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Sunday, 15 September 2019

Corbyn again



As suggested earlier, Tom Bower’s book about Jeremy Corbyn is not an easy read. It is well written and well researched but Corbyn himself is not a particularly interesting character. If it were not for his unscripted and somewhat accidental rise to Labour party leader he would have been a tiny footnote to UK political history.

Overall conclusions? The man is very limited with what seems like a poor memory, weak analytical abilities and a strong preference for stock phrases over genuine engagement. Although he does appear to have a certain ability to attract political support. From the book we have the view of Corbyn’s first wife.

Among the surprises for Chapman was the absence of books in her husband’s life. Throughout the four years of their marriage, he never read a single book. He did not think deeply about ideology or political philosophy. Her initial judgement that he was ‘bright’ was mistaken.

An obsessive interest in political violence is well known, as are his distaste for argument and tendency to walk away from any attempt to question his underlying motives. As a counterweight to his deficiencies, Corbyn’s biggest asset seems to be a steely determination to maintain the “decent bloke” image he has cultivated for decades. This he does rather well for an inarticulate man who clearly loathes his own social class.

He came to loathe achievers, especially undergraduates with ambitions to get to the top, disdained those who enjoyed material wealth, and showed little respect for religion. Most of all he hated the rich and successful, and identified with losers. In his self-protection he became conspicuously stubborn.

I’m not convinced he has any underlying motives apart from the obvious class malice. Hate is undoubtedly what drives him in spite of his rigidly low-key demeanour. That demeanour seems to be necessary in that he does not have the mental agility to engage with any kind of hostility towards his obvious absurdities, incompetence and apparent lack of interest in the damage he has done in the past. Bower’s book brings this out this dismal aspect of his history very well.

Within Haringey council, everyone knew about Corbyn’s conflict of interest. He was in charge of the employment of NUPE members, and at the same time he was their trade union representative organising a strike against the council. He was also responsible for the housing maintenance department, from which £2 million had gone missing annually for several years in succession. Council employees were both stealing money and inflating their claims for overtime.

Most of his political opponents are likely to be far more articulate than he is and he knows it. As a result the standard seventies rhetoric has barely changed in decades and that also suggests there is nothing more to the man. What you see is all there is. What Bower’s book does well is pull it together. For example, Corbyn has a long history of siding with the most blatant antisemitism.

Corbyn’s antagonism towards Zionism is one of the most notable through lines of his entire career. During the 1980s he sponsored the LMCP’s campaign to ‘eradicate Zionism’ and replace Israel with Palestine. In 1984 he chaired a conference blaming the Labour Party for colonising Palestine. ‘Zionism,’ asserted the LMCP, ‘is inherently racist’, and that same year he sponsored an LMCP newsletter calling for the disaffiliation of the Poale Zion, the only Jewish group attached to the Labour Party. He also supported the expulsion of Jewish societies by student unions.

Apart from the obvious, one conclusion one might draw is that Jeremy Corbyn epitomises a great political divide between simple and pragmatic. In a formidably complex world simple doesn’t work and as we have repeatedly seen, the only way to enforce it is by coercion. As the failures mount so does the coercion until the inevitable disaster. As a direct result, simple attracts those who are also attracted to coercion. Corbyn is one of them.

All in all the book is well worth reading as a forceful reminder of just how poor we are at attracting capable people into national political life.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Disfiguring Derby





The BBC has a remarkable claim that Derby could be disfigured by a monorail project.

A "futuristic" billion-pound monorail, inspired by one being built for Egypt's ancient pyramids, is being proposed to connect Derby to a possible HS2 hub.


City council leader Chris Poulter said the highway in the sky would run people from the city centre to the high-speed rail station in Toton, Nottinghamshire.

Mr Poulter said the scheme was "quite futuristic stuff" and was one of several alternatives being considered.

However, rail experts said a monorail could "disfigure Derby".


Surely more optimism is called for here. Making Derby even less visually attractive would be no easy task even for city planners. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The lad Corbyn



At the moment I'm slogging my way through Tom Bower's book on Jeremy Corbyn. Well written as usual but unexpectedly hard work because old Jeremy seems to be considerably less interesting than I imagined. With all the depth and fascination of a pancake he comes across as a guy who never really grew up.

Oh well - time to plough on with it.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Parliamentary losers





A core problem with Brexit is that hardly any members of the political class seem likely to emerge with any credit. Even worse, hardly any of them seem to know how to extract a residue of credit from the situation. As if they are new to the political game and don’t know how to play it, don’t know what counts as winning or losing, don’t understand what spectators expect from them and why.

It is not so much the intransigent bungling of Parliamentary Remainers but the banal nature of the debates, the amateurish attempts to cling to an unwinnable position. Because even if we remain within the EU, politically Remain is an unwinnable position. Professionals would have abandoned it and moved on.

The Brexit referendum turned certain political options into blunders because the result is what it is and cannot be denied. Remain lost the referendum and a lost game is a lost game. The only professional move is to accept the loss and move on. Competent Remainers could accept the referendum result, help implement whatever is the best option then work for a closer relationship with the EU. Fair enough but this hasn’t happened and the only conclusion one can draw is that the Parliamentary players are incompetent.

That is not to say that they are incompetent in the pejorative mud-slinging sense, but in a basic professional sense where players know which goal is theirs, understand what the lines on the pitch signify and why spectators turn up.

