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.


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.


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


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. 

Thursday 12 May 2022

Fish just won't wear masks


A strange kind of power struggle

North Korea confirms first official COVID cases as leader Kim Jong Un orders strict lockdown

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says test samples from Sunday from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant...

To keep the virus from entering its territory, North Korea had closed its border to nearly all trade and visitors for two years, which shocked an economy already damaged by crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programme.

It is not obvious why North Korea and China are still taking such severe measures to combat a virus which seems to have become globally endemic but not particularly dangerous. As if the leadership in both countries feel their power must always be seen and felt to be greater than the power of the virus. A strange kind of power struggle perhaps.  
WHO chief slams China for its 'unsustainable' zero Covid policy... but Beijing CENSORS his comments amid warnings 1.6MILLION could die from 'tsunami' of infections
  • In a rare rebuke of the Communist party, WHO chief urged China to move away from the Zero Covid strategy
  • Most of 25m people living in Shanghai about to be hit with most severe restrictions in 7-week lockdown yet
  • Officials will stop all commercial food deliveries and ban all non-emergency visits to hospital, reports say

Wednesday 11 May 2022

Why the Narrative Always Collapses


A talk on mainstream media dishonesty by Wilfred Reilley - quite long but certainly worthwhile. 

From the YouTube introduction -

Author and Professor Wilfred Reilly joins Center of the American Experiment and TakeChargeMN to discuss how mainstream media push falsehoods about America, especially surrounding ideas of race, class, and crime.

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Fifty Years

Imagine a time machine which only makes journeys into the future and cannot make the return journey. Another restriction is that it only operates in increments of fifty years. It is possible to stop the machine anywhen within these limitations but not possible to go back.

The obvious question is how keen people might be to take advantage of this form of time travel. Not particularly keen is my guess. For example, I imagined using the machine for a single fifty year journey to see what our street will look like fifty years from now.

Not very imaginative but it’s a start. Here’s the first problem though – I find I have no idea what our street will look like fifty years from now. It is currently a street of houses mostly from the 1930s – will it look much the same in fifty years?

Obviously the parked cars won’t look the same in fifty years unless everyone turns into a vintage car enthusiast. But the street could have any appearance from much the same to largely derelict with a road full of potholes and thriving weeds.

Yet if I look back fifty years in the other direction to 1972, the street probably hasn’t changed drastically apart from the parked cars, double-glazed windows and various home improvement bits and pieces. Yet for some reason it feels unlikely that the next fifty years will not undergo a more substantial change.

I’m sure some of this negative outlook derives from our destructive culture of political pessimism. In spite of the Crimplene trousers and rusty cars, I recall 1972 as a more optimistic time. Now there is a pervasive sense that we are teetering on the edge of some kind of major decline or worse.

Hardly surprising I suppose - with so many political loons trying their best to undermine reality. Weeds and dereliction it is then – unless we actually do something about the loons before reality deals with the problem good and hard.

Monday 9 May 2022

Automated Political Advocacy

Armin Rosen has an interesting piece in Tablet on the Elon Musk purchase of Twitter and the powerful organisations opposed to any change in Twitter's political and social policies.

Elon Musk’s maybe-impending purchase of Twitter is being treated not as a mere business acquisition but as a kind of twilight battle over the fate of the American experiment...

On May 3, a trio of so-called “advocacy groups” sent a letter to Twitter’s major corporate advertisers, including image-conscious and regulation-sensitive heavyweights like Coca-Cola and Disney, urging them to pull their business from Twitter if Musk proves unwilling to censor speech on the platform to those organizations’ satisfaction. “Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety,” began the missive, distributed under the letterhead of Media Matters for America, Accountable Tech, and UltraViolet, and co-signed by another two dozen groups, including the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. These groups are promising to mobilize their activists, and whatever other resources they might have, to punish companies that will stick by Twitter if it junks its pre-Musk content moderation regime. The pitch was a simple one: Nice store you got there. It would be a shame if someone threw a rock through your window.

