Saturday, 31 July 2021
COVID-19: New deadlier coronavirus variant that could kill one in three infected people 'a realistic possibility', SAGE warns
In a paper on the "long term evolution" of coronavirus, SAGE also says the virus could result in "much less severe disease" in older people and those who are clinically vulnerable in the long term.
The emergence of a new COVID variant with a similar death rate to MERS, which kills one in three infected people, is a "realistic possibility", the government's scientific advisers have warned.
However the experts also say the virus could result in "much less severe disease" in older people and those who are clinically vulnerable in the long term.
Friday, 30 July 2021
Covid-19 has been damaging for many of the professions we have relied on most to get us through the pandemic. Recent furores about modest pay increases and freezes for NHS workers, teachers and the police are heightened by an assumption that the people who work in these industries are, somehow, different from others who toil away in less virtuous jobs. Perhaps only an increase that would have made Croesus blush would have satisfied the BMA, or the teaching and police unions...
Despite all evidence to the contrary we persist in claiming the NHS is world class when it is only mediocre compared to other rich nations’ health services. This isn’t just incorrect, but seriously damaging. By insisting on defending the NHS and everyone who works for it, we actually make improvement difficult and keep its failings in place. The same goes for teaching: unless we accept the weaknesses of our educational system we will unintentionally limit the prospects of too many of our children.
When any one asks me what I think of the weather or of the Prime Minister, does my answer report anything that I have previously thought ? Probably not ; my past impressions are lost, or obliterated by the very question put to me; and I make bold to invent, on the spur of the moment, a myth about my sentiments on the subject.
George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)
The great political myth is that political ideologies provide permanent solutions to social and economic problems. The evidence that this may be so is weak and easily challenge, yet over recent decades the myth has grown even stronger.
In one sense we should be surprised that the myth is so strong. When political ideologies are applied to practical matters there has to be some corresponding assumption that human behaviour is predictable. Plus of course, a related assumption that political ideologies can be used to predict the future trajectory of social and economic trends. Neither is plausible yet the myth grows, in part because these key assumptions are not made explicit.
As Santayana said, there is a fleeting, transient aspect to our responses to many subjects and situations. We have a general ability to respond to political questions in transient ways too. Elections rely on transient interest plus the groove of habitual responses. The combination is destructive, ensuring that we do not generally analyse our own voting habits, which in turn ensures that those same habits remain unchallenged for decades.
A good example here in the UK is how we vote for the same tired old political parties which have quite obviously been captured by a senile establishment and are quite obviously well past the point when they should be consigned to the past. We need new parties but we won’t get them because voters won’t vote for them.
At the point when the cross goes against the chosen candidate, which in reality is the chosen political party, I make bold to invent, on the spur of the moment, a myth about my sentiments on the subject. That myth keeps old and inadequate political parties going for decades beyond their use-by date. It will not end well.
Thursday, 29 July 2021
Every aspect of the NZPTS has been specifically designed to weed out the slightest concession to old-style high emissions transport. Even the construction material is sustainable and degradable. The base construction material is Plebyne, a completely new flexible material formed from compressed sheets of vegetable processing waste with plant-based binders.
Although not yet released from its primary testing phase, Plebyne has just a few hurdles to overcome before it hits production. We are told that a tendency to become sticky in wet or not particularly wet conditions. This stickiness and an unpleasant odour are the only glitches left before the remarkably green material goes into full production.
The enthusiasm driving this project gives us many reasons to be optimistic. For example, the design team has suggested that the sticky nature of Plebyne could be an advantage for NZPTS drivers in that they are less likely to fall off. It is this kind of blue skies thinking which is sure to bring them all the success they deserve.
Climate change: Scientists call for 'refreezing' of the Arctic after several 'never before' events
CCAG researchers call for urgent research on refreezing the Arctic, and say many other solutions already exist.
The Arctic is now experiencing several "never before" events, with dramatic, human impacts on the planet's ecosystem, according to a new report...
The authors say we must explore ways of restoring damaged climate systems, including refreezing the Arctic, though no further detail was provided.
No further detail was provided? The wimps - ask Electrolux what they think of the idea.
Wednesday, 28 July 2021
I've been scanning an album of old photos today. Mainly to reduce the space taken up by bulky photo albums we never look at from one year to the next. Some photos are deteriorating, so I had to do something about that anyway. Presumably the digital versions will last, but how we'll pass them on when we pop our clogs I don't know.
All the photos I scanned today were from the seventies, from about 1972 to 1979 and there were about 120 to scan. In the era of the digital camera, a similar period seems to generate about ten times as many and I suspect it would be no great loss if I were to delete ninety percent of them.
Digital clutter has replaced physical clutter I suppose. Oh well - there are quite a few more albums to go.
Tuesday, 27 July 2021
Donald Forbes has an interesting take on Joe Biden in Comment Central.
