Tuesday 30 June 2020

Need to be quick

Must be something to do with coronavirus social distancing I suppose. Can't think what but I'm sure it has been thought through just as thoroughly as government policy.

Trump haters

Strong language - but a lesson on how to do contempt. Sent by Bill R.


Monday 29 June 2020

One the BBC missed?

I've been waiting for this story to be reported by the BBC -

Priti Patel uses loophole in EU freedom of movement laws to deport three criminals jailed for rape and torture back to Lithuania
  • Home Secretary used public security loophole in EU laws to deport violent thugs
  • The three criminals, all from Lithuania, had been jailed for rape and torture
  • Since 2010 the government has deported 53,000 foreign criminals overseas

A mere pinprick in both the pro-EU and open borders narratives but oddly enough I can't find the story anywhere on the BBC website. I found this though.

The BBC is the world’s leading public service broadcaster

We’re impartial and independent, and every day we create distinctive, world-class programmes and content which inform, educate and entertain millions of people in the UK and around the world.

Sunday 28 June 2020

The rise and rise of stupidity

Six years ago I wrote this post about a link between constantly rising complexity and a corresponding rise in general stupidity. This was the introduction –

As the world becomes more and more complex, we are presumably obliged to become more intelligent in order to cope. Otherwise, relative to a general increase in social, political and economic complexity, we might expect to see a corresponding rise in stupidity.

Oh dear!

If I’d chosen to write an updated version today, I would have phrased it differently and taken note of the comments on the original, but the gist of the post would be much the same. As complexity increases we cannot expect to increase our intelligence to cope with it. In which case, six years on we might just about expect to see signs that stupidity really is increasing. All this is subjective of course but the signs are not encouraging. For one thing a list was too easy -

  • Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
  • Woke culture.
  • Climate change still with us.
  • BLM riots.
  • Beating up statues.
  • Social media censorship.
  • Coronavirus response.

And tomorrow the bar rises again.

Saturday 27 June 2020

Thomas Sowell - Ever Wonder Why?

Thomas Sowell is a global treasure. We already know much of what he says but he says it in such an exceptionally lucid way. Much more difficult than it sounds in a public arena so heavily infected with misleading language.

He is right too – we should view our civilisation with much more approval than we have become accustomed to hear in the mainstream media. Considered approval certainly, but approval nonetheless.

We should teach it in schools in a sense where should is there to keep the show on the road because if we don’t it won’t stay on the road. We should teach that too. We should compare where we are today with well-known basket case countries and should not apologise for doing so.

Friday 26 June 2020

BBC activism

The BBC almost seems to loathe its licence payers. It seems to resent its dependence on them as if it harbours a superior contempt for their naïve willingness to watch its programmes. Like a famous but desperately conceited fiction writer whose output has fallen far below her glory days. So far has she fallen that creaking conceit is now horribly misplaced. She even seems content that fewer and fewer people bother with her mediocre output.

Yet even in her dotage the BBC clearly clings to a globalist narrative where those same licence payers have their country, culture and history swept aside forever in pursuit of ideological and surprisingly furtive political dogma.

In its attitude to licence payers the BBC appears to have acquired a culture of cocktail party Leninism. A revolutionary outlook where all reasonable people must adopt the soul of the wealthy tourist and a few of the words of Lenin. One which is never content to stay within its own borders whatever the fate of those millions of ordinary people who helped raise would-be BBC revolutionaries to the dizzy heights of the upper middle classes and the edgy satisfactions of ersatz intelligence.

That is merely an analogy, but the BBC seem to view ordinary licence payers as a kind of latter day kulak. Passive conservative progress-blockers who sullenly hinder the world from its true destiny, a globalist utopia which never manages to define just what it offers the ordinary worker or the children of the ordinary worker. The suspicion is that this poorly defined utopia the BBC seems to believe in so vehemently is little more than a new world order governed by clever people such as those who quite coincidentally work at the BBC.

The analogy with Leninism is surprisingly strong and it may even be more than an analogy because even today the ideal of the totalitarian utopia is as strong as it ever was. The BBC is not dispassionate enough to see its own utopian assumptions for what they are. We may as well assume therefore that the BBC attracts activists with a long discredited political agenda and has done so for decades. Worse than that though – it recruits them and worse still fails to rid itself of them even when they make their threadbare professional standards embarrassingly obvious

Yet this covert activism also engenders a sense of patching together of rigid political correctness and responsible professionalism which make no coherent sense because these things cannot be patched together. They do not belong together. The failure is too obvious, so much so that an inability to actually be professional, to correct lapses of professional standards when they occur, this failure seeps into everything the BBC tries to do.

