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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Finis

After two years I’ve decided to end my blogging activities. It has become far too time-consuming and I’m running out of things to say, or my efforts are said better elsewhere.

There are other things I want to pick up again, other avenues to explore. I may take up blogging again, possibly with a new blog, but not for quite a while.

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for all your comments and if you don’t leave comments, many thanks for stopping by. I'd mention names but I'm afraid of forgetting someone, so thanks - you know who you are!

It’s been a highly enjoyable and enlightening experience. I've learned more from bloggers and blog commenters than ever I learned from the mainstream media. I've also gained a small inkling of just how many decent, knowledgeable people there are out there and that's something I'll never forget. 

All the very best to everyone

Mike ( aka  A K Haart )

Friday, 10 May 2013

Royal climate claque


The Guardian tells us :- 

The Prince of Wales has criticised "corporate lobbyists" and climate change sceptics for turning the earth into a "dying patient", in his most outspoken attack yet on the world's failure to tackle global warming, made shortly before he is to take over from the Queen at the forthcoming meeting of the Commonwealth.

It seems to me that Charles gives too much away when he promulgates his royal views on climate change. As heir to the throne, he has blundered his way into a situation he could so easily have avoided. We know for some time that isn't up to snuff when it comes to teasing apart the strands of propaganda surrounding this issue.

He has no need to remind us.

It's a huge pity because it would be delightfully refreshing is someone of the nob persuasion finally got a grip on these matters, but that's another issue for another day.

I don't mean to imply that Charles should be a sceptic, but it is surely not be beyond his capabilities to work out that sceptics have a point. There has been no global warming for about fifteen years and it's pretty easy to discover that this rather important temperature hiatus has become an accepted fact on both sides of the climate fence.

One side is scratching its collective head over this temperature standstill, the side Charles favours with his support. At the very least he should know that now is a time for head-scratching rather than bleating yesterday's words like a lost sheep. 

Maybe his royal crap-detector wasn't triggered by the shift from global warming to the rather less precise climate change. Clearly his suspicions were not aroused by this switch and it never occurred to him that climate terminology had thereby become less precise. One is left wondering what else the guy doesn't get. 

It's a mistake his mother never made and never would have made. Presumably she is somewhat smarter than he is. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Early learning centre


From PaulR

A mug's game


A while back I finished Ford Maddox Ford's tetralogy Parade's End - a superb read. The four novels are set mainly in England and the Western Front in World War I, where Ford served as an officer. He vividly brings back to life the dirty, routine, mechanical ghastliness of trench warfare. 

Here his main character Christopher Tietjens reflects with a peculiarly grim irony on the grisly inefficiency of it all :-

This was the war of attrition...A mug’s game! A mug’s game as far as killing men was concerned, but not an uninteresting occupation if you considered it as a struggle of various minds spread all over the broad landscape in the sunlight. 

They did not kill many men and they expended an infinite number of missiles and a vast amount of thought. If you took six million men armed with loaded canes and stockings containing bricks or knives and set them against another six million men similarly armed, at the end of three hours four million on the one side and the entire six million on the other would be dead. So, as far as killing went, it really was a mug’s game. 

That was what happened if you let yourself get into the hands of the applied scientist. For all these things were the products not of the soldier but of hirsute, bespectacled creatures who peered through magnifying glasses. 

Or of course, on our side, they would be shaven-cheeked and less abstracted. They were efficient as slaughterers in that they enabled the millions of men to be moved. When you had only knives you could not move very fast. On the other hand, your knife killed at every stroke: you would set a million men firing at each other with rifles from eighteen hundred yards. But few rifles ever registered a hit. So the invention was relatively inefficient. And it dragged things out!

Ford Maddox Ford - Parade's End

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Put the kettle on


From PaulR

Pundit Lite

I’d never read the Guardian columnist George Monbiot until some recent dabbling which I won't be pursuing, although inevitably I’ve often seen him quoted in climate change pieces.

He is or was a bĂȘte noire of climate sceptics, but not a particularly serious one. From the quotes I’ve seen, his forte on climate and wider environmental issues leans more towards aggressive polemics than anything worth taking seriously.

However, from an early stage he seems to have seen what a disaster climategate was in terms of the credibility of climate scientists, so that's something.

Of somewhat wider interest is how people such as Monbiot get into the pundit line. Having a monied background seems to help. Presumably it helps financially, but as always in life it helps to be well-connected.

