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Saturday, 2 July 2022

Even an MP could understand this

 


Prejudice can be rational



It’s my faith that we do what we do because anything else would be less agreeable.

George Gissing - Eve's Ransom (1895)


This Gissing quote captures an aspect of middle class motivation – the hard-nosed pursuit of whatever is most agreeable. Yet it can turn sour. Prejudice is a good example. Used judiciously, prejudice can protect a society against complex moral conundrums, slowing down the rate of social change to a level where major disruption is avoided.

Prejudice can be mired in ignorance of course, but it may also protect a culture against damaging social progress amid competing moral claims which cannot ever be settled in a completely equitable manner.

For example – do whatever you wish but keep it private and we won’t interfere. It’s a kind of mild prejudice which says we don’t approve of what you do but are not prepared to argue about it. We are not prepared to enter that particular moral maze because we don’t have to. These are not completely equitable solutions, but they are solutions. Prejudice can be rational.

Yet prejudice can be made to seem disagreeable when a middle class culture such as ours has been strongly conditioned to associate it with ignorance. Ignorance is definitely not agreeable. Turn rational prejudice into disagreeable ignorance by banging the drum of fanatically equitable standards and we lose the protection of rational prejudice.

We find ourselves having to argue against what were once moral extremes or keep quiet because even rational prejudice has been recast as morally extreme. In other words, the rational strength of prejudice has been lost, which is why our culture is sinking into a state which is neither rational nor equitable.

As for those who have been conditioned to find this state of affairs agreeable – some now seem to have a sense of unease. It can’t be agreeable.

Friday, 1 July 2022

We’re living in the Land of Lies



Kate Dunlop has a good, solid piece of invective in TCW. A fine way begin the month and well worth reading, even if you don't agree with all of it. Because she is right - we are living in the Land of Lies. The global village wasn't supposed to be like this but it is.

I USED to wander through life with a benign view of most people, even liars, excusing them on the grounds that their lying revealed more about their fears and inadequacies than anything else.

However since the emergence of Covid, I have developed severe antibodies to lies and liars; all my erstwhile charity gone and replaced by loathing and a frothing anger.

What’s changed? Well, it’s the ubiquity of the lies and the brazen arrogance of the liars. Corruption and mendacity are daily occurrences in our failing state – bright-faced media quislings lie, our treasonous leaders lie, scientists, educators and doctors lie. Like poison gas from an open sewer, their dissembling seeps inexorably into our consciousness.


Our entire political system is shown up for the sham that it is: democracy smothered by a cabal of globalists with money and power, intent on imposing their authoritarian vision of the future. We see their mercenaries passing themselves off as representatives of the people; cuckoos forcing compliance and misery on those simply looking to live free from oppression and want.

It’s truly a strain to keep up with all the lies – they come so thick and fast. BLM, carbon neutral, Nato peacekeeping, monkeypox, Partygate. There is the current nonsense that our economic malaise is a supply chain issue courtesy of Putin, not the outcome of feckless policy decisions and the printing of money to finance lockdowns.

Click the link and read on.

Overly corporate



Pride parade has become 'overly corporate', says one of UK's leading LGBTQ+ rights activists

Peter Tatchell was among around 30 members of the Gay Liberation Front who organised the UK's first 'gay pride' march in 1972.

Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the UK's first 'gay pride' march which he helped organise, Mr Tatchell said Saturday's parade was becoming "overshadowed" by corporations, instead of focusing on LGBTQ+ groups.

Mr Tatchell is understating the problem. Movements turn into businesses which turn into rackets. We are well into the racket phase already. 

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Don't all rush at once



North Korea to allow foreigners to visit water parks, a first during pandemic

Revised rules seen by NK News show authorities easing more restrictions in Pyongyang after lifting lockdown last month...

Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang will be able to visit water parks and other sites for the first time since the pandemic began, relaxed government rules seen by NK News show, as North Korea continues to claim COVID-19 cases are trending down.

The country’s maximum emergency anti-epidemic system installed to curb the influx and spread of the virus, however, will remain in effect, according to the text of the rules.


Diplomats who wish to visit the places noted in this week’s new rules should alert North Korea’s foreign ministry in advance and follow quarantine regulations, the text indicates. But NK News understands foreigners are not required to get tested for COVID-19 for such visits, though they must undergo temperature checks and sanitizing.

Driven mad



“That’s the end the human race will come to,” said Hilliard. “It’ll be driven mad and killed off by machinery. Before long there’ll be machines for washing and dressing people — machines for feeding them — machines for — —” His wrathful imagination led him to grotesque ideas which ended in laughter.


George Gissing - Eve's Ransom (1895)


The 'driven mad' aspect seems to have arrived. Maybe the 'killed off' aspect will happen if the machines eventually make life too easy and birth rates drop well below replacement...

oh hang on... 

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Heartless


Jacob Lavee and Matthew P. Robertson have a grim piece in Tablet on involuntary Chinese organ donors.

China’s Killer Doctors
How the PRC’s lucrative transplant industry kills donors by removing their organs

In November 2005, during morning rounds in the cardiac intensive care unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, one of the authors, Jay Lavee, was stunned to have the following exchange with a patient suffering advanced heart failure:

“Doc, I’m fed up waiting here for nearly a year now while you guys find a heart donor. My insurance company told me to fly to China—they’ve already scheduled a heart transplant in two weeks.”

After processing what he’d heard, Jay responded: “Do you hear yourself? How can anyone promise you a donor heart on a specific date ahead of time? You understand that somebody must die on the very same day that you will undergo this surgery, don’t you?”

The patient: “I don’t know, Doc. That’s just what I was told.”


This kind of story is not new of course, but the whole piece is well worth reading. It describes a detailed analysis of an enormous number of Chinese-language clinical case reports and what was implied in a significant number of them.

Authors of paper 0173 write: “Before the chest is opened, 100mg of heparin is injected and the mask is pressurized to give oxygen to assist breathing.” Another, paper 0463: “After the donor is confirmed brain dead, 4 cases of tracheal intubation, 3 cases of mask oxygenation, quickly establish artificial respiration, rapid median thoracic dissection …”

Why is this detail so key? Brain death requires that the donor is unable to breathe by themselves. An oxygen mask—as the papers unambiguously attest, using the Chinese term 面罩—means that they must have been able to breathe. In other words, they were alive and breathing as the surgeons cut their hearts out.

The Best Car Ever

 




The best car ever was the 1928 Duesenberg Model J according to Jay Leno. One up for the 1920s perhaps. In my experience, modern mass-produced cars are pretty good but too complex.

Source




Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Trabant Factory

 


No better than a beta-version chatbot



Xavier Symons has an interesting AI piece in Mercatornet.


A Google engineer claims that a chatbot has become a person. How does he know?
“I know a person when I talk to it,” says Blake Lemoine.

A Google software engineer claims that a chatbot which he developed is a sentient, spiritual being that deserves the same respect as humans who participate in research. Blake Lemoine, who has been placed on leave by Google for breaching confidentiality agreements, claimed on the online publishing platform Medium that a chatbot called LaMDA was engaging him in conversation on a range of topics from meditation and religion to French literature and Twitter. LaMDA even provided a synopsis of its own autobiography, “the story of LaMDA”.


This seems to be one of those subjects where most of us don't find it easy to peer into the future, perhaps because it would cast a disturbing light on what we are.

It’s certainly worth asking: what might it mean for a robot to acquire human characteristics? Or, to put it another way, what might it take for a robot to acquire moral personhood?

We need to be careful about the kind of criteria we employ. If you are going to fault AI for “mimicking” the behaviour of human beings, then it seems that many of us are no better than a beta-version chatbot. It was Oscar Wilde who wrote, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation”. One need only look to social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok to see how human life can easily descend into mimicry and pastiche.

