Wednesday 31 May 2023

Fact Checker


The talented/numpty spectrum

Alan Ashworth has an entertaining TCW piece on the enormous difference in talent to be found in Fleet Street, from the genuinely talented to overpaid numpties. We probably see the talented/numpty spectrum in all fields.

That Reminds Me: Heroes and villains of Fleet Street

I HAVE written previously about some of the wonderful and talented people I worked with in Fleet Street, including Gordon Greig, Lynda Lee-Potter, Nigel Dempster and Keith Waterhouse. Obviously, the Daily Mail also had its share of complete numpties.

One in particular comes to mind: a specialist writer who was the embodiment of the principle that the worse the journalist, the higher his opinion of himself. He used to turn in the most godawful rubbish which the long-suffering sub-editors had to translate into English. He would then send off cuttings of the results in the hope of winning whatever press awards might be going, yet he made it clear that he never had any time for subs. He was also a shameless freeloader, running a company Jaguar and once overheard boasting to a contact: ‘We journos are a high-maintenance breed.’ What a wally.

The whole piece is well worth reading. As a bonus it includes a section about Horlicks.

The food drink of the night

WHEN I were a lad, no café was complete without its Horlicks machine. This comprised a deep metal cup in which sweet malted milk powder was combined with hot water then whisked together by means of a long steel nozzle which aerated the mixture and provided a lovely frothy drink costing about sixpence (2½p), if memory serves.

You could make Horlicks at home by making a paste with the powder and water, topped up from the kettle or a pan of hot milk, but it wasn’t quite the same.

Nevertheless Horlicks, marketed as ‘the food drink of the night’, was a firm family favourite and was always produced in our house when one of us was struggling to get to sleep.

More engineering vacancies in North Korea

North Korea says spy satellite launch crashed into sea

North Korea has said an accident happened as it planned to send up its first space satellite, causing it to crash into the sea.

Pyongyang announced earlier it planned to launch a satellite by 11 June to monitor US military activities.

It now says it will attempt a second launch as soon as possible.

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Another small piece in the jigsaw

Insurers' climate alliance loses nearly half its members after more quit

LONDON (Reuters) - Three more insurance companies including Tokio Marine have left a United Nations-backed net-zero climate alliance, leaving the group with about half the number of members it counted two months ago as insurers take fright at U.S. political pressure.

Some Republican politicians have mounted a campaign against financial institutions collaborating to try to curb carbon emissions, and a group of Republican attorneys general have turned their focus on insurers by accusing them of potentially breaching antitrust laws in the United States.

Another of those little snippets of information picked up while browsing the internet. Idle browsing in this case, I wasn't looking for anything in particular.

Yet snippets like this one do highlight how complex global political games are and how they always trend towards more rules, more restriction and less choice for the little people. Fortunately this move seems to be stumbling, but it's another small piece in the jigsaw.  

Sustained Stratospheric Virtue Signalling

Kurt Mahlburg has an entertaining Tablet piece on what he calls the Montgolfier Award for Sustained Stratospheric Virtue Signalling. He gives his award as a Top Ten. Two examples are given below, but the whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how powerful virtue signalling can be.

And the inaugural Montgolfier Award for Sustained Stratospheric Virtue Signalling goes to…

Tenacious struggles against reality ought to receive public recognition

8. Davos (Switzerland)

It’s our award to give so we’ll consider a whole city full of virtue-signallers if we feel like it — in this case, the ski resort town in the Swiss Alps that plays host the annual World Economic Forum’s annual shindig, Davos.

7. Oxford City Council (United Kingdom)

In April of this year, news surfaced that Oxford City Council, in the UK, was planning to flog off some of the historic paintings on display in its iconic Town Hall to fund more “diverse” and “progressive” artworks.

Politics and Coffee

Noel Yaxley has an entertaining Critic piece on the failure of The Anarchist Cafe in Canada.

The rise and fall of an anti-capitalist café

What if — and I hope you’re sitting down — capitalism works better?

With the exception of Katherine Ryan and Nickelback, I have always looked up to Canadians. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, they share a collective mindset that embodies a spirit of self-reliance and resilient individualism. Having spent a lot of time in small fishing villages around Nova Scotia myself, I know this all too well. It is no exaggeration to say that Canadians are the product of a harsh environment. Temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees, and the polar bears will leave you alone if you have a gun.

So, I sympathise with Gabriel Sims-Fewer in many ways. This ambitious young Canadian had dreams of opening his own coffee shop in downtown Toronto. There’s nothing wrong with that. Entrepreneurialism is admirable. It’s refreshing to find a driven, passionate man who believes in unfashionable virtues like discipline and hard work. Plus, who doesn’t want to have a damn good coffee?

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder that there are many people who think political ideology can bypass the realities of human nature and human organisations which actually generate value.

The Anarchist Cafe at 190 Jarvis Street described itself as an “anti-capitalist, anti-colonial cafe, shop, and radical community space on stolen land”. If it is stolen land, should he not give it back? The strangeness doesn’t end there. Here we have an entrepreneur who starts a business under the pretext of rebelling against capitalism.

The Anarchist Cafe encouraged customers to pay what they can afford — at least for filter coffee. Other items, such as espresso, tea and baked goods, were charged at full price to offset lost revenue.

Somehow, this did not lead to unqualified success. The store will close permanently on May 30, according to the company’s website. Who would have thought a politically divisive, ultra-progressive company would go out of business in just one year?

Monday 29 May 2023

Chicago weekend



N. Korea cracks down on mobilization shirkers to increase labor at farms

Fever cases are spiking in the country, leading to intensifying quarantine measures for personnel mobilized to rural farming areas

North Korea has issued general rural mobilization orders with the full-scale start of the planting season, but farms face manpower shortages as people shirk the mobilizations. The authorities are responding to this situation by setting up checkpoints throughout rural communities and sending passersby caught in random inspections to the farms to work.

Imagine tootling off for a pleasant walk in the country only to be nabbed by the police and carted off to the the nearest farm to work in the fields. 


Mars bars trialling paper wrappers in effort to cut plastic waste

Mars says it's part of its Sustainable in a Generation Plan - which aims to reduce plastics use by a third in the short term.

The maker of the chocolate said the new wrapper, available in Tesco stores, was part of its exploration of a more "sustainable future".

Mars said it aimed to make all its packaging "recyclable, reusable or compostable".

Strewth - there was a time when a story such as this would not be a significant national news item. Especially with a war going on in which the UK is dabbling - a rather more important matter when it comes to our hopes for a sustainable future. 

Could become a major problem



Sunday 28 May 2023

Could still be an improvement


Created using Bing AI. Makes the headline more interesting in my view.

Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)


May be of interest for oldies. A different, more makeshift world of wood, wires and real people. I don't remember watching it as a youngster, but I'm not sure if it ever came to the UK. Bing AI says it did.

