Monday, 31 October 2022
N. Korean armored vehicle overturns during military exercise, leading to injuries
“With somebody unused to armored vehicles taking the wheel, an accident was inevitable,” a source told Daily NK
As for the cause of the accident, the source said the soldiers in question ordinarily learn only theoretical knowledge about armored vehicles; they had been unable to engage in proper driving practice due to fuel shortages.
Hmm - so the accident may have occurred because the driver only had theoretical knowledge. In a much wider context this seems to be a global problem. The parallels become even more marked.
The source said North Korean mechanized units do not ordinarily carry out driving exercises or drills because armored vehicles guzzle fuel, adding that commanders are busy filling their own pockets by selling the oil they receive for drills.
“This being the case, it’s difficult to imagine soldiers improving their driving skills,” he said.
The source further explained that simply serving in a technical branch of the military does not ensure that soldiers actually learn the skills they are supposed to learn.
Sunday, 30 October 2022
Scotland's 'green' ferry to begin service using diesel fuel
One of the ferries in a controversial Scottish government contract will initially only operate on diesel - despite being built to also run with liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The Glen Sannox is one of two delayed and overbudget dual-fuel vessels.
Builder Ferguson Marine has told MSPs a "technical issue" had delayed part of the LNG system by at least nine months.
The vessel was once hailed as a step towards a greener future for Scotland's state-owned CalMac ferry fleet.
Saturday, 29 October 2022
Returned to his room he gently whistled an old-fashioned melody; his face passed from grave thoughtfulness to a merry smile. Before going to bed he meant to write a letter, but there was no hurry; two hours had to pass before the midnight collection.
George Gissing - The Town Traveller (1898)
My aunt once had an old postcard written by one of her sisters. It had been posted in Derby to my aunt who lived in a village about six miles from Derby. Posted in the morning, it was sent to arrange a visit in the afternoon of the same day. The postcard arrived on time.
King Charles attending COP27 would be 'very powerful', US climate envoy John Kerry says
The US special envoy on climate change says that nearly every government in the world is failing to reduce emissions at the pace needed to avoid what the UN warns could be catastrophic temperature rises.
Friday, 28 October 2022
Mattias Desmet has a very interesting Tablet piece on the transition from democracy to totalitarian technocracy.
COVID-19 and the Psychology of Totalitarianism
The transition from democracy to totalitarian technocracy is not an elite conspiracy, but the process of a whole society succumbing to a new dominant ideology
It is clear to most rational observers that COVID-19 had a totalizing effect on society and its institutions. The long-term mass formation that existed during the coronacrisis could not have been maintained without all kinds of steering and intentional manipulation. With the means available to today’s media, the possibilities are simply phenomenal.
Such steering, however, is rarely done by individual persons; the most fundamental steering is impersonal in nature. The steering is first and foremost driven by an ideology—a way of thinking. Ideologies organize and structure society progressively and organically.
The whole piece is well worth reading as another aspect of the idea that current totalitarian trends are driven by conspiracies. In a sense they are conspiracies in that leaders ride the trends and try to control and promote them, but they are also reacting, not necessarily steering.
In the process of exercising power—i.e., shaping the world to ideological beliefs—there usually is no need to make secret plans and agreements. As Noam Chomsky put it, if you have to tell someone what to do, you’ve chosen the wrong person. In other words: The dominant ideology selects who ends up in key positions. Someone who does not share the ideology is usually less successful in society, apart from a few exceptions. Consequently, all people in positions of power automatically follow the same rules in their thinking and in their behavior and are under the influence of the same “attractors” (to use a term from complex dynamical systems theory). Furthermore, they all succumb to the same logical fallacies and the same absurd behavior, independently of each other, or at least without having to gather in secret meetings. Compare it to computers running on the same, wrong software: Their “behavior” and their “thinking” will all deviate in the same direction, without “communicating” with one another. This is what the Sierpinski triangle shows us: Mind-blowingly precise and regular patterns can arise because individuals independently follow the same simple rules of behavior and are attracted to the same set of attractors. The puppet master is the ideology, not the elite.
In their endeavors to impose their ideals on society, institutions and people do indeed cross ethical boundaries, and when things get out of hand, their strategies may indeed devolve into a conspiracy: a secret, intentional, planned, and malicious project. It is also well known that, as the process of totalitarianization continues, the totalitarian regime is increasingly organized as a fully fledged “secret society.” We have seen that the Holocaust came about through a mind-boggling process of mass formation that blinded both the perpetrators and the victims and drew them into an infernal dynamic. However, there was also an intentional plan, which had as its purpose to systematically optimize racial purity through sterilization and elimination of all impure elements. There were approximately five people who patiently and systematically prepared the entire Holocaust destruction apparatus, and they managed to make all the rest of the system cooperate with it in total blindness for a long time. Those who did see what was going on—namely, that the concentration camps were in fact extermination camps—were accused of being ... conspiracy theorists.
Thursday, 27 October 2022
Labour tells MP Nadia Whittome to delete Rishi Sunak tweet
“Keir - I need to speak to you about media headlines”
“It’s about Nadia…”
“She’s good isn’t she? Another headline only recently.”
“Yes Keir, but have you seen what’s behind the headline?”
“Why – it’s not bad is it? Not another of those pervy stories?”
“No it’s just –read the story itself.”
“Well she has merely… good grief. I don’t mind our people being a little behind the curve, but there are limits. Great heavens - we must have limits. Can’t we have a test or something? Keep out anyone who is actually – you know – a bit short on grey matter?”
“That’s my point Keir. We need to control the dim ones. You know who they are and so do the media of course. Usually it doesn’t matter too much, but we need to steer clear of being labelled the thick party.”
“Well surely that’s what we are because disadvantaged voters need somewhere to go. I take your point though, we don’t actually want the label Nadia seems keen to give us. Good grief she’s dim enough for two. Where did we find her?”