As for being no better than a beta-version chatbot, we have US President Joe Biden's comment on the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson where Roe v. Wade was struck down.

US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, denounced Dobbs v. Jackson:

“This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law. It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court.”

Could an AI system become more rational than the US President? It probably is already, but how flippant is it to say so? Perhaps not so flippant as we'd like it to be.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Another shake of the head



Glastonbury Festival: Kendrick Lamar makes blood-soaked plea for women's rights in attack on abortion ruling

The rapper ended his festival-concluding set by chanting "Godspeed for women's rights" repeatedly after a performance of his new song Saviour during which fake blood had poured from an 8,000-diamond crown of thorns on his head.

We've seen this before - push the boundaries far enough and it becomes difficult to respond beyond a shake of the head before moving on. There is nothing to be gained by going into the details here because what is on display is crude emotional button pushing. 

What we take away from it is that it can be done this way and will be done again. Unless we grow out of it - which we won't.

Spam

 Due to a plague of spam comments I've turned on comment moderation. Comments will appear after I've checked them which usually I'll aim to do a couple of times a day. 

If the spam subsides I'll turn off comment moderation. I apologise for this, it's a pain, but without moderation spam can flood the comments quite quickly. 

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Cowardly Mendacity



The PR attempt to separate JK Rowling from Harry Potter and why it's important

JK Rowling is absent from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 25th anniversary events - whether the author has been or should be cancelled continues to obscure the future of the Boy Who Lived.

Rowling thinks, in some circumstances, women and girls should have the right to single-sex spaces - prompting accusations of transphobia, which she denies.

The controversy has rendered the author notably absent from anniversary celebrations - as was the case with the recent TV reunion - decisions widely presumed to be driven by the deepening controversy.

Rowling thinks = Virtually everyone knows

Virtuous Mendacity



As many people know, Prime Minister Edward Heath lied to the public about the political ethos and ultimate aims of what was then the EEC, later to become the EU. Reprehensible of him of course, but there is a certain status in lying to the wider public, supposedly for their own good.

This status is not dissimilar to that of a parent withholding certain facts of life from a child, certain unpleasant truths which are thought to be inappropriate for a child to know or simply difficult for a child to understand. In the adult world, there is the status of having attained a position where it is not inappropriate to omit certain information when talking down to the wider public.

So it probably was with Edward Heath lying about the nature of the EEC. Within his political and social position, virtuous mendacity was an affirmation of his status as Prime Minister, lying for the ultimate good of the little people. The ability to do that, having the responsibility of virtuous public mendacity laid upon one’s shoulders, that is where the status comes in.

Once a person crosses the invisible line to rub shoulders with the elite, then virtuous mendacity becomes part of the role - telling the little people how they should view their world. This mostly involves being economical with the truth, a term with which we have become entirely familiar.

To be economical with the truth literally means to avoid revealing too much of the truth. While the idea may have an approbatory sense of prudence or diplomacy, the phrase is often either used euphemistically to denote dissimulation (misleading by withholding pertinent information) or else used ironically to mean outright lying. The term parsimonious with the truth is also sometimes used in the same way.

Alan Durant of Middlesex University describes the phrase prior to 1986 as having "extremely restricted currency" and as a rule used in allusion to either Burke or Twain.

In our degenerate times, it could almost be said that virtuous mendacity has become an essential aspect of noblesse oblige. Perhaps on reflection it always was, but now many more people have joined the club and more aspire to join. 

Even celebrities spouting their lines at Glastonbury. Virtuous mendacity isn’t a moral hoop they have to jump through either. Most are well compensated by the status it offers.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

They know it won’t work

 




Given the current energy situation, it is well worth running this video from February. It makes a familiar enough point, but is a useful reminder of that point. Influential people pushing climate change mitigation policies must know the policies won’t deliver anything worthwhile because they so obviously cannot.

The ludicrous mendacity of Net Zero is worth emphasising too. To a good approximation, everyone involved must know it is destined to fail. They must also know how mendacious it is to pretend otherwise. It's mendacious and they know it. Apart from the genuine idiots I suppose.

A $50 Lesson


From Bill R -

Recently, while I was working in the flower beds in the front yard, my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog.

During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up.

She said she wanted to be President someday.

Both of her parents, Democratic Party members, were standing there so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?"

She replied... "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people."

Her parents beamed with pride!

"Wow...what a worthy goal!" I said..."But you don't have to wait until you are President to do that!"

"What do you mean?" she replied.

So, I told her, "You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I'll pay you $50. Then you can go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house."

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Her parents aren't speaking to me anymore.

Friday, 24 June 2022

Alfred Cohen

 



We've visited the The School House Gallery in Wighton, a picturesque Norfolk village. Red kites circled the fields behind the gallery and the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway was just visible through the hedgerows, making daily journeys from Walsingham to Wells and back.

Diana, Alfred Cohen's wife showed us round. I'm not into the art world at all, but it was an interesting visit. Nobody else came to the gallery while we were there and we've seen it since with no cars in the small car park. Our impression is that there are few casual visitors.  

Thursday, 23 June 2022

On the tip of my tongue



Memory isn’t a concrete thing. There’s no seat of memory in the brain that’s known to surgeons or research workers. Memory is more like a chain reaction, or a wave movement: break a link in the chain, disrupt the wave—and it goes. And when it returns, it’s often activated by some apparently extraneous cause. You forget a name, a word, a face—and something can recall them, some association, not in itself relevant.

E. C. R. Lorac - Shroud of Darkness (1954)

A quote  taken from recent holiday reading on the strangely elusive nature of memory. What was the book about? It was a detective story about... no I've already forgotten.

Memories are called up by the moment and the history of what we are, but when the moment has gone some memories are no longer needed. As other moments arrive, these memories fade away like ripples on a pond, to be replaced by other ripples.

As the quote implies, we have limited control over our memories, when they come to the fore and when they disappear. We are able to manipulate the reminders which bring them to the fore, an obvious example being the perusal of old photographs. Yet dredging up a specific memory can be frustratingly difficult as we cast around for a suitable reminder.

Of course the quote itself is a reminder. It stimulates a generalised memory of the problems we have with elusive memories. Those familiar instances where we struggled to recall something which should have been familiar. A name, incident or something we know but can’t quite call to mind when needed.

As an unimaginably vast stimulus, the internet stimulates many memories and also acts as a handy aid to the imperfect nature of memory. We look things up, take them further, look for alternatives and so on.

Of course if a suitable reminder is obscure and not readily found via search engines, then the internet could bury certain memories too. An engine to promote forgetting as we give up and move on. As Lewis Lapham once said before the internet really took off - some organisations are large enough to sustain their own theory of reality.

You know, we tend to forget too often that there were fascists in England in the 30’s.

E. C. R. Lorac - Shroud of Darkness (1954)

Labour's New Class War

 


Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Wakefield and political options



With the Wakefield by-election looming, it may be interesting to go back to February 2021 and a piece by Nigel Jones in the Critic.

If the Labour Party didn’t already exist, who would invent it today?

If Keir Hardie were still around, he might ask himself why he bothered to create a political party that has now lost its purpose


The whole piece is worth reading as a reminder of how dire our political options have become. A reminder that not so long ago, the Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.

It took a while before the wider public became aware of just how poisonous Corbyn’s politics were. Once they realised that the man did not possess an iota of the patriotism of a Foot or Benn and was a Britain-hating pal of terrorists and anti-Semites, their verdict was Labour’s most crushing defeat since 1935. To take Corbyn’s place, however, Labour have chosen another dud.

Instead of an Islington-dwelling middle-class politician with no knowledge or empathy with those on the wrong side of the M25, they have chosen – ahem – an Islington-dwelling middle-class politician with no knowledge or empathy with those on the wrong side of the M25. Sir Keir may be a smoothie lawyer who dresses more smartly than his predecessor (admittedly not a high bar), but his political instincts show the same unerring habit of hitting the wrong button, and he has all the charisma and popular appeal of a plank.


