Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Democracy or a Mickey Mouse parliament?

I'll be voting for The Brexit Party tomorrow. Not to select the right people to sit in a Mickey Mouse parliament but as a political statement about the way Brexit has been handled. For voters in a peacetime democracy the number one voting consideration is democracy itself. Is it being made stronger, weaker or about the same? Everything else comes second. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Anything short of terrorism

Quillette has an interesting review of a book by Terri Murray - Identity, Islam and the Twilight of Liberal Values.

Islamists in the West have successfully hijacked the moral prestige of liberal terminology for the purposes of disseminating ultra-social conservative beliefs and practices. Murray quotes the Pakistani-American writer Tashbih Sayyed, who pithily summarises the effects of this strategy as follows:

By casting its fascist agenda in terms of human rights and civil libertarian terms, political Islam has successfully been able to use the American liberal and progressive groups to project itself as an American phenomenon and win intellectual elites, liberals, and the media with left leanings on its side.

Murray correctly observes that violent acts of Islamic terrorism have had the effect of misleading people into thinking that anything short of terrorism is “moderate.” She points out that the ideology of an organisation may be extremist and deeply illiberal even if the group does not resort to violence to promote its views.

The whole piece is well worth reading. I particularly like this point - Murray correctly observes that violent acts of Islamic terrorism have had the effect of misleading people into thinking that anything short of terrorism is “moderate.”

Monday, 20 May 2019

Size matters


This is an oddity. By some quirk of the spacetime continuum a Neolithic man has been able to reach across thousands of years and study our world while remaining in his own time. How he does this I’m not sure but he has learned our language, studied our ways and sent some messages – observations about our time compared to his.

His name translates as Glurk and his most interesting observations focus on primitive modes of thought which he knows well but we don’t. Over to Mr Glurk –

Hi guys – Glurk here. It isn’t Mr Glurk by the way, just Glurk. Let’s start with the most important Neolithic concept of all, the one which shapes our lives and our way of making sense of the world here in Stoneville. That concept translates nicely into English as Big.

I don’t really live in a place called Stoneville by the way. I just made that up because it sounds nicer than the reality which is rather more basic than the name suggests. It has its good points though – we don’t have television or political correctness. We definitely don’t have political correctness. Ha ha – no that’s another story.

Anyhow - Big matters because size matters. It’s how we make that most basic of all assessments – is it Bigger than me and mine? Seems obvious to us here in Stoneville but you guys complicate things. You don’t always see how your ideas are still dictated by Big because you are essentially the same as us. Rather more weedy than we are but I don’t hold that against you.

So if anything is Bigger than you or your tribe then you need to know. That’s obvious too or at least I hope it is. It’s certainly obvious to us here in Stoneville so it certainly ought to be obvious to you guys with all your sophistication such as your soap operas and flat pack furniture. Except usually it isn’t obvious to you is it?

Let’s take a couple of examples of how Big works, how it directs your thinking just as it directs ours.

Number one – Brexit and the EU. Now everything I see and read about Brexit tells me that the only reason some of you voted Remain is because you were screwed up by Big. The EU is Bigger than the UK and that’s the only Remain argument anyone ever put forward. Remainers say the EU is Bigger than the UK and that’s it. They don’t usually put it quite like that of course but really – that’s as far as it goes.

The trouble is, you guys need to get beyond the primitive stuff and stop being influenced by Big all the time. Your world is far more complex than mine and while Big works really well for us it isn’t working for you. It doesn’t matter how Big the EU is, your Remainers can’t just use Big as their only way of thinking about it. You have to teach them somehow. Use something Big is my advice. Usually works around here.

Number two – climate change. Climate change is a good example of you lot going overboard with Big. That Big climate and those Bigged up stories about your Big car exhausts making all the temperatures really Big. Then you have the Big institutions behind it, the Big number of scientists supporting it and Big media flogging it to death all the time. Really I’m surprised at you falling for this one. It’s such obvious Big talk.

Moving on to sport... oh that’s it for now. I think the spacetime quirk is closing.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Add your own egg

Our nearest Starbucks is located in a shopping centre we visit every now and then. Recently we’ve tried to make sure we visit the centre round about 9.30 am because at that time in the morning the car park is almost empty and the whole place has that early morning start of the day feel to it. An hour later that atmosphere has gone completely, never to return until the following morning.

We quite like Starbucks although we would never visit the shopping centre merely to drink coffee there. We aren't quite that far gone. We used to dislike the coffee but presumably something has changed and presumably it wasn’t Starbucks coffee. No matter, coffee isn’t really the theme of this post.

As we sit there over our coffee watching the car park fill up we always notice how many Starbucks customers spend their time tapping away at laptops or conducting what is obviously some kind of informal business meeting. Others are fiddling with their phones, keeping the kids under control or just chatting. There is a quiet buzz, a sense that this is a brief period of deserved relaxation before other things have to be done, other matters have to be attended to.  

Although this coffee shop is a tiny part of a massive international business, the atmosphere feels relaxed, informal and somehow permanent. As if the place has been here in this shopping centre for many decades and will still be here for decades to come. Why is that? I look around the place, study the corporate decor, the tables, chairs, colour scheme, coffee displays and so on but I can’t really see how it’s done.

Presumably a great deal of effort goes into creating a corporate Starbucks ambience which in turn leads to the coffee shop atmosphere they want and as far as I can see it works. From a more traditional perspective it may not be the real thing because there is no amiable proprietor exchanging pleasantries, no obvious regulars and only a massive car park visible through the windows.

Yet there is that relaxed atmosphere - no doubt about it. As a coffee shop it works exactly as it should, as if someone somewhere calculated it to the nth decimal place and got it right. It works and the customers obviously absorb what it offers and like it whether they think about it or just accept it. In which case, where does this successful coffee shop atmosphere come from?

To answer that question we would usually think in terms of deep corporate cunning, psychological cues embedded in the advertising and product placement, the decor and the layout of tables and chairs, the colour schemes, materials, textures and an artfully placed settee all designed to pack them in with an illusory aura of spacious informality.

Except it isn’t an illusion because simple observation suggests that customers also create the atmosphere - the buzz, the sense of relaxation. They help create what they want, what brings comfort and a sense of belonging. Belonging to what? It doesn’t matter – something known, accepted and almost cool if you play it right. Everything customers do adds to the atmosphere, builds on the corporate template by flavouring it with the real thing, the human touch, the sense of contact and belonging.