“I don’t know. Could have been one of our trawler sessions among mouthy radicals, but I don’t know.”
“So if we cut to the chase - how many do we have who could be exposed as irretrievably dim?”
"Quite a few. Angela – ”
“Oh hell… On second thoughts I don’t want to know. This job is so exhausting.”
Wednesday, 26 October 2022
All men know—in imagination or in experience—the sensation of being spied on. The nerves tingle, the skin grows hot and prickly, and there is a queer sinking of the heart.
John Buchan - No-Man's-Land (1899)
There is probably no queer sinking of the heart because we’ve adapted to it. We see the cameras, not all of them, but we know they are there unless we are away from it all in the countryside, the hills or remote places where cameras have yet to invade. Even then - well there may be a drone around taking videos of the landscape, and people in the landscape.
It isn’t like that sensation where you are sitting in a café and someone looks at you, so you turn your head because somehow you know someone is looking at you. Ubiquitous cameras don’t create this sensation, the sensation Buchan wrote about over a century ago. Now we are spied on in ways which are much more effective than he could ever have envisaged.
Rishi Sunak's 'tough decisions' evident in his home town of Southampton
Energy costs, lagging wages and long hospital waiting lists are some of the issues the new prime minister faces - and they're deeply felt by people in the city where he grew up.
Tough decisions? This one is pretty feeble -
Rishi Sunak reinstates fracking ban in another reversal of Truss policy
Liz Truss lifted the ban on fracking for shale gas the Tories implemented in 2019 as she said it will help with rising energy costs. But the measure was not backed by many Tories whose constituents are against fracking in their areas.
Tuesday, 25 October 2022
Well - our rural Norfolk silence didn't last long. What looked like RAF Typhoons cavorting across the sky above saw to that.
Monday, 24 October 2022
Martine Croxall: BBC News presenter being investigated over impartiality
It follows complaints on social media that she displayed bias while hosting Sunday's newspaper review programme.
As The Papers programme began just after 22:30 on Sunday evening, Croxall told viewers: "Well this is all very exciting isn't it? Welcome to our lookahead to what the papers will be bringing us tomorrow. Am I allowed to be this gleeful? Well I am."
Surely the missing word is "serfs". Maybe it was lost in translation.
A source in North Korea told Daily NK on Monday that the authorities carried out the selection in Pyongyang from July, and that “800 to 1,000” workers were recruited...
In particular, the source said most of the people who volunteered to work in the Donbas hail from areas outside of Pyongyang. He said since provincial people are on the verge of death either way, they volunteered “ready to die just to hold a single dollar bill, even if they have to pay their planned contributions.”
This means provincial residents suffering from economic distress volunteered to head overseas and make money, even in the face of physical danger and excessive “loyalty fund’ payments.
Sunday, 23 October 2022
Of course five-and-twenty of them took it for granted you would pay so much a week and ask no questions. They would just not have starved the baby, — unless you had hinted to them that you were willing to pay a lump sum for a death-certificate, in which case the affair would have been more or less skilfully managed.
George Gissing - In the Year of Jubilee (1894)
“Now look ‘ere, if you’ll listen to reason I’ll talk to you. Yer mustn’t look upon me as a henemy. I’ve been a good friend to many a poor girl like you afore now, and I’ll be one to you if you’re sensible. I’ll do for you what I’m doing for the other girl. Give me five pounds–“
“Five pounds! I’ve only a few pence.”
“‘Ear me out. Go back to yer situation–she’ll take you back, yer suits the child, that’s all she cares about; ask ‘er for an advance of five pounds; she’ll give it when she ‘ears it is to get rid of yer child–they ‘ates their nurses to be a-‘ankering after their own, they likes them to be forgotten like; they asks if the child is dead very often, and won’t engage them if it isn’t, so believe me she’ll give yer the money when yer tells ‘er that it is to give the child to someone who wants to adopt it. That’s what you ‘as to say.”
“And you’ll take the child off my hands for ever for five pounds?”
“Yes; and if you likes to go out again as wet-nurse, I’ll take the second off yer ‘ands too, and at the same price.”
George Moore – Esther Waters (1899)
Today we have other methods.
Saturday, 22 October 2022
We recently visited our local garden centre which as usual is getting ready for Christmas. A sea of glittery tat gradually taking shape where not so long ago it was outdoor furniture, barbecue hardware and even some gardening sundries.
Not only that, but on the way to Norfolk we stopped off at another garden centre for a break and a coffee and they were at it too. Another sea of glittery tat in the construction stage and to my eye, much of it was the same glittery tat. No doubt from the same Chinese container ship.
There is nothing quite like Christmas for plunging the knife into consumer society. If it wasn’t for the risk of making common cause with environmental nutters, it would be easy to take seriously the notion that Something Must Be Done.
Before Christmas, we have totally ghastly Halloween of course. Then Guy Fawkes Night or whatever we choose to call it. Then after Christmas we have New Year.
We're on holiday in Norfolk again, a small village not far from the coast and by gum it's quiet. Virtually no traffic, nobody wandering past babbling loudly into their mobile phone, no aircraft from East Midlands Airport droning overhead, no cars rushing past emitting a thud, thud, thud of dork "music".
I exaggerate of course, our little corner of Derbyshire isn't particularly noisy at all, only when compared to a dark night in a tiny Norfolk village. Which has reminded me to check if the Noise Abatement Society is still around - and it is. I haven't heard anything from them for ages.
Friday, 21 October 2022
Calls for Liz Truss not to take yearly £115,000 as ex-prime minister
Sir Keir Starmer has called on Liz Truss not to claim an allowance of up to £115,000 a year that she would be entitled to after resigning as PM.
Liz Truss announced her resignation from the lectern outside No 10 on Thursday after just 44 days in the job.