A cunning reader of human hearts

And now this person, who was about to be a pupil, this stripling, who was going to begin his education, had all the desires of a matured mind, of an experienced man, but without maturity and without experience. He was already a cunning reader of human hearts; and felt conscious that his was a tongue which was born to guide human beings.

Benjamin Disraeli - Vivian Grey (1826)

It is a common observation that many a middle class viewpoint is easily described as nothing more than a simple guide borrowed from the editorial policies of big media, from a cunning reader of human hearts. Viewpoints held with a comfortable confidence paying no heed to the complexities of evidence and quite immune to sceptical analysis.

Familiarity is key, familiarity is comfortable. As if the social world is a morass of official guides where the unofficial is unwelcome, alternatives are never demanded and nothing beyond bare assertion is required to defend whatever is familiar and therefore trusted. The world is as the guides say it is.

It is hardly surprising that mainstream media foster a comprehensive guiding role as the core of their editorial policies. Click on the BBC website and guides are what we see, from how to cook pasta to interpreting football matches to fixing the climate to celebrity culture. Ours is also a world where terrible things happen but the BBC is there to act as guide and interpreter. Or so it says.

The editorial policies of big media lead to numerous parables too. Disturbing stories which emphasise how uncomfortable it must be without a guide, beyond the familiar reach of editorial interpretation. The UK pandemic guide was one such interpretation played on a huge global stage. Hide, hide and stay inside said the official guides - so many did.

The climate narrative is a guide to becoming poorer, less free and even less significant within the familiar and comforting fog of Something Is Being Done. Disaster is coming we are told, but guides are available. Cycle, recycle, consume less and most importantly of all follow the guides and pay the price...

The price? Don't look for it in the guides. 

Saturday 27 May 2023

One move, two games

Boris Johnson sitting on ‘ticking timebomb’ over new Partygate claims, say senior Tories

Boris Johnson is sitting on a “ticking timebomb” over new Partygate claims being examined by police, say senior Tories – warning that the controversy engulfing the former PM could damage the party’s re-election chances.

Conservative grandee Michael Heseltine said Mr Johnson was “painfully on the rack” after Cabinet Office officials referred him to Scotland Yard and Thames Valley Police over further possible lockdown violations at Chequers and No 10.

It should be interesting to see how this latest game plays out. 

One obvious possibility is that it is a move to discredit whatever Boris Johnson may tell the Covid public inquiry. No doubt Boris is quite capable of writing a book about his side of the story so the boot goes in early. In which case, the game is presumably being played and supported by officials determined to be exonerated in one way or another.

The involvement of Michael Heseltine suggests an anti-Brexit game is being played at the same time. One move, two games. It's almost impressive.

An age of cultural totalitarianism


Well put, but I'm not convinced it has ever been much different. A tendency to take social and political issues beyond the inadequacies of approved ideology has always attracted pejorative labels.

There is a simple solution

BBC sparks outrage over coverage of 'celebrity fodder' Phillip Schofield's ITV exit

When the news first broke that Phillip was stepping down, BBC News gave a short bulletin that day to reveal the news to its viewers.

However, many viewers were left annoyed and confused that the outlet chose to report on Phillip rather than things they deemed more important.

Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed reported how BBC viewers were left irritated by the bulletin and said during Saturday's BBC Breakfast: "Viewers thought that Phillip Schofield's departure didn't deserve the prominence BBC News gave it."

Barely needs saying, but the simple and obvious solution is don't watch BBC or ITV. Pumped up trivia, drama and celebrity gossip are what they do. 

Two days ago I must have accidentally nicked the TV aerial cable with my hedge trimmer. I only noticed it yesterday while checking if more trimming was needed - spotted the nick in the cable before I noticed the TV wasn't working. I'll fix it today or maybe tomorrow, but meanwhile we aren't mortified by the loss. 

Friday 26 May 2023

Fact check marketing

Fred Skulthorp has a useful Critic piece on the disinformation game and attempts by big media to present themselves as trustworthy oases in a chaotically dishonest world.

The next great disinformation panic

Journalists gain trust by trusting the public

The first great disinformation panic started roughly around 2016 and lasted right up until the present day. Every time you logged on to your social media, you were at risk. Your vegetative scroll through the timeline became a multi-million pound information defence operation aimed at countering “fake news” and “disinformation”.

In the space of just half a decade, an entire new infrastructure of media was set up to tackle this grave threat to Western societies. “Expert” NGOs signed lucrative contracts with government departments and social media companies. Philanthropic donors, from Google to Bill Gates, pumped money into “not for profit” newsrooms to garner audience trust around issues that were supposedly being wrecked by this age of fake news and misinformation.

Anyone paying attention already knows that big media "fact checking" is a marketing tool as Skulthorp makes clear. He also passes on this useful point.

As the Substacker Gurwinder rightly points, the spread of misinformation doesn’t necessarily obscure the truth. It ultimately helps people become savvier and more attuned to the reality of a “dishonest world” which of course has many sources. The old model of news, where an audience relied on a few outlets, is dead. Instead, a complicated ecosystem of information reflects a complicated world. Pretend otherwise, try to draw a simple binary between the world of goods news and the world of the bad, and your audience will go elsewhere.

I don't see strong evidence of people becoming savvier and more attuned to the reality of dishonest media or the dishonesty embedded in international bureaucratic policy. Yet social change can be slow and not necessarily obvious until tipping points make it so. If Skulthorp is right, change could be dramatic.

Promotional Culture

An interesting video showing how Meghan Markle uses trivia and meaningless promotional language to build and maintain her celebrity persona. Familiar enough, but the video also conveys a sinister aspect to promotional culture generally. 

In a wider sense, the video is a reminder of the same promotional culture saturating the public domain. Manipulative language used in the pursuit of power, money and undeserved esteem. Or perhaps a promotional version of esteem. Even that isn't real.

Dinner Gongs


Breakfast this morning found Mrs H and I discussing our memories of dinner gongs used in holiday accommodation. We both remember them being used but so long ago that we can't recall specific holidays where a bong, bong bong on the gong called guests down to the evening meal.

In the end we concluded that we must have come across them as youngsters in seaside boarding house holidays with our parents.

Thursday 25 May 2023

Strange activist shortage

Modern slavery most common in North Korea, Eritrea, report says

The report said G20 countries — made up of the European Union and the world’s 19 top economies — are currently importing $468bn worth of goods that are at risk of being produced with forced labour, up from $354bn in the previous report.

Electronics remain the highest value at-risk product, followed by garments, palm oil and solar panels, in a sign of high demand for renewable energy products.

Solar panels eh? Maybe we'll see activists blockading solar panel installers while others spray paint on solar farms. Meanwhile the government could subsidise the removal of all solar panels as a first step in reparations. Or possibly not.

Vulgarities and unsightly things

Oh! what a draught of moonlight, sweet, night air, sad and mysterious landscape, deserted of all living. Awful, lonely, beloved; darkness so soft, and lights so dim. In that imperfect light all vulgarities and unsightly things vanish, and the beloved scene presents the image of the dead — who are beautiful and purified by distance, and the dim medium of memory.