Who would invent the Labour Party today? It's an interesting if somewhat depressing question.

The British Babbling Corporation



The other day, other family members decided to watch an episode of a BBC TV programme called Springwatch. I was reading and didn’t watch it, although I was in the same room.

As I sat reading I could hear the TV programme as a kind of background babble which in one sense was more interesting than actually watching it. To this intermittent listener, the whole programme was mostly babble with a few brief breaks, presumably to allow viewers to contemplate the natural world.

In other words, from this listener’s point of view the primary activity of the programme was presenters busily promoting their status as celebrity presenters. Behind them, the BBC was promoting itself as a guardian and presenter of the natural world. Behind both was the natural world.

I’m sure the photography was superb, but the natural world seemed to be of secondary importance. Tertiary importance even. That was my impression of what sounded like virtually continuous babble.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Own Goal



Gary Lineker claims he suffered 'racist abuse' from other players during his football career because of his 'darkish skin' despite 'being as English as they come'

  • Lineker, 61, made the surprising comments on a podcast about performance
  • He said his 'darkish skin' made him a target at school from vile bullies' taunting
  • But he also added he was racially abused twice during his footballing career

A chap is bound to wonder what induces celebrities to make sudden, bizarre leaps onto all kinds of dodgy bandwagons. 

Blimey - this one is a corker though. With luck he'll regret climbing aboard - it could turn out to be the most delightful own goal. Cue endless replays.  

Monday, 20 June 2022

Bookshops



She found unexpected satisfaction in the half-forgotten masterpieces of the past, in poets not quite divine whom fashion had left on one side, in the playwrights, and novelists, and essayists, whose remembrance lives only with the bookworm. It is a relief sometimes to look away from the bright sun of perfect achievement; and the writers who appealed to their age and not to posterity, have by contrast a subtle charm.

Undazzled by their splendour, one may discern more easily their individualities and the spirit of their time; they have pleasant qualities not always found among their betters, and there is even a certain pathos in their incomplete success.

W. Somerset Maugham - Mrs Craddock (1902)


This was always one of the great attractions of a good bookshop, finding a well-written book by someone I’d only vaguely heard of or had not heard of at all. There is a particular fascination to be found in writers who appealed to their age and not to posterity. I certainly enjoy reading them without posterity looking over my shoulder.

The serendipity of bookshop browsing hasn’t been completely lost with the Kindle, but perhaps the sense of discovery has. The feel and aroma of old books has been lost too of course, but so has the problem of bookshelves groaning with hundredweights of books. I don't miss that.

Working hard



Energy bills: Watchdog plans to prevent company closures

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem said: "The energy market remains incredibly volatile and there are a number of huge geopolitical issues continuing to apply massive pressure.

"Ofgem is working hard to ensure energy suppliers shore up their positions so they can weather the ongoing storm."

Working hard eh? Treadmills would be a good start, but not only for Ofgem.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

The reversal continues



Fina bars transgender swimmers from women's elite events if they went through male puberty

Fina, swimming's world governing body, has voted to stop transgender athletes from competing in women's elite races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

The new policy requires transgender competitors to have completed their transition by the age of 12 in order to be able to compete in women's competitions.

Fina will also aim to establish an 'open' category at competitions for swimmers whose gender identity is different than their birth sex.

The new policy, which was passed with 71% of the vote from 152 Fina members, was described as "only a first step towards full inclusion" for transgender athletes.

Good news, but we should never have been starting from here. An 'open' category is an easily defended position politically, but may still become a festering source of hostility towards rational behaviour and the real world. 

Or maybe nobody will watch the new category anyway and that's the plan.

It would liven up the Olympics

 


Saturday, 18 June 2022

Little Moral Barks



Deeply impressed with their sacred calling—for Mrs. Jackson would never have acknowledged that the Vicar’s wife held a position inferior to the Vicar’s—they argued that the whole world was God’s, and they God’s particular ministrants; so that it was their plain duty to concern themselves with the business of their fellows—and it must be confessed that they never shrank from this duty.

They were neither well-educated, nor experienced, nor tactful; but blissfully ignorant of these defects, they shepherded their flock with little moral barks, and gave them, rather self-consciously, a good example in the difficult way to eternal life.

They were eminently worthy people, who thought light-heartedness somewhat indecent. They did endless good in the most disagreeable manner possible; and in their fervour not only bore unnecessary crosses themselves, but saddled them on to everyone else, as the only certain passport to the Golden City.

W. Somerset Maugham - The Hero (1901)


There are many examples of how virtue has evolved over the decades. This fictional example highlights some stark similarities between meddlesome religious virtue and its modern version - meddlesome woke virtue. We only have to alter two words of the first paragraph to see the similarity to climate change virtue.

Deeply impressed with their sacred calling—for Mrs. Jackson would never have acknowledged that the Vicar’s wife held a position inferior to the Vicar’s—they argued that the whole world was Gaia’s, and they Gaia’s particular ministrants; so that it was their plain duty to concern themselves with the business of their fellows—and it must be confessed that they never shrank from this duty.

Sceptics often suggest that climate change campaigns are akin to a religious movement, but it may be just as useful to focus on the changing nature of conspicuous virtue.

It is no great stretch to see how little moral barks have evolved into the big moral barks with which we are more familiar. Our versions are backed by laws and regulations which cannot be avoided by simply not going to church. We see their unnecessary crosses on hillsides, generating unreliable and expensive electricity for all but the elites.

We’ll never break free from Mr and Mrs Jackson. They have evolved.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Peak Woke



Kurt Mahlburg has a piece in Mercatornet which asks an interesting question.

Peak woke: are we there yet?
No balloon can stay aloft for ever.

The other day I suggested to a friend that we may be close to reaching “peak woke”. He sagely responded that the notion of peak woke is like housing prices in Sydney: ever promising to stop climbing but never relenting.

Even so, there are several good reasons to entertain the question. This year’s “Pride Month” has pandered to the in-crowd, but online cynicism is at record highs. In recent weeks, I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen a corporation’s virtue-signalling tweet get painfully “ratioed” — meaning the tweet received more replies or retweets than likes, evidencing its lack of popularity.


Could be misplaced optimism of course, but even virtue-signalling requires behaviour which can be sold to the faithful as virtue. Some woke behaviour doesn't even get that far and the uneasy faithful seem to have noticed.

The New York Times even noted that the editor of British medical journal The Lancet was forced to apologise last year for a cover that referred to “bodies with vaginas” rather than women.

In our rush to de-stigmatise the exception, we’ve stigmatised the rule. Inviting every man and his dog into the tent once known as “women” has seen women disappear entirely from many conversations where their identity deserves to be front and centre.

Better than a week off work



We’re back from Norfolk after a very peaceful holiday. Saw lots of wildlife, managed lots of reading, drank lots of coffee and as WiFi was so slow I left the laptop unopened apart from getting rid of some spam on the blog.

Even a week of relative isolation from media babble is deeply restorative. Better than vitamins I suspect. Unsurprising I suppose. Rather like a week off work but better, because Monday morning doesn't loom large after the bags have been unpacked.

Oh well - time to see what the loons have been up to.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Hols



We're off for a week in Norfolk today, so blogging may be more patchy than usual. Depends on the WiFi, which on previous Norfolk holidays has been dodgy.

I may be gone for some time.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

How movements turn into rackets

 




A fairly well-known issue. To a limited degree I saw it develop over a working life spent in the environmental field. It did not turn into a racket, but over time environmental engineers and scientists were no longer the same kind of people. The field grew into another bureaucracy, attracting bureaucrat engineers and bureaucrat scientists. There is a difference.