Our lives seem to be made up of apparently haphazard episodes, some meaningless, others important, and although we do live principally with our families and friends and neighbours, I find that people I hardly know have sometimes walked casually into my life, and influenced it, and then walked out of it as casually as they came in.
Booth Tarkington - Women (1925)
Thursday, 20 October 2022
Spam and fish head sales 'up a third' as shoppers try to save money
People are increasingly looking for ways to save cash as food price inflation hits a 42-year high - with Waitrose saying more shoppers are bargain hunting and using cheaper cuts of meat and fish.
And while fish heads may not be to everyone's taste, sales are up 34% this year as people increasingly use them in curries, soups, stews and stocks.
Chaos among Tory MPs as Labour motion to force vote on fracking bill is defeated
Politicians have claimed Conservative MPs were being 'manhandled' and 'bullied' into voting with the government to oppose a ban on fracking, counter to what the party's manifesto said in 2019.
Politicians have claimed Conservative MPs were being "manhandled" and bullied into voting with the government to oppose a ban, counter to what their party manifesto said in 2019.
Wednesday, 19 October 2022
Three examples of a sharp social division as illustrated in a Victor Whitechurch detective novel written almost a century ago. The division here is between Mr Proctor of the professional classes and Jim Webb, an ordinary working man. The person addressing them both is a senior police officer.
“Well,” he said, as he went up to him, “you gave your evidence well today, my man. We like a witness who speaks out plainly, and you did it.”
“You may be able to help us. Now then, Webb,” and he took out his notebook.
“Where’s your home?”
“All right, so long as you keep in touch with us. That’s all for the present. Thank you very much, Mr Proctor. You can go, Webb.” Mr Proctor rose from his chair, crossed the room and showed Webb out of the door.
Victor Whitechurch - The Templeton Case (1924)
Common enough in novels of the period, although better writers were less likely to emphasise social distinctions in this way. Unless servants were being addressed of course. It was a different world and in certain respects, perhaps less familiar to us than we may imagine.
In other respects, it is entirely familiar. We are not surprised if a confirmed social climber talks down to those lower down the social hierarchy. Neither are we surprised to find that politics and government attract professional social climbers. Do they look down on us? Of course they do, but now they disguise it.
Fly-tippers regard fines as 'business expenses' as government approach to waste crime criticised by MPs
Rather than cracking down on illegal activity, the government's approach is closer to "decriminalisation", the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said...
The targets set in place four years ago by the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime are moving at a "slow and piecemeal" pace, with some measures such as the digital tacking of rubbish still in the pilot stages, the report found.
The digital tracking of rubbish might sound like a route towards more bureaucracy. That's because it is.
Policy paper Mandatory digital waste tracking
Tuesday, 18 October 2022
NHS England setting up 'war rooms' to prepare for 'toughest winter on record'
This year, the NHS is expecting to face more than a "twindemic" during the winter months, with modelling suggesting respiratory infections could occupy up to half of all hospital beds in the country.
The NHS is setting up data-driven "war rooms" as it prepares for what could be England's "toughest winter on record", new plans have revealed.
War rooms indeed. As if they intend to treat the whole thing as a TV drama. Doctors and nurses urgently hurtling down hospital corridors flashing meaningful glares at each other. Surly glances in the operating theatre. Tense conflicts over critical diagnoses and lashings of emotional blackmail.
We associate these losses with childhood, but when they were lost, they were lost to technological progress and the expanded boundaries of ordinary life. There is no going back.
China's 'Bridge Man' inspires Xi Jinping protest signs around the world
A rare one-man protest against Xi Jinping in Beijing has inspired solidarity protests around the world as China's party congress sits this week.
Last Thursday, a man strung banners across a bridge in China's capital that accused Mr Xi of being a dictator.
He was quickly detained but photos of his action spread around the world.
"Bridge watchers" have been stationed at crossings across Beijing since last week's protest
The courage it took is obvious. It does not seem likely that this protest could ever make a significant difference to the regime, but he still did it. Yet even though the story goes all round the world, what difference could it make?
M25 Dartford Crossing closed as protesters climb bridge
The climate change campaign group Just Stop Oil says it expects its two supporters to remain on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge for 24 hours.
Police received reports of protesters scaling the bridge's masts at the Dartford Crossing at 03:50 BST.
Monday, 17 October 2022
Chongjin residents unhappy with order to contribute 100 kilograms of scrap metal
One neighborhood watch unit in the city instructed families to contribute KPW 100,000 in cash if they have no scrap metal, a source told Daily NK
According to the source, the people’s committee of Chongjin had previously held an emergency meeting of neighborhood office heads, with the committee handing families in each neighborhood watch unit an “additional” task to procure scrap metal. The committee called on families to carry out this task by Dec. 10.
Every year, North Korean authorities task families in each neighborhood watch unit with contributing a year’s worth of all sorts of items, including scrap metal. The authorities evaluate residents’ performance of these tasks through quarterly reviews.
Their world is more bizarre than ours. Well - at the moment it is. Do North Koreans lock up their bicycles every time this demand comes along? If the UK government comes up with a similar idea, then HS2 will never be finished.
I recently picked up an early copy of Bruce Bairnsfather’s humorous and popular account of his experiences in the Great War. He is best known for his 'Old Bill' cartoon character which even appeared on pottery. Here is a copy of one of his sketches from the book and an episode where he tried his hand at a sniper's role.
|THE USUAL LINE IN BILLETTING FARMS: A THREE-SIDED RED TILED |
BUILDING, WITH A RECTANGULAR SMELL IN THE MIDDLE
This ability to wander around and creep about various parts of our position, led to my getting an idea, which nearly finished my life in the cottage, village, or even Belgium. I suddenly got bitten with the sniping fever, and it occurred to me that, with my facilities for getting about, I could get into a certain mangled farm on our left and remain in the roof unseen in daylight. From there I felt sure that, with the aid of a rifle, I could tickle up a Boche or two in their trenches hard by.
