Wednesday 30 March 2016

The Long Mynd


We are taking a short break in Church Stretton near the Long Mynd so blogging may be light. Lovely area from what we've seen so far.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Independence usually isn't

Ho hum - the BBC has yet another uncritical piece about the joys of not drinking alcohol. Or in this case the joys of drinking weak alcohol.

Weaker beers, ciders, wines and spirits are what is needed to tackle drink-related health problems, local councils have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has also called on ministers to extend tax breaks on lower-strength 2.8% beers to include ciders and wines.

The call has been welcomed by industry bodies.

The LGA represents 370 councils in England and Wales with responsibility for public health.

The cost to the NHS of dealing with excessive alcohol consumption is estimated to be £3.5bn a year, according to the LGA.

The words must write themselves mainly because much of it appears to be a cut and paste job from the latest bout of infantile scaremongering we have grown so used to over the decades.

As we are so often told, the BBC is supposedly independent, although one is bound to ask independent of what? Not independent of political correctness and surely that is a major aspect of genuine independence – to avoid being sucked in by the prevailing mores of the day. Which of course the BBC has no intention of doing. Beeb heads are not raised above parapets, hence the alcohol homily and many more where that came from.

Mine has been a family of regular but restrained drinkers, apart from Uncle R but even he managed to live a long and jolly life with nothing worse to show for it than a large purple nose. Social drinkers we were and those of us still on our feet still are. We know what we are doing when we pour that second glass of wine and that’s the point.

Some poor souls can’t handle the fermented grape, apple or malt but most can and their lives are enhanced by the experience. We don’t need legislation to fiddle around with labels or alcohol levels and we don’t need the homilies thank you very much. We already know the hazards alcohol poses to trip up the unwary but most of us aren’t unwary. Again, that’s the point. We learned from experience as almost everyone does and in so doing we gave it genuine social value. It's very similar to aversion therapy and for most of us it worked. BBC homilies cannot improve on it. 

As a supposedly independent body... excuse me while I emit a hollow laugh at that word... As a supposedly independent body the BBC could easily provide us with the other aspect of this sanctimonious sludge, the commonplace observation that most adults are able to handle alcohol and learning how to handle it is part of growing up.

If the BBC had grown up too then it might also ponder the more subtle aspects of the situation. We may indeed be more healthy if we never touched alcohol, but the conviviality it induces is part of our culture with substantial social value. How do we replace that social value? Certainly not by watching BBC television.

Monday 28 March 2016

The newspaper readers


Of a calm and quiet disposition, and not over-intelligent he used to spend his time quietly regretting the past, grieving over the customs and institutions of the day and continually repeating to his wife, who would lift her eyes, and sometimes her hands, to heaven, as a sign of energetic assent: “Good gracious! What a government!”

Guy de Maupassant – Friend Joseph (1880s)

Sunday 27 March 2016

A sense of the sacred

St Michael and All Angels Church Alsop en le Dale

While out walking we often come across old country churches. I’m no believer but whenever we come across one, I still like to push open the door and step into that cool, musing stillness one only seems to encounter in ancient country churches.

Even in these modern times and even as an atheist I still feel a sense of the sacred as I step inside. Something else too. A shiver of loss perhaps. Something allowed to drift away, something we should have kept hold of. The cool ghost of lapsed responsibilities brushes past, sending the faintest shiver down my spine. Yet once outside it all wafts away into the land of the lost.

At least part of the problem seems to be our modern obsession with function. Some things are sacred because they work morally. It's that simple. They make a positive moral contribution to the kind of society we actually want. Motherhood, do unto others, and education could still be sacred if we only take them as morally given and do our best to honour their importance to our society.

Yet we don’t. We pretend to analyse and dissect, pretend to be teasing out function instead of keeping things simple, instead of trying to fulfil sacred moral duties which is really all they are. So targets, tick boxes and costs take over. Function elbows out the sacred and we lose sight of where we ought to be headed, where guiding lights still glimmer fitfully in a gathering gloom.

