Tuesday 31 August 2021
The late Lee Kuan Yew has been known to refer to certain political actors as ‘duds’, meaning they lack the skills required to play a part in competent government and government agencies.
Yet suppose we contemplate any one of numerous duds in the UK political menagerie. Jeremy Corbyn is a good example, a dud by any rational assessment. A man who should never have been an MP, let alone the leader of a major political party. How is it that millions of voters failed to identify Corbyn as a dud?
Perhaps the question is unfair to Corbyn, strange as it may seem when considering such an abject dud. This is a man who appears to have entered politics because he is a dud, because for decades there have been roles for duds in UK politics.
Maybe we are not able to load the responsibility onto individuals because there are too many duds and far too few talented political actors. Our political theatre has not attracted talent for some time and once we reach this stage we have no way back. One duds form a working majority there is no incentive for them to reform the system and attract talent.
To view this with somewhat unpleasant clarity we merely have to contemplate some familiar evidence. From the coronavirus debacle to gender politics to climate change to absurdly aggressive reactions to free speech to ludicrous censorship to police involvement in trivial social media spats to irrational and uncontrollable race-baiting to deranged media bias to hopelessly inept political actors to politically biased charities to propaganda in education to our abject inability to screen out the duds. It goes on and on.
After a certain point it is easy enough to see why there is no way back. Duds are so numerous that they would have to bar each other from key roles, yet if they were to achieve that they would not be duds in the first place. In other words, even the possibility of internally directed reform makes no sense.
We appear to have already passed this Peak Dud tipping point. We do not tell duds that they are duds, we do not hammer home the message, we do not exclude them from roles they cannot play and we do not eject those who get through the net. Beyond Peak Dud there is no net.
Monday 30 August 2021
Another dull and chilly day here in Derbyshire. I'm determined to avoid switching on the central heating in August so we only have today and tomorrow to go.
Saturday 28 August 2021
This post may become out of date if things change. At the moment the US says a drone strike has killed an IS-K planner yet the planner has not yet been named.
The US military says it believes it has killed a planner for the Afghan branch of the Islamic State group in a drone strike in the east of the country.
The suspected member of the IS-K group was targeted in Nangarhar province.
IS-K said it had carried out an attack outside Kabul airport on Thursday that may have killed as many as 170 people, including 13 US troops.
There is an aspect of Joe Biden for which we should perhaps be grateful. His endorsement of the climate change narrative proves beyond all possible doubt that the whole thing is a mix of scams, bungling and the most abject stupidity.
Behold - there is a light and the light is named Joe.
Friday 27 August 2021
Here we are back home in Derbyshire after our holiday down south but it's so grey and chilly I've had to put the gas fire on - in August. No hint of global warming in this neck of the woods. So much for specialists I suppose. Meanwhile here's Kenneth Williams on medical specialists.
Ivan Turgenev – Smoke (1867)
Thursday 26 August 2021
A constant blogging problem is the volume of media noise skewing all mainstream public debates. So much so that it is quite a stretch to call them debates. Or indeed public. As if the TV is on 24/7 blasting out government inspired exhortations to emote, give, give, give and suck up the guilt anyway.
Political narratives have major weaknesses, but the sheer volume of media noise appears to hide those weaknesses from enough people to sway the debate one way and only one way. But this aspect of it is quite weird - like hide and seek with children. Most people can be persuaded to pretend they don’t quite know where the weaknesses are hiding.
Weaknesses have to be hidden by noise to give the narrative some traction, but once hidden and once traction is achieved, most people don’t look for them anyway. The weakness isn’t hiding behind the curtains even though I can see its little feet peeping out. Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t. This is the weirdly infantile aspect of it.
An obvious place to hide narrative weaknesses is orthodoxy - which is where compliant experts come in. Not impenetrable technical orthodoxy, but more distracting media noise with plausible technical overtones. Mainstream media are good at creating an endless clamour of orthodox noise. Celebrities are attracted to the resulting echo chamber and away it goes. All of which makes it much easier to concoct a tangle of specious supporting arguments.