I was immensely taken with this idea. So, one morning (like Robinson Crusoe again) I set off with my fowling-piece and ammunition, and crawled towards the farm. I got there all right, and entering the dark and evil-smelling precincts, searched around for a suitable sniping post. I saw a beam overhead in a corner from which, if I could get on to it, I felt sure I should obtain a view of the enemy trenches through a gap in the tiled roof. I tied a bit of string to my rifle and then jumping for the beam, scrambled up on it and pulled the rifle up after me. When my heart pulsations had come down to a reasonable figure I peered out through the hole in the tiles. An excellent view! The German parapet a hundred yards away! Splendid!
Now I felt sure I should see a Boche moving about or something; or I might possibly spot one looking over the top.
I waited a long time on that beam, with my loaded rifle lying in front of me. I was just getting fed up with the waiting, and about to go away, when I thought I saw a movement in the trench opposite. Yes! it was. I saw the handle of something like a broom or a water scoop moving above the sandbags. Heart doing overtime again! Most exciting! I felt convinced I should see a Boche before long. And then, at last, I saw one—or rather I caught a glimpse of a hat appearing above the line of the parapet. One of those small circular cloth hats of theirs with the two trouser buttons in front.
Up it came, and I saw it stand out nice and clear against the skyline. I carefully raised my rifle, took a steady aim, and fired. I looked: disappearance of hat! I ejected the empty cartridge case, and was just about to reload when, whizz, whistle, bang, crash! a shell came right at the farm, and exploded in the courtyard behind. I stopped short on the beam. Whizz, whistle, bang, crash! Another, right into the old cowshed on my left. Without waiting for any more I just slithered down off that beam, grabbed my rifle and dashing out across the yard back into the ditch beyond, started hastily scrambling along towards the end of one of our trenches. As I went I heard four more shells crash into that farm.
It was at this moment that I coined the title of one of my sketches, "They've evidently seen me," for which I afterwards drew the picture near Wulverghem. I got back to our cottage, crawled into the hole in the floor, and thought things over. They must have seen the flash of my rifle through the tiles, and, suspecting possible sniping from the farm, must have wired back to their artillery, "Snipingberg from farmenhausen hoch!" or words to that effect.
Altogether a very objectionable episode.
Bruce Bairnsfather – Bullets and Billets (1916)
Sunday, 16 October 2022
Exact temperature you should set your thermostat to keep warm and save money
But, thankfully, experts have now revealed the temperature you should set your thermostat at to keep your house warm and also save money.
Charity Age UK says the elderly should heat their main living area to 21c, with the rest of their home at 18c. Low temperatures are a particular issue for older generations. If a room is less than 9c, it can cause hypothermia, according to British Gas.
So not exactly exact, but somewhere between 18 and 21 depending on age and what you can afford. One of the comments raised a smile.
They are oblivious to what you can afford on a pension. We are at the moment burning paper in a saucepan just to warm our feet. Luckily, we get plenty of leaflets from them funeral companies and those that want to steal the house.
It is only by a convention that the Pastoral Symphony is thought better art than Tarara-boom-deay. Perhaps, in two or three hundred years, when everything is done by electricity and every one is equal, when we are all happy socialists, with good educations and better morals, Beethoven’s complexity will be like a mass of wickedness, and only the plain, honest homeliness of the comic song will appeal to our simple feelings.
W. Somerset Maugham - Mrs. Craddock (1902)
It has all happened rather sooner than William expected, although we do seem to be bungling our way into a future where everything isn’t done by electricity. The moronic music in our local Co-op isn’t a series of comic songs either. It’s even worse than Tarara-boom-deay, but the idea is similar enough.
It may also be worth adding that everything done for the elites may be done by electricity if not for the rest of us, so 8/10 I’d say.
Home Secretary to crack down on 'disruptive' protests with new bill
The home secretary has unveiled plans for a major crackdown on disruptive protests carried out by environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
Suella Braverman says the new Public Order Bill will stop demonstrators holding the public "to ransom".
Environmental groups including Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have staged various protests and demonstrations in recent months, causing disruption to commuters and traffic in central London.
It always strikes this observer that 'protest' and 'protester' are not the best words for the kind of 'look at me' activity given as examples here. We'd expect the BBC to use the word because it carries a note of approval, but the egoistic, virtue-signalling, self-approval aspect ends up being omitted.
It is yet another aspect of our cultural decline that we do not see stronger and more accurate language in the media when political approval lurks behind the narrative. Of course, if we were to use a word such as 'freeloaders' as a standard term, even the BBC may begin to feel a little uncomfortable.
Freeloaders it is then.
Saturday, 15 October 2022
Geoff Leo of CBC News has one of those strange stories of claimed but disputed indigenous ancestry.
Indigenous groups rally around Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond amid calls for proof of her Cree ancestry
Indigenous organizations in Saskatchewan and British Columbia are expressing support for Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in the wake of a CBC News investigation into her claims to Indigenous ancestry.
But some Indigenous scholars are calling on the prominent academic and former judge — she is a professor at UBC and was on the bench in Saskatchewan — to answer the questions it raised.
For decades, Turpel-Lafond has claimed to be a treaty Indian of Cree descent. However, when challenged, she has refused to provide evidence of her claims.
Worth reading because of the curious divide it highlights, how even an individual can become in a sense, too big to fail.
On Wednesday evening, hours after CBC's story was published, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) said in a statement Turpel-Lafond "has been a fierce, ethical, and groundbreaking advocate for Indigenous peoples for decades."
Her integrity "is beyond reproach," the organization said.
The UBCIC also said CBC has no business investigating Turpel-Lafond's — or anyone else's — claims to Indigenous identity.
