Thursday, 31 December 2020
Wednesday, 30 December 2020
Almost too obvious
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday.
A further 20 million people in England will join the toughest tier of Covid restrictions from Thursday.
Dork of the Year 2020
Not quite as inevitable as some years, but after much anguished deliberation the Dork of the Year (DotY) committee has settled on the overall winner for 2020 -
A fine performance I’m sure everyone will agree. In the end it wasn't a difficult decision. There were no fisticuffs or duels in any of the DotY committee meetings. Poor Harry was a highly regarded man with nothing whatever to prove until he went full woke and showed us how shallow it all was. Truly a Dork’s Dork.
However, 2020 has been an excellent year for Qualifying Dorks and the committee felt it could not set aside the extraordinary claims of Professor Neil Ferguson . We felt obliged to award Professor Ferguson an honorary 700% of the committee vote in recognition of his sterling work in the field of epidemiological models.
Many thanks to all those who put forward candidates. As a result, honourable mentions also go to the following, but in reality any of them could have won –
Whitty & Vallance, that well known double act
Prime Minister Carrie Symonds
Boris Johnson MP *
The Vicar of Dibley
Tuesday, 29 December 2020
Just sniff it
North Korea is ramping up COVID-19 disease control efforts ahead of the Eighth Party Congress that is scheduled to be held in January, Daily NK has learned...
The heads of inminban, North Korea’s lowest administrative unit, are keeping close tabs on hygiene among the households they watch over. In practice, this means that inminban heads are checking that people are abiding by quarantine rules and sanitizing their houses and hands four times a day.
Locals have reportedly been ordered to make their antiseptic solution from the extract provided by their inminban. One source said that the head of a local inminban told residents under her charge to boil water with half a spoon of salt for two hours if they are running low on antiseptic solution.
Inspectors also urged households to add garlic concentrate to their side dishes every day or even to just “sniff it” to prevent infection. They are spreading other unverified disease control information as well, including the claim that “a nation that eats soybean bean paste and kimchi can get out from under this infectious disease.”
Monday, 28 December 2020
A tedious aspect of mainstream media is the constant whining. As if a persistent whine is used as an easy substitute for rational argument. Children do this as we know. Lacking the language skills of adults, they may nevertheless try to persuade adults by protracted whining over some slight defect in their world. The aim is to wear down adult resistance.
Over recent decades the media have adopted the whine as a way to wear down rational discourse. The motive may well be a simple one – whining is cheaper and easier to present than considered analysis. Huge numbers of supposedly educated adults now appear to accept the constant media whine as a legitimate tool of public discourse.
It’s an obvious, slightly superficial yet unsettling conclusion this one. A decidedly unhealthy change in the tone of public debate. Changing the whine habit back into something more analytical and constructive seems to be virtually impossible. It almost seems trite to push it as akin to arguing with children, but when we consider how infantile mainstream media can be – then it doesn’t seem trite.
A man pretends to be a woman and we are expected to join in the game or there will be tantrums or worse.
A celebrity pretends to know that the weather will get much worse unless we stop driving cars. Again we are expected to join in the game and again there will be tantrums or worse if we don’t.
An academic pretends to know that white people have some kind of ineradicable racial privilege. Yet again we are expected to join in the game and yet again there will be tantrums or worse if we don’t.
Once a culture sinks into infantile substitutes for adult discourse there appears to be no way back. Apart from a major shock perhaps, a grow up or die kind of shock. I’m convinced that one aspect of Brexit is simply an urge to find some way of growing up culturally before it is too late, some way to stem that constant whine.
Sunday, 27 December 2020
Casting long shadows
Saturday, 26 December 2020
Try reading this one out loud
This week, a woman was strolling in my street, walking in circles and speaking out loud to herself. People were looking at her awkwardly, but she didn’t particularly mind, and continued walking vigorously and speaking.
Yes, that woman was me.
Like many of us, I talk to myself out loud, though I’m a little unusual in that I often do it in public spaces. Whenever I want to figure out an issue, develop an idea or memorise a text, I turn to this odd work routine. While it’s definitely earned me a reputation in my neighbourhood, it’s also improved my thinking and speaking skills immensely. Speaking out loud is not only a medium of communication, but a technology of thinking: it encourages the formation and processing of thoughts.
Thursday, 24 December 2020
They simply were not worth anyone’s pay anywhere
A longish series of quotes from Hugh Walpole’s novel The Joyful Delaneys. All the main characters might be described as upper middle class with even some fragile links to the aristocracy, but all are unable to earn their keep in a modern meritocracy. A few possessions, inadequate rents or dwindling investments are all they have. There is a somewhat contrived happy ending, but even here we are left with an impression that the future of the world is not theirs.
It left this reader with a feeling that we are going the same way but on a much grander scale. Millions of middle class incompetents with nothing to offer a competitive world unless they find a secure niche under the wing of government patronage. Now their incompetence is valued but the day may come when it is not.
He drew to the fire the old armchair with the tear in the right arm that always greatly distressed him because he thought that it must distress the chair who had been for so long a good and faithful friend to him.
He said ‘the fire,’ but that was a title by courtesy, for the girl who had lit it an hour and a half ago had used the coal extravagantly, and now, when there were but embers and a piece of vexed-looking charred stick, he did not wish to put on more coal because in that case his allowance for the day would soon be exhausted. So he drew his dressing-gown about him and, smiling at one winking coal as though it were his best friend, stretched out his legs and read his paper…
At length in his blue suit with the dark tie and grey gloves and cane with the ivory head of a dog, and his soft black hat, he was ready to venture…
Although it was half-past three in the afternoon there was still a faint sun-stained fog about. He liked that sun-stained fog almost beyond any other weather that London provided, and it seemed especially kindly and reassuring now, for London had been so very dark of late…
…here is the life of Half Moon Street on any afternoon in the week. ‘On tiptoe for flight,’ you might imitate Mr. Keats by calling it, for it will not remain as it is much longer. There is ghostly scaffolding about the houses and the smoky-dusty-carpet-geranium-smelling-iron-bedstead-basement-toastmaking-damp-washing period is nearly over and ended…
You might fancy that you caught the echo of Sam Weller’s ghostly greeting or the ponderous dogmatism of Samuel Johnson, Mrs. Gamp’s husky endearments, the shrill cry, like a call from the battlements, of King James’ apprentice, the ghostly song of Piers Plowman himself finding this soil still stream-watered. Time marches on, and yet there is no Time here…
The Delaneys were happy, healthy, strong, altogether most excellent people, but not Fred nor Bullock nor Kitty had ever been trained to compete with the present incredibly efficient workers of the world. They simply were not worth anyone’s pay anywhere.