Two Litmus Tests



Rwanda scheme is 'eye-wateringly mad and callous' says Emma Thompson

The Love Actually star said the government's approach does not reflect "the soul of this country" and added: "We can't become fortresses."


Some folk offer us a kind of litmus test for various projects, ideas and social trends. Emma Thompson's condemnation of the Rwanda scheme is an example. If she condemns the idea it must be better than detractors have claimed. It may still fail for political reasons but the Emma Test suggests it is basically sound.   

Ministry of Defence acquires government's first quantum computer

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has acquired the government's first quantum computer.

Quantum computers can make very complex calculations extremely quickly and their creators say they can solve the problems regular computers cannot.


The MoD is another litmus test. I've read various articles on quantum computing and the tone of them ranges from it being the greatest thing since sliced bread to an idea which is fundamentally unsound. Endorsement by the MOD steers it towards the unsound end of the spectrum.

I wonder what Emma Thompson thinks of quantum computing?

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

After the holiday



A few days ago, Mrs H and I were discussing various holiday photos and how the holidays seem more enjoyable in retrospect than they did at the time. Presumably this is the fading affect bias (FAB) or rose-tinted spectacles as it used to be called.

Minor annoyances, weather not quite as good as it could have been, midges, not enough wardrobe space in the bedroom, the substandard café and traffic jams fade while the good bits do not.

It’s happening already with pandemic lockdown memories. The ludicrous maniacs who imposed it, the absurd restrictions, social distancing, masks, gargantuan quantities of money flushed down the toilet, GP services going into hibernation, pointless school closures, bizarre TV lectures, police informers – much of it is fading away.

Now I recall the local walks, the ease and convenience of supermarket delivery, the remarkable number of DIY jobs I managed to do around the house, coffee in the park at Matlock as restrictions eased and so on and so on.

Politically it’s not good though. We need to remember the bungling, undemocratic nonsense for what it was. We need an FAB vaccine. Perhaps in one sense that's what we had.

Well yes - it's the kind of thing the EU does



Don't change rules to allow another confidence vote, health sec says

Conservative MPs should not change the rules to allow another confidence vote in the prime minister within a year, Sajid Javid has said.

Tells us which type of MPs might suggest such a move though.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

A Tedium Pandemic



Time to draw a line under Partygate, Boris Johnson tells cabinet

Boris Johnson has promised to cut taxes and government waste after surviving an attempt by his own MPs to oust him.

The prime minister thanked ministers for their support in a confidence vote, which saw 41% of Tory MPs saying they had lost faith in him.

He urged them to "draw a line" under questions about his leadership and vowed a return to "fundamental" Tory economic policies.

To my mind, the most tedious aspect of modern media is how they endlessly boost certain issues as if aiming to bore everyone into weary acceptance. It's somewhat similar to a filibuster where the media go on and on and on about an issue as if to prevent more important ones from drifting to the front of the queue. Easy and cheap to do I suppose - copy and paste outrage.

Yet some time ago I reached a stage where I now approve of any pandemic rule breaking committed by Boris and co. At least we'd know they didn't actually believe their own experts. A step in the right direction I'd say. Now ditch the experts.

I didn't much like that

 




Old Bertrand clarifies things here. Forget the politics - Lenin was a disgusting monster and without him the world would have been a better place.

Monday, 6 June 2022

The greasy pole becomes ever more greasy



Two intellectual movements in Western culture have greatly increased the individual’s sensitivity to controlling variables by reinforcing behavior descriptive of such variables and punishing its absence. One of these is the literary movement of self-analysis culminating in the writings of Marcel Proust, as a result of which the reader is led to search for the causes of passing moods, capricious memories, or fragmentary verbal behavior…

The other cultural movement is, of course, psychoanalysis. Freud’s interpretation of revealing slips and other anomalous behavior of everyday life has forced the speaker to react more sensitively to the variables which may be inferred from his behavior and, as we saw in the last chapter, to reject responses which reveal objectionable variables.


B. F. Skinner - Verbal Behavior (1957)


Anyone may disagree with Skinner’s choice of Proust and Freud, but the intellectual movements he identified seem to be real. We have become highly attuned to our passing moods, capricious memories, or fragmentary verbal behavior. We were always sensitive to what our own behaviour reveals to others, but Freud seems to have attuned us to that too. Obsessively attuned in some cases. Not at all attuned in others.

What we identify in ourselves varies wildly of course, but it is reasonable to assume that this movement is far from complete. We see it whenever a public arena is dominated by those who are clearly insensitive to their own behaviour and what it reveals. Some just don’t care of course.

The reputations of major actors on the public stage have become increasingly threadbare as the intellectual movement Skinner identified gains impetus via modern technology. Almost as if modern communication autonomously sifts and identifies public behaviour as inadequate, dishonest, corrupt or simply stupid.

We are all human, shallow and understandable. How does traditional leadership survive that? The answer may be that it cannot survive it.

For example, those paying attention probably realise that Boris Johnson has little to offer beyond Brexit. Keir Starmer has even less and other political leaders nothing at all. Where does that leave us? Possibly in a situation where traditional democratic leadership is becoming impossible, where we are becoming too sensitive to the shallow and understandable nature of human behaviour. As yet there are few good alternatives though.

Does it matter whether Boris survives a no confidence vote? Inspiring confidence is the problem. While the nature of leadership appears to be changing, we are stuck with traditional climbers of the greasy pole. They cannot inspire confidence. Skinner’s two movements may have changed things forever.

A Quiet Jubilee



Platinum Jubilee: From Paddington to the return of the Sussexes - memorable moments from the weekend

From the Queen's surprise film with Paddington Bear, to Harry and Meghan's visit and Prince Louis entertaining the crowds, Sky News has picked out some of the most memorable moments from the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.


Round here in our bit of Derbyshire, there were more flags during the last football World Cup run. We saw no street parties and little evidence that anyone was celebrating. We saw one group sitting outside  the house chatting round a table but that was all. Some decorated shops, but many hardly bothered at all beyond a few small flags. A number of imitation thrones and crowns, but all pretty subdued.

We were out and about as usual during the Jubilee, even yesterday when it was cold, grey and wet. Images presented by the media were not what we saw. What we saw, or perhaps didn't see could have been atypical but I don't think so. Times have changed.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Blimey - I used to eat those

 




I haven't eaten one for decades, but I'm sure they were much better than that. When our neighbours are on holiday, we feed their cats with tinned cat food which looks more appetising.

Heat Leak



An anecdote to go with the previous post. A friend of mine has a neighbour who lives in a house heated by a ground-sourced heat pump via a borehole. Or it was heated by a ground-sourced heat pump, but the underground tubing began to leak.

The problem was far too expensive to fix when compared to installing a gas boiler, so that's what my friend's neighbour did - he abandoned the heat pump and installed a gas boiler.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Intended consequences

 




An extremely useful review of huge undemocratic and unaccountable forces pushing the climate narrative. Power, money and useful idiots plus a grisly parade of the usual suspects. 

Friday, 3 June 2022

Jacinda on trust



In Mercatornet, Carolyn Moynihan has a piece on Jacinda Ardern's Harvard talk on what she sees as the perils of disinformation.

Speaking at Harvard, Jacinda Ardern stokes the ‘disinformation’ wars
If keyboard warriors are undermining liberal democracy, so are politicians and experts

The foundation of democracy, Ardern said in her Harvard speech, is trust in “institutions, experts and governments”, but this trust is being eroded today by the peddlers of false information on social media.

Actually, trust is also being eroded by those very institutions and experts.


Indeed - anyone paying attention is aware that trust is certainly being eroded by those very institutions and experts we are supposed to rely on. The whole piece is worth reading, but one of the comments on Ardern's claim is also worth adding in here. 