Sheridan Le Fanu – A Lost Name (1868)

Le Fanu’s otherworldly character gazes out of his bedroom window late one night. The countryside beyond is deserted, silent and washed with moonlight.

There are many similarly revealing moments for anyone of a contemplative disposition. In my case, a recent one was a curlew’s call over limestone hills. Moonlight is optional. As the natural world frequently reminds us, the modern world accumulates ever more vulgarities and unsightly things.

Climate protesters, the Harry and Meghan show, political scheming, the Phillip and Holly squabble, the mephitic nonsense of gender politics, TikTok videos, celebrity culture. The list is too enormous to tackle. All vulgar, much of it unsightly, never likely to vanish.



A photo from yesterday's walk in the hills above Bakewell. There is certainly no buttercup shortage this year, the meadows were blanketed with them. An extraordinarily beautiful sight under blue skies and sunshine - a photo really doesn't capture the beauty of it. Such a commonplace little plant too.

Must be climate change or something. It's a pity they can't be used to generate electricity.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Blame Game

COVID inquiry issues legal notice to Cabinet Office for not handing over unredacted Boris Johnson messages

The government handed redacted messages from Mr Johnson's devices to the official COVID inquiry. The chair of the investigation has now used a legal order to compel the government to hand over the unredacted messages.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We are fully committed to our obligations to the COVID-19 Inquiry. As such, the Cabinet Office alone has already provided upwards of 55,000 documents, 24 personal witness statements, eight corporate statements and extensive time and effort has gone into assisting the Inquiry fulsomely over the last 11 months.

It may sound much too cynical and simplistic, but at the moment this comes across as little more than a hideously expensive blame game. A conclusion that government action should have been earlier, tougher, stricter seems to be baked in already. It is far too late to allow the do nothing option onto the table. That would leave too much egg on far too many powerful faces.

We'll see how it goes, but shoving Boris into the firing line already seems to attract the media and the bureaucrat finger-pointers. A familiar name for the public to remember and associate with the debacle rather than the inadequacies of the experts, media, NHS, medical bureaucracies, GP service, state education and the public sector generally.

Otherwise we don't run the government, the government runs us


Tuesday 23 May 2023

Reminders of the past


Fere Mere, Monyash

During yesterday's walk we stopped by Fere Mere in Monyash, an attractive, former lead mining village with a long history. We sat by the mere for a drink of water before leaving Monyash via Icky Picky Lane, through the churchyard then off along the main street and on into the maze of paths and tracks characteristic of the area.

On a track about a mile or so beyond Monyash, we'd stopped for sandwiches when we heard a curlew. We sometimes hear them in the general area, but not often. Just heard this one once but didn't spot it unfortunately. There is something evocative about the call of a curlew, especially out there amid the quiet peace of rolling limestone hills.

Further along the track we came across a chap rebuilding a stretch of dry stone wall. He had already completed one length and was busy tearing down another stretch of old wall. He told us it would take him about three days to tear down and three weeks to rebuild.

Heavy work for a warm sunny day with no shade, but he seemed cheerful. No machines used of course, just skill and muscle power. After a brief chat we walked on up the track towards the Roman road which is now the road to Buxton. The Romans were keen on lead too.

From there it was down to the Tissington Trail which was originally the trackbed of the Buxton to Ashbourne railway. A fine walk on a fine day and absolutely saturated with reminders of the past.

Mr Spare loses again

Prince Harry loses challenge to pay for police protection in UK

Prince Harry has lost a legal challenge over his bid to be allowed to make private payments for police protection.

His lawyers wanted a judicial review of the rejection of his offer to pay for protection in the UK, after his security arrangements changed when the prince stopped being a "working royal".

But a judge has ruled not to give the go ahead for such a hearing.

Home Office lawyers had opposed the idea of allowing wealthy people to "buy" security from the police.

Surely Mr Spare, to give him his adopted name, is now so far down the Royal Spares List that he doesn't need police protection. Mrs Spare isn't even a genuine Spare so they don't have much cause for complaint. Stay home and minimise the risk is surely the message here. 

Pass the Parcel

Rishi Sunak asks Suella Braverman for 'further information' over speeding ticket

There is growing pressure on Rishi Sunak to launch a formal investigation into Suella Braverman in relation to a speeding ticket she received in 2022.

Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin, speaking for the government, said Mr Sunak had met both the government's independent ethics adviser and Ms Braverman to ask for "further information".

"Further information," is of course a pass the parcel tactic designed to avoid making a decision. From the Ministerial Code we already know that civil servants can't be ticked off for being useless or obstructive. If Mr Sunak cannot deal with this as the root of the Braverman issue, then we may as well accept that the office of Prime Minister has effectively become a subordinate Civil Service post. Political oversight has gone.

1.2 Ministers should be professional in all their dealings and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect. Working relationships, including with civil servants, ministerial and parliamentary colleagues and parliamentary staff should be proper and appropriate. Harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code and will not be tolerated.

Monday 22 May 2023

It’s time to scrap the Ministerial Code

Henry Hill has a useful CAPX piece on the hounding of Suella Braverman via the Ministerial Code.

Suella, the speeding course ‘scandal’ and why it’s time to scrap the Ministerial Code

In Suella Braverman, Rishi Sunak made a rod for his own back. It is almost certain that, had he actually won a leadership contest and assembled a Cabinet on his own initiative, she would not have featured in it.

But to a Prime Minister who inherited his Chancellor, the most important person in his government save perhaps himself, using the Home Office to buy off the right must have seemed like small beer at the time.

It was never likely to end well, though. On a policy level Sunak, as a creature of the Treasury, was unlikely ever to be sincere about reducing immigration.

The whole piece is worth reading as a reminder of how most political actors and Civil Service mandarins strenuously avoid rocking the globalist boat. The Ministerial Code seems designed to assist with that. 

Whatever you think of Braverman and her politics, if that is the sum of the story then it is utterly, bone-crushingly trivial.

Yet rather than focus on such triviality, opposition politicians and commentators alike can clutch their pearls and claim breathlessly that she broke the Ministerial Code! A form of words which, as the Code compasses misconduct from the grossest to the pettiest, has the happy side-effect of turning pretty much anything into a sacking offence.

It also encourages Sunak to outsource his thinking to poor Sir Laurie, rather than making a five-minute political judgement and carrying the can for it.

Because we have five fingers

Sir Keir Starmer questioned on how Labour's 'five missions' plan for NHS will be funded

The Labour leader unveiled a swathe of ambitions for the NHS in a speech in Essex.

The NHS formed one of the five missions Sir Keir laid out in February that will be the core of his election manifesto heading into 2024.

