Friday 30 June 2023

Power move

Joe Biden bizarrely stands up and wanders out of studio during live TV broadcast in latest gaffe

Joe Biden was involved in a bizarre moment after he stood up and wandered out of a studio during a live TV broadcast.

The US President walked off set while cameras were still filming after appearing on MSNBC for an interview with Nicolle Wallace.

Biden’s White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates labelled the moment a “power move”.

It's a guess, but the phrase 'power move' was probably coined already for this kind of eventuality. The interesting question is - which phrase will they come up with next time he falls over? Can't be anything like 'power move'. 

Dreaming up the excuses is not a job I'd care to tackle. I'd power move out of there without looking back.

Publicity seekers and oddballs

Londoners deserve a better choice of mayoral candidates

Surprisingly few of them have been well-known national figures from the political mainstream...

More often the wannabes have been publicity seekers and oddballs whose careers ended in opprobrium - as happened eventually even to two successful two-term mayors - Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson...

Tony Blair created the post of elected London Mayor in 2000 as part of New Labour's UK-wide push for devolution but quickly came to regret it after a vicious fight for his party's nomination.

It's a Tony Blair project, so that's a good enough reason to abandon the idea as a failure. The publicity seekers and oddballs were inevitable.  

Thursday 29 June 2023

Target Culture



How easy is it to be a conscientious bureaucrat? Easy enough to be popular. Attractive for mediocrities who prefer to work sitting down, who gravitate towards rules, soft responsibility and a five day week with a relaxed attitude to sickies.

It is hardly surprising that we are drowning in bureaucracy. Too many people are able do it, want to do it and are prepared to vote for more of it. Most of my working life was spent in bureaucracies which over the years became more bureaucratic. Bureaucracies definitely like being bureaucratic.

It’s an oversimplification, but a core problem seems to stem from people trying to be conscientious in two different ways, one of which is more popular and easier than the other.

It is possible to be a conscientious bureaucrat by a nitpicking adherence to existing rules, procedures and processes. It is also possible to be a progressive bureaucrat by proposing to widen the remit of those rules, procedures and processes. It may frustrate those outside the bureaucracy, but from the inside it is conscientious.

Alternatively, it is possible to be a conscientious bureaucrat by trying to improve or scrap existing rules, procedures or processes because they no longer serve their supposed purpose. These people don’t get anywhere. It’s the wrong career choice.

Pop went the tyres; bang went the fuel.

France riots: Police killing of 17-year-old boy in Nanterre is catalyst for wanton destruction

In Nanterre, like other Paris suburbs and other French towns, there are plenty of people who feel marginalised, forgotten or discriminated against. Crime is high; literacy is low. And when you get an event like the killing of a 17-year-old by police, that becomes a catalyst for rioting...

But this was something very different. As we watched, the fire rapidly expanded. It consumed vehicle after vehicle. Pop went the tyres; bang went the fuel. Windows blown out. Red, orange, blue and green flames getting ever bigger.

Pop went the tyres; bang went the fuel and Monsieur Plod the policeman was very cross.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Contagion v Belief

The most contagious feelings, the clearest thoughts, of others are clear or contagious only because I can readily make them my own.

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

Suppose we choose Prince William as an example of celebrities who strongly support the orthodox climate change narrative. Wills believes the climate doom narrative we might say with a considerable degree of confidence. For example -

Jacinda Ardern appointed trustee of Prince William's Earthshot Prize

Prince William said it was an honour to welcome the former leader of New Zealand to the Earthshot Prize.

Yet –

If Wills doesn’t have a solid grasp of the scientific complexities, what specifically does he believe? Presumably he accepts lots of orthodox climate hearsay, as his father does. Maybe that isn’t too serious, apart from supporting the futile expenditure of billions of pounds. That level of expenditure shouldn’t be driven by those who merely believe hearsay though.

Alternatively, anyone may be sceptical about the climate narrative after observing the inconsistent behaviour of believers, including Wills, other celebrities and even climate scientists. The private jets, the international conferences, the absence of any observable intention to adopt a low impact lifestyle. Wills appears to believe without worthwhile changes to his personal lifestyle.

Either Wills cannot believe the orthodox climate narrative or –

Or maybe ‘belief’ isn’t the best word. It has all the baggage of ideas coherently organised inside a person’s head. Suppose belief isn’t like that at all, being a much shallower and significantly impersonal consequence of popular language.

Wills takes ownership of orthodox climate language because socially it is inescapably appropriate for him to make it his own. Because the clearest thoughts, of others are clear or contagious only because I can readily make them my own. 

Polar bears on ice floes, impassioned rhetoric, dire predictions and much more. Wills can make all this his own and he does. The language is easy to learn and socially contagious. Acquiring the contagion is caused by inadequate social distancing we might say, tongue in cheek.

Wills and many other celebrities do not need to understand the real world complexities of climate change. All they need to understand is how to use the popular language and that is a simple matter of imitation. The private jets and trivial lifestyle changes tell us how shallow it all is. Very shallow indeed.

The Collapse of the British Establishment


Tuesday 27 June 2023

A stupid convention

During a recent thunderstorm I had a momentary sense of how fine it would be to watch the storm from a remote moorland cottage. It was an imaginary sense of being closer to a natural world which has not been sanitised by modernity. A sense of being apart from the pressures and intrusions of modernity.

Following a similar theme, the passage below is taken from one of a series of detective novels by Josephine Tey. Her Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Alan Grant, has a period of debilitating mental fatigue due to overwork so takes himself off for a holiday in the Outer Hebrides. Here he begins to recover his equilibrium on a wild and lonely beach where he escapes the pressures and intrusions of London life.

He walked down over the fine white sand to the edge of the water, and let the tumult roar over him. At close quarters it had a senseless quality that dissolved his uncomfortable sense of diminution and made him feel human and superior. He turned his back on it almost contemptuously as one would on a bad-mannered child who was making an exhibition of himself. He felt warm and alive and master of himself; admirably intelligent and gratifyingly sentient. He walked back up the sand, absurdly, and extravagantly glad to be a human being and alive. The air that came off the land when he had turned his back on the salt sterile wind from the sea was gentle and warm. It was like opening the door of a house. He went on across the grassy levels without once looking back. The wind hounded him along the flat bogs, but it was no longer in his face and the salt was no longer in his nostrils. His nostrils were full of the good smell of damp earth; the smell of growing things. He was happy.

Josephine Tey – The Singing Sands (1952)

George Santayana had something to say along similar lines - our spiritual need to be among natural causes and to experience them as natural. It’s where so many modern environmental causes fall flat as they seek to wrap the natural world in fluffy political virtues. 

A stupid convention still looks on material and mathematical processes as somehow distressing and ugly, and systems of philosophy, artificially mechanical, are invented to try to explain natural mechanism away; whereas in no region can the spirit feel so much at home as among natural causes, or realise so well its universal affinities, or so safely enlarge its happiness. Mechanism is the source of beauty. It is not necessary to look so high as the stars to perceive this truth: the action of an animal’s limbs or the movement of a waterfall will prove it to any one who has eyes and can shake himself loose from verbal prejudices, those debris of old perceptions which choke all fresh perception in the soul. Irrational hopes, irrational shames, irrational decencies, make man’s chief desolation. A slight knocking of fools’ heads together might be enough to break up the ossifications there and start the blood coursing again through possible channels. Art has an infinite range; nothing shifts so easily as taste and yet nothing so persistently avoids the directions in which it might find most satisfaction.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905)

Today the the natural world is still partly obscured by yet more stupid conventions. Irrational hopes, irrational shames, irrational decencies, make man’s chief desolation. Indeed they do.

