Worzel Gummidge and his simpering bride

The Pope is very angry
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Film Review: The Judge (NetFlix)

NetFlix invested in two Triple-A list stars and got a cut-price director and scriptwriter.

Robert Duvall plays the Judge. He’s declining into dementia. Piling cliché onto cliché he’s a traditional ‘Good Old Boy’ folk wisdom judge. He hates his lawyer son who only returns home when his mother dies. The Judge ‘hits and runs’ a white trash ex-con murderer. The prosecution said he did it intentionally and up steps his son to defend him.

Robert Downey Jr plays the son. He’s a hard ass lawyer, got an adorable daughter, a cheating wife, and returns to his home town ‘where nothing changes’. He meets an ex-flame, goes bicycle riding and falls off. I can’t think of any more cliches but I’m sure they’re there. He uses big-city lawyer tactics and sort-of-fails to get his terminally ill father off the charge.

Then compassionate remission of sentence, a fishing trip on a tranquil lake, a final admission that the Judge always thought his son was a great lawyer. On cue the Judge keels over and dies. Audience exits sobbing.

If you can park your critical faculties this is a good two hours+ of film. Brilliant acting, especially by the ninety year old Duvall. The mush can be sorted out with a bottle of wine.

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Good Advice From A Doctor

Doctor: I’m sorry. I have bad news. You’re likely to die in the next six months.

Amanda: Isn’t there anything that can be done?

Doctor: Do you know an unmarried accountant?

Amanda: Yes. Why?

Doctor: Well if you marry him that will be very helpful.

Amanda: Why?

Doctor: You won’t mind dying so much

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Assassination as Government Policy

The assassination of a political leader is among the highest profile acts of political violence…”1

Political assassination is the murder of a significant individual by an organised conspiracy in pursuit of political ends.”2

And the executioner’s face is always well hidden”3

Kim Jong-un, Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump have used assassination as ‘acts of political violence’ ….in pursuit of political ends’. These extrajudicial murders4 are accepted as part and parcel of statesmanship. Assassination is celebrated whereas ‘murder’ would not be. It is murder and isn’t in a distinctive moral universe. The three politicians employed Machiavelli’s tactic of being ‘cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics’ as a preferred option. Their actions were endorsed by the electorate in the UK and USA. In North Korea’s dictatorship public opinion is irrelevant. If Kim Jong-un is a murderer so are Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump.

Kim Jong-un, North Korea

The dynastic power struggle that marks North Korean politics led to the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. He was the half-brother of Kim Jong-un and deemed a threat to the dictatorship.

The assassination was a coup de théâtre. Two female dupes pushed cloth into Kim Jong-nam’s face. They’d been told it was a TV ‘prank’. The cloth was actually a murder weapon laced with poison, which killed rapidly.5 The organisers made their getaway leaving the two women at Kuala Lumpa Airport to face the music. They got short jail sentences when their story was believed by Malayasian authorities. They got short sentences and were the only one’s punished.

This looks like state sponsored murder doesn’t it?

Margaret Thatcher, UK

During her period in office the Northern Irish Troubles were all consuming. Many atrocities were committed including the 1984 assassination attempt on Thatcher’s life.6 The near success of this attempt shocked Britain. Thatcher introduced a shoot-to-kill policy shortly afterwards.7

Mission creep shaped future policy. Terrorists were targeted by the heavy use of informants and Loyalist terrorists acting as surrogate assassins. Violence escalated after Brighton. Shoot-to-kill led inexorably to the assassination of three IRA members in Gibraltar, 6th March 1988.8 A Thames Television programme two months later laid bare the conspiracy. All those assassinated were unarmed and shot in the back. British media denounced criticism of the killings as ‘unpatriotic’. Two years later the government removed Thames Television’s licence to operate as a punishment.

Murder on this occasion was seen as entirely right and proper and Thatcher was praised for being decisive. Extrajudicial murder was endorsed as being in the national interest.

Donald Trump, USA

Iran’s regime change ousted the Shah and the incoming religious leaders rejected westernisation promoted by the USA.10 The US embassy in Tehran was besieged from November 1979 to January 1981. This event was interpreted differently in the US and Iran.9 Relationships have been poisoned ever since.