For example, it has always been obvious that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t remotely on a par with the Black Death. Its more serious effects are strongly skewed towards the elderly and the medically vulnerable and from an early stages that was always a solid indication of how to tackle it most effectively.
We were never all in it together but policy says we are. This fundamental weakness with pandemic policy was always obvious, yet in a sense the weakness was hidden in plain view. Hidden in the endless beat of orthodox noise.
The Joe Biden debacle is equally obvious. He is a major disaster on at least four counts - his dubious election, his incompetence, his miserable choice of vice president and now Afghanistan. Yet the orthodox noise from Afghanistan seems to hide as much as it exposes. On and on and on - treat Biden as the real deal – on and on and on. Amazingly, the Biden disaster is still partly hidden by media noise. Not very well hidden it has to be admitted. He is a special case.
Climate change is an example where the orthodox noise has been going on for decades yet the weaknesses are obvious enough even without technical analysis. This one has been going on for so long that the noise itself is a weakness to those who listen. The loons who shout about it are a weakness. The stunts and demonstrations are weaknesses. The costs and defects of sustainable energy are weaknesses. Yet for too many the noise hides it all.
Wednesday 25 August 2021
Climate change: Global greenhouse gas levels were highest ever in 2020 despite lockdowns, study finds
Lockdowns in the COVID-19 pandemic did little to curtail greenhouse gas build-ups and Europe still sweltered in its hottest-ever year, a global review has found.
- There is no point trying to reduce CO2 emissions because it makes no difference and will cause far too much damage.
- Policies aimed at reducing CO2 emissions will have to be far more draconian than the coronavirus response.
Tuesday 24 August 2021
Monday 23 August 2021
Will president's gamble pay off? Biden makes another robust defence of his Afghanistan decision as his approval ratings plummet
The president knows he needs to appeal to liberals who wonder where his empathy has gone, and to conservatives who fear social challenges and security risks with so many Afghans arriving.
Sunday 22 August 2021
Afghanistan: Tony Blair says US and UK troops should have stayed put 'to see it through' as withdrawal could lead to UK 'security threat'
Tony Blair's comments come a day after he published a 2,700 word article on Afghanistan in which he referred to President Biden's decision to withdraw troops as "imbecilic"...
He urged leaders to "hold firm" against people who are hostile to Western interests, even when the decision to do so divides opinion.
Saturday 21 August 2021
And it was therefore instructive to note what effect the "deadening atmosphere of mediocrity" (I quote Miss Croft) was having on him.
Edith Wharton - The Verdict (1908)
During the past few weeks we have visited two large antiques centres. Via the music played over their speakers they managed to create two distinctly different atmospheres for customers.
Centre A played a radio show over their speaker system. Customers were treated to a standard radio show babbler interspersed with what sounded to me like shopping centre pop music. Much the same music as our local Co-op.
Centre B played what sounded like 1930s jazz and dance band music with no babbler. Much more congenial to my ear and the absence of a radio show babbler was a real bonus. The coffee in the café was unusually good too.
To my mind, one centre managed to create just the right atmosphere for browsing antiques and one did not. Maybe it was just me, but maybe it is also significant that centre B is quirky with lots of oddities to catch the eye. Centre A is more like a department store where the goods on display happen to be antiques.
Friday 20 August 2021
Greta Thunberg says claims that UK is a climate leader are 'a lie' as UNICEF report finds one billion children at 'high risk' from climate impacts
The latest report by UNICEF has found that around 1 billion of the world's 2.2 billion children live in countries classified as being at "extremely-high risk" of the impacts of the climate crisis.
Thursday 19 August 2021
COVID-19: Health Secretary Sajid Javid 'confident' coronavirus booster jabs will begin next month
The health secretary says the booster programme will begin with the most vulnerable, although ministers are still waiting for the final advice from experts on plans to give out a third COVID vaccine dose.