Switching off

Mrs H and I spend a fair amount of time in coffee shops. We chat about this and that but we are not the kind of people who avoid conversational pauses. We don't chat for the sake of chatting. A spell of companionable silence doesn’t make us uncomfortable.

Yet as we sip our coffee, it is surprising how often we hear someone at another table who seems quite unable to stop talking for more than a few brief breaths. Occasionally they pause to allow someone else to add a sentence or two, but even then there is a kind of vibration in the air, an almost palpable anxiety to retake the conversational lead.

Encountering such people is hardly an uncommon experience, but from another table it can be curiously difficult to listen to an endless stream of talk. Not wishing to eavesdrop is a major part of that, but not all of it.

Another part of not listening is more basic, it’s the way we automatically screen out irrelevant noise. Unless it is particularly intrusive we ignore it in the sense that we don’t consciously hear it. I’m more likely to do that than Mrs H. I just switch off. For example, here’s a recent snippet from a local café related to me by Mrs H afterwards. I heard none of it, even though I was closer. I’d switched off.

“I have to go and buy some cobs from the baker, we’re having a picnic in Edinburgh.”

“How long will it take to get there?”

“About five hours. I don’t like him driving up the motorway, I wanted to go via the Lake District.”

Monday 26 June 2023

Slower Train Wreck Proposed

Sam Hall has an interesting CAPX piece on how Conservatives could counter Labour green energy plans. Interesting as an indicator that neither party is connected to the real world beyond political rhetoric. The best we can hope for is a slower train wreck or Net Zero rebranded into less destructive environmental fantasies. 

How Conservatives should counter Labour’s green energy plans

Labour is right to put forward a plan to deliver more clean energy. But few experts think the UK could decarbonise its electricity grid by 2030, as proposed by Labour, because of slow planning decisions, supply chain bottlenecks, and local consent challenges. They plan to solve this by accelerating planning decisions and grid connections. These changes will be critical, but Labour’s proposals to overrule councils on planning decisions could create a backlash from communities, jeopardising renewables deployment. There can be no shortcut for local consent.

The Government should show how they will meet their own ambitious target for decarbonising the power sector by 2035. They will need a detailed plan to unlock onshore wind, upgrade the grid, and speed up planning while ensuring local consent is still given. The Conservatives oversaw the construction of a world-leading offshore wind industry, scaling renewables to 44% of our electricity supply today from 7% in 2010. But despite that progress, there is much more to do, and all parties must offer an ambitious vision for clean power at the next election.

The whole piece is worth reading as an interesting example of how superficial the Net Zero debate must be at a political level. It cannot be technical, because technically it doesn't work. Peddling visions for the next election - it doesn't go one step beyond that.

Yes, 1984 has been translated into Korean

North Korea emphasizes use of Pyongyang Cultural Language through state-run media

“When people set out to embrace the spirit of refined everyday language in their daily lives and activities, they further strengthen our society’s unity of spirit," an article in the Rodong Sinmun claimed

Following the enactment of the Pyongyang Cultural Language Protection Act earlier this year, North Korea is continuing to encourage use of its standard language through state-run media outlets.

On June 22, the country’s most prominent newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, ran an article on page six entitled “Collective Harmony and Refined Everyday Language.” The article claimed that “[embracing] the spirit of refined and civilized language in our linguistic lives [everyday speech] is the first step in developing comrade-like unity and harmony,” and that “families and schools must impress upon the new generation of the excellence of the Pyongyang Cultural Language and encourage them to proactively incorporate it into their linguistic lives.”

"Collective Harmony and Refined Everyday Language" probably doesn't include tinkering with pronouns so we're ahead of them there.

Sunday 25 June 2023

A Lousy Deal

It can be useful to view a UK general election as a deal between voters and the elected government. A general election isn’t a deal in the usual sense, but it is a useful way to highlight what an asymmetric process it is.

Take Net Zero for example. The UK government has a Net Zero policy which already has a negative impact on voters, so we could ask what compensation voters receive. What is the Net Zero deal? Obviously we know there is no Net Zero deal, but its absence does highlight how threadbare general elections are – what a miserable deal they are for the electorate.

For example, replacing the NHS, selling off the BBC and a major restructuring of the education system could be some kind of modest compensation for enduring the costs, the intrusion and for risking the likely failure of Net Zero. Inadequate compensation perhaps, but better than none, which is what we have been tacitly offered.

There are other obvious aspects to this approach, such as HS2. What is the compensation for those who will never use it? Or the BBC – where is the compensation for those who never watch it yet must endure its one-sided effect on public debate? What are we offered as compensation for substandard government?

Of course this isn’t how electing a government works and it couldn’t work as a specific deal between voters and government. Yet the point is made – UK general elections are an absurdly poor deal for voters. The choice between Conservative or Labour is a choice between an absurdly poor deal and an absurdly poor deal.

Sir Whatsit needs to become more interesting


Darling, you know quite well that no one is interesting unless they're where they shouldn't be. The Prime Minister at Number Ten is simply dull, but the Prime Minister up someone else's apple tree would be screamingly interesting.

Josephine Tey - The Expensive Halo (1929)

Tiny numbers

E-cigarettes: Primary school age children are ending up in hospital due to excessive vaping

Figures show there were 15 cases where children aged nine or under needed to be admitted in the year to April.

Boys and girls of primary school age are becoming so ill from vaping they are ending up in hospital, a Sky News investigation can reveal.

Figures from NHS England show there were 15 cases where children aged nine or under needed to be admitted in the year to April, up from 12 last year and two the year before that.

A tragedy for those affected, but the numbers seem tiny. Mainstream media continually pump out scare stories dosed with individual tragedies, it's what they do. It doesn't mean we have to jump up and down about it. We may as well leave that to politicians and activists.

Our grandson tells us how widespread vaping is in his secondary school. Very easily obtained by underage youngsters we are told. Only an anecdote, but to my mind it suggests what a tiny percentage those numbers probably represent nationally. At the moment, this seems to be an important point - the numbers are tiny.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Ready to run


Nor did he look like a bookmaker's clerk. He was more like a tout. There was about him that subtle suggestion of having no legal standing in the universe, of being perpetually ready to run.

Josephine Tey – Kif (1929)

Attitudes to Freedom

Frank Luntz has an interesting conservativehome piece on his poll of UK voters.

Frank Luntz: My new poll. What voters believe about freedom – and attitudes to government.

Frank Luntz is a political communications consultant and pollster, and a Visiting Academic Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies.

For Conservatives, freedom is at the core of their political philosophy. It’s the value that united Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It’s what I have lived and breathed and championed throughout my career in politics across the globe.