Donald Trump authorised the assassination of Qasem Soleimani on 3rd January, 2020.11 The assassination was perpetrated by drone at Baghdad airport. A further seven people were murdered as ‘collateral’ damage. Western media referred to Soliemani’s assassination as him being ‘killed’. Except for Israel. “The Jerusalem Post [which] has previously reported that Israel’s role in the assassination was far greater than had been revealed.”12 It’s a vivid signal of the military-political relationship between Israel and the USA.

The assassination of a political leader is among the highest profile acts of political violence…” and when it’s done by missile it’s an even more powerful visual aid. These extrajudicial murders are an absolutely blatant and shameless exercise of power. They’re entirely Machiavellian and entirely amoral.

All three leaders used assassination as policy. All three are guilty of conspiracy to murder. All three remain unpunished in any way whatsoever. Their decisions live in an alternative moral universe and their countries endorse their decisions. State sponsored murder isn’t the ghastly secret of tin-pot dictators, it’s here in western democracies. This means that if the UK claims moral superiority over Belarus, it’s entirely misplaced.13

Addendum: National sovereignty

All three assassinations took place outside the national frontiers of the perpetrators. Malaysia, Gibraltar and Iraq were the location of extrajudicial murder in contempt of international law. Consider this: ‘Iraq launched a Drone based assassination attack on a British general at New York’s JFK airport.’ Only a sense of entitlement prevents the USA from seeing the Soleimani assassination as wildly inappropriate, morally depraved and illegal.


1Iqbal, Zaryab, and Christopher Zorn. “The Political Consequences of Assassination.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 52, no. 3, 2008, pp. 385–400. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27638615. Accessed 21 May 2021. p385

2 BALL, SIMON. “THE ASSASSINATION CULTURE OF IMPERIAL BRITAIN, 1909-1979.” The Historical Journal, vol. 56, no. 1, 2013, pp. 231–256., http://www.jstor.org/stable/23352222. Accessed 21 May 2021. p231

3 Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall Lyrics | AZLyrics.com

4 What does EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING mean? (definitions.net) For a short introduction to Machiavelli see Niccolo Machiavelli | Beliefs, Books, The Prince, Philosophy, Accomplishments, & Facts | Britannica

5 Assassination of Kim Jong-nam – Wikipedia

6 brighton bombing 1984 – Bing

7 State Papers 1988: ‘Shoot-to-kill’ policy ‘cast a dark shadow over the RUC and nationalists in North’ – Independent.ie

8 Death on the Rock – Wikipedia

9 For details see Iran hostage crisis – Wikipedia

10 Iranian Revolution – Wikipedia

11 Qasem Soleimani: US kills top Iranian general in Baghdad air strike – BBC News NB The BBC used the word ‘killed’ as opposed to the more accurate ‘murdered’ or the even more accurate ‘assassinated’. CNN, the Sun and Reddit also used ‘killed’.

12 Israel helped US track Qasem Soleimani using cell phone – report – The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)

13 Belarus – latest news, breaking stories and comment – The Independent

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A Praying Mantis vs. A Bird

If you fancy a praying mantis as a pet you might like this site,

About the praying mantis | Keeping Insects

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The childhood of Xi Jinping: Chinese General Secretary 2012 – present

Xi Jinping started life as a princeling, the son of Xi Zhongxun, Mao’s propaganda chief. But in 1963 Xi senior was purged and banished to a factory in distant Henan province. During the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, the Xi house was attacked and burned, Xi’s sister Heping was killed or took her own life. His mother was forced to denounce her husband, who was dragged through the streets and pelted with filth. At 15, Xi too had to denounce his father. He was sent to live in a cave house in Shaanxi province, where he slept on a brick platform with five others. He escaped, was arrested and spent seven more years in the village he’d tried to get away from.”

John Simpson The punishment of history New Statesman 7th May 2021 p31

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Two Texans go to Canada for a winter break

On their first day they decided to go ice fishing. To spice it up the Texans decided to show the Canadians how great America was. The Texans challenged them to an ice fishing competition. Obviously the Canadians accepted. The team with the most fish after two hours would win.

