Sunday 31 January 2021

Liberal Fascism

I haven’t done a book review for a while so I dug out my notes on Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism published in 2008. It’s a subject I’ve been interested in for some years.

To begin with the conclusion - the book concerns US liberalism but its message probably applies to most of the developed world. It is long but easy to read and well worth reading for those who are politically receptive. It is not a wholesale condemnation of modern progressive politics, the supposedly liberal politics which is not at all liberal. The comparison is more Brave New World than 1984. 

The book aims to establish the fascist roots of US progressive politics, the broadly fascist political ethos which continues to this day and the obvious dangers associated with such a trend. And indeed the misuse of the vexed term "fascism".

Finally, since we must have a working definition of fascism, here is mine: Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy.

Goldberg’s argument is convincing. When fascism is stripped of its militarism and racism, the modern progressive political ethos is easily seen as fascist in the rigidity of its collective social and economic ideology.

This book will present an alternative history of American liberalism that not only reveals its roots in, and commonalities with, classical fascism but also shows how the fascist label was projected onto the right by a complex sleight of hand. In fact, conservatives are the more authentic classical liberals, while many so-called liberals are “friendly” fascists.

There is much more that one could quote from the book, but quotes do not reflect the enormous detail Goldberg uses to make his core point. However it is worth adding that he does not see modern liberal fascism as necessarily evil in intent. Kindly and well-meaning people can subscribe to totalitarian politics - do frequently subscribe to it. He sees this as “friendly fascists” advocating “nice fascism”.

The real danger is the obvious one, an extreme concentration of power which has become so familiar we hardly notice the history of it and how deep it now is.

Fascist economics looked fairly recognizable as just another left-wing campaign to nationalize industry, or regulate it to the point where the distinction was hardly a difference. These policies fell under the rubric of what was called corporatism, and not only were they admired in America at the time, but they are unknowingly emulated to a staggering degree today.

Overall, very well worth reading. For example, this quote does sum up what appears to be the worldview of modern progressive imagination. The Facebook campus is an example –

Many progressives seem to think we can transform America into a vast college campus where food, shelter, and recreation are all provided for us and the only crime is to be mean to somebody else, particularly a minority.

Saturday 30 January 2021

Health is Good

Many people seem unable or unwilling to distinguish between true or false on the one hand and good or bad on the other. In many complex situations and for many people, good is true and bad is false. If necessary, true and false simply disappear from the picture.

It appears to be a fundamental political difference, even more fundamental than left and right. Not a line in the sand difference, but a real difference for all the diffuse nature of it. As if our interoceptive signals intervene where any debate is important to us because that is what makes debates feel important in the first place. This is a key point - if a debate is important it must feel important.

Interoceptive signals are projected to the brain via a diversity of neural pathways that allow for the sensory processing and prediction of internal bodily states. Misrepresentations of internal states, or a disconnect between the body's signals and the brain's interpretation and prediction of those signals, have been suggested to underlie some mental disorders...

It seems likely enough that interoceptive signals may be incorrectly interpreted as signals for true or false. Or as far as the interoceptive system goes – correctly interpreted. Giving us the other key point – false can feel true, true can feel bad. Arguments across this particular divide never go anywhere. If the problem is significantly biological then this is hardly surprising.

We see it clearly enough in the passion, vituperation, relentless attempts to silence dissent, the inability to agree to disagree, the rage, placards, violence and even insanity. We see it all the time. Simple observation tells that this problem is real, widespread and intractable. Not only that, but it seems to flare up with particular virulence every generation or so.

The whole area is of course fraught with shades of meaning, but in the main the good/true bad/false idea appears to work. Or at least it goes some way to account for the extraordinary grip false ideas have on huge numbers of people. Much of the interoceptive power of false ideas presumably derives from consensus. Going against a consensus can feel wrong to all of us at one time or another, but sometimes things just get worse and worse until thugs gather on the streets.

Political activists use good and bad but have little use for true and false wherever there is a conflict. In these cases it often seems likely that political elites know what is being done whereas the activists do not. Which is what makes them useful idiots.

For example, the climate change narrative is widely deemed to be good but it is highly likely that some at least of its senior protagonists know it to false. However they still deem it to be good for reasons largely hidden from public view. It is also likely that some enemies of the developed world deem the climate narrative to be good in the sense that it is bad for us.