Hugh Walpole - The Joyful Delaneys (1938)
Merry Christmas everyone and many thanks to all who visit this little blog.
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
SARS-CoV-2 UK variant: Does it matter?
Tuesday, 22 December 2020
I’m trying to write a topical pantomime loosely based on Aladdin. Instead of the magic lamp we have a magic vial containing Vax the genie who pops out when the vial is rubbed and releases people from house arrest. He doesn’t do anything else though.
Characters so far are Fergie, Halfcock, Princess Nut Nut, Bozza the clown and one or two others. Much work to be done, but here is an incomplete duet between Fergie and Bozza which may sound familiar.
There's a hole in my model
Dear Bozza, dear Bozza
There's a hole in my model
Dear Bozza, a hole
Well fix it dear Fergie
Dear Fergie, dear Fergie
Well fix it dear Fergie
Dear Fergie, fix it!
With what shall I fix it
Dear Bozza, dear Bozza
With what shall I fix it
Dear Bozza, with what?
With numbers dear Fergie
Dear Fergie, dear Fergie
With numbers dear Fergie
Dear Fergie, with numbers!
But the numbers are too small
Dear Bozza, dear Bozza
But the numbers are too small
Dear Bozza, too small
Well fudge them dear Fergie
Dear Fergie, dear Fergie
Well fudge them dear Fergie
Dear Fergie, fudge them!
Monday, 21 December 2020
Imagine a meeting where a new procedure is being finalised. Doesn’t matter what it is, but it is a new procedure within a bureaucracy. There are people in the meeting who insist on adding checks and balances which sound reasonable but they will have a number of practical drawbacks. The procedure will inevitably be more cumbersome than it need be.
However, the unmodified procedure would improve efficiency in a number of areas with the potential for a reduction in the workload of those in the meeting. Naturally enough, the procedure does not remain unmodified, efficiencies are not achieved and workloads are not reduced.
We wouldn’t usually describe as rogues the people who engage in this kind of behaviour, yet in an important sense they are taking something which doesn’t belong to them. Money could have been saved, so in effect they are taking money they no longer earn. There are other costs too, depending on what the procedure was. Petty rogues do make a difference in all kinds of ways.
Or the rude and unhelpful receptionist who runs the front desk to suit herself and not the people she supposedly serves. Again she is in a sense taking something which doesn’t belong to her – the time of other people. A minute here, a minute there. She also increases the burdens of daily life instead of taking them away where she can.
The nurse who trundles along at her own pace, chats with others at the desk and forgets things she could easily remember. Again she is in a sense taking something which doesn’t belong to her – payment for work she isn’t doing. Here again she increases the burdens of hospital life instead of taking away the burdens of ill health.
A lavishly paid TV presenter presents news items in such a way that they are clearly misleading and clearly do not accurately represent even the basic outline of what is going on. Yet again he is taking something which doesn’t belong to him – the ability of viewers to make sense of their own world. The time viewers waste in being misinformed could be added to that.
A well paid, well qualified and ambitious scientist presents the science behind topical news items in a politically convenient but misleading way. He does not accurately represent the uncertainties, caveats and risks inherent in what is going on. Yet again he is taking something which doesn’t belong to him – the ability of others to judge risk in their own world. The costs of mitigating exaggerated risks must be added to that.
The fault is partly ours of course. We have a powerful tendency to accept things as they are, adapt and move on because there is just too much of it. Too many petty rogues taking what doesn’t belong to them.
Sunday, 20 December 2020
Creative v Destructive
A bad man, no, for she was wise enough in her own generation to know that bad men and women do not exist. Only we are destructive or creative; in greater or lesser degree there is always that distinction. Creative or destructive of course only, for certain, at the moment of contact; but that which we are frequently we become finally.
Hugh Walpole - The Joyful Delaneys (1938)
A quote worth filing away in my view - it can take us away from good and bad into more interesting territory.
For example, in the last UK general election, millions of people voted for a Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose political career has been notably destructive. A man whose political ethos has a history of being unforgivably destructive in terms of human life, freedom and tolerance. It is still worth dwelling on this and what it implies for our chances of staving off further national decline.
Woke culture and woke political agendas are essentially destructive too. Destructive trends aimed at language, free speech, education, personal responsibility, meaningful democracy, human relationships, the arts, science and the developed world generally. There is nothing creative here.
Following this approach we could assess the creativity or destructiveness of Boris Johnson and his government via three major criteria.
- Green politics and energy policy – destructive.
- The coronavirus debacle – destructive.
- Brexit – potentially creative.
Saturday, 19 December 2020
Could be useful
The planned relaxation of Covid rules for Christmas has been scrapped for large parts of south-east England and cut to just Christmas Day for the rest of England, Scotland and Wales.
From midnight, a new tier four will be introduced in areas including London, Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire.
Elsewhere in England, Scotland and Wales, relaxed indoor mixing rules are cut from five days to Christmas Day...
The modern world in two sentences
Now I think there are two unforgivable things (there are probably many more, but here at least are two!). One is to think that you are unique when you are unhappy, the other is to burden other people with that same unhappiness.
