out of touch. “I can remember seeing Treasury papers that said if we limit migration we will reduce our growth. There is a justification for that argument at a macro level, but if you say to people, ‘You may have seen some changes on your high street but it’s OK for macro-economic growth and there will be cultural benefits in London, you sound like you don’t get it,” says Smith."

"Jack Straw is frank about the failures, particularly the official projection of a mere 13,000 net migrants a year from the new EU member states. “It’s a case study of how good intentions and apparently good research can lead government in the wrong direction. But it was a very significant policy failure, done with the best of intentions and in a serious way because we’d got the research.”

It ends with this

"Ed Miliband knows immigration can be a potent issue. But he tends to lean towards dry policy solutions, such as ensuring that employment agencies cannot discriminate in favour of migrant workers. If Labour is to reconnect with its traditional supporters, it may have to think how to respond to those who, in the words of Jack Straw, feel they have not had a fair deal in life as the country changed around them after a series of largely accidental steps."

- Two months after this article was published, Ed Miliband resigned as leader of the Labour Party after it was crushed in the 2015 General Election.

main reader demographic for this blog is probably bears

As I'm sure you are not aware, this blog has a very select readership.

It exists in a mysterious null space within the internet - apparently connected but somehow untouched by the torrent of internet traffic which flows by.

It may well be connected to the cafe in which Sapphire and Steel find themselves imprisoned.

Or perhaps the Phantom Zone.

And speaking of Krypton...

World In A Bottle Defined

I actually started this blog after I returned from Gibraltar in 2010. I'm usually based in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and often find myself enclosed environments like music festivals. (I have yet to post content from TT Isle of Man 1993 and various Glastonbury Festivals 2005-8)

After I started posting I realised a very nerdy potential reference to the the miniaturised city of Krypton held within a bottle.

which should be a suitable signpost to the absent minded and intensely dorky nature of much of the content.

So this blog not only talks about little self contained worlds, it actually exists within one, which is nicely ironic and probably the way I prefer it.

Such is the supernatural lack of profile this site has, in one security meeting at my current contract we did discuss hiding all the sensitive data on the project here.

Despite the aura of inaccessibility which I have somehow cloaked the site with

(I can provide a quote for secure storage)

I do appear to have a set of regular strangely consistent monthly readers in Russia. (Hi Russia).  I can't think what the average, smart, over educated Russian finds interesting on here so I have a theory they may be a family of bears which have access to an abandoned building equipped with a working terminal and an internet browser stuck for years on this URL. Occasionally the bears bash the keyboard and refresh the screen.

Whatever - I welcome all types of ursine feedback

If you are a human being who finds himself here - welcome! You are in select company. Think of it as an exclusive hidden area for select contemplation,
a bit like the Diogenes Club,
but with bears.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Vote REMAIN to save the United Kingdom and stop the ongoing disaster of nationalism

All the potential benefits of British independence from the EU will be lost if it prompts another, successful vote for Scottish independence.

I was really hoping someone in the shamefully clueless Remain campaign would mention Scotland but they seem to be too busy with ideas like having the Mayor of London and its financial services industry try convince the rest of he country Brexit is bad for them.

I know lots of people, perhaps a majority, voting for Brexit. A lot are smart people, but when I mention this could easily lead to another Scottish vote they wave it off with

"oh let them go I'm sick of them as well!"

Which really is incredibly stupid and illustrates how dumb and emotional some of the arguments for Brexit are. There is a sensible progressive case for Brexit, but I've heard very little of it over the ravings and lies from the likes of people I'd never walk into a voting booth for.

Try arguing the case against Scottish nationalism when English nationalism has taken us from one of the largest trading blocks on Earth.

How effective will Brexit be when independent Scotland joins the EU and the Schengen area? Are we going to get Donald Trump to build a wall across the North of England?

Is Brexit worth losing a seat on the UN security council when the UK ceases to exist?

Are your children ready to put on a uniform and patrol the peace lines in Belfast when the fragile Irish peace process unravels?

It's like watching a gathering firestorm of nationalism that feeds on itself.

Look at UKIPs hideous poster of immigrants supposedly trying to get into Britain (actually they are on the frontier of Southern Europe). Look at the faces of those people.
What did nationalism do for their countries?

What did nationalism do for Africa and the Middle East? With Soviet backing, African and Arab nationalism drove out the forces and influences of the liberal, prosperous West and gave those young countries just enough independence to be now filled with poverty, corruption and war, Decades later the impoverished populations of those places have looked at the results of their own nationalist history are now voting with their feet.

The horrible self sustaining irony is that he very dumb nationalist thinking that drives the OUT campaign AND Scottish nationalism is exactly the same thinking that in the 1950s-60s held back the developing world and now drives migration to places like the EU.