After an hour the Canadians had several fish whilst the guys from Texas hadn’t any. The Texans decided to study how the Canadians fished. After a few minutes one of them said,

“They cheated! They drilled a hole in the ice!”

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The UK Mayoral Elections, 2021

Turnout in none of the eleven 2021 Mayoral elections came close to 50%+1.The electorate shunned the opportunity to participate. (see Addendum) Does this affect the legitimacy of the result?

Let’s imagine an election in fictional Loncaster which has an electorate of 100,000. The election is properly conducted. Voters are registered and provision is made for postal votes. On election day there are polling booths open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. However, only three electors vote and two votes is sufficient to win in a landslide victory of 67%. This is a reductio ad absurdem but argument but it make a serious point. Does it matter how many voters vote as long as the election is properly conducted?

In Doncaster 72% abstained, leaving 28% of votes split between seven candidates.1 Ros Jones won a comfortable victory. She was, however, only endorsed by 13.7% of the actual electorate. 86.3% rejected her either actively or passively. Ros had 43.8% of those voting and finally won on preference votes. In the imaginary borough of Loncaster the winner won with 67% of the vote. Is Ros’s victory a better victory than the winner in Loncaster?

In Greater Manchester Andy Burnham won an outright majority without preference votes.2 Abstentions amounted to 67.3% of the electorate and the remaining 34.7% was divided between nine candidates. Andy received 67.3% of 34.7% or, 23% of the total electorate. 77% of the electorate rejected him either actively or passively. In the imaginary borough of Loncaster the winner succeeded with about 67% of the vote the same as Andy’s ‘landslide’. Is Andy’s victory a better victory than the imaginary winner in Loncaster?

Ros Jones and Andy Burnham were trounced. Respectively the figures are Jones 13.7% against 86.7% and for Andy Burnham 23% against 77%. These are crushing defeats. But, of course, they won exactly like our candidate in the imaginary borough of Loncaster. The legitimacy of British democracy lies in the mechanism of the vote not in the underlying principles of democracy. Andy has drawn the obvious conclusion and now supports changes in the voting system3 to a version of proportional representation.

There are many explanations for the decline in voter participation in local elections. When speculating on this issue, consideration of the centralisation of government is a good starting point. In the Victorian era local government was vibrant. Confident local politicians enhanced their communities. A visible statement of the confidence of Victorian politicians are the mass ive town halls which make a wonderful statement about their cities. 21st century politicians are managers. They’re a conduit for central government policies. And local government is dramatically underfunded. Ambition died with centralisation. All of which leads to the entirely reasonable question: what is local government for?

Addendum: Turnout for eleven Mayoral Elections 2021 (figures rounded)

Bristol 41%; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 37%; Doncaster 28%; Greater Manchester 35%; Liverpool 30%; Liverpool Region 30%; North Tynside 40%; Salford 29%; Tees Valley 34%; West Midlands 31% finally West of England 37%


1Mayoral election results 2021 – Doncaster Council See also Election 2021: Doncaster mayor Ros Jones re-elected again – BBC News

2 Mayor of Greater Manchester election results (gmelects.org.uk)

3 Labour Mayor Andy Burnham publicly comes out in support of Proportional Representation! : unitedkingdom (reddit.com)

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Greedy? Moi?

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Book Review: S A Cosby ~ Blacktop Wasteland (2021)

Anthony ‘Bug’ Bearegard, is a psychopath, a gangster, a loving father, an exceptional motor mechanic and brilliant driver. A very complex person overloaded with attributes each one of which is challenging for dominance. And that’s the source of the story. How the conflicting attributes weave in and out of his life.

Anthony is going straight and running a viable motor repair shop when competition opens up and he loses most of his trade. The underlying narrative is he loses because of price and because he’s black. Notwithstanding previous experience with ‘White Trash’ Session brothers he joins them in a life-changing jewellery heist. The jewels are illegal being owned by gangster who uses them to fund his activities. They get the jewels and retribution from Lazy another pyschopathic gangster. Cosby writes a Baby Driver style description of a car chase, without the music.1 (This is so thrilling it’s worth the price of the book.)

Twists and turns and mayhem pushes the book along at a terrific pace and I warmly recommend it.

1 Baby Driver (2017) – Plot Summary – IMDb

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