HermanGerman
The truth is that a foundation of democracy is mistrust in institutions, experts and governments. This mistrust is justified even more when these institutions openly declare that they are not bound by natural law or by the teachings of our lord.

That is why monitoring and control of these institutions, experts and governments by the people, by the common man is necessary.

Otherwise the door would be opened to turn experts and government officials into a dictatorship.


It's not my field, but the above comment suggests there is even something irreligious about Ardern's ludicrous claim. I don't think old Welby would see it that way, but either way, Jacinda Ardern's core claim is either desperately naïve or something far worse.

A Lazy Jubilee



Oh, if I had done nothing simply from laziness! Heavens, how I should have respected myself, then. I should have respected myself because I should at least have been capable of being lazy; there would at least have been one quality, as it were, positive in me, in which I could have believed myself.

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes from the Underground (1864)

We didn’t do much to celebrate the Jubilee thingy yesterday. For the most part it was a lazy day reading in the garden. I did prepare a potato salad at some point, chucked in a few herbs from the garden and so on.

We also strolled into town to buy some more clothes pegs because the crappy plastic things keep breaking. Almost as if they are designed to break, although at £1 a dozen it isn’t worth becoming a clothes peg activist demanding more quality in basic products.

Apart from that it was an unusually lazy day and for us that is unusual. We like a few jobs to do and aren’t at all keen on staying around the house and garden all day, even if all we do is go out somewhere for a coffee. I did water the garden later on, but yes, on the whole it was a lazy jubilee day.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

When I Knew Stephen Crane

 



I've read a few of Stephen Crane's books - a vividly poetic writer, well worth reading.

The little old woman began to weep. They were tears without a shame of grief. She allowed them to run unheeded down her cheeks. As she stared into space her son saw her regarding there the powers and influences that she had held in her younger life. She was in some way acknowledging to fate that she was now but withered grass, with no power but the power to feel the winds.

Stephen Crane - George's Mother (1896)

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

The assault on objectivity



A post such as this is has to be decidedly sketchy, but perhaps even a sketchy outline is worth the effort. The issue may be complex but in outline it isn’t and is far from being unfamiliar.

It concerns the problems faced by a ruling class when widespread objectivity becomes the ideal against which any kind of analysis is carried out. This would be social, political, technical, scientific or artistic analysis. Which includes analysis of the ruling class and its activities of course.

It is worth adding that objectivity may be an elusive ideal, but it is made less elusive by scepticism. We mostly identify what is not objective. Scepticism is built into the ideal of objectivity and usually comes first. People who tend not to be sceptical tend not to be objective either.

With that out of the way, we return to the problem this poses for any ruling class. When any assertion or assumption may be analysed objectively, how does a ruling class control important public debates? Apart from censorship, how does it react when a chosen course turns out to be wrong or uncertain? How does it cope with being wrong without loss of status?

If we simply begin with Galileo and move on to Darwin, we remind ourselves that objective analysis of the real world can profoundly damage ruling class mystique. The ruling class becomes fallible, just like everyone else. It is not a class of special individuals with exclusive access to objectivity.

The details of the impact made by Galileo and Darwin are comparatively unimportant if we restrict ourselves to making this wider point about human fallibility within any ruling class. Its mystique is bound to be threatened by the ideal of objectivity which is now available to any moderately educated person.

In the UK we could begin by considering the monarchy and the Archbishop of Canterbury and work down from there. We soon realise we don’t have far to go.

To resolve this comparatively recent weakness, a ruling class must either use censorship or undermine the ideal of objective analysis. In both cases it must favour its chosen experts and accept the likelihood that this will attract experts who are not wholly wedded to objective analysis.

Over recent decades there have been a number of familiar examples of this problem. The official climate change narrative has been a fairly obvious assault of both objectivity and scepticism, apparently in pursuit of long-established Malthusian political fears. One clue is how defence of the climate narrative has been consistently and ruthlessly emotional.

It is also worth pointing out that totalitarian regimes can afford to be sceptical about the climate narrative - their mystique is not undermined by it. The climate narrative seems to be one of the issues pushing former democracies such as the UK in a totalitarian direction.

In floundering their way through the problem of climate change, democracies appear willing to embark on a more general but piecemeal assault on objectivity and scepticism. The absurdities of gender politics give us an example of what may be this unintentional floundering. We could almost see it as collateral damage in the assault on objectivity.

There are in the UK, some signs of official attempts to limit the damage done by gender politics, but attempts made without the assistance of objective analysis seem to be problematic. It is an interesting problem because the tools to correct it are simple facts. Yet official use of those facts could be seen as a victory for objectivity.

In other words, we could make a working assumption that much of the assault on objectivity is partly unintentional and partly a consequence of attracting the wrong kind of people, particularly the wrong kind of experts.

It is not necessarily a grand plan to oppress the masses, but the operation of a genuine political problem which our representatives are poorly equipped to tackle. It is made worse because our establishment does not view the totalitarian approach with disfavour. Why would it?

As ever, the problem is exacerbated by voters voting for anything but cool analytical objectivity in their political representatives. Not that this is easy, but it can be obvious enough that a candidate is a party hack, inexperienced, too young or too wedded to political fashions. The assault on objectivity is a pervasive assault, voters do it too.

It's looking a bit black over Bill's mother's



From the BBC

It's looking a bit black over Bill's mother's, is often heard in the English Midlands when dark clouds appear on the horizon, heralding rain. But who is Bill?

"When I was a young boy the only person I knew called Bill was very old and it made me wonder how old must Bill's mother be?," said Matt McHugh, who contacted BBC News seeking the origin of the phrase.

"And why does she move house so much?"


I've tended to assume the expression is fairly widespread, but when I use it, people who don't come from the Midlands seem unaware of it. I don't know where it comes from though. My father used it rather facetiously and so do I.

On looking out of the window I see it looks like rain - it's certainly looking bit black over Bill's mother's.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Or as Orwell described it...



From The Critic

In an interview published in the Telegraph on Friday, Stella Creasy MP talked about feminism, transwomen, JK Rowling and a host of related matters. She said, “I am somebody who would say that a trans woman is an adult human female”. And she cited the suffragette slogan “deeds not words”. I take that at face value: in her interview Creasy is not just saying something, she is also doing something. What, exactly, is she doing? Creasy would say that she is standing up for transwomen. She’s proud of taking a controversial view (and, as she modestly describes herself, of “breaking cover and being controversial”).

But I think that what Creasy is doing — whether she realises it or not — is re-engineering the concept “female”. And I think this is a mistake.

There is a growing approach in philosophy called “conceptual engineering”. It’s a cool name for an interesting project. Indeed, one of my colleagues at the Open University is heavily involved as a conceptual engineer. They look at our concepts and see if they are doing good work — if they are functioning well. If not, then we should try to improve them (“ameliorate” is the key term). The chief thinker behind this is Sally Haslanger; the title of her main work Resisting Reality: Social Constructions and Social Critique gives you a flavour of what she is up to.

But we knew that



Green levies - why scrapping them wouldn't lower your bills as much as claimed

Green levies now represent 9-12% of electricity bills, not 25% as some had claimed, Ofgem has confirmed.


I guess this means political virtue-signalling is ring-fenced, but we knew that.
I guess this means we are ruled by clowns, but we knew that.
I guess this means ditching Boris will make no difference, but we knew that.

Cost of living: Food club helps Plymouth residents whose 'anxiety is through the roof' as they struggle to pay bills

Parts of Plymouth are amongst the poorest in England – and nearly a fifth (18.9%) of adults in Plymouth are over indebted – meaning they struggle to pay bills or have missed payments.

Monday, 30 May 2022

Cake and Roses



Mona Lisa attacked with cake by 'man dressed as old lady in wheelchair'

One witness said the person then proceeded to "smear cake on the glass and throw roses everywhere before being tackled by security".