One of the depressing things about Joe Biden is that he is a pure product of politics. Half a century devoted entirely to the pursuit of votes and office must shrivel whatever humanity a man is born with. There is no sign Biden ever had the time or the breadth of imagination to read a book for pleasure. Now he is a physical and mental shadow of his mediocre heyday, a wind-up toy pointed this way and that by advisors who have their own agendas and whichever political current is strongest on his side of the political tracks which at the moment is the progressive left.
Whatever Biden's mental state now, he was never presidential material, never likely to rise above the role of puppet. Which, we may assume, is all the Swamp ever wanted. The whole piece is well worth reading.
What are we to make of the Democratic party which made such a man its contender for the world's most powerful office; or of his wife who allowed it to happen and now has to nurse him through the job? Whenever she is out sight, Biden asks, "where's Jill?"
The answer to all of these 'what are we to make of' questions is narrative. What the voter sees in front of him is just an illusion until packaged as a narrative that is repeated so many times in so many places that it becomes a truth.
Monday, 26 July 2021
'COVID is a warning that much worse lies in store': Alarm raised ahead of biggest climate report since 2013
Following a spate of deadly wildfires, floods and famine, IPCC researchers begin finalising the most comprehensive assessment of global warming of its kind since 2013...
"While the climate crisis, together with biodiversity loss and pollution, has indeed been under way for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this triple planetary crisis into sharp focus," Joyce Msuya, assistant secretary general of the United Nations and deputy executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.
"The pandemic is a warning from the planet that much worse lies in store unless we change our ways."
COVID-19 is a warning from the planet eh? Not a warning about meddling with viruses in China presumably. Definitely not that.
Sunday, 25 July 2021
Integrity is an elusive idea isn’t it? Absolutely vital for a functioning society, but we seem to have no reliable consensus on how to retain it. Or even how to know if we have retained it. Or why we haven’t retained it.
The problem with integrity is obvious enough. If we lose it, we also lose the integrity to notice the loss. Or we do notice it but lack the integrity to do anything about it. Or we lose it intentionally for personal gain. The basic risk is the same though. If we lose it, we lose the incentive to regain it whether we know it or not. Integrity is the original slippery slope. Very steep, very slippery.
Yet here in the UK, there appears to be an underlying assumption that we still possess some kind of basic, caring, sharing, cycling, recycling, inclusive, green political integrity and this is enough to venture into the future. Confidently corrupt, we have no way of regaining the integrity we have so plainly lost. No way of knowing it. No way to avoid losing even more than we have lost already.
We know we’ve lost a great chunk of political integrity because the coronavirus police state tells us so and this was far from being the first clue. The effects of the pandemic have not been worth the costs, neither economically nor politically, but this cannot be admitted. The integrity to do so officially is not there.
We know it because mainstream media lie to us as a matter of routine, because governments exaggerate risks to the point where they too are lying, because celebrities repeat the lies for their publicity value, because scientists support the lies for professional gain, because academics invent more lies for professional gain, because we allow lies into the lives of our children, because we are constantly lied to about the weather, because we are presented with obvious lies about the biology of human sexuality, because we cannot state certain obvious facts without political or legal risk, because the history of slavery is not discussed factually, because history is frequently distorted, because we cannot reap the benefits of free speech, because we cannot easily criticise politically favoured groups, because equality does not mean equality before the law, because we cannot vote for integrity, because…
We know it because the list just keeps growing.
Saturday, 24 July 2021
House Rep. Ronny Jackson, who served as the top White House physician under the Obama and Trump administrations, has predicted President Joe Biden won’t finish his term in office because of a lack of fitness for the job.
‘Something is SERIOUSLY wrong with Biden - and it’s only going to get WORSE!’ the Republican congressman from Texas tweeted on Thursday.
‘It’s past the point of embarrassment. He’s lost. He can barely put a coherent sentence together.’
Maybe so, but the probability of mental decline was an obvious issue before the presidential election. In which case there is also something seriously wrong with those who voted for him. And others of course.
Friday, 23 July 2021
We tootled off into Matlock for a stroll and a coffee this morning. The heatwave finally seems to have abated so we can get a few jobs done around the house without wilting in the heat. Not that it has been unpleasant for us. Sitting in the garden under the shade of the Amelanchier wasn't at all arduous.
Thanks to all the loft insulation, it has been very warm upstairs in the bedrooms and hardly cooled at all during the night. So much so that we decided to sleep on the floor downstairs which was a few degrees cooler and we could open the patio doors.
Thursday, 22 July 2021
There was a time not so far in the past when ignorance was feared and education was seen as the antidote. Ignorance could lead to crime, disorder, riots and subversion. Of course the drive to educate the masses had a number of aspects, but one which has declined in perceived importance is a visceral fear of widespread ignorance.
Why we should fear it is obvious enough - widespread ignorance takes us into the unknown where painfully acquired cultural competence begins to fall apart.