Biden: No way to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan 'without chaos ensuing'
The US president tells ABC News that there was nothing his administration could have done to avoid chaos, as thousands of Afghans try desperately to escape the incoming regime.
Wednesday 18 August 2021
As almost everyone will know, this is a news story from yesterday which I originally intended to comment on in a blog post.
New Zealand has announced a snap lockdown after a man tested positive for Covid, the first case in six months.
The case was detected in Auckland, which will be in lockdown for a week, while the rest of the country will be in lockdown for three days.
Authorities say they are working on the assumption that the new case was the Delta variant.
Yet I sat there at my laptop yesterday, reading the story, watching the video of Jacinda Ardern and I couldn't quite believe it. 'Surely not,' I thought, 'I can't do a blog post on this, it's bound to be a mistake of some kind. New Zealand has come out of it very well but this kind of draconian response cannot go on indefinitely.'
Tuesday 17 August 2021
Monday 16 August 2021
The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions — racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war — which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.
George Orwell - Wells, Hitler and the World State (1941)
Seems about right at the moment.
BBC journalist blames Donald Trump for Afghanistan's collapse MONTHS after he left
A PROMINENT BBC journalist has blamed Donald Trump for the collapse of Afghanistan's Government - despite him leaving office seven months ago.
Veteran foreign correspondent John Simpson claimed in a column on the national broadcaster’s website the former US President was responsible for the Taliban’s victory. He glossed over the fact that current President Joe Biden vowed to maintain Mr Trump’s stance to pull out all US forces - despite having the power to overturn it.
The BBC knows that Biden's election as president was blatantly dodgy, knows the man probably has mental issues severe enough to prevent him from grasping the situation and is surrounded by a foreign policy establishment in the failed Obama mould.
Sunday 15 August 2021
The country was well suited for agriculture and grazing, but the population — a very queer mixture of races — was indolent, and more given to keeping holidays and festivals than to honest labour. Most of them were unintelligent; those who were intelligent made their living out of those who weren’t, a method of subsistence satisfactory to the individual, but adding little to the aggregate of national wealth.
Anthony Hope - A Man of Mark (1890)
Saturday 14 August 2021
Friday 13 August 2021
When power is born on the spot and conferred to-day by constituents who are to submit to it to-morrow as subordinates, they do not put the whip in the hands of one who will flog them; they demand sentiments of him in conformity with their inclinations; in any event they will not tolerate in him the opposite ones. From the beginning, this resemblance between them and him is great, and it goes on increasing from day to day because the creature is always in the hands of his creators; subject to their daily pressure, he at last becomes as they are; after a certain period they have shaped him in their image.—Thus the candidate-elect, from the start or very soon after, became a confederate with his electors.
Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1890-93)
Who are the electors though? It’s an old question, particularly acute at the moment.
in British English
1. someone who is eligible to vote in the election of a government
2. (often capital) a member of the US electoral college
3. (often capital) (in the Holy Roman Empire) any of the German princes entitled to take part in the election of a new emperor
Strange how meaning 3 never really went away. It evolved and slipped into the background. Perhaps we could usefully revive a distinction here between electors and voters.
As for Joe Biden – is he indebted to his electors or those dead voters? Or those voters who were so full of lively enthusiasm they voted for him more than once?
Thursday 12 August 2021
Over an hour, but easy viewing if you have a liking for Dostoevsky. To my mind Irwin Weil brings out very well what a difficult man Dostoevsky was, but also his uncanny insights into the future. Almost as if he saw the horrors of the twentieth century woven into human nature and human institutions.
Weil also brings out how Dostoevsky’s insights were steeped in his Christianity, particularly his insights into the ineradicable contradictions within what we are as humans.