They are:
  • Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7
  • Build an NHS fit for the future
  • Make Britain's streets safe
  • Break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage
  • Make Britain a clean energy superpower

There are 'five missions' because we have five fingers. Excruciatingly dull because voters aren't supposed to remember them. 

Space junk still visible

VOA: N. Korea’s first two spy satellites are “dead” space junk still orbiting Earth

The satellites are still visible on an online satellite tracker


While the North Korean regime is apparently preparing to launch a military reconnaissance satellite, it is known that the two satellites launched in 2012 and 2016, respectively, are still orbiting the Earth. However, they are non-functional “space junk” rather than valuable intelligence instruments, Dr. Marcus Schiller of ST Analytics told the Korean edition of Voice of America (VOA).

Sunday 21 May 2023

This strange, indolent, unjoyous attachment

On emerging from the Old Manse, it was chiefly this strange, indolent, unjoyous attachment for my native town that brought me to fill a place in Uncle Sam's brick edifice, when I might as well, or better, have gone somewhere else.

Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter (1850)

Derby is my native town, although it became a city decades ago. I suppose I still have a strange, indolent, unjoyous attachment to it even though we haven’t lived there for almost forty years. Whatever the threadbare attachment might be, it is nothing like my attachment to Derbyshire, its hills, dales, dry stone walls, villages and towns.

These days we visit Derby to have the cars serviced and that’s it. The other day we visited the Derby museum for the Hogarth exhibition, but that’s the first time we’ve wandered around the city centre for several years and we don’t intend to rush back. An accumulation of negative impressions I suppose.

For example, a section of the Derby ring-road near to where I grew up was an ordinary main road in the nineteen fifties. The Airfix model shop was on the other side of the road and as a youngster I could cross it in relative safety without adult supervision. Today it’s a very busy dual carriageway – anyone would be insane to try crossing it on foot.

We don’t seem to be particularly good at improving cities and we aren’t particularly good at preserving what was best about them. They grow and we adapt to the growth and some bits are newer and more modern than they were, but improvement seems elusive.

I remember some years ago, Mrs H and I were sitting by a window in a café on the second floor of the main Derby shopping centre. It was a clear day and in the distance, well beyond the city limits, I could see trees, green fields and a church spire. Below our window were four lanes of busy traffic.

Adults voted and -


From the YouTube description -

Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh shows off her skills at reaching out to the Democratic Party voting base.

From a YouTube comment

She is 44, the daughter (one of eight children) of a former Nebraska and U.S. representative (John Joseph Cavanaugh III), is married (but didn't take her husband's name), has three children, and her brother is also a Nebraska state representative because what's politics without nepotism? She was also the first woman to breast feed on the Capitol floor. She's everything that's wrong with political dynasties.

Saturday 20 May 2023

BBC - much mocked for not moving with the times.

Kuenssberg: Why 'boomer' Schwarzenegger won't wait to tackle climate change

"I myself am a boomer! I'm, like, horrible!"

There's something a bit unexpected about one of the most famous people on the planet using what's become a term of abuse about themselves instead of choreographed gushing about their latest project.

But Arnold Schwarzenegger's path in life has been unexpected, and unprecedented: celebrity bodybuilder; Hollywood action hero; Republican Party governor of California; climate campaigner.

Technically, he is indeed one of the post-war generation - the baby boomers, much mocked for not moving with the times.

Nitwits leave themselves wide open. One obvious comment on not moving with the times would be "BBC licence fee."

Dangerous old books


Power Cut

We had a brief power cut yesterday evening. First my laptop told me it had switched to the battery, then broadband went down and I began to curse BT, then we realised it was a power cut. Rather reluctantly I had to cease cursing BT.

Only a short power cut of about 30 minutes but we haven't had a proper one for years. A few brownouts, but that's all. We've made a few preparations for power cuts so we weren't too worried, but it certainly brings home how much we depend on electricity. It was also a useful reminder that Net Zero is still being stomped all over us. 

It's also a reminder that any political party supporting Net Zero is not worth a vote. But we knew that.

Friday 19 May 2023


Rolls-Royce completes successful tests of 'game changer' UltraFan engine in Sinfin

It has been described as an 'historic moment' for the city-based engineering giant

It is so powerful that its gearbox can transmit the same power as an entire grid of Formula 1 cars at maximum speed. The first tests were conducted using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a biofuel made from waste-based sustainable feedstocks such as used cooking oils.

Great stuff. What we need is some kind of inducement to eat more fish and chips, burgers and kebabs to increase the oily feedstock. 

Yes we could render down a few politicians, but a more practical way forward would be via school meals. Schools could be graded on the number of fish and chip meals they serve per year. A tasty lesson in green cookery for the kids.

Here's another idea - kids could work for a badge by eating extra fish and chips. The badge would say something like "I'm A Fatty Food UltraFan." 

Forgetting Your Password in the Olden Times


There is an obvious danger with videos of this type. AI systems could pick it up and present it elsewhere as a genuine aspect of the historical development of passwords... 

Maybe it is.

To believe and disbelieve simultaneously

The face of the Lady of VII Dolours miraculously smiled at her; the silver heart miraculously shed its tarnish and glittered beneficent lightnings. Doubtless she knew somewhere in her mind that no physical change had occurred in the picture or the heart; but her mind was a complex, and like nearly all minds could disbelieve and believe simultaneously.

Arnold Bennett – The Pretty Lady (1918)

Wealthy person flies by private jet to a conference denouncing the use of fossil fuels. Lesser person denounces fossil fuels in a social gathering while making only trivial personal concession to avoiding their use. We call such people hypocrites because they are, because they disbelieve and believe simultaneously. Or they appear to.

It’s very similar to revealed and stated preferences, but in this case we have revealed and stated beliefs. Stated verbally and revealed by behaviour. We see it all the time, but if a person believes and disbelieves simultaneously, it doesn’t say much for the notion of belief as an aspect of personality, as a kind of mental algorithm.

We already know that belief is an unreliable notion. On a daily basis we encounter situations where it fails to explain what people say and do. People recycle yogurt pots and cycle to work because of climate change. Or so they say. Yet revealed and stated belief differs to such a degree that we may as well conclude that there is no genuine belief in the climate narrative.

It is more useful to look at belief as a repertoire of responses which may lead us to give incompatible responses to the same subject but in different situations - as B.F Skinner would have explained it. The notion of belief sitting in a person’s head directing external operations doesn’t work. What we observe is merely verbal and physical behaviour adapted to social situations. Shallow of us, but we are shallow. It’s how we adapt.

Behaviour is the guide through inevitable human shallowness. What we wish to see in politics and politicians is consistent revealed and stated beliefs – consistent verbal and physical behaviour.

In which case, many of us must be hypocrites, because we don’t vote for that. We vote for stated beliefs knowing they are unlikely to be confirmed by future behaviour. It’s as if we have an inbuilt timing problem. 

Stated political beliefs are immediate, part of the here and now. Revealing behaviour comes later, often piecemeal, often obscured by spin and propaganda. We are too slow, our memories too short and fragmented for us to vote competently in our own interests.

