Saturday 29 February 2020

The adults really have left the room

Greta Thunberg has warned "those in power" she will "not be silenced when the world is on fire".

The teenager was welcomed by chants of "Greta, Greta" as she addressed some 15,000 people at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) event.

She accused politicians and the media of ignoring the climate emergency and "sweeping their mess under the rug".

And much of the responsibility for the adults leaving the room lies with the BBC.

Thursday 27 February 2020

Joe Biden's memory lapse

Joe Biden was not arrested in South Africa while trying to see Nelson Mandela, his campaign has conceded.

The US presidential contender had repeatedly said he was arrested during a trip there in the 1970s, when South Africa was under apartheid.

But a deputy campaign managers told reporters Mr Biden had been referring to an episode where he was "separated" from black colleagues at an airport.

Mr Biden is counting on black support to win South Carolina on Saturday.

Clearly the Democrats need to do something here, something to reassure voters that they have sound group of candidates battling for the presidential nomination. This is merely a suggested starting point but maybe voter reassurance could be along these lines  –

  • Bernie Sanders has never been medically certified as insane.
  • Elizabeth Warren isn’t the horrible shrieking harridan she appears to be.
  • Mike Bloomberg understands ordinary folk as only a guy worth over $60 billion can.
  • Pete Buttigieg isn’t the biggest wuss ever to stand as a presidential candidate.

Obviously it needs more elaboration but in a nutshell that should do it as a viable starting point.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Harry asks to be known as Harry

Bloody tourists

The Duke of Sussex asked for delegates at a tourism conference in Edinburgh to address him simply as Harry.

The prince was speaking at the Travalyst event being held in the Scottish capital...

In his address, Prince Harry - who is known as the Earl of Dumbarton when he is in Scotland - warned that the growth of tourism was threatening to destroy some of the world's most beautiful places...

He warned that if steps were not taken, there was the risk that more of the world's "most beautiful destinations" would be closed or destroyed.

He said this could also lead to "more communities becoming overwhelmed, more beaches shut because of pollution, and animals and wildlife driven from their natural habitat - which has a huge impact on communities and reduces tourism opportunities".

It's a real problem - anyone can see that. When it comes to the prospect of mass tourism overwhelming those beautiful destinations, how are the elites going to tell the rest of us to f**k off and stay at home? I'm sure they'll find a way.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Seems remarkably feeble to me

Former Liberal Democrat leader David Steel has quit the party and the Lords after an inquiry said he "turned a blind eye" to claims of child abuse.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse criticised political groups for not acting on complaints.

It accused Lord Steel of an "abdication of responsibility" over accusations against the late MP Cyril Smith...

He was elected as a Liberal MP in 1972, and Lord Steel said he had discussed the allegations with him in 1979 after an article appeared in Private Eye.

The peer told the inquiry that he "assumed" that Smith had committed the offences, but took no further action because "it was before he was an MP, before he was even a member of my party - it had nothing to do with me".

Is that the best Lord Steel can come up with after forty years to mull it over - nothing to do with me? He says he only knew about the allegations after an article appeared in Private Eye so not a leader with his ear to the ground presumably.

Monday 24 February 2020

Baron v Gestapo

 An interesting YouTube channel and a stirring story I'd forgotten. It seems like another world now, light years away from modern life.

Bernie on Castro

BERNIE Sanders' praise of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro may spell the 2020 downfall of the Democratic frontrunner.

During a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper on Sunday night, Sanders said Castro's communist Cuba wasn't actually that bad.

What is it about daft old farts? Usually the UK trails the US when it comes to fashion, but this time we toyed with our daft old fart before the US. Has the world gone mad?

Sunday 23 February 2020

Bernie cements his status

Bernie says - The American people are sick and tired of a president who lies all of the time

Oh dear Bernie, of course he doesn't lie all the time. So that's - er - a lie Bernie.

Why would anyone ever imagine that Bernie has the brutal nous and the steel backbone to be an effective US President? Do his supporters prefer ineffective? Maybe they do.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Maybe it's a hint

A minuscule green-brown snail has been discovered in the wilderness of Brunei and has been named after Greta Thunberg.