Saturday 26 March 2016


Note the two young men in bowler hats and open coats persuading people to look at the camera and the willingness of Bradford folk to do just that. A sign of things to come.

When I were a youngster I’m sure there were fewer distractions than today's kids have to cope with. I loved to play outside, but when that was done, or it was dark, raining, too cold, foggy or windy then outside was not so attractive.

Inside there was the wireless and television supplied by the BBC then later ITV. None of it was particularly riveting and material suited to kids was far more restricted than it is today. Comics were quickly absorbed and the cinema was a rare treat, not regular entertainment. With no computer games or internet and far fewer toys, I was likely to read a book to pass the time or even finish my homework if there really was nothing else. Kids were free to be interested. They didn't necessarily take advantage of that freedom, but it was there.

The modern world seems to be far more distracting and that changes things. Bright kids who are easily distracted by a sea of novelty may lose out to their duller peers who work harder because their lives are more tightly controlled. Nothing new in that of course, but to my mind the situation is worse than it was in my day. The distractions are more intrusive and fascinating, more time consuming. So many bright kids must fall by the wayside as relative dullards grab the opportunities in whatever fields seem to favour their lesser talents.

Bread and circuses isn’t merely about screwing down the hoi polloi with trivial rewards but also about screwing up their brighter kids with distractions. Meritocracy was always a myth, but even more so now and it isn’t likely to change for the better.

Friday 25 March 2016

The eating of sewage


They were graceful, living, free things. They were triumphant. The getting of food, even the eating of sewage was done thus gracefully, beautifully.
Sherwood Anderson - Out of Nowhere Into Nothing (1921)

Anderson was describing gulls soaring and diving over a polluted river. Shitehawks my father used to call them. They feed on it but don't live in it.

Thursday 24 March 2016

What would you have?

What would you have? The government has freed us from the dependence of serfdom--and many thanks to it! but the habits of slavery are too deeply ingrained in us; we cannot easily be rid of them. We want a master in everything and everywhere; as a rule this master is a living person, sometimes it is some so-called tendency which gains authority over us.... At present, for instance, we are all the bondslaves of natural science.... Why, owing to what causes, we take this bondage upon us, that is a matter difficult to see into; but such seemingly is our nature. But the great thing is, that we should have a master.
Ivan Turgenev – Smoke (1867)

Turgenev made the point almost a century and a half ago but it still stands today. Many people appear to be uninterested in political independence as long as they are free to consume. It has become painfully obvious that the global drift towards total government is no accident, no quirk of political circumstance.

Neither does it feel like a planned assault on our political freedoms because we are freely giving those away. Here in the UK we are handing them over to the EU and a complex web of global agencies most voters seem barely aware of. In the US, voters seem likely to be faced with a choice between Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for their next president. Neither seems likely to halt the slow American slide towards total government.

By 2020 UK voters may be faced with a grisly choice between Conservatives led by David Cameron and Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn. Of course it is possible that neither man will weather the events between now and then, but is any other choice likely to be more appealing?

What would you have?

Tuesday 22 March 2016

The Sexual Misery of the Arab World

After the appalling events in Brussels, perhaps this piece from The New York Times is worth revisiting. Guns, bombs, religion and politics hold centre stage, but in the end human drives and motives determine where we go from here.

The Sexual Misery of the Arab World
...Today sex is a great paradox in many countries of the Arab world: One acts as though it doesn’t exist, and yet it determines everything that’s unspoken. Denied, it weighs on the mind by its very concealment. Although women are veiled, they are at the center of our connections, exchanges and concerns.

Women are a recurrent theme in daily discourse, because the stakes they personify — for manliness, honor, family values — are great. In some countries, they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny. Women are seen as a source of destabilization — short skirts trigger earthquakes, some say — and are respected only when defined by a property relationship, as the wife of X or the daughter of Y.

These contradictions create unbearable tensions. Desire has no outlet, no outcome; the couple is no longer a space of intimacy, but a concern of the whole group. The sexual misery that results can descend into absurdity and hysteria. Here, too, one hopes to experience love, but the mechanisms of love — encounters, seduction, flirting — are prevented: Women are watched, we obsess over their virginity, the morality police patrols. Some even pay surgeons to repair broken hymens...