Another example is the dubious nature of Joe Biden’s elevation to the US presidency in that the legitimacy of the election is open to legitimate questions. Here we saw the whole spectrum from hysterical joy, passion and rage to cold political calculation mingled in a way which only disinterested outsiders have a chance of disentangling.

We now see another example. Health is good…

Friday 29 January 2021

I don't understand the opposition


From the YouTube description -

Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry tells workers who lost their jobs because of Biden's climate initiatives: "I don't understand the opposition,"

He may not understand the science but I'm sure he understands the opposition.

Thursday 28 January 2021

Boris the crisis freak

So far Boris Johnson’s year and a half tenure as Prime Minister has seen two major crises. The constant media tightrope that was the Brexit negotiations and the seemingly endless crisis that is the coronavirus debacle complete with what seem like daily briefings from the coronavirus lectern.

It is clear enough that the Boris Johnson style is to pump up the nearest crisis to a kind of wartime fever pitch and focus everything on that. What next?

Maybe we’ll see an economic crisis due to the coronavirus debacle, another health crisis next winter and somehow the green industrial revolution will generate a range of green crises. The green crises could even be genuine if one benefit of sustainable power turns out to be blackouts. Somehow I think Boris knows all that. It suits his style.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Wartime juries and other clues

Labour is calling for juries to be cut from 12 members to seven, to stem the "gravest crisis" in the justice system since World War Two.

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said action was needed to clear the backlog of thousands of cases.

He argued that smaller juries and the use of more temporary courts would allow socially distanced trials.

It is the wartime imagery which is being promoted here. The let's roll up our sleeves and get on with it imagery. We are familiar with martial language and references to war whenever political activists call for mass mobilisation in pursuit of a favoured cause. It is part of our political culture. 

The war on drugs, social justice warriors, climate warriors, the war on poverty and now we are fighting a virus with many of the tools of totalitarian politics, particularly the language. We are all in it together as they say - again.

The UK government response to the coronavirus outbreak has obviously been totalitarian. No significant freedom of choice relating to the virus has been left to the individual. The whole debacle has been managed in great detail by government and its chosen experts. Much like wartime.

It is all medically necessary or not – make your choice but it is a good idea to remember the politics. Either way, the totalitarian ratchet has advanced quite a few notches and there is no reason to assume it will ever go back.

Not only that, but coercion towards healthy living has been a theme of totalitarian regimes for many decades. Lessons learned during the coronavirus debacle are unlikely to be shelved merely because of uncomfortable historical similarities with other totalitarian regimes. In any event, the similarities will be denied.

Yet in Mussolini’s Italy

By 1925, the Fascist government had "embarked upon an elaborate program" that included food supplementary assistance, infant care, maternity assistance, general healthcare, wage supplements, paid vacations, unemployment benefits, illness insurance, occupational disease insurance, general family assistance, public housing and old age and disability insurance.

This comparison is definitely not intended to lump the UK government with any fascist governments of the past. We have moved on from that thank goodness, but moved on to what? A kinder totalitarian ethos?

Perhaps we have, so it is worth pointing out how similar one version of comprehensive state provision is to other, less cuddly versions in the past. It is worth recalling how similar the political rationales and the martial language are if we compare then and now. A single, materially benign political ethos run by an elite with expert guidance. Who could quarrel with that? Not that there was any opportunity to quarrel with it in the past. How about now?

Forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes and it is perhaps unwise to obscure important historical similarities by placing too much reliance on the totalitarian ratchet going into reverse. Too many people like it as it is. 1925 is not so far away when it comes to human nature.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

All those wasted hours

After some years of watching virtually no terrestrial television, when I do catch a glimpse it comes across as curiously depressing. Not head in hands, is it all worth it, goodbye cruel world depressing. No, television depression stems from its tendency to suppress. It is a know your place kind of suppression, a don’t step out of your social shell because you can’t kind of suppression.

What is more, it isn’t depressing until we step outside the television world and see the suppression for what it is. Until then it is a kind of latent depression, a willingly chained soul kind of depression where many things may be amusing but nothing is stimulating. Even cookery programmes have morphed into a you can’t cook like this but you can watch us version of talking down to the chained souls.

TV comedy poked fun at stereotypes but in doing so it poked fun at ordinary people.

TV soaps are populated by emotionally incontinent ineffectual losers.

TV news is relentlessly negative and this is what lingers, not the amusing snippet at the end where the presenter ekes out a faint smile.

TV weather is relentlessly negative. Even good weather carries health warnings about exposure to the sun.

TV drama is unrelentingly grim. Mostly people scowling at each other.

