Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Ben Sixsmith has a nicely sarcastic piece in The Critic about opportunist attempts to stifle public discourse on the back of the murder of Sir David Amess. It is well worth reading the whole piece.
There is something about Twitter that makes it almost impossible to resist not only making but publicising snap judgements. As soon as news broke that Sir David Amess MP had been stabbed, online commentators were drawing conclusions. Some blamed incendiary verbiage from the left, such as Angela Rayner MP calling Conservatives “scum”. Others blamed the government, with former PCC Arfon Jones, saying “this is what happens” when you have a government that “sows hate”. No one, to be clear, knew what had happened.
Evidence that has emerged since, following Sir David’s tragic death, has not been kind to the “civility in politics” narrative. The killer is reported to have been Ali Harbi Ali, apparently the 25-year-old son of a former media spokesman for the Prime Minister of Somalia. The suspect had reportedly been referred to the government’s anti-radicalisation scheme Prevent and has been detained under terrorism legislation. This makes it unlikely, though not impossible, that he was radicalised by watching people argue about Brexit or lockdowns.
Somehow, journalists and politicians have maintained their initial narrative. It is as if they are living in a parallel universe where none of this news has been reported. Their discourse flows on, river-like, and nothing one hurls into it can make a difference.
I'm not aware of having done this and take some care to avoid it, but it is as well to point out the possibility.
Monday, 18 October 2021
His talent for improvising useful falsehoods is innate; later on, at maturity, he is proud of this; he makes it the index and measure of "political superiority," and "delights in calling to mind one of his uncles who, in his infancy, prognosticated to him that he would govern the world because he was fond of lying."
Hippolyte Taine on Napoleon - The Modern Regime (1890-93)
Have we always been lied to by elites and their minions? I think we have in that they always claim to mediate on our behalf. Essentially they always claim directly or indirectly to mediate between some kind of higher necessity and the lower classes. Even when the lower classes have no power to change anything they still do it and they still lie about what they are doing.
Are some people fond of lying as Taine said of Napoleon? Clearly some people are fond of lying in that they do it and seemingly build a parallel world of some kind via their lies. I’ve known of ordinary people who are said to lie as a matter of course. Something I suspect many people have come across. It isn’t wildly unusual, especially if we include dishonest exaggeration and elaboration.
Lies commonly seem designed to establish some kind of socially superior position from petty one-upmanship to large scale political lying designed to establish and maintain political power.
Is COP26 an elaborate festival of lies? Of course it is, that’s how power games are played. It isn't a game of croquet. We have always been lied to by elites and their minions and it isn’t likely to stop now. Neither is it likely to be thwarted by scientific integrity. Again - integrity is not how the game is played.
Climate change: 'Your future depends on the future of the planet,' Prince Charles warns children in documentary
The Prince of Wales said his grandson, George, is already learning about the impact of climate change on young people.
Sunday, 17 October 2021
The man arrested by police following the killing of the MP Sir David Amess has been named as Ali Harbi Ali.
The 25-year-old is being held under the Terrorism Act and officers have until Friday to question him.
The BBC understands Mr Ali was referred to the counter-terrorist Prevent scheme some years ago, but was never a formal subject of interest to MI5.
It’s odd, but as soon as the news broke I was pretty sure that the alleged perpetrator’s name would not be something like Steve or Thomas. No doubt millions of others were equally sure - even internationally.
The observation isn’t meant to be particularly sarcastic because nutters kill innocent people all the time, but the clues seemed to assemble themselves within seconds. Stabbing, prominent victim, tardy reporting of any details about the alleged perpetrator. Even MPs will have guessed correctly within a matter of seconds. The clues assemble themselves.
Saturday, 16 October 2021
COP26: Minister says nations that don't attend climate change summit will be 'outliers' - amid report China's Xi set to snub Glasgow gathering
An unidentified British source is quoted in The Times as saying: "It is now pretty clear that Xi is not going to turn up and the PM [Boris Johnson] has been told that."
Friday, 15 October 2021
How do you make air travel greener? This Rolls-Royce pledge is a big part of the answer
The hunt is on for ways to make air travel less carbon-intensive, especially with demand set to soar as countries emerge from the worst of the pandemic. An announcement on Thursday by Rolls-Royce is a big step in the right direction...
Rolls has previously said that sustainable aviation fuel, which is produced from feed stocks such as cooking oil, non-palm waste oils from animals or plants and solid waste from homes and businesses, offers "net CO2 lifecycle emissions of at least 75% less than conventional jet fuel".
Sounds good but we clearly need to make sure green feed stocks are adequate. Cooking oil is an obvious area we could easily boost via a number of measures.
- Green subsidies for fish and chip shops.
- Replace BBC presenters with much more rotund folk.
- Develop BBC food programmes such as the Great Green Fry Up.
- Introduce a Green BMI of 30 to make people less anxious about their weight.
- School meals could have Green Fry Up Day every week.
Thursday, 14 October 2021
Prince William criticises billionaire space race after William Shatner's Blue Origin flight
The Duke of Cambridge says the focus should be on repairing the Earth, not trying to find "the next place to live".
In an interview ahead of his inaugural Earthshot Prize, the Duke of Cambridge told the BBC: "We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live."
Javid sorry for Covid losses but says he has not read Commons report in detail
Health secretary falls short of apologising for government decision to delay first lockdown but says ‘there are lessons to learn’
I've found you have to possess an authoritarian mind to read the Guardian, a mind where important assumptions automatically escape further analysis. Makes it surprisingly difficult to read.
Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Climate change: 'Adapt or die' warning from Environment Agency
Hundreds of people could die in floods in the UK, the Environment Agency has warned in a hard-hitting report that says the country is not ready for the impact of climate change...
The apocalyptic tone is deliberately intended to startle governments, companies and communities into preparing for global warming effects such as higher sea levels and more extremes of rainfall and drought.
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Teachers in Yanggang Province mobilized for the potato harvest
Daily NK has learned that teachers in Yanggang Province have recently been mobilized to harvest potatoes. A source says they are heading to the farms earlier than in previous years with a poor harvest expected this season.
The source, who is based in the province, told Daily NK on Thursday that the province’s education department assigned local teachers potato quotas from Sep. 25. He said early October is the optimal time to harvest potatoes, but with the authorities expecting insufficient supplies, they are putting teachers to work in the fields about 10 days earlier than last year.
Covid: UK's early response worst public health failure ever, MPs say
The UK's failure to do more to stop Covid spreading early in the pandemic was one of the worst ever public health failures, a report by MPs says.