And yet -
None of the organizations addressed the fact that Turpel-Lafond has failed to offer evidence of her ancestry. Experts note that membership in a First Nations community does not make one Indigenous.
Turpel-Lafond says her father was Cree and was raised by her grandparents, Dr. William Nicholson Turpel and his wife Eleanor. However, genealogical records show that William was of Irish, German and U.S. ancestry, while Eleanor was born in England to British parents.
Turpel-Lafond declined to explain this when asked by CBC News.
UK wardrobes stuffed with unworn clothes, study shows
A quarter of the clothes in our wardrobes haven't been worn in a year, even though we're getting better at keeping them for longer, a study finds.
A survey by environmental group WRAP estimates that the UK's wardrobes hold 1.6 billion unworn garments.
"We are keeping our clothes for longer, but we've got more of them in our wardrobes, which means we're actually using them less," said WRAP's Sustainable Textiles Specialist Catherine Salvidge. "There's a real opportunity for us to be using the clothes that we have a lot more."
Friday, 14 October 2022
Utah is building a ‘15-minute city’ on the site of a former prison
Three out of four Americans believe it’s “better for the environment if houses are built farther apart”, according to a recent survey by the polling group YouGov.
Three out of every four Americans are, for the most part, very wrong.
City living is far more sustainable than suburban life in part because walking, biking and public transportation keep people out of cars. A 2014 study from UC Berkeley found that the average carbon footprint of city households was about 10 metric tonnes of planet-heating carbon dioxide (CO2) less per year than homes in the suburbs.
In Utah, plans are underway to take this eco-friendliness to the next level with a “15-minute city”. The concept, developed by urban planner Carlos Moreno, describes neighbourhoods where residents can reach everything they need – work, school, shopping, entertainment – with a short walk or bike ride.
Built on the site of a former prison - it sounds appropriate somehow. Here's a guess to stir into the eco-mix - rich people won't live there.
Uncertainty – there is more of it around than we admit. It gives rise to a very familiar problem which never goes away – many people have fixed views about major social and political issues where uncertainty should be an important consideration. Too often we see a divisive impetus towards one heavily promoted official viewpoint versus sceptics trying to dodge censorship.
We may also see a neutral zone which includes the ‘don’t knows’, but this tends to seem rather an inadequate standpoint when invective rules the debate. Yet there are circumstances where the ‘don’t know zone’ has its attractions. Suppose we take the election of Joe Biden as an example.
The establishment consensus says Biden was elected legitimately. Asserted with diminishing enthusiasm perhaps, but rock-solid legitimacy is the establishment claim. Many Trump supporters and others say he was not elected legitimately, yet to a good approximation, nobody appears to know with any degree of certainty.
If there was extensive fraud and it occurred in a fragmented, low-level manner, then it is possible that nobody knows the extent of it. By its very nature it would be covert and if it was covert, fragmented and low level it could be impossible to quantify with a rational level of confidence. Vote counts could be insurmountably uncertain.
In spite of this, many people will cite sources to demonstrate the correctness of their viewpoint, pour scorn on their opponents and generally insist that Biden was elected legitimately. Others will declare with equal conviction that he was elected fraudulently. It mostly depends on political affiliation.
Yet there is considerable interest to be derived from the don’t know zone. There was electoral fraud, there is always electoral fraud, but nobody appears to know if it made a decisive difference. That there are two convinced camps suggests that nobody knows is not an unreasonable assumption.
The assumption is an example of the middle ground fallacy if we assume that one side or the other has the correct answer. The election cannot be both legitimate and not legitimate. Yet if we don’t know then it is at least worth taking a look at that middle ground as in this case the fallacy may not be resolvable.
If we chose the don’t know zone, then it’s 50/50, the toss of a coin. Heads says Joe Biden was elected legitimately, tails says he was not. This is surely sufficiently appalling for anyone, but apparently not. The democratic world is not sufficiently horrified by the uncertain nature of the Biden election.
There is no need to express the issue more strongly to bring out the underlying problem, which isn’t only the Biden election, but future elections too. We have wandered into a situation where democratic elections are not securely democratic because they are not transparently secure. That’s something we do know.
Thursday, 13 October 2022
Senior Labour MP Christina Rees stripped of whip and suspended pending investigation
Christina Rees was shadow Welsh secretary under Jeremy Corbyn.
Christina Rees, who represents the constituency of Neath in south Wales, was shadow Welsh secretary under Jeremy Corbyn.
She will sit as an independent MP in the Commons until the investigation is concluded.
A quick check shows 14 people sitting as independent MPs in the House of Commons - the same number as the Lib Dems. Should they choose to unite, it would presumably make them the fastest growing party in the Commons.
Vlod Barchuk has an interesting TCW piece on Rupa Huq, race politics and the increasingly fragile electoral coalition of ethnic minorities.
Rupa Huq, only superficially bright
‘Not my president’, nearly everyone in the United States has shouted in recent years. But Donald Trump was the president and Joe Biden is, no matter how much anyone tries to deny it. And thus, as much as I would like it not to be true, Rupa Huq is my MP.
Ms Huq, the member for Ealing Central and Acton in West London, made an ass of herself at the Labour Party conference, telling a fringe meeting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng was only ‘superficially’ black.
Many minds must have boggled at this blunder when it first surfaced, because it shines such an extremely unflattering light on both race politics and the intellect of our MPs. Hence the title of the piece - "only superficially bright". The superficial aspect seems to be a major problem in public life.
I’ve never met Ms Huq, but Ealing Tories who have report that she is polite while still being a proper loony leftie. She has supported the censorship of peaceful pro-life campaigning within the vicinity of abortion clinics, decrying them as ‘weaponising rosary beads’. She attempted to defend her colleague Naz Shah’s anti-Semitism and said, before issuing a retraction, that a Labour Government could apologise for the creation of Israel.