Hugh Walpole - John Cornelius (1937)
Friday, 18 December 2020
When relevance becomes confirmation
'That is so. But your question, Anstey, exhibits the difference between the legal and the scientific outlook. The lawyer's investigations tend to proceed along the line of information wanted: the scientists tend to proceed along the line of information available. The business of the man of science is impartially to acquire all the knowledge that is obtainable; the lawyer tends to concern himself only with that which is material to the issue.'
R. Austin Freeman - The Cat's Eye (1923)
It’s an interesting quote this – yet another angle on what we already know. The legal approach of eliciting the line of information wanted is one reason why both bureaucracies and legislatures are so poor when it comes to gathering objectively relevant information. That which is material to the issue depends on whatever the issue is presumed to be. Everything else is screened out.
Today we might call it confirmation bias but we tend to apply it to individuals rather than government. Somehow we expect governments to be pragmatic behind the façade. Yet this is where the real damage is done – behind the government façade where relevance becomes confirmation and disconfirmation is irrelevant.
Objectivity is lost and some degree of policy failure becomes inevitable. Yet failure doesn’t always matter to those responsible because still the legal approach is followed – defend or deny failure by sticking to the line of information wanted.
Carstairs - how do we wriggle out of this one?
The usual approach Minister – stick to the official line.
There is no way round this endemic weakness as legislatures are rarely designed to attract people engaged in making something work in the real world. This requires pragmatic experience rarely found in those who embark on a political or bureaucratic career early in life. What we get from these people is the line of information wanted and it doesn’t work. The real world cannot be made to work merely by throwing words at it, however well crafted.
Even where objectivity is supposedly valued there are familiar problems. Science, engineering and construction don’t mix well with government bureaucracy for example. The legalistic approach subverts technical relevance and attracts ambition rather than competence. Again and again the line of information wanted supplants the line of information available wherever the greasy pole and prestige are career drivers. Policy-driven evidence usurps evidence-driven policy.
There is a similar problem with voters who lack experience of the real world. This level of experience is not acquired by the age of eighteen. The voting age is clearly far too low. The minimum age for MPs is clearly far too low. Take Jeremy Corbyn for example. He hasn’t mastered the role at 71.
“Hands Off Our Stunt” Says Stunt Rag
The Tory minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has come under fire for accusing Unicef of a “political stunt” after the UN agency stepped in to help feed deprived children in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Commons leader hit out at Unicef, which is responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide, after it launched its first domestic emergency response in the UK in its more than 70-year history.
As we know, a cornerstone of woke politics favoured by the Grauniad has to be the art of the stunt. It could almost be described as a three-legged stool. Mendacity, virtue-signalling and stunts being the three legs. Kick one away and where are they?
Thursday, 17 December 2020
Green Jobs Taskforce
|How about a Green Jobs Moot Hall?|
To ensure we have the skilled workforce to deliver net zero and our Ten Point Plan, we have launched the Green Jobs Taskforce, working in partnership with business, skills providers and unions, to help us develop plans for new long-term good quality, green jobs by 2030 and advise what support is needed for people in transitioning industries.
Wednesday, 16 December 2020
Tuesday, 15 December 2020
Imagine a fantasy world in the not too distant future which is divided into three social classes – Upper, Lower and Tech.
To this add a second fantasy where everything is recycled.
A third fantasy is where all energy is sustainable.
Adjust the whole fantasy to make almost all Lowers disappear.
This could give us a world of, say about half a billion people or less. It would consist of Uppers with Techs to keep things going and a few Lowers for a certain amount of inevitable drudgery.
This is the Malthus-inspired fantasy world which seems to attract and motivate our Uppers and their useful idiots. It’s an ideal, half-buried in evasions and knowing hints laced with a dash of dark humour, but real enough as an ideal. They probably think it is, or could be, or ought to be technically feasible. More than an ideal perhaps.
As a political ideal, it certainly seems to be in the driving seat of global political trends in a number of key areas. There is not the slightest sign of it being rethought either.
Outrageously cynical, grossly over-simplified and far too conspiratorial perhaps, but in broad terms this is the global political ideal we have glimpsed over and over again for decades. It isn’t particularly well hidden. Malthus still rules those dark, dark places where comfortable people wonder what is to be done about the teeming billions.
Monday, 14 December 2020
An odd way of putting it?
The Duchess of Sussex has made her first appearance since revealing she suffered a miscarriage, praising the "power of the human spirit" shown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, in an article for The New York Times, Meghan - who shares 19-month-old Archie with husband Prince Harry - discussed her "almost unbearable grief" after losing her second baby in July.
So Meghan shares Archie with Harry. Is it me or is this an odd way of putting it?
Pointing out grass
What is a blogger supposed to do as we drown in official stupidity? Pointing out official stupidity is like pointing out grass. "Look - isn't that grass over there?"
Oh well – adapt and survive I suppose. I’ll have a go at rooting out something which has been done well…
Hadrian’s Wall was impressive…
Sunday, 13 December 2020
"I'm no eco-freak" claims eco-freak at eco-freak convention
I almost admire the man's gall, his brazen chutzpah and the breezy way he ingratiates himself with such a slimy crew. Almost admire.
Merely one of the audience
Gullibility is a rum thing isn’t it? It has parallels with the suspension of disbelief we are so familiar with when we enjoy various types of fiction. Suspended disbelief which should have been turned on again but never was. As if suspended disbelief seeps out of fictional domains into real life and jams on the gullibility switch forever.
Yet we are familiar with the need to suspend disbelief while enjoying fiction in novels, theatre, movies or television. We understand what it is. We know Oliver Twist didn’t exist, Jeeves was too brainy to be real, Superman violates the laws of physics and we don’t learn history via Hollywood. Or anything else useful really.
Knowing all this while suspending that knowledge is what we do. We are accustomed to our roles as readers of fiction, or members of a TV or movie audience. TV and movie audiences are is the big ones of course, the ones which exploded from nothing over the past century.