It injects an unfortunately amateurish flavour into news and current affairs which once upon a time may not have been noticeable, but with the entire internet available in seconds it has become too noticeable. What is even more apparent is that it is not improving.

The BBC seems to be gripped by a difficulty often seen in bureaucracies where endless griping argument, evasions and petty principles take the place of pragmatic professionalism. A milieu where even the office ideologue cannot be evaded because management boats were burned long ago. BBC failures are compounded by its inability to lose face, admit wrongdoing, waste, bias and sloppy journalism and worst of all activism masquerading as investigative reporting.

Bureaucracies such as the BBC have this problem, this reliance on omissions and evasions to shield them from their own internal weaknesses but in our age of alternative sources - not from the outside world.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Bournemouth declares peak dork

Council leader Vikki Slade said: "We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours.

"The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response."

Hmm - on first scanning the headline I though it must be a bomb or a plane crashed into the beach or something else in the major incident line. Apparently not, but council folk do like their drama. 

Time for some pessimism

Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.

James Boswell - The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D (1791)

It is not worth holding on to any idea that there are fundamental boundaries within the world of politics. Certainly there are major doctrinal differences within the overall political game but none seem to be permanent. There are no impermeable boundaries to prevent political drift towards yet another variant of the One True Way. The words we use to name political standpoints convey a sense of permanence which is clearly unreal.

For example, no state is communist in the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat sense because the point of communism is to establish an elite. The point of communist revolutions has been the replacement of one elite by another – always worse. Yet we use familiar language to imply that communism could exist or could be some kind of ideal even though we know it the ideal is never realised in any complex society.

For those outside the elites there is no practical difference between Marxism and fascism. Naturally it is possible to argue the point until doomsday but in Johnsonian terms we are back to disputes over the precedence between a louse and a flea. This is the only end point to which any political system will gravitate unless prevented by the internal barrier of democratic accountability. But if there are no impermeable internal barriers then democracy is easily manipulated.

Modern technology renders a kind of soft fascism more suited to mass adaptation than the raw prototypes of the twentieth century. It becomes more pervasive, more powerful, more stable as a political system, more likely to survive contact with genuine democracies, more able to subvert those democracies.

Surveillance, propaganda, monitoring, auditing, promoting anxieties, sentimental influences and all the paraphernalia of mass manipulation and standardised behaviour are there. Even the ability to mould verbal fashions and popular clichés is such that certain aspects of real life slip away unperceived into the obscurity of constantly edited histories.

We see the trend in some comparatively recent changes. For example the police seem to be moving towards what could be described the auditing of public behaviour. Auditing behavioural compliance side by side with crime prevention. It was always there, it merely had to expand into something more structured, more politically useful.

Policing is more wide-ranging too because all bureaucracies have policing functions as boundaries between one kind of policing and another erode. More bureaucratic than Orwell’s thought police and a much softer approach but likely to be far more effective as people adapt to it.

And we certainly are adapting. We saw adaptation in action during the coronavirus pandemic. Now we are used to it so it will continue and expand. Perhaps we thought there was a barrier.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Time for some optimism

The human condition has many aspects but unfortunately they do not fit together into some kind of coherent whole. People claiming otherwise are part of the problem. With that in mind, maybe it is time for some optimism – another aspect of the human jigsaw which never can be finished.

To begin with a topical example - anyone who takes a peek at the mainstream media must wonder if they are all going mad. They probably are – their businesses and careers have no future and the frantic, fraudulent clickbait mania is a symptom of that. Ignore it and we won’t miss much but it will subside and eventually find itself replaced by something better. Not much better perhaps, but better.

In any event, mainstream news is mostly promotion for various pressure groups, commercial interests, all kinds of lobbyists, government departments and the interests of transnational bureaucracies. Cheap copy and paste news items pandering to power brokers, celebrities and the terminally opinionated.

Some people appear to believe it but that is merely a side-effect of human gullibility and a need to feel informed. We are slowly learning to ignore it except as a way to absorb a few minutes of the daily routine – to check what the loons are saying. It’s like junk mail – scan it then bin it.

This isn’t the source of the optimism though, merely a symptom and a clue to what is going on. Mainstream media hysteria tends to obscure this aspect, but ours may be the age of the little people, the ordinary folk who go about their lives making the best of things. The world has a greater and greater tendency to revolve around the facts and features of daily life and less and less tendency to revolve around elite politics. It has less and less tendency to revolve around political leaders and the things they think they are doing.