The new species - Craspedotropis gretathunberga - is approximately 2mm long and 1mm wide with grey tentacles and a concave shell.

Researchers say they named the mollusc after the prominent 17-year-old climate activist to acknowledge the fact her generation will be responsible for fixing problems they did not create.

That's certainly one way to grab a headline or two, but maybe it is also a hint. If we follow Greta's climate narrative to its obvious conclusion then we may also have to wander around eating leaves with all our worldly goods on our backs. 

Friday 21 February 2020

The appeal of incompetence

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

Laurence J. Peter - The Peter Principle.

The Peter Principle is one of those satirical observations which never go stale because they encapsulate uncomfortable realities. Suppose we take this one a little further and apply some lateral thinking.

A widespread political assumption is that people vote for candidates who seem to be competent, or not obviously incompetent. Seems reasonable enough but perhaps it isn’t so. Political allegiances come first of course, but party political allegiance seems to imply party competence over the long term. If parties and candidates are to implement their election promises, then voters must surely assume a certain level of competence in formulating and implementing those promises. Voters are often disappointed as we know, but competence seems to be a general assumption.

Yet as we also know, voters manage to elect incompetent political parties as well as incompetent candidates. In which case, perhaps voters tend to vote for parties and candidates who seem to be no more competent than the average voter. Perhaps voters are uneasy about levels of competence significantly above their own. They know they cannot weigh up smart people, so superior competence may be seen as a threat. Which of course it is.

Perhaps most voters feel mild incompetence to be less threatening than too-obvious competence. In which case, to attract these voters political candidates must aim to come across as mildly but not dangerously incompetent. They must also belong to a mildly, but not dangerously incompetent party. Something we see all the time but we treat it as a fault rather than a feature.

Conversely, in times of political and economic stress voters may break ranks and vote for a higher level of competence or they may simply abstain if their preferred party or their preferred candidate has not kept pace with a temporary but pressing need for higher levels of political competence.

When the political and economic stress subside, voters may go back to aligning themselves with parties and candidates exhibiting a more benign level of competence, a level of competence not too far from the voter’s own.

When the outlook is benign, incompetently formulated policies, incompetent aspirations and incompetent presentation are all tolerated. Political parties drift towards the average level of voter competence. As societies become more middle class and more receptive to foolish and dishonest political fashions, the average level of voter competence trends downwards. As a direct consequence the incompetence of political decision-making trends upwards.

Hence climate change, political correctness and woke culture have given us Trump, Boris and Brexit as emergency counterweights to some obviously incompetent political trends. Will it last though? That’s the question.

Thursday 20 February 2020

Not so smart motorways

As we all know by now, smart motorways are not having a good press. 

An HGV driver has described a harrowing-near miss on the M1 ‘smart motorway’ in Derbyshire, as he called for hard shoulders to be reinstated.

The revelation that 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the last five years has renewed concerns about their safety - particularly when the hard shoulder is in use as an extra driving lane. So what should you do if you break down on a smart motorway and need to pull over in an emergency?

The number of people with personal anecdotes highlighting the dangers created by smart motorways must run into millions.

For example a friend of mine recently told me of an incident where a member of his family broke down on a ‘smart’ section of the M1 with three children in the car.

Only yesterday we passed a car broken down on a ‘smart’ section of the M1. The driver had pulled in as close to the crash barrier as he could and put his hazard lights on. The best he could do, but the offside wheels of the car were still in the inside lane of a busy motorway.

Nobody could get out of the car on the passenger side because of the crash barrier. The best they could do would be to climb out of the windows. Otherwise any occupants would have to get out of the car and in doing so step into the inside lane of the motorway. It was raining too.

The anecdotes pile up as they were bound to and it isn’t easy to understand why this was not foreseen. Or maybe it was. Yet as things stand a constant trickle of negative, sometimes horrific stories are bound to hit the headlines.

Wednesday 19 February 2020


“Same as usual?” Steve asked as he always does.