Modern movies are also pushing the boundaries of reality as they have never been pushed before. As indeed they are pushing their audiences as they have never been pushed before. Maybe it is possible for the suspension of disbelief to become too big a part of daily life. Perhaps a seat in the audience has become too easy and familiar. Too much mental popcorn clogs the critical faculties.
We are certainly asked to absorb large quantities of some bizarrely impossible fiction via movies and TV. Much of it relies on what we may as well describe as magic. The powers of Superman are essentially magical. He violates physical laws with impunity and relies on magic to do it. As does Dr Who. As do the Teletubbies. It begins early.
Taking this a little further, maybe suspension of disbelief and the role of audience member have become core parts of our roles in life. More so for some than others, but clapping the NHS was both a suspension of disbelief and a seat in the audience of a medical drama. Clappers clearly accepted their role as an audience.
The idea sits well with celebrity culture and its almost universal invitation to suspend disbelief when it comes to fashionable causes. Yet huge numbers of people are not taken in by it and are not particularly gullible. Unfortunately huge numbers of people do wish to be part of the audience, are determined to be part of it. As for the real world, that's outside where it belongs.
Saturday, 12 December 2020
Tell it as it is
Friday, 11 December 2020
A woke aristocracy
It is easy enough to see woke political trends as a foretaste of a future aristocracy. There are a number of aspects supporting the idea such as the decline of democracy, the rise of woke bureaucracies and woke business sentiment, woke policing, the steadily increasing reach of woke censorship and woke celebrity culture. Voters and the right to vote are slowly becoming irrelevant.
Yet there is something else going on too. Gigantic corporations with hundreds of millions running into billions of customers. Tech giants with billions of users – they need those customers and users in those numbers. They need vast numbers of people to earn, spend, use their systems, buy their products and to continue earning and spending to do just that.
Thursday, 10 December 2020
It has become clear enough and has been said before, but a core aim of woke politics is to bury the idea of national citizenship. In woke world we are residents not citizens.
Here in the UK, it doesn’t matter if your genetic inheritance shows your ancestry going back over a thousand years. In woke world you are merely a UK resident with no more moral right to be here than the next boatload of migrants.
It doesn’t matter if you have paid UK taxes for fifty years, if your parents paid UK taxes for fifty years, if your grandparents paid UK taxes for fifty years. In woke world you are merely a UK resident with no more moral right to be here than migrants.
Not that this is admitted officially, but this is a consequence of woke politics. For all the hot air, the issue seems to have been an underlying factor in Donald Trump’s popularity. Many American citizens wish to remain as American citizens, including those with ancestors who didn’t actually come over on the Mayflower. They expect to be more than mere residents. Here in the UK, that ship has sailed.
Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Dork of the Year candidates
As you may know, previous winners of the Dork of the Year (DotY) award have been
2018 The British Electorate
2017 Michael Heseltine
2016 Mark Carney
2015 Ed Miliband
2015 Naomi Klein
All worthy winners, but what about 2020? Unfortunately a certain amount of turmoil has hit the Dork of the Year committee this year. An earlier suggestion that it should be renamed Harry of the Year has been shelved because a number of major Qualifying Dorks have emerged since Prince Harry tried to run off with the award.
Although we have a preliminary list of Qualifying Dorks from which to choose, in these egalitarian times the DotY committee is inclined to treat even high level dorkishness as a team game. In which case the winner is merely appointed as captain of Team Dork. Below we have a preliminary list which may well grow substantially over the next few weeks.
Tuesday, 8 December 2020
The same old problem
Could be a major step forward of course, but the non-medical problem is the same as it always is when political reputations are at stake. The question is so obvious as to be embarrassing, but how likely is it that adverse reactions will be openly admitted in a timely manner?
One a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is a completely open admission of adverse reactions, I'd put it round about 2. I'm an optimist.
Monday, 7 December 2020
Let's all join in
If I’m wrong by 2080 I’ll own up and admit it, but here’s another rock solid prediction. By the year 2080, the whole world will have forgotten about sexual intercourse as we understand it. Gender politics will have become so extreme and convoluted...
…crikey this is easy. Maybe I should be a journalist.
Sunday, 6 December 2020
To boo, or not to boo, that is the question
As we would expect, there has been priggish media disapproval of the Millwall football booing. Easy stuff to write I suppose.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, has declined to condemn booing Millwall fans as players took the knee in opposition to racism.
Appearing on Sky's Sophy Ridge programme, he was asked for his opinion on Saturday's Millwall match, which saw some of the 2,000 fans booing the players' gesture...
Mr Eustice, when shown the Millwall clip during the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, said: “There has been problems obviously with racism in football in the past...
“My personal view is that Black Lives Matter – capital B, L and M – is actually a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.
Saturday, 5 December 2020
How will the Brexit Circus finale go?
Measured, moderate and damning
Friday, 4 December 2020
The shadow of Old Nick
I’ve used this Dickens quote before. It is one of my favourites as it so neatly encapsulates an endemic and ineradicable feature of the law –
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 (1852-53)
Even better - the quote may be adapted to generate a number of grand principles simply by substituting something equally applicable in place of the words English law. For example –
The one great principle of the establishment 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.
Another example illustrate how virtue may replace business, take may replace make and still it works –
The one great principle of the establishment is, to take virtue 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 take virtue for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.
To my mind Dickens has given us a fascinating insight where, in a range of guises, this is what the establishment always has done at our expense. Almost as if in the basic shape of the thing we see the malign shadow of Old Nick himself.
Thursday, 3 December 2020
Just round the corner
The point really is that I was always certain that there was a miraculous state of being just round the corner if I could only find it.
Hugh Walpole - John Cornelius (1937)
Government intervention is always an easy sell.
Government non-intervention is never an easy sell.
Many know it.
Too many don’t.
Hence the coronavirus debacle - government intervention was an easy sell. Still surprising to many perhaps as we gave away to much, but clearly it was an easy sell.