In his short story 'A Son of the Soil', writer George Gissing introduces us to his character Jonas Clay, an agricultural labourer who aspires to better himself in London. Unfortunately Clay’s aspiration is founded idle ignorance rather than anything more constructive. It doesn’t end well of course. Gissing was no great fan of happy endings.
At school he had learnt — well, what had he learnt? In the main, to spell out police news and to scrawl obscene words. His education, in the real sense, he owed to a powerful but unacknowledged instructor, the Spirit of the Age. Hence his discontent with everything about him, his thorough dishonesty, his blurred, gaslight vision of a remote world.
Certain well-meaning persons had given him ‘religious teaching,’ that is to say, had laboriously brought him to the repetition of phrases he did not understand, to which he attached no particular significance whatever. He could not name the flowers by the wayside; no one had ever thought of teaching him that. He did not know — he did not hear — the bird that sang to him at his work; no one had ever spoken to him of such trifles.
He was aware, by consequences, that the sun rose and set; but never had he consciously looked at its setting or its rising; for all that Jonas thought about it, the sky might have lowered in a perpetual leadenness. He had no conception of geography — save that somewhere vaguely to the east lay a huge town called London.
George Gissing – A Son of the Soil (1898)
As Gissing wrote of Jonas Clay: His education, in the real sense, he owed to a powerful but unacknowledged instructor, the Spirit of the Age. Where are we if the spirit of our age actively promotes ignorance? Which it does – we know it does in ways too numerous to count. Perhaps this is a situation we should fear.
Charles Dickens gives us an earlier and better-known hint that ignorance is something to be feared in 'A Christmas Carol'. It isn’t a new problem but what we seem to have forgotten is the fear itself and the reasons why we should still fear ignorance.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”
Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol (1843)
Wednesday, 21 July 2021
Seaside poor health overlooked, warns Whitty
A national strategy is needed to tackle poor health and lower life expectancy in seaside towns, a report from England's chief medical officer says.
Chris Whitty says these places might have natural beauty but suffer from high rates of serious illnesses.
Don't retire to the seaside seems to be the message. But wait...
Asthma was one of the few health problems less common on the coast - and Prof Whitty pointed to the "paradox" of ill health in seaside towns when there were so many natural advantages - such as lower pollution and better access to healthy outside spaces.
So when pollution is used as a convenient scapegoat for poor health, we should take it with a pinch of salt substitute. These issues are complex of course and cause and effect do seem to be peculiarly elusive. And yet...
It is telling how often are the bastards lying again? is a good preliminary question whenever we are lectured by officialdom.
Tuesday, 20 July 2021
COVID-19: Employers will have to apply for isolation exemption for 'pinged' workers as government rules out critical jobs list
An increasing number of people are being forced to self-isolate as they are identified as close contacts of somebody who is COVID positive, leading to many critical workers being unable to do their jobs.
Monday, 19 July 2021
Germany floods: Officials reject criticism over warnings as number of dead across country and Belgium rises
Authorities claim emergency alerts were sent out but it is not clear how many sirens sounded to warn people.
Sunday, 18 July 2021
One family has taken on the net zero challenge in a big way. All four members of the Weeble family from Buxton have certainly pushed the envelope when it comes to net zero housing. The Weebles have abandoned their three bed detached house, turned off the gas, electricity and water and decamped to the garden shed which is now their new home.
It sounded incredibly radical and incredibly interesting so I had to visit them to see how their new net zero lifestyle is working out. Jed and Kaz now live with son Tommee (13) and daughter Toolah (11) in a large wooden shed in their back garden.
I knocked on the door and Jed and Kaz ushered me in with friendly smiles. Their new net zero home seemed a little cramped inside with only wooden stools to sit on, but Jed and Kaz have plans to expand the shed in a net zero and sustainable way using wood salvaged from a nearby recycling centre.
They have already added an annexe, although the kids are not allowed to go in there because it has turned out to be a little damp in wet weather and Kaz says the floor flexes more than it should. Still as Jed says – “it’s early days and we are learning all the time.”
The first and most obvious question which sprang to mind how the kids were adapting to their new lifestyle with no mobile phones, TV or video games. This is due to the absence of an electricity supply although the family expects to have a couple of solar panels installed within a week or two.
I should say at this point that Tommee and Toolah spent most of the interview scowling at their parents while huddled up in a corner. Toolah had what appeared to be an imitation mobile phone made from wood which she used to hold imaginary conversations such as –
“No I’m so sorry, we aren’t allowed to do that. You could come here but you wouldn’t like it at all what with the spiders and the draughts, not to mention the smell my dear. Oh yes my dear it certainly does smell…”
Jed and Kaz would occasionally throw Toolah a tolerant smile suggesting that all is well so I asked them about their abandoned bricks and mortar house standing empty. Wouldn’t it deteriorate and become derelict over the years?
