Wednesday 30 November 2022

Stress Test

Elon Musk warned by European Union that Twitter will be banned unless he sticks to bloc's digital rules - report

EU industry chief Thierry Breton made the threat during a video meeting with Musk on Wednesday, the news outlet said, citing people with knowledge of the conversation.

In a readout of the conversation provided by Breton, he told Musk: "There is still huge work ahead, as Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising."

It's almost entertaining to wonder how Musk is supposed to significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech. For the most part of course, EU bureaucrats are merely making business for themselves.

As a result, the pair agreed that the EU will carry out a "stress test" at Twitter's headquarters early next year to assess the company's compliance with the rules.

It isn't likely to be a small group of bureaucrats carrying out that "stress test" and neither is it likely to be the last test, even though it may be called something else. It's what bureaucrats do.

The Great Pretender

Jean Hatchet has a scathing Critic piece on Eddie Izzard.

The Great Pretender

When does acting stop and real life begin?

Former Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr, once said, “I know very little about acting. I’m just an incredibly gifted faker.”

It is perhaps a blueprint for acting that Eddie Izzard is tempted to adopt in excess. So much so that he blatantly attempts to blur the lines between acting and his real life, to the point where we might wonder when Eddie is acting and when he stops. Is it when he says he’s a woman and puts on a dress and stiletto boots, or when he plays the part of a man, as a man, for a huge salary?

Familiar territory, but well worth reading as a reminder that celebrities rarely seem to resist the temptation to treat the rest of us as fools. It is no great stretch to conclude that the entertainment industries generally treat us as fools.

I can see why Eddie doesn’t choose “girl mode” when he seeks a film role. Eddie is not a girl, because he’s 60 years old — and he’s not a woman because he’s a man. His commitment to “womanning” seems to be secondary to his desire for top billing. A woman by contrast can take off her lipstick and whistle. No one will come and offer her the role of Sherlock. Izzard knows this very well.


I once knew a chap who would agree with something I said with the single word “correct”, as if marking my words with a tick. He also appeared to see himself as personally acquainted with God, so maybe he also saw the word “correct” as appropriate. Correctness does come from above.

Ki K'ang was consulting him about the direction of public affairs. Confucius answered him, "A director should be himself correct. If you, sir, as a leader show correctness, who will dare not to be correct?"

Analects of Confucius

It’s an old form of social control, the idea of correct behaviour, correct language, correct appearance. Very much top down as Confucius made plain to Ki K’ang, and it seems to have remained this way for a long time. Trickle down correctness we could call it.

“Next stop Euston!” The worlds of pleasure and of business meet on that platform to await the great train with its two engines. The spacious pavement is crowded with the correctness of travelling suits and suit-cases; it is alive with the spurious calm of those who are about to travel and to whom travelling is an everyday trifle.

Arnold Bennett - Whom God Hath Joined (1906)

Yet in a world of mass communication, suppose the whole notion of correctness were to be seized by political reformers and progressives. Suppose they were to correct our ideals of correct behaviour in all its multifarious aspects - from political to academic to arguments about football. How would we correct spurious ideas of correctness?

No sagacious man will long retain his sagacity, if he live exclusively among reformers and progressive people, without periodically returning into the settled system of things, to correct himself by a new observation from that old standpoint.

Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Blithedale Romance (1851)

There is no obvious way back to the settled system of things because that was merely whatever worked socially and politically at the time. In our time, many old but pragmatic ideals do not have to work as they did in the past. Not until corrected by the impersonal workings of reality, by which time, reformers and progressive people have moved on.

Those reformers and progressive people are busy laying their incompetent hands on what were fairly pragmatic ideals of correctness. We have seen it for decades. Workable, practical ideals are nudged to one side by doctrinal experiments from the fevered minds of academics, political fanatics, useful idiots and power-hungry calculators.

Correctness is often experienced as a sense of what is handed down from above, whatever ‘above’ might be, but that too can be manipulated. Celebrities ought not count as ‘above’ but they do. Even Prince Harry, even Greta, even... but the list is too long.

Our older sense of correctness was always shallow and potentially vulnerable with nothing deeper to get hold of apart from a feeling that it was 'the right thing to do' and generally seemed to work. Yet even the sense that it worked may be labelled as politically incorrect and many people don’t want to know why – it goes no deeper. That’s the vulnerability of it.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Destined to be forgotten


A cold, foggy day here in our limited-visibility patch of Derbyshire. Mrs H and I nipped into town this afternoon as early dusk brought with it that curiously evocative atmosphere of times gone by. Shops brightly lit by 3pm, car headlights carving their way through murk, exhausts hanging like ghostly washing in thick damp air.

Weather which ought to be unpleasant but isn't. Ought to be avoided by staying inside, but we went out and didn't regret it. The murky atmosphere brought with it a sense of anticipation, of coffee back home, of shutting out the cold and lighting the fire.

An atmosphere with a warming drop something more nebulous too. A Dickensian something which long ago wormed its way into what we are - but is destined to be forgotten.

As near the handle as possible


In every form of government, it is better to be with the governors than with the governed, and in this case, when the broom is wielded from above and applied so vigorously and with such meticulousness to everybody and everything, it is well to be as near the handle as possible.

Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1890-93)

Monday 28 November 2022

A costume elites wear to pretend they care


It's why they clapped


The lad he employed in his office was run over by a cab one slippery day, and all but killed. Piers visited him in the hospital, thus seeing for the first time the interior of one of those houses of pain, which he always disliked even to pass. The experience did not help to brighten his mood; he lacked that fortunate temper of the average man, which embraces as a positive good the less of two evils.

 George Gissing - The Crown of Life (1899)

The battle we aren't winning

Monkeypox given new name by World Health Organisation - disease will now be called 'mpox'

Last month leading infectious disease expert Professor Neil Ferguson said the UK looked to be winning the battle against the disease as case numbers were dropping - but he warned against complacency and highlighted the risk of a resurgence.

Monkeypox has been rebranded 'mpox' by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after receiving complaints that the current name for the disease is "racist and stigmatising".

The battle we aren't winning is the battle against worse than useless 'experts'.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Dear me - first Brexit and now this

Riots erupt in Brussels after Morocco pull off World Cup upset beating Belgium

Philippe Close, the mayor of Brussels, urged football fans to stay away from the city centre and said authorities were doing their utmost to keep order in the streets.

Riots have broken out in Brussels after Morocco shocked Belgium by winning 2-0 during a World Cup clash in Qatar.

Police were forced to seal off parts of Brussels as they tried to disperse crowds.

Officers deployed water cannons and fired tear gas to halt dozens of rioters.

Cars were pelted with bricks and steps were set on fire, while one person suffered facial injuries, according to Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere.

No ladies here

Camilla ends centuries-old ladies-in-waiting tradition as she unveils 'Queen's Companions'

Queen consort Camilla, who recently paid tribute to the late Queen, has recruited some of her closest friends to act as her official companions as she goes about her stately duties.

Buckingham Palace has announced the six women who will accompany and support Queen Consort Camilla as she attends charity events, formal ceremonies and state visits, but they won’t be called ladies-in-waiting.

Sounds like a pre-emptive move. They certainly don't want a big hairy bloke asking why he can't be a lady-in-waiting, especially if Sir Keir becomes PM. Maybe both possibilities are thought likely enough to do something about it.