This week, I attended a London conference hosted by the International Democrat Union, an alliance of centre-right parties founded by Lady Thatcher 40 years ago. Its slogan? “Connecting Freedom”.

But does freedom actually matter to voters anymore?

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder that political language is confused. There is no clear connection between the language and the real world, no clear cause and effect relation between political promises and real world events.

To be clear, for British voters, freedom is not something philosophical or theoretical. It’s not a national value – though they do see the UK as the freest country in the world (and America only as fifth, a damning reputational indictment of my homeland). It’s something they want for themselves and in their own lives – to control their own fate and be free to make their own choices.

But here’s the bad news for the Tories…

First, voters no longer see the Conservative Party as champions of freedom. In fact, more people (28 per cent to 20 per cent) associate that value with Labour.

And while 52 per cent of people believe national government should take the lead in protecting their freedoms, only 27 per cent believe it is likely to do so.

However, one finding does suggest a reason for the confusion. Voters expect the impossible, so naturally enough politicians find language which seems to promise it.

Having conducted similar surveys in the US, it’s remarkable how different our views are towards government. A large majority – 65 per cent to 35 per cent – told us that it was government’s job to protect most people against most risk, rather than to act as a safety net when people need it the most.

Friday 23 June 2023


Why aren’t football supporters referred to as customers?

Major football clubs are entertainment businesses. Their customers pay at the turnstiles or buy a season ticket like customers of the local leisure centre or cinema. They buy food and drink at the ground and overpriced goods at the club store. They are customers of the football club.

Not that it matters much, but it is interesting how changing “supporter” to “customer” brings out an aspect of the relationship between supporter and club. It’s an aspect which is obscured by the word “supporter”.

No - we are the idiots


Gullibility Poll

Hunter Biden attends state dinner in first appearance since plea deal

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter broke cover to attend a state dinner for India’s prime minister, days after agreeing to a plea deal on federal charges.

He was accompanied by his wife, Melissa Cohen, and his half-sister, Ashley Biden, to the event at the White House.

It came as a poll showed half of Americans believe Mr Biden received preferential treatment from prosecutors after avoiding a gun-related conviction.

The Reuters poll showed Americans were divided along partisan lines in their views on the case, with 75 per cent of Republicans seeing preferential treatment compared with just 33 per cent of Democrats.

It's a sobering thought, but a substantial number of those Democrats would probably vote for Hunter Biden in a Presidential Election. 

Thursday 22 June 2023

Church Corporatism

C of E divests of fossil fuels as oil and gas firms ditch climate pledges

Church sheds holdings from pension and endowment funds after U-turns by BP and Shell

The Church of England is divesting from fossil fuels in its multibillion pound endowment and pension funds over climate concerns and recent U-turns by oil and gas companies.

The church said it was abandoning oil and gas companies and all firms primarily engaged in the exploration, production and refining of oil or gas by the end of 2023, unless they were in genuine alignment with a 1.5C reduction pathway.

The alignment is with a genuine political pathway towards global corporatism, not a fantasy pathway to a managed climate.  


Jeffrey Tucker has an interesting TCW piece on corporatism. Interesting because we need a word to nail down global political trends and many of the old words don't do that. Written from a US perspective.

A Genealogy of Corporatism

It’s not capitalism. It’s not socialism. The new word we are hearing these days is the right word: corporatism. It refers to the merger of industry and state into a unit with the purpose of achieving some grand visionary end, the liberty of individuals be damned. The word itself predates its successor, which is fascism. But the eff word has become totally incomprehensible and useless through misuse so there is clarity to be gained by discussing the older term.

Consider, as an obvious example, Big Pharma. It funds the regulators. It maintains a revolving door between corporate management and regulatory control. Government often funds drug development and rubber stamps the results. Government further grants and enforces the patents. Vaccines are indemnified from liability for harms. When consumers balk at shots, government imposes mandates, as we have seen. Further, pharma pays up to 75 percent of the advertising on evening television, which obviously buys both favorable coverage and silence on the downsides.

I don't think a genealogy can ever be comprehensive enough, but the trend towards corporatism is real enough. Mussolini would have understood it. The whole piece is well worth reading.

That is only the beginning of the problems. Corporatism abolishes the competitive dynamic of competitive capitalism and replaces it with cartels run by oligarchs. It reduces growth and prosperity. It is invariably corrupt. It promises efficiency but yields only graft. It expands the gaps between rich and poor and creates and entrenches deep fissures between the rulers and ruled. It dispenses with localism, religious particularism, rights of families, and aesthetic traditionalism. It also ends in violence.

Looney Tunes background art

While watching cartoons with the kids then grandkids, I've often found myself looking at the background art rather than the cartoon, especially cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s. 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

A fine location for government offices though

Giant 1,800-house development would be a 'nightmare picking away day-by-day'

Protestors against the Clowne Garden Village project have spoken out

Campaigners opposed to the massive Clowne Garden Village housing plans near two villages claim the proposed development has been earmarked on ‘Green Belt’ agricultural land after housing plans for the old Coalite coking plant site were scrapped.

Wake-up call

There are a number of similar YouTube videos of the 6am Pyongyang morning call, this being a particularly clear and spooky one. Is is an instrumental version of "Where Are You, Dear General?", where the General referred to is Kim Il Sung. I don't know if they still  play it - very high on my list of creepy sounds though.

From the YouTube video description.

The tyrants' call to their servants to wake up. To us, this may sound like the ice cream man approaching. But to ordinary North Koreans, this serves as a daily reminder of who their masters are. Realize that, and it sounds a lot more horrible. What you hear is the bell tower of Pyongyang central station as it sounds every morning at 6 am (except Sunday). We recorded it from the balcony of our hotel room (Koryo hotel)

Captured by Language

He was also attentive to provide a liberal education for the sons of their chieftains, preferring the natural genius of the Britons to the attainments of the Gauls; and his attempts were attended with such success, that they who lately disdained to make use of the Roman language, were now ambitious of becoming eloquent. Hence the Roman habit began to be held in honor, and the toga was frequently worn. At length they gradually deviated into a taste for those luxuries which stimulate to vice; porticos, and baths, and the elegancies of the table; and this, from their inexperience, they termed politeness, whilst, in reality, it constituted a part of their slavery.

Tacitus – Agricola (c. AD 98)

Britons were captured by language, luxury and status perhaps, but language was the first step and the cement which held its captives. It hasn’t changed much – Agricola’s approach evolved into global politics and the willingly captured petty chieftains are Sunak, Starmer and Co.

They revelled in the strongest language, bringing all kinds of abominable accusations against him, and so grossly exaggerating such stories which had a foundation of truth that they became mere lies.

Emile Zola - His Excellency Eugène Rougon (1876)

Another way by which people are captured by language is exaggeration as we recently experienced during and after the pandemic debacle. The hounding of Trump and Boris Johnson are examples too, but exaggerated language captures the unwary in many areas. Climate change and sustainability are two more major examples. Ironically, exaggeration does appear to be sustainable. 

She thought of what she would say to-night at this revel, faintly prestiged already by the sounds of high and low laughter and slippered footsteps, and movements of couples up and down the stairs. She would talk the language she had talked for many years — her line — made up of the current expressions, bits of journalese and college slang strung together into an intrinsic whole, careless, faintly provocative, delicately sentimental.