“Oh yes,” enthused Jed, “we are rather looking forward to that, watching the old, planet-destroying way of life finally crumble into the earth.”
“The earth which will in the end receive it with love,” added Kaz. “The earth will take our house into itself and heal the wound we in our ignorance caused.”
At this point Tommee began tapping his forehead with a finger and pulling faces clearly intended to indicate that his parents are a little eccentric. Is that what he meant? I’m not sure.
It began to rain at this point and soon the rain turned into a regular downpour, hammering on the roof and drowning any further conversation. I decided to terminate the interview and leave as soon as the rain eased off. As huge raindrops splintered across the shed windows, the whole business felt more depressing than I’d expected.
Saturday, 17 July 2021
We talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannize over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions; we think it looks important, and sounds well. As we are not particular about the meaning of our liveries on state occasions, if they be but fine and numerous enough, so, the meaning or necessity of our words is a secondary consideration, if there be but a great parade of them.
And as individuals get into trouble by making too great a show of liveries, or as slaves when they are too numerous rise against their masters, so I think I could mention a nation that has got into many great difficulties, and will get into many greater, from maintaining too large a retinue of words.
Charles Dickens - David Copperfield (1849-50)
Even in Dickens’ day it was clear enough that words are misused and the meaning of what is said or written may not reflect a genuine standpoint. Words are used for effect, a problem we’ve been familiar with forever.
There may be no meaning at all, nothing but a play on the emotions and susceptibilities. We see it all the time as politicians and the media play their tired tunes on allegiances, fears and emotional cues. Doing their tedious best to ensure that nonsense wins again.
A core problem seems to be that picking apart misleading language has little impact on anyone. We see it all over the internet. There is little point in trying to pull apart a widely-reported celebrity comment by showing it to be meaningless. It doesn’t matter if it is meaningless in an analytical sense. The emotional effect is what matters, not the meaning. The emotional effect is the meaning.
We know this too, but cannot do anything about it. We drown in a barrage of words, flounder around in words which lack the most basic analytical integrity. Even education can’t do anything about that. We want kids to be engaged, of course we do, but meaningless words are infinitely engaging. Look at the pretty rainbow – see all the happy genders.
Friday, 16 July 2021
COVID-19: Concerns mount over 'pingdemic' as Test and Trace app wreaks havoc
Some companies currently have between 5% and 10% of their workforce isolating after being pinged by the NHS COVID-19 app, a leading industry figure says.
Thursday, 15 July 2021
They were all mad. Or just going mad... Or drifting into superstitions that were disguised madnesses!
Ford Madox Ford - When the Wicked Man (1932)
Wednesday, 14 July 2021
How All My Politically Correct Bones Were Broken
In my first 10 years of college teaching, from the mid-60s to mid-70s, I modeled myself on my best teachers—men and women who questioned my ideas vigorously. They let me know that I mattered to them, they praised when praise was due, and they pushed me hard. Often I balked, and they continued to push. Indeed, the teachers who sternly, even at times angrily, called me out on my intellectual arrogance and sloppiness became mentors and, in several cases, lifelong friends.
After that it is all downhill. Relentlessly depressing but the whole piece is well worth reading.
But inexorably, questions of identity inserted themselves into teacher-student relationships. It became increasingly dangerous for me to question, to challenge, to push—let alone to betray frustration or even anger when a student was conning me or not working to capacity. Year by year, as I met each new cohort of students, I had to calculate how much my own disfavored identity (white, male, heterosexual, middle-class) made it risky for me to push—depending on whether or not a student’s identity was (given the political climate of the moment) favored.
Down, down, down it goes. This for example -
In time, affirmative action amounted to a policy of “whites not encouraged to apply,” as a colleague found when sitting on a search committee for a tenured English position. We’d been flooded with applicants. Secure jobs in the field were now rare. The committee interviewed only a handful of candidates, one of whom offered clues in his application that he was African American. He got an interview, but the committee was perplexed. He did not look African American. After some carefully worded queries the candidate confessed: “I’ve applied scores of times for a tenured job in English, but never got a single interview. I just wanted to see what would happen.” “You do know,” he added with a wry smile as he was leaving the room, “that we all originated in Africa.”
With regard to social problems, owing to the number of unknown quantities they offer, men are substantially, equally ignorant.
Gustave Le Bon - The Crowd; study of the popular mind (1895)
A striking aspect of life since the internet monster rose among us has been the increased transparency of ignorance. Pundits are almost never polymaths, the media do not employ polymaths and polymaths rarely climb the greasy pole. Le Bon was right - men are substantially, equally ignorant. And women of course. Displays of abject ignorance within the public arena have become perfectly normal. It is not an easy thing to assess, but I don’t think ignorance was ever this transparent.
