Sunday 28 February 2021

Maybe high pressure lying was inevitable

Suppose we assume that the internet took off in terms of mass popularity about twenty years ago. It doesn’t matter how accurate that is, twenty years is near enough for a backward glance.

Until that time it was still possible for newspapers, radio and television to deceive the great mass of the public by omitting whatever information was deemed unsuitable for general consumption. Outright lies were not usually required when omitting key information or avoiding certain subjects was enough.

There were alternative sources of course. Small circulation publications such as Private Eye provided a cynical and satirical but limited alternative picture of current affairs. Mainstream satire may have told us that all was not well with the world, but generally only in a harmless and comical sense or one where more government was the implied solution.

Then the internet arrived.

It must have become obvious soon enough that lying by omission would eventually become problematic for mainstream media and the political classes. Not so much because lies could be challenged but because omissions could be filled in. Omissions could be anything from missing information to omitted uncertainties to alternative explanations. Too many alternative sources of information were flooding the online public space and the trend was bound to continue.

Yet since that time, lying by omission has remained the main approach to narrative control. It is easier than direct lying, less obviously culpable and numerous shades of crude titillation and celebrity irrelevance are easier to pass off as news to generally incurious audiences. But in an effort to keep lying by omission sustainable it has become necessary to counter those internet sources which fill in the omissions.

As a result, censorship, misinformation, smears and outright lying have become more important to mainstream media and the political classes. Necessarily so as governments and the media fail to deal with the issue by ramping up their integrity and transparency. Easily done but they don’t do it. One problem seems to be that they struggle to attract and keep people with integrity.

The coronavirus debacle tells us that lying by omission blended with outright lying works as an approach. Lies can be inconspicuously corrected later, but even so the approach probably does not work as well as simple omission did before the internet. For example, the ready availability of unofficial information tends to undermine the government position on almost any issue, taking with it any lingering faith in the integrity of the media and government experts.

In spite of intense coronavirus propaganda, its effectiveness is clearly crumbling in certain areas and the internet must be the main reason. In which case, future attempts to project a factually insecure narrative are just as likely to crumble when faced with alternative sources of information. Hence we see frantic attempts at censorship and equally frantic attempts to discredit unofficial sources of information and opinion.

It is as if the internet was bound to usher in high pressure lying to bolster an inherent weakness in lying by omission, especially within democratic societies. However the electronic age and push towards high pressure lying also opened up an opportunity. It slackened off the moral opprobrium of lying and allowed the creation of alternative realities orchestrated by money, technology and political ambitions.

High pressure lying and convincing alternative realities offer democratic elites the possibility of covert switching to totalitarian government while retaining democratic forms of political behaviour. The coronavirus mess offers us an obvious clue as to the future direction of official lies woven into new totalitarian realities. Health has turned out to be the Trojan horse by which high pressure lies and fake realities are inserted into the public domain. It will continue.

Saturday 27 February 2021

Spiderman doesn’t make sense but…

Popular culture brings us into close contact with all manner of scenarios which make no sense. Movies are full of them, from Spiderman to virtually all action movies, but what about scenarios outside popular culture? Climate change for example?

We could easily show how the orthodox climate narrative has been dragged into popular culture - it is more likely to be promoted by celebrities and pundits than scientists. Which is odd unless we assume that the point of dragging it into popular culture is to disguise the possibility that catastrophic climate scenarios do not make sense.

This is not quite the same as claiming that the science behind climate change scenarios is faulty, uncertain or unreliable. It a suggestion that the orthodox climate narrative does not make sense in much the same way that Spiderman does not make sense.

Suppose we look at it in a familiar enough way. We know that weather forecast reliability does not stretch much further than five days, yet climate forecasts are made for thirty years hence. It is easy enough to see that this may not make sense, just as Spiderman could not possibly eject an endless quantity of super strong, incredibly sticky webs from his wrists.

We easily imagine numerous scenarios which make no sense but we generally know them to be imaginary, just as Spiderman is imaginary. It’s a question of context, but manipulate the context for climate change and many people appear to be deceived. As if the familiar celebrity context mingled with a scientific context has allowed senseless imaginary scenarios to seem legitimate. As if the boundaries where we suspend our disbelief and where we don't have been blurred.

The problem is one Baruch Spinoza identified over three and a half centuries ago. We have a powerful ability to imagine scenarios which could not possibly be real. They violate natural laws, the facts of experience or both. Climate forecasting on a thirty year timescale is one of them.

Similarly one of the first political developments in the UK coronavirus debacle was to blur the line between celebrity and scientist by inviting scientists onto the stage. Drama and celebrity scientists were quickly woven into the overall narrative. Presumably for a reason.