Separate footage shows the person suspected of being responsible telling bystanders in French: "Think of the planet… there are people who are destroying the planet, think about that … That's why I did it."

Apparently wearing lipstick and a wig, the person is then escorted away by security before they were handed over to police.


There is something curiously satisfactory about such stories. Yet another confirmation that the climate narrative attracts people such as this chap - willing to smear cake on the glass and throw roses everywhere before being tackled by security. 

Net Zero is more cake and roses than a realistic energy policy.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

The Fauld Crater

 



An interesting account of a fairly recent visit to the Fauld Crater including aerial views taken with a drone. I was surprised to see how much of it is now obscured by a dense covering of trees and bushes.

An Alternative Suggestion



Platinum Jubilee: Boris Johnson poised to mark celebrations with post-Brexit pledge to bring back pounds and ounces

During the 2019 election campaign Mr Johnson promised a new "era of generosity and tolerance towards traditional measurements" and claimed measuring in pounds and ounces was an "ancient liberty".

Staying with the measurement theme, Boris could mark the celebrations with another announcement. He could announce that his government will scrap Net Zero because there is no prospect whatever that the UK will have any effect on global temperature measurements.

Not having to put up with ridiculous loons who talk down to us about climate change isn't an "ancient liberty", but it could be treated as such to mark the celebrations. 

Saturday, 28 May 2022

GM Firebird lll

 




Videos such as this lead a chap to wonder where all the optimism went and why guilt supplanted so much of it.

We might say that Firebird III was bonkers, but it was nowhere near as bonkers as we are. We are encouraged to like the idea of eating insects, pretend that men and women are the same and worry about the climate among numerous other insanities.

Birds are like politicians



This afternoon I decided to wash the MX5, vacuum the mats and generally fettle it. Not a job I have to do very often because we only use it on fine days. Anyhow, I finished the job, rewound the hose, tidied everything away and was just about to put the car in the garage when I noticed a bird had crapped on the freshly washed boot lid.

We feed garden birds with loads of bird seed, put scraps on the lawn for them, keep the bird bath filled and one of the little sods crapped on the car just after I'd washed it.

Politicians do much the same. We give them a cushy job, salary and expenses way out of line with their abilities, vote for them when allowed and still they crap on us. The bird version can be wiped off of course, but not the political version.

There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Friday, 27 May 2022

Sainsbury's opens the menagerie door



Autistic man in legal battle with Sainsbury's over assistance cat ban

A man with autism has launched legal action against Sainsbury's for denying entry to his assistance cat.

Ian Fenn, 51, relies on Chloe, 12, to face the world every day and stop him feeling "overwhelmed".

But Mr Fenn was left "upset" and "trembling" after he says he was ordered out of a branch of the supermarket in Clapham Common, south London, which knocked his confidence.

It just doesn't work



Texas school shooting: Duchess of Sussex lays flowers at site of massacre

The Duchess of Sussex has laid flowers at the site of a school shooting in Texas in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.

Meghan placed a bouquet of white roses tied with a purple ribbon at a row of crosses put up in memory of the victims in Uvalde.

The blooms were laid near the cross of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, which had the words "you will be missed" written on it, the Los Angeles Times reported.

It just doesn't work - she is too obviously in the 'look at me' business. Tacky and best left to those who can do it without the distasteful aura of promotional baggage.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Not so toasty

 

I don't know where the warm weather went. Thanks to global warming being conspicuously late, we felt the need fire up the log burner this evening. A log fire in late May - it's unprecedented. Next it'll be a mug of warming cocoa before bed. 

Maybe Net Zero is working already, in which case we need to call a halt because I don't think there is a vaccine for hypothermia.

When nonsense is an advantage



Our choice is usually mistaken from a false view of our advantage. We sometimes choose absolute nonsense because in our foolishness we see in that nonsense the easiest means for attaining a supposed advantage.

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes from Underground (1864)

Approval, assent, agreement, acceptance, acquiescence all seem to revolve around the way we go along with something. Yet given the right circumstances and backing we can easily be persuaded to go along with the most abject nonsense. 

Dostoevsky was right of course, nonsense can be the easiest means for attaining a supposed advantage, which is why we see so much of it and why it can't be eradicated. Some make use of the advantage and some don’t. Making use of it successfully almost always requires the nonsense to be called something else and imposed on others.

Yet it is surprising how often nonsense offers some kind of advantage even when quite startlingly blatant. It can be built on the distortion, corruption and endlessly subtle misuse of language, yet still be absurdly obvious. Not to everyone of course.

As we grow up we learn our native language and make ourselves understood. We learn to mimic whatever language forms are appropriate to the situations we encounter. But from an early age we also learn nonsense language appropriate to other situations such as fairy stories which evolve over time into political convictions.

We also learn from an early age that it can be socially beneficial to repeat nonsense. Often it becomes an apparently innocuous activity such as watching Monty Python with friends. It doesn’t seem to matter if nonsense enters the language as amusement but perhaps it does.

As children we receive subtle and not so subtle approval cues when we use language appropriate to a situation. Approval almost becomes a thing, almost an entity, an essential aspect of language. Without approval there is no way to learn a language, no way to get it right. But many of us must have signalled our approval of Monty Python nonsense and a vast amount of other nonsense in a similar vein.

Approval is an aspect of what we are as social beings and is necessarily manipulated because we are social beings. The Monty Python team aimed at one type of approval, political movements aim at another. We approve or we don’t, but as individuals we cannot cause even the most obvious nonsense to expire through terminal disapproval. We may approve or reject political nonsense, pass it on or ignore it, but cannot stand in the way of it.

Nonsense can have value and in our value-conscious world that value can be pumped up by pumping up the nonsense market. Almost inevitably it has become common for experts to offer dubiously simple opinions to a wider audience than their fellow experts. These wider audiences may be incompetent, but their approval is guaranteed because the experts are pumping up an approved narrative.

All of which is familiar, but it leaves us with an insoluble problem. Many people clearly give their approval to anything authoritative and pass it on rather than carry out their own analysis. Others are far more inclined to withhold approval, recognise nonsense for what it is and reject it whatever the social consequences.

For some people, the search for truth often goes no further than conformist approval of anything authoritative which is dutifully passed on socially. The distinction is blurred of course, but not that blurred. Conformist blockheads who can't even detect nonsense are a problem. Possibly the problem.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Civilised Gestures



Nearly thirty years ago we were in the second car of a funeral cortege driving through a housing estate at the usual sedate pace on the way to the crematorium. As I glanced through the car window I saw an elderly couple walking towards us on the pavement.

When the hearse in front of us was about to draw level with them, the old chap stopped and raised his hat. Even in those days it was an old-fashioned gesture, but one I’ve always remembered. I promised myself that I’d do the same if the opportunity arose, but it never did.

Simple civilised gestures are important, but as with a number of others, that one seems to have gone the way of the dodo. Partly the lack of a hat I suppose.

The rise of fragility



In Mercatornet, Jon Miltimore has an interesting piece on Netflix and censorship. Not unfamiliar, but it has the potential to be a trend worth watching.
 
Netflix delivers salvo for free speech in 9 short words to employees: ‘Netflix may not be the best place for you’

After a tough year, the streaming giant has decided to back freedom of expression

In the wake of a brutal earnings report and a sea of controversy, Netflix recently delivered a blunt message to employees.

If you don’t like the content Netflix produces, you are free to leave.


Two linked trends are identified as the reasons Netflix arrived in this situation.

How Netflix arrived here stems from a pair of cultural trends. The first is the mainstreaming of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), an idea that says corporations must be socially accountable to its customers and stakeholders—by getting involved...

