Monday 28 February 2022
IPCC: Climate change taking lives and livelihoods now and driving disease and crop failure, says UN report - but there is still a window to act
At least 3.3 billion people are already highly vulnerable, half of animals have already shifted towards the poles and, while it's not too late to act, the window to limit the damage is narrowing, the latest United Nations (UN) climate report warns.
He still loved, too, such Devonshire dishes of his boyhood, as “junket” and “toad in the hole”; and one of his favourite memories was that of the meals snatched at the old coaching Inn at Exeter, while they changed the horses of the Plymouth to the London coach. Twenty-four hours at ten miles an hour, without even a break! Glorious drive! Glorious the joints of beef, the cherry brandy! Glorious the old stage coachman, a “monstrous fat chap” who at that time ruled the road!
John Galsworthy - A Portrait (1910)
Our daily school run has been infested with roadworks since well before lockdown and it is becoming worse. On the journey home this morning we managed to cover slightly less than four miles in about thirty minutes. Stagecoaches were faster than that.
On a conspiracy theory note, I wonder if those who organise roadworks are encouraged to gold plate the road safety aspect. It’s as if they are required to close one lane and bung in some traffic lights even if all they do is dig a hole in the pavement.
Of course they have to dig down to see what the problem is in the first place, but my conspiracy gene does wonder if there is a Net Zero green light for obstructing the traffic. Probably not, but trusting official motives is not a good policy either.
Sunday 27 February 2022
North Korea is fascinatingly horrible. Take this recent piece in Daily NK. Originally I read it and moved on, but came back to it as it offers such a grim picture of a world both unfamiliar and just a little too familiar.
North Koreans are all abuzz about Ri Sol Ju’s attire at recent Lunar New Year performance
The performance also saw Kim Kyong Hui's first public appearance since January 2020
North Koreans are talking about a recent Lunar New Year performance attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju. People have reportedly focused particularly on Ri’s decision to wear traditional Korean clothing.
A Daily NK source in Pyongyang said Friday that Ri wore the same black traditional skirt and wine-colored traditional jacket worn by Kim Jong Suk, the wife of late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, in the years right after the founding of the country. He said everyone who saw Ri and her attire were reminded of Kim.
The piece goes on to link this appearance of Ri with moves to elevate her public and political significance. It conjures up a curiously compelling image of the most ghastly political smoke and mirrors while reminding us of something - we have a celebrity culture too. We also do smoke and mirrors.
The source said many North Koreans speculate that Ri is trying to draw a line between her and Kim Jong Suk, just as her husband has inherited the legacy of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Un.
In particular, the source said cadres from the Central Committee and Propaganda and Agitation Department are saying that since they have shored up the 10th anniversary of Kim’s leadership, they are now rushing to make Ri the new Kim Jong Suk.
He said this means they are passing the baton from Kim Jong Suk — the “mother of socialist Korea” and a heroine of the anti-Japanese resistance — to Ri, turning her into the “mother of Korea.”
Saturday 26 February 2022
We originally encountered the story of Daft Sammy via his portrait in a Devon antiques shop. He was a nineteenth century Derbyshire character, adept at extracting tips from tourists in Castleton. The portrait was only £10 but we didn’t buy it. A sketch of Daft Sammy isn’t the kind of thing even we would hang on the wall.
Returning from the church, we met with one of the celebrities of Castleton, Sammy Scutt, better known by the sobriquet of “Daft Sammy," the castle guide, an individual who appears to be possessed with a shrewd kind of lunacy, and to be endowed moreover with the power of ubiquity , dwelling everywhere and yet abiding nowhere. No one ever visits Castleton without making the acquaintance of our erratic friend; let them enter the place from whichever direction they may, they are sure to encounter Sammy, who, darting from some unseen corner, pounces upon them like a hawk descending upon its prey.