That’s the problem, the insufferably tedious nature of Parliamentary incompetence. Everyone understands winning and losing but far too many MPs appear to think like children where losing is deemed to be impossible or the rules of the game must be altered to make it impossible. Most of them shouldn’t be there. They can’t even play the political game to a reasonable standard.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Blimey – who thought it couldn’t get worse?



Labour's Harriet Harman to run for Commons Speaker

Harriet Harman has confirmed she will run to become the next Commons Speaker.

The Labour MP and Mother of the House - the longest continuously-serving female MP - made the announcement after the current Speaker, John Bercow, said he would stand down by 31 October.

Ms Harman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was the Speaker's job "to ensure Parliament can have its say".

Monday, 9 September 2019

The price of admission



Here’s an admission – I am wealthy...

...but probably not compared to you. Yet in a global context I am wealthy - as is almost everyone in the UK. We live in a wealthy country. As far back as I can remember we have been reminded of our relative wealth by an unending cascade of appeals, images and TV programmes about famine, disease, poverty, malnutrition and the general plight of the undeveloped world. For decades organisations such as Oxfam have driven home the message that in global terms we in the West are wealthy.

The message has consequences. As global perspectives seep into everything, our political concept of wealth has undergone a significant change. When we refer to the rich in a global context we cannot easily exclude ourselves without a sense of hypocrisy. We are wealthy in global terms but have been taught not to admire wealth. Apart from celebrity wealth perhaps. As if our situation is some kind of privilege which fell from the skies.

One consequence is that political movements based on hating the rich are turned inwards. Socialism and its offshoots turn inwards because globally we are the rich. How do we bash the rich in a global sense? What are we to do - hate ourselves?

Obviously we don’t hate ourselves but progressives have opted to do the next best thing – hate stereotypes who just happen to be in the same boat. Build those stereotypes around the old enemy, the bourgeoisie and capitalists then add a few more such as racists, xenophobes, islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, climate deniers and so on and so on.

This allows lots of virtue signalling but more importantly it allows progressives to dream their way into a fantasy world where they are not associated with their own society while retaining the right to live off its wealth and its achievements.

The core of it all is a progressive ethos which is simple enough for wide appeal and doesn’t cause immediate economic problems. In an impossibly complex world millions of middle class people have opted for an ethos so simple that they can teach it to young children. As they do.

Progressives define what they are not as opposed to what they are. This is the function of progressive stereotypes - the usual function of negative stereotypes. The advantage of defining what you are not instead of what you are is that schisms and divisions are minimised. It doesn’t much matter what you are - what you are not is more important. The end result is a flexible ethos for the modern world. And the modern child of course.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Broken China





An interesting video which to my mind sets a few hares running. There may be no direct comparison to be made with the UK, but it is worth thinking about our future retirement prospects, pressures on our welfare system, our widespread lack of religious faith and our lack of faith in government.

Not a symbol but a fraud






A conception not reducible to the small change of daily experience is like a currency not exchangeable for articles of consumption; it is not a symbol, but a fraud.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1906)

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Glass half full





Looking on the bright side of Brexit isn’t easy, but it has exposed the weaknesses of our supposed democracy. As many of us know, political life attracts the wrong people, the party system fails to screen them out and voters are far too tribal, far too casual and continually fail to spot the duds.


From a glass half full perspective, exposing the system for what it is must be healthy. Incidental exposure of the EU as an intransigent waste of space must be good too. Maybe we will even learn something from it.


Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Fiction and non-fiction




One couldn't carry on life comfortably without a little blindness to the fact that everything had been said better than we can put it ourselves.
George Eliot - Daniel Deronda (1876)

Why do we read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, web articles etc? Is it entertainment, information, education or something else? I don’t know why others read, but in part I’m looking for insights. Sounds pompous I know, but from what others have written online over the years, insight seems to be a very common reason for reading. It applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Take two examples, firstly from fiction and secondly non-fiction.

Mrs. Dale was one of those empirical thinkers who love to philosophize generally, but who make no specific application of anything to their own affairs.
Theodore Dreiser – The Genius (1915)

The Hanoverian kings owed their position as kings to the Whigs. They paid for their right to reign by the abandonment of the powers that had hitherto inhered in the monarch.
Charles Downer Hazen - The Long Nineteenth Century (1919)

Of course insights vary between fiction and non-fiction as these two quotes demonstrate. They are certainly not equivalent, but the dividing line can more diffuse than we usually assume. Factual information is an insight in itself, but even factual information ends up distilled and compacted into wider and more general insights. Lists of facts are not in themselves particularly useful.

For example even a cursory study of Operation Barbarossa could lead to the obvious insight that this was Hitler’s biggest mistake. Alternatively one might study Operation Barbarossa in enormous detail, extract from it a number of insights about Hitler, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s regime, the course of WWII and so on. Insights become wider and more nuanced.  

On the other hand fiction may give subtle insights about human behaviour, social mores and the power of language. In many cases fictionally-derived insights are cogently expressed reminders of familiar viewpoints. Such insights may be expressed so powerfully that we absorb them into what we are whereas factual information may slip into the background.

The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.
Charles Dickens - Bleak House (1853)

…not a man of refined conscience, or with any deep sense of the infinite issues belonging to everyday duties; not quite competent to his high offices; but incompetent gentlemen must live, and without private fortune it is difficult to see how they could all live genteely if they had nothing to do with education or government.
George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Another difference between fiction and non-fiction is that non-fiction tends to be comparatively recent and written from a modern perspective. Obviously a vast amount of modern fiction is written from a modern perspective too, yet a vast amount of readable fiction and even non-fiction was written decades or even centuries ago from perspectives which are no longer modern but still valid.