“Same as usual,” I replied - as I always do.

It was bitterly cold and damp outside. Misty too, so the pub was unusually empty even for a weekday evening. While Steve was at the bar I parked myself at our favourite table near the fake inglenook with its fake log fire powered by real gas. For some reason Steve is better than I am at the art of getting served. I don’t seem to have the knack even when the place is almost deserted.

“So what have you been doing with yourself?” Steve asked as he carefully placed our pints in the exact centre of a beer mat. He’s fastidious like that although that’s something I only began to notice quite recently.

“Busy, busy, always busy...” I would have said more but Steve interrupted.

“How’s Will getting along?” He fixed me with that quizzical stare of his so I knew he had something to say about Will and couldn’t wait to get started on it. Steve is like that.

“Oh you know - business keep him on the move. I don’t know how he finds the time to stay in touch, but he always does.”

Steve said nothing. He just looked at me.

“Texts, emails and social media - the usual thing," I added. "He’s just as chatty as ever even though we haven’t managed to meet up in quite a while unfortunately.”

“And where is Will now?” Steve finally asked. He’d hardly touched his pint. He usually downs the first pretty quickly.

“Somewhere in Europe.” I tried to recall the gist of Will’s last text. It seemed important that I should recall it accurately but that was Steve. He has this annoying ability to focus very tightly on certain things. As if the details are important when usually they aren’t. At least not in my opinion.

“Somewhere in Europe. I see - but you don’t know exactly where?”

“Not exactly no. You know Will, always on the move.”

“I don’t actually – I don’t know him at all. He’s your mate - I’ve never once set eyes on him.”

“Oh you must have.” This was a genuine surprise because I’ve known Steve almost as long as I’ve known Will.


“Well you and I weren’t at school together,” I began –

“Of course we were.” Steve sounded angry now. Uncharacteristically angry I should say because he’s always very steady in that way – the emotional side of life.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Steve insisted. “You and I were in the same class at secondary school.”

“Oh yes – of course.” I had a vague idea that Steve might be right on this one but it had slipped my mind. I suppose we did know each other during our schooldays but it wasn’t particularly important to either of us at the time. That would be why I’d forgotten it.

“At school there was nobody called Will, or William or whatever – absolutely nobody.” Steve obviously intended to push this point for some reason, so to break the deadlock I went off to the bar and bought another couple of pints. I hadn’t actually finished mine because Will says alcohol could easily damage my health. Oh well - anything to keep the peace that’s me.

“I’ve wanted to say something about Will for ages,” Steve said as soon as I returned with the drinks.

“Do then.” I tried to finish my first pint before starting the second but found I didn’t want it. I already knew I’d never manage the second. That was just one benefit of Will’s advice on the essentials of a healthy lifestyle. Five a day fruit and veg, cycling, recycling and so on. Good advice all of it, but Steve wasn’t into that kind of thing.

“Well...” Steve pushed his second pint away as if he didn’t want his either. Maybe Will’s advice was getting to Steve too. No bad thing that.

“Yes?” I added, hoping for something positive for a change.

“Well it's this - I don’t think Will actually exists,” Steve continued.

“Really?” I laughed out loud, assuming this was a joke although I already knew it wasn’t. Will had warned me about Steve being a big fan of conspiracy theories. “Sooner or later he’ll say I don’t exist,” Will said more than once. And here it was over drinks in a quiet pub. One up for Will I’d say.

“Yes really. I don’t think you ever actually met Will.” Right or wrong Steve never lets go, I’ll give him that.

“You mean apart from the times when Will and I have enjoyed a drink together here in this pub?” I smiled because the conversation was becoming rather silly.

“Okay – okay so when did you last meet Will here in this pub?” Steve demanded.

“Oh I don’t know – about a year ago.”

“About a year ago?”

“About that. We don’t meet very often because as I keep saying, he’s too busy.”

“Why have I never seen him?”

I shrugged. “Your paths never crossed obviously.”

“Obviously. Does he refer to your meetings afterwards?”

“Let me see – no not straight away - no.”