The government approach - backed by its scientists - was to try to manage the situation and in effect achieve herd immunity by infection, it said.
This led to a delay in introducing the first lockdown, costing thousands of lives.
Monday, 11 October 2021
Stars ready to join Prince William for ceremony recognising best ideas for tackling climate change
The event will include performances by Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, KSI and Yemi Alade, and Shawn Mendes, and an appearance by Sir David Attenborough, who will share the optimism he feels about environmental challenges.
We are in the process of acquiring other sins too. The feckless smoker of course, but we've moved on from that. The feckless unvaccinated for example. The feckless car driver, the feckless drinker, the feckless holidaymaker and so on. Even the feckless eater. That's one to dwell on.
Welcome to the world of the new priesthood where sin is inescapable. Unless you join the priesthood of course.
Sunday, 10 October 2021
Imagine a school teacher with so much natural ability as a chess player that he could have aimed at becoming a world class player, even a world championship challenger. Yet on the whole he appears to have preferred teaching.
Henry Ernest Atkins (20 August 1872 – 31 January 1955) was a British chess master who is best known for his unparalleled record of winning the British Chess Championship nine times in eleven attempts. He won every year from 1905 to 1911, and again in 1924 and 1925. A schoolmaster, Atkins treated chess as a hobby, devoting relatively little time to it and playing in only a handful of international tournaments. He was an extremely gifted player who would likely have become one of the world's leading players had he pursued the game more single-mindedly.
Atkins even dropped competitive chess completely for over a decade.
After the 1911 Championship, Atkins retired completely from tournament chess for the next 11 years. He later remarked, "I really can't say why I didn't play after 1911 for so many years."
By way of contrast, today we are plagued with celebrities who appear to have no natural ability at all. And MPs. And...
Saturday, 9 October 2021
It is sometimes worth restating obvious aspects of human nature and politics because their importance can be overlooked. Often deliberately overlooked, but as we know that's part of it. Climate change offers one of the most obvious examples of what we are.
If you create a fashionable, well-funded and scary scientific paradigm which supposedly affects everyone on the planet and is always in the news. If that paradigm is full of holes but it can be made plausible by scientific cherry picking and exaggeration, then you will attract plenty of second-rate scientists to support your paradigm. Most scientists are second-rate. That’s just how we are.
The same problem affects the sinister and crushing growth of globalism. Presumably this is a key reason why Boris went for Brexit. If globalism rules our future then why bother with the EU? On the global stage there are more and better opportunities for a former Prime Minister.
Friday, 8 October 2021
One night I lay broad awake, perhaps from having shot a curlew, and eaten him, without an onion sewn inside while roasting, but he had been so hard to shoot that I was full of zeal to dine upon him, and had no onion handy.
R. D. Blackmore - The Maid of Sker (1872)
UK City of Culture 2025 longlist revealed
Eight places have been longlisted for the prestigious UK City of Culture 2025 title
Thursday, 7 October 2021
We are whizzing off for an overnight hotel stay this weekend. Packing begins tomorrow, although Mrs H seems to have started already.
Something has changed.
The other evening Mrs H and I were watching a television programme, something we rarely do now. It was ITV so there were lots of weirdly infantile adverts where actors pretend to be maniacally happy about clean floors or somehow they manage to appear cool and superior while driving a dull, mass produced car.
Apart from the ads, what struck me more forcibly than usual was how crappy television really is. Not a hundred percent crap, but close enough to wonder if we should ever have allowed the goggle box into our homes at all. Perhaps we should have left it in the showroom because it did far more damage than we knew.
What damage would that be? It seems possible that we have drifted away from the spoken and written word towards the moving image. Something which may be an example of that occurred during the recent Facebook outage.
Out of interest during the outage I skimmed through a fair number of comments left at various websites, comments which appeared to have been left by Facebook users impatient to see the issue resolved. Numerous comments may have simply reflected Facebook argot but they also seemed to reflect an unwillingness to string words into sentences.
Even when words were strung together, they usually had to reflect a familiar image. Words are often supposed to do that of course, but the importance of the image seems to have grown. The image directs the words even when it should be the other way round. Television does it all the time.
Of course it is possible that television changed nothing fundamental, it merely plugged itself in to what was already there and made the image into the dominant theme of our lives. In which case the question is answered, we should not have allowed television into our homes and our lives.
Boris Johnson's party conference speech 'economically illiterate'
The prime minister's speech was big on bluster but business leaders were left feeling short-changed.
Wednesday, 6 October 2021
Insulate Britain Invokes WW2 Collateral Damage to Justify Deaths Caused by Protests
The spokesman for Insulate Britain implicitly stated that deaths caused by ambulances forced to wait in traffic because of one of his protests was like allowing soldiers in World War Two to die in order to keep secret from Nazi Germany that the UK had cracked the code for the Enigma machine, per his interpretation of historical events he had seen in the 2014 film The Imitation Game.
A development during my lifetime has been the way newness has become a major criterion of taste. It has been noted and commented on for many decades yet it still persists as strongly as ever. New domestic décor, new cars, new clothes, new holiday destinations, new gadgets, new cookery recipes – the list is endless.
In one sense newness has become destructive in that we are required to admire new political policies, new leaders, new laws, new sources of energy, new ideas about the environment, new genders, new fashions, new attitudes, new celebrities, new words, new cliches. This list is growing.
I wonder how Boris and his new cabinet will perform?
Tuesday, 5 October 2021
Seeing the same GP over several years helps patients live longer and stay out of hospital, study finds
- Lasting relationships with GPs also slashes risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Findings come from new study by scientists at the University of Bergen, Norway
- Patients who had same GP for 15 years or more were 30% less likely to need out-of-hours health services than those who knew theirs for less than a year
- Long-term patients were also 28% less likely to be admitted to hospital
Monday, 4 October 2021
Two quotes for the political party conference season here in the UK.
Side by side they walked in quick step, as to the beating of a drum; eyes direct, as looking along a barrel, ears pricked for the millionth echo of an offensive remark.
George Gissing - Isabel Clarendon (1885)
You see what I am like; they take something from you, and you give them something else as well and say, ‘Take that, too.’ They strike you on the cheek and in your joy you offer them your whole back. Then they try to lure you like a dog with a bun, and you embrace them with your foolish paws and fall to kissing them with all your heart and soul.
Fyodor Dostoevsky - Polzunkov (1848)
It has always been obvious enough that core aspects of the human condition are old and intractable. We do not have the ability to eliminate them. The best we may do is ameliorate them, but we elect leaders who tell us otherwise. And too many of us listen to them.