Wednesday 11 August 2021
To all deep and still natures the sudden revelation of an aspect of life causes a slow but pervasive emotion, akin to fear, akin to joy, partaking of one and the other, a trouble of the mind such as we feel when we touch for the first time on the mysteries of religion, of sex, or discover for the first time a hint of the ground plan, of the hypocrisy, the opportunism, and the common sense of a system of human government.
Ford Madox Ford - Mr Apollo (1908)
COP26 may be a bore but it's a hint of the ground plan. An impossible hint to miss but we'll still call it a hint.
Covid rules for travelling to the UK will be relaxed for thousands of delegates attending the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Up to 25,000 government representatives, media and campaigners from around the world are expected.
The clues are all over the place, elites barely bothering to hide them. The future is to be the same as the feudal past. One world for the aristocrats and one world for the rest of us with useful technocrats to glue it all together and make it work.
Unfortunately they think there are too many of us and we consume too much to make it work for much longer. Too many of us consuming too much to make it work for their children and grandchildren. Here’s yet another recent and very widely reported hint - that lavish birthday party.
Jen Psaki defends Barack Obama's 500-person 60th birthday party and dismisses fears star-studded bash could be a super-spreader event but Joe Biden WON'T attend.
It must be equally obvious that the coronavirus debacle has little to do with the virus. For the most part it was a political opportunity. Our government was slow to spot the opportunity but soon altered course. Boris and co. quickly steered away from the dangers of good science with all those prickly people who talk about caveats and uncertainties.
The lockdown approach was of course a taster session. A police state where benign repression could be instituted on the back of an exaggerated public health scare coupled with one-sided scientific pronouncements and relentless propaganda. A huge advantage being that some of it was real.
As for the disadvantages – well they all land firmly in our court. As for the disadvantages of COP26 – well they all land firmly in our court too. Unless you live in the land of the private jet of course.
Tuesday 10 August 2021
It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person.
Frederic Bastiat - The Law (1850)
It’s one of the arts of politics. Enforce an official code on the masses because enough will go along with it, making a virtue of the official position, making a virtue of the rules, making a virtue of the law. Remove one word from Bastiat’s first sentence and we arrive at our ultimate destination. As we now know.
Monday 9 August 2021
Holidays are great, yet for retired people there is something a little rum about going on holiday. Not totally rum of course, but slightly rum. It’s like a habit hanging over from commuting days when a holiday was one way to recharge the batteries. Yet retired folk are able to recharge their batteries any time.
It’s not that Mrs H and I regard holidays as rum, we’ve been on loads of them since we retired. Yet while tootling round the scenic parts of Derbyshire, while pootling up and down hills, strolling along quiet valleys and river banks, admiring wild flower meadows and distant views - sometimes we wonder why we go on holiday with all this on the doorstep.
No beaches and sea views in Derbyshire, so that could be part of the reason. No salt marshes, cliff walks or strolls along the promenade. There are many other non-geographic reasons too, such as no daily routines, no sense that we ought to be doing this or doing that, no looking out of the window to see if the lawn needs cutting.
Maybe that’s all there is to the holiday game - getting away from routines for a while. Which is probably why we never fly off to somewhere exotic. Anywhere congenial will do to get away from the daily routines, it doesn’t have to be a plane journey away.
Sounds cynical because it is, but perhaps one reason for more exotic holidays is being able to drop them into the conversation afterwards. Or fear of not having anything to drop into the conversation. Mrs H and I can’t do that. We strolled along the promenade, had a coffee then went back for a read – it doesn’t offer much in the way of social cachet. It’s what we’ll do again this year though. And we’ll enjoy it. Sod the lawn.
COVID-19: Minister wants staff in 'at least' two or three days a week with 'cautious approach' to civil servants returning to desks
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng says ministers will not "dictate" to businesses when it comes to working arrangements, after an unnamed colleague was quoted by one newspaper as saying officials should have their pay reduced if they refuse to come back to the office.