“When exactly did he mention the cosy meet up you supposedly enjoyed together here in this pub about a year ago?”

“He mentioned it quite recently actually.” That was easy – Will had written about it in his last text, saying how much he’d enjoyed it. I remember that quite well because I was scratching my head for a while, trying to pinpoint one or two details Will mentioned. Nothing specific, just general observations he made about the weather and the beer. I remember that well enough.

“He didn’t mention it immediately afterwards – a year ago?”


“That’s because it didn’t happen.”

“That’s crazy, of course it did.”

“No it didn’t,” Steve insisted. “Will implanted that memory of meeting up here by using the fact that you feel you ought to remember it too. The thing is though – he only mentioned it after a suitable time has elapsed - long enough to blur your memory.”

“That’s just too crazy for words.”

“No it isn’t. Will isn’t real. Will is a bot, a machine, an artificial intelligence on the internet which has befriended you.”

“Even more bizarre. For one thing I’d be able to tell because a machine would make mistakes but Will never makes mistakes – never.”

“No because Will knows everything there is to know and in particular it knows everything about you. More than you do yourself.”

“No – Will is a friend, someone I’ve known for decades.”

“Will is a bot.”

I could see there was nowhere to go from there. Strange though. A few minutes later I decided to call it a day. A weird conversation I thought as I walked home through icy cold, deserted streets. Why would Steve claim he doesn’t know Will? I don’t get that at all because Will knows more about Steve than I do.

In fact I’ve decided to resolve the whole thing before I see Steve again. I’ll start by asking Will what he thinks of Steve’s wacky ideas because he’ll put me right. He always does.

Mystery object

I don't think this is too difficult, but maybe that's because I know what it is.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Woke space

Astronomers are searching for 20 female volunteers to 'float' in BED for five days straight to study the effects of space travel – but warn 'the pleasure wears off very quickly'

Presumably they mean volunteers who identify as female, but what if volunteers change their gender identity part way through? They haven't thought this through. Better ask somebody woke.

Or maybe not.

Monday 17 February 2020

Global headline shortage shock

Knife-wielding thieves have stolen 600 toilet paper rolls from outside a Hong Kong supermarket amid shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Investigators caught two of the three men and recovered all of the toilet paper - worth about HK$1,700 (nearly £98) - stolen from the Mong Kok district on Monday morning.

Sunday 16 February 2020

At last - something worth watching

Downing Street has signalled a new onslaught on the BBC - with a threat to scrap the television licence fee and turn it into a subscription service.

A senior source said the broadcaster could be forced to sell off most of its radio stations in a 'massive pruning back' of its activities.

The source told The Sunday Times that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was 'really strident' on the need for serious reform.

They said there would be a consultation on replacing the licence fee with a subscription model, adding: 'We will whack it.'

The paper said that the number of BBC television channels could also be reduced, the website scaled back and stars banned from cashing in on well-paid second jobs.

Not only that, but we are allowed to watch this one without a licence. However it could turn out to be a saga so it is worth asking if the main actors are up to such demanding roles. Do they have the stamina for it? If not, even the most loyal viewers may switch off in disgust.

Saturday 15 February 2020

The daily grind

During my working life, the daily grind became more bureaucratic year by year as central government tightened its ever more detailed grip on everything we did. Not an uncommon experience I imagine. Yet on the whole this was not a huge problem as most of us adapt if we don’t look back and hanker for what might have been.

Adapting though – that’s the problem with bureaucracy. Many middle class people have a deep aversion to uncertainty, particularly when it concerns their personal future. Bureaucracies appear to offer certainty in an uncertain world. In most cases the offer is genuine and bureaucrats know it. Government bureaucracies are, to paraphrase Trotsky - vast internal mutual support structures, mutual protection structures more or less isolated from the people they supposedly serve. Bureaucracies like it that way.

Suppose you are a qualified bureaucrat, professionally competent in some aspect of working life. Here’s the dilemma for those of us not especially gifted within our chosen profession. Suppose we assume that 90% of the people within any profession cannot be described as especially talented. This group would be the plodders plus the bottom 10% who shouldn’t even be there. The problem is - the pedestrian majority in any profession may find it easier to be an expert bureaucrat than an expert professional. Maybe a bit of both where the bureaucrat is dominant.