Frugal with the therms

For late November it’s a fairly mild day here in our bit of Derbyshire. Dull and cloudy, but mild. Our central heating is set to what we consider to be background heating during the day and today, this temperature is being maintained with hardly any warmth from the radiators.

For the time of year, the house does not feel cold, yet the temperature is what it would be if I could see horizontal sleet outside. The central heating thermostat would see to that.

As we already know, feeling adequately warm is partly psychological, but it isn’t easy to tell how significant that is. If I light the wood burner this evening, the room will begin to feel warmer as soon as the kindling begins to burn - well before the room temperature has changed significantly. The psychological effect of a real fire is something central heating systems cannot reproduce.

Clearly, we can become used to higher indoor temperatures. Those of us who grew up in houses with no central heating are well aware of it. There is even a certain satisfaction to be gained from being frugal with the therms.

Saturday 26 November 2022

The triumph of normies

Joel Kotkin has an interesting Tablet piece on the possible future of ethnic conflict in the US.

After Intersectionalism

As ideology takes a back seat to intergroup competition, the future of ethnic conflict in America is going to look more like the past

The divisive racial ideology that dominated American politics for the past decade is dying. Led by minority activists and white progressives, “woke” ideology promoted a Manichean struggle between a coalition of the BIPOC, an acronym for “Black, Indigenous, and people of color” (assumed to be natural allies) against what the BIPOC Project calls a hegemonic system of “white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.” But this vision of Black and white racial conflict, while still influential in universities and elite institutions, keeps getting rejected by American voters—as happened in political referendums on issues like policing and immigration, and most recently in the triumph of “normies” and centrists in the midterm elections.

Does this mean that Americans should expect a new era of kumbaya racial harmony? Not likely. Rather, the future may look more like the past, as America reverts to an older style of ethnic politics in which ideology takes a back seat to practical concerns and different groups compete over resources like jobs and the spoils of government spending.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a useful angle on what may turn out to be a shift to complex, but less doctrinaire jostling for political influence along ethnic lines.

The Democrats are now starting to take notice of Latinos’ growing support for Republican candidates and policies. Longtime Democratic analyst Ruy Teixiera recently argued that the party would do better addressing the everyday concerns of working-class Hispanics than litigating the legacy of January 6. Minorities make up over 40% of the U.S. working class and will constitute the majority by 2032. Such a shift in strategy would require a swing in Democratic messaging away from race, climate and abortion to focus instead on issues like inflation, rising crime, poor schools, and the threats to stable working and middle-class livelihoods posed by draconian green policies...

Poll after poll has shown that most Black voters and other minorities do not favor defunding the police, even as these policies are pushed in their name. Last year, New Yorkers, and New York’s African American community in particular, voted in a former cop, Eric Adams, as mayor. Minority voters have also backed more conservative candidates in Buffalo and Seattle. Similar shifts have taken place in Virginia, which saw the election of a West Indian as lieutenant governor and a Cuban American as attorney general.

Kneelers and the bull

'They were playing darts last night!': Roy Keane insists England have NO excuses for lifeless performance in USA stalemate
  • England were held to a disappointing scoreless draw by Group B rivals USA
  • Pundit Roy Keane said Gareth Southgate's side should have no excuses for result
  • He said they should have focused for the 10pm kick-off, instead of playing darts
The Kneelers appear to be as erratic and disappointing as the old England team used to be before political gestures became as essential as beating the opposition. I believe there was some dispute over a misogynist armband too, but I didn't follow that. 

Friday 25 November 2022

The war against rational criteria continues

Elon Musk to 'unlock doors to Twitter jail' with amnesty for suspended accounts

Critics say the move will see far-right and white supremacist accounts such as the American Nazi Party back on the platform - with one award-winning journalist warning it will put lives at risk and telling Musk "you will have blood on your hands!"

The billionaire asked his followers in a poll to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not "broken the law or engaged in egregious spam".

The yes vote was 72%.

There are people who just don't like the idea of abiding by a popular vote. Criteria based on not breaking the law and not engaging in egregious spam are not enough for such folk. 

There is much to be said for allowing extreme viewpoint differences to be aired, otherwise official errors of judgment and stupidity go uncorrected. As we should always have known because it was obvious decades ago. 

Thursday 24 November 2022

It's Numbers



Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Charles Mackay - Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)

As Christmas approaches it becomes more difficult to set aside the idea that we are manipulated as herds. It’s not an attractive idea, because as social beings we must to a considerable extent do as others do. We can't really leave the social and political herd, yet we are clearly exploited as herds. Net Zero is herd politics – nothing to do with the climate.

Maybe current economic difficulties will have some influence on the more ludicrous herd-like excesses of Christmas though. These woes added to the garish, tat-crammed supermarkets and horrible music could help turn things around in ways we would never have anticipated last Christmas.

Or maybe not because we vote in herds too. One main political party divided into different clans, each with its own traditions, mantras and stories, each deferring to professional herders behind the scenes.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Act your age

In Spring 2020, NAS published a piece by Joseph Epstein on the immaturity of students.

Immaturity on Campus

I have no wish to brag—well, perhaps a small wish—but the timing of my retirement in 2002 after thirty years of university teaching was exquisite. Smartphones had not yet become universal. Political correctness was still in its incipient, not yet in its tyrannous, stage. I did not have to undergo sex sensitivity training, which I could not have done with a straight face. In the classroom professors, not yet students, were still in control.

Signs that change was in the offing were evident when I began teaching in 1973. Not all male teachers wore ties and jackets, nor female teachers skirts to class. Teachers had begun to address students by their first names. (I cannot recall having been so addressed once through my undergraduate years at the University of Chicago.) Students moreover were now sometimes invited to address teachers by their first names.

I recall a young female student, on the edge of tears, during an office hour, asking why I had marked up her papers, as she thought, so severely. “Jerry [an associate professor in the same department]” she said, “is never so hard on my writing.” Hmm, “Jerry?” I concluded there was a good chance that “Jerry” had been, to use the Victorian phrase, “intimate with her.” Lots of that, I soon discovered, was going on, at least between younger male faculty and undergraduates. Not a good sign.

The whole piece is well worth reading, because as we know too well, those students are now in positions of power.

What is the response of the putative adults in the room—of the college presidents, administrators, professors—to such behavior? Best one can determine it is by and large to collapse, to cave into the demands of the brattish students. They nod and call for more “dialogue”; express the wish to continue the “conversation”; organize endless panels; claim, in the recent words of the president of Sarah Lawrence confronted by a group calling itself the Sarah Lawrence Diaspora Coalition, to be “grateful for the willingness of our students to share their concerns with me and the campus community.” One can imagine the students’ reaction to such piffle: “Yeah, right, sure, Grandma!”

Panels meet, dialogue ensues, the conversation rambles on, while one awaits the next set of student demands. New deans and associate provosts are hired and put in charge of diversity, of inclusivity, of safety, soon no doubt of sexual satisfaction, transgender bathroom maintenance, and who knows what else. The beat, as the old disc jockeys had it, goes on, and is likely to continue until an impressively authoritative figure arises to cry out to these kids: “Enough! Cut the crap! Act your age! Grow up!