Saturday 7 August 2021
Friday 6 August 2021
COP26: Alok Sharma criticised for international - and quarantine free - travel
The president of the UK's upcoming climate change conference is under fire for reportedly travelling to more than 30 countries in seven months.
The Daily Mail said seven of the places visited by Alok Sharma were also on the Covid red list - but he used an exemption available to ministers to not have to quarantine on his return.
The government said face-to-face meetings were "crucial" ahead of COP26.
Even so he shouldn’t have missed the deep green blagging commitment Prime Minister Nut Nut has signed up to. It even has its own TV channel – the British Blagging Corporation (BBC). Has done for decades.
If only Mr Sharma had made those essential journeys by all electric wind-powered solar biofuel carbon neutral cycle plane, he could also have deflected all the Covid-19 masky traffic light stay in your hole multiprick criticism. A course on practical blagging would have pointed him in the right direction. Off to the re-education camp I think.
Call the Sheriff of Nottingham! Bands of merry NUDIST men walking around Sherwood Forest startle more buttoned-up visitors
- Visitors to Sherwood Forest have complained after finding naturists in the woods
- Petition was launched to get the owners to force anyone visiting to wear clothes
- But owners said nudists have been legally visiting for decades and can continue
Thursday 5 August 2021
The BBC has a piece on what is supposedly a fake network pushing pro-Chinese propaganda.
A sprawling network of more than 350 fake social media profiles is pushing pro-China narratives and attempting to discredit those seen as opponents of China's government, according to a new study.
The aim is to delegitimise the West and boost China's influence and image overseas, the report by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) suggests.
The study, shared with the BBC, found that the network of fake profiles circulated garish cartoons depicting, among others, exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui, an outspoken critic of China.
Other controversial figures featured in the cartoons included "whistleblower" scientist Li-Meng Yan, and Steve Bannon, former political strategist for Donald Trump.
Each of these individuals has themselves been accused of spreading disinformation, including false information about Covid-19.
Yet China cannot be said to have a positive global image. From Covid-19 to the plight of the Uyghurs to pervasive internet censorship and spying on its own citizens, the image is not a rosy one. That 'sprawling network' is not an effective sprawling network.
How about the sprawling bureaucracy that is the BBC? Maybe one point of running the piece is not to warn us about fake Chinese networks but to distance the BBC from propaganda generally. Look at what goes on in that unregulated internet. We aren't like that.
With more than one billion internet users, China certainly has the capability to orchestrate large-scale social media campaigns, and target what it sees as anti-China voices with a wealth of opposing opinions.
But with English-language skills limited in China, there are often clumsy tell-tale signs that a Chinese troll is behind such accounts. Many rely on automatic translation software to turn Chinese messages into English, meaning such messages are riddled with typos, or contain clumsy grammatical structures.
And with many Western outlets inaccessible to them within China, users generally have very little knowledge of who they are meant to be targeting, so they simply piggyback off the replies of others from within the same network.
Wednesday 4 August 2021
A fear of hospitals in terminally ill people sounds likely to me. Presumably this trend has increased GP workload although our GP surgery doesn't say much about it. It certainly sounds like a question which should be answered though. Whether it will be answered is not so certain.
Tuesday 3 August 2021
Rob Jessel and Madison Smith have a piece in The Critic about the BBC and its dishonest reporting of weightlifter Laurel Hubbard.
Laurel Hubbard is a woman. If you don’t believe so, you’re a bigot and should be reported to the police for hate crime.
That was the message BBC Sport tweeted to its 9.3 million followers yesterday evening in response to criticism of its gushing profile on the 43-year-old male New Zealand weightlifter.
As it happens, Hubbard failed all his lifts yesterday. But the issue here is bigger than Hubbard, bigger even than the issue of men taking part in women’s sports. It’s about the infantilisation of debate by our national public broadcaster, and its threats against women for the crime of speaking up for their rights.