Monbiot has had his adventures and dodgy moments too and I don’t doubt his personal courage. I’m also sure he is genuinely committed to his environmental causes, but of course he can afford to be and in his line of work it pays to be strident, well-known, well-connected and ruthlessly simplistic. 

Working as an investigative journalist, he travelled in Indonesia, Brazil, and East Africa. His activities led to his being made persona non grata in seven countries and being sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia in Indonesia. In these places, he was also shot at, beaten up by military police, shipwrecked and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets. He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria. 

I’m reminded here of a story by Theodore Dalrymple who was once thrown into an Albanian jail merely for watching a demonstration. However, the previous evening Dalrymple had been dining with a senior Albanian government official and after half an hour in jail he was abruptly released with a servile apology.
  
As Dalrymple found, there is a considerable degree of safety to be found both in being well-connected and a prominent journalist. There is a peculiar sense of a courageous dilettante about the exploits of such people. While one admires the courage, the dilettante suspicions undoubtedly spoil the overall effect.

It adds a certain doubtful aura to their stories, blurring the line between commitment and grandstanding. Not as bad as the TV reporter pretending to hack their way through the Amazon jungle, but it still doesn’t quite convince or persuade even if apparently genuine.

At least Dalrymple’s life as a prison psychiatrist gave him a keen insight into human nature; if rather a bleak one at times. He also comes across as far more nuanced in his thinking - and better read too. I’m altogether more wary of Monbiot and not at all clear what he brings to public debates.

Unfortunately, one cannot wholly ignore widely quoted pundits even in the internet age. They seize a platform and know very well how to keep hold of their chosen audience by relentlessly hammering the right buttons. 

Monbiot comes across to me as a Boswell with no Johnson to restrain his fancies. Nobody to set him right with - Sir, clear your mind of cant.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Habit


Casual



One of those things I tend to notice and pick up on is an apparent increase in casual behaviour. Maybe it’s an age thing, but it seems to me that a meticulous attention to detail isn’t as common as once it was.

It’s a diffuse thing where it is too easy to become bogged down in examples of poor grammar, spelling or lax manners without bringing out the general nature of the issue.

A startling example is Prime Minister David Cameron who makes a point of avoiding the point. All politicians do that of course and have done for as long as I remember, but in a supposed age of technical politics one might expect... well some technical politics.

What would technical politics look like? How about attention to detail, better use of real data, structured arguments. Gosh - maybe even telling it as it is.

Instead, I see Cameron as a product of our age in that he is essentially casual in spite of the shiny veneer. He does not appear to value either facts, consistency, reliability or even logic. Not only that, but he seems unaware of the problem and unable to hide his casual grip on the essentials of his own job. Which one day he'll lose of course.

Does he care? I doubt it. A casual attitude to the role of Prime Minister - now there's a thing we didn't expect a few decades ago. As I say, it’s a somewhat diffuse issue, but I’m sure there’s something to it.

Climate change is another high-profile example where numerous scientists appear to have a most casual grasp of scientific philosophy – the difference between science and astrology for example. Many quite genuinely don't get it - or choose not to because they can get away with it in a more casual age.

The BBC is an old-fashioned institution which seems quite incapable of adopting a meticulous impartiality and a finely-judged approach to social standards. Probably it never did and maybe it is impossible, but I suspect casual is the preferred option anyway.

I’m sure the problem, if it is a problem, is an aspect of increasing complexity. We probably cannot expect people to cope with ever more finely adjusted social controls without relaxations elsewhere.

What the consequences will be I’m not sure, but a casual attitude to moral questions, social standards, political probity and scientific rigour will all have their consequences. 

Yet another example is how the gay marriage issue suddenly popped up out of nowhere. To me it was the result of a essentially casual attitude to both the institution of marriage and the wider issue of how personal relationships are defined in law. 

Again, maybe it’s an age thing, an aspect of adapting to complexity, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s all to do with our social reactions to increasing complexity. If so, then it would be entirely understandable, because something has to give.

How many hi-vis jackets do we need for travelling in France? Well I suppose I can find out easily enough, but if I’m doing that I’m not doing something else am I? Do I care?

No dude - it's cool.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Brevity is...

Blog brevity a problem?
Long posts more thoughtful?
No – short n’sweet is best...