One Balmy Tuesday Morning in the Operating Room


A Don Martin cartoon of course. This video channel has lots of them.

A dodged bullet speaks out

One of the worst ever leaders of a major UK political party has been telling us why we dodged a bullet when he was ousted. Yet still he doesn't understand the difference between what works and what doesn't.

Voices: Jeremy Corbyn: We’ve heard a lot about immigration – but we will not end cheap labour by dividing workers

Not really worth reading, but this paragraph raised a smile.

There is no such thing as unskilled labour – only labour that is undervalued, underappreciated and underpaid. Migrants are not commodities to be traded in business interventions. They are human beings to be respected, recognised and rewarded in all walks of life, just like anyone else.

As Labour leader, Corbyn was overvalued, overappreciated and overpaid but still he doesn't get it. He failed and there are always lessons to be learned from failure, but Jeremy has no intention of learning them. In this, he is still in touch with the soul of the Labour party. 

In some ways he's amusing - but millions of voters effectively chose him as the next Prime Minister. To my mind it's still worth reflecting on that.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

The Charity Game

David Craig has a timely TCW piece on charities and the suckers they exploit so professionally. Including children of course - nobody is off-limits.

Don’t let charities fool you into being a ‘sucker’

AS Christmas approaches, it’s the ‘giving’ time of year when we are bombarded with TV ads for some of Britain’s more than 200,000 registered charities. Many ask you to text a word such as ‘care’, ‘heart’ or ‘child’ to give just £2 or £3 or £5 a month.

We’re told that this small sum can provide lifesaving medicine for a child or provide food for a week. Some charities will be satisfied with your donation, but in many cases this £2 or £3 or £5 a month will hardly pay for the charity’s expensively produced TV ad. The real aim of the texted donations is not to raise money but to harvest donors’ phone numbers to add to the charities’ ‘suckers list’. These phone numbers will be passed on to a telephone fundraising agency who will call the texter.

Not unfamiliar to those who pay attention to these things, but as Christmas approaches it is worth reminding ourselves about the charity game.

Some telefundraisers may work for the charity they claim to represent. But often they will work for profit-making telefundraising companies. Charities pay between £80 to £120 to the telefundraising companies for each direct debit recruited. So, depending on how much you agree to give through your direct debit, little to none of your first year’s donations will get anywhere near the charity.

Setting up a telefundraising company can be quite a profitable business. One which was set up by two former in-house charity fundraisers made gross profits of £10.1million on a turnover of £26.2million and paid its founders £2.5million in dividends over seven years in addition to their generous salaries.


Published almost as year ago, but still a sombre reminder of lives destroyed by the desperation induced by totalitarian politics. Worth a look if you haven't seen the photos.

Photographer captures eerie graveyard of North Korean schooners scattered along the Russian coast


Photographer Natalya Bulkina travelled to the place locals call the Pirates Graveyard - a long stretch of deserted beach several hours away from Vladivostok, close to where the borders of Russia, North Korea and China nearly join each other.

This is one of the areas in the Far East of Russia where North Korean poachers’ wooden boats end up after getting hit by storms.

Sometimes they carry exhausted fishermen, quite often they are thrown ashore with their bodies on board - or empty.

‘This story gave me a strong feeling of despair, audacity, risk and fear, as I was taking pictures of what was left of the poachers’ boats. Standing close to them you just about guess the drama of these people who went into the sea in such flimsy vessels,’ Natalya told The Siberian Times.

Monday 21 November 2022

How do they ever walk it back?

Dale Hurd has a CBN piece on the more demented and sinister aspects of COP27. Depressing, but short and worth reading.

Clergy Hold Multi-Faith 'Climate Repentance' Ceremony as UN Summit Wraps Up in Egypt

Climate TRACE: Tracking Carbon 'Polluters' and Possibly You

Al Gore was there pushing his new Climate Trace initiative, a global network which tracks down carbon emitters, so they can be fined or shut down...

Also during the summit, clergy held what was called the world's first multi-faith Climate Repentance ceremony to "seek forgiveness for climate sins." Activists went up Mt Sinai and smashed what were supposed to be the climate ten commandments.

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury said, "We've tried to formulate ten principles, what we call climate repentance - that is acknowledgment of where we've all, as a human race, fallen short."...

All of which is just as loopy as expected, but Steve Milloy sums up a key problem.

Steve Milloy, the editor of the website, asked "If you're Al Gore, if you're John Kerry, if you are any climate activist, how do you walk this back? We've been doing this for 30 years and these people have come out with the direst warnings, by the way, none of which have turned out to be true. How do they ever walk it back? They can't. They just have to just keep it going."

The dawning of strange ideas

In fact, when the period in which a man of talent is obliged to live is dull and stupid, the artist, though unconsciously, is haunted by a nostalgia of some past century. Finding himself unable to harmonize, save at rare intervals, with the environment in which he lives and not discovering sufficient distraction in the pleasures of observation and analysis, in the examination of the environment and its people, he feels in himself the dawning of strange ideas.

Confused desires for other lands awake and are clarified by reflection and study. Instincts, sensations and thoughts bequeathed by heredity, awake, grow fixed, assert themselves with an imperious assurance. He recalls memories of beings and things he has never really known and a time comes when he escapes from the penitentiary of his age and roves, in full liberty, into another epoch with which, through a last illusion, he seems more in harmony. With some, it is a return to vanished ages, to extinct civilizations, to dead epochs; with others, it is an urge towards a fantastic future, to a more or less intense vision of a period about to dawn, whose image, by an effect of atavism of which he is unaware, is a reproduction of some past age.

Joris-Karl Huysmans - À rebours (1884)

To my mind, an evocative quote as most of us have some kind of talent and are certainly obliged to live in dull and stupid times. The media don’t tell us so, but there is a lot of depth and variety of talent around if comments on this blog and others I read are any guide.

Of course, the here and now doesn’t have to be dull and stupid. We don’t have to watch the World Cup, join in the climate change hysteria or pretend Joe Biden is fit to be US President. We don’t have to clap the NHS or bend the knee to the politics of violence, and this can be an escape, even if other people think we have some strange ideas.

Sunday 20 November 2022

What we stand for

England will take the knee in Qatar, Gareth Southgate says

The England manager says it is "what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time".

"We have discussed taking the knee," Southgate said at a news conference in Doha. "We feel we should."

Seems odd to describe kneeling as "what we stand for". Maybe Sir Keir can explain it.

The Splinternet


An interesting video on various national attempts to control how citizens access the internet. The main focus is on China of course, but Russia, Iran and a number of other countries are featured too. 

The plural of rectum

FIFA president Gianni Infantino's rambling tirade was first own goal of the World Cup

He was determined to call out what he perceives as critics' hypocrisy - delivering a moral lecture of his own.

There seemed to be a reference to colonialism when he claimed Europeans had no right to criticise Qatar - and should be apologising instead for their own conduct for the next 3,000 years.

An attempt to show empathy appeared performative when he said, bizarrely: "Today I feel gay… today I feel [like] a migrant worker."

Most of us will have seen reports on this chap's creepy speech, but I hit a slight snag while wondering how best to describe FIFA as a whole. Should it be 'rectums' or 'recta'? According to Google's Ngram Viewer, 'recta' is more common that 'rectums', but somehow 'rectums' sounds better in this context.