One point of the previous post was to follow on with this one, because real life harbours major complexities and complexities harbour ignorance. Nobody knows what the future will bring. Tiny effects have vast, unforeseen consequences. The invention of the transistor was never suspected of enabling totalitarian surveillance.
Yet ambitious people, including government experts, have to know more than we do. As they usually do within their field, but government is about politics and that widens the field beyond the expertise of experts. SAGE members may disagree of course.
TV news readers solemnly read the latest scare story about climate change from a position of the most abject ignorance as to how climate actually changes over the decades and centuries. What we see over and over again is a confident and entirely assured display of the most miserable ignorance.
We have seen something similar during the coronavirus debacle, although here, complexity is mingled with reality. Exaggeration shrouds itself behind a genuine disease, censorship fails to blur the boundaries between what we know and what we do not, between what we suspect and what we are expected to accept.
Yet even with the blurred boundaries there is a solid official determination to hide ignorance, gloss over uncertainties and project confidence where many people know quite well that the confidence is based on very little.
Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Imagine an enormously expensive government project called Big Project. It doesn’t matter what the project is, we could say it is a project to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. Unrealistically sensible perhaps, but suppose we stick with it.
Because there is so much power, money and promotion behind Big Project, it automatically becomes a bandwagon. Because it is environmental, media outfits such as the BBC and the Guardian climb aboard at an early stage, as do the usual suspects.
Big Project has its critics of course, but their voices are small and their budgets even smaller. They are viewed with contempt. Of course sunbeams can be extracted from cucumbers, at least 97% of experts agree and there are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers to support what is effectively an undeniable fact. Says the bandwagon.
So far, so familiar, but suppose Big Project reaches a stage where one or two influential people begin to express guarded doubts. Even one or two bandwagon riders tone down their earlier enthusiasm. Big Project begins to feel, just possibly, all things considered a little too expensive. Just possibly the benefits may not quite as beneficial as the projections say.
These doubts appear to emerge from nowhere because critics don’t count. They appear to emerge from a social fog. Influential doubters have not immersed themselves in the technical and financial details of course, but their political antennae are twitching. They have caught the faintest vibrations of doubt from the clamorous fog that is the public arena.
A distant false note sounds. A hint of adverse possibilities, a hint that there are only a few lifeboats on the ship that is Big Project. To begin with, doubts are a kind of casual sidling towards the lifeboats. Just in case, well you never know, it does seem awfully expensive, it would have to work really well, some people will lose out but how many? Poor people of course - we must consider them.
Sceptics have to pound away at official foolishness with no indication at all that it has an effect, yet situations evolve and the butterfly’s wings could be anything. In other words it is possible to be too pessimistic. Yet at the same time, in order to make the critic’s point one has to be pessimistic merely to make the point.
Monday, 12 July 2021
On and on it goes. The post-match racism furore has solid links to political, bureaucratic and activist intentions to keep racism debates bubbling away. Spend years artificially raising the political profile of racism, slant it towards the majority racial group and we have a permanent problem with no way to backtrack. Too many dumb moves have been made, too much political opportunism and malice have thumbs on the scales of debate.
Resentment, ridicule and an inability to lighten the general situation are direct consequences of government policy, self-serving bureaucracy, irresponsible politicians, media and activist outfits. To my mind we would have been in a better situation if we had allowed the issue to find its own level via free speech. Humour would have taken the edge off for example. Obvious really.
As things stand there is no easy way for this situation to be improved because possible avenues for improvement have been blocked by government and the usual suspects. It is very late in the day, but free speech could be a start. But of course that one has been blocked too.
Sunday, 11 July 2021
Over the past few weeks, bit by bit I’ve been clearing junk from the shed. Obvious junk to begin with such as manky paint brushes I’ll never ever use again simply because they are too manky. I’ve chucked out an amazing number of those.
However, so far most of it is what I class as “junk I might find a use for one day”. I’ve thrown out loads of that, even though it was always obvious I’d never use it.
A set of cupboard door handles which were so ugly I replaced them with new ones. So why did I keep the horrible ones?
A set of wardrobe door handles – ditto.
Ancient tubes of silicone sealant which I’d never have used because even if I delved down into the part which hadn’t set solid I never want to use it when I can get a cheap new tube in town.
A plastic thingy for supporting runner bean canes which never worked and anyway bits kept snapping off. So why keep it? No idea.
A bag of tile grout which has set solid.
Decayed rubber gloves.
A short piece of metal tubing - no idea why I kept that.
Two teaspoons flecked with paint. What did I use those for? No idea.
A chunky metal thing which came with the wood-burner. I'll keep that. Don't know what it does though.
And so it goes on. It’s all bagged now ready to be thrown out, but I know there is more. It’s a shed – there is always more. It’s a dusty job too. Maybe I ought to wear a mask.