Gigantic corporations such as Amazon, Volkswagen, Microsoft, Facebook, Nestlé plus numerous others from pharmaceutical giants to supermarket chains to coffee shops, plus huge transnational bureaucracies all rely on colossal numbers of ordinary people going about their daily lives, building, growing, making, fixing, supervising, managing, teaching, persuading, analysing, exploring, eating, drinking, working, buying, selling and just spending money in an unimaginably vast sweep of billions upon billions of activities.

Like some gigantic machine with billions of self-adapting parts, this vastly complex edifice of daily activity must evolve as it chooses to evolve or it will slowly begin to crumble and decay. Everyone who matters knows this in one way or another. People who take to the streets, demonstrate, harangue, chant, burn and smash – they don’t know it but everyone else does. Recent demonstrations are fleabites on a gigantically indifferent reality.

This is why the machine knows that the coronavirus lockdown absolutely must be lifted, why it cannot continue for long, why the disruptive global risk of millions of untimely deaths had to be averted however clumsy the means used to avert it. It had to be averted because the machine has to keep running even if millions of deaths was an impossible outcome. But it will learn and next time things may be different and foolish advice will be docketed as foolish advice.

The machine which has to be kept running is built on the daily lives of billions of people like us with aspirations to be more like us. Whatever hysterical signals sent out by the sinking ship of mainstream media, that it the reality. We and our children are more important than they are, we are the future and they are not. Our daily lives keep the machine humming along, the machine which absolutely must be kept humming along. Unfortunately for the mainstream media they are expendable – we are not.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Old movies, old mores

Anyone who has ever watched a few movies from the 1950s may have noticed how the emotional temperature tends to be lower than modern offerings. Apart from a few very young actors, all the actors and producers involved in a 1950s film lived through World War II. Life may be a serious matter but war is far worse and fifties people knew that – the knowledge was in their bones. Old movies project a stoical determination to sort things out rationally because that is the best way. Just soldier on – they  knew what that meant.

Certainly fifties movies had lower budgets, less convincing special effects, more limited locations and more obvious studio work. Mrs H thinks many of the actresses weren’t very good either but that’s another issue. Yet to my mind the major difference is emotional.

Fifties characters had emotional outbursts but they tended to be more restrained and they subsided more quickly. A cup of tea or a cigarette were the main inducements to get over it and carry on. Modern movies depict characters who seem to be on a semi-permanent emotional binge. Not only that but they seem to value frequent emotional binges as an important aspect of their lives, as if it adds something essential to their personality.

We see the effect in politics where rational arguments are powerless against permanent emotional barriers to any kind of rational debate. As if inarticulate emotion is a valid and acceptable response - as if it means something deeper than mere reason could ever elucidate.

Suppose we leave that for a moment and move on TV soaps such as EastEnders. Here again the emotional temperature never returns to something sane people would regard as rational. A permanent churlish abundance of anger, resentment, sneering, shouting, contempt and dull-witted idiocy. At least a few people at the BBC must surely find it shameful, yet year after year the same miserable imbecility is pumped into the airwaves.

I don’t know how much damage it does to a civilisation such as ours, but it is virtually impossible to imagine how it could cause no damage at all. The core problem is its essential mendacity. The world is not as EastEnders depicts it and neither are the people. Mendacity is a key to the damage and it comes across as deliberate. It could hardly be accidental.

Maybe this is the real damage and the real message of mainstream drama in movies and TV. It says you don’t have to argue rationally - cursing, swearing and emotional incontinence are easier, more fashionable and completely acceptable. Emotional mendacity is okay – that’s the message.

All obvious enough but where does it take us? To my mind it takes us away from the emotional highs to lower level emotional mendacity which is more pervasive and more acceptable in polite society. The frown, the shrug, the slight moue of distaste, the raised eyebrow, the hand waving. Social acceptance and social rejection - emotionally it is made clear which is which and don’t you dare try to counteract it with reason.

This is where emotional mendacity probably does its real damage. Round the dinner table, in private political discussions, mainstream news outlets, media presentations, documentaries, mainstream comedy, movies, TV drama, charity campaigns, popular science, popular history, environmental campaigns. Even pandemic campaigns.

Ultimately, the emotional mendacity of our era is strongly associated with totalitarian politics. In the 1950s they knew that and it was reflected in movies of the period. We don’t know it now and this is reflected in the movies of our period. And much else.