Monday 21 March 2016

Love locks and romance

The River Wye in Bakewell - and some locks

After our walk today we nipped into nearby Bakewell for a coffee. One of the bridges over the River Wye has become encrusted with love locks. As you probably know, couples buy a cheap padlock, stick their initials on it, lock it into place and chuck the keys in the river. It is supposed to be romantic. More romantic than a quick knee-trembler I suppose, but not much.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Total government and the toxic collective

The global trend towards total government appears to be creating a vast network of increasingly powerful collectives. Collectives benefit their members because that’s the point of them, but there is a fundamental problem with collectives which take more they give - people are drawn to them.

From a broad perspective collectives are clubs, associations, committees, villages, towns, cities, companies, countries, governments, political parties, trade unions, churches, trade blocs, charities, NGOs, the EU, the UN etc etc. Collectives exist to benefit their members but so often they create a social and political imbalance between those who give and those who take.

There are also more complex linked collectives such as homeowners and banks. Both collectives benefit from high house prices. Homeowners hope to acquire an asset worth more than they paid  while bankers rake in the inflated mortgages. Both groups are takers while involuntary givers are outsiders who cannot afford a mortgage, often young working people.

Another complex linked collective recently surfaced when George Osborne introduced his brand new sugary fizz tax, one of Jamie Oliver's favourite virtue signals. The tax is unlikely to achieve anything in terms of health but will certainly boost the healthy living collective and build yet another trough for high caste chair polishers. Thanks for that Jamie.

Collective trough-building is a fundamental aspect of the human condition, one we never resolved. Instead we tried to make a virtue of it by inventing a range of more or less dishonest political strategies to keep the show on the road - the endless complexities of total government.

A key problem seems to be one of scale where the larger the collective the easier it is to obscure what is being done in its name. A teacher paid from the public purse may give more that he or she receives while a CEO of a large private company may take far more than he or she gives. It’s a problem with blurred boundaries, but not a problem where there are no boundaries.

The richer and more powerful a collective, the more likely it is to attract takers. On the whole, collectives funded by the public purse attract takers. This is so obvious and so easily observed that any political philosophy which doesn’t take it into account is bound to founder on the rocks of human behaviour. As they so often do.

We can’t all be takers, so sooner or later the game will break and the fantastic complexities of total government will have to be be simplified. Low caste takers will be prevented from taking.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Spot the difference again

Yes that's right - it's the headgear again. Winston Churchill is the odd one out.

Friday 18 March 2016

A dull genus

Those derided Victorians, who looked upon every man as a potential husband, certainly extracted every ounce of interest from a dull genus.
Ethel Lina White - Some Must Watch (1933 - later filmed as The Spiral Staircase)

An interesting article from Quillette about a study which suggests society's view of males has soured.

“Depressing Study Finds Gender Stereotypes Haven’t Changed Since the 1980s,”proclaimed the New York magazine website the other day. The women’s site Bustle echoed the gloomy view: “Gender Stereotypes Just As Prevalent in 2016 As In The 1980s, New Study Finds, So Maybe Things Aren’t As Great As We’d Like To Believe.”

Yet a closer look at the study in question shows a far more complicated picture. While some beliefs about male and female traits and roles have indeed changed little since a similar survey in 1983, there has been a marked shift toward egalitarian attitudes on some important issues. There also seems to have been a marked shift toward more negative perceptions of men — which is arguably depressing, but probably not in the way the study’s authors and most of the commentators would like you to think...

Could stereotyping sometimes cause powerful women to be seen as kinder and more altruistic than powerful men? Recent research, such as the work of political scientists Deborah Jordan Brooks, Jennifer Lawless and Danny Hayes, suggests that today gender is more an asset than an obstacle for female politicians.