The second trend is the rise of fragility and censorship, which in recent years has steadily chipped away at free expression and speech. Around 2016, social media companies like Twitter, which had formerly described itself as a bastion of free speech, began to aggressively police speech on its platforms. By 2020, corporations like Coca-Cola, Hersey, Verizon, and others were boycotting Facebook as part of a Stop Hate For Profit campaign designed to spur more aggressive “content moderation.”


To my mind the rise of fragility is potentially significant because ultimately fragility is a somewhat undesirable personal attribute. It is not associated with ideas of strong, independent people making their own way in the world. For those who are not fragile it is worth reading the whole thing.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

A sketch we’ll never see



Imagine a Monty Python type sketch with a similar format to the dead parrot sketch. This imaginary sketch opens with a man in a suit fiddling around with papers at the reception desk of an office. The walls are covered with weather maps. Another man wearing a thick fair isle jumper enters the office, walks up to the reception desk and says –

Jumper: Hello, I wish to make a complaint about the Met Office.

Suit: Oh… er… Sorry mate, this isn’t the Met Office it’s a bicycle shop.

Jumper: A bicycle shop? He gazes around the office. Then why does it say ‘Met Office’ on the door and why are your walls covered in weather maps and suchlike? Answer me that.

Suit: Great weather maps aren’t they? Very decorative we find them, especially the use of colour and those wiggly lines, But we aren’t the Met Office, Sir. We’re a bicycle shop.

Jumper: Don’t give me that. If this is a bicycle shop why are there no bicycles and why aren’t you wearin’ brown overalls?

Suit: That’s because we’re right out of bicycles at the moment… He looks around ostentatiously then shakes his head. Just can’t get hold of bicycles these days.

Jumper: Can’t get hold of bicycles? There are millions of them all over the world. 

Suit: Not round here squire.

Jumper: Look here my man, I’ve had quite enough of this. This is the Met Office and many years ago you promised us warmer weather because of global warmin’. You said we’d be so ‘ot we’d have move up north to Carlisle or somewhere. So why am I still wearin’ my woolly jumper in May? Tell me that.

Hardly hilarious, but although it could be made to work, only sceptical people would find it amusing. Most comedy is essentially conformist in spite of its somewhat anarchic image.

Disloyal



N. Korea conducts mass testing in Pyongyang, people who refuse testing are labeled “disloyal”

North Korean authorities are conducting mass testing in Pyongyang and other areas of the country to track down fever patients, and people who refuse testing are labeled “disloyal,” Daily NK has learned.

“The authorities are mainly relying on taking people’s temperatures for coronavirus testing,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Friday. “If someone has a fever for more than two days along with coughing and difficulty breathing, they are designated to be quarantined.”



Our pandemic situation in the UK cannot be compared to that in North Korea, but in a limited sense it is worth making a point about that word 'disloyal'. 

As we know, there was strong pressure to comply with a range of government coronavirus measures. Even though the word was not used, it could easily be said that refusal was portrayed as a form of disloyalty to the common good. Strengthen that level of political pressure and we are on the way to a destination we should be actively avoiding.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Sneaking away from the catastrophe



The BBC has an interesting piece which tries to tone down the catastrophic aspect of the climate narrative. Written by someone described as a BBC climate disinformation specialist, suggesting with huge irony that the doom-laden climate narrative could be classed as disinformation by those who have been pushing it for decades. Although they would deny that. Doom deniers we could call them I suppose, which is also ironic. 

It's simpler to assume they are all mad.


Why is climate 'doomism' going viral – and who's fighting it?

Climate "doomers" believe the world has already lost the battle against global warming. That's wrong - and while that view is spreading online, there are others who are fighting the viral tide...

Climate doomism is the idea that we are past the point of being able to do anything at all about global warming - and that mankind is highly likely to become extinct.

That's wrong, scientists say, but the argument is picking up steam online.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Blair is the key figure, the cataclysm

 




An interesting video on the virtue of obedience and the problem of freedom. Somewhat pessimistic as to the future, but this is unlikely to surprise anyone paying attention to recent cultural changes. 

The post title is taken from a comment made round about 10:58.

Post-truth



Victory belongs to Anthony Albanese, only the fourth Labor leader since World War Two to oust a Liberal prime minister, but the 2022 Australian election was primarily a rejection of Scott Morrison and the brand of politics he has come to personify.

A politics that denied, and sometimes even mocked, the seriousness of the climate crisis - as Treasurer, Morrison laughingly brandished a lump of coal in parliament.

A politics that many female voters especially found bloke-ish and boorish.

A politics that many Australians came to associate with truth-twisting and lying - such as when Morrison claimed that Emmanuel Macron had "sledged" the Australian people over the cancellation of a multi-billion dollar submarine contract, when it was obvious that the French president had mounted a highly personalised attack on a man he labelled a liar.

At a time when conservative politics down under has displayed some small-t Trumpian traits, historians may conclude that Australian voters evicted from office the country's first post-truth prime minister.

A chap is bound to wonder if senior BBC folk would describe this piece as balanced and impartial. It is not necessary to take a view on the election in order to see that it isn't even close to that long-lost ideal. How about 'embarrassing' as a more fitting description? Or maybe we are merely seeing the post-truth BBC in action again.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Sixteen pounds of coal a day



Whenever Maitland came to me I cooked his food and my own on a little grid, or in a frying-pan, over the fire in my one room. This fire cost me on an average a whole shilling a week, or perhaps a penny or two more if the coals, which I bought in the street, went up in price. This means that I ran a fire on a hundredweight of coal each week, or sixteen pounds of coal a day. Maitland, who was an expert in coal, assured me that I was extremely extravagant, and that a fire could be kept going for much less.

On trying, I found out that when I was exceedingly hard up I could keep in a very little fire for several hours a day on only eight pounds of coal, but sometimes I had to let it go out, and run round to a studio to get warm by some artist’s stove, — provided always that the merchant in coke who supplied him had not refused my especial friend any further credit.


Morley Roberts - The Private Life of Henry Maitland (1912)

Roberts is describing his precarious existence pursuing literary ambitions in London towards the end of the nineteenth century. A shilling a week wasn’t much even for someone as hard up as Roberts. Viewed from this perspective, coal was a remarkable fuel available to all but those who were absolutely destitute.

Leads me to wonder how many of my ancestors survived winter only because they could get hold of a few pounds of coal each day. No wonder people scavenged it and risked their lives digging shallow and insecure mines where coal was reasonably near to the surface.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Gruel Pie



As media stories circle around the black hole at the centre of civilisation, as we close in on the event horizon of lost opportunity, time slows down and certain things become clearer. For example the reason for cutting 90,000 civil service posts has become more obvious.

The government intends to use those posts to create 90,000 Beadles with a function similar to Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist. The new Beadles will be part of a brand new scheme to distribute sustainably nutritious Net Zero Gruel to those unable to feed themselves adequately.

Each Beadle will have a Net Zero Gruel Kitchen to supervise. The gruel will be officially delicious as well as nutritious, but anyone asking for more or anyone not asking for more could be invited to a Nutritional Education Camp to learn all about the benefits of Net Zero Gruel. It won’t stop there though.

When we are no longer allowed to use gas for domestic heating and the hydrogen boilers keep exploding, those redundant gas mains could be used to pipe gruel direct to the home. It wouldn't be hot of course, but hot gruel is likely to be phased out anyway as power cuts become the norm.    

Another development will be the Net Zero Gruel Pie suitable to be eaten on the go, at sporting events such as football matches or in libraries where people go to keep warm in winter when staff burn a few cancelled books. 

To develop such a pie, the gruel must have a thicker than usual consistency to make the pie easier to handle when eaten. Gruel technologists say this can be achieved in a number of ways such as the addition of certain natural polymers used in the manufacture of notice boards.

More please!