Even celebrity interviews show the audience what they cannot possibly be.

Television is not one hundred percent gloom of course. To many viewers would probably switch off if there no reasons to be cheerful and in any event gloom is not what it sells. What television does is to suppress the spark of individual inspiration, the joy of life, the realisation that there is a world of limitless fascination out there. Television is limited and viewers are persuaded to accept those limitations.

That’s how television suppresses and why looking back tends to depress those who escaped. All those wasted hours…

Monday 25 January 2021

Don't do as I do seems to be the message

COVID-19: Sir Keir Starmer self-isolating for third time after contact tests positive

The Labour leader said he currently had no COVID-19 symptoms and would be working from home for the next week...

This is the third time Sir Keir has had to self-isolate during the pandemic - previously being forced to quarantine in both September and December.

That appears to make it three false alarms. How surprising says absolutely nobody.

UK risks becoming failed state says failed PM

The public's trust in the way the UK is run is breaking down, former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has warned.

He said Covid-19 had exposed "tensions" between Whitehall and the nations and regions, who were often treated by the centre as if they were "invisible".

Mr Brown is urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to set up a commission to review how the country is governed...

He points to "bitter disputes" over issues such as lockdown restrictions and furlough and said unless underlying tensions were resolved, the UK risked becoming a "failed state".

Of course we are treated by the centre as if we are invisible, we learned all about that in the Blair/Brown years. It is a little rich of Brown to put it forward as a criticism now, but he knows that. It's a move in the game. An obvious move but they usually are.

Sunday 24 January 2021

How can Sleepy Joe be woke?

Wigan's MP has defended her decision to label new US president Joe Biden a 'woke guy'.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, praised the attitude of America's incoming leader in an interview on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show this morning.

She was asked why she referred to him as 'woke' - a term which is sometimes used to describe politicians with liberal social views but can be used by critics to suggest a person is overly sensitive to social issues.

Mrs Nandy said Mr Biden's attitude was 'the sort of leadership frankly that we’re lacking here in the UK'.

She said: “Joe Biden is somebody who knows exactly who he is and what he stands for and he’s very comfortable with it.

The D-Word

One problem with the coronavirus debacle is settling on good words to describe it because naturally enough the situation keeps changing.

I stuck with the word ‘debacle’ from the early stages because that seemed to convey at least some aspect of the UK bureaucratic bungling, the grotesquely expensive and destructive policy and the unwillingness of government to make use of natural adult caution in the general population. Admittedly ‘debacle’ does not convey the grotesque nature of the decision to stamp on civil liberties.

So where are we now? Much official data seems unreliable in the sense that it is not as relevant as it could be. Much seems exaggerated, presented in misleading ways, too simple or just missing. So much so that we are perilously close to the d-word – deceit. Some may say that has been there from the beginning, but to my mind the coronavirus debacle hasn’t been particularly deceitful until fairly recently.

Deceit here is not necessarily a deliberate attempt to deceive apart from the usual political tendency to find unflavoured truth unpalatable. Yet there is an obvious issue around finding some way to back out of current restrictions. Assuming there is an ultimate intention to back out of current restrictions. Even that is far from clear.

All of which allows deceit to take the strain but won’t lead us anywhere useful. To my mind this is what is happening now. Deceit is being allowed to take the strain of failing to formulate a rational exit from this debacle because absolutely nobody is willing to carry that particular can.

Not only that, but we can be moderately sure that intransigent blockheads on the inside of government deliberations are likely to block the way to a rational exit. They are also likely to stir up a media sensation if they are left out of exit deliberations. It’s the nature of the beast.

As coronavirus deceit becomes more obvious, it becomes more plausible to suggest that other narratives have infected the debate. The obvious one is the ten point plan which has deceit written into its genes. Here we may certainly surmise that coronavirus deceit could be our first taste of the green industrial revolution. Our first taste of the wholesale deceit it is bound to entail. At times it certainly feels like it.

Saturday 23 January 2021

It's Snow Joe


Blimey - almost as soon as Joe Biden signs up to the Paris climate agreement it begins to snow here in Derbyshire. Are the two events linked? Is there any point to recycling all those yogurt pots?

Friday 22 January 2021

Thursday 21 January 2021

Testing the Limits

We already know and have known for some time that lockdowns aren’t working and probably cannot be made to work – at least not here in the UK. The evidence is fired at us on a daily basis except it isn’t presented as evidence for a change in policy, only more evidence that the policy could be made to work… if only…

Sooner or later other smells drift through the rising stench of misinformation. It’s not as if we have been unwilling to go along with the policy, the disruption, the exhortations, the police overreach, the masks and the hectoring.