One could easily go further and suggest that people like the reassurance of a massive corporate presence which is unmistakably there but isn’t obtrusive. Perhaps they like its sense of permanence, because corporate entities such as Starbucks are so massive that they do exude an air of permanence. Desirable or not, it works.

And what is not to like about comfortable permanence? One where you help make your own atmosphere? As genuine as a packet of cake mix perhaps, but even with cake mix you are sometimes required to add your own egg – to make it partly your cake rather than wholly theirs.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Something more than dark satanic mills

Charles Downer Hazen’s book The Long Nineteenth Century was first published in 1917 then revised in 1919 to expand Hazen’s observations on the First World War. The book is an historical overview of the nineteenth century from the French Revolution to the First World War, so there is historical overlap at either end in order to maintain perspective.

I would not usually read a history book as old as this in case important later findings are missed or better scholarship changes perspectives. However, the interesting aspect of Hazen’s book is that he was much closer to the nineteenth century than we are. Seen through his eyes, key events seem more vivid. It is this vivid perspective which brings alive the importance of democracy because Hazen clearly sees democracy as one of the most important developments of the nineteenth century.

Through Hazen’s eyes the industrial revolution, the slums and the industrial squalor are still there but the struggle for democracy also comes to the fore - and what a struggle it was. Fortunately it was a successful struggle in many countries. For example, even a century ago it was apparent that Swiss democracy was well worth studying and emulating.

Since 1848 Switzerland has pursued a course of peaceful development, but one of extraordinary interest to the outside world. This interest consists not in great events, nor in foreign policy, for Switzerland has constantly preserved a state of strict neutrality, but in the steady and thoroughgoing evolution of certain political forms which may be of great value to all self-governing countries. There have been developed in Switzerland certain processes of lawmaking the most democratic in character known to the world.

Charles Downer Hazen - The Long Nineteenth Century (1919)

Amid all the insanely bloody and wholly cynical games played by European kings, queens, princes and aristocrats during the nineteenth century, the slow rise of democracy grows and grows like a flower on a dung heap.

This is a perspective we have almost lost today – games played over the Brexit referendum demonstrate that. Whatever else it may be, the EU is not a democracy and does not intend to be one. Yet as Hazen’s book so ably demonstrates, democracy is an insane gift to throw away on a raft of political dishonesty.

Without strong democracies the totalitarian loons will ride again. Unfortunately we are in some danger of losing the passion we need to defend our democracy against them because we have never lived without it. If ruling elites have their way, then one day we will have to live without it.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Is May one of the worst prime ministers?

Sky asks the obvious question.

Sky Views: Will Theresa May be remembered as one of UK's worst prime ministers?

Theresa May is still in No 10 but this week even she seemed to acknowledge this is borrowed time, as the prime minister began to author an alternative legacy to the rather damning political obituary her party and the wider political class might well decide to write.

I don't know the answer to this question because we've had some real stinkers as PM - Blair and Brown spring immediately to mind. The problem is, if we bung the Brexit mess on May's shoulders we avoid wider questions about democracy and the covert role of establishment pressures on government business.

Brexit shows us that we have work to do on our democracy and it also shows us that far too many voters don't understand why. Mrs May may indeed be a stinker of a PM, but the wider problems we have with our democracy are not her doing. She is certainly part of the problem but voters keep on voting for stinkers and that is not May's doing either. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019


The A38 this morning - an overturned lorry shed its load of broken glass intended for recycling. It must say something about our society. Not the overturned lorry, but the idea of carting tons of broken glass around the country.

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Gulf of Convenience

A frustrating aspect of political life is the way activists exaggerate the differences between their standpoint that of others who supposedly occupy the opposite pole of that imaginary political spectrum we refer to as left and right. Or left and left or right and right or up and down. It's never easy to pinpoint these things.

For example - for years I have been accustomed to think of Jeremy Corbyn as an old style trade union communist. Yet occasionally I see him as a fascist, supposedly at the opposite end of the political spectrum. This issue is perfectly familiar and it even has a name - horseshoe theory.

In political science and popular discourse, the horseshoe theory asserts that the far-left and the far-right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, closely resemble one another, much like the ends of a horseshoe. 

If pressed I’d go further and suggest that anyone so inclined could easily maintain the argument that Corbyn is indeed a fascist who has spent his political life making common cause with overseas fascists even though we do not generally refer to such people as fascists. It's an argument one could make because political language is so loose.

This is the problem - the imaginary gulf between extreme political positions because extreme political positions are rather common. If one listens carefully to everyday conversation then huge numbers of people hold extreme political views anyway. Many would nationalise vast swathes of the economy, control prices, drastically increase punishment of criminals and extend judicial punishment to any number of social or political misdeeds. Many seem to be far left and far right rolled into one.

Huge numbers of people see the government as the only significant actor on the political stage, as if anyone else who ventures onto the stage should be kicked off it. The government should do something, the police should do something, “they” should do something. Guardian readers are particularly keen on this approach.

Almost always it is the central power which should do something and that something tends to imply a drastic curtailment of liberty. People in general are not particularly liberal politically and among the most illiberal are those who purport to be liberals. That’s the problem of political language working its malign magic.

One consequence of the corruption of political language is that many MPs in the House of Commons should not be there. They are not suited to the role and apparently unaware of their own deficiencies. Yet we lack the clear and distinct language to say who they are and why they are unsuitable. We fall into the swamps of party loyalty, abuse, ridicule or convoluted political analysis none of which really meets the need.

Too many MPs are merely public employees who cannot do the job, never will be capable of doing it and ought to be dismissed. Many have no real experience beyond the political bubble. Yet we do not have the common ground to say this as cogently as we should. We do not have politically untainted language, the factual language we might use to assess the capabilities of any employee. And MPs are employees – we tend to forget that. But maybe that’s the way they like it.

A Peter Sellers story

Saturday, 11 May 2019

The ANC wins again

From the BBC we have yet another story about voters who never seem to learn.

South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) has been returned to office after winning parliamentary election, but with a reduced majority.

The ANC secured 58% of the vote, ahead of the Democratic Alliance (DA) on 21%. The radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), came third with 11%.

The ANC, which has been in power since 1994, won 62% of the vote at the last general election in 2014.

Anger over the economy and corruption may have eroded its appeal.

A few years back BizNews gave us the graph below. It shows South Africa's annual GDP per capita in US dollars per president of South Africa.