Again we were confronted with imaginary pandemic scenarios we now know to have been dramatically exaggerated and based on inept epidemiological models. Maybe this comparison can be pushed too far, but it has a curious similarity with climate doom predictions. The context has been manipulated in a similar manner.

Friday 26 February 2021

Bomber Biden - it didn't take long

Biden takes first military action with strike on Iran-backed militias

The US military has carried out an air strike targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria, in the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration.

The Pentagon said the strike was ordered in response to attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq.

The action destroyed "multiple facilities" used by Iranian-backed Iraqi militant groups, it said.

Militia officials said one person had been killed, while a war monitor reported at least 22 fatalities.

As many have said, covert opposition to and undermining of Donald Trump almost certainly came from those who make huge amounts of money from blowing up foreigners. It sounds as if Joe has dutifully pushed that particular button. 

Another Win For Team Boris

As we know, the UK roadmap which finally takes us out of the coronavirus debacle stipulates that nobody is allowed to be poorly during transition back to normality. The police have been given special powers to question those who break this rule by coughing, sneezing or looking generally manky without official authorisation.

Suppose someone breaks the rules and actually looks a bit off colour so to speak? Here’s where the remarkably quick political thinking came into play. In a stunning move which has Emmanuel Macron and all of the EU establishment fuming, Team Boris has purchased the entire world supply of Night Nurse, Lemsip, throat lozenges, Hall's Linctus and Vicks VapoRub.

These emergency symptom suppressants will allow the police to question anyone who coughs, sneezes or looks suspiciously iffy without an official excuse and log their reasons for breaking the rules. A team of expert hypochondriacs has been recruited to a special government task force to assist in these crucial investigations.

More on this story as it splutters along.

Thursday 25 February 2021

A Vast Indifference

Sometimes the natural world tells us it doesn’t care. It offers a powerful, daunting yet fascinating impression of vast indifference. The open sea can do this if there are only a few people around. Or the huge bowl of a clear night sky, or a wide and lonely view of rolling hills where hardly anything stirs but a high buzzard circling silently over its hunting grounds.

Cities, towns shopping centres, offices, houses, pubs, cafes, busy streets. None of them create this effect, although there may be hints of it in the still silence of an ancient country church.

It’s a spiritual thing lying just beyond the easy assurance of familiar language, a reminder that one day we will be gone and the natural world doesn’t care and never did care. And maybe this is a good thing. It leaves open a reminder that we should pay attention to own cares and make sure they are at least worthy of the limited time we have.

In my experience this vast indifference can be found quite easily. Others may find it in different ways, but one or two of our walks offer huge views with hardly any people and often this is all it takes. It cannot be experienced indirectly though – certainly not through the media. Even thinking about the media in such a context seems to pollute something important, something we’ll never capture except personally.

Are there downsides to such an experience? Yes there are – the ceaseless wittering of political obsessives come across as infantile. That isn’t necessarily good because people who could do great harm have to be taken seriously. Sometimes it isn’t easy.



Wednesday 24 February 2021

Just make it work

Warning - the link below takes you to the Guardian -

Justin Trudeau has praised Joe Biden for rejoining the Paris climate accord during their first bilateral meeting, saying: “US leadership has been sorely missed over the past years.”

The Canadian prime minister added: “And I have to say as we were preparing the joint rollout of the communique on this, it’s nice when the Americans are not pulling out all the references to climate change and instead adding them in.”

The ongoing hatred of Donald Trump has a strange feel to it. Something distinctly abnormal for a very popular and democratically elected leader. There appear to be a number of reasons behind the abnormality, but one of them may be his undeclared but powerful identification with making things work as the reason for employing someone.

Which seems a little offbeat as an explanation, but it is surprisingly instructive to view a job as being paid to make something work or keep something working. Looked at this way we get rid of the fluff.

That something may be anything from making a column of figures add up, a car which starts every morning, a school doing what schools are supposed to do, a bus route which works, a piece of software which works or fixing a central heating boiler to make it work again. The number of possibilities is huge.

Yet during my working life I have encountered people who never seem to make anything work apart from their own security as employees. It's a guess, but I don't think this is an unusual experience. 

Over the past few decades universities have churned out millions of graduates with mickey mouse degrees who seemingly never learned how to make anything work in the real world apart from social interactions working for their own benefit. Many seem to emerge from university with a view that anything can be achieved by describing it in an approved manner. Too many never seem to lose that early training.

To my mind it all suggests that collapse is inevitable. We do not have enough people who understand how to make things work and how vitally important this is. As for Biden and Trudeau, they possibly don't care either way, they have their security. 