On Foot Through The Peak – James Croston (1868)
It sounds as if Sammy was not so daft, but I’m sure we’d benefit today were we to adopt similarly blunt nicknames for public characters. Maybe UK media coverage of the recent pandemic would have steered a more rational course if Matt Hancock had been widely known as Daft Matt.
Another possibility which needs no explanation would be Daft Harry. There are many more examples though. Maybe too many, especially as Daft Sammy was probably smarter than any of them.
Friday 25 February 2022
'Game-changer': ditch plastic packaging and best-before dates on fresh produce to combat waste, report urges
The recommendations should help to tackle food waste, plastic pollution, the climate crisis and shopping bills, food waste charity Wrap hopes.
Scrapping best-before dates and plastic packaging could prevent 14 million shopping baskets' worth of food from going to waste, a charity has recommended.
Doing so would empower consumers to buy the right amount - avoiding buying bigger packets than they need - and to judge themselves when items were still fine to eat, according to waste reduction charity Wrap.
Who could complain about being empowered apart from crusty curmudgeons? Yet we've just lumbered our way through an infection panic with lots of warnings about personal contact even through the air. Are we now about to encourage some customers to rummage through bunches of supermarket grapes with their snotty fingers?
Not that I want to put anyone off grapes and we wash ours anyway. Maybe we'll have to wash them more thoroughly in future, using gallons and gallons of water plus a drop of Domestos. Or maybe we'll avoid anything you don't peel or cook.
Thursday 24 February 2022
The "Idiot Noakes" presenter - not an unusual approach even today.
Idle speculation this one, because I’m sitting in a warm room with the daily jobs all finished. The morning walk into town was unexpectedly cold, but we are done with that now. New curtains paid for and biscuits bought from the Co-op.
It's not an original thought, but the day has caused me to wonder how much influence physical comfort has on career choices. Sitting in a warm office all day with maybe the occasional car journey to another warm office or meeting room. No real physical effort apart from talking, phoning and tapping a keyboard.
So - sitting here at home I wondered how much influence does physical comfort have on the work we choose to do? For example, is this why so many people go to university? Are they chasing after a working life spent sitting down?
Wednesday 23 February 2022
Sumantra Maitra has an interesting piece about Putin's worldview in The Critic.
Putin and the new global order
An older worldview makes a triumphant return, and splits the American right.
JD Vance, Ohio’s senatorial candidate, and one of the most interesting new voices in the debate about American grand strategy and Ukraine threw a bomb yesterday online in an interview, where he said that he doesn’t care about Ukraine “one way or the other”, and that it is ridiculous that America is focused on Ukraine’s border and sovereignty, and not America’s own borders with Mexico.
This applies to the UK too. It is well worth reading the whole piece.
The most common reaction to Putin’s speeches on social media was a throwback to calling him a Soviet apologist trying to recreate the former USSR. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Only clinical midwits think Putin is a Sovok. Putin despises the USSR and communists. He is as imperial as they come and the only thing he could do to make him any more reactionary would be a ceremonial Romanov restoration.
Risk of wildfires could rise by 50% by end of the century with previously untouched Arctic under threat, report warns
The report warns things have got so bad, even previously unaffected regions such as the Arctic now face an elevated risk of wildfires.
In other news -
Tuesday 22 February 2022
Innumerable were the little groups which had broken away from the larger ones to hold semi-private debate on matters which demanded calm consideration and the finer intellect. From the doctrine of the Trinity to the question of cabbage versus beef; from Neo-Malthusianism to the grievance of compulsory vaccination; not a subject which modernism has thrown out to the multitude but here received its sufficient mauling.
George Gissing - The Nether World (1889)
Gissing offers us fictional but familiar debates about the advantages of a veggie diet, Neo-Malthusian angst and compulsory vaccination - all taking place as recently as 1889. Even now in our world of online vacuity this is too familiar. Core anxieties of middle class politics haven't changed radically since Gissing’s day.