But vain men are fools as well as ignorant of themselves, and make this plain to all the world; for, not doubting their worth, they undertake honourable offices, and presently stand convicted of incapacity: they dress in fine clothes and put on fine airs and so on; they wish everybody to know of their good fortune; they talk about themselves, as if that were the way to honour.
Aristotle – The Nicomachean Ethics

This escape from modernity can provide interesting insights into our modern concerns and assumptions. Often older fiction reminds us of aspects of the human condition which have slipped into the background but do not change.

The beings closest to us, whether in love or hate, are often virtually our interpreters of the world, and some feather-headed gentleman or lady whom in passing we regret to take as legal tender for a human being, may be acting as a melancholy theory of life in the minds of those who live with them—like a piece of yellow and wavy glass that distorts form and makes color an affliction. Their trivial sentences, their petty standards, their low suspicions, their loveless ennui, may be making somebody else's life no better than a promenade through a pantheon of ugly idols.
George Eliot - Daniel Deronda (1876)

In addition, older fiction frequently reminds us of numerous economic, political and practical changes which have influenced the way we live. These tend to be much more compact insights than a work on social history is likely to provide.

Wishing to be polite, he entered, in spite of the artistic disgust he felt for all that zinc, coloured to imitate bronze, and having all the repulsive mendacious prettiness of spurious art. ‘Good morning, monsieur. Is Henri still at home?’ The manufacturer, a stout, sallow-looking man, drew himself straight amidst all his nosegay vases and cruets and statuettes. He had in his hand a new model of a thermometer, formed of a juggling girl who crouched and balanced the glass tube on her nose.
Emile Zola - The Masterpiece (1886)

To my mind the attraction of older fiction is that we see fictional scenarios through eyes which looked out on a world no longer ours. Our times are so intense, so suffused with manufactured drama that escaping from it every now and then is something of a necessity. If we don’t escape we can’t see what it is to escape.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Great Flushing



Brexit is certainly flushing out those with a somewhat attenuated hold on democracy. To the surprise of nobody, MP Phillip Lee's leap from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems has not been universally popular in the Lib Dem nest.

Former Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee's arrival in the Liberal Democrats has not been welcomed by everyone within the party.

Dr Lee's voting record showed he had abstained on a vote to legalise same-sex marriage and that marriage should be a matter for the church to reconcile.

He also voted for a "wrecking amendment" that attempted to stop the gay marriage bill, tabled by Tory MP Tim Loughton.

He also backed regressive policies such as screening immigrants for hepatitis before allowing them into the country.The move has sparked Jennie Rigg, who was chair of the Lib Dem LGBT+ group, to resign from her role and the party.

She wrote: "I thought the Lib Dems were not a single issue party. I thought we had a soul and principles.

"But apparently as long as you are on the right side on Brexit we'll take you. Well, I'm sorry, but no."


Weird people the Lib Dems. Imagine not welcoming a politically incorrect Tory reject. Jo Swinson seems to approve though.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Wordplay - Gauke



Gauke - verb; to distort esp politically; after David Gauke a UK politician

1. "Mr Gauke said he was prepared to put the national interest ahead of his own, showing his firm determination to gauke the term national interest."

2. "In order to make political capital Mr Corbyn has gauked his long-standing position on the EU."

3. "Mrs May had to resign after attempting to gauke the meaning of the word leave in her Brexit negotiations."

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Elective dictatorship and missing the point




Apparently John McDonnell is trying to scare us in a way which rather misses the point. With Brexit we are trying to get away from a dictatorship we can't elect at all.   

Friday, 30 August 2019

Brain food



From the BBC -

People who eat vegan or plant-based diets should ensure they are getting enough of a key, but little-known, brain nutrient, say experts.

Choline, which helps transfer signals between nerve cells, is highest in dairy foods and meat.

Nutritionist Emma Derbyshire told a BMJ journal that people not eating those foods may not get sufficient choline.



Strangely enough this claim about choline and its vital role in brain functioning came just after my comprehensive survey of McDonald’s customers. Perhaps comprehensive is a slight exaggeration but I did some people-watching over a moody coffee during a more or less compulsory holiday journey break.

As McDonald’s is famous for its beef burgers one would suppose its customers to be pretty advanced in the brain department. At least they ought to be more brainy than salad-munchers who read the Guardian for example. There were two main findings from this in-depth test.

Firstly there is no obvious reason to suppose MacDonald’s customers are more brainy than average. I prefer not to go into details here.

Secondly there may be some kind of correlation between choline intake and tattoos.

These are only tentative conclusions of course. More work is required but if I have anything to do with it the work will never be done. Ever.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

A Brexit undercurrent



source

There is an undercurrent here. We often see it when Donald Trump is attacked by his political opponents in the media - a horrible lurking suspicion that Trump might be smart and those who voted for him knew what they were doing. It still sours much of what Trump's opponents write and say - diminishes what they say and diminishes them.

We may be seeing the beginnings of something similar with Boris. He is certainly smart enough to imbibe a lesson or two from Trump's abrasive way of keeping his opponents off balance. Boris may yet stumble, fail or make too many compromises but the undercurrent is there.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

No revolution in Zimbabwe



Marian L. Tupy writing for CAPX reminds us about Zimbabwe, a horror story which never seems to get any better. Brexit seems trivial in comparison.