The whole piece is well worth reading, but I'll also add two comments because the academic ability of our MPs appears to have become increasingly worthless in recent decades.
A PhD in 'cultural studies' is of about the same intellectual value as a cycling proficiency test.
This is an important point. When was the last time someone with a PhD said something at a political meeting so plainly stupid? What kind of university could award her a doctorate? She has been a senior lecturer. Imagine going to university and being taught by someone like her. The whole fabric of our tertiary education system is obviously being corrupted by the policy of inclusion. A professor used to command respect. It was a "calling", though I realise that Huq is not a professor.
Wednesday, 12 October 2022
Dr Matt Lodder is a historian of tattooing, and a senior lecturer in art history and theory at the University of Essex and believes it would have been impossible for him to have his job if he wasn’t visibly tattooed.
Matt started getting tattooed in his late teens, but only got his first visible ink after he got his PHD in tattooing, he decided to get his first visible tattoo.
“For me it was a very important signal about, the kind of career I was going into,” he says.
Okay - a PhD in tattooing is new to me but I'll give my prejudices yet another airing and assume the university numbers game had some influence there. This second snippet of information wasn't a surprise though.
Krissie Langley is a tattoo artist based in Sheffield who takes care to explain to her customers what impact hand and neck tattoos could have on their future jobs.
“Some of them haven’t thought about it until I said it. They just want to look cool; they want to impress people,” she says.
Some of them haven't thought about it? No - that one isn't as surprising as the PhD in tattooing.
Some Tory MPs in talks with Labour to block fracking plans
Some Conservative MPs are in talks with opposition parties to try to block the government's fracking plans, the BBC has been told.
Currently, MPs are not set to get a vote on the government's pledge to lift the ban on fracking in England.
But Labour want to force a vote on the issue, while some Tory MPs have told the BBC they would like this too.
Failure to persuade public to change behaviour means UK will miss net zero target, Lords warn
A report lands amid criticism of the Prime Minister Liz Truss for reportedly blocking a public awareness campaign to cut energy use. The crossbench Lords say ministers should learn from the plastic bag tax and messaging to change habits during the coronavirus pandemic.
A report by the group found that a third of the emissions the UK must cut by 2035 to limit the impacts of climate change must come from people changing their behaviours, such as by insulating homes, using less energy and being incentivised to travel, shop and eat in a more environmentally friendly way.
Tuesday, 11 October 2022
Damien Hirst burns his own art after selling NFTs
Damien Hirst has begun burning hundreds of his own artworks after selling a series of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The artist told buyers who bought pieces from his latest collection to choose either the physical artwork or the NFT representing it.
Those who chose the NFTs were told their corresponding physical piece would be destroyed.
I'm sure we bought a roll of paper just like that to wrap Granddaughter's birthday present.
New Zealand government plan to tax cow and sheep burps faces backlash
The proposal would provide financial incentives for farmers to use technology that reduces the amount of burps released from the animals.
"New Zealand's farmers are set to be the first in the world to reduce agricultural emissions, positioning our biggest export market for the competitive advantage that brings in a world increasingly discerning about the provenance of their food," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Monday, 10 October 2022
Incompetence can be surprisingly interesting. Imagine a survey where 1000 adults are asked if they would prefer to be more incompetent. Assuming everyone takes the survey seriously, the answer would probably be a resounding no. Yet some of those polled could be political activists, or people who visit art galleries in order to glue themselves to paintings.
At a basic level, competence is presumably a survival trait. In Neolithic times, the incompetent hunter-gatherer could be an unfortunate chap who didn’t survive a near miss when he threw his flint-tipped spear at an aggressive bear. His personal tragedy could be described as an incompetent interaction with the real world.
Moving beyond the basics, we have tribal competence where incompetent social interaction with the tribe may also impinge on survival, but perhaps not so drastically as the incompetent hunter gatherer. Apart from wars, persecution, witch-burning and so on of course. Maybe bears weren’t so bad. Even an incompetent spear-thrower could at least run away.
The tribe offers, but does not always provide, protection in exchange for tribal loyalty, which could be described as tribal competence. Yet tribal competence may include rituals and obeisance which make no sense to an outsider - or even many insiders. Sir Keir taking the knee for example. Net Zero is another example. COP27 will offer up a cornucopia of examples. There are many from which to choose.
We inevitably distance ourselves from incompetence when we are incautious enough to point it out it within the tribe. In doing so, we may also distance ourselves socially within the tribe. Tribal loyalty may become frayed, and it may be seen as our fault.
In which case, if we happen to notice that tribal rituals and obeisance make no sense, it may not be personally advantageous to point it out. In our finger-pointing times it may even be professionally disastrous. Heads above the parapet are easy targets, especially for incompetent loyalists. Incompetence knows how to win.
Sunday, 9 October 2022
Prince William signals he won't keep quiet on issues that matter to him - in fact it's going to step up a gear
King Charles was criticised for being too political when he was heir, with suggestions he'd end up a "meddling monarch". It is a label William and his team are likely to be wary of, but there are suggestions we may now actually hear more from him rather than less...
William reaffirming his dedication to an environmental cause, this time the "war" against the illegal wildlife trade, in memory of his grandmother.
It felt like he was firmly setting out that he won't be keeping quiet about what matters to him, in fact it's only going to step up a gear.
There are some interesting missing words in this piece.
Freezing to death
All these words are missing.
In a local coffee shop the other day, Mrs H and I were chatting away over coffee and a mince pie, which may be early for mince pies, but they are one of the few attractions of Christmas.
Sitting nearby was an old chap wearing the most unconvincing wig I’ve ever seen. From his face I’d guess he was in his seventies. The wig was jet black and rather shiny with little whisps of grey hair peeping out from underneath. It looked as if he’d made it himself from a cheap Halloween wig.