1918. Dr. Wise on Influenza
Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Incompetence - an egalitarian failure
They talk about ‘Above the Battle,’ but I think that it is really ‘Below the Battle’ — that just below all this noise and confusion and hatred the real life is continuous, always there waiting for us to find it.
Hugh Walpole - John Cornelius (1937)
We have always known how ruling elites cannot avoid a certain level of incompetence even though they make strenuous efforts to hide it. From bungled military adventures to incompetent industrial interference to inept social policies to fashionable environmental fantasies to imposing useless bureaucratic burdens, we have known about elite incompetence forever.
Even so, the whole business of rulers and ruled in a democratic society does require some kind of assumption that rulers must be broadly competent to rule. Why else are they there?
The corollary assumption is that those who are ruled are not competent to rule themselves. The trouble with this latter assumption is that within a just framework of laws and law enforcement, most of us are quite competent enough to rule ourselves. It’s what we do.
An example of this is going on now in what we hope but cannot assume are the latter stages of the coronavirus debacle. In spite of the most ludicrous elite incompetence, life still goes on ‘Below the Battle’. Which battle is that? Clearly there is a coronavirus policy battle between the incompetent intransigence of the ruling elite and competent critics.
Incompetence also seems to highlight a remarkable failure of the egalitarian ethos. Elites appear to feel that they are entitled to much more incompetence than anyone else. Their position also allows them to be incompetent on a grander scale, multiplying the inequality. Sometimes they manage to hide their wealth of incompetence, but not completely because they are not even competent enough to do that.
The outcome is obvious enough. Eventually elites try to engineer situations where it doesn’t matter if they are competent or not – their incompetence entitlement is unlimited. This is what they may be doing now with the coronavirus debacle. They may be drawing it out as long as possible to wear down criticism, hoping that a sense of relief when it is all over may damp down the inevitable verdict of hindsight.
Unfortunately this appears to be the most favourable interpretation but not necessarily the most likely. There are others where the elites intend to make themselves permanently immune from effective criticism. The internet is shining a harsh light on their incompetence and as official coronavirus policies have been so extraordinarily incompetent, permanent repression is not an unlikely outcome.
Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Can’t add much to that
Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1890-93)
Monday, 30 November 2020
The latent intoxication
Destiny sometimes proffers us a glass of madness to drink. A hand is thrust out of the mist, and suddenly hands us the mysterious cup in which is contained the latent intoxication.
Victor Hugo - The Man Who Laughs (1869)
COVID-19: Matt Hancock says virus is 'back under control' - but we must stay vigilant
The health secretary says England's second lockdown has driven down cases, but warns: "We don't have much headroom."
The health secretary has said that England's lockdown means "we've got this virus back under control" - but warned continued vigilance is needed in the fight against COVID-19.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Matt Hancock acknowledged that the second national shutdown has been tough.
Five Boys Chocolate
These days it's dark chocolate with coffee for me and that's about it. I never became a chocoholic. That horrible strawberry fondant probably had something to do with it.
Sunday, 29 November 2020
As the transistor radio fades away
Yesterday, Son dug out his transistor radio to listen to Saturday afternoon football. It looks much the same as a biggish transistor radio with a chrome aerial, although it is a modern version with FM, DAB and the ability to stream radio stations from the internet.
“What’s that?” asked Grandson.
The grandkids hadn’t really seen the radio before, didn’t know what it was and were particularly puzzled by the chrome aerial. Son was tuning the thing in, looking for the local radio station and of course there was the usual hissing as he did so.
“What’s that noise? Is it broken?” Asked both grandkids.
They are familiar with the internet via all kinds of devices such as mobile phones, streamed TV, computer games, telling Alexa to switch off this and that, but not a transistor radio with its mysterious aerial.
Imagine knowing nothing about transistor radios…
Come to think of it - they haven’t missed much.
Saturday, 28 November 2020
As old as the mastodon
There was, however, something real and general in his trouble, something that is as old as the mastodon, and older, but something that has increasingly attacked our post-war world. It is the disease of homelessness. Very many of us seem today to belong to no place, no purpose, scarcely to ourselves.
Hugh Walpole - John Cornelius (1937)
A perennial pondering is this. If we don’t attach ourselves to a place, then maybe we have to attach ourselves to a fake place. A social class perhaps. Known people, known tastes, known culture.
Seems old hat now, but our political class and media pundits seem to belong to no place, no purpose. As landowners the aristocracy down to the local squire had a sense of place, but people from our cosmopolitan upper middle class? Probably not and these are the people now running things.
This is the impression Boris Johnson gives - a powerful impression that he is not grounded in anything but his social class and his personal ambition. Based on his current performance, he appears to be poorly equipped for the role of Prime Minister. Unfortunately we no longer produce people who are.
Friday, 27 November 2020
It was too late really, but a last drink seemed to be essential before the trek home to a cold flat. Anyhow I had to tell Alice about my weird dream. Perhaps the atmosphere of the pub and the murky street outside played a part too. After the clamour of the day things sometimes become dreamlike as life finally goes quiet. Well in my world they do.
“Did I ever tell you about my spooky dream?” I asked Alice as she carefully placed those last drinks on the table. She is always careful like that. Tidy too.
“Which one? You seem to have loads of dreams.” Alice seemed tired as she slumped back and took a sip of that last drink. She wasn’t really listening but Alice doesn’t listen much. That’s why I like telling her things.
“My dream about the railway journey,” I explained.
“Clackety clack through the storm? I’ve heard it.”
“No - not that one. No - in this one it’s snow. Miles of untrodden snow – and trees, miles of trees. A train ploughs its way through a vast snowscape - like a Russian landscape. Endless snow studded with fir trees.”
“A puffing train?”
“Well yes - I suppose it was a steam train.” Alice always picks up on these things so I have to explain the details but I don’t mind.
“So you recently watched a movie like Doctor Zhivago or something. That’s what dreams are, just memories of stuff.”