Kit Kowol has a piece in The Critic about political name calling in relation to Angela Rayner referring to Tories as 'scum'. He suggests 'rhetorical appropriation' is the right way to deal with it. Entertaining and worth reading.
Name calling in politics. Get it right, and in just a few words you can create a pithy line that permanently defines your opponent. The term “guilty men” to describe those who supported appeasement, for example, was one that haunted Conservative politicians for decades. Get an insult wrong, however, and you can look dangerously out of touch, especially when the insult refers to voters — think of Hillary Clinton’s reference to “deplorables”...
Labour Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, described the Tory party as being “lower than vermin”. Like Rayner’s, Bevan’s words were aimed more at shaping his image within his own party than communicating with the country. Known for enjoying the hospitality of wealthy Conservative socialites, most famously the newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, Beavan made his “vermin” comment during a speech describing the poor health that he and his friends experienced in his native South Wales. As a result, Bevan claimed, “no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction” could eradicate from his heart “the deep burning hatred for the Tory party that inflicted those experiences on me”. While the speech and the furore surrounding it certainly helped secure Bevan’s reputation as a working-class warrior — you can even buy t-shirts with Bevan’s words emblazoned on them — it also induced an equally strong reaction on the Right in the form of the creation of the Vermin Club.
Sunday, 3 October 2021
Conservative Party conference 2021: Boris Johnson promises 'big, bold decisions' to rebuild Britain after COVID - amid fears of looming winter crisis
As Conservative Party members began arriving in Manchester, Boris Johnson is championing the event's "Build Back Better" slogan with a message that the UK's recovery from the COVID crisis will not see a return to the "status quo ante".
Ten seconds thinking time – here’s three big, bold decisions to show willing but there are many, many more.
Sell off the BBC
Repeal the Climate Change Act
And so on and so on. It isn’t difficult but Boris will make it so. Makes a chap wonder what Roman citizens thought as it became obvious that the empire was crumbling. Something pithy in Latin I expect.
Bureaucracies are like food, we need them but not too much and quality can be very variable. Unfortunately bureaucracies prefer bloat to quality.
In the bureaucratic world, even problem solving can be a tactic to generate more opportunities for containment. Naturally enough, containment endures because we do need a certain level of regulation and enforcement. Red tape is not necessarily destructive, but it is an opportunity to push containment further and deeper until it becomes destructive. Even this offers more bureaucratic opportunities.
As an example, we have a UK drugs problem. Containing it provides a permanent bureaucratic workload. Consequently we have a drugs policy which isn’t intended to solve the problem but to contain it. Politically this is satisfactory – the problem is contained and a few drug seizures create the impression that something is being done. Which it is, but not necessarily the best that could be done. Nobody is interested in that.
As another topical example we have a net zero carbon policy because it won’t work, just as we have other climate policies and regulations because they won't work. The huge bureaucratic advantage of climate policies is that they do not even make sense. The climate narrative offers containment opportunities which are simply invented to mitigate imaginary problems in an imaginary future.
We have mass immigration in the UK, not because it is beneficial but because it is not beneficial, because it offers numerous integration problems as opportunities for bureaucratic containment.
Race relations bureaucracy is a spin-off from mass immigration. It too has delivered numerous bureaucratic containment opportunities, some invented, some created by opportunistic containment policies. It all serves to generate laws, regulations, education, training and an endless source of virtuous aspiration.
We have state education because it doesn’t work as well as education could be made to work. As with other bureaucratic activities, mediocrity offers endless opportunities for containing poor performance without curing it. Even superior educational performance becomes a driver for further bureaucratic initiatives which turn out to be containment rather than improvement.
Even information offers bureaucratic containment opportunities. As we know. That’s the sinister one.
Saturday, 2 October 2021
They passed a very pleasant day at Sker (as I was told that evening), pushing about among rocks and stones, and routing out this, that, and the other, of shells and sea-weed and starfish, and all the rest of the rubbish, such as amuses great gentry, because they have nothing to do for their living.
R. D. Blackmore - The Maid of Sker (1872)
Friday, 1 October 2021
Energy crisis: Fuel poverty warning as price cap goes up at time of 'chaos' for economy
Labour is warning of a "winter of discontent" ahead as rising bills combine with disruption in the economy to leave the government facing claims it is presiding over a period of preventable chaos.
From a political perspective it is not easy to see how Boris is to avoid being exposed as someone who does not understand what he is talking about. I apologise in advance for the horrible image, but that would be an emperor's new clothes level of exposure. Very stark indeed.
Thursday, 30 September 2021
Francis Menton has an interesting piece on the indictment of lawyer Michael Sussman on September 16th. Well worth reading.
Can There Be Any Doubt That Hillary Was Behind The Trump/Russia Collusion Hoax?
I feel that I should comment on the indictment of lawyer Michael Sussman by Special Counsel John Durham while the issue is still current. Very likely you have already read extensively about Durham’s indictment of Sussman, which came down on September 16. Sussman was one of the lawyers, although not the head lawyer, at the firm of Perkins Coie, who worked for the DNC and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.
This indictment is another instance by which we are learning step by step how the Democratic powers and their press side-kicks, through strict control of a “narrative,” think that they can get a critical mass of the American people to believe literally anything, no matter how preposterous. And to a remarkable extent, they are right.
Wednesday, 29 September 2021
Are you a bad person? Politically you may well be, as I am.
Nobody can possibly have missed the climate change debate which has been going on in a one-sided manner for decades now. The most interesting aspect has been a very common political strategy lying behind the official climate narrative.
It’s a very old political strategy we see all the time. People who do not accept the official climate narrative are presented as bad people. Frequently this is done overtly by the use of such terms as ‘climate denier’ and sometimes covertly via insinuation, but this is the real core of the climate debate.
Most of us have no wish to be a bad person, but increasingly this means not being on the minority side of certain political debates which mass media have made very one-sided. The effect is probably much stronger than not wishing to be a bad person. More a case of absolute refusal to be a bad person at any cost. It applies to organisations and institutions too.
Naturally enough, political debates are defined in this way because it works. As a direct result, many people are induced to go along with absurd, damaging or even malign political projects. The desire to avoid being a bad person overrides the critical faculties and even self-interest.
In particular, middle class people appear to be powerfully influenced by bad person politics. So much so that conventionally intelligent, well-educated people give their assent to narratives which are clearly dubious, false or even meaningless. The official climate narrative is a blend of all three.
The Donald Trump presidency was an example, where openly supporting an obviously capable president made one a bad person politically. So much so that it did not matter to millions of people how capable he was nor what he achieved. Many people saw Trump as capable but many were quite unable to see it. To see it would be bad.