Monday 22 June 2020

Try to watch without smiling

A gorilla costume, a space helmet and you have your monster. The mystery is how such films ever reached the cinema screen. Anyway I smiled.  

Sunday 21 June 2020

Playing the game for keeps

But no English school-boy is ever taught to tell the truth, for the very simple reason that he is never taught to desire the truth. From the very first he is taught to be totally careless about whether a fact is a fact; he is taught to care only whether the fact can be used on his “side” when he is engaged in “playing the game”.

G K Chesterton - What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Strange times we live in. For example, it is obvious enough that many people willingly adopt an idea they consider to be ‘right’ even though it is equally obvious that the idea is dubious, misleading or even false. In other words, truth is not always the high point on a scale of values. For some people and some subjects a scale of values may peak at ‘right’. In this distorted world a true idea can be wrong in the sense that the favoured alternative already sits at the top of the value scale.

Right > True > False > Wrong

It is worth adding that ‘right’ is more personal than true – it has a sense of ownership, kinship and collective virtue which truth cannot match. Truth is more austere, remote and difficult. That last one is important for mass persuasion – truth is difficult when issues are complex and nuances must be acknowledged. Difficult is rarely popular.

To argue any debating point is futile if true is not even a staging post on the way to ‘right’. This leaves us with an odd situation where wrong may be worse than false. Wrong may be far right, imperialist, xenophobic or numerous other variants but they all equate to wrong where wrong is worse than merely false.

In other words a true idea may be denounced as wrong and therefore worse than false because it is much further down a scale of values. Those who insist on truth as the ultimate arbiter may be seen as bad people or a basket of deplorables rather than merely mistaken. From here is no great leap for true ideas to be denounced as evil and beyond serious consideration by the ‘right’ people.

None of this is new and of course there are complex nuances because truth is usually conditional or merely the best we have rather than unambiguously true. Yet the problem is still with us and is getting worse. However nuanced it may be, truth as the ideal arbiter has to form common ground for any debate or there is no debate at all. Unfortunately no debate at all is what many activists want, including institutional activists such as the BBC.

Unfortunately ‘right’ always feels justified in suppressing true - so it does. Again this is what the BBC does. There is no common ground because ‘right’ cannot understand a common ground which isn’t ‘right’. It’s an old problem but now the game is being played globally and for keeps.

Useful if you have a spare obsession

Sold with vacant obsession and no upward chain. Useful if you have a spare obsession to slip straight into the vacancy.

Saturday 20 June 2020

The benefits of home schooling perhaps

Recommendations for children's books on my Amazon account -

Collected Works of Baruch Spinoza
Collected Works of G W F Hegel
Collected Norse Sagas
Collected Works of Thomas Hobbes

A horrible shock

Boris Johnson says he wants people to become less apprehensive about the disease.

Maybe so because he wants them to get back to work, but for many the horrible shock was his police state response to the pandemic plus the ease with which it was imposed and accepted. An aftershock came from a sense that other agendas were bundled into the lockdown and this was a dry run for yet more government oversight of daily life.   

Friday 19 June 2020

Lockdown dining

A Mrs H cheese scone still warm from the oven. For all the blather about fine dining, a scone like this sliced in two with a dab of butter on each slice is extremely difficult to beat. 

Infected tree

Spotted during our recent walk. No mention of arboreal distancing though.   

Thursday 18 June 2020

Clinton appeals to whine lovers

Mrs Clinton, who lost to Mr Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, said: "Obviously I tried to warn about him when I was running against him and yet once it was over I hoped, along with many Americans, that he would rise to the job, that he would not be as bad as I feared.

"Sadly, he's been even worse and the COVID-19 crisis really sums up the deep failures of his presidency."

It is not easy to view Mr Trump’s abrasive style as unambiguously appealing, but in my view his authenticity certainly does have some appeal. With Trump and within the limitations of appealing to a mass audience the old cliché works - what you see is what you get.

By way of contrast, when Mrs Clinton says I tried to warn about him when I was running against him, she demonstrates her lack of authenticity because at the time she thought she would win easily. She thought the polls proved it but the polls turned out to be as authentic as she is. The only time Mrs Clinton was authentic was her basket of deplorables comment.  

Mrs Clinton also reminds us of Obama’s impressively empty rhetoric and the dreadful fatuity of meaningless political speeches generally. At least we have some chance of grasping roughly what Trump is trying to do and why. It is not even worth listening to Mrs Clinton and certainly not worth analysing what she says. She is not even faintly authentic.

