Saturday, 20 July 2019

Independently batty

The Independent is a weird outfit. Take this piece which appears to suggest that Extinction Rebellion should be exempt from criticism.

It is no longer acceptable to question climate change. So why is it now mainstream to criticise Extinction Rebellion?

Okay it's only the Independent so we shouldn't take it too seriously, but real people actually sit down and write this kind of thing and it gets worse -

In response, Policy Exchange, a think tank set up by three Conservative MPs in 2002, has released a paper labelling the group as “extremist” and seeking “to break down the established civil order and liberal democracy in the UK”.

XR protests are, by their nature, provocative, and whilst there is widespread sympathy for their ambitions to save the planet, there has also been a pronounced backlash. The Policy Exchange report’s conclusions have been greeted with pleasure by tub-thumping right-wingers, hysteria by some of the media, and bemused incredulity by most of civilised, normal Britain.

To my mind bemused incredulity seems about right, but not in the way the Independent suggests, but it gets even worse -

We should be a country that embraces protest. We should be a country that challenges ideas, not actions, because actions are protected in law.

Does that mean anything coherent? If we have a spate of local car thefts do we expect the police to challenge the actions of the thieves or do we expect them to rest content with challenging the the idea of car theft? 

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Fantasies and futures

If Mrs H and I decide to downsize, where will we move to? Hmm – let me imagine the kind of house and location which would suit us –

As we all know, human beings have a highly developed ability to imagine future scenarios. So much so that this is one of the capabilities which appear to set us apart from other animals. Yet political narratives seem to misuse this crucial ability as a matter of course. Political scenarios may sometimes be plausible futures. Too often they are simple stories which only sound plausible at first sight. Often not even that.

We’ll bring about real change by putting real money into the NHS, schools, training, the fight against climate change, cute fluffy animals...

The problem is highlighted when children puzzle their way through childhood stories which adults know to be fantasy. For some reason we seem to think this is a good way to bring up children. Maybe it is but only for those children who make it to adulthood knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. Unfortunately that isn’t all of them. Although political stories tend to be just as formulaic as fairy stories, spotting their implausible nature does not seem to be a universal adult ability.

The usual way to explain this is to suggest that adults become biased in favour of their allegiances. Stories bolster those allegiance. Fair enough – it’s a very common explanation of these things and both sides in any debate are quite likely to use it to accuse the other lot of bias.

Yet many people do not seem to have a well-developed ability to imagine plausible political futures in the first place. As if we are losing the ability to see these things. As if prosperity and comfort have blunted our real world experiences. As if we are losing the ability to analyse.

Stories are taking over and there is little we can do if a catastrophic future lurks just over the horizon. However bad that future may be, collectively we are unlikely to foresee it.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Mere speculation

This is merely speculation but I’ve been wondering why the global warming climate change climate emergency stories have recently been spewed out in even greater numbers than usual by the mainstream media. Why have the usual suspects suddenly started to declare climate emergencies all over the place? It's unprecedented.

Anyhow here’s the speculation - and it is merely speculation. Maybe some authoritative source has quietly put it about that we are in for a protracted period of unambiguous cooling. In which case the official story will be – it could have been worse. Not an original thought of course, but something seems to be in the air. Not snow I hope.

Crashing Pelosi's Party

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Time running out - again


When any one asks me what I think of the weather or of the Prime Minister, does my answer report anything that I have previously thought? Probably not; my past impressions are lost, or obliterated by the very question put to me; and I make bold to invent, on the spur of the moment, a myth about my sentiments on the subject.

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

Monday, 15 July 2019


Today, walking by the river Wye from Monsal Head we found the old weir has been fenced off using barbed wire and stern notices. Seems odd as the weir has been accessible for as long as I can remember. Certainly since my parents brought us as youngsters.

Yes it is dangerous, but it looks dangerous and sounds dangerous. As does the A38. There will be reasons of course, there are always reasons for making things that bit crappier.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Sack time

Theresa May's final Number 10 interview

In an exclusive broadcast interview in Downing Street, the prime minister has told the BBC that she will leave the job with a "mixture of pride and disappointment".

Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Theresa May said that she didn’t "recognise" herself in the criticisms made of her during her time in the job. But she admitted that she had "underestimated" divisions in Parliament.

Maybe she kept them up too late.

Ministers are reportedly planning to issue guidance on how much sleep people should be getting every night.

The recommendations are expected as part of a series of proposals aimed at improving public health in the UK.

According to a leaked draft of the plans seen by The Times, up to three in four adults do not regularly get at least seven hours sleep per night.

If this is government business it is no wonder that ministers and MPs struggle with Brexit. The most dispiriting aspect is that the mind no longer boggles at such nonsense.