An even more bizarre situation has emerged with the Joe Biden presidency where openly supporting an embarrassingly incapable president does not make one a bad person. The whole world seems to know how incapable Biden is, but it does not matter. It appears that most people refuse to be classified politically as a bad person, even at the expense of their own integrity.
We saw the bad person strategy during the coronavirus debacle. Bad people examined the data and questioned containment policies instead of accepting the official view backed by officially selected experts. As a result, policies were not as rational as they should have been. In the UK, bad people did not clap the NHS.
Of course there are other shadings to bad person politics. A bad person in this sense may be viewed as stubbornly misguided, incompetent, feckless, obtuse, or even evil, but at the very least a bad person is slightly beyond the pale. There are many words used to classify bad people so conformists need not argue with them if it is too painful – which it often seems to be.
NASA scientists baffled by discovery Jupiter's Great Red Spot is accelerating
Curiously, the speeding up has only occurred within the so-called high-speed ring of the storm - the winds near the centre are slowing down, according to observations from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Great Red Spot, a storm on Jupiter which has been observed raging for more than 150 years, is spinning faster and faster, baffling scientists.
Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle seen as 'nauseating hypocrites' at Global Citizen Live
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle may have thrilled the crowd during their speech at the Global Citizen Live concert in New York over the weekend. But not royal biographer Angela Levin, who said their appearance appalled her.
The author of "Harry: A Biography of a Prince" criticised the couple's appearance on stage and likened them to cheerleaders. Especially the Duke of Sussex, who was seen cupping a hand to his ear as he waited to hear the cheers from the crowd...
She said the 37-year old acted "like a cheerleader, or master of ceremonies, whipping up the crowd with shouts of 'Come on, we want this! and the crowd yelling 'Yeah!' and Meghan chipping in with, 'It's got to happen.'"
Levin pointed out that the couple can hardly be considered experts about COVID-19 or climate change. She called them "vacuous and superficial" and attacked them for their use of private jets despite their lectures on sustainability.
Monday, 27 September 2021
It’s my birthday today. Not an excuse for wild celebration here in Derbyshire, but it does raise the question of treats. How do we treat ourselves and each other in such a prosperous age? Leaving aside government attempts to make us far less prosperous, what would a special treat look like?
Special meals maybe, but if food is reasonably good quality and well cooked, then the rest lies mostly in the imagination. It’s steak and Stilton pie from a good local farm shop for us this evening. Maybe a superb chef could conjure up something better, but not enough to see our pie as a lesser treat. An evening out at a top class restaurant would perhaps be more of a treat, but much of that is flimflam.
Special holidays, cruises, exotic destinations are fine but when they are not out of reach or something similar is not out of reach then most holidays cannot be the special treat that they were to previous generations.
A trip around the planets of the solar system would be a treat, but that’s not going to happen. Maybe the day will come when even that isn’t a treat because virtual reality will have virtually taken us there years ago.
Come to think of it, the collapse of the Labour party would be a treat. Followed by the Conservatives. Maybe two treats in a row is expecting too much though.
Labour conference: Not right to say only women have a cervix, says Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer says it is "not right" to say only women have a cervix amid a row involving one of his MPs.
Rosie Duffield came under fire after supporting online criticism of a tweet, which referred to "individuals with a cervix" to be inclusive of trans men.
The incident was called transphobic by trans rights supporters - but Labour MP Ms Duffield rejects the claim.
Asked about the row, Sir Keir said claiming only women have cervixes was "something that shouldn't be said".
Sunday, 26 September 2021
Labour conference: Angela Rayner stands by calling Boris Johnson 'scum'
Angela Rayner says she will apologise for calling Boris Johnson "scum" when he retracts past comments she described as homophobic, racist and misogynistic.
Labour's deputy leader was reported to have called Tory ministers "a bunch of scum" at a Labour conference event.
She should look up the word 'unedifying'. I don't know how we descended to this level, but Angela Rayner always manages to create the impression that she has further depths to plumb. Quite an achievement that.
Saturday, 25 September 2021
A few days ago Mrs H tried to contact our GP surgery for advice on an ankle sprain which is taking a long time to heal. The usual procedure is to phone the surgery at 8:00am when the lines open. When the engaged tone sounds just call again - it’s the only way to get anywhere. After 51 calls Mrs H gave up but eventually managed to get in touch with the physiotherapy service in the afternoon.
In future, if we need to contact the GP we’ll use two phones because our experience and the experience of other people suggests we need to make at least 100 calls between us to have any chance of getting through. Envy of the world you know.
Friday, 24 September 2021
The 1930s is barely more than a lifetime ago yet novels and films of the period seem increasingly antiquated. Every now and then a phrase, assumption or an aspect of social life crops up and the whole period becomes another world.
To my mind the most elusive difference between then and now is the importance of the senses. It is something novelists stress of course, so not to be taken as a reliable guide. Yet the sensory impression created by daily life were different in the past because daily life was different in myriad ways.
To some elusive degree, the world of the 1930s was still interpreted through the senses in a way that we are losing. Wind, rain, snow and frost, a flickering fire, smoking chimney, fogs, mists, damp woollens, tobacco and the aroma of cooking. Wood and leather, horses and carts, haystacks and country lanes. Street sounds, silent Sundays, church bells, slums, factories, shabby clothes, silk hats and the local hunt.
We have not lost any of it completely, but the emphasis has changed, the social meaning, the interwoven threads of daily life have changed. The visceral world of the senses seems to have subsided. Somehow, that older world has been overlaid with a less sensory world dominated by behaviour. It always was this way to some degree, but our world is now brighter and louder while the world of sensory impressions has been tuned down, dimmed, left outside.
Almost as if there is a covert intention, to create an Alice in Wonderland world where the reality of the senses is less important than the artificial drama of mass media, mass culture and the constant beating of political drums.
The world of the 1930s is a reminder of how subtle change can be, but not merely social and economic change. This in turn reminds us of a more immediate assault on our wider sense of reality. Pre-Covid was a long time ago.
Thursday, 23 September 2021
‘On the road to extinction’: PM says world needs to ‘grow up’ over the climate crisis or the planet will become ‘uninhabitable’
- Boris Johnson will warn world leaders they need to 'grow up' on climate change
- At the UN in New York, prime minister will warn the world will be 'uninhabitable'
- Comes after President Biden yesterday said he was creating £73bln climate fund
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
‘By Jove! an excellent idea. Here's one of the free and independent electors of G--writes to ask what my views are on the subject of compulsory vaccination. Do pen a reply and I'll sign it.’