“No, not Doctor Zhivago – nothing like that. I was all alone in the carriage and it was almost dark outside. A strange purplish dusk it was, with long fingers of moonlight pointing at me through all those black fir trees. And it was seriously cold - although I didn’t feel the cold because it was outside. I felt it through the carriage window though – that unearthly alien cold. Like being on another planet.”
“It would be cold. You know why? The clue is the snow – I’m surprised you didn’t spot that. And what was Doctor Zhivago doing while all this snowy angst was going on?” Alice is cynical like that. It’s deflating sometimes.
“I told you - it wasn’t Doctor Zhivago. I haven’t watched it in years. Anyway there was hardly anyone else on the train and every now and then we passed an inn or a house or just a shack and they all had a light in the window. Or sometimes we would come across a station with an empty waiting room.”
“And did the train stop so you could nip off and grab a coffee?”
“No but the train did stop at every station. Shadowy people appeared from nowhere and got on while some got off and faded into the snowy wasteland just beyond the station. More like shadows than people they were. Sometimes the train just stopped in the middle of nowhere then started again.”
“So what made you remember this version of the train spotter's favourite dream? Because it sounds so boring I’d have woken up for a nice drink of water to assuage the tedium.”
“I remember it because it was my subconscious telling me something important.”
“About Doctor Zhivago?”
“No – forget Doctor bloody Zhivago. It wasn’t that at all.”
“Sounds like it to me.”
“No it was telling me something much deeper.”
“It was telling me about luck - or something like luck. The train was taking me somewhere, but I didn’t actually know where I wanted to go because we can’t see into the future. It didn’t matter if I stayed on the train, got off at one of the stations and waited for another or if I decided to get off in the middle of nowhere and make my way to one of those inns with a light in the window.”
“Or if you simply wandered off through those dark trees among the fingers of moonlight, where the only sound is that creaking noise when you tread on fresh snow.”
“That was an option too.”
“Not a good option I’d say, not without survival gear. Or did you have that?”
“That wasn’t the point. The point was – well anyway I think it was all about the unknown. I had no way of knowing where I was going and what I would gain by staying on the train or by getting off at one of the stations. The only thing keeping me on the train was inertia, but even there I was trusting the unknown.”
“So – sounds like a fairly commonplace homily packed into a spooky dream. I wish I had dreams like that.”
“That’s not it either. The dream was telling me more – that life is essentially spooky. We pretend it isn’t and we pretend we know where we are going but we don’t. There are journeys we take and journeys we could take but don’t and we can’t tell which is best.”
“I don’t see what’s spooky about that. It’s life as we know it.”
“The spooky aspect was the trees and the fingers of moonlight.”
“Okay so it was visually spooky. I can see that.”
“The trees and the fingers of moonlight – that was the unknown watching us. Like an eye. The eye of reality adapting itself to whatever we do, reaching into our lives. Most of the time we gather together, turn on the lights, go about our business, go to the pub, make some noise and pretend it isn’t there but it is. It’s there in the street outside this pub, waiting for us to leave.”
“Well yes… I’m sure life seems a little spooky if you insist on seeing it like that.” Alice shivered theatrically and glanced over her shoulder at the empty bar.
“The spooky aspect is that we can’t stay on the train and get off the train. We can’t do both.”
“What? That’s supposed to be spooky? It isn’t spooky it’s nonsense.”
“Of course it’s nonsense, but that’s the spooky aspect too. The point is that if I decided to stay on the train – well that was it. All the possibilities open to me by getting off the train – they just disappeared. Gone forever.”
“Until the train moved off again, being able to get off and do something else was part of my human potential. It was real, I could have done it so easily. Get up. Open the door. Step onto the platform. But reality just snuffed it out. Those fingers of moonlight – they were just like ethereal pairs of scissors.”
“Now that is spooky.”
“It is spooky. A rich seam of alternative possibilities all gone. Part of my unrealised potential until it was –
“I suppose so.”
Thursday, 26 November 2020
And still it goes on
Socrates, it is said, exclaimed in the presence of Euthydemus and many others, “Critias seems to have the feelings of a pig: he can no more keep away from Euthydemus than pigs can help rubbing themselves against stones.” Now Critias bore a grudge against Socrates for this; and when he was one of the Thirty and was drafting laws with Charicles, he bore it in mind. He inserted a clause which made it illegal “to teach the art of words.”
Xenophon – Memorabilia
In the wrong hands the internet can be used to spread terrorist and other illegal or harmful content, undermine civil discourse, and abuse or bully other people. Online harms are widespread and can have serious consequences.
It isn't going to end is it?
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Poverty poverty slammed
In a recent article, Dr Nikki Splurgeon, head of Poverty Poverty Forensics at Fradley University, has slammed the government record on what she describes as “poverty poverty”.
“This government has failed miserably in its duty to bear down on poverty poverty,” she claims. She goes on to explain that it has “failed in its basic moral imperative to identify unidentified poverty hidden under layers of planet-hating complacency."
“This,” she says “is poverty poverty, the social poverty of blatantly ignoring ignored poverty. It is real and it is here now, here in our pathological, consumerist, planet-destroying midst.”
Dr Splurgeon does not pull any punches while attacking what she sees as a pernicious social injustice. “There is in this country a deplorable poverty deficit in that the full range of poverties has never been rooted out and dealt with as any decent, civilised country should be doing right now, today, this very second.”
Dr Splurgeon has certainly given us something to think about.
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Neil Oliver: All political parties are 'self-harming'
Monday, 23 November 2020
As we know, a sinister aspect of the coronavirus debacle has been the emergence of volunteer police informers. We are aware of at least two instances where this issue has interfered with the daily lives of people within our circle of friends, family and acquaintances. In our limited experience, this makes it more common than a serious coronavirus illness.
A previously amenable neighbour informs the police about the visit of a parent to a nearby house. The visit was legitimate within current rules but the police arrived on the doorstep and all had to be explained.