A fanciful notion perhaps, but it is worth allowing the imagination cast a different light on old issues. We could easily picture a world trending quite rapidly towards a monopolistic global political business. You buy our politics with your taxes or you do without those things we control. That means you do without everything.
A key feature of the Malthusian business is that its narratives are relentlessly driven by public relations, not information. In dutiful support of this trend, mainstream media headlines are more akin to political advertising than news.
A global political business may be a somewhat fanciful idea, but not entirely so. We are already familiar with official narratives and media output which are as informative as toothpaste ads but coy as to ingredients. The ingredients are in the small print you aren't supposed to read or understand.
Nick Clegg gets bigger role at Facebook owner Meta
Monday 21 February 2022
Like an unwelcome guest, Storm Franklin finally seems to be departing. Subjective of course, but here in Derbyshire, Franklin seemed marginally more bumptious than Eunice. It certainly seemed noisier with rain bashing against the windows last night and a constant windy roar from the wood-burner all evening.
We strolled into town for a coffee this morning, if you can call it a stroll with our heads down against the wind half the time. Which reminds me, how is it that we almost always have to walk into the wind instead of it assisting us from behind? I noticed that when cycling to work years ago. The wind was against me on the way there and on the way back. A law of nature I suppose.
Sunday 20 February 2022
COVID-19: Ending restrictions requires big psychological leap - and some of us may never return to normal
As the country inches back towards normality, Boris Johnson hopes it might also mark a change in his political fortunes.
Saturday 19 February 2022
Gawain Towler has a timely piece in The Critic about green activist violence, contrasting it with the treatment of truckers in Ottawa. Well worth reading as a reminder of how absurdly unbalanced mainstream media coverage is.
Terrorism for thee but not for me?
Whilst truckers are treated like criminals, green activists are running riot
There has been an outbreak of political violence in Canada. A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was hurt and people going about their daily business were threatened by masked men with axes. Roads were blocked with barricades, Millions of dollars of damage was caused. At one point some of the workers were trapped in a building while the demonstrator tried to set light to it with them still inside.
This happened on Thursday night. It didn’t happen in Ottawa where hundreds of truck drivers maintained their protest despite emergency powers being granted to the authorities...
No this attack took place, not in Ottawa, but in British Columbia, at an industrial site. This is what the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) had to say: “Shortly after midnight, Houston RCMP was called to the Marten Forest Service Road (FSR) after Coastal Gas Link (CGL) security reported acts of violence at their work site…approximately 20 people, some armed with axes, were attacking security guards and smashing their vehicle windows…
Friday 18 February 2022
Doomstorm Eunice seems to have cleared off with nothing much to report from this little corner of Derbyshire. She was certainly very windy when she finally turned up, but our patio chairs usually blow over in high winds and Eunice couldn't manage that trick.
Not that our patio chairs are a measure of wind speed of course, but add in a few twigs on the road during the school run and that was about it for us. Quite noisy, especially in the chimneys, plus the occasional whine round the corner of the house, but we've heard all that before. We've seen worse in the past, but we are so saturated with alarming narratives it isn't easy to compare with past experience.
Wednesday 16 February 2022
In Mercatornet, Mathew Otieno gives us his annual review of significant events in Africa during 2021.
Africa is a huge place. But, in a world of Mercator projections and pandemics of ignorance, I repeat it at every opportunity, especially in my annual review of the previous year for MercatorNet: Africa is a huge place.
As in all huge places, a lot of things happened in Africa through 2021, some good, some bad. I’ll review the highlights and then attempt a forecast of storylines in 2022, which is already short a month at the time of this writing – time flies here too!
It is well worth reading the whole piece, but I can't resist quoting the final two paragraphs, which must surely resonate here in the UK too.
Perhaps, as this cloud lifts, the long march of democracy and human dignity, set back by the grabbing of emergency powers by governments that were destined for the dustbin, will resume apace. Things aren’t looking too bad, but several dinosaurs still waddle about. It’s time we sent a few asteroids their way.