In which case it may be easier to be a bureaucrat scientist rather than a scientist, easier to be a bureaucrat engineer than an engineer, easier to be a bureaucrat expert than an expert. In many cases it may be far easier to be a bureaucrat professional than a talented professional. Perhaps more rewarding too.

Bureaucracy is not intellectually difficult. It doesn’t present us with problems demanding unusual professional proficiency. Follow the system and if the system doesn’t cover the situation pass the problem up the chain or over to the committee. This is the bureaucratic system and it works. It isn’t necessarily satisfying but it works and is easily learned. Learn how the system works and run with it. Or add more rules to the system if you are in a position to do it. Many are.

Observation suggests that bureaucracy undermines professional expertise in just this way. It is easier to be bureaucratically expert than genuinely expert in almost any profession. Bureaucracy creates a slippery slope down which professionally qualified people may slide in relative ease and comfort.

Government bureaucracies are inevitably totalitarian in that there system is the only system. In other words they inevitably evolve an ingrained political culture based around survival. The bureaucracy must survive – this is the prime directive. There are many others all having survival as their prime focus.

Never resolve problems - contain them. Keep hold of and wherever possible expand the budget. Avoid any kind of external appraisal. Delegate responsibility up or down the food chain unless success is assured. Avoid scandal because that attracts attention. And so on. Bureaucracies have an inbuilt tendency to degrade their own professional expertise.

Not a trivial problem.

Friday 14 February 2020

All within

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
Benito Mussolini

Just for fun, suppose we modify Mussolini’s dictum in various ways.

All within the EU, nothing outside the EU, nothing against the EU.

Or more globally

All within the UN, nothing outside the UN, nothing against the UN.

Or more generally.

All within the system, nothing outside the system, nothing against the system.

Or maybe.

All within, nothing outside, nothing against.

Finally we have the core progressive ideal.

Thursday 13 February 2020

Three cheers for eccentrics

I find this kind of thing gives a real boost to the optimism gland. I don't want one of these machines but it is enormously heartening to see this guy make it just because he wanted to. 

Wednesday 12 February 2020

The real reasoning behind HS2

The Dream

I’m sure we have all read a great deal about the supposed benefits of HS2. The economic advantages of fast modern rail travel plus the impetus it will give to the north and how it will bind together the whole country in a new, modern dynamism. What is often overlooked is the real reasoning behind HS2. 

HS2 is whizzy and futuristic and lots of middle class progressives think all modern countries ought to have one. A rail network of shiny, super-fast streamlined trains zooming around all over the place making an impressive whoosh as they hurtle through the countryside.

That’s it really - economic benefits don't come into it.

Boris knows this.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

The Problem With Pete ...

I like this video, not only for what it says about Pete Buttigieg and presidential candidates in a more general sense, but because this is what free speech sounds like. Yet as we know too well, there are those who would lapse into incoherent hysteria if the BBC dared to present views such as those on this video. Because this is what free speech sounds like.

To take an easy example - consider the implacable determination of the BBC to present climate change from a single perspective. 

BBC Studios’ award winning Science Unit announces a brand new series with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg at Showcase 2020 event.

The series will follow Greta’s international crusade, which takes her to the front line of climate change in some of the most extraordinary places on earth, as she explores what actions could be taken to limit climate change and the damage it causes.

Is the BBC interested in free speech? Hardly worth asking the question.

Monday 10 February 2020

Ask the expert

This afternoon Granddaughter asked Google Home "Is it going to snow today?"

"No," was the reply, "today there is no chance of snow."

Saturday 8 February 2020


Workers should be given the legal right to switch off their mobile phones outside office hours, Rebecca Long-Bailey said today.

The Labour leadership hopeful said employees should be able to refuse to be contacted outside working hours.

Ms Long-Bailey said: 'Aspirational socialism is about us all rising together, and that means coming together to collectively solve issues that are damaging our mental health and stopping us getting quality time with our families or in our communities.