Of course, a chap can wear whatever he chooses on his head and if it attracts attention maybe he doesn't care. I certainly couldn’t help glancing at it every now and then. His wife’s wig was equally unconvincing but rather less bizarre. Maybe it was some kind of promotional campaign for wig-making kits.
Saturday, 8 October 2022
We live in strange and dishonest times. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read two completely different accounts of the Ukraine conflict. Both were well-written, very readable and full of what appeared to be a profound interest in military affairs.
I haven’t saved links to either piece because there is so much similar material around it hardly seemed worth it. Radically different opinions on the conflict are common enough to treat with a shrug. It depends on what we choose to find.
There is an obvious lesson here. It is surely worth reminding ourselves how much more attractive positive opinions are over the grey wastes of uncertainty. Yet the grey wastes of uncertainty are where we spend much of our lives when there is a lack of hard data overlaid with rampant propaganda. It is possible to pretend otherwise, but that’s it.
|Seen here this morning|
Clicked through to this -U-turns are seldom fatal - but can be a symptom of overconfident governments
Adam Boulton looks back at U-turns of the past, and the impact of the most recent reversal by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.
Friday, 7 October 2022
Madame de Renal tried to work, and fell into a deep sleep; when she awoke, she was less alarmed than she should have been. She was too happy to be able to take anything amiss. Artless and innocent as she was, this honest provincial had never tormented her soul in an attempt to wring from it some little sensibility to some novel shade of sentiment or distress. Entirely absorbed, before Julien came, in that mass of work which, outside Paris, is the lot of a good wife and mother, Madame de Renal thought about the passions, as we think about the lottery: a certain disappointment and a happiness sought by fools alone.
Stendhal - The Red and the Black (1830)
In modern times we appear to have become entirely familiar with people who torment their souls in an attempt to wring from it some little sensibility to some novel shade of sentiment or distress. Clearly this is not a recent aspect of social life if Stendhal could describe it so acutely nearly two centuries ago, but modern life appears to have made it more widespread.
Thursday, 6 October 2022
Scooter Smart is a project aimed at providing children with the confidence and skills to use a scooter as a mode of travel, particularly as a way of encouraging scooting as an alternative to the car and as a healthier way to travel to school.
Scooter Smart is delivered as a part of a school's Modeshift STARS travel plan. Children take part in a Scooter Smart training day to introduce and develop skills to encourage them to scoot to school.
I can't remember how I learned to hurtle around local pavements on my scooter as a child. I didn't have a helmet, kneepads or even the benefit of a Modeshift STARS travel plan training day. Just lucky I suppose.
A little unpremeditated insincerity must be indulged under the stress of social intercourse. The talk even of an honest man must often represent merely his wish to be inoffensive or agreeable rather than his genuine opinion or feeling on the matter in hand. His thought, if uttered, might be wounding; or he has not the ability to utter it with exactness and snatches at a loose paraphrase; or he has really no genuine thought on the question and is driven to fill up the vacancy by borrowing the remarks in vogue. These are the winds and currents we have all to steer amongst, and they are often too strong for our truthfulness or our wit. Let us not bear too hardly on each other for this common incidental frailty, or think that we rise superior to it by dropping all considerateness and deference.
George Eliot - Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879)
Imagine a test. Doesn’t matter which test or what kind of test, but suppose we begin with a medical test of some kind.
The imaginary test is a few decades old and one of the problems with it is that it takes days to perform, doesn’t work reliably and can be misleading. There are better tests around, but our imaginary test is part of a standard protocol and has been for years.
A committee exists which could propose but not decide that the test be discontinued in favour of something else, but what that might be is unclear. Nobody in the committee really supports the test, but it is part of a standard protocol, so they use it.
Nobody in the committee is prepared to bang the table and push hard for a replacement test either. In private, every member would say the test is obsolete and ought to be abandoned, but only in private. Some would say so more forcefully than others. In public, some would also defend the test more forcefully than others, but none would openly say that it should be consigned to medical history.
The imaginary test could be any one of many procedures in many fields, but collective dishonesty can prevail over individual honesty. Even in professional life, social norms may prevail. These are the winds and currents we have all to steer amongst, and they are often too strong for our truthfulness or our wit.
Wednesday, 5 October 2022
Are the Conservatives losing their conviction on climate change?
Is the climate crisis one too many to deal with for a prime minister being buffeted with problems such as energy bills and the rising cost of living?
This time a year ago Boris Johnson was preparing for the high-profile COP26 UN summit on climate change, hosted in Glasgow.
It wasn't a perfect gathering by any means, and Mr Johnson's own record on environmental issues was far from blemish-free, but real progress was made on coal, forests and national emission reduction goals.
Are the Conservatives losing their conviction on climate change? I certainly hope so.
Probably not though. The question is of course political. It has nothing to do with science, the climate or energy generation. It is concerned with the supreme political motive of telling the proles how to run their lives to their ultimate disadvantage. One hundred percent political rhetoric.
But we already knew that.
Out shopping for clothes with Mrs H this morning. Nothing major because we already have bulging wardrobes, but we did notice how much warm clothing there was on display. Lots and lots of it.
Hardly surprising at this time of year of course, but we were both left with the impression that there is more of it than usual. Big fluffy dressing-gowns, thick jackets lined with artificial sheepskin, thick socks with grippy soles for indoors, lots of women’s ponchos and wool throws prominently displayed.
It could all be quite normal and not a quick response to the current energy mess, but maybe the mess was foreseen as an opportunity, and we are now seeing the response. Either way, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to rely on a National Garment Authority. Not yet.
Tuesday, 4 October 2022
Rees-Mogg seeking to evade scrutiny of new fracking projects, email shows
Ministers are actively examining ways to evade legal, environmental and public scrutiny of new oil and gas projects including fracking, the Guardian has learned, sparking a furious reaction from green groups and opposition parties.