...or maybe short n'sour.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Hiatus

We have guests at the moment, so posting may well be curtailed for a few days.

A certain affectionate detachment


I like this Santayana quote - the emphasis on detachment chimes so well with other writers such as Aldous Huxley. We might wonder why it isn't merely conventional wisdom. Wisdom it is though, but I'm not so sure about the word affectionate. I'll work on that - there's still time.

A man is spiritual when he lives in the presence of the ideal, and whether he eat or drink does so for the sake of a true and ultimate good.

He is spiritual when he envisages his goal so frankly that his whole material life becomes a transparent and transitive vehicle, an instrument which scarcely arrests attention but allows the spirit to use it economically and with perfect detachment and freedom.

There is no need that this ideal should be pompously or mystically described. A simple life is its own reward, and continually realises its function.

Though a spiritual man may perfectly well go through intricate processes of thought and attend to very complex affairs, his single eye, fixed on a rational purpose, will simplify morally the natural chaos it looks upon and will remain free.

This spiritual mastery is, of course, no slashing and forced synthesis of things into a system of philosophy which, even if it were thinkable, would leave the conceived logical machine without ideality and without responsiveness to actual interests; it is rather an inward aim and fixity in affection that knows what to take and what to leave in a world over which it diffuses something of its own peace.

It threads its way through the landscape with so little temptation to distraction that it can salute every irrelevant thing, as Saint Francis did the sun and moon, with courtesy and a certain affectionate detachment.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Badass car


This is the ultimate badass car, its mean looking, it breathes fire, and if you get to close it sprays you with boiling water, this is Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs evil twin.

Dear Dave



A senior member of your party has tried to paint UKIP as a party of clowns and I’d like to pick you up on that one - just to set the record straight. Forgive me for adding that you are not one for setting anything straight.

You have a Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change as you probably know. His name is Ed Davey, which you may also know, although it hardly matters does it? 

Now one of Mr Davey’s tasks is to make sure your government observes the basic rules of climate change orthodoxy. Among many and varied claims, this orthodoxy insists that we may change the weather by driving cars with smaller engines.

Your government has spent huge sums of money on such weather-changing policies. You officially believe that you have the capability to change global weather patterns via UK legislation.

Note that I don’t impute this clownish belief to you personally, although Mr Davey appears to be convinced. I would hesitate to impute beliefs to you because you give no indication of having any.

Surely this issue highlights the clown-clogged character of your government. Because how on earth does anyone but a clown believe they are able to change global weather patterns via legislation? Do you believe it?

UKIP may have faults, but you personally are prepared to enact and support legislation which belongs in the circus ring. You may even know it to be clownish - how are we voters supposed to tell - especially when you all act like clowns?

It’s another motes and beams issue isn’t it – this clown business? 

Yours etc.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Santa dead in Derby chimney?

From the Daily Telegraph comes potentially devastating news :-

The body of a man was discovered wedged in the chimney of a Grade II listed building after staff at a solicitor's office noticed an unpleasant smell.

We can only hope he wasn't wearing a red suit and carrying a sack. Although why he'd go for a solicitor's office is anyone's guess.

Electric car maker goes bust

Coda EV

From Daily Tech we learn :-

Recently, there've been some high-profile problems in the green electric car market, such as the failure of Fisker. Electric carmaker Coda has now filed for bankruptcy. Coda could be a company you've never even heard of, it's a manufacturer of electric cars built in China that has only sold 100 units since it was founded in 2012.

My, we are keen on these electric cars aren't we? 

Wild Dogs


The Bureaucracy




Well, here we are. It’s local election day and I’ll either vote UKIP as a feeble boat-rocker or ignore the event, as many do  in this post-political age.

In an earlier post on the elections I mentioned our post-political age and the Bureaucracy, both intended as an intro to this post.

Not being in possession of a decent crystal ball, I have no idea where we are headed politically and the notions I play around with are not original, but like many others who ponder these matters, I’m sure something major is going on and it's worth speculating.

To my way of thinking, the post-political age has arrived. Political power has largely been usurped by what I've called the Bureaucracy for want of a better word. The reason this power shift happened is the much same reason Parliament usurped the power of the monarchy – better access to finance and control over the levers of power. A civil war came into it too, but we'd better not go there.

Similarly, the Bureaucracy has gained control over large areas of national finance and the levers of power via transnational laws, regulations, treaties and bureaucratic processes with which national bureaucracies are complicit. 