The problem is, huge numbers of people prefer inauthentic politics – fear of authenticity is part of US culture and ours here in the UK. For decades Hollywood has understood and exploited the inauthentic – even movies supposedly based on historical events are notoriously lacking in authenticity. Based on a true story – we know what that means. It means not authentic but let us entertain you by pretending otherwise.

Jeremy Corbyn was at least modestly authentic which is why he lost the last election so disastrously – he gave the totalitarian game away. Keir Starmer may be a far more accomplished politician than Corbyn, but is not as authentic. Starmer is not even as authentic as Boris Johnson but that isn’t saying much.

Looping back across the Atlantic to the US and Mrs Clinton, we are inevitably reminded of Joe Biden, Trump’s absurd presidential challenger. The polls say Biden is doing fine but have the polls suddenly become authentic? Whatever the polls say, don’t vote for inauthentic politics and expect an authentic result - that’s the Clinton lesson.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Is anybody there?

Went off for a short walk in the hills above Matlock yesterday. The car park was virtually empty at 10.15am when we arrived. Usually it would already have been fairly busy but even though the parking was temporarily free the silence was almost spooky. We'd expect to see more people than that on Christmas Day.

The cafe was closed - no takeaway service but we wouldn't have bothered with a coffee anyway. Out on the walk we only came across a woman walking her dogs - nobody else at all. When we arrived back at the car there were more people around but by then the car park should have been full and it was nowhere near that.

Maybe retired people are staying away, but out in the sticks lots of businesses must depend on them during the week, especially in summer. If they don't come back soon, summer will drift on by and quite a few places may close permanently. Oh well - maybe we'll go back to a flask of tea and a couple of Eccles cakes in a Tupperware box.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

A sign of things to come?

We received an email from Bamfords antiques auctioneers today as we are on their mailing list having bought and sold via them occasionally. Below is an excerpt -

As we come through the final weeks of lockdown, we continue to make changes to the way we serve our clients. It is not easy but the changes we have made have had a huge impact on the way auctions work from the initial valuation through to the marketing, selling and delivery to buyers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your recent patience and support. Although we had eight weeks when sales could not take place, I am very pleased to say that with our additional online bidding platforms our May Three Day Antique and Fine Art, Interiors and Library, Grand Tour and Sale of Curiosities Auctions all had record sales, not only in sale total but also the number of individual lots sold at 90-95%. This upholds the long-held belief that in times of economic uncertainty and when markets are volatile, investment in antiques becomes more popular than ever.

In other words they appear to be doing better online than before the lockdown. Auction houses have used online bidding for years of course, but that isn’t a result I’d have expected. A sign of things to come perhaps.

Monday 15 June 2020


I’ve taken a break from the wooden mendacity of Karl Marx to read Red Famine by Anne Applebaum, a history of the Holodomor, the deliberately created Ukraine famine between 1931 and 1934. Extremely grim reading but another reminder of how appalling the Soviet regime was. A reminder of how appalling its apologists were and still are too, but that’s another issue.

At the height of the crisis, organized teams of policemen and party activists, motivated by hunger, fear and a decade of hateful and conspiratorial rhetoric, entered peasant households and took everything edible: potatoes, beets, squash, beans, peas, anything in the oven and anything in the cupboard, farm animals and pets…

The result was a catastrophe: At least 5 million people perished of hunger between 1931 and 1934 all across the Soviet Union. Among them were more than 3.9 million Ukrainians. In acknowledgement of its scale, the famine of 1932–3 was described in émigré publications at the time and later as the Holodomor, a term derived from the Ukrainian words for hunger – holod – and extermination – mor.

Much later, a few former communist activists admitted that they had used propaganda mantras to suppress the reality of mass starvation and the merciless way they enforced it. They refused to see what was in plain sight, the propaganda being so forceful and persuasive that they were able to use it as a veil between perceptions and actions.

Many urban activists were entirely unfamiliar with the reality of peasant farming. It was not the vicious nest of counter-revolutionary landowners they had been led to expect. Yet they had been persuaded to see the peasants as ‘former people’ to be justifiably swept away by a brave new communist world they were trying to block for base and selfish reasons.

What the activists found wasn’t what they had expected of course, but still with unimaginable cruelty many did everything they could to enforce the impossible demands of Moscow.

It is a reminder of how easily activists, informers and a secret police force may be recruited to even the most disgusting regimes. Students and young professional people seem particularly liable to discard all civilised values in favour of the most ignoble actions and implausible causes. It is still chilling to consider how willing they were trample on and destroy what ordinary Russians had built and what they valued.