The whole piece is well worth reading for the way it highlights how well-funded, ruthless and almost routinely automated political advocacy could become.

What really unites these organizations isn’t an ideology or a common donor list or a shared agenda or the prominent place of the Democratic Party in the resumes of their leadership. What binds them is a project to expand the partisan battleground until nothing and no one is exempt from the end-times struggle they might sincerely believe themselves to be waging—not Elon Musk, not Coca-Cola, not Rick Ross. And not you, either.

Bus and Cyclist

Police name cyclist who died in Lambeth bus collision as detectives appeal for witnesses

Detectives have named a cyclist who died after a collision with a bus in south London as they continue to appeal for witnesses and footage from the incident

A tragedy for the cyclist and his family but the following story has nothing whatever to do with that particular accident. It is a reminder of another story recently related to us by our friendly bus driver concerning the perils of driving a bus in Nottingham.

One day quite recently, our bus driver was waiting at traffic lights when he heard an unusual scraping or dragging sound from the pavement side of his bus. Glancing in his left hand mirror he saw a cyclist with one foot on the pavement trying to drag his cycle along a very narrow strip of road between bus and kerb. It was a kind of hop and drag approach.

If the lights changed and the bus had simply started off, it isn't easy to see what the cyclist's best course of action would be. Jump onto the pavement and leave his cycle to its fate probably. Obvious really, but this is just one reason why bus drivers always, always have to check both mirrors before moving off. Especially in cities where many road users just seem to trust to luck.

Sunday 8 May 2022

The magic of generalisation

An obvious incapacity for abstract conceptions made him peculiarly susceptible to the magic of generalization, and one felt he would have been at the mercy of any Cause that spelled itself with a capital letter.

Edith Wharton - Crucial Instances (1901)

The public domain is crowded with abstract ideas, but like Marley’s ghost shackled to his cash boxes, abstract concepts can drag a heavy load of uncertainties and caveats behind them. Away with all that - politically, it is much simpler to use crude generalisations.

A good example of Edith Wharton’s point is the modern growth of fact-checking, as if facts are all we require to set aside the labyrinthine complexities of real life. Even the notion of authoritative fact-checking is a covert generalisation. Facts have to be selected, but who makes the selection?

As a more specific example we could consider an abstract concept such as the scientific method as applied to climate change. Climate change as sold by the media sweeps aside the scientific method and other boring but necessary abstractions such as evidence and uncertainty. It simply replaces difficult and undramatic abstractions with the magic of generalisation such as virtually all scientists agree…

We saw something broadly similar during the coronavirus debacle except that here in the UK the scientists were plonked behind public lecterns. Abstract concepts such as diagnostic uncertainty and uncertainties around draconian and horribly expensive public mitigation policies were swept aside by the magic of generalisation implied by those lecterns. It was almost identical to virtually all scientists agree…

We see it again in the Ukraine conflict where abstract concepts such as evidence and the uncertainty of sources have been swept aside by the magic of good guy / bad guy generalisations with which we are all familiar. To a significant degree, this one is sold as all decent people agree…

And of course we’ll see it again…. And again…

A Boris Davey Revival

Local elections 2022: Signs of a Lib Dem revival may worry Tory MPs more than Labour's gains in London

As Tories gear up for a by-election in the Devon seat of the disgraced former MP Neil Parish, it may be the threat of a growing Lib Dem support that gets Tory MPs' nerves jangling rather than events in London.

The threat of a growing Lib Dem support may owe something to a suspicion that it doesn't make much difference which of the major parties is awarded the poisoned chalice. Maybe Labour harbours more fools and more malice but...

Net Zero, no bonfire of the quangos, no hard-nosed dismissal of political correctness, no alternatives to the pandemic debacle, no NHS reform and so on and so on. It has become very easy to understand why people don't vote. 

Saturday 7 May 2022



After a short walk in the hills around Cromford, we visited St. Mary’s Church. It isn't often open and although we've walked by it lots of time, we'd never been inside before.

In the Parish of Cromford, on Mill Lane, is the Parish Church of St. Mary’s.