Something in the coronavirus swamp doesn’t smell right and hasn’t smelled right for quite a while. Yes it is a very unpleasant disease for those susceptible to it and yes it has caused many deaths, but how many deaths? We don’t appear to know with any accuracy, because we don’t appear to have a good grip on the data. 

As if there are other, longer term considerations connected with finding out just how far public behaviour can be changed, how far lifestyle expectations can be suppressed and above all, how a powerful a public health message can assist future government ambitions. Such as the ten point plan for example.

It is more than unfortunate that a genuine issue should be exploited in such a way, but it would be foolish to ignore the suspicious haze of inadequate information constantly fed to us by our almost wholly compliant media. If would be foolish to ignore the rather obvious failure of lockdown policies and foolish to ignore the obvious likelihood that we are being softened up for something worse.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Upgrading The Past


There are quite a few upgraded old films around. It’s remarkable what can be done, but what is the fascination here? There are a number of possibilities such as being made aware that people filmed in 1906 did not inhabit a grainy, colourless world where everyone walked around in jerky steps like a puppet. We were aware of it, but seeing it demonstrated like this is somehow satisfying.

But we knew it anyway, so maybe the film is a more convincing way of knowing something, one which involves the senses more closely and perhaps more emotionally.

In which case we may go on to ask if the moving image may be entertaining and informative but also hands strangers a much more intimate and perhaps emotional contact with our lives. A much closer proximity than those grainy film clips, old photos or the written word. Particularly the written word.

Almost as if this little clip is telling us why things have gone wrong and will continue to go wrong because the technology allows complete strangers into our lives. We knew that too, but as the clip demonstrates, there are various ways of knowing, some more intimate than others. Or at least there are now.

Gung ho Boris

This has been pointed out in a number of ways, but we see two distinct aspects of the Boris Johnson approach to major political goals. He goes gung ho for goals which are clear and simple and at this he seems rather good. Not so good when there isn't a clear and simple goal.

Hence Brexit, which was not clear and simple in detail, but for a Prime Minister it was because he did not have to entangle himself in detail. Go for the best possible exit which can be sold politically as a genuine exit – that was his simple goal. Achieving it required dogged determination a willingness to bang heads together and deft intransigence when it came to not compromising the ultimate goal. Boris appears to have been the chap for that.

Yet tackling the coronavirus pandemic has been different. Here there was no clear and simple goal and Boris ran into the scientific sand at colossal economic, social and political cost. He couldn’t apply the gung ho approach and still can’t. He never saw what the real goal was because his advisers clearly failed to offer him one suited to his particular talents. It could be said that this was their failure, not his.

He went gung ho for a coronavirus vaccine though. This was another clear and simple goal for a Prime Minister to pursue with energy, determination and a willingness to cut corners and use his political and financial elbows.

Again Boris appears to have been the chap for that but he still does not appear to have a clear goal for ending the coronavirus mess. Again his advisers have not yet offered him one suited to his particular talents and again it could be said that this is their failure, not his.

Now Boris is going gung ho into tackling climate change via the ludicrous ten point plan. Here there is no clear and simple goal because it makes no sense in any terms - scientific, technical or economic. Surrounded by incompetent advice he will run into the sand because the goal is not what he supposes. This mess could be even worse than the coronavirus debacle.

Monday 18 January 2021

Short Break


Something has cropped up so I'm taking what should be a very short break from blogging.

Breaking News

In an unexpected move, the government has decided to replace SAGE with STOOGE, the Scientific and Technical Operational Oversight Group of Experts.

The same group of experts will be transferred from SAGE to STOOGE so in that respect the new group will have some similarities with the old. However we understand that the biscuits supplied for STOOGE meetings will be somewhat cheaper than SAGE biscuits. In addition, the coffee will be decaffeinated instant coffee to reflect the new status of the group.

More on this story as it develops.

Sunday 17 January 2021

Not so sage

Scientific advisers to the government have set out measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus within homes, which they say can help cut the number of infections by up to 15% in just three weeks.

A document prepared for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was published on Friday following the recent surge in COVID cases linked to the new, more transmissible variant of the virus.

The scientists warn that the risks from transmission within homes "are likely to be elevated" due to the new variant and "lockdown alone may not be sufficient to reduce infection rates" in disadvantaged households.