Tuesday 15 February 2022
I know nothing about home schooling, so here's a blog post about home schooling. Fortunately, Tristram Llewellyn Jones has a worthwhile piece in TCW on the subject.
ONE of the most puzzling aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic responses is that it was a Conservative government which implemented the authoritarian rule mirroring that of Communist China. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given that generations have now been schooled in a national curriculum which has been taken over by the secular Left. The last remaining forum for truly independent education is home education, but now the Left is coming for that too.
Discreetly announced this month is a Government intention to legislate for a compulsory register of home-educated children. Full details are not yet available, but this will not just be a simple list because the Government says it wants a ‘comprehensive picture’ of the child on the register with the local authority having a ‘duty to support’ the family. For ‘comprehensive picture’ read surveillance and for ‘support’ read control.
Monday 14 February 2022
Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption to describe inessential and wasteful consumption by the upper social classes
In his most famous work, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen writes critically of the leisure class for its role in fostering wasteful consumption, or conspicuous waste. In this first work Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption, which he defined as spending more money on goods than they are worth.
We might go on to say that there is also another social trait which we could refer to as conspicuous assurance. It is necessary for elite classes to exhibit a level of assurance about certain important public narratives where the level of assurance is greater than the narrative will rationally bear. In many cases, much greater.
Elite social classes still have a need to exhibit assurance and confidence, but have been nudged into areas of knowledge which are at best uncertain. These are areas where confidence about the mainstream narrative is unwarranted, where consensus may be a worthless social fabrication or worse.
Examples are climate change, sustainable energy, electric transport, gender politics, race politics, pandemics and immigration. All of these are sustained by irrational confidence in consensus narratives which vary from dubious to false to absurd. Yet they partly define certain social classes which do not appear to know how to extricate themselves. Or more likely, they do not care.
As a consequence, elites have been nudged into impossible positions where the only exit may be totalitarian politics.
Sunday 13 February 2022
Andrew Hunt has an entertaining piece in The Critic about Those Who Know Better talking down to the rest of us while making a pig's ear of things.
Too stupid for the truth
Lying to the public “for their own good” spells the end of democracy.
In 2015 Nick Clegg was asked why there should not be a Brexit vote. His answer was the EU was too complicated and too important for the public to possibly understand. The best thing we could all do was leave our fate to the experts.
This idea has become more pervasive ever since, whether it’s made up Covid stats to scare us into compliance, or the haughty disdain for “populism”. The public are just too stupid — a dim-witted liability that must be managed for our own good.
Where did this narrative come from?
Well worth reading the whole thing. For example this must strike a chord with many of us -
After the Brexit vote, it became fashionable to show charts of the IQs of remainers versus leavers. What makes anyone think IQ is a useful test of decision-making ability? The reason IQ tests fell out of favour is that they proved so useless at selecting people. Anyone who went to university will remember professors who could barely dress themselves, let alone hold down a relationship or bring up a family. Should they be running the country?
High IQs are not just impractical, they can be dangerous. Intelligence often means overconfidence. Since the 1980s the finance industry has continuously upskilled. Roles that were once done by East London wide boys with a good head for figures now require a PhD. The result has been increasingly complex models devoid of all commonsense. The Big Short famously depicted how these daft algorithms handed out 120 per cent mortgages to lap-dancers with no savings, ultimately bringing down the entire US economy. There is a reason classic books on financial failures have titles like “The Smartest Guys In The Room” and “When Genius Failed”.
Saturday 12 February 2022
Kurt Mahlburg has a piece in Mercatornet about the Canadian trucker protests. It is remarkable how foolish the response of Justin Trudeau has been, but we know that.