Family members stroll around a park, but as they are not in the same bubble, different groups within the same family decide not to walk together in case there are informers around.
Sunday, 22 November 2020
No going back
Today we made a snap decision to buzz off to Matlock for breakfast. Getting up late to a sunny morning had something to do with it. Takeout of course, but off we went in the late autumn sunshine with the top down and very pleasant it was too. In these preposterous times we tend to take life as it comes and try to make the best of each day. A benefit of the coronavirus shambles I suppose.
Matlock was surprisingly busy but we managed to find a bench in the park where we enjoyed an excellent bacon cob and a coffee from our favourite takeout café. There was even a fair amount of warmth in the sun which had certainly encouraged lots of families to take a stroll in the park.
As Mrs H observed, it was almost as if the restrictive Sunday shopping laws had returned. As if people had temporarily lost the urge to wander round soul-free malls buying stuff they don’t need. It was good to see young families strolling around the park on a Sunday morning, but there is no going back. At this time of year many Sundays are wet, grey and cold and it was never a day of rest for everyone.
The ‘Fair Trade’ principle at work
A simple example illustrates this point. A farmer has two bags of coffee to sell and there is a Fair Trade buyer for only one bag. The farmer knows bag A would be worth $1.70 per pound on the open market because the quality is high and bag B would be worth only $1.20 because the quality is lower. Which should he sell as Fair Trade coffee for the guaranteed price of $1.40?
Saturday, 21 November 2020
Our Teflon Civil Service
Boris Johnson 'asked for Patel report to be palatable', source claims
Boris Johnson is facing questions about whether he tried to tone down an independent report which said Home Secretary Priti Patel broke the ministerial code by bullying staff.
Number 10 has insisted Sir Alex Allan's conclusions were "entirely his own".
But a Whitehall source told the BBC that Sir Alex had resisted pressure to make the findings more "palatable".
Yet we have already been told -
The definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service accepts that legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a worker's performance will not amount to bullying.
It defines bullying as intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down.
Friday, 20 November 2020
The BBC sticks with trivia
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out his decision later on the findings of an inquiry into the conduct of Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Sources familiar with the Cabinet Office report told the BBC it concluded Ms Patel broke rules on ministers' behaviour.
She has always strongly denied allegations of bullying.
Labour said the prime minister appeared to be involved in a "cover up" and called for the report to be published.
Thursday, 19 November 2020
Thus if I laugh at you
Thus if I laugh at you, O fellow-men! if I trace with curious interest your labyrinthine self-delusions, note the inconsistencies in your zealous adhesions, and smile at your helpless endeavours in a rashly chosen part, it is not that I feel myself aloof from you: the more intimately I seem to discern your weaknesses, the stronger to me is the proof that I share them. How otherwise could I get the discernment?—for even what we are averse to, what we vow not to entertain, must have shaped or shadowed itself within us as a possibility before we can think of exorcising it.
Test and Trace woes
Test and Trace bosses believe they need to "rebuild public trust" and are planning a pre-Christmas push to rescue the troubled service, according to leaked slides seen by Sky News.
Yet although the slides reveal that Test and Trace has "mobilised" 27 "workstreams" to reinvent the service as part of a "countdown to Christmas", questions may be asked about why the measures are only being shown to contact tracers today - two weeks into a national lockdown that was supposed to buy time for Test and Trace to improve.
Wednesday, 18 November 2020
A quick win for Boris
7. Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
He could call it the Now Close Your Windows One Point Plan.
Tuesday, 17 November 2020
The adults have left the council too
As part of Derby City Council's announcement that 50 e-scooters will be introduced to residents in the city centre, I was asked to give one a try...
As I drove around by the Silk Mill near the river, I felt the vehicle gradually slow down as the five miles-per-hour safety feature kicked in.
Using an in-built GPS tracking system, the scooter was forced to a slower speed as I entered the busier pedestrian area of the riverside foot path, making sure I wasn't a danger to anyone on their Friday evening stroll - or myself...
At the moment, Derby City Council is only planning to introduce 50 e-scooters to the city, with priority given to key workers.
The scheme, introduced at the end of June 2018, saw more than 7,000 riders travel 150,000 miles since the launch.
The announcement comes after Derbyshire Live exclusively revealed in June that the vandalism had meant the scheme was being stopped while officials thought about how it could look in the future.
Monday, 16 November 2020
The adults have left the room
As I was growing up, a job was something you were paid to do because it involved making something work. That something could be anything from making a column of figures add up to making a power station work, from making a farm work to making a pullover work as an item of clothing. Everything from a bus route to a brick kiln to a bar to a breakwater. It was all essentially practical.
Things have changed. A number of factors appear to be responsible for the change and one of them may be the expansion of university education. Over recent decades this has inserted immature student politics into dominant positions within national politics and the media. It appears to be driven by two key factors –
- The rise in number of people with a university degree.
- Economic growth and the expansion of feckless middle class politics.
Strident demands that everything must be pulled up and begun anew, reliance on ideology over practical experience, identity politics, environmental radicalism, political intransigence and a consequent rise in political intolerance and outright malice. These are the consequences.
Articulate but essentially immature people have huge influence in the media, politics, celebrity culture and the wider promotion of cultural immaturity. This is the striking thing about the public arena – its lack of maturity. Immaturity is inherently intolerant and what we see developing now is widespread institutional intolerance.
We saw a tragic lack of genuine maturity during the coronavirus debacle. A time for leadership, ferociously difficult decisions and an almost wartime level of responsibility. It didn’t happen. There were no adults in the room.
Sunday, 15 November 2020
Labour demands more repression
The problem is poisonous politics, not people who question orthodoxies. Coronavirus vaccine developments are interesting, but that does not mean the UK government response wasn't an unforgivable totalitarian shambles. And it still is.
We should not be distracted from that by yet more calls from the usual suspects to suppress free speech. For example -
Anti-vaccination content on social media is "poison" and "garbage" and should be "stamped-out", Labour has said.