Even casual outside observers of South Africa understand that a disaster may be unfolding here. One hopes not but South African voters need a solution and it clearly isn't the ANC.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The tabulators and the watersifters

Now it is a fact that I have never called myself a ‘realist,’ and I have never put forth any work as ‘realism.’ I decline the labels of the schoolmen and the sophisters: being a simple writer of tales, who takes whatever means lie to his hand to present life as he sees it; who insists on no process; and who refuses to be bound by any formula or prescription prepared by the cataloguers and the pigeon-holers of literature...

In conclusion: the plan and the intention of my story made it requisite that, in telling it, I should largely adhere to fact; and I did so. If I write other tales different in scope and design, I shall adhere to fact or neglect it as may seem good to me: regardless of anybody’s classification as a realist, or as anything else. For though I have made a suggestion, right or wrong, as to what a realist may be, whether I am one or not is no concern of mine; but the concern (if it be anybody’s) of the tabulators and the watersifters.

Arthur Morrison - A Child of the Jago (1896)

Morrison is defending himself against those who tried to classify him and his stories about life in a fictional London slum - the Jago based on Old Nichol. In his view he simply wrote stories which adhered closely to what he saw and knew well. 

This was his art, his way of doing something about what he saw, showing middle class people what slums were for those who had to live in them. Some didn't like his uncompromising word pictures, but to classify him as a ‘realist’ was to shift the focus from the slums to the writer and Morrison seems to have disliked that shift.

The tabulators and the watersifters – we have even more of them today. Shift the focus, always shift the focus – it’s what they do.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Polyester clothing

We were walking in the Eyam area again today. It rained all day and was cold up there in the hills but that did not detract much from the walk. Okay the views would have been more impressive with better visibility but it was atmospheric and good to be out in the elements. As we sat under dripping trees eating our lunch I remarked how good modern clothing is at keeping those elements at bay.

Apart from socks our outer walking clothes are made almost entirely from man-made fibres. Mainly polyester as far as I can see, although nylon, elastane, and polyurethane are used too. Not much cotton or wool and certainly no silk although I do have a scarf made from Merino wool and my boots are part leather.

Every winter and every time we go walking in poor weather I notice the same thing - outdoor walking clothes are warmer and generally more practical than traditional clothing made from natural fibres. If I walk around the house in just a few layers of walking gear I’m warmer than usual.

Yet our ordinary clothes are often made from cotton or wool, presumably because these fibres still have some cachet. Of course there is a recycling issue too. A nettle still to be grasped no doubt.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Wolfie Corbyn problem

A particular problem with Jeremy Corbyn has been alluded to here and there ever since he was accidentally booted into the leadership limelight. Is he more Wolfie Smith than Comrade Corbyn?

For most of his inglorious career Corbyn has lent his MP status to all manner of unsavoury characters, causes and organisations. That’s the behaviour, it is on record and perhaps there is no point in delving further. Partly because we can’t unless we happen to know him personally and partly because the behaviour is probably all we need to know.

Not only that, but the key political point is that he attracts some unpleasant people who certainly do not resemble Wolfie Smith. Nobody took Wolfie Smith seriously and hardly anyone seems to take Corbyn seriously but the people he attracts and seeks out – they are the clue to his political significance.

Yet the man is clearly a plonker and the Wolfie Smith question remains. Oddly enough that may be his only real strength, as those close to him politically will understand.

Any truth that emerges

Dr Thorndyke

'Every fact,' replied Thorndyke, 'is relevant to something, and if you accumulate a great mass of facts, inspection of the mass shows that the facts can be sorted out into related groups from which certain general truths can be inferred. The difference between the lawyer and the scientist is that one is seeking to establish some particular truth while the other seeks to establish any truth that emerges from the available facts.'

R. Austin Freeman - The Cat's Eye (1923)

This quote is taken from a detective story in the Sherlock Holmes mould but it encapsulates a fundamental problem with democracy. Within any government there tends to be an inevitable bias towards the outlook of the lawyer. A bias which is seeking to establish some particular truth. Inevitably that will be some particular political or bureaucratic truth. We see it all the time - climate change is just one of its outcomes. In other words, democratic governments cannot be both entirely truth-seeking and entirely democratic.

Not only that but we should not expect democratic governments to be truth-seekers. Not merely because the political classes are too horrible and self-interested to be truth-seekers but because this cannot be the way democratic governments do business.    

Any democratic government would have great difficulty in trying to manage its business from a standpoint where it seeks to establish any truth that emerges from the available facts. Such an approach would be virtually impossible to sustain. It would be too slow, too uncertain and the political classes could not easily project themselves as active actors within the government process. The stage would too small, the roles too limited to sustain large egos.

While this inbuilt difficulty seems to be the case with democracies, a stable totalitarian state might well be able to watch and wait as it seeks to establish any truth that emerges from the available facts. Especially is such a government manages to free itself from the conceptual restrictions of political ideology. I suspect this is where China intends to go. Put crudely it intends to seek out the truth and use it. Such a government could be formidable indeed.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Bank Holiday quiz - guess who

She had been a dreamer, an adept at make-believe, but the poor coverings she had wrought for a dingy reality were now too threadbare to hide it.

He had made a sensation, had seen wonder and respect in dull eyes, and tasted for a moment that esteem which he had singularly failed to find elsewhere.

John Buchan - The Path of the King (1921)

Sunday, 5 May 2019

To supper and to bed with a heavy heart.


So God help us! and God knows what disorders we may fall into.... and then to supper and to bed with a heavy heart. 

Diary of Samuel Pepys.

Saturday, 4 May 2019


This morning Granddaughter was eating cream crackers spread with butter and jam. I warned her not to get butter on the treasured set of books she had brought to the table. When asked why not I found myself explaining that butter cannot be removed from paper.

“Why not,” asked Granddaughter.

“Because it sinks into the paper and you can’t get it out again.”

“What else does butter sink into?”

“Many other things that are soft,” I explained, “such as clothes.”

“Does butter sink into rats?”


...oh well. Defeated yet again. And I thought it was a straightforward conversation.

Oddly enough I was immediately reminded of similar bizarre excursions by Anna Soubry, although Ms Soubry isn’t six years old.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Corbyn endorses nice weather

From the BBC we have exciting news about Jeremy Corbyn's demand that the government should do its bit to ensure nice weather forever.

MPs have approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency.