Originally planned as a chapel for Willersley Castle, by Sir Richard Arkwright, St. Mary’s was completed five years after Sir Richard Arkwright’s death in 1797.

It's an interesting church but there weren't many visitors. A chap handing out leaflets told us the congregation has declined to about twenty people and they are mostly in their seventies. "It's going the way of all churches," he said.

Friday 6 May 2022

Beergate Boondoggle

Beergate: Sir Keir Starmer insists he did not breach lockdown rules

The Labour leader was pictured drinking a beer and eating a curry with colleagues in Durham during the Hartlepool by-election last year, when COVID restrictions meant indoor mixing between households was banned.

To my mind this is an example of something important about the political classes. They accuse the other lot of having done something wrong while knowing they have done the same thing. It's not a comment on this particular bit of tedium, but the wider problem of how the political classes are clearly uninterested in trust.

Politically trust should be a vote winner but the political classes make little sustained effort to acquire and keep hold of it. In other words, they don't seem to value trust. Maybe trust isn't a vote winner - it's not how most voters are persuaded to vote this way or that. 

Speaker and Listener

Yesterday morning found us sitting outside in the sunshine at one of our favourite cafes, chatting over coffee. The table next to us was occupied by a couple of chaps also chatting over coffee, but it was extremely noticeable that one of them spoke for at least ninety percent of the time. His companion was permitted only the occasional interjection.

To begin with, the compulsive talker described his forthcoming holiday in great detail. It was obviously a moderately exotic package holiday, although he managed to make it sound curiously dull and uninteresting, as if describing a stepwise routine such as how to make pancakes.

In short, the talkative chap came across as a bore. At one point he’d been holding forth continuously for quite a few minutes when the other chap tried to interrupt. “Just let me finish,” replied the bore before carrying on.

The bore was of course mainly talking to himself, performing the role of both speaker and listener in the same skin. His companion effectively tried to interrupt both speaker and listener, but as a listener, the bore was determined to hear the end of his own story. That’s how it came across to this unwilling listener.

As always the coffee was very good.

Thursday 5 May 2022

They gather wisdom with amazing rapidity

At seventy, men begin to be separated from their fellow-creatures. At eighty, they are like islets sticking out of a sea. At eighty-five, with their trembling and deliberate speech, they are the abstract voice of human wisdom. They gather wisdom with amazing rapidity in the latter years, and even their folly is wise then.

Arnold Bennett – Sacred and Profane Love (1905)

It isn’t difficult to think of exceptions to that notion. Joe Biden, Jeremy Corbyn, Prince Charles, David Attenborough, Michael Heseltine, Edward Heath…

Hmm - I’ll stop there. The list could be far longer than I initially imagined.



That's really spooky! Belief in the paranormal is a sign of someone who trusts their instincts, researchers say

  • People who believe in the paranormal have a different way of thinking
  • Researchers claim that those who believe in ghosts trust in their gut feelings
  • Sceptics who do not believe in the paranormal are likely to be more analytical
Belief in the paranormal explains a far-sized chunk of modern politics. Voting for spooky people with paranormal policies for example. Some of them certainly send shivers down my spine.

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Maybe Spam counts as a 'value brand'

Buy 'value brands', cabinet minister says, as shop prices increase at fastest rate in more than a decade

A cabinet minister has been accused of being out of touch after suggesting that consumers facing the biggest rise in shop prices in more than a decade should buy "value brands".

George Eustice, the environment secretary, said that it would "undoubtedly put a pressure on household budgets" already facing soaring energy bills.

In a wider context we could ask if the Conservative and Unionist Party is a value brand. Or Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens. It's a rhetorical question of course - none of them are good value.

Is a tin of Spam better value than George Eustice though? Could be but unfortunately we can't vote for tins of Spam tomorrow - we're stuck with the poor value brands.

Tuesday 3 May 2022

Curry, rice and naan bread

Jordan Tyldesley has a piece in CAPX about the obsessive focus on trivia within British politics. The piece covers familiar ground but does highlight a major problem, perhaps the major political problem of our times.

