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


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.


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.


 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


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


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. 

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.