This proposal, which demonstrates the will of the Commons on the issue but does not legally compel the government to act, was approved without a vote.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who tabled the motion, said it was "a huge step forward".

Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate "emergency" but did not back Labour's demands to declare one.

It is difficult to see where the Conservatives can go on this one. Over the longer term voters will soon notice if the weather is significantly better under Labour governments. Especially if Conservative governments make it more likely that Brighton will be washed away by a hurricane or Norfolk is flooded by monsoon rains every year.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Revenge politics

It is virtually impossible to ignore politics but it’s a strange game to watch voluntarily. Not exactly enjoyable as a spectator sport is it? 

A strong undertow in all kinds of political advocacy seems to be revenge, the revenge of one social class over another. Not at all dignified as a motive but as a motive it seems to be strong one. Political activists tend to act and speak as if they are not so much interested in reform, but something more akin to revenge against those they perceive as their enemies. Of course political enemies are portrayed as bad people but enemies always are. In a similar vein, social justice warriors seem far more concerned with revenge rather than justice.

Revenge is a core element of politics simply because the enemy is a core element of politics and only the apolitical seem relatively free of it. This is not to claim that naked revenge is all we need consider when we attempt to analyse political behaviour. The issue is more diffuse than that and also bound up with a sense of grievance. 

Yet in political hands grievance goes awry too. For one thing political grievance in the developed world can be so absurdly contrived. So contrived that we may as well assume it is not genuine and the grievance is merely the means to an end. That end seems to be revenge again, not amelioration of the grievance. Perhaps amelioration without revenge won’t do because the grievance would have to be genuine.

To take a topical example. Climate change activism appears to be the revenge of an uneasy middle class over the uppity prosperity of all those lower down the social scale. Sometimes it is revenge on all those who ought to be lower down the social scale but aren't.

Revenge on their love of consumption, their homes, their cars, their proletarian tastes, their holidays. Most of all it is revenge on their children, those brats who could so easily turn out to be smarter than Hugo and Cordelia.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Know thyself - or perhaps not

Edmond O'Brien was an American character actor older folk may well recall.

Oscar-winner Edmond O'Brien was one of the most-respected character actors in American cinema, from his heyday of the mid-1940s through the late 1960s.

An interesting quote is attributed to him which seems to have two versions although it may be two quotes expressed differently at different times.

IMDb - Versatility is a dangerous thing. It's very satisfying to portray many types of roles, but often your own identity gets lost. Seldom does a producer say, "This is an Eddie O'Brien part." On the other hand, while the rewards may be great in fame and financially for stars, the work becomes monotonous. No actor who plays himself is a happy person.

Wikipedia - "The funny thing about Hollywood is that they are interested in having you do one thing and do it well and do it ever after," said O'Brien. "That's the sad thing about being a leading man – while the rewards may be great in fame and finances, it becomes monotonous for an actor. I think that's why some of the people who are continually playing themselves are not happy.

O'Brien appears to be saying that the world of a cinema star can be an unhappy one because playing yourself over and over again is monotonous. Yet it is also possible that stars playing themselves get to know themselves and their personal limitations too well. Maybe that is a source of unhappiness too.

In a similar vein this may be why politicians put on an act. A political public persona may be odious but if it isn't thought to be real no damage is done to the self-esteem behind the act. 

Or they are mostly thick-skinned swine through and through. 

Monday, 29 April 2019

Close encounters of the perfumed kind

As we all know artificial perfumes are a feature of modern life. Usually they pass me by without notice but I had three recent encounters which lingered. Not in my nostrils presumably, but somewhere in my olfactory brain which can be a powerful memory stimulus.

Encounter the first occurred while we browsed through a shop display of rugs. After a few minutes browsing a perfumed miasma with an orange face drifted in our direction. The Perfumed One did try to assist us in rug inspection but somehow our questions were never quite processed into helpful answers on his part.

It was a strange, disconnected experience, as if the three of us were lost in a London fog with no visible landmarks and nothing to guide us but a determination to be somewhere else. We soon acted on that determination, muttered something and made for the car park, the air of which was comparatively fresh in spite of all those alarming stories about our killer atmosphere. In our experience killer atmospheres are to be found inside, not outside.

Encounter the second occurred at our local swimming baths while we watched the grandkids at their swimming lessons. The spectator area was rather crowded and I ended up sitting next to a young mother wearing rather too much perfume. It wasn’t an unpleasant perfume and for all I know it was horribly expensive but there was far too much of it. Not quite eye-watering but too much. It may even have neutralised the atmospheric chlorine. Perhaps that was a bonus.

Encounter the third was my new shower gel. I buy cheap shower gel and even then I wait until it is on offer, so its perfume component isn’t the most subtle. My latest purchase has a strong lavender aroma which I quite like but it always reminds me of furniture polish, as if I’m polishing myself in the shower. Oh well - if I ever have dreams about life as a gateleg table I’ll know why.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

What about the Lycra?

The other day I found myself scratching my head over plans to introduce human composting

Washington Will Likely Be First State to Allow ‘Human Composting’ as a Burial Method

The accelerated decomposition method transforms remains into soil and uses just an eighth of the energy required for cremation.

A new bill passed by Washington state legislators and headed to the desk of Governor Jay Inslee outlines a low impact alternative to these more traditional forms of burial. As Rachel La Corte writes for the Associated Press, the bill would make the state the first to legalize “natural organic reduction,” an accelerated decomposition method that transforms remains into soil. Also known as “human composting” or “recomposition,” the process takes between four to seven weeks and produces roughly a cubic yard of compost.

Fair enough but there are any number of unlikely but possible objections, human nature being what it is. For example, what about keen cyclists who wish to be composted as cyclists complete with cycling kit? Lycra, or Spandex as it is also known, is not biodegradable so where does that leave the composting process?

Spandex is one of several non-biodegradable synthetic fibers. Today most clothes containing spandex end up as non-recyclable waste once they've been worn out, as fabric blends containing spandex are difficult to recycle.

Knocks the edge off cycling as cutting edge environmental virtue signalling. Maybe it would be a good idea to go back to cotton shirts and woollen trousers with bamboo cycle clips as a nod to the environmental lobby.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Australia's Secret War

A video of Hal Colebatch published in 2013 in which he discusses his book  Australia's Secret War. I haven't read the book but my interest in Mr Colebatch stems a post I published in 2014.