'Rectums' it is then, although there are many other words.

Saturday 19 November 2022

Lightweight v Heavyweight


Wooden Horse

To govern simply by statute, and to reduce all to order by means of pains and penalties, is to render the people evasive, and devoid of any sense of shame.

Analects of Confucius

The other day, Mrs H and I were talking about people we know of our generation and their adult offspring, many of whom are now middle-aged.

What strikes us as odd, is how many of those offspring are making a mess of their lives, at least by our standards. Not a huge number of people and not disastrous messes by modern standards, but it is still remarkable how big a mess people can make of their lives.

Of course, a favourite media story is the person making a mess of their life. TV soaps and celebrity gossip are full of it, so this is fairly familiar territory for most of us. Yet we pretend that the adult world is basically well-adjusted even though it quite clearly isn’t.

Apart from endless anecdotes I’m not sure what we can say about it, but it does lead a chap to wonder if there is an effect created by too many laws and regulations, too much hectoring communicated too effectively, too frequently and too insistently. Maybe too much official emphasis on pains and penalties has made us evasive.

As B.F. Skinner said long after Confucius - punishment leads to avoidance behaviour. Well, it would, wouldn’t it? What are people avoiding as governments aim to reduce all to order by means of pains and penalties?

One obvious answer to that is self-awareness - hence the messed-up lives. We’re almost toying with a G.K. Chesterton kind of paradox here, but emphasis on personal empowerment has risen strongly during a marked decline in just that - personal empowerment. Maybe our modern emphasis on personal empowerment is the Wooden Horse, the escape attempt.

Friday 18 November 2022

Pots and Kettles


It's not an accountancy contest

Autumn statement: Jaw-dropping change of tack as Jeremy Hunt announces more spending - and sets trap for next election

All of this feels very reminiscent of the way George Osborne would approach his budgets - no wonder he's been seen going into Downing Street in recent weeks and his old lieutenants are advising Mr Hunt behind the scenes.

The trademark Osborne move embedded in today's decisions is to set a trap for Labour. By doing a Labour-friendly set of tax rises which focus on the richest, then squeezing spending in the next parliament, Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt want to challenge Labour. If they want to go into the next election promising to spend more on public services, where will they get the cash, they will ask. It's a dilemma, and it's unclear how Labour will answer.

It's a weird business reading articles like this. It is deficient in hard-nosed cynicism and voters need to be as cynical as the political classes if they are to compete with them on level terms and stop the rot. 

Of course it is unclear how Labour will answer, but any notion that this will faze Labour tacticians is risible. Promises are cheap and vague promises even cheaper. As long as the promises appeal to Labour voters that will do. It's not an accountancy contest.

Cash Clouds



A headline which raises at least two fascinating questions - 

  • What are climate cash clouds and are they anything to do with CO2? 
  • Do they rain cash on everyone? 

Thursday 17 November 2022

Inventing the Crypto King

Ashley Rindsberg has an interesting Tablet piece on the crucial role of the media in Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto career.

Inventing the Crypto King
How the media created the myth of Sam Bankman-Fried

One of the most striking things about the collapse of crypto exchange FTX, once counted among the world’s largest, is the extent to which it caught the supposed watchdogs of the tech industry by surprise. How could Sam Bankman-Fried, the brainiac financial visionary, crowned earlier this year the “crypto emperor” by The New York Times, have steered his armada of crypto firms into the rocks so recklessly? With allegations of an enormous, brazen fraud lingering, the first place to look is at the central role of the media in this fiasco. Through an almost endless churn of fawning coverage, the news media turned an inexperienced—and, it seems, ethically deranged—trader into the second coming of Warren Buffett.

The whole piece is well worth reading as it raises a question with wider implications - would the debacle have been possible without that almost endless churn of fawning coverage? 

One of the most important tactics he used to do this was the creation of top-tier brand partnerships that would drive headlines. FTX’s relationships with Mercedes’ F1 team, naming rights negotiated with the Miami Heat, stage-sharing with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair (a pair not usually known for their altruism), the launch of an FTX gaming unit, the Larry David Super Bowl Ad—each one represented another PR opportunity that would generate dozens of headlines. With so much news real estate devoted to breathlessly boosting the latest FTX deal, sponsorship, or main-stage appearance, there was hardly room left over for investigations—or even for a critical op-ed.

Even Tony Blair gets a mention - what a surprise. That almost endless churn of fawning coverage didn't put Tony off.   

An Alternative Budget


Sounds sensible to me. 

News and Gossip

In newspaper-land a dull lie is seldom detected, but an interesting exaggeration drives an unimaginative rival to hysterical denunciations.

Edgar Wallace - Four Just Men (1905)

The news is a rum notion. Rather than The News it could be called Some News which wouldn’t be particularly accurate but much better than The News as if news emerges accurately and autonomously from somewhere and there is only one version. We also seem to need some way to indicate that The News generally emanates from the chattering classes and their interests.

In which case, a less deceptive term might be Gossip. Or perhaps Gossip n’Froth, although that does come across as a little too tabloid even for the tabloids. Maybe Gossip and Events would do. It could consist of a basic output of gossip with the occasional inclusion of a straightforward narration of a real event or two. Yet even events are usually embedded in gossip, so the idea does have weaknesses.

Yet BBC News at Six could become BBC Gossip at Six and surely that would be an improvement. It brings in the chattering classes contribution for example. On the whole, Gossip seems to be a more accurate term than The News, so as a progressive organisation the BBC should welcome the change.

Of course, scepticism about the value of The News to its more avid consumers is certainly not news and hasn’t been for a very long time –

Hussonnet was not amusing. By dint of writing every day on all sorts of subjects, reading many newspapers, listening to a great number of discussions, and uttering paradoxes for the purpose of dazzling people, he had in the end lost the exact idea of things, blinding himself with his own feeble fireworks.

Gustave Flaubert - Sentimental Education (1869)

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Sod's Law


Rockets are like cars - they keep getting bigger

NASA's Artemis mission to return humans to moon sees most powerful rocket ever launch into space

The next-generation, multibillion-dollar Space Launch System rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with the uncrewed Orion spacecraft in tow.

The mega rocket generated 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch, far greater than any used by NASA before, while its two boosters and four RS-25 engines also produced plenty of power.

"You definitely knew there was some energy being expended over there," said NASA administrator Bill Nelson, who watched it unfold from the roof of the launch centre.

Technocracy Inc.

Niall McCrae has a very interesting TCW piece on family links between Elon Musk and Technocracy Inc.

Elon Musk, the man with technocracy in his blood

THE hundreds of Packard, Ford and Hudson cars driving in convoy up the western seaboard of the US in summer 1947 were all a similar shade of grey, with orange hub-caps. This was the livery of Technocracy Incorporated, an organisation that grew in the Great Depression of the 1930s, aiming to change the economic system and society radically through technological means. The motorcade started in Los Angeles and arrived in British Columbia on July 1 1947, where founder Howard Scott addressed a crowd of five thousand at Vancouver Forum. The event was the pinnacle of the movement, which faded away in the post-war boom.