As we struggle to extricate ourselves from the coronavirus debacle here in the UK, it has become obvious that a number of features may be here to stay in one form or another. A rather hefty clue has been the NHS contact-tracing app, although the entire pandemic episode has been an even bigger clue to our likely future.
A government app which comes pre-installed on all communication devices is hardly a new idea, but was previously the stuff of dystopian science fiction or in a much more concrete form as the intentions of the Chinese Communist Party. It can be done technically, it can be placed on an acceptance spectrum from tolerated to necessary to positively virtuous. Anything beyond the spectrum doesn’t much matter.
A government app is only part of it though – a clue. Another clue is daily life, the life we actually lead in this modern world of ours, the comforts it offers, the routines it imposes, the background it allows us to forget, the restrictions it persuades us to ignore, the degeneracy it almost manages to hide.
An unmissable clue is how we slipped so easily into the coronavirus version of a police state. So easily that many seem not to have noticed and many more seem unconcerned. Some of us may deplore, hate or be outraged at what has happened to us, but it did not just happen, the pieces of the jigsaw were on the table to begin with.
Daily life itself has become very much like a government app we cannot delete and it is far from being a new situation. We are governed all the time, much of it in our heads, installed from the day we were born and updated every now and then. We are now on version 2021. Version 2022 comes next year. The coronavirus debacle was an update.
To a good approximation the pervasive reach of government is everywhere and this has been the case for many decades. Ever since it became possible via rapid communication. So much so, that it is impossible to catalogue the myriad influences government has on our lives . From the washing instruction label inside my shirt to the paint on the front gate to the design of the lamp post on the street – I effectively live within a government app and unless I’m horribly mistaken so do you.
When the NHS app evolves, it cannot possibly evolve in a direction which spells more freedom, less interference, less probing, less control. That wouldn’t make sense. Government functionaries make business for themselves. There is no freedom business.
Play the game or don’t play the game, it makes little difference because most will play it. It then becomes normal, accepted, the way things are done. Make an eccentric move or two – that about as far as the freedom game goes.
Saturday, 10 July 2021
This is another post in our occasional series on net zero cookery - a domestic catering regime we must become familiar with if we are to push on with our green revolution. Don’t forget – progress means sacrifice means opportunity.
As we know, the kettle is no longer a feasible kitchen gadget as it consumes too much electricity merely to boil a paltry amount of water. However even the kettle may be upcycled into another, far more planet-friendly gadget. Just think laterally. Your sadly neglected kettle could become a soup maker. That’s right – a soup maker!
Kettled Courgette Soup
Firstly we have to say that this recipe is only suited to those with access to solar power. Secondly, and this is the really clever part, the recipe can only be made on warm sunny days where our dear old sun effectively does the cooking.
To make this delicious soup, take a courgette, shred it into your kettle and add enough rainwater to cover the courgette plus a little extra. Pop in a few peas if you have them.
Some time during the middle of the day when your solar panels are pushing out plenty of watts, carefully switch on your kettle, bring your soup to the boil and that’s it. On a lovely sunny day, surprise family and friends with a delicious bowl of piping hot soup.
It is uncomfortable but worth dwelling on what these things have in common - popular entertainment, package holidays, shopping centres and coronavirus lockdowns. They are clues to what we are collectively – easily manipulated.
The great weakness of democracy lies within us – it is our weakness. We have drifted into an expectation that democratic leaders should both understand and sympathise with us. That is clearly what we want collectively, but it makes little sense in terms of human capabilities. A series of quotes from George Santayana highlights the nature of the problem. I’ve used it before but it is worth revisiting.
It is a mark of the connoisseur to be able to read character and habit and to divine at a glance all a creature’s potentialities. This sort of penetration characterises the man with an eye for horse-flesh, the dog-fancier, and men and women of the world. It guides the born leader in the judgments he instinctively passes on his subordinates and enemies; it distinguishes every good judge of human affairs or of natural phenomena, who is quick to detect small but telling indications of events past or brewing. As the weather-prophet reads the heavens so the man of experience reads other men.
We expect incompatible characteristics from our leaders. We expect them to understand us but at the same time we expect sympathy rather than the cool analytical clarity required to foster that understanding. It is a naive expectation. Capable leaders have to be cool, analytical and unsympathetic towards those expecting to be led –
Nothing concerns him less than their consciousness; he can allow that to run itself off when he is sure of their temper and habits. A great master of affairs is usually unsympathetic. His observation is not in the least dramatic or dreamful, he does not yield himself to animal contagion or re-enact other people’s inward experience. He is too busy for that, and too intent on his own purposes. His observation, on the contrary, is straight calculation and inference, and it sometimes reaches truths about people’s character and destiny which they themselves are very far from divining.
We see the problem in an impossible middle class desire for capable leadership which is also sympathetic. A desire catered for and shared by media outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC. A desire which constantly edges towards social and political shambles, only kept in check by? It appears to be kept in check something which knows us well.