From the YouTube video

Hal GP Colebatch, West Australian author/historian/poet, discusses his new book "Australia's Secret War" covering Australian strikes hampering the war effort in WW11. Waterside workers strikes, go-slows, sabotage and thefts involving supplies of troops and materiel to our fighting troops in the islands campaigns, are covered in detail. Colebatch's researchers expose an appalling situation covered up for 60 years by the orthodox history profession.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Hate Signalling

Of course we see more than a dash of hate signalling from Extinction Rebellion but somehow it isn't pointed out by media outfits such as the BBC. Presumably in their world there is hate that is hate and hate that isn't. Are we allowed to hate the distinction though? Probably not, that would be too hateful.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Useless or harmful liberties

From ITV - Caroline Lucas, Greta Thunberg and Jeremy Corbyn discuss climate change, something they don't understand but they know that it requires drastic action. 

The Fascist State organizes the nation, but it leaves the individual adequate elbow room. It has curtailed useless or harmful liberties while preserving those which are essential. In such matters the individual cannot be the judge, but the State only.

The Doctrine Of Fascism - Benito Mussolini

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Microsoft diversity policies questioned

From mspoweruser we have a piece on Microsoft employees questioning the need for more diversity in the company.

It is being reported that there are discussions on an internal online messaging board where some Microsoft employees are voicing their opinions about the company’s efforts to employ more women and minorities. The company’s efforts to be more diverse are being called “discriminatory”, and comments on the threads, which now exceed 800, both agree and disagree with the the views of the posts.

“Does Microsoft have any plans to end the current policy that financially incentivizes discriminatory hiring practices? To be clear, I am referring to the fact that senior leadership is awarded more money if they discriminate against Asians and white men,” read one of the posts made by a female engineer.

“We still lack any empirical evidence that the demographic distribution in tech is rationally and logically detrimental to the success of the business in this industry….We have a plethora of data available that demonstrate women are less likely to be interested in engineering AT ALL than men, and it’s not because of any *ism or *phobia or ‘unconscious bias’- it’s because men and women think very differently from each other, and the specific types of thought process and problem solving required for engineering of all kinds (software or otherwise) are simply less prevalent among women. This is an established fact.”

Worth reading the whole thing - there are lots of comments as one might expect.

When nobody wants to play

This morning the BBC Red Button service had climate-related pieces for six out of its seven "Science" items. It feels like like middle class desperation, like a dull family party where somebody suggests a game only the children really want to play.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Medieval eggs

Aeon recently published an interesting piece on how medieval people approached personal cleanliness. As the article shows, our usual assumption that they didn't approach personal cleanliness at all is tinged with myth.

In the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), two minor characters spot King Arthur. They know who he is because, as one of them points out: ‘He must be a king … he hasn’t got shit all over him like the rest of us.’ The scene encapsulates an enduring belief about the Middle Ages: medieval people were dirty. 

At the same time, the filthiness of medieval people should not be exaggerated. Much evidence shows that personal hygiene mattered to medieval people, that they made an effort to keep clean. Popular advice books recommended washing the hands, face and teeth on rising, plus further handwashing throughout the day. Other body parts were washed less frequently: daily washing of the genitals, for example, was believed to be a Jewish custom, and thus viewed with suspicion by the non-Jewish population.

There is also a topical reference to eggs, but not the chocolate variety.

Recent archaeological discoveries have brought revealing details about the realities of medieval hygiene. The preserved eggs of intestinal parasites have often been found in excavated latrine pits: for example, a recent excavation in the German port city of Lübeck suggested high levels of roundworm and tapeworm in the medieval population. And it wasn’t just the population at large who were affected. In 2012, when Richard III’s body was excavated in Leicester, his remains were found to be heavily infested with roundworm eggs. 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

A supportive and caring Extinction Rebellion

Sky has some comments by Extinction Rebellion participants who certainly seem to be a mixed bunch. 

It's a problem of inequality and injustice.

I'm vegan, partly for the animals and partly for the reason of climate change.

We also hope to show people the potential joy and release you get from actually doing something about this issue.

Extinction Rebellion seems to be something that has a bit of 'go' in it.

There's a friendliness and everyone is very, very supportive and caring - this is run through with a bit of apprehension and anxiety when the police change their tactics.

I have come down today because this is my day off and I have got lots of friends and family here.

But feelings are feelings when people get energised and at least people aren't being murdered etc.

I walked most of the way here from Land's End on the 'Earth March'. I was walking for four weeks. The atmosphere here is absolutely brilliant.

Example comments passed on by journalists here and elsewhere suggest that many participants have little or no knowledge of the scientific method, climate science, the wider environment, economics or anything technical which might be relevant to their cause. The principal attraction seems to be an emotional togetherness binge which pretends to be constructively anti-establishment.

The whole thing is a reminder of Baruch Spinoza's observations on emotion and understanding. To a significant degree emotion and understanding are mutually exclusive. As we understand something its emotional impact is lessened. If we wish to nurture an emotional impact then we have to misunderstand its cause.

The media have been fostering emotional misunderstanding for a very long time so this kind of reaction to an ersatz noble cause is hardly surprising. Yet the overall impression probably does not find favour with more professional promoters of the climate game. The juvenile silliness of it could be another signal that serious interest is waning.  

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Columbo in the desert

We’ve been here in our Norfolk accommodation since Saturday and although there is a television it only receives terrestrial programmes. Which is okay because we watch very little television, but it has begun to seem somewhat old fashioned. Nevertheless, as we are on holiday something different is indicated so we have scanned the available programmes each evening. Unfortunately among dozens and dozens of channels we have yet to find anything worth watching. Television? It’s a desert but you already knew that.

However we did find a single episode of Columbo. Not exactly a cultural oasis because I can't even remember what happened but we watched it and passed a couple of hours pleasantly enough. Pleasant enough for holiday entertainment anyhow, but the episode was thirty years old and as predictable as Columbo always is.

I may be wrong because I’m not a Columbo expert but they all seem to go something like this.

We know the identity of the murderer as soon as he or she does the dirty deed. Everyone is glossy and prosperous. Columbo is scruffy, drives a ratty old car, always has a cigar on the go and has his pockets full of screwed up bits of paper some of which are vital scraps of evidence. He knows who did the foul deed but has to construct a case based on tiny mistakes made by the over-confident murderer. He never exits a scene with the murderer without turning back with the words “oh, just one more thing.”