Seventy-five years later, technocracy has emerged from the shadows to become a looming reality. Whether this is fulfilment of a dream or nightmare is a dilemma. Should we entrust scientists and social engineers with our future? What are the motives of the ‘experts’ who apply the tremendous advances in digital technology to govern our lives? Such considerations and concerns are personified by controversial entrepreneur Elon Musk. Intriguingly, his grandfather was a leading member of Technocracy Inc.

The whole article is well worth reading as another piece in the global technocracy jigsaw. It highlights an overarching political outlook which has been with us for decades now - global government by experts and their technology.

The Great Reset propounded by the World Economic Forum is strikingly similar to the plans of Technocracy Inc. The mantra to ‘follow the science’ during the purported pandemic put approved experts on a pedestal while suppressing debate. Common to Technocracy Inc and the Great Reset is Doomsday rhetoric: the former flourishing amidst economic decline, and the latter in ecological disaster. Both have used crises to push their agenda. Technocracy Inc wanted currency replaced by energy coupons with each purchase quantified in joules. Today, governments are preparing for central bank digital coupons and the end of cash. Every transaction will be known to the authorities, and access to goods and services may be restricted, either individually or collectively. Each of us will have a carbon footprint score, updated in real time. An Orwellian social credit system is being built.

As for Elon Musk, he may represent something else, something more optimistic but not yet well defined. Or he may not, because technocracy has a powerful appeal and as yet there is nothing opposing its global totalitarian trends.  

Tuesday 15 November 2022

It's hide the schemers time

COP27: Without Greta, activists make waves at climate summit

Young people are a more powerful force than ever in the UN climate summit, the UN's youngest climate advisor tells BBC News in Egypt.

"Young people are definitely shaping outcomes here at COP27," Sophia Kianni says.

Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg has skipped the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, calling it a forum for "greenwashing".

But young people from countries at high risk from climate change say they are "calling it out" from inside.

Young people are not of course, "a more powerful force than ever in the UN climate summit". Neither are they there as UN climate advisors, not in the sense that they actually give advice to senior UN functionaries. 

Young people are there as window dressing, to convince other young people that it is cool to allow devious bureaucrats to ruin their world in pursuit of totalitarian politics. They are there because ugly old schemers don't create the best impression on a global stage. 

An unfortunate thumbnail


It is impossible that you should be sincere

‘I am sincere!’ she broke in, with more passion than he had ever imagined her capable of uttering.

‘I cannot call it sincerity. It is impossible that you should be sincere; you live in the latter end of the nineteenth century; the conditions of your birth and education forbid sincerity of this kind.’

George Gissing – A Life’s Morning (1888)

As Gissing points out here, there is something not quite genuine about sincerity within certain social circles. Beatrice is the young woman being accused of insincerity, not because of what she could be but because of what her social class and education demand of her.

Within the social circles of people such as Beatrice, sincerity is a vulnerability. To be sincere is to be exposed in a way which could become a social disadvantage among those who accept fashionable discourse as a measure of what they are. The adopted solution is a careless insincerity, a cousin of nihilism without being thoroughly nihilist.

Within the lives of people such as Beatrice, fashionable discourse gives no hostages to aspects of life which others regard as important such as integrity, duty, honesty, facts and even reality itself. Talk is part of the social game, an expertly articulate shallowness which is never quite caught out by genuine sincerity.

Maybe this is what sceptics try to retain - the ability to be sincere even within a comfortable life. To be a sceptic is to accept the discomfort which may be inevitable on the social tightrope of unfashionable views. Maybe within that discomfort, it is possible to retain a degree of uncomfortable sincerity.

Monday 14 November 2022

A diarrhoea of sweetness

David James has a CAPX piece on how our elected representatives feel compelled to heap the most unctuous praise on teachers and nurses. As we all know of course.

Let’s stop pretending that teachers and nurses are paragons of virtue

When was the last time you heard a politician being critical of schools or hospitals? Or heard of teachers and nurses being talked about in public life in anything other than glowing terms?

If you only listened to our elected representatives, you’d think that every classroom and ward in the UK were world class, staffed with heroic professionals and flawless both in how they are run and in the results they achieve. Whether it is the new Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, last week claiming that all teachers are ‘amazing’, ‘absolutely fantastic’ and ‘an inspiration’, or the endless verbal encomiums that successive health secretaries trot out to describe the NHS (there are too many to quote), the words from Government and opposition are a diarrhoea of sweetness. Yet these vacuous statements, dripping in meaningless superlatives, conflict with the realities their constituents experience every day.

An advantage possessed by nurses and teachers is that they effectively have their own political party - Labour. Politically, Labour cannot allow nurses and teachers to be successfully disparaged and intends to make it more difficult to do so. 

Even those limited tools we have for monitoring standards in the NHS and schools are under constant attack. The NEU, the biggest teaching union in the country, is committed to abolishing Ofsted and league tables – both of which give parents invaluable insight into how the schools they send their children to are performing. Labour, it seems, would go further. The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, not only wants to scrap inspections but also school expulsions – an absolute last resort that is used not to attack the disadvantaged, but to protect pupils and staff. You would think that such a mad policy would never get off the ground, but you’d be wrong: Southwark Council are already asking schools to sign up to a ‘no exclusion policy’. Standards will almost inevitably fall because of an ideological position taken by those who find it easy to reform schools from the safety of their open plan offices.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how absurdly difficult it is to reform the public sector.

FTX Summary


A very short summary of the FTX collapse.

Vanity Projects

Many Pyongyangites give new ice cream factory the cold shoulder

"It doesn't seem right to talk about how a new ice cream factory represents the love of the Supreme Leader when people are having a tough time," a source told Daily NK

However, many Pyongyangites are indifferent to the hype, with many saying the factory was built simply for show, Daily NK’s source said.

In fact, many people have questioned why erecting an ice cream factory in winter rather than summer represents “love for the people,” and are complaining how they are “sick of hearing the government clamor on about ‘love of the people’ all the time while everyone is shivering from hunger and cold.”

An equivalent UK vanity project might be one where the government gives everyone a Net Zero ice cream this Christmas. 

This population 18-24


Sunday 13 November 2022

The Biggest Public Policy Disaster in a Lifetime

Ian Plimer has an excellent Quadrant piece on the unfolding public policy disaster that is climate politics. Written from an Australian perspective but it applies to the UK and Net zero too.

The 27th COP event is preceded by breathtakingly shrill predictions of forthcoming disasters from speculated catastrophic climate change. Here are a few cold hard facts:

No one has ever proven that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming. For more than two decades I have been asking scientists for this proof. If proven, it would also have to be shown that natural carbon dioxide emissions, 97% of the annual total, don’t drive global warming. This also has never been done. Furthermore, if had been proven that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming, there would be endless citation of the dozen or so seminal scientific papers demonstrating this proof. Instead, there is obfuscation and deafening silence.

Ice-core drilling shows that after a natural temperature rise, atmospheric carbon dioxide increases 650-to-6,000 years later, yet we are told the inverse and that we will fry and die from temperature rises due to human carbon dioxide emissions. The main atmospheric greenhouse gas is water vapour. When water evaporates, such as from the oceans or sweat, it requires heat to convert to vapour. When water vapour condenses into rain, snow or hail, exactly the same amount of heat is given out. The Earth’s atmosphere contains up to 4% water vapour and operates like a giant air conditioner. The uncertainty about the effects of clouds renders climate models useless.