In Canada it’s trucks versus tweets and the trucks are winning
While decision-makers are eager to distance their decision-making from the protests, there is no doubt that the mood is melting in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has endured days of heckling in parliament —from both the right and the left — over his handling of the protests, with increased calls for him to reopen the country or at least listen to the truckers.
Trudeau has spent much of the last fortnight out of the public gaze. But he has been at the forefront of the Twitter war. In one tweet he characterised protesters as antisemites, Islamophobes, anti-Black racists, homophobes, and transphobes (an impressive list!). In another, he framed them as vandals, thieves and wavers of racist flags. Predictably, his words got the Twitter mobs baying.
Friday 11 February 2022
I don’t recall when it was, but from an early age I knew that one advantage in life is to be articulate. Not a huge advantage such as being born into the upper classes, being lucky or having a good business brain, but to be even modestly articulate is undoubtedly an advantage.
Yet articulate people do not necessarily benefit society as a whole. Politicians for example. They are articulate in that they always have a reply or comment to make and don’t usually resort to inarticulate abuse. Yet they frequently evade the subject, gloss over uncertainties or merely talk drivel. Articulate incompetence we might call it.
We tend to assume there is something devious behind this kind of articulate incompetence, as if it is not really incompetence. Some political goal is being pursued, one we need to spot if we are to avoid being duped. We assume that the political classes could be more competently articulate if only they were not so devious, if they did not have yet another fraud or bungled mess to slip under the radar.
We also assume that this intractable problem is something to do with ideas. We believe in ideas, including the political ideas supposedly distorting political discourse. As if ideas are structures in the mind. When we speak of ideas we are in a sense describing those structures. We go on to discuss politics as if politicians have sound ideas buried in their devious minds, but they deliberately distort them for political gain.
Suppose it isn’t like that at all. Suppose the real battle of ideas is a verbal battle and only a verbal battle. What we see and hear is what there is. All is on the surface. There are no ideas, no structures in the mind. It sounds like incompetence because it is incompetence.
We are already familiar with groups speaking in ways which partly define them as a group. In an important sense they are verbal communities and people are almost always members of more than one. A football supporters club for example. A local political party. A national political party. A police force, school, church, rambler’s association, trade association, professional body or book club. There are vast numbers of them.
Political groups are verbal communities, but there are no buried ideas behind their discourse. Their discourse defines their political bubble as a verbal community. They may have written doctrines, plans and projects, but they are all inactive until turned into discourse.
Unfortunately for voters, members of political bubbles may not be exposed to alternative verbal communities beyond their bubbles. The more senior they are, the less likely it is that they will have significant exposure to life beyond their bubble. Limited previous experience of the outside world will have a similar effect. Add the two together and it becomes apparent why intelligent people can be wholly unsuited to senior government positions.
A consequence is that professional politicians and senior bureaucrats cannot bring alternative discourse into their bubbles, into their professional lives. Within the bubble, this would probably be seen as gauche, inappropriate, embarrassing, unprofessional. There are things which are just not said within any verbal community.
In other words, political disconnection it is not a problem of ideas, but a problem with political discourse generally. It is essential that politicians are familiar with verbal communities beyond the machinery of government, but far too many are not. Senior bureaucrats tend to be equally insulated as they too have their bubbles.
Consequently we have a political class which cannot competently speak the language of doubt, criticism, uncertainty, analysis or alternative explanations. It is not ideas they misunderstand, it is limited access to competent verbal discourse. They cannot say what the problems are. The media are no help at all. They want incompetence every time – that's where the drama, disasters and poisonous gossip come from.
Political discourse seems incompetent because it is. The incompetence is usually genuine, it is not usually faked in order to promote certain political ideas. This kind of incompetence cannot be corrected without exposure to the outside world, without extensive experience of life beyond the bubble. Incompetence is baked in.
Thursday 10 February 2022
When looking at events in Canada, more than a few people are bound to wonder how the blue blazes Justin Trudeau ever became Prime Minister. Even from this side of the Atlantic he comes across as a preening woke loon.