Oh well. It was thirty years old but just about watchable.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

See me afterwards

By Jeremy Corbyn class III – a report of my speech to teachers.

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that Labour would scrap formal tests in primary schools in England, known as Sats.

The tests left children in floods of tears or vomiting with worry, he told members of the National Education Union in Liverpool to loud whoops and cheers.

He said it would free up schools struggling with funding cuts and congested classrooms, and help teacher recruitment and retention.

The move means school league tables based on the tests would be ended too.


Do try to avoid lying Corbyn! The tests left teachers in floods of tears or vomiting with worry would be more accurate as we both know. 

See me afterwards.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Peak cake

Today we treated ourselves to an excellent breakfast in an eatery we’ve used before while visiting Norfolk. The coffee is good too.

Setting off a nearby cake display was an enormous confection made from three thick layers of sponge cake one on top of the other, all cemented together with layers of jam and buttercream. We were able to examine the construction of this monster because a slice had been removed - possibly for that reason. The whole thing was finished off all over with a thick layer of more buttercream. A few strawberries artistically scattered across the top made it look more healthy.

We’ve seen these monster sponge cakes before so this one was nothing new but we both compared it to sponge cakes our mothers made in the fifties. Just one layer of sponge cake would have been enough for my mum. She would have sliced it horizontally to make two layers of sponge, spread jam in the middle to stick then together then she would have iced the top with traditional icing.

In other words the cake we saw today was three times the size of one of my mother’s sponge cakes even if we ignore the enormous amount of buttercream.

The huge size of modern cakes is one reason we rarely indulge. Even scones are enormous compared to earlier times. Modern cakes can be so huge and such obvious calorie bombs that I’m tempted to think we may have reached peak cake. If so then we could see a trend towards conspicuous frugality where the really trendy cake has to look like an abstemious slice of coconut matting sprinkled with nuts.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Defensive driving

We are on holiday in Norfolk at the moment. Pleasant but chilly. On the way here we drove past Sandringham so I was particularly keyed up and alert in case Prince Philip darted out of some obscure side road. Fortunately there was no sign of him so we count that as a good start.

Speaking of which I'm reminded of a recent family conversation about defensive driving and what appears to be a greater need for it. The problem seems to be an increased level of inattention rather than excessive speed or aggression. As mentioned in the previous post, it's the distractions in modern cars. We often see it when following another vehicle - the driver is obviously distracted by something.

Only this morning we were strolling back from a leisurely breakfast when a car blithely drove out from a side road onto the main road right in front of another car. No accident, just casual inattention where fortunately the other driver was paying attention. As if more responsibility has fallen into the hands of defensive drivers.

In the recent past Mrs H has mentioned the erratic driving of young women who seem to have too many things on what we traditionally call their "minds". Parking at strange angles with one wheel on the pavement or lurching off without taking a quick gander at oncoming traffic. Manoeuvre, mirror, signal seems to be a common approach.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Parked on the wall

The other day found us tootling along a familiar road with lots of gentle bends and some pleasantly scenic views. A pavement runs by the side of the road and on the other side of the pavement is a low stone wall.

Towards the end of a bendy stretch there is a gentle right hand bend and on the bend was a fairly new car straddling the stone wall. It was broad daylight, the road was dry and no other vehicle was involved. Yet somehow the car had recently left the road, hit the stone wall and ended up on top of it. A number of vehicles had stopped to help and fortunately the driver seemed okay although the car was obviously a write-off.

There are a number of possible causes one could guess at such as mechanical failure or a puncture. As the speed limit on that stretch of road is 50 mph and that equates to about 73 feet per second, a brief distraction could also cause such an accident. 

I've no idea what actually did cause this particular accident and maybe it wasn't the driver's fault at all, but modern cars have at least three significant ways by which drivers can be distracted for that crucial second. Or in this case that crucial 73 feet. Sat nav, mobile phone or music system would do it.

Monday, 8 April 2019

This Time, Things Will Be Different

Kristian Niemietz has a piece in Quillette about the seemingly endless failures of socialism, Venezuela being the latest of a long series of disasters.

Germany’s socialist left is currently embroiled in a row over the correct stance on Venezuela. The conflict came to the fore at the February conference of Die Linke, the country’s main socialist party, when a group of Nicolás Maduro fans stormed the stage, chanting slogans and waving banners with pro-Venezuela messages...

This coincides with the portrayal, and the self-perception, of “millennial socialist” movements across the Western world. A lot has been written recently about the resurgence of socialism among young voters. Socialist candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France have seen huge surges in popularity. And while the candidates themselves span the age spectrum, they all find their most enthusiastic support among young people.

Niemietz has also written a book about socialism and its cycles of enthusiasm, failure and eventual disowning by Western socialists. The book is worth reading too.

As I show in my new book Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies, socialist projects always go through honeymoon periods, during which they are enthusiastically endorsed by Western intellectuals. But since socialist policies generally lead to economic failure, and sometimes even political repression, those honeymoon periods typically don’t last for more than a decade. Then these foreign example fall out of fashion, and get retroactively reclassified as counterfeit socialism. The USSR, North Vietnam, Cuba and Maoist China all functioned as utopias du jour. In the 1970s, some Western intellectuals even pinned their hopes on more obscure areas of the world, such as Cambodia, Albania, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola and Nicaragua.

There is an interesting observation which Niemietz makes in the book but not in this Quillette piece. It concerns the way socialists have a strong tendency to define their political ambitions in terms of desired outcomes rather than the practical means to achieve those outcomes. The problem is obvious enough because we see the same thing elsewhere.

For example we are too familiar with sustainable energy projects based on claims of starry-eyed outcomes which are neither technically nor economically feasible. It is surely interesting that we see the same cart before horse enthusiasms in socialism.

Niemietz's final point is the one all non-socialists must be aware of, the one socialists never learn. Socialism is only a small scale way of organising societies. It is essentially linear in its core concepts and cannot scale up to the non-linear complexities of modern societies and economies.

Regardless of what socialists say they want to build, socialism can only mean a society run by large, hierarchical government bureaucracies. It can only mean a command-and-control economy directed by a distant, technocratic elite. The reason it always turns out that way isn’t because revolutions are “betrayed” by selfish or undisciplined actors, but because no other path is possible. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that every generation needs to learn for itself—which is why each cohort is sneered at by its younger counterparts.