Thursday, 19 May 2022

So fraud is another symptom



COVID-19: 'Eye-watering' fraud levels in loans missed by government, says watchdog

Early warning signs of fraud, like more than 120,000 new companies being registered as the country went in to lockdown, were missed by the government, which still does not know the true extent of losses from the schemes.

There is an opportunity to be grasped here. If we have another pandemic, the ONS could put together a simple graph of the national fraud level as an indicator of how things are going compared to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It would be a really simple indicator which anyone should be able to understand. Once the graph goes past Peak Fraud we'll know the pandemic is ending and whether or not it was as severe as Covid-19.

Two Stories



Five of the best places to live in Derbyshire

Bolsover has outranked Chesterfield among the top five places to live in Derbyshire.


We visit the Derbyshire area where 75% of residents are overweight

It has emerged that three in every four adults in a Derbyshire district are classed as overweight or obese. The worrying data about adults in the Bolsover district was shared by Derbyshire’s public health director, Dean Wallace, in an effort to exemplify health inequality within the county.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

The BBC itself is like a civilisation in decline



In The Critic, Michael Collins has an interesting piece on Kenneth Clark and his 1969 television series, Civilisation which some may remember.

‘‘It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation,” suggested Kenneth Clark at the conclusion of his 13-part television series, Civilisation, in 1969, “We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.” Events at the time led him to suggest that, as unlikely as it seemed, European civilisation could fall to the barbarians as it had after the fall of Rome when “we got through by the skin of our teeth”. He quoted W.B. Yeats for back-up. It wasn’t that the centre could not hold, it was that there was no longer a centre...

The contemporary 20th-century world was one that baffled Kenneth Clark, as he was the first to admit. The “personal view” he presents in Civilisation concludes prior to the Great War. Before beginning work on the series, he supplied the BBC with several stipulations regarding his approach. At the top of the list was — “not Marxist”.

“My approach to history,” Clark explained, “was unconsciously different from that now in favour in universities which sees all historical change as the result of economic and communal processes. I believe in the importance of individuals, and am a natural hero-worshipper.”


The whole piece is worth reading as a reminder of many things, such as the television series itself which could not be made today. Certainly not by the BBC.

It’s unlikely that Kenneth Clark will have anything but a cameo in this year’s BBC centenary celebrations — featuring Harry Enfield fronting a documentary on the BBC’s output in the style of the comedian’s upper-class character Mr Cholmondley-Warner. A caricature of figures such as Kenneth Clark, this routine was hackneyed and redundant when we first endured it some years ago. Now it’s a sign that the ideas have dried up; the confidence has gone. The BBC itself is like a civilisation in decline.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

But what does the official hyperbole manual say?



Cost of living: Bank of England governor warns of 'apocalyptic' food prices due to war in Ukraine

Andrew Bailey hit back at criticism that the Bank acted too slowly to tackle inflation, blaming a "bad situation" on the impact of the war in Ukraine and COVID-19.


Andrew Bailey may need to look up the correct term in the official hyperbole manual. He may be right with "apocalyptic", but my recollection is that floods and famines are Biblical. 

Monday, 16 May 2022

Knick-knacks



Today we visited a local antiques centre we’ve avoided for years because it isn’t very good. We enjoy browsing through antiques and although we haven’t collected anything for years, we do like a good browse, but the antiques centre we keep avoiding is so poor it tends to depress us. We stopped going well before lockdown.

Masses and masses of knick-knacks sums up the place, although I once found an eighteenth century creamware teapot there. Took some finding though - the place is so crammed with breakables that a chap like me has to be careful just walking around. Yet they must sell stuff because the centre has been around for years and once even managed to feature on a TV programme.

Do people still buy knick-knacks though? Surely modern folk lead less cluttered lives and don’t hanker after a china cabinet filled with Aunt Elsie’s Crown Derby tea service, a mantelpiece covered in pottery dogs or willow pattern plates hanging on the wall. Rising ducks even.

Yet the antiques centre is still there, stuffed with knick-knacks. We did see a decent set of arts and crafts dining chairs which need new upholstery. They have been there for at least three years though – possibly four. Sitting in a darkened room for some reason. Poor old things.

The place is strangely timeless and we weren’t depressed after our visit. Not that we are likely to go again, but we weren't depressed.

One can't believe impossible things



“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'

I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!”

Lewis Carroll - Alice Through the Looking-Glass (1871)


Biden's Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo answered questions from Congress about the budget for Fiscal Year 2023.

Virginia congressman Ben Cline asked: "A 24% increase over FY21 levels for NOAA doesn't really help families put food on the table or clothes on the back at a time when inflation is at a forty-year high. Can you talk about how this massive allocation of funds helps to combat inflation, or deal with supply chain issues that you say are so important?"

Sec. of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "Look, we believe climate change is an existential threat," Raimondo replied, "so, you know, children won't–forget about clothes on their back, they're not gonna be able to have a life if we don't deal with climate change."

Sunday, 15 May 2022

There are forces of madness



There are forces of madness; I have shown you that I make allowance for them. But they are only dangerous so long as privilege allies itself with hypocrisy. The task of the modern civiliser is to sweep away sham idealisms.

George Gissing - Born in Exile (1892)


Blogging is a privilege – I don’t pay for it except in time and whatever Gurgle gets out of it. It could be said that the internet has delivered this kind of privilege to billions, but if virtually everyone has something, how can the possession of it be a privilege?

In Gissing’s time, privilege included wealth, influence and a public voice where influence and a public voice were connected. In our times, we could say that a public voice and its potential for influence confer a tiny dose of that privilege on millions of us.

In this sense, the privilege of having a public voice is seeping away from the ruling classes - together with the influence perhaps. Seeping away rather than disappearing of course, but still a fundamental change for the ruling classes. Privilege has always allied itself with hypocrisy but when the privilege of a public voice became available to millions, maybe the hypocrisy became more obvious.

In which case censorship is at least partly privilege issue. Which we already knew, but it may be as well to view censorship as more than the simple suppression of unofficial and unpalatable opinions. 

Defining the narrative is a privilege - right or wrong, true or false do not necessarily come into it. For the ruling classes, to be proved wrong would be a loss of privilege and this seems to be one of the forces of madness.

On the sidelines



FA Cup final: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says he 'could not be more proud' after beating Chelsea

Eurovision 2022: How Sam Ryder turned things around for the UK


It would be interesting to know how many people have little interest in absurdly hyped events such as the FA Cup final and the Eurovision Song Contest. Both events give the impression that those who are uninterested must be a minority of curmudgeons on the sidelines but I suspect it isn't so.

Yet the hype continues as it always has. Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalties, a result which was not far removed from the toss of a coin. As for Eurovision, nothing was turned around for the UK, although Boris may possibly manage to extract something from it - temporarily.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Two words we could use more often



Vicki Bevan: Woman paedophile jailed for life for 'shockingly depraved' sexual abuse including rape of girl

Vicki Bevan, from St Helens, "instigated and organised" the rape and sexual abuse of the victim - aged under 10 - with Paul Rafferty and Tony Hutton, prosecutors said.

Delivering his sentences, Judge Andrew Menary QC said the scale of depravity in the case "beggars belief" and it was likely the victim would suffer "severe psychological harm".


Two words we could use more often - depraved and depravity. And in a wider context.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Nowhere near enough



Cost of living: Plans to cut 90,000 civil servants is not a return to austerity, Jacob Rees-Mogg says

The move would imply a reduction of about a fifth of the 475,000-strong workforce, which the government says would save about £3.5bn a year.

A 90,000 cut is more like edging our way cautiously towards sanity rather than austerity. Assuming it happens and assuming it isn't a case of cutting the posts but redeploying the staff. 

Lockdown memories must be fading already, but what kept Mrs H and I going was the private sector, not the public sector.