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Good - now there is no need to do anything

TV environmentalist and campaigner Sir David Attenborough has issued a grim warning to world leaders on climate change: "It's already too late."

Speaking on the invitation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the United Nations' Security Council (UNSC) session on climate, Sir David said simply: "Please make no mistake - climate change is the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced."...

"There is no going back - no matter what we do now, it's too late to avoid climate change and the poorest, the most vulnerable, those with the least security, are now certain to suffer."

Interesting that orthodox climate pundits feel no great compulsion to say things that make sense. Surely someone in climate land finds this embarrassing. 

Pest Control

For some reason, this piece about National Trust pest control efforts was a reminder of why we left the organisation last year. The dear old, increasingly woke and batty National Trust seems to regard visitors as some kind of necessary pest. It also seems to regard our history as an abnormal infestation, a long outbreak of horribleness to be atoned for at every opportunity.

The Trust will this month begin a pest control trial at Blickling Hall in Norfolk, using biological methods in a combination never previously applied to a heritage setting as a way of mitigating the increasing damage caused by clothes moths.

Assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis says the Trust hopes its “pioneering approach will provide a practical and sustainable method that any of our properties can use to deal with serious infestations”.

Nothing wrong with innovation, but when it comes to pest control, "effective" might be a better guide than "sustainable". Everything I read about the National Trust seems to be a reminder of why we left.

Monday 22 February 2021

Screwing the debate


Lockdown Sceptics has an interesting analysis of Professor Neil Ferguson’s reply to a reader.

I was interested to see Professor Neil Ferguson’s reply to one of your readers. I was surprised he had replied, but no less surprised that anyone had bothered to write to him.

Now, I think it’s a bit unfair to write to someone and then publish that person’s reply, especially if it hadn’t been made clear the reply would be published. However, it has been, and I suppose anyone in public life would have to be naïve to believe that anything they say is immune to being disseminated more widely.

I thought it would be interesting therefore to analyse the reply.

Ferguson comes across as supercilious and evasive, not dissimilar to some orthodox climate scientists in his attitude towards sceptics. To my mind it is worth noting how unprofessional Ferguson's response was and what this may imply more generally. 

The interesting question is to ask how many people of this type are needed to provide the scientific steamroller used to protect dodgy political narratives. Possibly not a large number as such people are certainly capable of screwing up internal debates. Globally their numbers may be remarkably small.

Sunday 21 February 2021

The Dots Do Join Up

Do you have the heating on? Using up my natural resources?

It must be fairly obvious to anyone paying attention that there is a pattern to the more ludicrous aspects of political life. At the centre is an old bogey - a kind of supercilious Malthusian anxiety. We see it everywhere and to my mind this central point is where the dots join up. The trouble is, whenever we join up the dots we seem to end up with a conspiracy theory.

Yet real conspiracies do not have to be conducted via furtive assignations in locked rooms with drawn curtains - merely via a conspiratorial culture which is mostly open if we actually look. This is what we have now, but to claim that we have a conspiratorial culture is not a conspiracy theory. We have always had a conspiratorial culture.

People talk, gossip, discuss and speculate, usually within their own social class. Some social classes have the power to change things and in the end, their consensus around shared anxieties does change things. That is all there is to it.

We may assume that the upper middle classes have their Malthusian anxieties and the disdain which goes with it because why would we assume those anxieties have disappeared? They run deep. Simple observation suggests they never did disappear – the dots do join up.

Imagine a diffuse mix of fears, accusations, virtue signalling, vague social contempt and a definite touch of social and political aggression. Anxiety about the future… excessive consumption… too many people… the wrong kind of people… they don’t deserve… bourgeois… ugly… feckless… wasted on them… squandering resources… not sustainable… too many cars… unhealthy… crude… too much money… out of control… out of control… out of control…

A upper middle class conspiratorial culture diffused with supercilious Malthusian anxieties has embedded itself in our wider culture simply because that is the way things are and always have been. It seems to be a legitimate part of our wider culture because it is. It looks nothing like a locked room full of furtive conspirators with secret plans, but diffused through an entire society it is far more powerful in its effects. 

We see it most clearly as political parties on the traditional left lose interest in ordinary working people because ordinary working people are the Malthusian threat. Supposedly consuming too much, with too much power over their own lives, sucking up what are believed to be finite resources. Finite resources do not belong to those dreadful people goes the covert corollary.

Hence that strange yet explicable tendency to damage and mismanage the lives of ordinary people. A tendency to create welfare dependencies which ultimately do no good but cannot be escaped. From housing to education, from mass immigration to bungled energy policies, from corrupt science and corrupt academia to a suspiciously incompetent and draconian response to a relatively unimportant pandemic. It doesn’t feel accidental because it isn’t.