Such apprehension is masterful and odious to weaklings, who think they know themselves because they indulge in copious soliloquy (which is the discourse of brutes and madmen), but who really know nothing of their own capacity, situation, or fate. 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.
Woke culture and virtue signalling are exactly that – histrionic things. Distractions.
When the mind is irrational no practical purpose is served by stopping to understand it, because such a mind is irrelevant to practice, and the principles that guide the man’s practice can be as well understood by eliminating his mind altogether. So a wise governor ignores his subjects’ religion or concerns himself only with its economic and temperamental aspects; if the real forces that control life are understood, the symbols that represent those forces in the mind may be disregarded. But such a government, like that of the British in India, is more practical than sympathetic. While wise men may endure it for the sake of their material interests, they will never love it for itself. There is nothing sweeter than to be sympathised with, while nothing requires a rarer intellectual heroism than willingness to see one’s equation written out.
George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905 - 1906)
And so we may conclude what we so often do conclude in various ways. Leaders we see on the political stage are more actors than leaders - their job is to project the sympathy from within an official demeanour. The real leaders write their lines, assuage their doubts, mould their fears and stroke their vanity. They do the same to us, but they do it via the Boris Johnsons of this world.
Friday, 9 July 2021
Thursday, 8 July 2021
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
Alan S. Rome has written a refreshing essay in Quillette about modern relativism and absolute truth.
In Defence of Absolute Truth
It is therefore a great irony that many of those most worried about these developments also deny the possibility of absolute truth, without recognising any connection between the two. Certain assumptions about the relative nature of truth are represented, for instance, by the increasing public focus on “perspective” or “social privilege,” with the assumption that identity or experience drastically limits or determines understanding. Under this assumption, each group possesses its own, or perhaps the whole, truth about matters relating to their lives: “You cannot truly know this because you have not lived it.” Others can accept or reject this truth but they cannot critically engage with it. Analogous attitudes are found in many arenas of social life, especially in the academy. With such attitudes, disagreements cannot be rationally resolved and compromise becomes unlikely.
It is well worth reading the whole thing, not so much because it provides new insights but because it refreshes old ones. We are in considerable danger of being catastrophically damaged by relativism, but as Rome points out -
Apart from the unsavoury moral implications of relativism, it also just cannot be true philosophically. It is perhaps in bad taste to point out that the claim that “all truth is relative” is itself a non-relativist, dogmatic claim. It is self-contradictory and hypocritically exempts itself from its own claim. Indeed, how can one demonstrate that there is no absolute truth? Only through a rational demonstration which presupposes that there are absolute standards of logic and argument that transcend that particular context. Reason would have to destroy itself.
After the mass insurrection attempt against Chris Whitty it may be a good time for the government to introduce a Distinguished Persons Act. This would protect those distinguished people with heaps of expertise impartially chosen to advise the government. Members of groups such as SAGE for example.
Distinguished Persons as defined by the Act could wear a hat such as the one depicted below where the letter D clearly and unambiguously stands for Distinguished.
Tuesday, 6 July 2021
Today is our 47th wedding anniversary, so after the morning school run we tootled off into Derbyshire, enjoyed a pleasant lunch at our favourite café and generally managed to make the best of the weather.
It’s a strange business looking back over 47 years. Seems a heck of a long time, yet where did it all go? Of course we’ve had a better time of it than any previous generation. We know that.
The question which niggles is what happens now? How will future generations keep the show on the road? Only by being harder and more pragmatic than we were. Only by knowing who their enemies are, only by doing something about it. That’s my guess.
Britain has a new Brexit divide with Leave voters more willing than Remainers to ditch their masks when the laws demanding their use are scrapped.
More Brexiteers said they planned to stop wearing a face covering after July 19 than said they would continue to voluntarily cover up, by 46 to 41 per cent, YouGov found.
By contrast, some 59 per cent of Remainers said they planned to continue to wear masks to lower the risk that they would spread disease to others.
Monday, 5 July 2021
COVID-19: Almost all coronavirus rules - including face masks and home-working - to be ditched on 19 July, PM says
Boris Johnson sets out the details of his planned unlocking for the fourth and final step of his roadmap on 19 July - but he warns people in England not to be "demob happy" and to think it is "the end" of COVID-19.
Queen gives 'courageous' and 'dedicated' NHS the George Cross as William and Kate mark its 73rd birthday
The George Cross is awarded for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger".
Sunday, 4 July 2021
Not all are men that seem to be so. Some are sources of deceit; impregnated by chimeras they give birth to impositions. Others are like them so far that they take more pleasure in a lie, because it promises much, than in the truth, because it performs little.
Baltasar Gracian - The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
A striking feature of official dishonesty is how the crudest lies can be remarkably difficult to expose even when they are out in the open. Take the current transgender lunacy for example. We could say that the whole absurd mess is based on a crude lie, an assertion that if human beings of one gender simply claim to belong to the other gender then they do in fact change gender.