Not a genuine question in that hardly anyone would seriously ask it, but was he really elected? Of course he was – in spite of Biden we have to believe that don’t we? But a ceaseless barrage of media misinformation is a powerful way to interfere with elections.
Democracy is not supposed to be a circus, but it is and Justin is evidence that democratic establishments mean to keep it that way. The preening woke loon is so obviously a preening woke loon. He doesn’t even hide it, doesn’t appear to know how and it doesn’t appear to matter anyway.
It is bound to raise questions about democracy and how majorities are manipulated to be majorities. At least Justin shows us how easy it must be.
Wednesday 9 February 2022
Covid: Self-isolation law could be scrapped in England this month
All remaining Covid restrictions in England - including the legal rule to self-isolate - could end later this month, Boris Johnson has said.
Under the current rules, anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for at least five days.
The current restrictions are due to expire on 24 March.
But Mr Johnson told MPs he expected the last domestic rules would end early as long as the positive trends in the data continued.
To my mind we have reached a situation where it seems odd for people to bang on about this issue. We've moved on, much of what was done was a waste of time, we should learn from that, reform the NHS and move on.
Tuesday 8 February 2022
At the time, a particularly startling aspect of the recent pandemic was how rapidly the UK government response became too big to fail. Almost as if this aspect of it was deliberate and not dictated by circumstances. It is easy enough to picture how this could have occurred via an imaginary but plausible scenario –
A group of senior government officials, senior ministers and other transnational groups favour a particularly drastic pandemic policy. It is to be a major programme of severe personal restrictions, widespread business closures and a relentless programme of daily announcements to ensure almost complete public engagement.
It occurs to this imaginary group that such a drastic policy must be too big to fail if it is to create an overpowering sense of inevitability in the public mind. This is to be achieved by colossal and well-publicised levels of government spending. No cutting your losses in this game.
It’s how climate change, Net Zero, HS2 and many major government policies appear to be insured against failure. Make them too big to fail and create that powerful sense of inevitability. It seems to have become the technique of choice.
Is it deliberate? Yes – obviously. It works, mainly screws the little people and is a good fit with a powerfully repressive political ethos.
Of course too big to fail also means too big to tolerate discussion, especially discussion about the possibility of failure, let alone actual failure. Hence the censorship, the abuse of critics and carefully selected data. This too is a good fit with a powerfully repressive political ethos.
We could say that too big to fail is a key characteristic of totalitarian governments. In which case we’ll see more of it.
Boris Johnson: PM 'won't apologise' for Savile remark to Starmer as Commons speaker warns MPs 'words have consequences'
On Monday evening, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was bundled into the back of a police car after being confronted by protesters shouting "traitor" and "Jimmy Savile" at him.
"The prime minister clarified his remarks last week to make clear he was not suggesting Keir Starmer was individually responsible for the Savile decision," the spokesman said.
"I think the prime minister was making a political point about taking responsibility for organisations as a whole."
Quite - so shrug it off and move on.
Monday 7 February 2022
Covid: Tough new targets will tackle NHS backlog, Boris Johnson says
New "tough targets" will be set to tackle record NHS waiting lists in England, Boris Johnson has said.
The PM promised action after plans to tackle the backlog of people waiting for treatment were delayed.
It had been expected to be published on Monday but Mr Johnson said more details would be set out later this week.
Sunday 6 February 2022
This story isn't new of course, but there is added entertainment in the BBC being unable to write it off as completely bonkers. Maybe the Empress really is wearing new clothes even though absolutely everyone knows she isn't including the Beeb. Yes, even the Beeb.
Firefighters have called for the Scottish government to resolve concerns over school safety following reports that classroom doors could be trimmed.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has requested immediate talks to address "mixed messaging" around fire safety and the ventilation required to reduce coronavirus risks.
Councils have a new fund to improve classroom airflow to slow Covid spread.