Yes, it’s likely that women who are perceived as too hard and cold are sometimes penalized because of societal expectations of female “niceness.” But surely, there are also times when the tendency to stereotype men as less understanding, warm, and capable of providing emotional support can result in unfairness to men. And some of that stereotyping is likely due not to patriarchy or lack of feminist progress, but do the direction feminism has taken in the last thirty years.

To my mind this has been going on for a very long time - certainly well before the eighties and particularly in popular entertainment. Remember The Likely Lads, a comedy about two idiot young men first broadcast in 1964? Or how about Laurel and Hardy?

Thursday 17 March 2016

Spot the difference

Yes that's right - it's the headgear. Alfred the Great is the odd one out.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

The intolerance of social justice

From Quillette - How Marcuse made today’s students less tolerant than their parents

The idea of “liberating tolerance” then is one in which ideas that the left deems to be intolerant are suppressed. It is an Orwellian argument for an “intolerance of intolerance” and it appears to be gaining traction in recent years, reshaping our commitments to free speech, academic freedom, and basic democratic norms. If we look only at people under the age of 40, intolerance is correlated with a “social justice” orientation. That is, I find that people who believe that the government has a responsibility to help poor people and blacks get ahead are also less tolerant.

Importantly, this is true even when we look at tolerance towards groups other than blacks. For people over 40, there is no relationship between social justice attitudes and tolerance. I argue that this difference reflects a shift from values of classical liberalism to the New Left. For older generations, support for social justice does not require a rejection of free speech. Thus, this tension between leftist social views and political tolerance is something new.

Indeed, and the politically ambitious have an uphill struggle if they intend to oppose these trends. It should come as no surprise if they go with the flow.

Monday 14 March 2016

The bottle and the genie

After all, everything must pass through the senses, and life, whatever its complexity, remains always primarily a feeling.
George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905/1906)

When Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing with movable type he let a hugely influential genie out of an ancient bottle. The elites have been trying to put it back ever since, but they are not succeeding. If anything they appear to have given up an unequal struggle.

The genie Gutenberg released may be called many things, but we may as well call it the Genie because in some ways it resembles the personification of a force of nature. What is it though, this Genie, this universal force pervading the human condition?

The Genie is merely the laws of human behaviour. Stimulus, response, reinforcement and the path of least effort. In particular the Genie reflects the power of reward over punishment. Punishment triggers escape behaviour, reward doesn’t and therein lies a significant clue to the human condition. With steady inevitability, rewarded behaviour becomes the path of least resistance for everyone - the leaders and the led. Thus reward extends its power and influence while punishment fades into the history of failed systems.

In the end and in the long run we get what we want and nothing the elite classes do will stop that inexorable force for change. To promote reward as the prime motive of human behaviour the Genie requires everyone to have money in their pocket. It requires everyone to work, spend and enjoy themselves without too much introspection.

Which is why the Genie is so vulgar, so fond of fun, entertainment and good living in the shallowest sense. Which is also why bread and circuses work and why elites are in the end forced to offer more and better bread and circuses rather than the lash.

This is also why political correctness is so shallow and so strangely vulgar in its prim righteousness. Political correctness is primarily a punishment strategy with few rewards apart from the thin and vulgar satisfactions of virtue signalling. It doesn’t work though. Priggishness never works – normal folk just snigger behind its back.

All this is not meant to suggest that the Genie is opposed to cultural pursuits, but culture must have as wide an appeal as possible and must involve money because money is essential to rewarding behaviour. Cultural pursuits must not too be intellectual or exclusive, not too deep, not to difficult, not too challenging. We follow the path of least effort.

There have been numerous disasters for the Genie, but it is patient, willing to learn in its slow but steady conquest of the human condition. Sadly the Genie is not your friend. It is not the friend of anyone and neither is it liberating in any deeper sense than the freedom to be rewarded for as little as possible - the path of least effort.

Sunday 13 March 2016


Questions and answers concerning the ThermoCafe by Thermos 0.5 Litre Flask as sold by Argos

Q from what hight [sic] can it be thrown from before it breaks? Just asking for a friend here.