‘But what am I to say?’
‘The ghost of Jenner alone knows…’
George Gissing - A Life's Morning (1888)
The first speaker is a wealthy young Conservative MP. A principled man, but willing enough to admit that he has no genuine interest in people below him in the social hierarchy.
Tuesday, 21 September 2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed the idea of a sweeping vaccine mandate like the one President Joe Biden announced two weeks ago, adding that Britons are 'great lovers of liberty' in an interview on Tuesday.
Johnson suggested Biden might be better off using 'sweet reason and persuasion' to convince people to get a COVID shot.
Speaking to NBC's Savannah Guthrie in New York City amid the United Nations General Assembly, the UK leader was asked whether Biden's unprecedented order would narrow the gap between Americans' vaccination rate and that of Brits'.
Where do we start? The dishonesty is so brazen, it isn't easy to go beyond a shake of the head but unfortunately he seems to understand the electorate. There was no serious opposition to his coronavirus police state.
Monday, 20 September 2021
For Christianity, in its essence and origin, was an urgent summons to repent and come out of just such a worldly life as modern liberty and progress hold up as an ideal to the nations. In the Roman empire, as in the promised land of liberalism, each man sought to get and to enjoy as much as he could, and supported a ponderous government neutral as to religion and moral traditions, but favourable to the accumulation of riches; so that a certain enlightenment and cosmopolitanism were made possible, and private passions and tastes could be gratified without encountering persecution or public obloquy, though not without a general relaxation of society and a vulgarising of arts and manners.
That something so self-indulgent and worldly as this ideal of liberalism could have been thought compatible with Christianity, the first initiation into which, in baptism, involves renouncing the world, might well astonish us, had we not been rendered deaf to moral discords by the very din which from our birth they have been making in our ears.
George Santayana - Winds Of Doctrine Studies in Contemporary Opinion (1913)
We certainly have a ponderous government neutral as to religion and moral traditions - and the din is a good deal louder now. The tone is changing too. There are shrill sounds of outrage that things are not going well for the world of indoor fantasy.
Rich countries must do more to help developing nations cut carbon emissions, Boris Johnson will tell other world leaders at a high-level gathering in New York.
The prime minister will be hosting the meeting on climate change with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.
It is understood Mr Johnson is likely to focus on coal, cash support, cars and trees, which soak up carbon dioxide.
The prime minister is also expected to discuss global warming with US President Joe Biden in a meeting at the White House in Washington.
Sunday, 19 September 2021
1. Placed an Amazon order yesterday for delivery today. This morning our account showed us the times for our delivery slot. The package has just arrived within the delivery slot. The delivery van drove off and seconds later an Amazon email arrived telling us the parcel has been delivered.
2. Placed a medical supplies order yesterday for delivery who knows when because the GP surgery is involved. Off the shelf items but delivery likely to be about three weeks as usual. That's my estimate - they don't have one. There will be no time slot and no email telling me the package has been delivered.
Saturday, 18 September 2021
Living, and having ever lived, amid idealisms, she was too subjective in her interpretation of phenomena so new to her.
George Gissing - A Life's Morning (1888)
Solidarity with my trans brothers and sisters today and always. The Labour Party is absolutely committed to advancing trans rights and updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people and upholding the Equality Act. Your fight is our fight.
Yesterday evening and this morning we’ve been amusing Granddaughter by playing a game called Ding. It’s a card game where you aim to make tricks and move pieces around a simple circular board depending on how many tricks you made. A good game to play with youngsters because they pick it up easily and each game doesn’t last too long.
Because of increasingly creaky knees we decided we'd had enough of playing the game on the rug. Instead we rigged up a low card table from a stool and a couple of chairs. It worked well enough, saved the knees and reminded me of my parents’ card table from the days when families still amused themselves without the aid of electronics. Their card table was a simple folding affair with wooden legs and a green baize top. At one time such tables must have been made in vast quantities.
In those days, Mum and Dad would sometimes have a contract bridge evening with a couple of friends or relatives. Those evenings I still recall quite vividly because of the tobacco smoke and hot dogs served afterwards. We were used to the tobacco smoke and hot dogs were a real treat.
There are still plenty of old card tables to be found on the antiques market, some Victorian examples being both impressive to look at and perfectly usable today. Not that we’d ever buy one. The stool will have to do.
Friday, 17 September 2021
A PARANORMAL investigator believes a photo taken at a former Working Men's club in York is "100 per cent" evidence of spirits.
The picture was published on Rightmove by Ashtons Estate Agents as part of the listing for the former New York Club & Institute on Blossom Street.
It appears to show two figures - wearing a black jacket, jeans which are slightly frayed at the leg and black shoes - looking out of a now boarded up window.
We asked Alex Brown - the man behind The British Paranormal Society, followed over 40,000 people on Facebook - what he thought about the strange image...
The York-based expert believes the photo has captured people who are stuck in a time loop or people whose energy is trapped in the building.
Thursday, 16 September 2021
What the surrounding lackeys thought of this singular episode I will not guess. Indeed, the longer I live, the less I care to meditate upon what lackeys do think. But that the adventures of their employers provide them with ample food for thought there can be no doubt.
Arnold Bennett - The Ghost (1907)
While weaving the car through endless roadworks on the school run this morning, Mrs H noticed a truck claiming to offer ‘Logistics Solutions’ or some similar marketing claim. It seems obvious enough that businesses would claim to offer solutions to something or other, but the word 'Solutions' seemed superfluous. A logistics outfit wouldn’t offer ‘Logistics Problems’.
Private. Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.
Public. Don’t bring me solutions, bring me problems.
Wednesday, 15 September 2021
A few weeks ago we saw one of these putative death masks for sale in an antiques centre.
L'Inconnue de la Seine (English: The Unknown Woman of the Seine) was an unidentified young woman whose putative death mask became a popular fixture on the walls of artists' homes after 1900. Her visage inspired numerous literary works. In the United States, the mask is also known as La Belle Italienne.
Tuesday, 14 September 2021
Edward Spalton has written an excellent CIB piece about global bureaucratic threats to nation state democracy. As we know, the threat is far wider than the EU.
CIB chairman Edward Spalton notes that the EU is not the only threat to nation state democracy. Other international organisations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have powerful bureaucracies with officials who aspire to supranational technocratic rule. We must continue to be alert to threats to our independence in all their guises...