Why are we not seeing a revolution in Zimbabwe?

“We can’t go on like this.”

Thus began a newsletter written on August 19 by Eddie Cross, a member of Zimbabwe’s parliament and one of the founders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Cross is a trained economist and a very brave man. He remained in Zimbabwe throughout its 20 year-long descent from one of Africa’s most prosperous countries, into one of its poorest.

“Yesterday,” he noted in his missive, “the fuel queues were kilometres long, I slept in my car for five hours to get fuel. We have been experiencing 18 hours of load-shedding every day – on at 10 PM and off at 05.00 AM. Bread is unobtainable and when it is its over Z$8 per loaf – eight times what it was a year ago. Many prices are up by 10 times.”

And yet, I doubt that he is right. I think that if the last two decades show anything, it is that Zimbabwe can and will go on like this for some time to come.

The whole piece is well worth reading, especially when we recall this piece from the dear old Guardian back in 2013.

'Why a Robert Mugabe victory would be good for Zimbabwe'

President has proved critics at home and abroad wrong with bold policies now yielding economic freedom

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The curious incident




“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle - Silver Blaze (1892)


This is another non-technical post on climate change. Previous posts are here and here.

As so often in politics we should be aware of what the narrative does not say as well as what it does. There is an obvious hole in the climate narrative which is rarely spoken of because it has been made to seem naive even though it is not. This hole concerns what has been demonstrated and what has not. What unambiguous decades-long predictive skills have catastrophic climate change proponents actually demonstrated?

The obvious answer is – nothing. Arm-waving, propaganda, demonstrations, public displays of anguish and tame celebrities don’t count. Nothing has actually been demonstrated. Otherwise the whole climate debate would revolve around what would have been a scientifically stunning achievement. But it didn’t turn out that way and we know it didn’t turn out that way. Everyone knows it.

The missing demonstration is an unambiguous ability to predict a genuinely useful estimate of a key climate parameter such as global temperature up to 2050 and even beyond. Such an astounding achievement would have a globally recognised name and its leading figures would be at least as famous and highly regarded as Einstein, Darwin or Galileo. We would see references to it everywhere but we don’t because it isn’t there. The missing demonstration is still missing.

An obvious clue is provided by parallel work on weather forecasting. This is supposedly the naive comparison – naive because it absolutely has to be squelched. Suppose we ignore the squelching and ask the obvious question - for how many days into the future are weather forecasts reasonably accurate? Five days? Ten days? In which case how are climate forecasts even modestly accurate over decades?

This is not a technical question. It is a question about a public performance of predictive skill by catastrophic climate change proponents. What climate-related predictive skill has been publicly demonstrated? That’s the question and the obvious answer is – nothing has been publicly demonstrated. No predictive skill has been publicly demonstrated apart from the closely related activity of weather forecasting. That’s all there is.

Monday, 26 August 2019

And the problem is?



Force us to fund free TV licences and channels will close, BBC tells PM

The BBC warns it would be forced to close several channels - including BBC Two - if it had to fund free licences for all over-75s.

According to the corporation, it would be forced to close BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live and several local radio stations if it funded the policy.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Loud ladies




The other day Mrs H and I visited a cafe where six elderly ladies were seated round a table. They were amicably chatting away over tea and cakes but the level of noise they managed to create was astounding. I couldn’t do it.

Mrs H who notices these things said they kept raising their voices as they tried to talk over each other. All entirely amicable but crikey - the noise.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Holidays




Holidays are rum games aren’t they? Today we returned from our holiday in Suffolk, a most enjoyable week spent in a fairly isolated self-catering place on the edge of marshes not too far from Southwold.

All very pleasant but now we are back home, the routines of daily life have established themselves and Suffolk has already begun to fade from our memories. Yet we were still there early this morning. If our quick-fade holiday experience is common then why do we go on holiday at all? We are no longer escaping from a life down the pit or from the dark satanic mills. 

Yet it still seems obvious enough why we go on holiday even though in our case we are retired and life is one long holiday. We escape from familiar routines explore new places and so on. Holidays are definitely pleasant interludes but - hang on there is somebody at the door...

...Only a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Haven’t seen them for a while – told them we are still unpacking which is fairly true. Where were we?

I know - holidays. What do we escape from when we go on holiday? Obvious enough when we are working I imagine – we are still escaping from work even if we no longer fill our days with toil and drudgery. What else? I’m not sure. It feels like one of those highly familiar social experiences with its highly familiar language which doesn’t quite apply to the modern world.

Escaping from the daily grind of work – that’s still easy enough to understand but why do we carry on doing it when we retire? Perhaps holidays give us a sense of freedom - a freedom we cannot really attain but must believe in. Discarded responsibilities which we cannot really discard but for a week or so we can pretend.

I wonder if Jehovah’s Witnesses go on holiday?

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Monday, 19 August 2019

News plus v News minus



As we know this kind of thing crops up all the time but a few days ago we had another interesting pair of news items around a story which has rumbled on.

Firstly the BBC

Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.

Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting.

President Trump earlier tweeted it would show "great weakness" if the pair were allowed entry.

Ms Omar described Israel's move as "an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation".