What SAGE appears to be claiming is - the current policy isn't working so let us push the same policy even harder. Oh - and in any event it is partly your fault you irresponsible homeowners. The piece then goes on to list a range of SAGE recommendations such as -

Infection control measures for all households

The SAGE document advises:

• Restrict visitors to the home to only those who are essential

• Maintain distance as far as possible from any visitors to the home. Keep visits as short as practical

• Regularly air rooms, open windows and/or use extract fans before a visitor arrives, during their stay and for a short while afterwards

At some point, it may become clear even to SAGE members that the virus isn't actually listening and there is no evidence that the government was ever able to control rates of infection to any measurable degree. How would SAGE members prove otherwise? Run the whole thing again with a different policy?

It may have been better to rely more on information and practical emergency measures and less on coercion and ruinous lockdowns. Again - how would SAGE members prove otherwise?

Saturday 16 January 2021

Some portion of the population can be programmed


Quite long but covers a lot of ground from Dennis Prager's robustly conservative viewpoint. To my mind his robustness illustrates very well how feeble public debate has become and how often it tries to accommodate trends which should not be accommodated.

The comment used as a post title is made at about 28:28. Of course we can all be programmed, otherwise social cohesion wouldn’t work, yet voting maniac programmers into power is a very bad idea. Should be obvious but it’s not.

Friday 15 January 2021

No platform

Mercatornet has a piece on big tech censorship prompted by Facebook blocking former presidential candidate Ron Paul.

On Monday, Facebook blocked former presidential candidate Ron Paul from his own page. The move came hours after the longtime congressman and libertarian hero shared an article he wrote criticizing Twitter and Facebook for banning President Donald Trump from their platforms.

“Last week’s massive social media purges — starting with President Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter and other outlets — was shocking and chilling, particularly to those of us who value free expression and the free exchange of ideas,” Paul wrote. “The justifications given for the silencing of wide swaths of public opinion made no sense and the process was anything but transparent. Nowhere in President Trump’s two ‘offending’ Tweets, for example, was a call for violence expressed explicitly or implicitly. It was a classic example of sentence first, verdict later.”

It isn't easy to know what to say about the trend towards tighter and tighter censorship. Other than deploring it and perhaps ridiculing the often infantile nature of it, what do we say? There is a burst of optimism at the end of the piece so maybe we should cling to that and promote alternatives. Yet the core problem remains - power is becoming too concentrated.

“So what is to be done? Even pro-free speech alternative social media outlets are under attack from the Big Tech/government Leviathan. There are no easy solutions. But we must think back to the dissidents in the era of Soviet tyranny,” Paul wrote. He continued:

They had no Internet. They had no social media. They had no ability to communicate with thousands and millions of like-minded, freedom lovers. Yet they used incredible creativity in the face of incredible adversity to continue pushing their ideas. Because no army — not even Big Tech partnered with Big Government — can stop an idea whose time has come. And Liberty is that idea. We must move forward with creativity and confidence!

Liberty is indeed the idea. And if we’re patient, I suspect the market will soon offer a genuine alternative that may soon make Facebook and Twitter regret their authoritarian impulses.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Progress by precedent II

First quoted here back in 2014 but the mess we are in makes it worth revisiting because what counts as precedent is going global –

But modern Tories have only the dullness of defending situations that they had not the excitement of creating. Revolutionists make a reform, Conservatives only conserve the reform. They never reform the reform, which is often very much wanted. Just as the rivalry of armaments is only a sort of sulky plagiarism, so the rivalry of parties is only a sort of sulky inheritance. Men have votes, so women must soon have votes; poor children are taught by force, so they must soon be fed by force; the police shut public houses by twelve o’clock, so soon they must shut them by eleven o’clock; children stop at school till they are fourteen, so soon they will stop till they are forty. No gleam of reason, no momentary return to first principles, no abstract asking of any obvious question, can interrupt this mad and monotonous gallop of mere progress by precedent. It is a good way to prevent real revolution. By this logic of events, the Radical gets as much into a rut as the Conservative.

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

Inevitable that things should be like this perhaps, but Chesterton has left us with a fundamental insight into the core of progressive thinking. Take a suitable precedent, push it a little further and lay claim to the new version as an essential progressive reform.

Hence political correctness. Push decent human tolerance until it becomes both foolishly defenceless and foolishly intolerant. Yet where exactly did it go wrong? It went wrong because there was No gleam of reason, no momentary return to first principles, no abstract asking of any obvious question.