A from staff member. Hi there. Thanks for using Q and A. The flask is described as virtually unbreakable but if thrown from any height, it's functionality cannot be guaranteed. Hope this helps.

Q how many people can drink from it before it wears out?

A Hi Rose! I can confirm that this 0.5 litre flask can provide a 250ml drink for two people or 500ml for one. How long the flask lasts will depend on usage and general wear and tear. However, looked after properly it can last for years. Thanks for using Argos Q&A.

Friday 11 March 2016

Cursed with celebrity principles

That she was “advanced” you could also postulate, but “advanced” in a strange way that would make her all the more dangerous, if only to small circles;. You would know, if you happened to know the type, that she would have “principles” that at odd moments would wreck enterprises, homes, or the lives of friends — always for the purest of motives.
Ford Madox Ford - The Marsden Case (1923)

This morning found this humble blogger sitting in the dentist’s waiting room reading a Daily Mail piece about celebrities who are in favour of immigration but highly unlikely to experience any of its negative impacts. People such as Stephen Fry and Helena Bonham Carter who live in the most agreeable surroundings and proclaim political principles with no possible impact on their own lives. Unfortunately those same principles may well have an impact on the lives of other, lesser mortals.

Oddly enough I’m in what could just about be called a similar situation. Here in former coal mining areas there has been very little local immigration. I’m not sure why, houses are cheap, but whatever the reason it would be mildly dishonest of me to demand mass immigration or make a case against it. Immigration has barely affected me in any direct sense.

I suppose the difference is that over time it could affect this area and another difference is that I’m not a wealthy celebrity, not in that enviable position where it doesn’t matter either way. The point to be made is not so much about immigration, but about proclaiming principles which are really virtue signals emitted simply because they can be emitted without any personal risk of negative repercussions. Those repercussions are left for others to deal with. To my mind it is one of the more loathsome aspects of celebrity culture.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Seeds planted by dead men

I am paying old debts. Old thoughts and beliefs—seeds planted by dead men—spring up in my soul and choke me.
Sherwood Anderson - Seeds (1921)

As a tiny baby, what was your most cherished belief? Something to do with the delightful flavour of your big toe? We are not born with beliefs so where do they come from, how are they induced? Ah – that’s the key word though isn’t it? Induced. Creepy word. Say it slowly - i n d u c e d.

Beliefs are induced and the induction begins from day one. As we also know but prefer not to know, we don’t do our own induction. Not all the seeds are planted by dead men either. We know that too. Just read the comments in online newspapers...

You already do? Of course you do - it's just too delicious.

Belief is another of those misleading words we are stuck with because language is essentially manipulative and the vast majority of us are not the manipulators. It is just one aspect of our tendency to focus on the individual rather than controlling environments. Those are the environments we grew into, those which induced our beliefs, where the levers are in other hands.

Belief is socially induced verbal and mental behaviour. It is controlled behaviour and once we are controlled by a belief it is not easy to escape. Neither is it easy to see the point of escaping because we don’t control beliefs but are controlled by them. Having a belief is rather like joining a club with club rules and constraints which members must accept on pain of expulsion. As with a club, belief exacts a fee for its services; the fee being our independence, our freedom to think alternative thoughts.

As with a club, the control implicit in all beliefs is usually beneficial. It is a social allegiance conferring benefits we may or may not care to identify explicitly. The nature of belief is that we rarely see the control it exerts over our thinking simply because it exerts control over our thinking. Belief has to be internalised or it might be questioned. There are things we cannot allow ourselves to know except in that strangely oblique sense where we could know but dare not know.

Belief lies somewhere on a continuum between assent and support, between active and affirmative behaviour, particularly verbal behaviour. The distinction is well illustrated by political debates which are best analysed by clarifying what each side supports.

The important point seems to be somewhat subtle but it isn’t. Instead of being adopted by a belief, we could observe allegiances and their causes. In other words we could tease out the causes of the debate, the behaviour and the history of its causes rather than the airy abstractions we so often use to hide what is essentially allegiance behaviour. But usually we don't do that. Usually we are adopted by allegiances, infected by beliefs. Or we stand on the sidelines and sneer. Neither is satisfactory... well... I suppose sneering does have its satisfactions.