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)

Yet another form of captivity is as Fitzgerald describes it, a careless adoption of verbal fashions, expressions and assertive sentiment. A casual avoidance of analysis and the lazy evasion of sceptical effort. 

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Name one study


Woke Smoke

Thorsteinn Siglaugsson has an entertaining TCW piece on the creepy and absurd nature of the UN’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards.

Blessed are the cigarette makers in UN’s world of woke

ALL businesses will soon be required to follow the UN’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards. These are intended to measure the contribution of businesses to environmental and social issues, as well as whether their operations fulfil the requirement of equality for all minority groups, real or imaginary. In Europe, under the new EU Taxonomy, companies are forced to submit complex and detailed ‘sustainability’ reports. The requirements apply not only to the companies; they also have to ensure that their suppliers meet them. Initially, these reporting requirements will only apply to medium to larger firms, but it won’t be long before smaller businesses and even the self-employed will have to comply as well. As the ‘conspiracy theorists’ have it, our homes will be next.

Recently it was reported that Tesla, one of those at the forefront of the transition to green energy, scored only 37 out of 100 points in S&P Global’s assessment of its performance in the aforementioned categories. It seems to weigh heavily against the company that it is mostly controlled by white males, and its executives have not spent much time or resources supporting various activist groups, or selecting suppliers based on their location in developing countries rather than the quality of their products.

The whole piece is well worth reading, as a reminder of how creepy the UN is and how absurd. I have never smoked, but this contrast with Tesla was encouraging. Correlation is not causation perhaps, but the UK was less deranged when smoking was more widespread.

However, cigarette maker Philip Morris won’t have to worry about this. It scored 84 out of 100 in the latest assessment of its contribution to improving the world. This performance is not based on the company’s products, which are the main cause of untimely deaths in the United States and cut short more lives than alcohol, drugs, and traffic accidents combined. The carbon footprint of the industry is significant, and its overall negative environmental impact looms large. Tobacco farming is mostly carried out in developing countries, causing deforestation and erosion.

But none of this matters when it comes to the ‘positive impact on society, sustainability, and equality’ as measured by ESG standards. The company claims it ‘empowers’ female tobacco farmers, fights against ‘systemic racism’ (conveniently forgetting that black Americans are proportionally most affected by smoking-related diseases), and emphasises the importance of combating ‘microaggression’ and hiring from diverse backgrounds.

Not watching television is even better

A daytime nap is good for the brain

Regularly finding time for a little snooze is good for our brain and helps keep it bigger for longer, say University College London researchers.

The team showed nappers' brains were 15 cubic centimetres (0.9 cubic inches) larger - equivalent to delaying ageing by between three and six years.

However, the scientists recommend keeping naps to less than half an hour.

But they said a daytime sleep was hard in many careers, with work culture often frowning on the practice.

It's easy to see how work culture could indeed frown on the practice of taking a nap. Surgeons, bus drivers, airline pilots and dentists should all avoid taking a nap while working.

A more interesting area of research would an investigation of similarities between watching television and taking a nap. For example, watching a BBC piece on climate change may be physiologically similar to falling asleep and dreaming strange and disturbing dreams. 

It's only a sample of one, but I find not watching television at all keeps me reasonably alert all day. 

Monday 19 June 2023

It’s wrong to even ask a question like that

Professors at N. Korea’s top economics school dodge questions about socialist economy

“Even if professors think there’s a problem with the socialistic economic system, they can’t make such remarks in public spaces," a source told Daily NK

One problematic question was posed by a freshman in the economics department at Chong Jun Taek University of Economics in early May.

“Since the planned economy of socialism is a system in which everything is controlled and run by the state, the food supply can break down – something we’re seeing right now – when the state doesn’t distribute rations. But in the market-oriented economy of capitalism, individuals are paid according to the amount they work. Doesn’t the capitalist economic approach strike you as being more logical?”

That led to a severe reprimand from the professor, who said that “it’s wrong to even ask a question like that” and that the student had “studied in vain.” But the professor did not offer a decent response to the student’s question.

Our penalties for being a politically incorrect academic may be far less severe, but the evasive attitude seems to be similar - “it’s wrong to even ask a question like that”.

Interestingly, this is the attitude of the BBC towards anything politically incorrect. Climate change, sustainability, gender politics, race politics and immigration for example. It is no great stretch to suggest that the BBC has a somewhat North Korean attitude to these issues.

Clearing House (UK)

Health warning, it's the Grauniad

UK strikes laws must conform with international rules, says UN agency

The International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency, said the UK needed to “ensure that existing and prospective legislation is in conformity” with international rules on freedom of association, and added that the government must seek technical assistance from the agency’s experts.

A description I’ve remembered for decades came from a 1952 science fiction novel, The Space Merchants. Authors Frederik Pohl and Cyril M Kornbluth described government as a "clearing house for pressure groups". The phrase stayed with me because even outside Pohl and Kornbluth’s dystopia, government is just that.

As bureaucracies and pressure groups became larger, more powerful, and more global, the national government stage has been shrinking in proportion. It is already comparable to an amateur performance of Macbeth in the village hall. The national political actors we vote for have become significantly less relevant in only a few decades.

Take Matt Hancock for example. Thrust onto the national pandemic stage he became a lowly actor employed by Clearing House (UK), a nonentity always trying to learn a confusing script handed down from the global pandemic stage.

Or Jeremy Corbyn. As Prime Minister, would the dim ideologue have screwed up anything significant? Probably not. It is likely that Clearing House (UK) was mostly out of his reach already.

Clearing House (UK) conducts its negotiations behind closed doors. It does not require inexperienced poseurs to arbitrate between it and Clearing House (EU), Clearing House (UN) or its global subsidiaries such as the International Labour Organization.

Just Stop Balls

Just Stop Oil protesters ‘plotting to glue themselves to Wimbledon Centre Court’

Eco-warriors are reportedly plotting to disrupt Wimbledon by storming onto the prestigious Centre Court and glueing themselves to the net.

Just Stop Oil is said to have told an undercover reporter that the group are planning a protest at the iconic tennis tournament similiar to when an activist glued themselves to a snooker table at the Crucible.

Activists are volunteering to be part of the protest to form an “inspiring image” broadcast to the entire world.

Sunday 18 June 2023

Obama on tilting


Robot bartenders

Ana Vidal Egea has an interesting El País piece on robot coffee shop baristas.

Robot bartenders: improving quality of life or the road to dystopia?

A New York coffee shop chain has opened its first establishment with robot baristas, following in the footsteps of similar ones in Russia, Dubai and Tokyo

“Humans can be unpredictable; let the robot make your coffee” is the slogan of the Botbar coffee shop chain, which opened its first store in New York on June 10 in the trendy neighborhood of Greenpoint, at 666 Manhattan Avenue, a number that for the more esoteric could portend the dawn of a dystopia where dehumanization prevails. But for the bar’s founder, Denise Chung, the robots are here to help us and contribute to improving the quality of life for both baristas and customers. “I will still have some employees who will have to fill the machines with coffee beans and greet the customers. The mechanical part will be taken care of by the robot.” The Botbar has several tables and three machines where customers can place their order on a touch screen. Adam, a robot, is in charge of preparing their coffee (he can rustle up 50 per hour). “It’s an improvement for the community; instead of being served by a waiter who is tired of making 500 coffees a day, they will have a robot that ensures the coffee is made quickly and perfectly,” Chung adds.