To an important degree vicious political activism seems to be a weakness of large populations. If only 0.1% of a population are disposed to become political fanatics that is 1000 people in every million. Give those people the resources to recruit a further 1% who can be persuaded into the ranks and the job is done.

Rather like pyramid selling, the benefits go to early recruits and they are generally the ones who knew the score to begin with - or were willing to gamble on it. Build the narrative, promote it in the right way to the right people and you attract first the 0.1% then the next generation of fascist recruits. Identify the enemy, hammer home the call to action and that’s it – catastrophe here we come.

Sunday 14 June 2020

Esso Blue

The other day Mrs H and I both realised we remember paraffin ads. Can't recall what triggered the memory but blimey - that dates us. 

Not much social distancing there


I sometimes wonder what kind of reader reaction the BBC expects when it publishes stories like this. Some kind of indiscriminate sympathy perhaps. Maybe it could trigger a new placard-waving cause such as DLM - Dumb Lives Matter. 

Saturday 13 June 2020

Lunatic precautions

Yesterday we tried a brief stroll around Carsington, mostly to get out of the house on a grey and cloudy day. The visitor centre wasn’t busy, but preparations had been made for the new normal as we slowly crawl our way out of pandemic lockdown.

The precautions being adopted are already familiar. Social distancing notices all over the place in case we haven’t heard of it, marks on the ground so we know what two metres might look like, outside café tables spaced too far apart to listen in on other conversations, takeaway menus only.

A long line of yellow footprints had been painted on the ground to indicate how people should queue for the takeaway. Nobody was queuing. The few people we saw eating and drinking had brought their own flask of tea or coffee, as we had.

None of this is a criticism of the Carsington facilities. From what we saw they had done the best they could within the lunatic restrictions and precautions imposed on them from above. And indirectly imposed on them by the shrieking, shroud-waving and wholly irresponsible mass media. And the lunatic political ethos we now seem to be drowning in. With little hope of rescue too.

We have reached a stage in the pandemic where we seem to be racing to entangle ourselves in lunatic precautions before it becomes too obvious that the risk of infection has virtually disappeared. To a good approximation I suspect that the death rate is now unknown, lost in the uncertainties of problematic diagnoses and small numbers.

Tell people about the risks and get on with normal life would probably be a far less damaging approach. Be optimistic, understand the value of optimism, embrace its risks and rewards. There are rewards -  have we forgotten? Allow everyone to take responsibility for their own lives and their own safety. 

The trouble is we all know why it won’t happen and that is not a comfortable insight.

Friday 12 June 2020

Like passing an exam

Keir Starmer’s symbolic grovel is rather like passing a major exam. Make it clear that you can out-grovel anyone if grovelling is the game and you pass the exam and are awarded a virtual certificate. There is no need to prove anything else although the certificate may need renewing every now and then – there is a periodic subscription fee.

It worked for Justin Trudeau and maybe it will work for Sir Keir. Brand him as a creep maybe but that misses the point. Creepy grovelling is the new… oh hang on.

Thursday 11 June 2020

BBC - too aggressive miserable and uninformative

Some things are better than others

Some things are better than others. Charity is better than meanness, love than hatred, self-forgetfulness than egotism, cheerfulness than grumbling, attention than chatter, humour than pomposity —

Hugh Walpole - Captain Nicholas (1934)

Trite perhaps but intentionally so. Walpole is drawing a contrast between trite but good and sophisticated but evil. Something we seem to have lost sight of in a futile pursuit of –

– of what?

That was Walpole’s point. Evil can be merely negative, the pursuit of nothing positive. An outcome of fashionably specious ideas and the easy pitfalls of nihilism. A moral failure to pursue what is good in favour of a wry sneer and a false dichotomy. Good often is trite and difficult to defend but nothing else will do. Some things really are better than others.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Taught to be obtuse

Is it possible to teach people to be obtuse? Of course it is in numerous ways, but mainly we do it by inducing allegiances. To defend an allegiance it is often necessary to be so obtuse that its defects become invisible and cannot be rendered visible by even the clearest logic or the most obvious facts.

It is also possible to teach intelligent people to be obtuse to such an extent that the social and economic value of their intelligence is severely compromised. In some cases the value of their intelligence can be negative – we’d be better off if they kept quiet and did something useful such as composing crosswords. For example there are many celebrities we could advantageously do without. I’m not sure how many could compose crosswords though.