Aldous Huxley’s ideal of non-attachment is essentially an ideal of unbelief but one cannot easily believe in unbelief. We are not independent, not autonomous and there is nothing to be gained in expecting mass behaviour to be a kind of rational search for the truth. It isn’t and can’t be any such thing.

Belief is what dolts and charlatans make use of to worm their way into the public arena, why they always have and always will.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Sharapova and sexism

The Independent has been quick off the mark in turning the latest sporting drugs debacle into one of its favourite memes.

Brands have been quick to drop Maria Sharapova without trial - but they aren't so hasty with their male athletes

This brand dump is a strange move for Nike, considering the sportswear giant let Gatlin off the hook and stood by Armstrong, Woods, Michael Vick and even Oscar Pistorius during ‘troubled times’

Nothing to do with Sharapova's fading attractions as a tennis star worth sponsoring?

Let's see.

Maria Sharapova is 28 years old and currently ranked 7 in the WTA rankings. She has had a fine if injury-prone career, but her best days were probably behind her even without this latest problem. Sponsoring brands will have had replacements lined up for some time.

The meldonium episode has merely triggered what was probably coming anyway. It isn't likely to be sexism.

Monday 7 March 2016

Child labour in the Potteries

Sometimes even old cups and saucers have a slice of social history to relate. The above cup and saucer dates from round about 1840 and although unmarked is typical of wares made by the Hilditch and Hopwood pottery at Longton. It was made in part by child labour.

In Scriven's Report on Child Labour in the pottery industry in 1840, Richard Moreton – then aged 9 and working at Hilditch and Hopwood reported.

‘I am a figure maker for William Moreton [Richard’s father], I work by the piece and can make 40 dozen (480) small figures a day: I get 1d for ten dozen, that is about two shillings [10 pence] a week.’

So little Richard Moreton did not work for Hilditch and Hopwood, but for his father William who subcontracted figure making to his 9 year old son.

The 'figures' little Richard made in such vast quantities may have been something like the lilac coloured sprig mouldings on the above cup and saucer. The sprig mouldings were made from soft coloured clay rather like Plasticine. Richard would press them out of the clay using moulds, carefully remove them, then either he or someone else would stick them to the cup or saucer with liquid clay before firing.

These are not high class items of bone china; they were intended for middle class markets to be brought out the china cabinet for genteel afternoon tea parties.

Also from Scriven's report

employments of families

13) The processes being such as to admit of the employment of whole families father, mother, and some two, three, or more children - their united earnings are sometimes £3. or £4. per week: but, proverbially improvident, and adopting the adage,- "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof", they squander the proceeds of their labour in gaudy dress, or at the skittle-ground and ale-house; so that, when overtaken by illness or other casualty, and thrown for a few days out of work, they resort to their masters for a loan, or to the parish workhouse for relief.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Icy madness

When I read this nonsense reported by WUWT I passed over it as yet another example of academic insanity.

Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

Yet the bilge was thought fit to publish and those who wrote it presumably thought they were adding to the sum of human knowledge. Or did they? Is this approach a covert form of special pleading? Has most modern feminism degenerated into a stridently obnoxious form of special pleading? 

Among the comments is this interesting observation from someone calling herself Aphan. Follow the WUWT link to read her comment in full.

Well, I’m a woman and I’ve read the article twice and it still makes no sense to me...

That isn’t equal treatment. That’s lowering the bar. That’s demeaning. That’s pandering. And it’s embarrassing to ALL women who feel like every woman (and man) should be allowed and encouraged to do whatever she wants to do with her life without ANY denigration or ridicule from anyone else. The ONLY “gender” that has ever tried to insult or demean me for making life choices that they personally didn’t approve of…is feminist women.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Political freak show

Although political life provides a staple diet for numerous bloggers, the EU referendum debate highlights a problem which has become somewhat embarrassing. Political life attracts freaks and in the end what does one say about freaks?