“I will still have some employees who will have to fill the machines with coffee beans and greet the customers. The mechanical part will be taken care of by the robot.” Chung says. Is that any less boring than making the coffee all day? 

This chap thinks the robots will have to be humanized and maybe he's right, but we still seem to be drifting away from something important.

José Antonio González Alcantud, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Granada, points out the atmosphere surrounding a bar promotes sociability. “Thanks to drunkenness and food, modified states of consciousness are produced that facilitate enlightenment and free speech from its subjections. The French Revolution began in taverns. All its poets, from Baudelaire to Verlaine, or writers, from Balzac to Sartre, had their favorite taverns. In Spain or Italy, it won’t fly. Robots serving people? It’s not implausible, but it’s not going to succeed,” he says. “And if it does, we will be on the definitive road to dystopia, a sordid environment. Even so, we would have to humanize the robots and give them liturgical functions. We would anthropomorphize them, giving them nicknames and joking with them. The bar will remain the last trench of humanity.”


A local out of town shopping centre we visit fairly regularly used to have a Holland & Barrett store. We’d pop in occasionally for odds and ends we can’t easily find elsewhere.

The last time we visited the shopping centre we noticed a new store being fitted out. We scratched our heads for a moment, wondering what was there before until we realised it had been the Holland & Barrett store. 

We only remembered because on a previous visit, the woman serving there had told us it was closing. If we hadn’t known the store was closing, we wouldn’t have noticed its absence for ages and even then we’d have forgotten where it was. 

Modern out of town retail seems to be like that. Stores open, stores close but they barely generate enough impact to be noticed when they are gone.

Saturday 17 June 2023


Jeremy Corbyn's wife Laura Alvarez in group aiming to unseat Sir Keir Starmer at next election

Laura Alvarez is part of the Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance group on Facebook, which has discussed standing MPs against the Labour Party following the ban on her husband standing for the opposition.

Screenshots leaked to Sky News show an account belonging to Laura Alvarez is a member of the Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance (OCISA) Facebook group.

Good - at least we have a glimmer of entertainment seeping into the grey political smog we seem destined to endure forever. Come on Organise Corbyn Inspired Socialist Alliance - make a show of it.

Lumière Brothers' Snowball Fight

Friday 16 June 2023

Sturgeon – the Diary of a Nobody

Philip Patrick has an excellent TCW hit piece on Nicola Sturgeon and her remarkable lack of talent.

Sturgeon – the Diary of a Nobody

‘AN empty taxi drew up and Clement Attlee got out’. Churchill’s jibe about his supposedly anonymous adversary was witty but unfair. Attlee might not have had Churchill’s charisma, but he was a substantial and accomplished figure who deserved more respect.

But how about Nicola Sturgeon? Such is her public profile that it is inconceivable that anyone would make such a quip about the embattled ex-First Minister, even though a paraphrase is sorely tempting (‘an empty luxury camper van drew up and . . .’). But it would be far more apposite and might serve as a useful corrective to the often-hysterical reporting of this consistently overrated figure.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder that talentless and inexperienced people are propelled to the top of the political tree for reasons which are obscure unless we think in terms of puppets doing a puppet's job. Puppets have to be untalented or the strings don't work.

Nicola Sturgeon is in many ways the archetypical modern politician. With no previous history to speak of (a brief legal ‘career’ which seems to have ended badly is skated over in the hagiographies), she was fast-tracked to the top largely on account of her media-created image, ferocious ambition, and in the absence of a plausible alternative. It certainly wasn’t on account of any achievements – because there were none.

Once the image of Sturgeon as ‘a rising star’ and a ‘major figure’ was implanted on the media’s fervid imagination, it could not be erased. Results, outcomes, achievement seemed not to matter in the slightest. She achieved nothing as Health Minister and less than nothing as First Minister. Only Humza Yousaf has failed upwards at a greater velocity.

Breathe Out

London Mayor's fund faces £3m loss as EV firm Breathe collapses

The Mayor's Energy Efficiency Fund, set up by Sadiq Khan, injected £3.2m into Breathe in March 2022, 15 months before it called in administrators, Sky News learns.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: "The mayor's Energy Efficiency Fund is the largest of its kind in the UK and has already invested in 17 projects across London mobilising over £380m of investment, which is expected to save over 38,000 tonnes of CO2 and nearly 40m kwh of energy.

"MEEF's original investment of £3.2m in Breathe represents less than 1% of the total funding mobilised by the fund to date.

The mayor's spokesperson seems to conflate investment and funding, but maybe the ultimate destination of "mobilised" funding is somewhat uncertain.

At least all that the mobilised moolah has saved about 0.0001% of annual global CO2 emissions. Whether or not Londoners can afford all these savings is another matter. 



Thursday 15 June 2023

Whereas MPs misleading voters doesn't count

Boris Johnson 'deliberately' misled MPs over partygate, report finds, and should be banned from parliament

In its highly anticipated investigation, the committee also recommended the former PM serve a 90-day suspension from parliament.

A parliamentary inquiry has concluded that Boris Johnson knowingly misled parliament multiple times with his statements about parties in Downing Street during the COVID pandemic.

It's a rum world where misleading MPs is almost too horrible to contemplate, but misleading voters about Net Zero, climate change, immigration, pandemic policies, HS2, the economy, housing, infrastructure and...

Well apparently that's okay.

The end of the pastoral age

Before her, if she had but taken note of them, were a lesson in history and the markings of a profound transition in human evolution. Beside the old frame stable was a little brick garage, obviously put to the daily use intended by its designer. Quite as obviously the stable was obsolete; anybody would have known from its outside that there was no horse within it. There, visible, was the end of the pastoral age.

Booth Tarkington – Gentle Julia (1922)

It is easy to forget that railways did not bring an end to the pastoral age. For many decades before cars arrived, those who could afford it would arrive at the railway station via some kind of horse-drawn carriage. They would expect something similar at the end of their journey. Then, as Emile Zola suggested, came the triumph of the motor-car.

He was ever on the watch; and even now was thinking of reverting to the construction of little motors, for he thought he could divine in the near future the triumph of the motor-car.

Emile Zola – Truth (1903)

Lucas spoke of his own car, which lay beyond in the middle of the side-street like a ship at anchor. He spoke in such a strain that Miss Wheeler deigned to ask him to drive her home in it. The two young men went to light the head-lights. George noticed the angry scowl on Everard’s face when three matches had been blown out in the capricious breeze.

George’s car was a very little one, and he was his own chauffeur, and had to walk home from the garage when he had done with it.

Arnold Bennett - The Roll-Call (1918)

Although there were some who never really adapted to the new motoring age.

Bolton watched with a feeling of exasperation that he could never start a car himself with the skilled nonchalance of these youngsters of to-day. It always seemed to him that the motoring age had evolved a specialised type of human to meet its needs.