Yet a problem arises if we characterise the debate in this way. The basic assertion underpinning the transgender debate is crude biological lie but to point this out can be presented as simple bigotry. From this point it becomes possible to defend the transgender position by taking advantage of a particular problem –
If a heavily-promoted standpoint rests on a crude lie, pointing out the crudity of the lie can be made to seem even cruder, from simple naïveté to knuckle-dragging bigotry. Effectively it can be made to seem like a refusal to debate the issue properly even where there is little material for any kind of rational debate. The cruder the lie, the more difficult it can be for critics to establish its essential weakness. A crude lie may only have one real weakness - it is nonsense.
The orthodox climate change narrative is similar in that it rests on a crude lie. This essential lie is the underpinning assertion that certain scientists can predict the trajectory of global temperatures with dependable accuracy decades into the future. Accuracy dependable enough to spend trillions on mitigation policies. This is a crude lie, yet without it there is no catastrophic climate narrative.
Here again, because the official climate narrative rests on a crude lie, pointing it out is made to seem like naïve or bigoted denial of a scientific fact. Of course it is not a fact but pointing this out can be made to seem like a crude sideswipe at scientific expertise, research, authority and achievement even where the science is not even worthy of the name.
The coronavirus debacle has been more complex in that the foundation claim about lockdown policy was not a lie and at first sight more plausible than the transgender and climate lies. Yet the supposed efficacy of lockdown policies soon weakened as costs rose and pandemic outcomes became more obviously intractable.
Here in the UK, official coronavirus mitigation soon evolved into a debacle as early policies were bolstered by crude exaggeration when became apparent that coronavirus risk was strongly age-related and only the elderly and vulnerable actually needed protection. It became obvious that it is not necessary for people below a certain age to be isolated or to take drastic precautions apart from protecting the vulnerable.
Here again, although there are caveats, complexities and uncertainties, official insistence on persisting with lockdowns, bubbles, restrictions on social groupings, all that morphed into crude exaggeration of coronavirus risk quite early in the pandemic. Most rules soon became unnecessary in that they caused more damage than they could ever prevent or alleviate. More of a crude exaggeration than a crude lie perhaps, but the distinction soon became too fine to make.
What of the future? It seems likely enough that we should anticipate more crude lies from the usual suspects. They work.
Saturday, 3 July 2021
4. Proposed Demolition Works
Please describe the building(s) to be demolished
The building to be demolished is a detached residential dormer bungalow with integrated garage.
Please state the reasons why demolition needs to take place
The property has been affected by the ingress of mine gas with excessive concentrations of carbon dioxide (up to 17%) and low oxygen that make the property dangerous to inhabit. Efforts have been made to reduce the ingress of carbon dioxide but they have not reduced concentrations to a satisfactory level and so the building needs to be demolished.
Friday, 2 July 2021
Not since Churchill promised victory over Germany in his ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ speech of May 1940 has the UK set itself a more expensive or ambitious policy goal. The initial, official cost estimates for getting to net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 range from £1.5 to £2.1 trillion. That equates to somewhere between 69% and 97% of pre-Covid GDP – 83% at the midpoint. By way of comparison, World War Two cost Britain about 84% of its 1939 GDP.
Of course, MPs in 1940 probably had a pretty good idea of what they were getting the country into. Like Churchill, many had served in the trenches during the Great War. Likewise they had lived through the social and economic upheavals of its aftermath, not least the 1920 depression, the General Strike and the disastrous return to the gold standard at pre-war parity. ‘Victory at all costs’ was not simply rhetoric: men with skin in the game put serious thought into that vital undertaking.
The same cannot quite be said of Net Zero 2050.
Mayor Sadiq Khan is facing calls to investigate the increasingly disproportionate homicide rate among black Londoners.
Figures obtained by Tory assembly member Shaun Bailey show there has been a 68 per cent increase in the number of black Londoners killed in the past five years, when compared with the five previous years.
The total number of homicides in London increased by 21.7 per cent, from 547 between 2011-15 to 666 between 2016-20, according to Metropolitan police data sourced by the GLA Conservatives.
But the number of black victims increased from 173 to 292 between the two five-year periods – a rise of 68.7 per cent.
The proportion of deaths involving black people has also increased from 31.6 per cent (173 out of 547) to 43.8 per cent (292 out of 666).
Thursday, 1 July 2021
COVID-19: Official list of symptoms should be expanded as it could be missing cases - experts
Only a third of people who have COVID symptoms develop a high temperature, ONS data shows...
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 42% of symptomatic people had a cough, 39% suffered a headache and 38% experienced fatigue.
A quarter of people reported muscle aches and 32% said they had a sore throat.
By comparison, 33% had a fever, only 21% lost their sense of smell and 15% their sense of taste.