What’s been happening in the US these days makes Britain look like an island of sanity. Yes, we’re led by a buffoon who can’t remember from one minute to the next which direction he’s leading us in, only that he wants to lead, but at least he’s not inciting armed mobs to storm Parliament.
Admittedly, Boris Johnson did–with only a bit of exaggeration on my part–invite a virus in to storm the population, but the times we’re living through set a low bar for political wisdom. The last time I looked the bar was underground and you could shuffle across it without having to lift your feet out of the dead leaves. So yes, he lost control of a pandemic through stupidity and for political gain–not to mention financial gain, although I have no evidence that he’s personally one of the beneficiaries. But hey, look, no armed mobs inside Parliament!
So yeah, we’re doing fine. Let’s check in on Brexit, shall we?
Brexiteer Bill Cash (he’s a Conservative and a Member of Parliament, known as Sir Bill to his nearest and dearest) compared Brexit to the end of the Stuart dynasty.
How’d the Stuart dynasty end? Not well if you were a Stuart. Well enough if you weren’t either a Stuart or Catholic. We could call the transition either a coup or an invasion, depending on our mood. Since I haven’t decided what mood we’re in, we’ll leave both possibilities on the coffee table.
The last Stuart king was (gasp!) Catholic. That upset enough powerful people, but then he had the temerity to have a son, who even before he was out of diapers was clearly a Catholic-in-training. In fact, he’d barely had time to get into diapers before England’s Protestant elite invited William of Orange (whose wife, Mary, was the king’s Protestant daughter) to invade. Which he did, and James looked at the cards he was holding and–probably wisely–fled.
But having been invited to the card party, Will and Mary found that the hosts got to decide how the game was going to be played. And that, kiddies, is called the Glorious Revolution, because the hosts limited the monarchy’s power, handing it to Parliament.
It’s also called that because the winning side went on to write the schoolbooks.
Is Brexit the Glorious Revolution all over again? Only if the Brexiteers get a free hand in writing the schoolbooks.
But we’re not far enough away yet to worry about schoolbooks. We’re worried about the country getting slapped in the face with the dead fish of a half-thought-through border arrangement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
That’s a horrible, half-thought-through metaphor. Sorry. If it hadn’t made me laugh–and if it didn’t have some truth to it–I’d replace it with something marginally more sensible.
What I’m talking about is that during the endless Brexit negotiations, relatively sane politicians were afraid of restarting the Troubles in Northern Ireland, so Boris Johnson was under a lot of pressure not to mess up the Good Friday Agreement which (a) ended them and (b) established an invisible border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. It let goods and people flow between the two without so much as a wave or a wink from an official.
The problem was how to keep that when the rest of Britain separated from the E.U. and the laws and regulations go out of synch, making barriers and inspections and paperwork necessary. The negotiators never found more than two possibilities: Either you have a visible, functioning border dividing the two parts of Ireland or you have one between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. Britain didn’t like either solution, and the problem stumped savvier politicians than Johnson, including Theresa May.
I never expected to say anything good about May, but there you go, I just did: She had the smarts to know it was a problem. Johnson just signed an agreement putting the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, lied about it, and figured something would come along to save his hash. Paperwork? he said. There won’t be any paperwork. It’ll all be seamless.
It’s not, and the transition has found any number of companies in Britain waking up to discover that they need all the paperwork Johnson told them they wouldn’t. Trucks are getting stuck at what’s now an internal border somewhere in the middle of the Irish Sea. We’re hearing tales about British companies that no longer deliver to Northern Ireland, although I have no idea if we’re talking about two companies or several thousand.
Presumably that will settle down once companies figure out the paperwork, but the long-term effect on Northern Ireland and its union with Britain should be, um, interesting.
An online group that campaigned for Brexit, Leave.eu, has found that an unexpected result of winning the Brexit battle is that it had to choose between keeping its domain name and leaving Britain for the EU, because .eu domains are limited to, you know, the EU.
So the group re-registered itself in Ireland, using the contact details for businessman Sean Power, who when a newspaper contacted him about it seemed surprised said he had no links to the group.
And in other news
A new study says that if the world can stabilize carbon emissions at net zero, the planet’s climate could also stabilize within a couple of decades. The belief had been that the world would tip into runaway heating, but if the new model’s correct we have some hope.
We do need some hope.
Net zero? It’s sort of like when you run water into the bathtub and the phone rings and it’s only going to be a minute so you don’t turn it off but you do go in the other room so you can hear yourself think but you lose track of things and by the time you come back the water’s up to the rim. If you’re going to put yourself in there (and what’s the point of all that water if you’re not), you have to take some water out. That’s net zero. You have to balance the amount of carbon you dump into the atmosphere with the amount you take out. Otherwise the floor gets wet.
Over a hundred countries have pledged to reach net zero by 2050.
Do they mean it? I wish I knew, but more and more businesses and people with money and power are starting to notice that an overheated planet looks promises to be expensive, so maybe they’ll do more than mouth good words. Watch this space.
This space being not my blog but our planet. It’s the only one we’ve got. Even if you lose the URL, it’ll be easy to find.
A study in JAMA Internal Medicine tells us that even rich Americans have worse health than people in twelve other industrialized countries. They’re more likely to die from a heart attack or cancer, or during childbirth. They’re more likely to have an infant die. The only area where the U.S. did better is in treating breast cancer.
That’s comparing rich, white, non-average Americans to average other-industrialized-country people. In other words, comparing people who get far better care than their average and below-average fellow citizens to an average of citizens in countries with less fragmented health systems.
The comparison countries were Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Experts have found a correlation between traffic accidents in Asia and major football games in Europe.
Let’s tackle the important questions first: Experts in what? In intercontinental football/traffic accident correlations, of course.
Honestly. I have to explain everything.
That leaves us with the question of why there should be a correlation, and the answer may have to do with time zones. More people watch football–by which, if you’re American, you have to understand that we mean soccer–than any other sport, but the highest profile games are played in Europe. And they’re popular enough that people stay up to watch them. If a game starts at 8 pm somewhere in Europe, people in various parts of Asia may have to stay up till 4:30 to see the end. Or 5:30. And you know how it is: Once they see the beginning they have to stay up for the end. Then they spend the day sleep deprived. And since we live in a car-based, not-net-zero world, they get behind the wheel and end up in a ditch.
The researchers estimate–and it is only an estimate–that football games might be responsible for Singapore cab drivers having 371 accidents a year.
Aren’t you glad you learned that today?
An HG Wells memorial coin issued by Royal Mint uses images from “The War of the Worlds,” including a tripod with four legs.
“Tri,” a Wells biographer wrote. “The clue is in the name. . . . [But] at least the clock numbers round the edge don’t go up to 13.”