The NRA wants no gun checks on people on terrorist watch list - Is that because most solo dangerous terrorists in the West are actually Far Right lunatics?

Veteran Democrats in House of Representatives are right now staging a sit down protest in Washington to try and get sensible gun monitoring.

The NRA wants no gun checks on people on terrorist watch list -
Is that related to the statistic that most solo dangerous terrorists in the West are actually Far Right lunatics?

Friday, 10 June 2016

Return visit to WESTWORLD (1973) in anticipation of HBO's remake

The mysteriously delayed HBO remake of Micheal Crichton's classic WESTWORLD is finally getting an airing at the end of this year. I decided to re-acquaint myself with the original.

You like your boxed set tv viewing? It's nervous times for the originator of the boxed set tv era, HBO, as it's current premium product, Game of Thrones, heads towards it's ending and an avalanche of excellent material appears from it's competitors at Netflix, Amazon and AMC.

HBO has delighted in being edgy going right back to The Sopranos and it's great hope for 2016 is a remake of a morally compromising precursor to Jurassic Park. Apparently Warner Brothers have been trying to remake Micheal Crichton's Westworld (1973) for decades before HBO's pitch arrived backed by Jonathan Noland and produced JJ Abrams.

For those unfamiliar with it, Westworld opens with tourists arriving at the futuristic resort of Delos*, which allows then to 'interact' with three fantasy settings, Romanworld, Medievalworld and Westworld. Tourists of both sexes are seen almost salivating at the prospect of living out their fantasies with the lifelike robots which populate these environments. Their fun doesn't last long. A virus (which must have sounded very novel at the time) is running through the machines which is causing them to revolt, principally the nightmarish, unstoppable robot gunslinger played memorably by Yul Brynner.

Notes 2016

Third time I've seen it, last time was at least a decade ago.

This is one of the few classic properties from the last 40 years who memory has not been ruined by a crap remake.

The influence of the last 1/3 on The Terminator is glaringly obvious, as is the influence of the first 2/3 on Jurassic Park (which was at least taken from a later Micheal Crichton novel)

Micheal Crichton, who sadly died in 2008.  is mainly known as a writer rather than director, but some of Westworld shows real style. In the opening the mirrored glasses of the pilot anticipates the machine malevolence which is to come.  The aircraft the visitors arrive in is some kind of futuristic ground effect jet aircraft shown only in glimpses until a brief surprisingly convincing landing shot.

A lesser director or movie would feature that prominently, Crichton doesn't need too except to establish that this takes place in the near future.

Crichton gets some fantastic performances from his small cast in quite a short movie by modern standards. Richard Benjamin blindsides us with a comedy sidekick performance until he suddenly finds himself the centre of the action. James Brolin only has to be stoic and remind us of the Western clichés all around.

But, blowing away the rest of the cast, Yul Brynner is exceptional in what must be a career highlight. Dressed in identically to his heroic character in the Magnificent Seven, Brynner is obviously having a ball playing it the other way, taking a rogue machine performance some way towards demonic.
His slow drawl order "D R A W" to the horrified tourists who suddenly find themselves in a real gunfight is spine tingling.

I was looking forward to Ed Harris version of this character, I now realise he has a virtually impossible job surpassing Brynner's villain. Hopefully HBO's writer Jonathan Nolan (fresh off dystopic AI drama Person of Interest) will make The Gunslinger a different character in HBO's version.

I was surprised by the soundtrack which shows elements of the same discordant electronica heard in Jerry Goldsmith's classic Planet of the Apes score.

The 'shock' ending might have looked fresher in the 1970s before it was used endlessly throughout the following decade.

We don't see much of Romanworld, obviously the budget was stretched there, even a briefly seen Matte painting looks cheap.

Medieval World would really benefit from some Game of Thrones cameos, perhaps allowing a level of comment on vicarious thrills of sex and violence.

Which leads me to the moral corruption element to Westworld, which is one of the reasons HBOs version is so anticipated and which they so obviously get - seen most obviously in the now infamous casting call for Westworld from last year.

There is some old saying that staying in hotels or any length of time is morally corrupting. Delos, in that sense, is the ultimate hotel, a place which allows the tourists the chance to murder and rape in a series of fantasy settings. It is an interesting moment when a female robot in Medievalworld refuses to be raped, immediately prompting sympathy for the machine, and at the same time implanting a sense of dread that the robots are just not going to take this anymore.

This is tackled more directly in a recent direct rip off of Westworld, Vice (2015), which is surprisingly watchable despite being obviously derivative. It is assumed HBOs take on this will be considerably more considered and thought provoking.