This has limited political options to such a degree that national politics has been thoroughly hollowed out. It has become a sham – a possible career path to the Bureaucratic elite rather than a chance to govern.

The Bureaucracy is not an organisation, nor a clearly defined power structure, but a complex web of interests built on a vast network of transnational structures and processes which are not amenable to political change or control at a national level.

Who are the Bureaucrats? Again, we are not speaking of a clearly defined body of people, although many members such as EU Commissioners, MEPs and UN officials are obvious. In addition to these grey suits who actually run the show, there are millions of people in the public sector, in businesses with public sector interests, in charities, NGOs, universities, think tanks, newspapers, the BBC and a huge raft of committees, study groups and academic bodies.

These days the list also includes MPs of course. They appear to have largely given up on the idea of perpetuating national government. 

These people don’t so much belong to the Bureaucracy, as have interests in common with it. They may be loose interests, but nonetheless generally influential on behaviour right down to the climate activist reporter, the politically correct teacher and the green activist refuse official.

So voting in elections is becoming pointless – not so much because politicians are useless or because they collude, both of which are true, but because we are no longer governed politically.

To be effective, a political government would have to renounce large swathes of transnational agreement simply to bring power back within national borders and under national political control.

It isn’t going to happen. We are headed into the unknown and the ship of state is headed for the breaker's yard.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Our gas consumption


Our gas consumption in cubic metres per day from winter 2010 to date. It's rather crude, but the length of winter 2012/13 is clearly visible. We also burned a record amount of wood.

As far as global warming goes it proves nothing, but if global cooling takes off, the the issue will surely become much more personal and acute. Government policy still appears to be based on a presumption of warming. If so, then the lights will surely go out at some point over the coming winters.

Defensive posture



A defensive posture has always been a necessary feature of human life, even though these days we rarely find ourselves living in close proximity to enemy tribes or natural predators. Apart from microorganisms I suppose.

Yet even ordinary people with no known enemies have to develop a range of defensive strategies, if only to remain sane. Defence against all kinds of minor and not so minor niggles, problems and threats, most of them sponsored by the state, its lackeys and even transnational bureaucracies.

Everyone is their own best judge of their own lifestyle and on the whole we know that whatever it is, the state doesn’t approve. Try driving for example. Count the road signs...

...aaargh - NO - don’t as the bloody road signs - at least not while driving. I might be accused of giving unofficial and therefore unsafe advice.

Modern life is like that though isn’t it? Cover your tracks, cover your back, don’t give hostages to fortune, stay alert, stay smart, keep your head down but no so low that it disappears up your ass.

A feature of modernity is how defensive posture of ordinary people towards those in power hasn’t gone the way of the sackbut. Somehow I can’t help feeling that in a real, adult, mature democracy it would have.

Undoubtedly, defensive errors in modern life have far less drastic consequences than they did not so long ago. The next time I steal a sheep, I know I won’t be hanged for it.

...aaargh - NO – I don’t really steal bloody sheep.

There it is again. Instead of being designed to avoid an early death, modern defensive living has become vastly more complex, covert and diffuse. The developed world has flattened it out and made it more pervasive rather than getting rid of it.

To my way of thinking, it seems to cause a strange, low-level miasma of what we might call anxiety-lite. The miasma never sleeps, never retracts anything, is never wrong and never runs out of new ways to annoy us, trip us up, make us angry, sad, weary or generally screw up our lives.

It requires a similar level of alertness to motorway driving. Everything is very familiar and clearly understood, but there are risks attendant on a wrong move.

Or the kind of alertness we need in filling out a tax return, finding a reliable plumber - or even bringing up a child for heaven's sake.

Most of the guff we have to fend off is not desperately problematic, but it consumes our lives in hopelessly unproductive ways. It sucks away the spiritual side of life, the joy of living, the pleasures of contemplation.

We live with niggles all the time and it’s better than a gibbet at the crossroads, but there is such a lot of it, such a vast number of rules, regulations, petty conventions and impertinent intrusions.

It doesn’t cause us to hunker down in our bunker, or at least most of us don’t react in that way, but we have to live with it every day. Okay we manage well enough most of the time, but it isn’t necessary is it? Life doesn’t have to be like this.

Or maybe it does. Maybe evolution hasn’t finished with us yet.