It is a pattern of behaviour exhibited by the upper middle classes, those with plenty of money, good social connections, good social skills. Add to that an old Malthusian anxiety which never went away. Add an imaginary future where natural resources which go to make their lives so comfortable have been irreversibly depleted. By us.

And how long has that imaginary future been promoted? I can’t recall a time when it wasn’t a source of endless and distinctly aggressive hand-wringing anxiety. The Guardian never let go of it. The BBC never lets go of it. The government never lets go of it. That imaginary future is my fault and yours. It always was. The dots do join up.

Saturday 20 February 2021

Not quite fake news

Smiles and waves at US border after Biden overturns controversial Trump immigration policy

As people start filtering into the US, it illustrates the wholesale rejection of Donald Trump's border policy by President Biden.

Unpicking "Remain in Mexico" is just the latest action. "This is a very historical moment," said campaigner Dulce Garcia. "Even if it is only 25 people at first, it is a step in the right direction."

However we are also told further down the same piece -

But there is a bigger concern, even among immigration activists, that Biden's softer tone is sending a signal to would-be migrants that the border is open.

This as the White House insists that, for most people seeking entry, the policies at the moment remain the same and the border is in fact shut.

In other words, if you really want to know what is going on, go elsewhere and dig deeper.

Friday 19 February 2021

The Illusionists

Thus it is. And we sacrifice ourselves for these visions, which are almost always illusions for the sacrificed, but illusions with which, after all, the whole of human certainty is mingled.

Victor Hugo - Les Misérables (1862)

Illusions are rum things aren’t they? I’m not thinking of the illusions performed by stage magicians. Politically inspired illusions are the rum ones because only the middle class seems to be taken in by them.

Many members of the political class and the mainstream media are illusionists but they usually specialise in amateurish illusions. Which is particularly rum because whenever we look closely, their illusions just fall apart and aren’t even entertaining. Yet for the most part, audiences appear to be uninterested in how even the most flaky political illusion is performed. Definitely rum.

Political illusions have many helpers though. Illusionists overcome the flaky nature of their act with assistance from hordes of willing dupes and fanatics. These are the people who really make the illusions work, who believe them to be an important aspect of real life. For them, the top hat really does contain a rabbit.

We could even divide political parties by the way they make use of fanatics. How they use them to create the illusion that their political schemes are far more essential or morally indisputable than reality would ever suggest. Yet to do that we may have to admit that the traditional left has been much better at attracting and grooming its fanatics than any other political grouping.

The illusions become visible in many ways, especially where fanatical claims to indisputable truth or the moral high ground are clearly absurd. Even useful idiots may be more idiotic than useful though. There are pitfalls. A current example is the gender politics debate even though it is barely a debate, fanatics having shut it down so effectively. Yet there are rumblings - the useful idiots may have a problem. Let's hope so.

What we may be seeing now with the coronavirus debacle is the emergence of a new mode of political repression hidden behind a pretty flaky public health illusion. The useful idiots certainly like this one. They are happy to justify any loss of personal freedom by even the most specious health projections based on little more than guesswork. Attempts at rational debate are abused and often censored in pursuit of a fantasy world of perfectible health.

Media people and the political class appear to be well aware of what goes on when fanatics are recruited to bolster illusions. It allows them to sell themselves as possessors of arcane knowledge behind a diffuse but effective shield of idiot support. 

Thursday 18 February 2021

Is the man worse than Corbyn?

The Covid-19 crisis has shown the government needs to play a bigger role in the economy permanently, Labour's leader will argue on Thursday.

In a speech online, Sir Keir Starmer will say the pandemic has "shifted the axis" on the size of the state in a similar way to World War Two.

And he will add there cannot be a "return to business as usual" in the wake of the virus.

He will also call for business support to be extended at next month's Budget.

The government says it has spent £280bn to help the economy through the pandemic, including tax breaks, grants and wage support for workers.

Dodgy science, closed schools, closed businesses, house arrest, police informers, ludicrous intransigence and covert government agendas. This is how government works so let's have more of it - that seems to be Sir Keir's message. Is the man worse than Corbyn?

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Covid Witnesses

The Covid Witness movement appears to be growing with little groups of Coves as they are called knocking on doors with their leaflets in a search for new converts. The main plank of their movement is what Covid Witnesses call their PCR Test or simply the Test. There are three mantras within the Test.

