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


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 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


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 –


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


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


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.