Meanwhile our political leaders are stating their beliefs…

Thursday 18 May 2023

Albo and Midwit Shallowness

Samuel Mullins has a very interesting and insightful Quadrant piece on the shallowness of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Midwit Shallowness of Anthony Albanese

Last year, a few days before the federal election which would make Anthony Albanese Prime Minister, there was a brief moment most people have almost certainly forgotten, if they even noticed it at the time. Albo was attending a business lunch in Perth and was asked by journalist Lanai Scarr if he could describe in three or fewer words what he wanted his legacy to be, win or lose. Albo paused a moment, and then, with that characteristic emotional frog in his throat, said: “Acting on climate”.

At first glance this is pretty anodyne stuff for the leader of a centre-left party in a Western democratic country. It is an essential requirement for someone in Albo’s position to ‘speak the words’ on climate change at every opportunity. But I remember finding it deeply strange. So much so that it’s been knocking around in my head for the year since he said it... 26 years, 24 which included formal ministerial and shadow ministerial roles, Albanese’s influence on climate change policy was, at best, a footnote. There was some minor policy work in opposition when climate change wasn’t the dominant issue it would come to become, but when in government, and when leading the opposition, there’s not much to point to in terms of a climate legacy. Which makes you wonder what those first 26 years were all about.

The whole piece is well worth reading as the problem Mullins outlines seems to be a common one. Certainly common here in the UK. This insight for example.

The other biographical refrain Albo returns to is his “three great faiths”: the Catholic Church, the Labor Party, and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. What these three have in common is that they’re all institutions which are part of or pointing to a bigger thing. It’s not rugby league he loves, it’s the Rabbitohs. It’s not Australia, it’s the Labor Party. It’s not God, it’s the Church. Institution first. The actual thing second.

Institution first. The actual thing second. Yes that's familiar here in the UK and we could probably take it further. We could suggest that UK political midwits see Net Zero as political institution first and its complexities,  uncertainties and risks a distant second - or even nowhere at all. 

You just continue to train your customer

Krispy Kreme plays down impact of UK rules on unhealthy foods

The boss of Krispy Kreme doughnuts has shrugged off the impact of new UK regulations on unhealthy food in supermarkets, insisting that consumers could simply be “trained” to look elsewhere in shops for their sweet treats.

Major retailers have been banned from placing high fat, sugar or salt items near prominent store locations such as checkouts in a shake up of food rules in partial effect since October.

But doughnut kingpin Mike Tattersfield played down the impact of the new rules.

“You do have a short-term displacement but the opportunity starts to be that you just continue to train your customer in different parts of the retailer and other retailers that we are not in today,” Tattersfield told the Financial Times, adding that “customers still continue to look for what we do.”

I've never tried one, they look sweet and unappetising to my not particularly choosy eye. The name doesn't appeal either. Well - a chap has to be snobbish about something.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

The culture industry

William Deresiewicz has a fine Tablet piece on how the arts and modern artistic culture became so boring. It isn't even necessary to agree with the whole piece in order to savour the general thrust of it.

We’re All Bored of Culture

Anglo-Calvinist moralism has turned the American arts into something strenuously polite and deadly dull

I'm bored; you’re bored; we’re all bored. By our books and movies and television shows, the endless blandness of the Netflix queue, by our music and theater and art. Culture now is strenuously cautious, nervously polite, earnestly worthy, ploddingly obvious, and above all, dismally predictable. It never dares to stray beyond the four corners of the already known. Robert Hughes spoke of the shock of the new, his phrase for modernism in the arts. Now there’s nothing that is shocking, and nothing that is new: irresponsible, dangerous; singular, original; the child of one weird, interesting brain. Decent we have, sometimes even good: well-made, professional, passing the time. But wild, indelible, commanding us without appeal to change our lives? I don’t think we even remember what that feels like.

The article is well worth reading in full. For example this paragraph on how our tastes are reflected back at us. We know it, but sometimes in the clamour of the public arena we may forget how subtly significant this is.

The point is not that corporations have degraded popular taste. It is the opposite. The culture industry, like the junk food industry, has gotten very good at satisfying it, at reflecting back our taste to us. And with the internet, the feedback loops have gotten ever more efficient. Art is boring now, in other words, because we are boring. Art is woke because we are woke. Art is bland and unimaginative because we have landed ourselves in the lamentable position of getting exactly what we want.

Spare Senator


The evidence is quite clear

It's cloudy, dull and chilly here in Derbyshire this morning. The heat isn't on in the house, but I'm wearing lots of warm clothing, pretty much the same type of clothing I wore in the middle of winter.

It is obvious enough that some people aren't emitting their fair share of CO2 to kickstart the global warming we've been promised by our new King. Yet Mrs H and I were out in the car on each of the previous three days, so we are certainly contributing our share of fine weather gas.

The only possible conclusion is that some people out there have been walking or cycling instead of driving. Harsh words I know, but the evidence is quite clear.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Make sense of this


“I’m a celebrity and you aren’t. I can do this and you can’t. Consistency and facts are for the little people darling.”

To my mind it is not easy to make sense of hypocrisy taken to this level. As if we aren’t supposed to make sense of it without the assistance of a comparable level of cynicism.

That bright light at the end of the tunnel

Michael Cook has an interesting and slightly spooky BioEdge piece on near-death experiences.

What is that bright light at the end of the tunnel?

Reports of near-death experiences — with tales of white light, visits from departed loved ones, hearing voices, seeing Heaven — capture our imagination.

The fact that these reports share so many common elements begs the question of whether there is something fundamentally real underpinning them — and that those who have managed to survive death are providing glimpses of a consciousness that does not completely disappear, even after the heart stops beating.

There is a certain fascination in the pursuit of the elusive, probing the boundaries of what is knowable. Take it a little further - imagine a person opts for euthanasia. On the brink of the Eternal, a detectable flicker of consciousness indicates they have changed their mind just at the point when it is far, far too late.

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied four patients who died after a cardiac arrest in the hospital while under EEG monitoring. All four were comatose and unresponsive and were ultimately removed from life support.

Upon removal of ventilator support, two of the patients showed an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity, considered the fastest brain activity and associated with consciousness.

Furthermore, the activity was detected in the so-called hot zone of neural correlates of consciousness in the brain, the junction between the temporal, parietal and occipital lobes in the back of the brain. This area has been correlated with dreaming, visual hallucinations in epilepsy, and altered states of consciousness in other brain studies.

Monday 15 May 2023

No elected official in this country talks about it


The internet makes it particularly easy to present the worst of anything, especially social issues. We know this, but I’ve watched the video a number of times because it stirs up few aspects of the modern malaise.

Modern life does make it much easier to carve out a social niche from what were once desperately unpromising materials. It is possible to evade the much more severe consequences imposed by an earlier age on those who are ineffectual, dim, silly, pathetic or all of these things. All it seems to require is a dignity amputation.