The World Health Organisation (WHO), founded in 1948, is in the news today for its role in attempting to manage the COVID pandemic at a transnational level. But had wider ambitions from the start. Its first Director General, Dr Brock Chisholm, certainly aspired to be more than family doctor to the world. Above all he wanted power, writing:
‘To achieve world government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family, tradition, national patriotism and religious dogmas. The reinterpretation and eventually eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking for faith in the certainties of old people, these are the objectives…’
Quite a number of these objectives are well on their way to achievement.
It is well worth reading the whole piece as a reminder of just how deceitful our political leaders have been over many decades and how serious the anti-democratic threats still are in spite of Brexit.
Boris Johnson will today warn that the pandemic is 'far from over' as he unveils his 'winter plan' - admitting that another lockdown cannot by completely ruled out.
The PM is set to flesh out his strategy in a press conference this afternoon, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given the outline to MPs in a statement.
He will insist that vaccines can be the main defence against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting soon.
Monday, 13 September 2021
On the long list of those respectable disguises under which we assert our own importance, or gratify our own love of meddling in our neighbour's affairs, a moral regard for the welfare of others figures in the foremost place, and stands deservedly as number one.
Wilkie Collins - Man and Wife (1870)
That’s a few jobs done, evening meal finished and dishwasher chugging away. Time to scan the headlines, but great heavens what have we here? The coronavirus mess is in the news again!
A striking feature of the coronavirus debacle is how the UK government and the media have used it to swamp our attention. A related and equally striking feature is how the swamping has been accepted.
Yet we might suppose that our attention is a most private matter, a key aspect of our personal world, our personal space and the importance we attach to all manner of encounters. All that has changed and as things are, seems likely to have changed forever.
It is good for us to be held down, as the Platonic Socrates would have held us, to saying what we really believe, and sticking to what we say. We seem to regain our intellectual birthright when we are allowed to declare our genuine intent, even in philosophy, instead of begging some kind psychologist to investigate our "meaning" for us, or even waiting for the flux of events to endow us with what "meaning" it will. It is also instructive to have the ethical attitude purified of all that is not ethical and turned explicitly into what, in its moral capacity, it essentially is: a groundless pronouncement upon the better and the worse.
George Santayana - Winds Of Doctrine Studies in Contemporary Opinion (1913)
Both problems are intractable in that however clear and malign political trends may be, the future is unpredictable. There are bound to be unknowns and there are hints of other trends yet to make an appearance. However pessimistic the outlook, there are uncertainties.
A third problem is that political trends and substantial political change usually occur slowly from the perspective of a single human life. I may wish to see certain changes in my lifetime but my wish will probably not be granted even if the changes do eventually occur. Expecting change at unrealistic speed is – unrealistic.
A fourth problem is that only a few, very unusual people are likely to have a positive effect on political trends by democratic means. There are many more ambitious players who bypass democratic processes in one way or another. This creates many unknowns, many uncertainties, much ethical corruption and many flaws in almost any democratic system. The many we don’t elect undermine the few we do to our general disadvantage. And their advantage of course.
In which case, where does all that leave us? Perhaps we should do as we often do anyway and focus on issues which should not have become issues. Suppose we take a single topical issue – the UK drive towards net zero carbon emissions.
Whatever one thinks of the orthodox climate change narrative, the UK cannot affect global carbon dioxide emissions to a measurable extent, let alone global temperatures. Even going back to the stone age would not achieve that. The policy is so foolish that we are in some danger of forgetting that it is also unethical. As an absolute minimum, the policy is woven from misinformation and exaggeration. Outright lies are there too, but there is no need to stress that to make the point.
To my mind this is where Santayana comes in. The point to be made is not that net zero policy is monumentally foolish, but that it is unethical because of the misinformation and exaggeration. This ought to be an important aspect of the argument, but the unethical nature of misinformation tends to be overlooked as a fundamental violation of ethical public discourse. We tend to tackle misinformation mostly as misleading information when perhaps we should go no further than its unethical nature.
This feels like a weak conclusion to a major problem because at the root of it is a general public degradation of ethical significance. On the other hand, durable ethical standards are durable. Misinformation is morally wrong - we know that and so does almost everyone else. A strong ethical aspect to the public domain is how we are supposed to restrain the charlatans.
It is also instructive to have the ethical attitude purified of all that is not ethical and turned explicitly into what, in its moral capacity, it essentially is: a groundless pronouncement upon the better and the worse.
How bad is it? Ethically it is vastly worse that it should be. Not one of the main political parties is worth supporting. They all foster exaggeration and misinformation for their own political gain. They have all staked their claim to the wrong side of a very clear ethical boundary. The rest is distraction.
How bad is it? The UK supposedly has a democratic political system, yet viewed ethically it isn’t worth voting. How bad is it? How unethical does it have to be?
Sunday, 12 September 2021
Rather nerdy this, but NASA has a tool to see how bright it would be if you happened to be standing on Pluto. A chap would need his thermals to do that of course, but I tried it this morning and found it to be brighter than I expected. To be honest, almost pitch dark was what I expected.
Pluto orbits on the fringes of our solar system, billions of miles away. Sunlight is much weaker there than it is here on Earth, yet it isn't completely dark. In fact, for just a moment near dawn and dusk each day, the illumination on Earth matches that of high noon on Pluto.
We call this Pluto Time. If you go outside at this time on a clear day, the world around you will be as bright as the brightest part of the day on Pluto.
Saturday, 11 September 2021
Imagine a UK school where all pupils are required to take regular lateral flow tests. In one case the test is positive so that pupil is sent home in the middle of the day with a requirement to arrange a PCR test before being allowed to come back. Imagine the disruption.
This imaginary pupil takes another lateral flow test at home on the same day. To the surprise of nobody, this test is negative. A hastily arranged PCR test later that day is also negative, that result being reported twenty four hours later. In other words the initial lateral flow test gave a false positive result.
Now imagine a situation where the same school actually had about forty positive lateral flow tests on the same day. Imagine that disruption. A second confirmation lateral flow test in school could possibly minimise the disruption if the false positives are random, but that would miss the point. The testing is not a diagnostic test but a bureaucratic procedure. What matters is that the procedure is followed, that boxes are ticked.
Friday, 10 September 2021
World’s biggest 'carbon-sucking' machine is switched on in Iceland: $15 million device will capture 4,000 TONS of CO2 per year and could help 'reverse climate change'
- Orca based in Iceland is the world's largest direct air capture and storage plant
- It uses a filter to extract and permanently remove CO2 from the surrounding air
- Orca runs fully on renewable energy from the adjacent geothermal power plant
Thursday, 9 September 2021
Tablet has an interesting pandemic piece by John P.A. Ioannidis. It is well worth reading the whole thing as it is both measured and damning.