  1. Praise the sacred calling of Epidemiology
  2. Cover the face in the presence of Covid
  3. Report your neighbours

The Third Mantra of the Covid Witnesses probably requires some elaboration. Covid Witnesses are not suggesting that believers should necessarily spy on their neighbours full time. What they do suggest is that they should report neighbours who seem to be the type of people who would violate the first two Mantras of the PCR. Covid Witnesses call it their version of the precautionary principle.

All very interesting and a sign of the times perhaps. However it remains to be seen if this new movement flourishes in the longer term. Does it offer enough spiritual sustenance? This is the real test of any such movement.

It is not known if Boris Johnson is a convert or not, but even if he is a devout Covid Witness, his epiphany  may turn out to be temporary. With Boris they usually are.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Bill should visit Texas

Bill Gates has urged rich nations to move to "100% synthetic beef" in order to address the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change.

In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, the billionaire philanthropist stresses that while it remains possible for humanity to avert the disaster through technological achievements, government policy will ultimately be needed.

Meanwhile real life rolls in -

Authorities across the US are on alert as a winter storm brings freezing winds, ice and snow to many areas that rarely see such frigid conditions.

In Texas, a surge in demand for electricity has led to widespread power cuts. The state is bracing for another icy storm later on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said more than 150 million Americans were now under winter storm warnings.

Monday 15 February 2021

Boris may have won the race

Coronavirus: Plan to exit lockdown 'cautious but irreversible', says Boris Johnson

The government's plan to move England out of lockdown will be "cautious but irreversible", Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister is due to set out the roadmap for ending restrictions next Monday.

He told reporters the plan would include target dates for changes "if we possibly can", but he warned high rates of infection could lead to delays.

It comes as a group of Tory MPs call for a commitment to a "free life" and ending of lockdown measures before May.

The race of course is between a natural seasonal decline in Covid-19 and the vaccination programme. With a very large vaccination number the government will be able to put a Covid-19 decline down to lockdown and vaccination rather than a natural seasonal decline. Even admitting a natural effect may not make much difference politically. 

Has Boris won the political coronavirus race? To be where we are now, there must be considerable government confidence that a marked seasonal decline is somewhere between highly likely and inevitable. As it appears to have started anyway, this probably counts as a win for Boris. 

A grossly destructive win but that's politics. It certainly highlights his ability and willingness to control the narrative at our expense. Depressingly well highlighted in my view.

Sunday 14 February 2021

Freak Show Politics

As movies, TV, celebrity culture and the media become ever more freakish to attract jaded public attention, it is surely worth folding politics into the mix. It is far from being a new observation, but the political classes also have to attract that same jaded public attention.

Look at the things Boris had to do to get where he is now. Starmer can’t do it and that may be a potentially fatal difficulty. Or a bonus depending on viewpoint.

In other words, the political stage is becoming a freak show because it must to retain mass attention. The freaks, loons and charlatans are not there accidentally. They are there because we voters are what we are.

Attracted to freak shows - get freak shows.

The Rise of the Nutter Class

It may be coincidence, but the steady rise in university education since WWII seems to have coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of nutters infesting the public arena. Not a one to one relationship of course, but increase the nutter propensity even slightly and maybe we inadvertently increase the numbers. 

It isn't bang up to date, but the graph below shows a dramatic rise in number of students obtaining degrees since WWI. Even a cursory inspection suggests there may have been a similar rise in the number of public arena nutters. Uncanny. More research needed obviously.


Saturday 13 February 2021

Fat Chance



We've recently watched a few episodes of what to us was a long forgotten TV series called Tales of the Unexpected. Each half hour episode is supposed to have an unexpected twist to the ending although it didn't always work. Decades ago we used to call the series Fat Chance - meaning "fat chance of it being unexpected".

A little unfair really, from what we've seen they pass an easy half hour although now it's a nostalgic half hour spotting clothes, hairstyles, cars and domestic interiors.  Lockdown nostalgia perhaps.

Friday 12 February 2021

The Politics of Scrutiny

What is the connection between the WHO coronavirus investigation in China and Democrat attempts to impeach Donald Trump even though he is no longer US President?

To my mind the connection is scrutiny or perhaps we might say oversight. Totalitarian national establishments, political parties or political movements cannot tolerate any form of outside scrutiny, inspection or oversight. This is a core aspect of what it means to be totalitarian.

It also applies to individuals. People with a totalitarian political outlook resist outside scrutiny, often reacting in a hostile manner to criticism and analysis casting doubt on key facets of their political outlook, particularly where moral doubts are raised. 

This is what we see in Democrat attempts to impeach Donald Trump. He offered voters oversight and scrutiny of the establishment. For that the establishment loathed and abused him in a traditionally totalitarian manner, accusing him of anything and everything which came to mind. Not a pretty sight even from this side of the Atlantic.