Secondly the amusing satirical site Babylon Bee

Women Who Don't Believe Israel Has Right To Exist Not Sure Why They Got Banned From Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar reported Thursday they were bewildered that they got banned from Israel, a country they seem to believe shouldn't exist at all.

"It's racism," said Omar in a press conference. "It's all due to racism. Well, that and a Jewish conspiracy. The Jews are behind this, for sure." (The evidence indicates she's correct on this assertion, a first for her accusations against Jews).

Tlaib agreed, saying she wanted to ask Jews about the Holocaust so she could relax and get a "calming feeling" while she was there.

"It just doesn't make much sense for this country that shouldn't even exist to ban us," she said. "What have we ever said against them, besides suggesting they are terrorists who deserve to be pushed into the sea?"

For those who are already familiar with the story, the Babylon Bee's satirical piece added something important, something the BBC missed out even though this is supposedly the serious news site and Babylon Bee isn't. That something is the extremely low possibility of the visit being constructive and the correspondingly high probability that the visit was not intended to be constructive.

The BBC isn't being inaccurate here because it offers hints about the futility of the visit. Yet in an important sense it is being inaccurate because the futility is perfectly obvious and may as well be admitted. Without such an admission the story is incomplete. 

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Hols



It's holiday time again so limited blogging. Well it was either that or cut the hedge.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Visionary fascism



A speculative thought this, but modern political life seems to have too much feet-off-the-ground vision and not enough pragmatic realism. The vision thing as George H W Bush called it.

Bush's sound bite where he refers to the issue of overarching purpose as "the vision thing" has become a metonym applied to other political figures accused of similar difficulties. 

It has become ever more apparent that modern political aspirants really do need the vision thing if they are to inspire those who find analysis tiresome. Hysterical reactions to Brexit and Trump are new clues to the visionary aspects of modern progressive politics. Visions which become compulsory or coercive long before they are tested by reality. Yes there is something in the air but it certainly isn’t a passion for democracy.

An earlier post titled Soft fascism was written in 2014 - over five years ago. Seems a long time and things have moved on. Maybe the visionary nature of fascism did not fade away in 1945.

There can be no conception of the State which is not fundamentally a conception of life: philosophy or intuition, system of ideas evolving within the framework of logic or concentrated in a vision or a faith, but always, at least potentially, an organic conception of the world.

The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people. 

Benito Mussolini - The Doctrine Of Fascism (1932)

The Fascist conception of the State certainly does not lie at the far right of any political spectrum we see today. It is a key part of the underlying ethos of modern progressive politics. On the left if we wish to stay with the left-right paradigm. It is certainly moulded into the ethos of the EU.

We could take this further because there is a visionary aspect to progressive politics, an emotional focus on values, a vision which interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people where people is everyone - the global population. Yet the word fascism has been so overused as a term of abuse that it isn’t easy to make political use of it. To my mind this language corruption has probably come about because of the strong links between fascism and socialism. Mussolini was a socialist and seems to have regarded himself as such until the day he died.

But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State. 

Benito Mussolini - The Doctrine Of Fascism (1932)

Yet if socialism was to survive after WWII then the link with fascism had to be broken beyond repair. Fascism had to become politically isolated from socialism, a lurking horror on the far side of the supposed left-right spectrum. Firmly located within the old enemy – the capitalists and the bourgeoisie. As we know this tactic has been somewhat but not entirely successful.

Suppose we avoid defining fascism too tightly and try to mitigate the diffuse nature of the term while retaining some of its political value. Aspects of fascism as a political movement are still relevant today, still alive and kicking within the visionary nature of progressive politics. In its day fascism was extremely popular and its appeal did not simply vanish at the end of WWII.

In rejecting democracy Fascism rejects the absurd conventional lie of political equalitarianism, the habit of collective irresponsibility, the myth of felicity and indefinite progress. But if democracy be understood as meaning a regime in which the masses are not driven back to the margin of the State, and then the writer of these pages has already defined Fascism as an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy.

Benito Mussolini - The Doctrine Of Fascism (1932)

Here is the core of modern progressive politics in Mussolini’s telling phrase. Modern progressives, socialists and environmentalists loudly reject what they quite obviously see as the habit of collective irresponsibility. Naturally, because this is politics, they reserve to themselves the right to define what is irresponsible and what is not, just as Mussolini did. What is the EU but an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy? One of its guiding lights is one of Mussolini's guiding lights - to eliminate the habit of collective irresponsibility.

This is the key argument between those who have settled for warts and all democracy and those who think visionary elites mean what they say and even understand what they say. The fight against fascism goes on.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

MPs - mostly mad



A few quotes from Sky should help make the point.

Jeremy Corbyn told to drop 'ego' as temporary PM plan rejected

The Lib Dems' Jo Swinson says the Labour leader knows "in his heart of hearts" he can't command a majority in the Commons...

The Labour leader has written to the leaders of other political parties and senior backbenchers from across parliament to set out his proposals to stop the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement in 77 days' time...

Ms Swinson, who leads 14 MPs in the House of Commons, said: "Instead of doing everything in his power to stop us from crashing out, he is demanding the keys to Number 10 as a pre-condition for a vote of no confidence...

Anna Soubry, the leader of The Independent Group for Change, complained she did not receive the letter from Mr Corbyn as she attacked his preference for a general election over a second EU referendum...

Labour's shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey claimed it was "constitutionally right" that Mr Corbyn should seek to lead a temporary government, which would not attempt to put in place the party's favoured policies.