The whole piece is not long and well worth reading. This for example, on dumbing down education. 

We are reaping the rewards of 50 years of dumbing down education, politicised poor science, a green public service, tampering with the primary temperature data record and the dismissal of common sense as extreme right-wing politics. There has been a deliberate attempt to frighten poorly-educated young people about a hypothetical climate emergency by the mainstream media uncritically acting as stenographers for green activists.

More on dullards



As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.

Hunter S. Thompson

The numerous and varied legion of dullards

Climate change rally in Nottingham to coincide with COP27

A rally calling for stronger action on climate change has been held in Nottingham.

About 100 people gathered in Trinity Square for the rally, which was organised by the Nottingham Coalition for Climate Justice.

Over 40 demonstrations were planned throughout the UK on Saturday, during the UN summit COP27 in Egypt.

He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animate abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarise it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment (1867)

There are things we could say about the environment, how to understand, improve, enjoy and integrate ourselves into it. How to tackle degradation. The tragedy of the climate narrative is the hordes of conceited, half-educated coxcombs who attach themselves to the idea, who do indeed vulgarise and caricature it.

It isn’t only the lies, distortions, crooked dealing and monumental stupidity, but the years and years of lost opportunities. The environment is something to be treasured, but these absurd clowns are not its guardians.

Saturday 12 November 2022

From the Red Barn to Netflix

Why are humans obsessed with true crime - and what is behind our appetite for the unsavoury?

Did you binge the hit Netflix drama Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story? Couldn't get enough of podcast Serial? Do you love every show there is about Ted Bundy? If so, you're not alone.

The fascination is not new of course. Almost two centuries ago, enterprising manufacturers produced colourful representations of the 1827 Red Barn murder in pottery so that people could buy one and display it on the mantelpiece. 

The example below shows William Corder enticing Maria Marten into the Red Barn, a local landmark in Polstead, Suffolk. Presumably not quite as realistic as Netflix, but I don't intend to find out.

Stick to the shallow end

I'm A Celebrity: Matt Hancock asks for forgiveness

Matt Hancock became emotional as he told his I'm A Celebrity campmates that what he is "really looking for is a bit of forgiveness".

But while Hancock expressed regret over breaking Covid guidelines, he defended his overall record as health secretary...

The MP has been criticised for entering the jungle while parliament is sitting.

Hancock, who had the Tory whip suspended after joining the ITV series, was forced to resign as health secretary in June 2021 after CCTV footage emerged of him kissing aide Gina Colangelo while social distancing guidelines were in place.

A bit of forgiveness? This guy was a Cabinet minister. 

Not a new story of course, but to my mind it's mildly unsettling. We already know how shallow political actors can be, but Hancock appears to demonstrate how important it is to be as shallow as the media. As if there is no point aiming above the media, above the nonsense and the clickbait. Absolutely no point.

Friday 11 November 2022

A Biden cliché to save the planet

COP27: Joe Biden apologises for the US pulling out of the Paris climate agreement

President Joe Biden tells the COP27 climate conference that the US is a "climate leader," but observers say it needs to come good on promised cash and pollution cuts to live up to the claim.

Mr Biden, who re-joined the agreement within hours of taking office, told the COP27 climate conference in Egypt that his administration was "putting our money where our mouth is."

I'm not convinced that "putting our money where our mouth is" was a well-chosen cliché. Given Biden's erratic verbal performance, the money could end up anywhere.

The play’s the thing

It seemed to him that these men, who wrote the words and proclaimed the truths which had turned his life and reformed his soul, were themselves but playing with what they taught. Were they only actors — or amusing themselves?

Anthony Hope – A Change Of Air (1893)

Suppose we divide people politically into actors, audiences, managers and critics. It’s crude and we all have aspects of these characteristics, but the notion is worth exploring.

It has become unavoidably clear that our political class is mostly a class of actors. As actors on a political stage, they stick to their role while scheming for a better one. Even on their political stage, the play’s the thing. Boris Johnson knows it well. He also knows that a limited amount of ad-libbing amuses the audience, enhances the actor’s reputation and even adds a touch of realism to the play. Yet a natural question arises – why do we vote for actors?

It works because audience members are not critics in the sense that criticism is not their main role in political life. Likes and dislikes are not the same as criticism where a degree of objective analysis tends to dilute both likes and dislikes. Liking certain actors and plays while disliking other actors and plays does not turn an audience member into a critic.

The pressure to like and dislike is very powerful, but critics do at least make some effort to resist the pressure even when their criticism is presented in terms of liking and disliking. It is a boundary with many holes, but exerting analytical effort is a core aspect of what makes people into critics. Not the only aspect, but an important one.

An obvious advantage of this general approach to political discourse is how it highlights the difficulties of political reform and a core weakness of democracy. It also highlights something more sinister. The digital age seems to have steered the political arena towards entertainment and away from democratic debate.

Imagine a situation where the entire political arena is managed as entertainment, especially at the national level. It would be something like a soap opera, with tragedy, scandal, crime, comedy, tears, tantrums, high drama, heroes, villains, victims and charlatans.

The point to be made is not to emphasise the resemblance between the political arena and theatre, but to emphasise that this is how the political arena is managed. It is intended to resemble a soap opera because politicians are actors and voters behave as an audience which has paid money to be entertained. The resemblance is not accidental, it has become the managerial approach to politics.

A second point is that this general approach highlights the entertainment aspect of mainstream news. Here again, the idea is not to emphasise the resemblance between mainstream news and theatre, but to note that this is how the news is now managed. Tragedy, scandal, crime, comedy, drama, heroes, villains, victims and charlatans all larded with a daily dose of horror stories.

In other words, the political arena and the mainstream news are managed as entertainment. Even the most wooden and uninspiring political actor is expected to at least learn their lines, deliver their scripted asides, tell a few jokes and generally play to the audience. Even ideologues soon discover that this is how it works.

Back into the fields of Flanders

As today is the eleventh day of the eleventh month, here are two final quotes from the Great War memoir Bullets and Billets written by Bruce Bairnsfather. Two earlier posts are here and here.

 Firstly - the absurdly casual nature of death. 

Sniping was pretty severe that night, and, indeed, all the time we were in those Douve trenches. There was an almost perpetual succession of rifle shots, intermingled with the rapid crackling of machine-gun fire. However, you soon learned out there that you can just as easily “get one” on the calmest night by an accidental spent bullet as you can when a little hate is on, and bullets are coming thick and fast.

The first night we came to the Douve was a pretty calm one, comparatively speaking; yet one poor chap in the leading platoon, going through the farm courtyard I mentioned, got shot right through the forehead. No doubt whatever it was an accidental bullet, and not an aimed shot, as the Germans could not have possibly seen the farm owing to the darkness of the night.

Secondly - improvised graveyards Bairnsfather came across by a Flanders farm where he was billeted for a while.

The only difference about our farm was, we had a moat. Very superior to all the cluster in consequence. Sometime or other the moat must have been very effective; but when I was there, only about a quarter of it contained water. The other three-quarters was a sort of bog, or marsh, it surface broken up by and large shell holes.

On the driest part of this I discovered a row of graves, their rough crosses all battered and bent down. I just managed to discern the names inscribed; they were all French. Names of former heroes who had participated in some action or other months before.