A startlingly unmissable aspect of the entire US establishment including the media has been an immovable determination to reject the oversight and scrutiny roles Donald Trump brought to the US Presidency. He came across to this observer as a would-be US CEO with a self-imposed brief to sharpen up numerous failings within the US establishment. A brief huge numbers of voters hoped he would deliver – as he so clearly knew.

Unfortunately for many millions of US voters, the US establishment and its stakeholders have drifted towards a self-serving and increasingly totalitarian political ethos. The impeachment process itself is corrupt – very much a banana republic reaction to the threat of even the mildest reforms. Sadly that is the term being repeated all over the place now – banana republic.

Thursday 11 February 2021

Not drink, lunacy or practical joking

I don’t like games that make me feel a congenital idiot. But there was one that rather amused me. You invented a preposterous situation and the point was to explain naturally how it came about. Drink, lunacy and practical joking were barred as explanations

John Buchan - The Runagates Club (1928)

Wednesday 10 February 2021

Gift Politics

From Daily NK we hear

With general participants in the Eighth Party Congress reportedly receiving little in the way of gifts, Daily NK has learned that top-ranking cadres were given watches engraved with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s name, as well as televisions.

In a phone conversation, a source in North Korea told Daily NK on Monday that the authorities gave key cadres watches after the conclusion of the party congress. “The watches are engraved with the signature of Kim Jong Un,” he said...

It seems Kim, who is beset by external and internal difficulties due to international sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues, is encouraging solidarity among key cadres through “gift politics.”

There's an idea. Maybe Boris will give out holiday vouchers - permission to take a holiday for those who manage to complete a course of five vaccinations or some other indicator of lockdown loyalty. Holidays in a designated location of course.

The furtive stink of precedent



Obvious enough but there is the furtive stink of precedent being established with this story. A vastly disproportionate punishment imposed for lying to officials. When the coronavirus debacle is finally allowed to fade, assuming it ever is, the precedent remains as a few more clicks of the totalitarian ratchet. A hint of groundwork being put in place for the ten point plan. 

Mr Shapps also cast doubt on whether Britons would be able to enjoy a summer holiday this year, either in the UK or abroad, amid the concerns about new COVID variants.

"I'm afraid I can't give you a definitive 'will there or will there not be' the opportunity to take holidays this next year, either at home or abroad," he said.

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Tales of the Fat Controller

News story

£9 million fund opens to railway innovators and inventors

Rail Minister launches fifth round of the First of a Kind competition, inviting cutting-edge ideas that will improve passenger experience and decarbonise the rail network.

A new £9 million competition to find cutting-edge ideas set to transform the future of the railways has opened today, as Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris and Innovate UK launched the 2021 First of a Kind (FOAK) competition.

What are we babbling talking about here I wonder? Solar powered trains or maybe wind power? Or nuclear powered trains? No it’s about sloshing money around to no real purpose apart from shovelling it into the patronage system.

Monday 8 February 2021

A histrionic thing

If Rousseau, for instance, after writing those Confessions in which candour and ignorance of self are equally conspicuous, had heard some intelligent friend, like Hume, draw up in a few words an account of their author’s true and contemptible character, he would have been loud in protestations that no such ignoble characteristics existed in his eloquent consciousness; and they might not have existed there, because his consciousness was a histrionic thing, and as imperfect an expression of his own nature as of man’s.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905-1906)

Suppose we move on from histrionic consciousness to the uses and abuses of intersectionality which are well illustrated in this Mercatornet piece. 

American Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, who read her poem, The Hill we Climb, at the inauguration of President Biden is a good example of the moral prestige of intersectionality. Amanda spoke of herself as “the skinny black girl, descended from slaves, raised by a single mother” who is now free to dream of becoming President. In those few well-chosen words, she bedded herself securely within the pie chart of intersectional disadvantage.

But the truth is rather more complex.

Amanda along with her twin sister was indeed raised by a single mother, Joan Wicks, a middle school teacher of English. However, Amanda’s back story suggests privilege too.. She attended a private school in Santa Monica called New Roads. The fees there are in the region of US$40,000 a year. New Roads is very politically correct. Its mission statement proclaims that “solidarity and allyship are in our DNA”.

Amanda went from New Roads to another bastion of American privilege, Harvard University, from which she graduated with a BA last year.

You would think that a thick layer of education privilege would thin out the layers of prejudice below it. Not so. New Roads and Harvard add to Ms Gorman’s social privilege but she retains the moral privilege of being intersectional. It’s a bit odd.