Vice isn't the first rip off of Westworld. I've been trying to catch up with Welcome to Blood Creek for years, which I'm willing to bet is more fun than the official sequel to Westworld, FutureWorld and the short lived tv series Beyond Westworld. I saw all three episodes of Beyond Westworld at the time. It seemed watchable when I was 12 (but then so was Martian Chronicles tv series).

Be prepared for Mrs Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barret,  running the brothel.

Final thought - I've heard some rumours that the beloved HBO Western series Deadwood may be revived - could they do it as part of Westworld?

* at least Delos tourists didn't book with Thomas Cook

Travel Operator Thomas Cook Can give you this view of Cuba for £1500

Famously crap British travel operator offers a ten hour, £1500 flight to Benidorm in 1985

Time taken by Thomas Cook to establish that excursions in Cuba will not be affected by Obama's Presidential visit
: about 2 hours

Time taken by Thomas Cook to  respond to complaint that excursions were cancelled by Presidential visit
: 34 days

Yeah, so my Cuba holiday was in fact something of a nightmare

Over last Easter I booked a two week holiday with Thomas Cook in Cuba on the basis of
  • available excursions to Havana
  • wifi availability
  • balcony room 
I found immediately after booking that a series of important events were to happen in Havana that week and I asked a week before Thomas Cook if that would affect excursions. 
They assured me it wouldn't.

I arrived in Playa Pesquara to find NO overnight excursions, at all, to anywhere - all hotel rooms had been taken. It was too late to do anything about this and by then I was at resort with virtually no internet (one small household router in hotel lobby covering entire resort which is flatlined all day) and as for the balcony view.. well.. see above.

The picture doesn't do justice to the voracious insects.  The 'balcony' was a ground floor patio with a rail around it, ridiculous view of the cleaning shed.

Other highlights

  • Two of six day, local excursions I was able to organise to get me out of the resort excursions  never even showed up (all local excursions had 7.30am starts, so my sleep never adjusted)
  • Most tasteless American (North, South or Central) food I've ever eaten
  • Poor Cubans on site working 12 hour shifts
  • Mojitos aplenty, if you don't mind spending the next day running  to the toilet (water in the ice cubes)
and  Thomas Cook also sneaked in a £200 sole traveller surcharge as part of the booking.

Movie Super Hero Space Race could bring whole genre crashing down to Earth

There is real movie industry panic about super hero movie fatigue at Marvel/Disney, Marvel/Fox and DC/Warner. Their response is to take all their various characters off the boring old Earth and into their various space based story arcs.
Trouble is they all appear to be releasing these super space operas at the same time.

I saw X-Men Apocalypse recently which was fun in a Saturday Morning tv kind of way. Nice to see that classic Chris Claremont X-men story arc hoving into view at last even if it looks to be less sophisticated on film than it did in comics of 40 years ago.  My long complaint that Marvel, Fox and even DC/Warner do a great job of capturing comic characters but are awful in respecting classic storylines looks likely to continue
Iron Man 3
The Wolverine

But a wider concern for the real world film industry is the future of the genre itself and I think we might be heading for trouble. To follow the Chris Claremont X-men story arc the next but one FoX-Men film is  going to be in space.. which suggests the next movie ends with Dark Pheonix vs the Shi- ar. Bryan Singer has suggested this himself.

Which means about 2019-2020 ish....

We know from Batman Vs Superman that DC/Warner plan to have the Justice League in space facing Jack Kirby's uber villain Darkseid

Marvel Studios have in the Infinity War sequels the Avengers in space confronting Thanos (ironically a character recognised universally among comic fans as Marvel’s 'version' of Darkseid)


FoX-Men would be in space, perhaps with some version of their Fantastic Four, handling the Shi-Ar after the events of the Dark Pheonix saga

Let's just hope Marvel/Sony aren’t taking the new Spiderman into Venom/Carnage territory with the Symbiot aliens or all these Superhero In Space movies really are going to look indistinguishable from each other...

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Here's what happened to female Trump supporter when she became a fantasy propaganda image using a still from the Evil Dead.

Inspired by the shameful liars at CONSERVATIVE NATION

EU Referendum : choice is not IN or OUT but Europe or America

Question: So if it's so bad why did Britain join the EU in the first place?
Answer: To avoid becoming the 51st state of the United States.

For all the current debate on Brexit in the run up to the referendum there is very little covering the decisions and thought processes that caused the UK to join the European project in the first place.

Who were the great enthusiasts for joining what was then the Common Market? Well, only virtually all the British politicians of the 1950s and 60s. McMillian, Wilson, Heath, basically everyone in both major parties.

That Special Relationship was quite different in the 50s and 60s.