The resultant problem is of course obvious as Chesterton spotted over a century ago - It is a good way to prevent real revolution. Political correctness is retarding progress rather than promoting it. That’s the purpose of it.

Even worse, further progress based on a previously debased precedent is a route towards inevitable decline. It cannot be prevented - the precedents are already corrupted. And that is what we now see. We no longer have the ability to handle practical issues such as the coronavirus debacle. Or even changes in the weather. Or even…

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Easy to tell

One consequence of Brexit, Trump’s election and the coronavirus debacle has been how easy it is to tell if  people we know rarely go beyond the mainstream media for their news. Those who habitually watch BBC news for example. It’s pretty obvious from their conversations.

Not a new development of course, but recent years seem to have sharpened the distinction. That’s the internet presumably – in spite of the fake news. Some people do their own digging behind the major stories and some just don’t.

Doesn’t seem to be particularly divisive in my limited experience, but it could be and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that it is divisive for many people.

Tuesday 12 January 2021

The Great Protection Racket

Political parties are in some respects protection rackets but the nature of the protection on offer has shifted in recent decades. Formerly it was protection against hard times, external threats and criminality, perhaps with a few nice to haves. Now the game has evolved towards protection against something rather odd - protection against complexity.

This has been achieved by shifting the political focus away from practical matters such as tax, the economy, employment, crime, education and so on. These traditional practical issues are still significant but are not as important as they were. Traditional issues have been parked to make way for new cultural norms, a task previously handled by religious belief. And handled better in my view, but that is another issue.

As religious observance has declined, many aspects of culture have become either politically fashionable and therefore good or unfashionable and therefore bad. Previously complex issues such as male/female relationships, health, poverty, the environment, transport, energy policy and family life are simplified into a politically fashionable or unfashionable dichotomy.

The fashionable tends to be less complex and need not be analysed too deeply. Herein lies our political protection against complexity. Men may claim to be female and so take part in female sporting events, but don’t analyse it. To analyse it would be unfashionable. And worse of course.

Moving on to the UK coronavirus debacle - the government is here to protect you is the underlying narrative. Not so much protection against the virus because that hasn’t been achieved, but protection against the complexity of what is going on. Do as we say, wait for the vaccine and all will be well is the message here. Not too scary, not complex and it works.

Insanely draconian lockdown measures squeeze out the complexities of looking up the science, checking graphs and data and weighing up personal and family risk. The government has done it all for us. Strangely enough, even though lockdowns have not been effective as containment measures, government claims to be protecting us have not proved unsaleable.

Conveniently, the UK ten point plan for a green industrial revolution also requires insanely draconian measures so the narrative is likely to be similar. Almost as if the coronavirus debacle is an experiment in social behaviour modification. Almost as if? It clearly is just that. We navigate through life by avoiding surprises. Whatever has been made familiar is not surprising and governments know it and use it.

Lunatic levels of repression may continue well into the future – that seems to be the wholly unsurprising message.

Monday 11 January 2021

Symbols of wealth

North Korea reportedly ran into difficulties printing up its 2021 calendars due to a lack of materials imported from China.

In a telephone conversation with Daily NK on Thursday, a source in Yanggang Province said printers in Pyongyang were delayed in printing up the calendars “because they couldn’t get printing ink.” The source said that publishers “just barely distributed the calendars by the end of the year.”...

As recently as last year, North Koreans exchanged calendars as gifts on the New Year, but this was rarely seen this year with calendars not only hard to find but also expensive.

Some North Koreans are saying that calendars are in such short supply this year they will become “symbols of wealth.”

I can see something similar happening in the UK. A cunning plan to ensure that we lose track of how long we've been in lockdown. Derbyshire police would confiscate calendars as subversive literature.

Sunday 10 January 2021

They walk among us


I've watched this Bob Newhart clip a couple of times - it appeals to my sense of humour. Maybe it's also an amusing reminder that nutters walk among us and we'll never be free of them.

Saturday 9 January 2021

In the genes of the process.

Politics + Science = Politics

So says one of the immutable laws of the universe. The political class is much the same as everyone else in this respect – it selects the advice it prefers to receive and whatever that advice may be transmutes it into politics.

Two scientists stand either side of a Prime Minister as he makes his announcements. Who conducted the selection interview for the scientists and on what basis? Suppose we make a guess.

How many letters do you have after your name?
Are you fully behind our policy?
Whatever our policy may be?