It is also possible for people to want the certainty that an obtuse outlook confers. We see lots of evidence of that in bureaucracies, TV and mainstream media. Bureaucracies invent new flavours of obtuseness all the time. Nutty flavours are popular at the moment.

The issue is not a dichotomy between obtuse and acute because obtuse people can be acute in different situations. They may acutely defend their own obtuseness too – although that isn’t common. Some common situations demand an obtuse outlook to begin with. Climate change is as ever a good example.

It is quite possible that Prince Charles is not what one would ordinarily call obtuse, but in his concern for climate change he is. A Prince Charles clone born a century earlier might not be so obtuse. He may find some other form of obtuseness of course. Claiming that railways will destroy the entire world by 1930 for example. That kind of obtuseness.

We also teach children how to be obtuse. Not to be obtuse as such, but to recognise when it may be appropriate to seem obtuse. Later they may learn to be obtuse in more adult ways - perhaps permanently or perhaps temporarily. Temporary but only erased by age and experience is common. Permanent is also common.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Fake dignity

Daniel Radcliffe hopes JK Rowling's comments about gender will not "taint" the Harry Potter series for fans.

In a statement posted on an LGBT suicide prevention charity website, the actor said: "Transgender women are women.

"Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people."

Says a chap who makes his living pretending to be someone else. Maybe that gives him an enhanced insight or maybe he is merely following a political fashion. I don’t know but suspect the latter. What follows is merely anecdote but I think it makes a point. 

Some time ago we saw two chaps dressed as women wandering around an antiques centre. There was nothing dignified about them because how could there be? Nobody else knew them and dignity cannot be conferred in a vacuum, cannot be handed over to people we do not know and with whom we have no social interaction.

We may use preferred trans pronouns if common politeness demands it in social situations, but that is all. Common politeness does not compel us to deny the facts of reproductive biology. In certain circumstances we may politely avoid those facts as a subject for social discussion but in wider and impersonal discussion there is also some dignity to be found in sticking to reality. Not so much in promoting political fantasies. As for enforced acceptance – there isn’t much dignity in that at all.

Monday 8 June 2020

Not entirely different

We buzzed off for a walk in the hills above Cromford Canal today. Very pleasant it was and good to get away from the media for a few hours. In my case there is always a strong temptation to scan the headlines at least, but not when we are out walking.

I couldn't get away from it completely though because it occurred to me that there is some similarity between the UK coronavirus response and huge vanity projects such as HS2. Not a comparison I'd push very far, but in both cases vast sums of money are spent with no easily demonstrated return. Then there is the status of being seen to approve a massive project. Not entirely different perhaps but that's enough of that -


Sunday 7 June 2020

Race to disaster

With the current mess in mind, suppose we apply the prisoner’s dilemma to the politics of race relations. The optimal strategy in the prisoner’s dilemma is cooperation, but human nature is rarely high-minded enough to risk it. 

Similarly the optimal strategy for both groups in any ethnic or religious divide is to work for harmonious relations. However if bad actors in either group promote a one-sided strategy then suboptimal is what we end up with. This is what the logic of the prisoner’s dilemma tells us.

Conversely, if one group follows the optimal harmonious strategy whatever the other group does, then the strategy also fails if there are bad actors in the other group. The mere fact that one group is aware that the other has an exploitable strategy is enough to make failure likely. Assume there are bad actors in both groups – it is not necessary to claim otherwise to make the argument work. This is what we have to recognise though - both groups must follow the optimal strategy to make it work. Both groups must identify their own bad actors - nothing else will work.

This is just one reason why the ludicrously privileged BBC should have its funding removed. Apart from numerous other failings it has consistently failed to apply the logic of the prisoner’s dilemma and identify bad actors in racism debates. Of course this implies that the BBC is one of those bad actors and unfortunately there is evidence that it is just that.

The obvious problem is so many people know that anti-racism rhetoric is one-sided. Again this is no surprise because the logic of the prisoner’s dilemma suggests this as a likely outcome. In the UK the BBC is so influential that this unbalanced situation is unlikely to change until the BBC changes. At the moment that seems unlikely.

A more likely outcome is one that anyone who pays attention will see all the time. Those who see themselves as in the losing group of the debate may as well forget the optimal strategy. The logic of the prisoner’s dilemma suggests that this is the way we’ll go because, among other reasons, diversity policies are inherently unbalanced. We’ll end up with real rather than mostly imaginary racism. Many people seem to know that already.

Facebook scam

This is entertaining from Atomic Shrimp. I don't have a Facebook account so haven't come across such scams and I'm not typing this blog post on a $29.99 laptop.