We could say that intersectionality is also a histrionic thing connected with the bolstering of egos, moral prestige, limited talent and even the justification of lucky breaks. Merit though – it certainly isn’t about that. Joe Biden diving straight in is all of a piece with the man.

President Joe Biden, as another example, can lighten the load of his straight, white male baggage by talking up his Irish ancestry. While his maternal grandfather is Irish, his paternal grandfather’s lineage, along with his surname, traces to Sussex in deepest England. His maternal grandmother is mostly French and he carries her surname as his middle name. Identifying with an oppressed race, however, is a good image and if the oppressed race concerned is Irish, well, sure that never did any American politician any harm.

Here's what you need to know


- here's what you need to know indeed. It is possibly just me, but I do dislike condescending headlines of this type. As if that's it whatever your level of interest and knowledge. As a mainstream piece it's fine within its limitations but  why add that condescending line? 

It makes me think of garbage like - here's what you need to know about climate change.

Sunday 7 February 2021

The sooner the discovery is made


Neither man nor woman can be worth anything until they have discovered that they are fools. This is the first step towards becoming either estimable or agreeable; and until it be taken there is no hope. The sooner the discovery is made the better, as there is more time and power for taking advantage of it. Sometimes the great truth is found out too late to apply to it any effectual remedy. Sometimes it is never found at all; and these form the desperate and inveterate causes of folly, self-conceit, and impertinence.

William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne

It has to be stupid

In this stupid world most people never consider that a thing is good to be done unless it is done by their own set.

George Eliot - Middlemarch (1871-72)

In our world of tediously progressive government it is necessary for an endless stream of new political measures to be handed down from the elite. However there is an inevitable catch quite apart from the incessant meddling.

Almost everything handed down by government has to be imbued with a certain mystique, a certain aura of superior necessity informed by arcane knowledge, particularly the knowledge of elite experts. Otherwise the whole business could come across as something anyone could do. Even a real expert.

It is almost always necessary that there should be no choice involved either. This strengthens that sense of superior necessity – it is for your own good and we know best type necessity. Childish perhaps, but in an informed world that is all there is left.

In other words it is usually vital that everyone should not say “wow what a good idea” when a new initiative comes along, although not quite sane people may be persuaded to say it anyway. See the coronavirus debacle for example.

If everyone did say “wow what a good idea” then that would be populist – or popular as we used to call it. No mystique there - so a degree of pointless compulsion has to be mixed in to sour the thing and tone down the popularity. See the coronavirus debacle again.

In other words, government initiatives which are clearly stupid often have to be stupid simply to maintain the mystique of government, however tattered and faded that mystique actually is. The mechanics of government may go on behind the scenes, but the public façade cannot be conspicuously competent. The incompetence inevitably seeps into what goes on behind the façade anyway.

In modern times with our rigidly collective political ethos, government initiatives cannot usually be anything sane people would wish for. They have to be stupid or at the very least significantly pointless. It’s in the genes of the process.

Saturday 6 February 2021

Envy of the world



Our Walking Area


Of course Boris and his stooges have wisely decreed that these areas are infected with a deadly virus. Apparently we'd be almost certain to catch it if we were to walk there while maintaining a fairly typical half a mile social distancing.  

I exaggerate of course - but he started it.

Friday 5 February 2021

Regime Media

But why speak of his friends, his enemies? It is all so ugly, and all the more ugly, the more accurately it is drawn from life. These are however the only teachers of ethics that the people have, and without them where should we be? Will the newspaper ever manage to take the place of the parish priest?

Stendhal - The Red and the Black (1830)

Sustained and frequently hysterical media opposition to President Trump over four years must have left a strong sense of unease among many neutral observers - those who do not regard hysteria as a mode of thinking.

During the Trump years, mainstream media opposition was too uniform, too persistent, too biased and too international to be genuine. It was suspiciously coordinated even if we ignore the obviously fraudulent attempts to link Trump with Russian electoral interference.

The whole sorry charade was more like the servile bias we see in totalitarian regimes. Regimes where the media pile on to any semblance of political opposition including criticism from outside. Effective in suppressing internal dissent but too obvious to take seriously.

Almost as if we should refer to international mainstream media as ‘regime media’. The regime already has an informal name - woke. Perhaps cultural decline has reached a stage where we have a totalitarian transnational woke regime media spanning most developed democracies. Soon to be former democracies. It certainly feels like a nascent regime – real enough but no flag yet.

Yet it also feels fluid. As if the woke part is not absolutely essential, as if boundaries are being tested but not necessarily long-term boundaries. As if the woke part is more to do with humiliating the majority of the population before moving on. A way to suppress expectations and smooth the way towards something else.