E. C. R. Lorac - Fire in the Thatch (1946)

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Only a bureaucrat

Heat health alerts issued by UKHSA for the whole of England amid hot weather

Heat health alerts have been issued for the whole of England for the next week amid the continued hot weather.

The UK Health Security Agency said all regions of England have been placed under a yellow alert until 9am on Monday, June 19.

Only a bureaucrat could adopt the term "heat health" as the basis for yet more pointless activity. Part of every summer hectoring campaign I suppose. 

It ought to be astounding that there are people who go to work, draw a salary and build up a pension for doing this kind of work without thinking this is infantile garbage, I shouldn't be doing it. But as we know, it isn't astounding at all. 


Early one recent sunny morning we saw an obese young woman in town wandering towards the Co-op dressed in what appeared to be her pyjamas while busy chatting on her mobile phone. Probably nipped out for something edible, but she looked like a slob.

Tolerance says it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t, just another of those momentary encounters with the rich tapestry of human life. Meanwhile a thought about that rich tapestry pops to the surface - maybe we undervalue prejudice and overvalue tolerance.

Tolerance won’t tolerate prejudice about appearance and demeanour, we know that, it's the comfortable attitude. Yet prejudice may eventually turn out to have been a useful defence against the decay of personal standards. Maybe prejudice is best seen as a defence rather than some outdated abomination.

Prejudice about public behaviour is not easily justified where no harm is done. Tolerance is easier and far more fashionable, both of which give it powerful social advantages. Not that we cared about or were in any way disturbed by the sight of the pyjama clad slob. Nobody would be until…

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Undaunted by pointlessness

Maxwell Marlow has a useful CAPX piece on BOGOF, buy one get one free offers in relation to food.

Can the Government BOGOF out of our diets?

In October, the Department for Health and Social Care will go ahead with a ban on buy-one-get-one-free offers on foods containing a modicum of fat, sugar, or salt. Public Health England’s own analysis shows that a ban would hit household finances and save the calorie equivalent of a single grape per day. Undaunted by the sheer pointlessness of the enterprise, the Government presses on.

Apart from the obnoxious diet nannying, the piece is well worth reading for this reminder of what bureaucracies use governments for.

Undaunted by the sheer pointlessness of the enterprise, the Government presses on.

For bureaucrats, what matters is the extended remit, not the pointlessness of it. A major bureaucratic advantage of pointless activity is that the point of it is never achieved. Obviously not. Of course they are undaunted by the sheer pointlessness of it, that's a feature not a fault.

Four Headlines

Taxes could fall if UK boosts productivity in public sector, Hunt suggests

'Enormous' disruption feared as doctors plan multiple-day strike

Nurses ‘struggling to live’, union leader warns amid new strike ballot

Sadiq Khan announces funding to provide mentors to 100,000 young Londoners

Monday 12 June 2023

Amber Warning

A few hours ago the Met Office weather map had an amber thunderstorm alert lurking over our bit of Derbyshire. Crikey -

Gradually the sun disappeared behind fairly huge banks of cloud -

The sky darkened rather ominously -

Flashes of lightning were followed by rumbles of thunder some distance away -

Light rain made the patio a little damp -

But we came through it in spite of the amber warning - or should that be Amber Warning?

The SNP would be a weird, creepy person


Yes – they are intelligent

I asked Bing AI –

Are AI systems intelligent in a human sense? Here’s the reply –

 This is a question that has been debated for a long time by philosophers, scientists and AI researchers. There is no clear consensus on what constitutes intelligence in a human sense, or how to measure it. Some possible criteria are: the ability to learn from experience, to reason and solve problems, to communicate and interact with others, to be creative and innovative, and to have self-awareness and emotions. However, these criteria may not be sufficient or necessary for human intelligence, and they may not apply to all AI systems. Therefore, it is hard to say whether AI systems are intelligent in a human sense, or whether they have a different kind of intelligence that is suited for their specific tasks and domains.

AI systems of this type generally seem to get the context right, but we humans do that. They regurgitate text they have absorbed, but we do that too. They seem to apply mild restructuring to what they have absorbed, but we also do that.

To give a little more edge to it, we could say that AI systems are shallow, but so are we. Our shallowness allows us to adapt to changing situations and circumstances. Maybe AI systems will teach us about our shallowness, but that’s for the future.

What else is there to human intelligence? The AI reply above says –

Some possible criteria are: the ability to learn from experience, to reason and solve problems, to communicate and interact with others, to be creative and innovative, and to have self-awareness and emotions.

AI systems appear to be creative and innovative, they certainly are when they play chess. They don’t seem to do creative conversation though, but who does? Perhaps they have to remain within tighter boundaries than a small number of particularly creative or innovative humans. Maybe that’s something we can learn from AI – the small number of particularly creative or innovative humans is indeed small.

It’s early days for publicly available AI, but apart from emotions, another interesting impression is that AI systems can’t do scepticism. We could say scepticism is linked to being creative and innovative, but AI systems don’t appear to do it at all, apart from reporting it perhaps.

The debate will go on, but it may be useful to regard modern AI systems as intelligent. Differently intelligent of course, but the assumption already has its uses. It avoids the contortions of trying to boost human intelligence into something it isn’t. For example -


Sunday 11 June 2023

Time for a dash cam

Buzzed off early in the MX5 this morning, aiming to be back before the day became too warm for anything but loafing around in the shade.

While tootling towards the A6, three cyclists lurched out of a side road into my path. Fortunately the other side of the road was clear and I was able to veer round them. A second or two earlier and I'd probably have collided with the one who lurched out further than the others, well towards the centre of the road.

So I'll be trawling through Amazon looking for a simple dash cam. I don't know if they make much difference in the event of an accident, but it's something.

The Element Wrongium

Salvatore Babones has a useful Quadrant piece on an item of fake news about India.

Wrongium, the Media’s Favourite Element

Everyone likes a good beat-up. On May 31, Nature magazine—the world’s most prestigious scientific journal—published a news article under the headline “India Cuts Periodic Table and Evolution from School Textbooks”. Do notice that, according to Nature, they cut evolution too.

Why would such a science-obsessed country as India do something so stupid? The standard take across Western media is that a religiously conservative government has declared war on rationality. Richard Dawkins went so far as to belittle Hinduism an “idiotic religion”.

The actual answer is all of this is fake news. Neither the periodic table nor evolution has been dropped. The periodic table was moved from Year 9 to Year 11, and evolution was moved from Year 9 to Year 12.

Worth reading the whole piece as a reminder of a common problem, the failure to check what seems like a good story. It seems to be editorial policy in many cases - don't check it, just use it. Climate change stories being a familiar example.

It is all too easy for Western media organisations to be co-opted into political battles they don’t understand, especially when they are all too willing to believe narratives that seem consistent with their own world-views. This is how fake news is created, spread, and made authoritative. Indian and other Third World intellectuals routinely dupe credulous Western reporters with stories like these. And in most cases those Western reporters not only don’t correct their stories, but never even come to know they’ve been used.

Saturday 10 June 2023

Flushed away

Ross Clark has a CAPX piece reminding us of vacuous schemes waved around by the major political parties. It is easy enough to ignore them, but they have to be flushed away by someone.