I bet a referendum on it feels wrong too

Keir Starmer says it ‘feels wrong’ EU citizens living in UK can’t vote

Change to voting status could enfranchise about 5 million EU citizens over the age of 18

Keir Starmer has said it “feels wrong” not to allow EU citizens who live and pay tax in the UK not to have the right to vote in general elections.

While the Labour leader said there was “no settled policy”, he confirmed in an interview on LBC radio that the party was “looking at some of the voting issues”.

Should absolutely everything be regulated?

Should social media face-altering filters be regulated?

The issue of photo manipulation on social media has long been a concern for many, but with the technology now increasingly extending to videos, should authorities intervene?

Krystle Berger insists that she is "not drastically changing my features" when she posts photos and videos across Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. "I'm really just digitally giving myself the perfect make-up and lighting," she says.

A young mother from the US state of Indiana, Ms Berger pays to subscribe to an app called FaceTune that has been downloaded more than 200 million times around the world.

The issue of photo manipulation on social media has long been a concern for many. Not that many would be my guess. It's that creepy word "concern" again, the overuse of it has long been a concern for many.

Sunday 14 May 2023

Something for them to share one day

Rishi Sunak's five pledges are difficult to deliver, Grant Shapps says

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's five key pledges to voters are "difficult" but the government is committed to delivering them, Energy Secretary Grant Shapps has said.

In January, Mr Sunak vowed to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce national debt, cut NHS waiting lists and stop migrant boats.

Mr Shapps on Sunday urged people to wait before judging the PM's promises.

But Labour said the government's policy agenda lacked ambition.

It's not easy to know what is going on here. Is Labour saying that Mr Sunak's government should have failed on a more ambitious and altogether grander scale? 

Yet both parties already have plans to change global weather patterns via recycling yogurt pots allied to totalitarian politics. The grandest, most ambitious of ambitious failures seems to be baked into that one. Something for them to share one day.   

I hope this is a prank


Saturday 13 May 2023

Sunak, Starmer and GARM

While UK political leaders try to attract our attention, Kurt Mahlburg has a useful Mercatornet piece to remind us of our increasingly threadbare democratic options. We have no way to vote for political oversight of the global background to UK political games, global backgrounds such as GARM for example. We know it already, but the piece is worth reading as a reminder.
Meet GARM, the World Economic Forum’s Swiss army knife for woke-ifying Planet Earth

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media is attacking the problem of ‘harmful content’

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) dubs itself “a cross-industry initiative established by the World Federation of Advertisers to address the challenge of harmful content on digital media platforms and its monetization via advertising”.

By “harmful content”, GARM means views about climate change, gender, sexuality or race that are more than five minutes old and happen to be grounded in reality.

GARM has created standards that “limit or entirely demonetize platforms that contain ‘hate speech’ on ‘gender identity,’” and “insensitive… treatment of debated social issues”.

Liking what it saw, the World Economic Forum gobbled up GARM as a “flagship project” in its “Platform For Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Culture” just months after the project’s launch in 2019.

Managed decline on steroids

Priti Patel to accuse Rishi Sunak of presiding over 'managed decline' of Conservative Party

The former home secretary is one of the keynote speakers at the launch of a new grassroots movement - the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO).

Even worse, that weird Starmer bloke has started babbling about steroids and wants us to associate him with Tony Blair of all people. 

'Clause IV on steroids’: Keir Starmer says his Labour must go further than Blair

Leader says party must ‘change our culture’ as it faces bigger task in government than his predecessor

Friday 12 May 2023

Inside Green Heads


Using Bing AI - Create image of a Net Zero village scene

WHO do you think you are?

Henry Hill has a very interesting CAPX piece on the The World Health Organisation and funding it receives from the UK.

WHO do you think you are? The Government is handing huge sums to health lobbyists with no questions asked

The World Health Organisation is, I’m sorry to say, at it again – this time trying to convince us that ‘There is no safe level of alcohol consumption’.

Inevitably the science behind this proposition is deeply dubious. Chris Snowdon has chronicled time and again the way the temperance lobby (for such they are) distort the data to try and create demand, at least amongst politicians, for greater restrictions on drinking.

None of that needs reiterating to the CapX reader. Instead, I want to ask: why, after thirteen years of Conservative-led government, is the United Kingdom still handing the WHO money, hand over fist, with no oversight of how it is spent?

The whole piece is well worth reading both as a comment on the lack of oversight of how UK contributions are spent, but also the dismal reality of UK political oversight generally. This after all is what we supposedly vote for - political oversight. Unfortunately political parties don't see it that way.

The answer, depressingly, is most likely just inattention to detail and lack of direction.

On the first point, much of the work of sprawling departments ticks over on autopilot. Ministers, regularly cycled between them, are seldom in position to get a grip on the machine, even if they are minded to do so.

As for the second, whilst both personal responsibility and, more recently, taking back control are Tory shibboleths, beyond rhetorical deference there is seldom much evidence that either actually inform the Government’s policy thinking.


The Christie: World-renowned NHS centre downgraded by watchdog

A world-renowned cancer centre hit by whistleblowing concerns over alleged bullying has been downgraded by the health watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) told The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester it "requires improvement" in safety and leadership.

A former trust nurse told the BBC leaders had intimidated staff to stop them voicing concerns to inspectors.

The trust said it was working hard to ensure staff felt supported.

It is not possible to make a specific comment from the outside here, but in a wider context there is a familiar sound to this piece. For example,  after spending almost all of my working life in the public sector, the word "concerns" is still a familiar one. In my world it was a very reliable indicator that comfort zones were being defended.

The concerns mentioned here may be genuine, I don't know, but decades of experience suggest comfort zones to me.

Thursday 11 May 2023


Fungal disease threatens banana production in Africa

Currently, bananas are the most popular fruits worldwide, with the global banana trade skyrocketing in recent years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 21 million metric tons of bananas were exported in 2019 alone.

However, the most traded variety at the moment – the Cavendish banana – is highly susceptible to a devastating fungal disease called the Fusarium wilt of banana (FWB), caused by the strain known as the Tropical Race 4 (TR4).

Times change, simple reporting isn't good enough. Media folk should be busy calling one of their batty scientist sources in the hope that the Fusarium wilt of banana could just possibly be transmitted to humans and worth a bigger headline. 

Or maybe it could conceivably be caused by climate change, Trump, eating meat or the far right. For our thoroughly modern media it's all worth checking.

Regular checks

Diabetics forced to 'go it alone' as 7,000 excess deaths linked to condition, says charity

Diabetes UK says less than half of people with the condition in England received all eight of their required checks in 2021-22, meaning 1.9 million did not receive the care they need...

The condition is monitored by regular checks, known as care processes, around eight times a year to prevent serious complications.

Maybe it's just bureaucrats or journalists, but Mrs H passed this over to me with a chuckle at the language used - regular checks, known as care processes.