Nicola Sturgeon said cutting the bottom off some doors was "common sense".
Laurence Hodge has a piece in TCW which is worth reading. It brings out the problem of weighing up the performance of Boris against the obviously fake outrage being used to take him down.
THE Conservative Home popularity poll for January was released a few days ago and the result reveals little: the current febrile environment means that individual performances are probably evaluated by panel members alongside the potential of Boris Johnson being forced to stand down...
Are the grass roots rooting for their beleaguered leader or is there more to Johnson’s mild upswing than that? Could it perhaps be that in all the media frenzy they recognise a simple truth: that Johnson, who is widely accused of being unable to organise a gathering in a brewery, is now lambasted for organising a concatenation of drinks parties and cake festivals.
The truth is probably that he unthinkingly let these things happen and that he absolutely shouldn’t have. However, there was a certain logical, unspoken hierarchy of rules, and Johnson was not barging into intensive care units or gate-crashing funerals. Many places of work, just like Downing Street, have continued to be staffed over the past two years and it is doubtful whether no birthday cakes were shared by staff behind the scenes at supermarkets or that the odd crate of beer didn’t make its way into delivery depots.
Without doubt Johnson should have done more to resist the authoritarian instincts of colleagues such as Hancock, Gove and Javid and the jackbooted enthusiasm with which rules were implemented by every petty official in the NHS, education, and almost every public sector institution you can think of, but every decision was taken against the baying of the opposition parties and the clamour of the media for ever more draconian measures. A sense of proportion and fairness is called for.
That jackbooted enthusiasm with which rules were implemented must concern anyone who lacks the jackboot gene. We certainly saw it in action and should not forget what we saw. And yes, every decision was taken against the baying of the opposition parties and the clamour of the media for ever more draconian measures. I wish Boris wasn't so sold on lunatic green policies though.
Saturday 5 February 2022
Online Safety Bill: Three new criminal offences to be added as government cracks down on revenge porn, hate crime and fraud
Under the new criminal offences added to the Online Safety Bill, people could face up to five years in prison for sending threatening communications to celebrities, MPs and other public figures...
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed the three criminal offences are to be included after reports from parliamentary committees warned the bill required strengthening and further clarity...
"This government said it would legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while enshrining free speech, and that's exactly what we are going to do," Ms Dorries said.
The safest place in the world to be online? Safer than China? Hate is the problem here. In the eyes of many, even blunt criticism can be defined as hate. Look at zero tolerance notices plastered around NHS hospitals.
Friday 4 February 2022
Southend West by-election: Anna Firth wins seat for Tories
The Conservatives have retained the seat of Southend West in a parliamentary by-election prompted by the fatal stabbing of MP Sir David Amess.
Anna Firth won with 12,792 votes in a contest that saw a low turnout of 24%...
The PA Media news agency said it had seen a number of the spoilt ballot papers containing messages directed against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
One featured the comment "Boris do a Brexit - get out", while another member of the electorate scrawled "Get Boris out".
Thursday 3 February 2022
One day this week found us sitting in the car after the morning school run. The road was still busy with school traffic so we were waiting for a few minutes while it became less frantic.
Just in front of our car was another car which had just arrived and parked by the kerb. The driver opened her door and as she did so, a cyclist came careering off the pavement behind her car straight into the road, just missing her open car door by swerving further out into the road.
Nothing was coming the other way so no harm was done, but we did wonder whose fault an accident would have been. The car driver did not appear to look behind her properly when she opened the door, but the cyclist rode like a loon. There was virtually no time to see him anyway.
Yet if there had been an accident and the cycle loon lied about his own behaviour, then the Highway Code hierarchy may well have worked against the car driver. Responsibility for the accident could have been loaded onto her.
COVID-19: UK approves Novavax protein-based vaccine for over-18s to tackle 'next phase' of pandemic
The Novavax vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective against a variety of variants, including Delta, in a US trial last year, with data in December suggesting it could also fight against Omicron.