Tick, tick, tick and the job’s yours.

Far too simplistic and far too cynical? Of course it is, but how else could the selection process be managed? Not as depicted above obviously, but strip away the facade and that is what we are left with. 

Policies cannot be promoted by those who disagree with them or are liable to rock the policy boat once it has been launched. And outsiders don’t make policy. It’s all in the genes of the process.

Friday 8 January 2021

Not in the spirit of lockdown.

Two women have described how they were surrounded by police, read their rights and fined £200 each after driving five miles to take a walk.

The women were also told the hot drinks they had brought along were not allowed as they were "classed as a picnic".

Guidance for the current lockdown says people can travel for exercise as long as it is in their "local area".

The police force involved, Derbyshire Police, said driving for exercise was "not in the spirit" of lockdown.

One of the would-be walkers, Jessica Allen, assumed "someone had been murdered" when she arrived at Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday afternoon.

The whole incident is certainly not in the spirit of something. Any kudos Boris acquired from Brexit seeps away day by day. Drip, drip, drip... 

Thursday 7 January 2021

Priti Grim

It is to be regretted that no mental method of daguerreotype or photography has yet been discovered by which the characters of men can be reduced to writing and put into grammatical language with an unerring precision of truthful description.

Anthony Trollope - Barchester Towers (1857)

Priti Patel today backed police to confront people outside supermarkets, on park benches, stop cars to check if passengers are all from the same household and knock on doors to hunt for parties as officers pledged to fine everyone breaching Boris Johnson's lockdown laws.

The Home Secretary spoke out after Scotland Yard revealed officers will quiz citizens about why they are not shut away in their homes after four friends were fined £800 for travelling in the same car to McDonald's in Northamptonshire.

And yesterday police in Maidenhead in Berkshire stopped drivers outside Tesco and handed them leaflets asking: 'Why are you here?' in a clampdown on non-essential travel - despite shopping for food being allowed.

Ms Patel says that police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and 'explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons', adding that it is 'right' that the police confront people sitting on park benches. In the past two weeks more than 800 fines were issued for 'egregious' breaches of the coronavirus rules, she said.

What do we say as this disgusting totalitarian shambles goes on and on? How is it to be reduced to writing and put into grammatical language with an unerring precision of truthful description? 

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Williamson’s cat

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, has devised an ingenious scheme to cope with the problems posed by the coronavirus debacle and a perfectly natural desire to keep schools open. His scheme is based on Schrödinger's cat. From Wikipedia

In quantum mechanics, Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment that illustrates an apparent paradox of quantum superposition. In the thought experiment, a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.

Taking this idea just a little further, Mr Williamson’s plan is that school kids can be both present and absent from school at the same time as long as nobody triggers the present/absent superposition by actually checking.

Brilliant, so let us hear no more about Mr Williamson’s general uselessness here.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Adapt is the message

"The hooligan," pursued Thorndyke, as we walked briskly across the silent square, "covers a multitude of sins, ranging from highway robbery with violence and paid assassination (technically known as 'bashing') down to the criminal folly of the philanthropic magistrate, who seems to think that his function in the economy of nature is to secure the survival of the unfittest.

R. Austin Freeman - The Red Thumb Mark (1907)

Many of us probably know that we may not survive in a brutal, dog eat dog world. Not a remarkable assumption because we not adapted to that kind of world. Guardian readers may think they have been forced to adapt because of capitalism, but loons merely reinforce the point. Most of us would even struggle to survive in eighteenth century England for example - in spite of our superior knowledge of climate change, gender politics and diversity.

It is worth pushing this a little further because it is clear enough that even as supposedly free citizens in an enlightened world we cannot shake off the basic survival urge. How could we? A likely consequence is that many of us are clearly not afraid of handing over that freedom to an all-embracing managerial class. This is the class now engaged in taking away even our most basic freedoms and our ability to make our own decisions. All we appear to be offered in exchange are virtue, emotional massaging and a sense of belonging.

Of course the virtue is mostly fake, the emotional massaging is demeaning and the sense of belonging is akin to serfdom but that doesn’t seem matter to a surprisingly large number of people. In other words the exchange works and the managerial class now knows for sure that it works even if they didn’t know it before. The coronavirus debacle has hammered the lesson home very firmly indeed.

Modern survival angst may have been stimulated by familiar aspects of modern life. Professional sport, celebrity culture, racial tensions and a pervasive, constantly evolving confusion sowed by political correctness all make their not inconsiderable contributions.