Borrowing costs are far from the only problem with Labour’s ‘Green Prosperity Plan’

So, Rachel Reeves has decided that her ‘Green Prosperity Plan’ isn’t such a guaranteed way of enriching the nation, after all.

When the Shadow Chancellor announced it in 2021 the plan was to spend £28bn a year throughout the next Parliament, on solar, wind and nuclear, as well as insulating homes and subsidising industries such as car battery production. Now she has changed her mind. A Labour government will now be spending £28bn a year on such things by the end of the next Parliament, but it will begin with a lower figure.

The whole thing is worth reading as yet another reminder of the dire state of UK politics. The ‘Green Prosperity Plan’ was ludicrous to begin with and should have been knocked on the head before it was even named. Sadly it wasn't knocked on the head and became yet another example of the miserable level of debate we are faced with if we ever wend our weary way to the polling station.

At present, the national grid relies on the first solution: we have gas plants primed to be turn on when power is needed, then turn off again when wind and solar recovers. But Labour wants to close gas stations by 2030 so as fully to decarbonise the grid. It is promising nuclear in their place, but nuclear plants do not work well in tandem with wind and solar because they can’t quickly be turned up and down – they are a reliable baseload, but inflexible.

Officially Infantile

Short but interesting points about the new Canadian passport. Its design seems to be another result of something many people have noticed over many years - official efforts to promote the infantile. 

The question is why?   

Friday 9 June 2023

Pernicious Pollen Peril

Millions of drivers at risk of huge fines with 'very high' pollen count this week

Over the past week, the UK has experienced medium, high and very high pollen rates, which could result in drivers on the road getting in dangerous situations. The Met Office has forecast that today, Friday, June 9, most of England and Wales will be hit with high and very high pollen levels.

Experts are warning that this could break Rule 90 of the Highway Code which requires all motorists to ensure they are fit to drive.

We seem to be swamped with stories of this type. Motorists potentially threatened with huge fines if they fail to follow every syllable of the Highway Code, fail to observe every single clause of motoring law or if they shout at other road users using the wrong pronouns. 

Clearly there is an anti-motoring theme, but maybe another theme is the promotion of dismal, dreary, soul-rotting, mind-numbing motoring tedium. The latter theme seems to be the one with government backing. 

An experienced globalist



A speculative post this, but there is plenty of evidence that cosmopolitan elites despise the rest of us at least as much as they always have. It is not an excessively cynical assumption. Suppose we concoct another assumption which says that to be cosmopolitan is to be a generalist rather than a specialist. 

Over recent centuries, specialists have become more embedded in the increasingly complex maintenance of elite lifestyles. In addition and almost within living memory, certain aspects of the elite lifestyle became less exclusive and more accessible to a much larger number of people.

Familiarity with another language, travel in other countries, other continents was part of being conspicuously cosmopolitan and once only accessible to elites. Educated familiarity with literature, music, art and fashion were also essential. Then a slow change began to seep in, the pretensions became easier, cheaper and more widespread. Economic growth and technical development changed what it is to be cosmopolitan, to be apart from the masses, to be superior in every sense that matters.

The beginnings of the change are impossible to define closely, but after the Great War there were signs which have since become familiar, almost clichés. The boundary between cosmopolitan pretensions and middle class aspirations slowly blurred. Millions of men had been to Europe, met Europeans, heard other languages spoken. Books were mass produced, wireless and cinema waiting in the wings, travel became easier, cars cheaper, as did travel by rail, ship or aircraft.

It was still possible to be cosmopolitan as opposed to not cosmopolitan, but the solid facts of it, the travel, languages, broad cultural familiarities, were eroding. Certainly not disappearing, but certainly eroding. Almost everything can be imitated and even superior versions and exclusive brands became exposed to that neat old cliché - more style than substance.

At some equally indefinable point, elites apparently began to dislike all this erosion of their cosmopolitan pretensions. If one is not an aristocrat and one cannot be conspicuously cosmopolitan, what else can one be? The reaction was an old one – openly despise the lower classes for their pretensions and specialist capabilities, just as the wheelwright was once despised as a common artisan.

Admittedly this is all very nebulous, but we seem to have entered the age of specialists who are worthy of being despised. Scientists and academics have been corrupted by the political games of elite generalists who still see themselves as differently cosmopolitan. Yet the wheelwright must still make circular wheels, not sustainable wheels or carbon neutral wheels and it cannot end well.

Thursday 8 June 2023

Too credible to be funny

Everyone will have seen a version of the fall by now and maybe it was worth a chuckle, but this and many similar videos have become too credible to be funny.

How Auntie excludes

Cath Walton has a useful Critic piece on how the BBC excludes feminist voices within gender politics.

How Auntie excludes
Why can the BBC interview Andrew Tate but not gender critical feminists?

There’s nothing as coarse as an official blacklist at the BBC. Our national broadcaster doesn’t ban people, it doesn’t forbid words or phrases, and it doesn’t proscribe certain stories.

It’s just that some words and phrases are never used, some stories never see the light of day — and some people never, ever get the call. This is true for domestic coverage at least, which is what I know about.

Anyone paying attention already knows the BBC provides a selective and somewhat peculiar platform on many other issues too. The whole piece is worth reading because no MP can be unaware of  bias games played by the BBC.

How does this happen? No, there’s no blacklist. There are unspoken mores, born in a miasma of fear, confusion and occasional activism, that seem to function as a brake on allowing a certain kind of convincing gender critical feminist to have much of a platform at the BBC.

Very occasionally, this is voiced outright. Once an editor openly said that Transgender Trend’s Stephanie Davies-Arai wouldn’t be welcome on air because “some people think she’s anti-trans”. That kind of admission is exceptionally rare, though. The unofficial “no, not ever” for subjects and guests is usually established through a range of delaying tactics, failures to act and after-the-fact excuses.

Ever more urgent

Caroline Lucas: Former Green Party leader to stand down at next election

Ms Lucas made history when she was elected as the Green Party's first MP in 2010.

In a letter sent to her Brighton Pavilion constituents, Ms Lucas said it had been the "privilege of my life to serve this extraordinary constituency and community".

But she said the "threats to our precious planet" had become "ever more urgent" and her role in parliament as the Green Party's only MP meant she had "struggled to spend the time I want on these accelerating crises".

I'm not an expert on Green Party antics, but I don't recall a single worthwhile observation from Ms Lucas. Brighton must be full of irresponsible loons, not that there are many outstandingly better options.

Yet again we are confronted with the slippery notion of "intelligence", a problem raised recently by commenter Penseivat. Whatever intelligence is, there isn't much of it in Brighton.

Wednesday 7 June 2023


Apple Vision Pro: Mixed-reality 'ski goggles' headset unveiled - but it will set you back £2,800

The launch of Apple Vision Pro comes amid a crowded virtual reality market that is yet to gain traction with consumers.

Resembling a pair of ski goggles, it features a glass 23-million-pixel screen which covers the upper face and is controlled using the wearer's eyes, hands and voice.

Vision Pro is labelled as "mixed reality" as it combines "virtual reality", in which the wearer is fully immersed in the digital world, with "augmented reality" where digital images are overlaid on to the real world.