Senior staff working on energy projects in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) have been instructed to look into ideas raised by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, to escape potential judicial review of policies or public consultation.
Monday, 3 October 2022
I lived upon words, and believed in phantoms.
Ivan Turgenev – Rudin (1856)
Online browsing can be an extremely enlightening thing to do. It may even be too enlightening, easily creating a sense of disenchantment, a sense that we are too absurd to survive. At other times it offers sane voices, new insights with a warm and welcome sense that all is well and sanity must surely prevail.
Yet online drivel is so easy to find that it is not easy to avoid. It leaves behind a sense that we must read at least some drivel to understand drivel culture, where it comes from and what sustains it. We need to do that because Big Drivel rules the world. It spews out seductive verbal formulae which are obviously formulae and obviously drivel, but easy to remember, easy to adopt and they come in various wrappers to give them mass appeal.
Most of us probably know that we are not particularly original in our ideas. The words we use, the arguments we make or the ideas we pursue are from being entirely original. It’s what politicians continually make use of – our general lack of originality. Online browsing tells us so and tells us that it works. Many people lack the originality to be sceptical. Political parties are not interested in people who are habitually sceptical anyway - how could they be?
The political classes cannot deal in ideas which appeal to sceptics, so they bypass them with simple and seductive verbal formulae. It doesn’t matter if the verbal formulae are dubious or outright drivel as long as they are simple, appear to be optional and have enough authority for mass appeal.
It also helps if political verbal formulae do not persuade sceptics, who are routinely portrayed as off-piste. Nice folk don’t wish to be off-piste for a number of reasons, all of which are exploited politically.
We already know this. We know how easy it is to adopt verbal formulae instead of pursuing the rocky paths of investigation and analysis. Verbal formulae save time, cut down mental effort, save energy and come with added virtue-signalling. Sceptics can’t match that.
Quality Street axes plastic wrappers for recyclable paper
Nestlé says change after 86 years will keep 2bn wrappers a year out of landfill
Quality Street’s multicoloured confectionery will now all be a bit more green – or that is the hope – as the foil and plastic wrappers are swapped for recyclable paper.
Sunday, 2 October 2022
Jean Hatchet has an interesting Critic piece on Eddie Izzard's attempt to become Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Central.
On Thursday, 29 September Sheffield Labour Party hosted a fund-raising event featuring an evening in conversation with Eddie Izzard at Crookes Social Club in Sheffield. Eddie has recently confirmed a desire to stand as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Sheffield Central which will shortly be vacated by Paul Blomfield who is stepping down. Izzard has not yet been formally selected by Labour.
As a Sheffield Labour Party member, I am sceptical of Eddie’s proclaimed love of all things Sheffield, which appears to have come upon him with some vigour of late as he poses with police or holds forth on issues of Sheffield’s buses. The buses are a really important issue for Sheffield people, but I don’t think Eddie has much call to clamber aboard public transport carrying some of his estimated net wealth of $20 million. I sniff an ego looking for a new vanity project.
The whole piece is well worth reading as a comment on this particular vanity project and more generally, the ludicrous transgender bandwagon.
Eddie fairly recently announced that he is a going to live “in full girl mode”, whatever that might mean, and wishes to be addressed using “she/her” pronouns. This came after years of being happy to declare himself a “transvestite” and challenge gender stereotypes, by wearing dresses and lipstick. Now he does exactly the same thing, but expects everyone to believe he is actually a woman. I don’t have to concur with that belief and my belief, that men can’t change sex, is worthy of respect in a democratic society. I don’t capitulate to compelled speech and would find this article impossible to negotiate unless I was truthful and use “he”. He is not a woman.
Off out for a short walk in the hills above Bakewell today. Sundays seem to be busier and busier. On the drive to Bakewell, we saw a cycle club out for a mass ride, motorcyclists streaming towards Matlock, kayakers braving the perils of the river Derwent and finally a Bollywood film crew filming a car chase in Bakewell, getting in the way of absolutely everyone.
Yet as soon as we were away from it all in the hills, we saw nobody at all apart from a woman walking her two dogs. All was peace and quiet until we reached Monsal Trail and a café where we enjoyed a coffee and a scone.
Even now, it still surprises me how easy it is to get away from crowds. It shouldn't but it does. A mile or two, a bit of a climb and that’s it. When we arrived back in Bakewell, the film bods were still trying to get that car chase right and still making a nuisance of themselves. Strange world.
Saturday, 1 October 2022
Inside Britain's 'warm spaces' - where people go when they can't afford to heat their homes
Greenside Cricket Club is one of 65 venues across the borough of Gateshead that have signed up to be "warm spaces" for people - similar schemes have been set up all over the UK sometimes with different names but all doing the same sort of thing.
"It's Victorian isn't it?" asks Hannay Reay as she contemplates just what they are doing.
It appears that the right time to begin gardening is last year. For many things it is well to begin the year before last. For good results one must begin even sooner. Here, for example, are the directions, as I interpret them, for growing asparagus.
Having secured a suitable piece of ground, preferably a deep friable loam rich in nitrogen, go out three years ago and plough or dig deeply. Remain a year inactive, thinking. Two years ago pulverize the soil thoroughly. Wait a year. As soon as last year comes set out the young shoots. Then spend a quiet winter doing nothing. The asparagus will then be ready to work at this year.
Stephen Leacock - Frenzied Fiction (1918)
As Tory conference looms, the PM cuts a diminished figure after squandering much of her political capital
The PM seems to be gradually willing to publicly accept a link between her policies and market turmoil - describing this overnight as "short-term disruption" - but there is no sign she is considering reversing any of the measures.
But oppositions have the illimitable range of objections at command, which need never stop short at the boundary of knowledge, but can draw forever on the vasts of ignorance.
George Eliot - Middlemarch (1871-1872)