I’m not a celebrity, not rich, not outstanding at sport… not outstanding at all.

Ironically, mass inadequacy is the starkly obvious message, rammed home every single day of modern life. An all-embracing managerial class is bound to have mass appeal if it merely projects a comfortable sense of belonging, especially if it reinforces that sense of belonging by the intrusive management of daily life. 

It works too. We see it all the time and mainstream political parties have already adapted to it.

Monday 4 January 2021

New Year Resolutions

A little late but here are my New Year resolutions.

  1. Never vote for any mainstream political party in any election ever again under any circumstances whatsoever - or at least until well after Hell freezes over. If there are no worthwhile candidates not tied to a mainstream party then don’t bother voting.

Er – that’s it really. By far the biggest lesson of 2020.

Ignorance is good say the narratives



Carbon pollution? Maybe they mean soot, the only form of carbon pollution I can think of, but of course they don't mean soot they mean carbon dioxide. It's sloppy reporting, but common enough to be almost standard. Yet the use of a scientifically incorrect term raises the question of why it is done and why it is so rarely corrected.

Apart from common usage, one obvious possibility is that the climate change narrative is not merely a narrative about the catastrophic effects of carbon dioxide emissions, it is two narratives.

One narrative is the official we’re all doomed unless you become relatively impoverished serfs narrative. A parallel covert narrative implies that assent is safe so don’t venture beyond it or social disadvantages will be the result. Disadvantages such as abuse for example.

Here in the UK, the coronavirus narrative turned out to be similar. One narrative is the official we’re doomed unless you observe all official guidelines. A parallel covert narrative implies that assent is safe so don’t venture beyond it or social and perhaps legal disadvantages will be the result.

Ignorance is good say the narratives. 

Sunday 3 January 2021

Only the excuse varies


You have despoiled churches. You have threatened every corporation and endowment in the country. You have examined into everybody’s affairs. You have criticised every profession and vexed every trade. No one is certain of his property, and nobody knows what duties he may have to perform to-morrow. This is the policy of confiscation as compared with that of concurrent endowment.

Benjamin Disraeli to William Gladstone - House of Commons, March 11, 1873

Saturday 2 January 2021

Surely Not Minister


In an extraordinarily courageous move, Secretary of State for Health and Social Matt Hancock has volunteered to have the Oxford vaccine injected into his head to demonstrate how safe it is. The idea is to show this amazing procedure live on TV.

Although strongly advised that his head is not a suitable location for the vaccination as his skull is unusually thick, Mr Hancock has stressed what a powerful message it would be to link the notions of vaccination freedom with Brexit freedom.

What an extraordinary chap he is - in so many ways.

Friday 1 January 2021

Our indoor civilisation

Suddenly the scream of some animal came from the near thicket. The women started and asked what it was.

"It was a hill-fox," said Maitland to Clara. "They used to keep me awake at nights on the hill. They come and bark close to your ear and give you nightmare."

The lady shivered. "Thank Heaven for the indoors," she said. "Now, if I had been the daughter of one of your old Donalds of the Isles, I should have known that cry only too well. Wild nature is an excellent background, but give me civilisation in front."

Maitland was looking into the wood. "You will find it creep far into civilisation if you look for it. There is a very narrow line between the warm room and the savage out-of-doors."…

…You must remember that that visit to Fountainblue was the first that he had paid since his boyhood to his boyhood's home. Those revisitings have often a strange trick of self-revelation. I believe that in that night on the island he saw our indoor civilisation and his own destiny in so sharp a contrast that he could not choose but make the severance.

John Buchan – The Watcher By The Threshold (1902)

Some time ago I happened to look at a large, new 4x4 with its engine running parked by the kerb. It was a cold day - hence the idling engine. Inside was a middle-aged woman, probably waiting to pick up a grandchild from the nearby school. Eventually she switched off the engine, climbed out of the car and disappeared in the direction of the school.

She was dressed as if she had just returned from a long lunch with a group of lady friends, leaving me with the impression that she spent hardly any time outside in the open air. As if her world was house, shops and car and maybe some tourism in the summer.

I could be mistaken and there is nothing wrong with it anyway. I'm writing this blog post indoors. Yet it could be quite a recent change, this shift to an indoor civilisation. Buchan wrote about it over a century ago when an indoor life was not only possible for the rich - even middle class people could spend almost all of their lives indoors. 

Does it matter? It is certainly a form of isolation.