Politics - it attracts the wrong people but we've known that for decades. Brexit just hammers home the message and maybe that could be one of its major benefits.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Street Dance




What struck me most about this old film clip is how the chap in the topper strolls between the dancers and plonks himself at the front of the audience.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A little pause




Sometimes in the process of waking there is a little pause — sleep has gone, but coherent thought has not begun. It is a curious half-void, a glimpse of aphasia; and although the person experiencing it may not know for that instant his own name or age or sex, he may be acutely conscious of depression or elation. It is the moment, as we say, before we “remember”.

Booth Tarkington - The Turmoil (1915)

Proust was also interested in those preliminary moments where reality assembles itself in our waking brains. What day is it? What time is it? What am I doing today? A cascade of questions answered with little in the way of conscious effort. It raises a number of wider questions too. For example – do we really wake up? It’s an interesting question in a world where being woke is the cool thing to be.

Obviously we do wake up in a conventional sense, but we are never fully aware of our surroundings because that wouldn’t make sense either. We have to focus and in so doing we have to ignore extraneous reality. As far as extraneous reality is concerned we don’t need to wake up so perhaps we are only selectively awake.

Imagine a dull meeting on a warm day, a meeting where your personal concerns are only peripheral. You are merely one of the regulars. By mid afternoon your attention has flagged to such a degree that you no longer hear what is being said. You are not actually asleep but in a sense you are asleep in that you are only imperfectly conscious of your immediate physical surroundings. In other words you are imperfectly conscious.

We see this in a less somnolent sense when people cannot pay attention to what is being said, as if they are not fully awake. In these cases we usually say they do not understand or are not interested in what is being said. In some cases that may be so but in others it doesn’t make sense because what is being said is easy to understand.

It is as if we can simply switch off when what we hear is not to our liking. Switching off – an old and perfectly familiar idea. As if the brain selectively falls asleep. Or maybe we could reverse that. Maybe we never really wake up but we are able to wake up selectively to tackle things of real importance.

We may experience this after driving to work, something we do so often and so regularly that it becomes automatic and when we get to work we cannot recall the journey at all. Yet we carried out a range of complex physical and visual functions which must be performed with great accuracy and timing.

Maybe in a world dominated by routines we do not need to be fully awake all the time. To sleepwalk through most of the day would be a more efficient use of our brains compared to constant wakeful observation. For example, Jeremy Corbyn never seems to be fully awake and as far as we can tell Caroline Lucas is not entirely conscious of the real world.

Meanwhile –

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, 12 August 2019

Caroline’s ist list




From the BBC we have more about Caroline Lucas and her foot in mouth Brexit suggestion.

A Green Party MP has been criticised after suggesting an all-women "emergency cabinet" could meet to try to stop a no-deal Brexit.

Writing in the Guardian, Caroline Lucas said the cross-party group, formed of 10 female politicians, could "bring a different perspective".

Ms Lucas said the cabinet could organise another EU referendum if the PM is defeated in a no-confidence vote.

But cabinet minister Liz Truss criticised the plan as sexist.

Ms Lucas - a former leader of the Green Party - has also apologised after receiving criticism for only inviting white women to sit on her proposed group.


How many ists is that? I make it three – sexist, racist and fascist but which is the most important?

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Tar Sands Campaign





Interesting as a reminder of just how large and well-funded the climate game is. As pointed out in the video, it is much larger and much more lavishly funded than Canada's political parties.  

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Hols



Blogging has been light recently because of complicated holiday arrangements. We enjoy our holidays but it is surprising how tiring they can be, especially the travelling. All over now though, so we can relax at home...

...hang on that's not how it's supposed to work.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Let them eat cake





GWPF has a piece on German proposals to increase VAT on meat.

Meat is relatively cheap for consumers in Germany. But that could all be about to change as lawmakers from across the political spectrum back proposals aimed at climate protection and animal welfare.

German politicians from the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens on Wednesday proposed raising the value added tax (VAT) on meat to the standard rate of 19%. Currently, meat is taxed at a reduced rate of 7%.

“I am in favor of abolishing the VAT reduction for meat and earmarking it for more animal welfare,” said Friedrich Ostendorf, agricultural policy spokesperson for the Greens.

His SPD counterpart Rainer Spieging added that: “a meat tax, such as increasing the VAT to 19%, could be a way forward.”


Loons never stop do they? We eat very little meat so I don't really have a meaty axe to grind here, but raising taxes for loopy reasons is not what governments should do. Of course this is what they do all the time and ultimately voters must take a large share of the  blame. Don't elect loons is the core message here. But we do.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

A flat day




It’s been a strangely flat day today. Nothing remarkable happened but we somehow filled it up with lots of bits and pieces which is unusual for us – we usually find something more to do even if we merely tootle off into Derbyshire for a coffee.

First we had the new curtains - which we like but curtains are curtains and it isn’t easy to be excited about changing them. Then a few minor shopping jobs, a trip to the bank then a visit to the cemetery to put flowers on our daughter’s grave. She would have been 42 today but apart from the flowers and moments of reflection there isn’t much one can do with such an occasion.

After that it was back home for an afternoon of reading and pottering about. The flatness wasn’t entirely our daughter’s birthday though. The world has become a little too crazy and as Kingsley Amis once noted, madness is a desert. It is essentially uninteresting because it doesn’t make sense and we need things to offer at least the possibility of making sense if they are to keep our interest alive.