"Stamped-out" indeed. Isn't that revealing?
Saturday, 14 November 2020
Why did PM sack Dominic?
Westminster is agog today over the story that Prime Minister Carrie Symonds sacked highly placed advisor Dominic Cummings. It is said that Mr Cummings was briefing against her and her fiancé - flamboyant MP Boris Johnson.
The reasons behind the rift appear to be deep and murky. As a young cosmopolitan woman, Prime Minister Symonds is felt to be in close touch with the opinions voters ought to have on core issues such as the coronavirus, Brexit and climate change while Mr Cummings has been accused by some of being “intelligent”.
Although Ms Symonds allows Boris Johnson to attend cabinet meetings and take notes for her, it is thought that this approach has also caused deep internal fissures in the already rocky workings of No 10.
More on this story as it develops.
Friday, 13 November 2020
Have we reached peak gravy train yet?
|Daddy - is that the gravy train you missed?|
The gravy train seems to sum up so much of modern life and the corrupt antics of those who rule over us, but it is worth remembering lesser gravy trains which are no less important. It isn’t only the UN, EU and an uncountable number of quangos transporting the gravy. Those are the mainstream gravy trains, but think of the plodding climate scientist and epidemiologist too.
An employer who cannot go bust, a steady job for life, good holidays, easy employment terms, some foreign travel, conference jollies and an index-linked pension. What’s not to like about that? Very common in the public sector and for those with modest expectation perhaps we should regard it as just as much a gravy train as a quango directorship.
While retaining our focus on the mainline gravy train routes we should recall the multitude of little branch lines Dr Beeching was never asked to cull.
Thursday, 12 November 2020
Bakewell is closed
|Bakewell - Closed|
Wednesday, 11 November 2020
Various self-advancing sentiments
It was not for nothing that, in his college days, he had hunted the hypothetical "moral sense" to its lair, and dragged from their concealment the various self-advancing sentiments dissembled under its edifying guise.
Edith Wharton - Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910)
The most interesting thing about Mr Biden is the transparency of the process. If ever there was a puppet deliberately slotted into high office by power-brokers it is old Joe. The whole thing wasn’t even disguised. So open was it that presumably only Democrats failed to spot it. Although some must have spotted it, but they probably expect to be beneficiaries.
Tuesday, 10 November 2020
The Blitz is another planet now
Resilience is a rum thing isn’t it? I grew up in the fifties when World War II was still a recent memory. The adults I knew had all lived through it. Fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, teachers and many others had fought in the war, done their bit, coped and survived. Afterwards they remembered the dead, picked up the threads and moved on.
It was a resilient generation because it had to be and for other reasons apart from the war. Yet since those days, human resilience has become curiously unfashionable, even on occasion something to be deplored. Or rather, it has become curiously fashionable to pretend that people are not resilient. If they are, then there must be something wrong with them.
As the wartime generation faded away, their obvious resilience was quietly set aside as something to be both acknowledged and forgotten at the same time. Inconsistent of course, but inconsistent is one of those things we do well.
Now, people who display their resilience must be pretending to be resilient - or so the narrative goes. Deep down they must be suffering. As if the deep down suffering is almost compulsory or you are not a real person with real feelings. You are hiding them and hiding things is bad. The bad person is made to emerge from an apparently caring environment.
Yes – it is absurd. Yes – there is a sinister enforcement aspect to all this. A subtle shading into political identities based on feelings which don’t even have be real feelings as long as we shed a whimper or two. A quiet aspect of identity politics - Insider or Outsider. We see it all the time in woke politics and the absurd ease with which offence is claimed over trivia. Mind boggling trivia.
The point of it all? As ever, a primary government aim is to reduce expectations in the general population. On top of that we have political ideologies where this is a prerequisite. Undermining resilience is simply a means towards a culture of abject political compliance. It isn't new.
We haven't disposed of resilience altogether of course. We appear to have reached a state where resilience has become something the mass media dole out to chosen heroes. They hand it out whenever resilience is necessary for the drama of the story. Like a medal perhaps. The Resilience Star Third Class.
Monday, 9 November 2020
Spin V Data
Following on from the previous post. The short video below was released on July 1st and to my mind it is a good example and reminder of how ruthlessly lockdown was sold to political leaders and the media during the coronavirus debacle.
Ruthlessness is a rum notion isn’t it. The idea overlaps with stubborn, pig-headed, narcissistic, egomaniac, fanatical and self-interested. That is not to claim that these characteristics are roughly the same, merely that they overlap in the murky arena of consequences.
What they have in common is the situations they lead to. Obviously enough, these are situations where other people and their ideas count for almost nothing, often nothing at all. Of course the easy one, the one requiring least mental effort is where the ideas of other people count for nothing. Zilch.
A egomaniac collects some followers and dependents - we have the seed of ruthlessness. Individuals do not have to be ruthless in order to become part of a ruthless environment or movement. Ruthlessness is much more common than we pretend. Easily seeded and easily grown.
Most people do not appear to know that they are a contributory part of a ruthless environment or movement. We know that already. Too often we see ordinary decent people nod their approval of political movements which are quite clearly ruthless, even though most supporters are not necessarily ruthless at all. Idle, timid or priggish self-interest will do it.
Sunday, 8 November 2020
The BBC Effect
Videos such as this must kick off a few trains of thought, but to my mind one of them is the long-term trend towards the compulsory consumption of more and more government services. Maybe that should read “services”, but we could call it the BBC Effect.
Governments cannot hope to compete with the likes of Amazon in their service delivery so the choice is stark. Pull back government to its bare, deliverable essentials or make the consumption of government services effectively compulsory via a vast, pervasive network of patronage and dependency.
The BBC already has what may be a terminal problem now that everything it does is done better elsewhere. The UK government has similar problems with everything it does too. It is not only the NHS and and the coronavirus debacle.