Saturday 6 June 2020

You know this already but worth a look

The nature of the beast

It is an obvious and inherent feature of political standpoints that they are somewhat nebulous and subject to mission creep. This seems to be one reason why Donald Trump was elected US President after eight years of Obama mission creep. Too many ordinary voters felt left behind by the creep. 

This is one reason why Jeremy Corbyn’s brief reign as UK Labour Party leader is so fascinating. He is an entirely unambiguous example of mission creep within a major political party. The party is supposedly founded on fairly pragmatic socialist principles, but Corbyn has shown us how little that really means. Part of the fascination is that many voters hardly seemed to notice. That is political mission creep working its creepy magic. Corbyn probably pushed it along too quickly, but not by much.

The EU is an example of large scale mission creep which has supposedly been planned for many decades. Yet there are good reasons to think it would have happened anyway due to the nature of the beast. From this perspective the planning merely eased the way for what was bound to happen anyway. EU fans are riding a process they cannot stop rather than one they control - so they mostly sit back and enjoy the ride.

The problem seems to be associated with the vague and misleading nature of political labels. There are no real boundaries between competing political standpoints. Socialist, conservative, social democrat, democratic socialist, fascist, communist and numerous variations may all have their book of words, but reality is too complex and unpredictable for a book of words. Political standpoints are diffuse with no real boundaries because they have to be, they have to adapt to events. Those events may cause one political standpoint to fuse into another but if the names remain the same the shift in emphasis isn’t necessarily obvious. 

People vary and place a varying emphasis on even their own political position. A natural trend is for all political positions to drift and unfortunately for us there is only one possible direction for political drift. That direction is mission creep towards a more totalitarian centre simply because there is no other source of political gravity. The centre is shifting from UK to EU to UN but that seems to be the nature of modern political mission creep.

Political gravity leads many people to ride the beast and push for more and more totalitarian outcomes. This is what we saw during both Brexit and the coronavirus debacle – the nature of the beast.

Friday 5 June 2020

To lie and be seen to lie

Protesters staged a "die-in" outside Dominic Cummings' house over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Holding signs and wearing face masks, about 20 campaigners lay on the street outside the north London home of the prime minister's controversial adviser on Thursday evening.

One of the placards read: "Over 50,000 dead while you're playing king of the castle."

Strange thing to do - I can't imagine doing it whatever the cause. It keeps the issue alive but in the wrong way. Silly often works because of what we are, but not this time in my view. Maybe silly has been overplayed. 

Thursday 4 June 2020

What is he saying?

Barack Obama has added his voice to the national outcry over the death of George Floyd and the continued police brutality against black Americans.

"As tragic as these last few weeks have been, as difficult, scary and uncertain as they've been, they have been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened."

He said the protests taking place across America are "a far more representative cross-section of America that did not exist back in the 1960s".

Ah I get it - Obama is saying that greater diversity now makes riots and looting more progressive, more woke and that's good, that gives us hope.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Mowing the lawn

This chap's other videos are worth a look too. He has done some remarkable engineering in his shed. 

Empty café

Yesterday we whizzed off for our first proper walk since lockdown began. It was one of our shorter walks because we knew we’d be out of condition – and we were. We discovered that while toiling up a hill which barely counts as a hill. It's one we’d hardly have noticed not so long ago. It became much easier once we’d climbed to the top but then we remembered - that’s how it works with hills. After that it was grand to be out again absorbing the views. 

Later we noticed that one of our favourite cafes was open for takeaway service but the place was empty unfortunately. It would be tragic if it went under but who wants a takeaway coffee unless they are in a hurry? After a walk we prefer to sit and chat and watch the world go by. 

It would be a major step forward if government and ‘experts’ could bring themselves to admit how tiny the individual risk is so we may as well go back to how things were. We may as well go back now and show a touch of optimism for a change.

Fat chance but that seems to be one of the great political divides – pessimism versus optimism, political versus apolitical. Political pessimism is the curse of our age and isn’t all health and safety. We are where we are in the pandemic debacle because we are governed by pessimist politics and unrelenting propaganda persuaded us to be pessimistic. It’s still working – the café is empty.

Want even more pessimism? Just look at Keir Starmer.

Tuesday 2 June 2020

No it didn't


The sudden death of a family member or friend, a car accident, a burglary - these things are likely to be shocking but Trump's church visit shocked nobody. Fortunately we expect nothing better from the BBC so the headline wasn't a shock.