In this sense, creeping madness is turning the public arena into a desert. Only crazy people and charlatans live there while the rest of us watch from the sidelines and scratch our heads. Eventually we’ll turn our backs on it as many do already and that will certainly cause problems.

Monday, 5 August 2019

How much is that per gram?




A PENSIONER went to hospital for a routine operation - and ended up circumcised in an NHS blunder.

Terry Brazier, 70, has now been handed £20,000 compensation after Leicester Royal Infirmary mixed up his notes.


From the comments

To be honest for £20k they can circumcise me if they want

Hiding in plain sight




Friday, 2 August 2019

Magic



Keith Thomas' book Religion and the Decline of Magic is a long and very detailed history of magic in England from about 1500 to 1700. It leaves the reader with a number of interesting perspectives - for example the essentially derivative nature of magic.

The rural magicians of Tudor England did not invent their own charms: they inherited them from the medieval Church, and their formulae and rituals were largely derivative products of centuries of Catholic teaching.

Yet magic, divination and astrology were not irrational within the conceptual frameworks of the time. Given an Aristotelian and Ptolemaic outlook, magical thinking could be internally consistent, especially as it had its professional practitioners.

It would be tempting to explain this long survival of magical practices by pointing out that they helped to provide many professional wizards with a respectable livelihood. The example of the legal profession is a reminder that it is always possible for a substantial social group to support itself by proffering solutions to problems which they themselves have helped to manufacture.

Magical thinking was not ousted by science; but was slowly rendered untenable by perspectives which had changed. Inventions such as the compass, the telescope and the microscope helped usher in perspectives where magical ideas were out of date, unfashionable and ultimately risible. Over time it became apparent that there were better solutions.

After the Fire of London many towns banned or re-banned thatched roofs and wooden buildings, and there was a steady increase in the use of brick. None of these measures eliminated the risk of fire or made it very much easier to control. But they represented an advance on the meagre fire-fighting equipment of most Tudor municipalities, and they reflected faith in the ultimate possibility of a technical solution.

Magic filled conceptual gaps but was not always superseded merely because those gaps had been filled with more plausible thinking. As Thomas says, William Harvey’s work on the circulation of the blood did not immediately lead to new or more effective medical treatments. They came later. Yet even without understanding the root cause of a disease it became possible to adopt certain practical precautions.

Few of the innumerable writers who regarded plague as a punishment for sin took a completely fatalist position. They all began by urging their readers to repent, but most of them ended by advising them to practise better hygiene, to employ suitable medicine, and, failing all else, to run away.

It is an interesting book and well worth reading as a background to something we may think we have discarded.

Have we discarded magic? What about our own times? It seems fairly obvious that we still have our magical modes of thought and are still presented with magical perspectives. The cinema is full of magic where natural law and even logic are crudely suspended. Spiderman does not use a version of the spiders’ web, he uses magic. What he does is physically and biologically impossible.

One might even suggest that modern political life often seems to rely on a naive faith in arcane knowledge and magical charms such as equality and sustainability. Magical spells such as racism are used against those who lack faith in the wizards and witches of political correctness. Slightly tongue in cheek perhaps but we still fill gaps in our knowledge and understanding with magical leaps of faith.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The wisdom of Alexandria





But what is the point when we only have twelve years left? Unfortunately there is more -

   

Monday, 29 July 2019

Crap jobs




The other day found us tootling along Derbyshire roads with the top down on a lovely sunny day. Lovely for us but not necessarily for those who had to work outside in the heat and the full glare of the sun.

We passed one of those temporary traffic control systems where two guys have to hold up STOP GO boards. Both wore full hi-vis overalls so it must have been a sweltering job. If that had been my job I’d have put a great deal of effort into moving on. In fact I’d have put a great deal of effort into avoiding such a job in the first place.

It’s an element of career ambition. Maybe it isn’t easy to say how important it is generally but from my perspective it is very important. The notion of a fulfilling career is probably a fantasy for most of us - avoiding the crap jobs will generally do.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Thick as a post




Just before bunging this post onto the interweb I realised it’s my 3000th post. Not a huge number by blogging standards but when I began I didn’t expect – well I don’t quite know what I didn’t expect. Here it is anyway.

There is a vital sense in which we need eccentrics, extremists and perhaps even criminals. From the harmless nutter to the politically correct loon to the megalomaniac, we need them as boundary posts. They indicate where sanity comes to an end and insanity begins. They are the boundary posts put there by bitter experience to indicate where we must not go. It’s where the expression thick as a post comes from. Actually it isn’t, but perhaps it ought to be.

The trouble is we also need similar boundary posts for a completely different reason. These boundary posts indicate where we have gone wrong and how we should change our boundaries in the future. Spotting the difference between them can be a problem.

For example, Jeremy Corbyn is an obvious boundary post of the don’t go there type. An intransigent extremist who over more than three decades has contributed little of political, economic or moral value to any public debate. An easy boundary post to spot one would think but for many voters apparently not.

An example from the US could be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who if given the opportunity could do a great deal of harm to the US. Ursula von der Leyen seems to radiate post-like qualities and of course the EU itself is an enormous institutional post. Our leaders ignored that one on our behalf.