When did British politics become so deeply unserious? On a continent at war, with the price of just about everything surging, swathes of our media remain transfixed by the crucial question of ‘who ate and drank what during the pandemic?’.

The circus has now arrived at Labour’s door, and Keir Starmer apparently enjoying a perhaps-somewhat-against-regulations beer with colleagues after a work event in Durham.

It’s hard to imagine Woodward and Bernstein writing this paragraph from a recent Mail on Sunday write-up.

‘In a further twist, a delivery driver for an Indian restaurant yesterday claimed that he had dropped off ‘quite a big order’ at the hall of ‘about four bags’ of curry, rice and naan bread.’

One possible conclusion is that British politics has become deeply unserious because the general drift of national politics would not stand up to serious analysis. Our political classes are there for various reasons, but the hard slog of serious analysis is not usually one of them. Voters aren't keen on it either.

Monday 2 May 2022

Sounds Risky

Reunited at last: Emotional Brits finally see loved ones in New Zealand for the first time in two years after government dropped pandemic border restrictions
  • Grandparents met their grandchildren and families shared hugs and tears at the arrivals gate in Auckland
  • Travellers received a traditional Māori waiata welcome and were handed locally made chocolate bars
  • Tourists from over 50 countries are allowed to visit for the first time in two years as the borders opened again
  • Any foreign visitors need to be vaccinated and are asked to test themselves for the virus after arriving
  • But most tourists from India, China and other non-waiver countries are still not allowed to enter the country

The risk for visitors is obvious enough - the sudden imposition of more draconian restrictions triggered by virtually any event or situation related to the virus. 

Dim Scammers

Mrs H received another scam text this morning, the one about Royal Mail having tried to deliver a package so the recipient is invited click a link to resolve the issue. I've received a few of them too. In this case the name of the poor chap supposedly trying but failing to deliver the package was 'Simon'.

Apart from it being an obvious scam, apart from Royal Mail supposedly delivering packages on a Bank Holiday, the time of the text when 'Simon' tried to deliver the package was 3:45am.

It just isn't good enough - dim scammers need to raise their game if they expect us to take them seriously and actually do some investigation. A quick lesson on global time zones would be a good start in this case, because the text probably didn't originate in the UK. Royal Mail isn't that keen.

Sunday 1 May 2022

Lectra Motors the Tesla of 1981


Boris will be Boris... again

In The Critic, James Kirkup has a particularly interesting piece on Boris Johnson.

When I was starting out in newspapers in the 1990s, I used to say that my career ambition was to be an ex-editor. It seemed to me that the people who had the very best of Fleet Street were the ones who’d once run the place then stepped down or — more often — been given the push. Accustomed to passing authoritative judgement on the events of the day, the ex-ed crew could hold forth as columnists and authors. The grandest collected glittering prizes: Oxbridge masterships and seats in the Lords. The pay-off cheques were nice too.

The point was that former editors had made their bones. It didn’t really matter whether they’d run their paper well or badly. They’d done a job that few others had. They had standing, the right to speak, and be heard — because of what they used to do. Boris Johnson understands this very well, and not just because he technically qualifies for the ex-editor title, having — nominally, at least — run the Spectator. It’s one of the reasons he’ll be a very good, and happy, ex-prime minister.

The whole piece is well worth reading as an entirely plausible take on the shallow character and ambitions of Boris Johnson. Not an unfamiliar angle in view of his career to date, but well worth revisiting. Brexit for example. Remain would have left Boris with nothing to talk and write about after his stint as prime minister.

There, his status as ex-prime minister will give him standing nonpareil. Name your subject, the words of the former leader of a nuclear-armed G7 State will carry some weight, or least some interest.

Remember: after Johnson was binned as May’s foreign secretary, he didn’t miss a beat before returning to the Telegraph as a columnist, and not just because he had (very considerable) bills to pay. It’s what he knows, what he is. What he’ll be even after he’s done being prime minister.