Going out into the fields behind the farm, I found more French graves, enclosed in the rectangular graveyard that had been roughly made with barbed wire and posts, each grave surmounted with a dead soldier’s hat. Months of rough wintry weather had beaten down the faded cloth cap into the clay mound, and had started the obliteration of the lettering on the cross. A few more months; and cross, mound and hat will all have merged back into the fields of Flanders.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Waist deep

Years ago, I was told that my maternal grandfather had contracted dysentery during the Great War after serving in the trenches, at one point standing waist deep in water. He recovered and was transferred to the War Office in London. I was reminded of the story when I came across this episode in Bruce Bairnsfather's book, Bullets and Billets mentioned in an earlier post.

Near this lay the trench which he had been telling me about. It was quite the worst I have ever seen. A number of men were in it, standing and leaning, silently enduring the following conditions. It was quite dark. The enemy was about two hundred yards away, or rather less. It was raining, and the trench contained over three feet of water.

The men, therefore, were standing up to the waist in water. The front parapet was nothing but a rough earth mound which, owing to the water about, was practically non-existent. Their rifles lay on the saturated mound in front. They were all wet through and through, with a great deal of their equipment below the water at the bottom of the trench. There they were, taking it all as a necessary part of the great game, not a grumble nor a comment.

Bruce Bairnsfather – Bullets and Billets (1916)

Maybe one of those soldiers was Grandad. Probably not - but maybe.

Health and good spirits

You wake at half-past two in the morning, and suffer infernally from the blackest pessimism. It’s morbid — yes; but for all that it may be a glimpse of the truth. Health and good spirits, just as likely as not, are the deceptive condition.

George Gissing – The Whirlpool (1897)

Nurses across UK back strikes in pay dispute

Nurses across the UK have voted to strike over pay with action expected to start by the end of the year.

The walkout will involve Royal College of Nursing members in more than half of hospitals and community teams, but emergency care will still be staffed.

Cancer care delays: How bad are they in your area?

There has been a sharp rise in long waits for cancer therapy in the past four years, BBC analysis shows.

The number waiting more than the 62-day target time for therapy in the past year has topped 69,000 across England, Northern Ireland and Scotland - twice as many as the same period in 2017-18.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Literacy in Swindon

Ridiculed plaque honouring key workers littered with grammatical errors

The 35-word inscription contained a spelling mistake, nine unnecessary capital letters, and an erroneous mid-sentence full-stop, while also stating that the pandemic began in March 2019.

The plaque was unveiled at a ceremony alongside a newly planted tulip tree, which was meant to serve as a reminder of the dedication shown by key workers and volunteers over the last two years.

Cellar Spiders

It's odd the way insects in the house vary from year to year. Not many flies this year, but far more cellar spiders than usual. We think they are cellar spiders - long legs, little bodies and messy webs.

Mrs H gathers them up in a tissue and carefully puts them out in the garden. I get rid of them with the portable vacuum cleaner which has the advantage of removing their webs too.

The ball keeps rolling down that hill

John Smith has a TCW piece on Boris nominating Ross Kempsell to be a member of the House of Lords and the influence of Carrie behind the scenes.

OF the 20 or so people nominated by Boris Johnson to become members of the House of Lords, one name in particular caught my eye: Ross Kempsell.

He is 30 years old and, if accepted by the Lords appointments commission, would be one of the youngest people ever to receive a life peerage.

Which may not matter if the young chap turns out to be notably more capable than average, but Smith suggests that ability may not have been the main elevating influence. Not a surprise of course, but reminders are worth accumulating.

Anybody who has read Michael Ashcroft’s stinging book about Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, titled First Lady, may remember that Ross Kempsell has a walk-on part in it.

According to Ashcroft, in the summer of 2018, Johnson (still married to his then-wife Marina) had begun spending increasing amounts of time with Carrie, who was eager to have some influence on his political life.

In the book, one of Johnson’s close associates tells Ashcroft:

‘That summer, (Carrie) tried to muscle in. She badmouthed some of his staff and tried to persuade him that he needed to hire new people on his team. She invited Alex Wickham and Ross Kempsell, who had both recently left (political website) Guido Fawkes, to Thame to play tennis with Boris. He didn’t listen to her and they were never hired.’

So it seems Kempsell was in fact (originally) a friend of Carrie’s, rather than a brilliantly talented politico whom Johnson himself discovered. And that he and Johnson got to know each other on the tennis court!

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how important it is to be socially well connected as opposed to merely capable. But we knew that.

One of the comments rounds it off well.

39 Pontiac Dream
Cameron was awful, May was worse, Johnson made his predecessors look competent and it looks like Sunak will make Tory members wish for the days of Johnson. See the pattern here? The ball keeps rolling down that hill and the incline just keeps getting steeper. This party is a quivering corpse on the road and putting it down is the kind thing to do.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Boris at the Synod of Sharm

Former PM Boris Johnson criticises net zero 'naysayers' who want to 'frack the hell out of the British countryside' in appearance at COP27

Boris Johnson described himself as "the spirit of Glasgow COP26" as he called for the legacy of last year's climate summit hosted in the UK to be "taken forward" as a "joint global endeavour".

Speaking at an event hosted by The New York Times on the first day of the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, the former prime minister said the fight against climate change had become a "collateral victim" of the Ukraine war, which caused "naysayers to adopt a corrosive cynicism about net zero".

Maybe Boris is after a global, bootlicking sinecure. It certainly looks like it from my little spot in the corrosive cynicism camp.

Enjoying the drizzle

Yesterday Mrs H and I went off for a walk in the Matlock area. The possibility of light rain or drizzle was forecast so we togged up in waterproofs as we particularly wished to try out a minor variation of a walk we've done before.

It began to drizzle once we’d climbed above Matlock, but drizzle can be refreshing and atmospheric out on the hills. It’s a walk where we rarely encounter more than one or two other people and there is something invigorating about that, being away from the daily clamour. A spell of drizzle added to it by creating a sense that there really is something timeless, near at hand and still to be savoured.

Last week was similar, a spell of heavy rain during another walk further afield. The rain was enjoyable too, tramping through sodden woodland amid the aroma of autumn, the sound of rain spattering on yellowing leaves and the occasional squelch of a boot in rich woodland mud.


I spotted Christy sitting by the window of a dingy bar, so having nothing better to do I pushed open the door to join him. A bar tucked in between shops and offices it was. Very quiet, somehow suited to a cold and foggy evening in November. Almost Dickensian.

Christy gazed at me as I struggled to remove my recent purchase - an almost new charity shop coat with too many zips and fasteners to be quite convenient. No wonder it ended up in a charity shop.

“Well done.” Christy sipped his drink as I finally managed to exit the coat and drape it round the back of a chair.

“Oh thanks.” Someone had placed a glass of something colourless on the table before drifting off behind the bar. I couldn’t quite see who it was – the place wasn’t well lit, but Christy’s haunts never are.

“I see you bought the coat. I thought you would,” Christy added.

“I suppose you saw me in the charity shop.”

“I did. It’s a very distinctive garment - changes you into a person who should be tramping up and down hills in bad weather.”