The problem of boundary posts is an old one, but current difficulties seem to stem from our history since WW2. One might suppose that WW2 and communism left us with a number of massive boundary posts in Hitler, Stalin, Mao and co. Compared to that lot Al Capone was a cuddly teddy bear of a businessman.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao left us with huge clues about the boundaries of political endeavour. Vast clues only a raving lunatic could miss. Unfortunately the posts have been moved and all we are really left with today is Hitler because numerous intellectuals, journalists, politicians and activists choose not to see the others.

The Guardian is an institutional boundary post, as is the BBC, both showing us how the upper middle class pulls up the social ladder to minimise social mobility. This is why we have comprehensive schools – the grammar school educational ladder was pulled up.

The Daily Mail is yet another institutional boundary post, warning us that tits, bums and celebrities aren’t everything. The Pope is another post as is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Unfortunately ours is also the age of fake boundaries such as identity politics fake racism, fake sexism and the wider problem of numerous fake prejudices. These boundary posts show us where free speech is being abused and where language itself is abused.

Climate change gives us a huge boundary post to indicate where science is corrupted by politics if we are foolish enough to cross over to the mad world of invented physical phenomena. As with all such problems, rational argument goes nowhere. Ignore the boundary post, cross the boundary and reason no longer functions.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The GaryBox




Hooray, BritBox is coming to the UK.

BritBox: ITV and BBC set out plans for new streaming service

Shows like Love Island, Gavin & Stacey, Gentleman Jack and Broadchurch will be on ITV and the BBC's streaming service BritBox when it launches this year.

The broadcasters are joining forces to set up the subscription service in the UK as a rival to the likes of Netflix.

It will cost £5.99 per month in HD, launching between October and the end of December.

New programmes will also be made specially for BritBox, with the first arriving next year.


Not the same thing technically, but here’s another idea. How about a GaryBox for the BBC? This would be a simple inexpensive box of tricks sitting between the aerial or satellite dish and the TV. On a particular well-publicised date BBC terrestrial and satellite transmissions would be scrambled but the GaryBox would unscramble them for viewers who have paid a fee.

To make the GaryBox work, BBC viewers without an internet connection would buy time-limited cards which slot into the GaryBox, allowing them to watch all BBC output, including of course Gary Lineker on Match of the Day. For those with an internet connection the GaryBox would be updated via an internet account and Direct Debit. That would be the majority of viewers, making the GaryBox easy to operate.

The GaryBox would do away with the TV licence and allow people who don’t watch the BBC to watch TV without worrying about TV licence bullying. I know from personal experience that there are people who don’t watch BBC but pay for a licence to avoid any possibility of licence bullying but that’s the Beeb for you. Gary must be paid.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Pulling up the ladder




There is much to be said for the idea that pulling up the social ladder lies at the core of all political movements and systems. This is why socialism is so middle class, why covert stifling of social mobility seems so important to both socialism and the many flavours of left wing politics.

Entangled with this is the selective control of information. In other words there is also a fundamental difference between those who value comprehensive explanations and those who for social and political reasons prefer partial explanations. Partial explanations are easier to understand and promote, easier to mould into ladder-pulling slogans.

There is a vastly important type of partial explanation which offers a sense of moral strength while pulling up the social ladder. In these cases the whole ladder-pulling game is viewed from a standpoint of moral strength, Everything is done for the common good, especially for those at the bottom of the social pile.

But of course the moral standpoint is spurious because what is created is dependency and dependency is all that is left once the ladder has been pulled up.

Monday, 22 July 2019

High in the water



Sky has this story about a dodgy Chinese swimmer

Sky Views: Podium protest against China's 'poster boy' shames swimming's governing body

There were several contenders for standout moment of the swimming world championships in South Korea this weekend.

Not least, Adam Peaty producing possibly the finest performance by a British swimmer in history, becoming the first person to break 57 seconds for 100m breaststroke.

But it was the image of Australian Mack Horton refusing to share the podium with China's poster boy Sun Yang that will endure.

The terms "drugs cheat," "dirty," and "doper" are already being attached to Sun Yang by his rivals before he has been convicted of anything, over and above a warning relating to the latest scandal.

But that is the environment FINA has created with its disgraceful approach to doping control and toothless punishments of drugs cheats.

The piece lists the evidence against Sun which, one might think, should be enough to have him barred from competitive swimming. Apparently not.

In other news, Chinese geneticists have a new breed of drug-free swimmers in the pipeline. With huge feet, webbed hands and a breathing hole in the back of their heads these super-athletes are expected to consign the whole sorry drugs mess to sporting history.  

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Independently batty



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Fantasies and futures




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Mere speculation




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

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

Crashing Pelosi's Party



Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Time running out - again



source

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

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

Monday, 15 July 2019

Weird




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


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

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Sack time



Theresa May's final Number 10 interview

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

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


Maybe she kept them up too late.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The very idea





From a 1952 copy of Punch. Intended as a joke of course - a possibility that screen-based teaching could take over the classroom. The very idea.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Alexa - I said hoarse not horse




From the BBC

People will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices, under a partnership with the NHS, the government has announced.

From this week, the voice-assisted technology is automatically searching the official NHS website when UK users ask for health-related advice.

The government in England said it could reduce demand on the NHS.


What if such a system actually does reduce demand? Hard to imagine because even if it does reduce demand the statistics may not show it for one reason or another.       

Monday, 8 July 2019

Money talks





An £845,000 project has been launched in eight areas of Derby to encourage parents to talk to their children - at mealtimes, during play and through everyday conversations.

What are they supposed to talk about though? Maybe that comes later.