The North Korean internet has been badly disrupted by the activities of a lone American hacker who has paralysed government-run websites and choked off email traffic in revenge for an earlier cyberattack directed against him by the Communist state.
The independent hacker, identified only as P4x, has according to reports repeatedly launched what are called “distributed denial of service” attacks, which shut down internet activity with a flood of traffic which overwhelm a system’s capacity to process it.
If one chap can do it from his house it sounds as if North Korea isn't much of a threat after all. Almost leads me to wonder if those images of North Korean missile launches even came from North Korea. They probably did I suppose, but it all sounds pretty ramshackle.
Wednesday 2 February 2022
BALLET-LOVERS browsing YouTube might come across videos of the Princeton University Ballet (PUB), a student club performing an art that marries the aesthetics of physical grace and music.
However, you should resist the temptation to watch. These talented young women represent racism, because ballet is an expression of white supremacy – and admiring racist art makes you complicit.
In a mode Kim Jong-un might admire, the administrators of PUB and the New Jersey-based university’s woke enforcers are making dancers undergo privilege indoctrination and take part in obligatory community work, because ballet is exclusive unless everyone gets the same chance to do it...
The administrators think ballet is not just racist. It is biased against people who are fat, have no dancing ability or are perhaps physically disabled. Ways must be found to help them pass auditions for an art form which depends on a high degree of athleticism and cohesiveness on the part of the dancers.
There is a bright side to this in that many people are likely to find such lunacy amusing rather than threatening. Ridicule is bound to follow and ridicule is always a risk for loons who take themselves seriously.
Tuesday 1 February 2022
John P.A. Ioannidis and Michaela C. Schippers have a useful piece published in Tablet about the damage done to democracies by the coronavirus debacle. It is titled Saving Democracy From the Pandemic.
COVID-19 has killed millions and threatened the prospects of democracy for billions more. Since early 2020, the world has witnessed a marked expansion of governmental decision-making regarding health. Lockdowns and curfews were instated in many countries, and many freedoms were taken away under the justification of a major health threat. Health authorities and politicians alluding to or exploiting health authorities acquired extraordinary power to regulate society at large, including the application of mandates...
Several governments responded to the lethal pandemic by undermining the very systems that were in place to ensure accountability and to protect public health and well-being. No single individual can be blamed for this—it was a systemic problem, as decisions taken by one government or government agency instantaneously affected the decisions of others. But the result was the restriction of basic freedoms and the normalization of scapegoating and exclusion, both historically a prelude to atrocities.
As the pandemic ebbs, the years ahead will help determine whether we as democratic citizens and free people are still capable of making our own decisions, pursuing happiness, and refraining from harm, without falling prey to the authoritarian temptations that have felled democracies in the past.
This seems to be the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves. Not the immediate post-pandemic situation, but an apparently intractable problem of correcting further democratic decline via peaceful traditional politics. Pursuing happiness won't do it.
Theresa May leads Tory MPs' anger against PM over parties
Former Prime Minister Theresa May has led Tory MPs' criticism of Boris Johnson over Downing Street parties, asking whether he had "read the rules".
Following the publication of Sue Gray's report on gatherings under Covid restrictions, she said her successor had to "set an example".
As Denis said in a similar context, it's like being savaged by a dead sheep.
|Sky above Bakewell on Sunday|
On Sunday we whizzed off for a short walk in the hills above Bakewell. The ground was still frosty when we set off, but it was a beautiful sunny day with a clear blue sky apart from all the vapour trails. The atmospheric conditions were probably just right for huge vapour trails and perhaps there were more aircraft than usual.
Maybe we also became used to clearer skies during the pandemic debacle, because once we were up on the hill, the number of vapour trails was so striking that it took something away from our view of the sky. Criss-crossing all over it as if trying to stitch together a vast layer of artificial cloud.