Ah - I see. Aspirational socialism is where you don't allow ordinary folk to have aspirations. Not sure about issues that are damaging our mental health though. Is this a dig at some of her colleagues? Those who also want to be Labour leader? Surely not.

Friday 7 February 2020

The open road

Yesterday we took the MX5 out for a trip to Bakewell. No particular reason but it was a fine morning and with the top down and a blue sky above it was bound to be enjoyable. Padded jackets, gloves and a woolly hat to keep the head from freezing and off we go. The car thermometer said 2°C but with heated seats and the heater on it wasn’t cold.

From the hills above Matlock we could see the Derwent valley full of fluffy white mist as it often is on a cold morning. One day I’ll remember to bring my camera but not this time. As we drove down the valley the car thermometer fell to -1°C which for us is a record for open top motoring. May as well enjoy it while we can – that’s our attitude.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Everyone's A Criminal

The example of police action against a child at 0:58 is similar to an incident which recently occurred in one of our local schools. Ludicrous but that's the way the world is going.    

Wednesday 5 February 2020

That Pelosi pantomime

To my mind there was something odd about Nancy Pelosi's bit of theatre.

The House speaker, critics noticed, skipped the traditional introduction welcoming the president as a "distinct honour".

When the president accused Democrats of planning to force American taxpayers to provide unlimited free healthcare to undocumented immigrants, Mrs Pelosi was observed twice mouthing: "Not true."

She stunned onlookers by shredding a copy of the president's remarks as he concluded.

Too overtly emotional perhaps, considering the occasion and her position. It is more than that though. She comes across as someone too close to the edge, someone who is losing it in more than the usual rhetorical sense. 

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Boris climbs into bed with the charlatans

A ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK will be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 at the latest, under government plans.

The change comes after experts said 2040 would be too late if the UK wants to achieve its target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050.

Boris Johnson unveiled the policy as part of a launch event for a United Nations climate summit in November.

He said 2020 would be a "defining year of climate action" for the planet.

The summit, known as COP26, is being hosted in Glasgow. It is an annual UN-led gathering set up to assess progress on tackling climate change.

It isn't easy to see the political calculation here. Is a loss of climate realist votes balanced by a gain in votes from the climate game? Seems unlikely. Maybe the next general election is too far ahead to matter and Boris and co have calculated that they may as well appease the stridency of the climate lobby rather than pick a battle they cannot currently win.

Meanwhile Boris cements his reputation as a cynical opportunist. It also tends to suggest that the upper middle class is cutting itself off from the rest of us. They can afford the gated community, the Tesla, the private power backup and high electricity prices.

Monday 3 February 2020

We must be psychic

As soon as this story broke, some mysterious psychic influence suggested to me that his name would  not turn out to be Tom, Steve, James, William or even Elvis. Somehow I also knew that millions of people would have similar inexplicable foreknowledge. Weird innit?

Sunday 2 February 2020

I hope she wins

Emily Thornberry has made an urgent plea for nominations as she faces the possibility of being knocked out of the race to become Labour’s next leader.

The shadow foreign secretary made a lengthy appeal to party members on Sunday, arguing that she “raises the game” of the other candidates and asking twice for members to “give me a chance” and “get on and nominate me”.

Emily seems to be a leading light of the NVP (Not Very Popular) wing of the party so her chances appear to be less than wafer thin. Yet to my mind she could probably stuff Labour further down the plughole of political history and she could do it in an entertaining way. Come on Emily!

Saturday 1 February 2020

Guardian misery

What a miserable bunch they are at the Guardian. Although the sound of barrel-scraping can be pleasant to outside ears, imagine working there.

The only certainty is that we’ll be asking ourselves questions for a very long time. Set aside for a moment Vote Leave’s lies, dodgy funding, Russian involvement or the toothless Electoral Commission. Consider instead the magic dust. How did a matter of such momentous constitutional, economic and cultural consequence come to be settled by a first-past-the-post vote and not by a super-majority?

No - I can't imagine working there.