Honest, continuous questioning and exploration of alternative paths are indispensable for good science. In the authoritarian (as opposed to participatory) version of public health, these activities were seen as treason and desertion. The dominant narrative became that “we are at war.” When at war, everyone has to follow orders. If a platoon is ordered to go right and some soldiers explore maneuvering to the left, they are shot as deserters. Scientific skepticism had to be shot, no questions asked. The orders were clear.
Who gave these orders? Who decided that his or her opinion, expertise, and conflicts should be in charge? It was not a single person, not a crazy general or a despicable politician or a dictator, even if political interference in science did happen—massively so. It was all of us, a conglomerate that has no name and no face: a mesh and mess of half-cooked evidence; frenzied and partisan media promoting parachute journalism and pack coverage; the proliferation of pseudonymous and eponymous social media personas which led even serious scientists to become unrestrained, wild-beast avatars of themselves, spitting massive quantities of inanity and nonsense; poorly regulated industry and technology companies flexing their brain and marketing power; and common people afflicted by the protracted crisis. All swim in a mixture of some good intentions, some excellent thinking, and some splendid scientific successes, but also of conflicts, political polarization, fear, panic, hatred, divisiveness, fake news, censorship, inequalities, racism, and chronic and acute societal dysfunction.
Keir Starmer should be inspired by Biden - not Blair, TUC chief declares
Labour leader Keir Starmer should look to Joe Biden for inspiration rather than Tony Blair, TUC leader Frances O'Grady has said.
The general secretary of the trades union group said endemic low-pay and insecure jobs must be replaced with a "new age of dignity and security at work", and that post-Covid Mr Starmer should emulate the US President's approach to "levelling up".
Wednesday, 8 September 2021
Major changes to cut number of Welsh MPs published
Major proposals to change Wales' Westminster constituencies have been published, as the number of Welsh MPs drops from 40 to 32.
COVID-19: 12 to 15-year-olds to get 'final say' over COVID jab if disagreement with parent occurs
Sky News understands ministers are optimistic that COVID-19 vaccines will be offered to all 12 to 15-year-olds despite advisers failing to recommend it.
Sources say the government is keen to offer vaccinations to all children in that age group - and think parents would find it reassuring.
Tuesday, 7 September 2021
He has chosen his path - Boris Johnson redrawing lines of what it means to be a Conservative
The prime minister has broken two manifesto promises in an afternoon as he increases National Insurance to raise money for social care and pauses the triple lock on pensions.
'The Machine,' they exclaimed, 'feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.'
E.M. Forster - The Machine Stops (1909)
Yes Boris Johnson is redrawing the lines of what it means to be a Conservative. In one sense it means becoming Blue Labour as many have been pointing out for some time.
Monday, 6 September 2021
Sky and Tottenham partner for world's first major net zero carbon football game against Chelsea
#GameZero will demonstrate the green steps that the sporting world can take to work towards a zero-carbon future; #GameZero partners want the game to raise awareness of the threat of climate change and inspire fans to make simple changes that will help reduce their carbon footprint
A junior government minister has admitted that the recently introduced immortality vaccine does not appear to provide long-term immortality. The effect seems to fade over time, particularly among the elderly and those with serious pre-existing conditions.
Unfortunately in a very small number of cases, the efficacy of the immortality vaccine seems to have worn off completely within a matter of a few weeks and in one or two tragic cases it wore off quite suddenly in the vaccination centre car park.
Obviously this raises the question of whether or not the immortality vaccine is suited to mass vaccination. The government has set up a working party to look into the matter which will meet as soon as all its designated members feel a little better.
Sunday, 5 September 2021
Not all readaptation, however, is progress, for ideal identity must not be lost. The Latin language did not progress when it passed into Italian. It died. Its amiable heirs may console us for its departure, but do not remove the fact that their parent is extinct. So every individual, nation, and religion has its limit of adaptation; so long as the increment it receives is digestible, so long as the organisation already attained is extended and elaborated without being surrendered, growth goes on; but when the foundation itself shifts, when what is gained at the periphery is lost at the centre, the flux appears again and progress is not real.
George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905 - 1906)
I often sit here with my laptop, gazing through the window while thinking about the obvious problem of adapting to change. The problem is not what we should do about obviously malign change but the simple observation that a huge number of people adapt to it as opposed to resisting it.
We see the problem with major UK political parties which have clearly slipped into a long process of incompetence and moral decline. Yet voters simply adapt to the decline. They do not switch their vote in favour of individuals or parties who do at least acknowledge the problem and also have something to prove.
We could call it voter apathy which it is, but apathy facilitated by the way we adapt so quickly to changed circumstances. Even drastically changed circumstances easily observed by anyone with some knowledge of recent decades or some desire to acquire that knowledge.
Even after the introduction of a coronavirus police state, if a general election were to be held tomorrow, the vast majority of voters would still vote for one of the major political parties. After that it will be too late to change anything.
Saturday, 4 September 2021
Friday, 3 September 2021
Are there, infinitely varying with each individual, inbred forces of Good and Evil in all of us, deep down below the reach of mortal encouragement and mortal repression—hidden Good and hidden Evil, both alike at the mercy of the liberating opportunity and the sufficient temptation? Within these earthly limits, is earthly Circumstance ever the key; and can no human vigilance warn us beforehand of the forces imprisoned in ourselves which that key may unlock?
Wilkie Collins - No Name (1862)
The idea of liberating opportunity is perhaps worth a thought or two in these vexed times.
Thursday, 2 September 2021
While using my decades old retracting tape measure today, Granddaughter noticed that it says Made in England on the tape. Not something I'd noticed, but to Granddaughter it was unfamiliar and she was interested to see it. Even at eight years old she is quite aware that this kind of thing is usually made in China.
Wednesday, 1 September 2021
The Critic has published a very nice hatchet job on the National Trust. Well worth reading in full as the quotes below are merely a taster.
Tim Parker, who’s just resigned as chairman, had the same role at the Post Office while they were wickedly persecuting subpostmasters over supposed fraud (in fact IT failure); Helen Ghosh left her position as director-general in 2018 to run Balliol College, Oxford; previously she was permanent secretary at the infamously institutionally incapable Home Office. This is the ignorant, complacent, uncultured, bureaucratic establishment that has primly taken the Trust to its present sorry place...
For over a decade the National Trust has consistently indulged gangster-capitalist attitudes towards their holdings and responsibilities as a landlord, regularly and demonstrably bullying tenants, visitors and employees alike, alongside mass redundancies and exploitative policies which run contrary to their fundamental purpose.