Diabetes is a serious condition, a family member has it and managing the condition can be somewhat technical and maybe this is a small point. Yet if regular checks are known as care processes, why not stick with the familiar - regular checks? Everyone knows what regular checks are, but care processes could be anything - could be mostly paperwork.

Wednesday 10 May 2023

You have given up on your own population


The cult of progress

Steven Tucker has an interesting Mercatornet piece on John Stuart Mill and what has now become a curiously oppressive pursuit of liberty.

The cult of progress: John Stuart Mill’s prison of compulsory eccentricity

150 years on from the death of JS Mill, has the philosopher really just beamed humanity up forcibly into a new, alien world of infinite ‘freedom’?

I used to like John Stuart Mill. Then I actually read him...

What I did not realise when I cited Mill approvingly in my book was that, enamoured as he was by “experiments in living”, Mill dreamed of a world in which everyone was now an eccentric – or, to put it another way, a complete and utter freak. Ironically, in such a world, compulsory eccentricity actually becomes a new form of oppression of the constitutionally normal.

Mill famously castigated “the despotism of custom” and the received mass opinion of non-progressive proles. Yet, if the new received opinion becomes the contemporary liberal denigration of custom instead, then this becomes a new “despotism of custom” in its turn, the new “custom” being a kind of “anti-custom” and celebratory repudiation of previously prevailing social norms – i.e. State-enforced deviance-worship and mandatory cults of diversity.

Mill’s key text may have been called On Liberty, but it really should have been called On Compulsory Liberty – and compulsory liberty is no true liberty at all.

The whole piece is well worth reading because we do seem to have a problem with prejudice. We could view at least some prejudice as a rational defence of the familiar against the risks of the unfamiliar. Yet for decades we have been encouraged to be generally prejudiced against prejudice. Where we end up with that is merely another, more risky form of prejudice.

Identity-politics ideologues today speak of dismantling oppressive norms of white, cisheteropatriarchal normativity, which, by judging people against a standard template, fit minorities into neat little boxes and so drive them towards despair. Mill likewise complains of the painful impossibility of eccentric geniuses like him successfully “fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its [ordinary] members the trouble of forming their own character.” Well, such moulds have indeed by now been well and truly broken: gender is now a spectrum with approximately 12,697 or more separate entries on it, rather than a mere two as in bigoted Victorian times, for instance.

It's a strange world indeed where reality itself is prejudiced.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

No Lycra Here


Crank Still A Crank

Engineers must ‘save this planet from increasing catastrophe’, King Charles urges

Engineers must “save this planet from increasing catastrophe”, the King has urged in his first speech after his Coronation.

He made a return back to official royal duties on Tuesday, using his first engagement to bolster his lifelong support for sustainability and the environment by visiting a laboratory working on net zero research.

Those Dismal Souls

It’s remarkable how many people seem to like the idea of the government enforcing certain laws and rules much more heavily than is currently the case. Even to the point of advocating demented revenge on those who step out of line. Pandemic rules for example - an unforgettable lesson in the popularity of enforcement. 

The traditional left/right political spectrum is too simple to bring out this unlovely aspect of political reality. Left v right doesn’t work well as a model of what goes on in the shifty world of political psychology. The lure of enforcement for its own sake is politically attractive, lurking behind the façade of righteous action.

Eventually we end up with what we see today, bureaucrat enforcers pursuing enforcement behind that righteous façade. Enforcement is their business, the enforcement trough contains all the bureaucratic nourishment they need for piling on lots of flabby growth.

A ghastly love of enforcement is all around us, saturating everything mainstream. To take a common example, media anguish needs only a single dismal soul to be possessed by a suitable grievance inadequately mitigated. Outrage, fury or merely sadface, they don't really care. A bottomless pit of grievance sustains this media ploy forever and a bottomless pit of dismal souls may be taken as given.

There is no way to disentangle grievance from the wider politics of enforcement. Without grievance there is no righteous enforcement, but it is quite impossible to vote against it, even imaginary grievances invented by bureaucrats, the media and those dismal souls.

Monday 8 May 2023

Gary's team avoids relegation


Not Enough Clapping

Health warning - it's the Grauniad

Patients getting sicker as they face long waits for NHS care, says top GP

Patients are developing cancers and enduring so much pain that they cannot climb stairs because of the 7.2 million-strong waiting list for NHS scans and treatment, Britain’s top GP has said.

Prof Kamila Hawthorne, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the record delays for care and the uncertainty for patients about when they would finally be seen was leaving people feeling “helpless and forgotten”.

Nothing to do with strikes and taking a long break during the pandemic debacle I suppose. Nothing to do with the NHS being well past its expiry date. Maybe Sir Keir has some sticking plaster to keep his tottering totem upright for a little longer. 

Sunday 7 May 2023

The message has been out for some time

Coronation protesters 'targeted' by police to 'stop message getting out'

Police behaviour at the coronation has been branded an 'attack on democracy'; here's what happened when protesters joined royalists on the procession route.

I'm not sure what is meant by the police aiming to stop the message getting out. Surely the republican message is already out and has been for some time, assuming the fate of Charles I wasn't some kind of tragic procedural error.

Closer to the present we have Willie Hamilton's 1975 republican book My Queen and I, which as far as I know may still be read quite openly 48 years later.

Heavy Lifting


While walking across the road bridge in Matlock today, we saw a huge crane lifting a tracked construction vehicle across the River Derwent. I'm not sure what the fascination is, but we had to stop and take a photo. We weren't the only ones of course.

Need to reflect

Local elections 2023: We need to reflect and do more, says Lucy Frazer after Tory losses

The government needs to reflect and do more, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has said following bruising losses for her party in local elections in England.

Some Conservatives have blamed Rishi Sunak after the party lost more than 1,000 councillors in Thursday's vote.

But, speaking to the BBC, Ms Frazer said that, despite a difficult start to the Tories' campaign, voters "were beginning to give Rishi Sunak credit".

Maybe the Conservatives need to reflect on what it is to be conservative. Seems unlikely though. To do that they would have to find a few conservatives - and know where to look of course.

Saturday 6 May 2023



Many will know about this already, but it is yet another reminder of a growing global bureaucracy which does not intend to tolerate debate it doesn't control. 

Green Cross

I see a few Green Party councillors have been elected in the more prosperous wards of Derbyshire. A ticking off for the Tories perhaps, but it raises some very odd images.

Imagine tootling off to the polling station, giving your name and address and showing your photo ID, only to fall at the last hurdle and put a cross against a Green Party candidate. Possibly more than one, compounding the oddity of it all. 

I'm not sure what the leafy suburb appeal is, unless it's the iron fist in a gardening glove.

Friday 5 May 2023

Strangely Busy

It was strangely busy in town this morning. The huge Co-op car park was almost full, there were lots of people milling around and delivery vans all over the place.