We have Cameron, Corbyn and Boris vying for attention and because of their prominence we have to give it to them or lose interest in the whole thing. It isn’t easy to dismiss them as freaks and move on.

These three men lead comfortable lives when judged by the people they aim to govern. Cameron is moderately wealthy but even wannabe pleb Corbyn with his Parliamentary salary and pension pot is assured of a well padded life after politics. They have no real contact with the world of the vast majority of voters. They are not even expert in anything useful.

The embarrassing point is easy enough to state because so many of us know it already. As candidates for high government office these three guys have nothing much to offer. They haven’t done much, don’t have much in the way of personal expertise and are only at the front of the queue because circumstances and their own freakish fascination with power put them there.

That’s the embarrassing bit. Circumstances shouldn’t have put them there. The political machine should have found people with more gravitas and more experience of life outside the Westminster bubble. Actually that’s not the only embarrassing bit. Another is that supposedly mature adult voters still vote for them.

It isn’t really embarrassing though is it? This is how things are with British politics, how things have been for a long time. We shouldn’t forget that people voted for Edward Heath, a political freak if ever there was one. A liar too, but that seems to be normal now.

Friday 4 March 2016

Too much

Alexa - are the kids mine?

You said not on the fifteenth of February at 11.54 pm. 

Alexa - I was drunk at the time but I mean seriously - are they mine?

The one next door is.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Cash cows

From the BBC

Jeremy Corbyn has warned banks not to treat people as "cash cows", as he called for reform of the industry. "That is the job of government" he added.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Fond of lying

His talent for improvising useful falsehoods is innate; later on, at maturity, he is proud of this; he makes it the index and measure of "political superiority," and delights in calling to mind one of his uncles who, in his infancy, prognosticated to him that he would govern the world because he was fond of lying.
Hippolyte Taine on Napoléon Bonaparte

The other day Grandson tried to explain to me how the gases from cars kill people and harm the world. He was very confused about the details but there is no shame in that, the BBC is confused too. I don’t know where he picked it up, quite possibly in the playground, but I was reminded of The Global Goals and The World's Largest Lesson. For example, here is an education target.

By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Directly or indirectly Grandson's car ideas came from an adult. Perhaps the notion is not entirely untrue, but for youngsters that isn't good enough. The falsehoods arrive too early.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the internet is where we gain that faint but unmistakable sense of just how extensive the global web of politically useful falsehood really is. Honesty is not common in the public arena, but behind the arena it seems to be rarer still.

Children have little chance of avoiding a cascade of syrupy lies, misinformation and misdirection, little chance of being non-attached in Aldous Huxley’s sense. In future they may have even less chance.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

The heavens are empty

“In any case,” she continued, “science has swept away all our past beliefs. The earth is bare, the heavens are empty, and what do you wish that I should become, even if you acquit science of having inspired the hopes I have conceived? For I cannot live without belief and without happiness.

On what solid ground shall I build my house when science shall have demolished the old world, and while she is waiting to construct the new? All the ancient city has fallen to pieces in this catastrophe of examination and analysis; and all that remains of it is a mad population vainly seeking a shelter among its ruins, while anxiously looking for a solid and permanent refuge where they may begin life anew.

You must not be surprised, then, at our discouragement and our impatience. We can wait no longer. Since tardy science has failed in her promises, we prefer to fall back on the old beliefs, which for centuries have sufficed for the happiness of the world.”

Emile Zola - Doctor Pascal (1893)

Rather late in the day, political elites have discovered that in itself science does not offer a mode of social control. It hasn't swept away all our past beliefs, but it made a pretty big mess of them. Over the past few decades we have seen changes which suggest that this situation is to be changed.

Science is to be used to repopulate not the heavens but our social mores, our modes of social control. Social controls are being recast as ‘scientific’ and therefore beyond challenge. ‘Settled’ one might say. We don't have to be smokers to be familiar with a trend which now touches us all in one way or another. The trend continues.

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed ... Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-acceptance speech