At the Die Linke conference, it was a fight about Nicolás Maduro and the fate of Venezuela. A decade from now, the spectacle will be repeated—with different names and flags. When it comes to socialism, hope springs eternal, even as socialism’s victims inevitably fall into poverty.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Green Darwin Award

Via the BBC we hear of yet another candidate for a Darwin award.

A suspected rhino poacher has been trampled on by an elephant then eaten by a pride of lions in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Accomplice poachers told the victim's family that he had been killed by an elephant on Tuesday. Relatives notified the park ranger.

A search party struggled to find the body but eventually found a human skull and a pair of trousers on Thursday.

The managing executive of the park extended his condolences to the family.

"Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise," he said. "It holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that."

Somehow it seems churlish not to award the chap a special Green Darwin Award because of the way he posthumously recycled himself as lion poo.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Summoning the Recluse

It is easy to understand the attraction, this familiar and ancient urge to leave behind the pressures and inadequacies of too much human contact. Yet most people seem able to insulate themselves well enough without this level of physical isolation, but that can lead to problems too. 

It's too romantic for me. The curmudgeon's way is better. 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Veggie balls

Date check - no it's not April 1st.

A story in the Grauniad offers us yet another benefit of EU membership. Where would we be without it?

Veggie burgers are for the chop, a Brussels committee has decreed, to be replaced by the less palatable-sounding “veggie discs”.

And it won’t be just bean or mushroom burgers condemned to the food bin of history. Vegan sausages, tofu steaks and soya escalopes could all be approaching their ultimate best-before date, after a vote in the European parliament on revisions to a food-labelling regulation.

The protected designations would include steak, sausage, escalope, burger and hamburger, under a revised regulation that passed with 80% approval. The measures will now be voted on by the full parliament after May’s European elections, before being put to member states and the European commission.

The French socialist MEP Éric Andrieu, responsible for overseeing the legislation, said the prohibition was just “common sense” and he appealed to Europeans’ sense of foodie history.

That's the way to do it. We'll show the rest of the world how to forge ahead in those areas of  life which really matter.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliament stripped naked

A silver lining in the Brexit debacle has been the way it shines a highly unflattering light on Parliament, political parties, the adversarial system, first past the post, the mainstream media, a host of individuals and the electorate.

How did it happen? It cannot have been planned, not even by the EU. Maybe it happened because the main actors do not understand a digital world which is changing the way we view their games. They seem to misunderstand how exposed they are on this strange new digital stage. Otherwise they would have behaved differently.

Theresa May and her inner circle do not seem to have understood how impossible it was to negotiate a version of Brexit acceptable to both sides of the debate without being found out. Neither did they foresee how furtively transparent the whole sorry mess would be. Neither did they foresee that it would be a mess of this magnitude, impossible to hide in a global theatre where nobody dictates the narrative.

Virtually nobody comes out of it smelling of roses and this may be the Brexit silver lining because such a glaring degree of naked exposure is surely healthy. Although that thought should be approached with care hem hem.

How will it pan out once the dust settles? Impossible to say as usual. Predicting the future is a mug's game but the Brexit mess seems almost certain to change a host of political perceptions.

Seismic political events do not necessarily initiate sudden changes and often it is only with hindsight that we even see the change. Yet we have wandered around backstage, seen the actors without their makeup, heard them squabbling about trivia, seen them forget their lines. It must surely make a difference to the way we view future performances. Eventually the performance itself  may have to change. Let us be optimistic.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Boris for PM?

Political Betting has a piece on the next Tory leader.

I think, though, we may be looking at the wrong key parameter for what will determine the next Conservative leader. In a case where a political leader is seen as a failure and / or tainted, the reaction tends to produce a leader who is seen as the opposite (Corbyn after Miliband springs to mind, Thatcher after Heath etc)...

...I think most Conservative MPs and, less so, members get that. There is grudging admiration for her tenacity but a realisation that it is the lack of human empathy that has caused many of the problems we are seeing now...

...That means that the key lesson that Conservative MPs take from May’s Premiership is not they need a committed Brexiteer or, conversely, a Remainer to stop the Brexit faction but that the next leader should be someone who does human: is comfortable in their own skin, is not necessarily perfect but who can actually connect with what ordinary people are thinking and whom people would like – in effect, someone with whom they would like to go down the pub for a pint (and, no, I am not thinking Farage)...

...Who does that leave (pardon the pun)? I think Boris Johnson, for all his faults, comes out well.

The whole piece is worth a read. The Tories probably do need to regain some perception of humanity after Theresa May's disastrously mechanical stint but most of the Tory faces we see are not strong on humanity.  

Monday, 1 April 2019

Don’t eat the soap

What would an ancient Egyptian know of a telephone by looking at it? What would a Roman or a Greek make of a jet plane, or of radio? Or, coming right down to the simple things, if you saw a slab of chocolate for the first time you might think it was for mending shoes, lighting the fire, or building houses – about the last thing you’d think was that that hard brown rectangle was meant for eating – and when you did find it out, you’d most likely try eating soap, too, because the texture was similar and the colour was more attractive.

John Wyndham - The Seeds of Time (1956)

These historical speculations are so common that it is easy to forget how dramatic their implications are. Our super-complex technical world evolved with extraordinary rapidity but it is not easy to say why. Any explanation is untestable and to that extent unsatisfactory. 

The implications are equally interesting but equally unsatisfactory. We did not evolve within this modern technical environment and it is fairly obvious that we still think in pre-modern ways, tribal ways which no longer work as they evolved to work.

For example, the chattering classes deplore those who in their view are irredeemably tribal in their social and political outlook. Yet there is no tribe more tribal than the chattering classes. Outsiders who do not speak their language are unwelcome, inferior, barbarian oiks from the wrong tribe camped on the wrong side of the tracks.

There is an underlying element of fear too, but a fear which cannot be admitted. The chattering classes see outsiders as somewhat mysterious and unpredictable - weird people who know how to get things done, how things really work. Difficult people who dabble in the dark arts of integrity and even honesty.

It may well be that we should acknowledge our tribal evolution and accept that it has not disappeared so we may as well make the best of it. As for the chattering classes, that is one tribe we could do without - considering the problem from a tribal point of view.

Sunday, 31 March 2019


Rod Liddle thinks the lunacy of transgender politics or peak wank as he so succinctly puts it, may initiate a turning point against political correctness. 