After 1945 Britain went from being a rock solid wartime ally of the United States, wiling to share every technological secret in her inventory (Tizard Mission) to being frozen out of the US Bomb project, forced to repay Lend Lease early ("Washington suddenly and unexpectedly terminated Lend-Lease on 21st August 1945"), leaned on and humiliated during the Suez Crisis - and virtually ignored during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It is no surprise then that the UK was at its most desperate to join  the EU when US president Lyndon B. Johnson was trying to use economic pressure, mainly threats not to support sterling, to force Prime Minister Harold Wilson to support the American War in Vietnam.

"The years 1964-68, when the Labour government of Harold Wilson and the Democratic administration of Lyndon B. Johnson were in power, saw pronounced strain at the highest levels of Anglo-American bonds, caused to a significant extent by differences over America’s war in Vietnam. Opposition to the war within the Labour Party and among the British general public meant that the Wilson government could not satisfy the United States’ desire for support; certainly, London had to reject the frequent American requests for combat troops."

Parliament in the 1960s and 1970s saw a stark choice between becoming a major part of the European project or becoming a small client state of a belligerent super power - and they quite sensibly chose Europe.

What I'm sure the politicians of the 50s and 60s didn't foresee is UK government 30 years later voluntarily handing foreign policy and security to the 2003 equivalents of Henry Kissinger.

As I suggested in this post - the choice in the EU referendum is not between Europe, or sailing off into the distance as a powerful but small sovereign state in a world of massive trading blocks..
(The latter is just a daydream from somewhere back before 1914)

the referendum choice is between

the European sphere of influence, economics and politics
the North American version

And there are some smart Americans warning of exactly this

and some Americans eagerly anticipating it

In fact he's flying over the day of the vote to visit the property he already has in what may be soon independent Scotland.

Trump is joined in his enthusiasm for Brexit by French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who you can be sure have your interests at heart.

Where am I on this? As demonstrated in my other post I'm conflicted but will vote to stay IN.

Truthfully I'm not massively optimistic either way in the Brexit vote but I'm prepared to make the best of it, (probably as an Englishman when the Scots vote to leave).

To our European friends if we do have a 'Trump vote' and leave via Brexit I hope we can be more supportive from outside than we ever were inside, and you know, look at the map - we're actually going nowhere.

More on EU Referendum

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Guardian Football Weekly Live London Palladium

Two thousand people pay to watch a live football podcast?

I've been listening to James Richardson's Football Weekly podcast since 2006. I find it the most consistently the funniest podcast on any subject, and a great window to football culture in the rest of the world. During a long six months in Gibraltar I hung onto every episode of this podcast like a lifebelt. It really kept me going.

My favourite lines from The Pod over the last decade

James Richardson on the magnificence of the Uruguayan national anthem

  • “The sort of thing you’d expect to hear across a dusty piazza, played to a straggly line of soldiers in ill fitting uniforms, while a big fat guy in another ill fitting uniform covered in medals takes the salute next to a tart in a red dress who definitely isn’t his wife”

James Richardson on Zlatan

  • "I'm not saying he hit the ball hard but apparently they found a Higgs Boson on the pitch afterwards"

When I worked at the Guardian I actually met one of the contributors to Football Weekly, Jacob Stienburg, in a lift. He was the only journo I met in 4 months at the Guardian. When I was back with senior IT people afterwards I suggested they charge £15 a pop for the podcast and give the paper away.
After that they moved my desk into a corner :-)
The podcast has got so big it now plays its own live events, often comedy festivals. The Palladium was the biggest event yet, featuring most of the smart wittiest football writers in Europe, Barry Glendenning, Raphael Honigstein, Philipe Auclair, and even Spain's elusive Sid Lowe. It was packed, 99% with men which made for some of the comedy -- "we need a long 20 minute interval because we know the queue for the ladies toilets can be an issue"

Best lines were from tweets in the audience

  • "If we vote for Brexit then win the European championship will that be the ultimate drop mic exit?"
  • "What is faster, Per Mertesacker or the erosion of the UK coastline?"

Football Weekly will be going back to it's Daily format to cover the 2016 Euros

James Richardson has recently branched out into equally witty film reviews.

The producer of this frightening successful journalistic afterthought, Ben Green. also has an offshoot show just dedicated to creating your own podcast

Jimbo's Football Weekly has had a few rivals podcasts over the years, such as ESPNs Soccernet podcast and The Time's The Game, all of which are inferior, but only in that they are, at best, Manchester United 2009 vs Barcelona 2009.

The chirpy and irreverent (British) ESPN Soccernet podcast ended a few years ago.

The Game, usually hosted by the engaging Gabriele Marcotti, is uncertain to return for next season (based on their last episode). This would be a shame as it is a brilliant and often funny sports podcast which did prompt me briefly to get a Times subscription.. which I cancelled because life beyond the paywall still consists mainly of adverts!