“Distinctive – I suppose it is, even in a dim light.” I pulled back the chair, its dragged feet curiously loud in that dim stillness. Musty silence rolled back as I sat down and sipped the colourless drink. Vaguely herbal to my taste, slightly exotic.

“It’s water.” Christy turned the bottle label towards me, but I couldn’t make out the language. “I don’t know what else is in it or where it’s from,” he added, “but I like the label. I like this place too. Bits of brass and old wood - reminds me of HG Wells.”

“The Time Machine?” I guessed.

“Yes, the book and the sixties film.” Christy paused, gazed around in that abstracted way he has, frowning slightly as if lost in some puzzle world of his own. “He missed a trick you know.”

“HG Wells?”

“Yes – shouldn’t have bothered with the Eloi and the Morlocks. Obvious why he did. His political views and the novelist’s need for conflict. But he shouldn’t have bothered. Spoiled the possibilities.”

“What possibilities?”

“Well think about it. A marvellous beginning in the house of a late Victorian inventor who builds a fabulous machine to travel through time. First the mysterious model on the table. A member of the invited audience presses a little lever. Then with everyone watching, the model quietly vanishes into the future. A slight draught, a flickering candle then gone forever. Later the Time Traveller goes off in the full-sized machine.”

“Then he returns then disappears again,” I replied, “this time forever. Presumably gone to help the Eloi and you object to all that because?”

“Because it’s so banal. The Eloi were beyond helping. What had they done to make them repay the risk and the effort?”

“Well – ”

“Consider what Wells could have done instead, the human situation he could have chosen to explore.”

“The Time Traveller couldn’t ignore the plight of the Eloi.”

“Of course he could. They were no concern of his. He could have made some attempt to explore eternity.”

“Ride his machine into the future forever?”

“Not exactly.” Christy topped up his glass from the bottle with the strange label and glanced towards the bar. As if responding to a signal, a figure appeared out of the gloom, placed a glass of beer in front of me before floating off again. “More to your taste I think,” Christy explained.

“Thanks.” The beer was better than I expected after Christy’s herbal water or whatever it was.

“The point is, in the end he couldn’t explore eternity,” Christy continued, “not even the first few million years of it. Yes, he could set the time machine controls and whizz off through time until he died, but even if Wells ignored the obvious bodily needs, it doesn’t work.”

“He would at least see more than anyone else has ever seen.”

“That’s not the point. He would discover how impossibly remote time and the universe are, how we have our niche, but we’ll never explore beyond it. Beyond is forever beyond.” Christy paused before adding, “it’s so incomprehensively vast. All we’ll ever do is study our geology, gaze through our telescopes and make up stories about it.”

“Yes but – ”

“The Eloi and Morlocks – pure politics. Wells failed to bring that out, failed as he was bound to fail. The great beyond is out there just beyond the clouds. It’s there, we know it’s there, but all we have, all we’ll ever have is politics. It’s the ultimate horror story.”

Monday 7 November 2022

As if it only recently occurred to them

US midterms latest: Is Biden's popularity a problem for the Democrats?

The US midterms are on Tuesday, with the Democrats at risk of losing the House and Senate - if they do it could have major implications for abortion law and the US Capitol Riots inquiry. Observers are also looking at how Donald Trump-endorsed candidates do ahead of his potential 2024 run.

Experienced journalists must have known from the beginning that Biden was not even close to being a suitable candidate for the US presidency. Yet there has to be a mainstream pretence that his performance has merely been mildly disappointing. 

As ever, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that biased misinformation is the default mainstream perspective. Anything else would be remarkably unusual - as remarkable as Biden making a success of the US presidency. 

Dangerous Asteroids


A useful summary of the search for asteroids, particularly dangerous asteroids such as 2022 AP7 which has been obscured by sunlight until quite recently. 

As mentioned in the video description, the NASA Earth Impact Monitoring website is also worth a visit whenever we see a scary asteroid story in the media.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Maybe the clapping didn't work

Nurses' strike will leave NHS with a 'bank holiday' level of service

The planned nurses' strike will turn the NHS into a “bank holiday service” with some patients facing cancelled chemotherapy and dialysis treatments, senior health leaders warned on Sunday.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is expected to announce this week that its 300,000 members have voted in favour of strike action over pay.

It is understood that the union will commit to delivering a bank holiday, or Christmas Day, level of service during the strike, with some chemotherapy, dialysis and planned surgery cancelled, a senior health source told The Telegraph.

A 'bank holiday' level of service doesn't sound too far removed from normal service. Better than we get from our GP.

Words, words and more words


That same half-bakedness, that sentimentality

And you know it all comes from that same half-bakedness, that sentimentality. They are fascinated, not by realism, but by the emotional ideal side of socialism, by the religious note in it, so to say, by the poetry of it… second-hand, of course.

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Demons (1871-72)

COP27: 'Climate chaos' as UN climate summit begins

The UN's annual climate change summit has opened with hosts Egypt calling on countries to move from "pledges to an era of implementation".

More than 120 world leaders are due to make speeches at the conference, known as COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh.

About 40,000 people will attend but some activists are staying away over concerns about Egypt's rights record.

As COP27 opened the UN released a new report it described as a "chronicle of climate chaos".

Saturday 5 November 2022

It doesn't have to mean anything

Will developed nations pay compensation for climate damage? The issue that could make or break mass COP27 summit

If the planet warms by 2.5C - roughly as estimated - over a tenth of Egypt's coral cover would disappear, unable to cope with hotter seas packed with more carbon. And so would almost 40% of that income it gets from the reef, the global Ocean Panel initiative has predicted.

Seas packed with more carbon? I wonder what that's supposed to mean - nothing scientific presumably. Or maybe it means the seas will be black with soot, or black and slippery with graphite. Hard to tell because the phrase doesn't have to mean anything - it's journalism.

It's how we are governed

Philip Patrick has an interesting TCW piece on global shifts in climate scepticism.

At last, sceptics are shunning the climate scaremongers

A HUGE international survey measuring public concern about the threat of climate change appears to indicate growing scepticism across the globe.

The Gallup Risk Poll, which questioned 125,000 people in 121 countries, reported that less than half of those surveyed saw anthropogenic climate change as a very serious threat. There is now, it appears, a consensus of sceptics.

The most sceptical countries in the survey were China, where only 20 per cent view climate change as a clear and present danger, the Middle East and North Africa (27 per cent) and South East Asia (39 per cent). At the other end of the spectrum was the US, where ‘climate change awareness’ has grown, albeit slightly, since the survey was last undertaken.

Interesting in that it reinforces something we already know - the effectiveness of climate change propaganda is regional rather than global. 

And Professor Neil Ferguson may have done climate sceptics a huge favour by permanently discrediting the use of computer-based modelling informing government policy, as exemplified by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Seems unlikely to me. Too many people are not natural sceptics and are not inclined to spend significant amounts of time checking and testing the basis of their assumptions.

If one good thing ever comes out of the last two and a half years, it is a return of healthy scepticism in the face of a relentless monotonous government/media barrage pushing one narrative and brooking no dissent. This survey appears to show evidence of such a renaissance. Some would say it’s not before time.

This outcome, though desirable, also seems unlikely. Narratives of doom are intended to be plausible and manipulative, not true. They are more likely to morph into other, equally plausible, equally manipulative narratives. It's how we are governed.