Saturday, 30 March 2019


The other day found us enjoying a pleasant lunch in a local restaurant. Two women sat at a nearby table, one of whom was a talker. By that I mean she never stopped, as if the whole point of lunch was to talk, talk talk. It was all prattle too - all me, me, me. Nothing interesting, no current affairs, no unusual experiences, no insights. And she was loud – strewth was she loud.

She was loud in the way that children are loud because they have not yet learned to moderate their voices and conduct a conversation which is rather more than a series of personal announcements.

Yet in my experience a loud voice can be an asset if linked to a quietly assertive personality but it’s a fine line to tread. I don’t have a loud voice so I don’t need to tread such a line which perhaps is just as well.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Flight along Baslow edge

One of our favourite walking areas. A chap used a drone to make this clip - click through to YouTube for the details.

The subject of this post is in the same area. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Does God exist?

The eternity of truth is inherent in it : all truths—not a few grand ones—are equally eternal. I am sorry that the word eternal should necessarily have an unction which prejudices dry minds against it, and leads fools to use it without understanding. This unction is not rhetorical, because the nature of truth is really sublime, and its name ought to mark its sublimity. Truth is one of the realities covered in the eclectic religion of our fathers by the idea of God.

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

To my mind the question does God exist is easily answered – no. To other people the answer is just as easy – yes. The arguments are so well-known that they have become uninteresting and perhaps that leads us to a much more interesting question – does it matter?

Probably not as far as many modern, right-on progressives are concerned, but who knows? Maybe it would have been socially and politically useful to keep a firmer and more widespread hold of the idea of God before leaping into the divisive and nihilistic swamp of political correctness. Would God have helped us to avoid rootless modes of unbelief which seem so remarkably good at fostering disorientation? Perhaps not but the possibility has to be worth a thought or two because socially and politically things are not going well for the secular world.

God as a transcendental standard of truth does at least remind us that there is an immutable reality reflected in immutable natural laws. A secular reality has no such transcendental reminder. It only has money, politics and rather feeble appeals to integrity.

Here in the West, freeing ourselves from the restrictive embrace of Christianity, however imperfect that embrace might have been, has not been an unalloyed success. Family breakdown, abortion on demand, attacks on men disguised as feminism, attacks on heterosexual norms disguised as sexual tolerance, attacks on indigenous Westerners disguised as anti-racism, attacks on Christianity disguised as attacks on Islamophobia, attacks on free speech disguised as attacks on hate speech, overt sexual display disguised as personal freedom.

It’s quite a list and all are secular trends we cannot easily discuss or analyse because our brave new world promises to be far more intolerant than the one it seeks to replace. With huge irony, secular repression is proving to be even more onerous, even more of a drag on human freedom than perhaps we assumed. Yet we thought we were in control. 

In control? Fat chance. Even our science has not been immune, that dispassionate pursuit of truth which played such as large part in pulling us out of a life nasty, brutish and short. After supposedly climbing from the gloomy depths of superstition to the cool uplands of objectivity we in the West have taken to pseudoscientific fraud in a big way. The scientific method hasn’t protected us from climate fraud but that was just for starters. If lying to children and wasting billions upon billions of dollars on bizarre attempts to control the climate were not enough we have lots more destructive pseudoscientific nonsense in the pipeline. The secular nihilists are just getting into their stride.

For example those who advocate the mantra of biologically identical male and female brains are already trying to suppress extremely well-established scientific work which says otherwise. Common sense also says otherwise but common sense is definitely passé - and no longer common.

In an increasingly rootless Western world, it is perhaps worthwhile to take another look at Santayana’s quote and ponder the possibility that God as transcendental truth may have been our best defence against secular madness. Maybe that was the whole point but we didn’t see it - we allowed ourselves to home in on the religious baggage because it was an easy target. Easy to criticise, sneer at or lampoon perhaps, but the spiritual core is not at all easy to replace because the spiritual core is where the nature of truth is really sublime, and its name ought to mark its sublimity.

This is not to claim that believers are more truthful or more sane than everyone else because quite a few are decidedly loopy. But the loopy aspect tends to come with the baggage rather than the core monotheism. Whether God exists or not and whether this is a valid question or not, it may well be that some kind of unadorned monotheism would have provided a spiritual defence against the crazy excesses of secular political rhetoric.

Suppose we move on and conduct a thought experiment. Suppose we imagine a UK which is as solidly religious as it was a century or more ago. In addition, suppose we tidy up our thought experiment by sidelining sects, schisms and doctrinal intransigence in favour of a simple pared down monotheism. This would be a theism which does not seek to compete with a scientific standpoint but bases itself on a much more moral outlook. Even a moral cosmology.

Completely impossible of course because human nature would not allow it. The baggage would accumulate from day one, but this is merely a thought experiment so we may set aside the baggage issue, insurmountable though it is. Given the impossible nature of the thought experiment any conclusion is mere daydreaming anyhow, but even daydreaming may be interesting.

In which case it may be suggested that a simple monotheism may well have protected us from a number of malign social and political trends. Not only that, but it seems likely enough that it would also have left Western societies and cultures with the confidence to remain as coherent societies and cultures in the first place. It would have left the roots intact.

It may be that atheism and agnosticism are aspects of collective intellectual decline, not the intellectual progress they seem to represent - and I write that as an atheist. It may be that God’s existence isn’t the point but some degree of transcendental truth, moral authority and cultural continuity was always the point. A point now all but lost.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019


Quite long but worth watching. The institutional bias of the BBC by journalist and former BBC insider Robin Aitken.

It is much as a BBC outsider might expect, but worth saying, partly because Robin Aitken saw it from the inside and partly because as suggested near the end of the video - change is in the air.

Mr Aitken wrote this article in the Daily Mail back in 2007 giving more details of his career in the BBC.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Blue lagoon

Dene Quarry near Cromford in Derbyshire - we skirted the quarry on our walk today. A sense of scale is indicated by parked vehicles towards the top left of the photo.

Whenever we walk by this quarry I have a sense of unease at the size of it and what it says about our demand for raw materials. It is easy enough to put aside such thoughts because if asked are you prepared to do without x, y, z then my honest answer would be no thanks. But the sense of unease remains. 

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Antique Heseltine for sale

Hemswell Antiques Centre has what appears to be an interesting dummy Heseltine for sale, complete with leather carrying case. A talking point perhaps? Maybe it could be made to explain the advantages of the EU in Greek. It seems to be complete apart from the wig.