Monday 2 August 2021
About eight years ago I was diagnosed as having a permanent need for certain medical supplies. I order them on the internet from one of two suppliers depending which items I need next. When I log in and click another order, they contact the GP electronically, the GP sends back a prescription to the supplier and the supplier sends me what I need via one of the national couriers. All very easy and on the whole it works well.
Over the past few months, our GP surgery has been slow sending back the prescription such that there can be a delay of two to three weeks between my internet order and receiving the supplies. Not a huge issue, but every now and then the GP surgery receives a prescription request from supplier A and sends the prescription to supplier B. Supplier A chases the missing prescription and maybe it gets sorted and maybe supplier A has to chase the prescription again. And again.
Today I had to join in the chasing because supplier A was close to giving up. Human error of course. Again not a huge problem, all it required was a phone call, a long wait until one of the lines was free, another wait listening to their zero tolerance policy, another wait listening to a rigmarole about Covid-19 symptoms then finally a real person on the other end of the line, an explanation from me and a few computer clicks at the GP surgery. This is how I know what the problem was. No doubt all will now be well.
Yet it occurs to me that one day the computer system will probably make this kind of error almost impossible by linking things up properly at the GP surgery. The system will work more smoothly and tedious progress chasing will no longer be needed. And the admin side of the GP surgery will have slightly less work to do.
It would be interesting to know how much work is still generated by weak systems and associated glitches. And how many jobs would disappear without it.
Sunday 1 August 2021
Your fantastic world will grow pale, your dreams will fade and die and will fall like the yellow leaves from the trees....
Fyodor Dostoevsky - White Nights (1848)
The colossal cost, locking up healthy, low risk people, closing schools when children are virtually immune, obsessively detailed social contact rules, pointless mask wearing, badly damaged economy and businesses, wildly exaggerated risks, constant confusing rule and policy changes, constant megaphone propaganda and to top it all there is no good evidence that any of it was worthwhile.
Now we have the climate change narrative being pumped up to lunatic levels of scary nonsense based on comic-book fantasies about our supposed effect on the global climate. It has been an extremely sobering reminder of just how necessary it is to explain political lunacy.
Yet it is possible that these things do not have simple explanations other than the basic human need to avoid personal harm blended with a wealthy and highly supportive culture such as ours. In these circumstances, perceptions of personal harm become extremely confused. We see harm in a wildly exaggerated manner, but more importantly we are easily persuaded to accept the exaggerations and that is where the insanity lurks.
Lunatic exaggerations are promoted by senior political actors, senior bureaucrats and leading media pundits. From the outside it can seem like insanity, but at their level it is not self-destructive insanity. It does no harm to those pushing it but is likely to inflict enormous harm on voters who could do something about it but don’t.
At the visceral level of personal survival, one way to avoid harm is to harm others and thereby nullify their ability to harm you. We see that in senior political actors where we ordinary voters are the ones they harm. Why would that be? Our numbers, there are too many of us. It’s Malthus over and over again. It sounds primitive but the coronavirus debacle and climate narrative are inflicting harm on ordinary people for no good reason and it is blatantly obvious that this is the case. Nobody could possibly miss it.
In other words, perhaps we ordinary voters should bring the insanity down to a personal level, to those senior political individuals making and supporting insane decisions. Senior actors in politics, bureaucracies and the media are highly attuned to their personal interests. It is a major reason why they are where they are. They are making business for themselves and protecting what they see as their future - not our future. When it goes sour they move on. Social contacts secure, fresh career moves in place, revolving doors revolving.
Big tech and various wealthy global actors also play their part, but their influence would be resisted by a rationally altruistic governing class. Unfortunately we don’t have that, don’t vote for it and are bound to pay a high price for not doing so.
Your fantastic world will grow pale, your dreams will fade and die and will fall like the yellow leaves from the trees.... That’s our fantastic world of course, the one where democracy keeps government activity within sane boundaries. Until it doesn’t.