Not so much a conspiracy as a search for a superior identity by a somewhat diffuse but thoroughly aware social class approximating to the upper middle class and a host of useful idiots. Plus some oligarchs of course. An emergent property of an over-connected world filled with too many educated people who feel threatened by practical abilities they do not possess.

A core desire seems to be the relegation of the great mass of practical people to a status below that of woke. Those people who make something work or keep something working.

To make it difficult for ordinary working people to elevate matters of fact above political expediency.

To attract accredited professionals towards political expediency and away from the integrity implicit in their accreditation.

To corrupt professional standards where matters of fact are a key aspect of those standards.

Thursday 4 February 2021

Spied on by your smart meter

If the pandemic has been good for one thing, it's time in bed.

"People are taking a chance to get some extra sleep," says Daniel McNamara, a data scientist at energy supplier Bulb. "It's cool."

The insight comes from an unexpected source: smart meters.

These devices measure electricity usage and send the information straight to energy suppliers.

Many moves in the Great Game are not something to jump up and down about, but they are another click of the ratchet. This one won't be reversed because they never are. Power cut off remotely when the wind drops? Click.

Wednesday 3 February 2021

T’Owd Pit

One of our regular town walks takes up past the former site of the local coal mine. Our house would have been about a five minute walk from the pit although there is nothing left of the mine above ground now. Nothing but a large grassy park with an information board and a tarmac track which would have been the pit railway.

Mrs H’s family were involved in the mining industry for at least a century. We still have her great grandfather’s pick used to hack coal from narrow seams. I once used it to hack up a pampas grass root in the lawn. It did the job very well and I could just about imagine hacking coal out with it, but coal mining doesn’t trigger much nostalgia.

At the end of our garden is a WWII air-raid shelter built by the builder who built the house in the thirties and first lived here. It is little more than a concrete box sunk into the ground with steps leading down into the interior. Why it was built we don’t know. Maybe the builder though enemy bombers might target the pit but we can’t ask him now.

That’s a frustrating aspect of personal and local history, the stories which are now lost. The questions we never asked our parents or grandparents, their reasons for doing this or that, their reasons for living where they chose to live. We don’t always ask and one day it is too late.

Tuesday 2 February 2021

I haven't told many people - only a few million

New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has tearfully revealed that she is a survivor of sexual assault as she talked about the trauma she felt during the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol.

The 31-year-old made the revelation during a 90 minute Instagram live video on Monday night that has been viewed more than 1.4 million times.

'I'm a survivor of sexual assault, I haven't told many people that in my life.

'As a survivor, I struggle with the idea of being believed.'

She gave no details about the assault or when it took place.


A runny nose, sore throat and headache should be added to Britain's official list of coronavirus symptoms, GPs have urged.

The NHS says the only three tell-tale signs of the illness are a fever, cough or loss of taste and smell. But the World Health Organization and officials in the US recognise other less common symptoms such as muscle pain and diarrhoea.

A group of 140 family doctors in London have called on health chiefs to expand the number of recognised symptoms.

This is turning out to be something like climate change. Just as any type of mildly inclement weather indicates looming climate change disaster, soon any health symptom will show that the fiendishly clever coronavirus has struck.

Not having symptoms could even become coronavirus denial, a psychological condition which must be diagnosed by accredited media people.  

Monday 1 February 2021


It is "absolutely vital" that people in areas of England where the South African variant of coronavirus has been identified minimise all social contact, the health secretary has said.

The government has announced that coronavirus testers will go door-to-door across a number of areas of England to swab 80,000 people in an attempt to halt the spread of the strain.

The emergence of the variant was a "stark reminder the fight against this virus is not over yet" and that now was "no time to let things slip", Mr Hancock said.

"There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe. But we need to come down hard on it and we will."

It isn't more severe but we need more severe measures to deal with it more severely than that strains which are just as severe. Right...


North Korean authorities have reportedly informed international organizations of when they intend to begin COVID-19 inoculations. The country’s authorities are reportedly considering which vaccines they hope to use as well.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Sunday, North Korean authorities have told “international organizations” that they hope to begin inoculations at the end of February at the earliest or early March at the latest...

High-ranking North Korean officials prefer vaccines made by British or German pharmaceutical companies, but they also look favorably on vaccines made by other manufacturers purchased by South Korea, said the source...

North Korea could also import cheap vaccines from China or Russia, but the source said authorities so far have “little faith” in vaccines from those countries.

It's a guess, but somehow I suspect those high-ranking North Korean officials will receive their British or German vaccinations first, beginning at the top. As for the rest of North Korea...