This abhorrent catalogue of immoral business practice is spearheaded by a tired, faded Who’s Who of bland establishment figures with no specially relevant qualifications or expertise in heritage, casually trampling working class livelihoods and pensioners’ qualities of life, whilst posing smugly for photos at fundraising events and enjoying bottomless expense accounts with no apparent accountability.
Of course, they argue that permanently obscuring, modernising, or destroying some of the historic property they have been tasked to preserve is justifiable if they use the profits from said destruction to better preserve the rest. By this rationale, they’d be justified in selling, demolishing or redeveloping half of all their properties, so long as they then invested the profits into preserving the other half. It’s psychopathic business logic, of the sort we are too familiar with thanks to the copy-and-paste civil service aristocracy who now run all institutions identically, with no apparent qualifications beyond the lifelong accumulation of wealth and/or power.
An expensive but "game-changing" anti-cholesterol drug could soon be offered to hundreds of thousands of people in England and Wales on the NHS.
NHS England says inclisiran, given as a twice-a-year injection, could save about 30,000 lives within a decade.
It can lower bad fat in the blood when other cheaper drugs, like statins, have not done enough, says draft advice.
Medical advances are generally welcome, but the political aspects of 24/7 media health obsessions are interesting too. As if here in the UK, the wider focus of government social policy is changing in ways which nobody ever voted for.
From - a house, a decent job and a decent education.
To - a place to live, universal healthcare and entertainment.
Tuesday, 31 August 2021
The late Lee Kuan Yew has been known to refer to certain political actors as ‘duds’, meaning they lack the skills required to play a part in competent government and government agencies.
Yet suppose we contemplate any one of numerous duds in the UK political menagerie. Jeremy Corbyn is a good example, a dud by any rational assessment. A man who should never have been an MP, let alone the leader of a major political party. How is it that millions of voters failed to identify Corbyn as a dud?
Perhaps the question is unfair to Corbyn, strange as it may seem when considering such an abject dud. This is a man who appears to have entered politics because he is a dud, because for decades there have been roles for duds in UK politics.
Maybe we are not able to load the responsibility onto individuals because there are too many duds and far too few talented political actors. Our political theatre has not attracted talent for some time and once we reach this stage we have no way back. One duds form a working majority there is no incentive for them to reform the system and attract talent.
To view this with somewhat unpleasant clarity we merely have to contemplate some familiar evidence. From the coronavirus debacle to gender politics to climate change to absurdly aggressive reactions to free speech to ludicrous censorship to police involvement in trivial social media spats to irrational and uncontrollable race-baiting to deranged media bias to hopelessly inept political actors to politically biased charities to propaganda in education to our abject inability to screen out the duds. It goes on and on.
After a certain point it is easy enough to see why there is no way back. Duds are so numerous that they would have to bar each other from key roles, yet if they were to achieve that they would not be duds in the first place. In other words, even the possibility of internally directed reform makes no sense.
We appear to have already passed this Peak Dud tipping point. We do not tell duds that they are duds, we do not hammer home the message, we do not exclude them from roles they cannot play and we do not eject those who get through the net. Beyond Peak Dud there is no net.
Monday, 30 August 2021
Another dull and chilly day here in Derbyshire. I'm determined to avoid switching on the central heating in August so we only have today and tomorrow to go.
Saturday, 28 August 2021
This post may become out of date if things change. At the moment the US says a drone strike has killed an IS-K planner yet the planner has not yet been named.
The US military says it believes it has killed a planner for the Afghan branch of the Islamic State group in a drone strike in the east of the country.
The suspected member of the IS-K group was targeted in Nangarhar province.
IS-K said it had carried out an attack outside Kabul airport on Thursday that may have killed as many as 170 people, including 13 US troops.
There is an aspect of Joe Biden for which we should perhaps be grateful. His endorsement of the climate change narrative proves beyond all possible doubt that the whole thing is a mix of scams, bungling and the most abject stupidity.
Behold - there is a light and the light is named Joe.
Friday, 27 August 2021
Here we are back home in Derbyshire after our holiday down south but it's so grey and chilly I've had to put the gas fire on - in August. No hint of global warming in this neck of the woods. So much for specialists I suppose. Meanwhile here's Kenneth Williams on medical specialists.
Ivan Turgenev – Smoke (1867)
Thursday, 26 August 2021
A constant blogging problem is the volume of media noise skewing all mainstream public debates. So much so that it is quite a stretch to call them debates. Or indeed public. As if the TV is on 24/7 blasting out government inspired exhortations to emote, give, give, give and suck up the guilt anyway.
Political narratives have major weaknesses, but the sheer volume of media noise appears to hide those weaknesses from enough people to sway the debate one way and only one way. But this aspect of it is quite weird - like hide and seek with children. Most people can be persuaded to pretend they don’t quite know where the weaknesses are hiding.
Weaknesses have to be hidden by noise to give the narrative some traction, but once hidden and once traction is achieved, most people don’t look for them anyway. The weakness isn’t hiding behind the curtains even though I can see its little feet peeping out. Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t. This is the weirdly infantile aspect of it.
An obvious place to hide narrative weaknesses is orthodoxy - which is where compliant experts come in. Not impenetrable technical orthodoxy, but more distracting media noise with plausible technical overtones. Mainstream media are good at creating an endless clamour of orthodox noise. Celebrities are attracted to the resulting echo chamber and away it goes. All of which makes it much easier to concoct a tangle of specious supporting arguments.
For example, it has always been obvious that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t remotely on a par with the Black Death. Its more serious effects are strongly skewed towards the elderly and the medically vulnerable and from an early stages that was always a solid indication of how to tackle it most effectively.
We were never all in it together but policy says we are. This fundamental weakness with pandemic policy was always obvious, yet in a sense the weakness was hidden in plain view. Hidden in the endless beat of orthodox noise.
The Joe Biden debacle is equally obvious. He is a major disaster on at least four counts - his dubious election, his incompetence, his miserable choice of vice president and now Afghanistan. Yet the orthodox noise from Afghanistan seems to hide as much as it exposes. On and on and on - treat Biden as the real deal – on and on and on. Amazingly, the Biden disaster is still partly hidden by media noise. Not very well hidden it has to be admitted. He is a special case.
Climate change is an example where the orthodox noise has been going on for decades yet the weaknesses are obvious enough even without technical analysis. This one has been going on for so long that the noise itself is a weakness to those who listen. The loons who shout about it are a weakness. The stunts and demonstrations are weaknesses. The costs and defects of sustainable energy are weaknesses. Yet for too many the noise hides it all.