Mrs H and I wondered if people were stocking up because they plan to stay in tomorrow and watch the coronation circus on TV. Casually patriotic boozing with friends perhaps. Yet there aren’t anywhere near as many flags around as we’ve seen during a World Cup run.

The media try to wind us up of course, but I thought there would be widespread indifference. Charles has been a royal fixture forever and is hardly an interesting character. 

So much for my assessment of the national psyche I suppose. No doubt we’ll discover the general level of interest tomorrow.

He can - and that's why he does it


He can - so it's part of the job to do it. It widens the remit, authenticates the power of the remit all the way down. The GP receptionist fobs you off because she can - so it's part of the job to fob you off.

Thursday 4 May 2023

Turned Away

Local Elections: Widespread reports of voters without ID being rejected at polling stations

Scores of hopeful voters are being turned away at polling stations because they have not got valid photographic ID, ITV News has been told, as people take part in England's local elections.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran tweeted her concern about "significant numbers" being rejected after learning about people without ID being unable to vote in her Oxford West and Abingdon constituency.

Polling station tellers in Oxfordshire have told ITV News "large numbers" are being turned away, reporting that between 10-25% have been unable to vote.

Even I knew about photo ID being required and I'm not one to keep a sharp eye on these things. The number of voters turned away and the number who return with a valid ID would be interesting. 

Maybe we now have a clue as to why party logos are printed on ballot papers.

Five Tips

King Charles III: An alternative guide to the Coronation

Thousands are flocking to London, the bunting is starting to appear in every corner of the country and the aroma of Coronation Quiche is in the air.

But if you want to avoid all the pomp and ceremony, here are five tips for an alternative Coronation weekend.

Here are the tips. This could be an oldie's perspective on my part, but year by year the BBC seems to mould itself more and more closely to an audience it assumes must be dim.

  1. Avoid central London
  2. Go offline
  3. Escape to the country
  4. Look for alternative plans (Running out of ideas already)
  5. Curl up at home with some of our best content (Ideas all gone)

Wednesday 3 May 2023

All down to hard work and talent

Bona Mugabe owns Dubai mansion, Zimbabwe court papers allege

Divorce court papers seen by the BBC allege that the daughter of Zimbabwe's ex-President Robert Mugabe owned 25 residential properties, including a Dubai mansion, worth a total of around $80m (£64m).

Bona Mugabe filed for divorce from former pilot Simba Mutsahuni Chikore in March.

Mr Chikore wants to split their assets, which also include 21 farms, he says.

It's all down to hard work and talent - anyone can do it.

Haunted House


Seems harsh

Samsung bans ChatGPT-like AI after security breach, warns of employee termination

The South Korean company found that employees had uploaded sensitive code to AI platforms, raising fears that the data may be made available to other users.

Consumer electronics from the corporation, such as Windows laptops and Android smartphones, are unaffected. Samsung issued a warning that violating the new rules could result in termination.

On the other hand, the threat of termination could do much to liven up our public sector.  

Tuesday 2 May 2023

Read the label

But he gradually perceived that the words she used had no meaning for her save, as it were, a symbolic one: they were like the mysterious price-marks with which dealers label their treasures.

Edith Wharton - The House of Mirth (1905)

Many people will have noticed a common orthodox reaction to ideas which are contrary to mainstream mantras. When conventional folk encounter unorthodox ideas, their reaction can be an almost visible search for familiar labels such as far-right, racist or outdated - symbols of their unwillingness to engage further.

There are many social and political labels available to the orthodox as any sceptic knows well. In general they seem to be associated with what is sometimes called confirmation bias, although that too can be used as a label. Used in this way, labels can be paths of least resistance, avoiding the effort of coping with anomalies, or indeed sceptics.

Regular commenter Sam Vega recently recommended a book by Martin Amis titled Koba the Dread. I haven’t read it yet, but I have a sample downloaded onto my Kindle. The book is about Stalin and the indulgence of communism by Western intellectuals, "Koba" being Stalin's nickname. Here is a negative comment on the book copied from the Amazon website.

The book is just anticommunist propaganda, written by a pillar of the bourgeois establishment, Stalin crushed those who opposed socialism and turned a backward country into a nuclear superpower that stood against American capitalist imperialist aggression, revolutions are not a tea party, make no mistake the enemies of socialism must and will be crushed.

This comment is little more than a series of labels and to my mind, so exaggerated that it is likely to be a parody of communist rhetoric. Labels are essential to totalitarian politics, but in this case, padding the labels out would have made the comment slightly more authentic. Could still be authentic though.

We all have to make use of labels of course and there is no rule to distinguish the useful from the evasive. There are clues such as a refusal to engage with reliable facts, uncertainties or inconsistencies, but even these tools cannot deter the labellers. Oops I’ve labelled the labellers.

It's all there


At the other end of the age-continuum we find the verbal behavior of senility—slow halting speech under faulty stimulus control, “forgotten” intraverbals, the rambling of trivial intraverbals and self-echoics, the reduced audience-control which makes for irrelevance, unchecked repetition, and so on.

B.F. Skinner - Verbal Behavior (1957) 

Monday 1 May 2023

Idiot Chic

David Mikics has a fine Tablet piece on communist chic in US schools.

Commie Chic Invades American Grade Schools

Angela Davis was a dedicated fangirl of Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev and cult leader Jim Jones. So why is she presented to children as a hero?

Every day, my son, who is in seventh grade, sees a quotation from Angela Davis painted on his school’s wall: “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” (The line actually comes from Karl Marx.) Four years ago, during Black History Month, a poster of Davis beamed down from the wall of his public elementary school in Brooklyn.

I eagerly praise my son’s charter school to other parents. It’s full of dedicated teachers who urge their students to debate politics and history with an open mind. So I wrote to the administration, proposing that they should balance the school’s homage to Davis with a quotation from Andrei Sakharov or Natan Sharansky, who fought to free the millions of Soviet bloc citizens that Davis wanted to keep locked up. After all, I reasoned, some of the school’s families are themselves refugees from communist tyrannies. My suggestion was met with silence.

The whole piece is well worth reading because the horrors of the past are so easily and conveniently forgotten by modern fans of totalitarian rule.

The state of Virginia also officially discourages teaching about the criminal behavior of communist regimes. In February the Virginia Senate’s Democrats killed a Republican-sponsored bill that would have required public schools to teach students about the victims of communism. Public school teachers in Virginia are already required to cover slavery and the Holocaust. So why not communism? Because, a representative of the Virginia teachers union explained, “There is a strong association between communism and Asians,” and so studying communism could lead to anti-Asian hate.

Idiots will attack anyone for any reason—a fact to live with. But the Virginia teachers union explanation is plainly bunk. It seems exceedingly unlikely that high school students, after learning about the many millions of Chinese peasants sacrificed at Mao’s whim, would pin the blame for the dictator’s atrocities on the Chinese American kid sitting next to them in class—perhaps a descendent of one of Mao’s victims.