I'm no technophobe, but the appeal of this gadget eludes me at the moment. We already have "mixed reality" politics, an "augmented reality" energy policy and numerous other fantastic creations overlaid onto the real world. It would be a pleasing change to see the real world unadorned.

Maybe there is a market for a "rational reality" headset, a gadget which digitally removes aspects of the political world such as wind turbines, the BBC and Joe Biden. Something else for Apple boffins to work on perhaps. 

Aliens may be rotten drivers


'Non-human spacecrafts' found by US 'for decades'

“Non-human spacecrafts” and the bodies of “pilots” have been recovered by the US government for decades, a former intelligence officer has claimed.

Whistleblower David Charles Grusch, 36, has said the intelligence community has engaged in a “sophisticated disinformation campaign” to hide the discovery of fragments of and whole vehicles.

The recovery of "whole vehicles" rather than wrecks is encouraging. It is possible that aliens are coming here to learn how to drive safely, but sadly they arrive uninstructed and bodies plus wrecked spacecraft are usually the result.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

How many great white sharks is that?

Scotland's lochs deeper than some of the world's tallest landmarks

VisitScotland has released images ahead of Water Safety Week (18-25 June) in a bid to educate swimmers and all those participating in watersports over the summer.

Loch Morar in the Highlands is Scotland's deepest loch at 1,020ft...

It is about the same depth as the height of the UK's tallest building, The Shard in London (1,016ft), or 69 great white sharks stacked from nose to tail.

We were out walking along canal towpaths today. Flat walking of course, with no hills. Over the whole walk we probably only completed a total ascent of about 6 great white sharks.

Lying like a gas meter

Tolefree and I were perhaps the only persons in the room who would be able to judge whether Cossor was fulfilling his oath or lying like a gas meter.

R.A.J. Walling - The Fatal Five Minutes (1932)

Maybe the expression "lying like a gas meter" is due for a comeback. 

'Ticking time bomb' over 'widespread' meter tampering during cost of living crisis

Tampering with a meter means it doesn't read the correct amount of energy being used, but anyone caught doing it can face a £30,000 fine and even risk losing their life.

Nearly half of electricians and gas engineers have been asked to tamper with meters in the last year, as people struggle with the cost of their energy bills, new research suggests.

Monday 5 June 2023

The media landscape

Prince Harry, hacking claims and the royal court case of the century

Prince Harry has been on this collision course for years - and finally he is going to be in a courtroom in person, eyeball to eyeball, in his battle against the tabloid press.

It promises to be an electrifying moment as he gives his evidence and faces questions this coming week from lawyers in London's High Court about his allegations of phone hacking.

Prince Harry has said that changing the media landscape is his "life's work" - and this gladiatorial courtroom encounter could be one of his own defining moments.

If Harry thinks he can change the media landscape he's a fool. The media landscape defines him, not the other way round. The only exits open to him are to emulate certain members of his family or quiet obscurity.

This barrister has uploaded a YouTube video where he explains why he thinks Harry will not enjoy his day in court. I'm sure he's likely to be right.

The Tories’ NHS delusion

Patrick Benham-Crosswell has a useful TCW piece on the perennial inadequacy of the NHS. 

The Tories’ NHS delusion

I SUSPECT that many readers will have received an email from Steve Barclay (or, more likely, one of his moronic political scribblers) telling us of the government’s plans to restore the NHS to full health following the pandemic. He claims that the government will be ‘investing’ an extra £14.1billion pounds. (Don’t you just love the point one, implying an accuracy of 0.1 per cent in a government forecast?) I for one am underwhelmed.

The whole piece is worth reading as a reminder that the Tories don't have an NHS delusion. They are cynical enough to adopt the politics of delusion, as they are for other issues. 

Here’s the reality – the NHS has failed. It may well have been failing before, but it’s definitely failing now on any measure and at every level. Before spending exorbitant sums on rebuilding it, any sensible person would have a look at what went wrong and why. He or she might also ask whether the monolithic organisation created in 1946, more than three-quarters of a century ago, is the right way to deliver healthcare now. Life expectancy, demographics and technologies and treatments have all changed dramatically. While there have been multiple reviews, including one by the current Chancellor during his six years as Health Secretary, none have delivered a viable, successful or affordable model. There’s a reason no other country does public health the way the UK does: they all have more sense. The current generation of politicians are as incapable of bringing the NHS under control as they are of protecting our borders or defending the Realm. Health Secretary Steve Barclay worked as a lawyer in the financial sector having read history at Cambridge and done a five-month gap year Army commission. That’s not a background for getting a grip of an organisation, or even for interrogating a permanent secretary.

Sunday 4 June 2023

Anybody get a look at the driver?

I can't watch this without the UK Covid-19 Inquiry crossing my mind. I'm not sure why - perhaps it's something to do with the driver escaping unscathed.

A penny a mile

A comment heard decades ago, one I’ve always remembered –

“They only need to put a penny a mile on Terylene fibre.”

I heard the comment at an informal meeting in the early years of what I like to think of as my career. The speaker was a manager several layers above my lowly position, loudly chatting about increased charges being levied on ICI for wastewater discharges into the sewer system.

Even in those days I knew it was one of those throwaway comments. In future I was to hear many more. It was one of those airy overview perspectives with little to support it. They somehow manage to float above the tedious grind of acquiring worthwhile information and stitching it together.

Yet there are rarer people with the ability to pick out a sound overview on complex issues and do it successfully. They seem to grasp the essential information while brushing aside the inessential. Like a chess grandmaster, they see where the strengths and weaknesses are from a quick overview of any position.

Following this line of thought, sceptics seem to have no trouble spotting dubious overviews of the “penny a mile” type. Sceptics may not have that rarer ability to grasp the essentials, but they easily spot the charlatans who can’t do it either.

Saturday 3 June 2023

Who Needs Oil Anyway



Mrs H and I have been playing with the Merlin Bird ID app on our phones. So far it's impressive, only identifies birds we expect to be around our garden or local woodland - nothing improbable. 

We used it while walking through woodland near Matlock and both made comments to the effect that it is rather like having everything in the natural world neatly labelled. We already use Google Lens to help identify wild flowers so there is no need to go leafing through a book.

As I write this there is a fly buzzing against the window. I wonder what type it is? 

Friday 2 June 2023

Important principles at stake

Boris Johnson to bypass Cabinet Office and hand over unredacted messages directly to COVID inquiry

Boris Johnson says he has sent "all unredacted WhatsApps" directly to the COVID inquiry ahead of a legal clash between the probe and the Cabinet Office over access to the messages.

The move means Mr Johnson is bypassing the Cabinet Office, which has launched a legal challenge against the request from the inquiry to hand over the material in unredacted form.

The Cabinet Office said there are "important principles at stake" - such as the issue of privacy.

It's a slightly odd situation this - inside information would be required to make complete sense of it. As ever, a touch of cynicism seems indicated. 

Maybe the WhatsApp information goes some way to counteract a Cabinet Office desire to pin as much blame as possible on Boris. In which case, one of the "important principles" is that civil servants are never responsible when schemes go pear-shaped.


A quick check on Google’s Ngram Viewer suggests that the word ‘yonder’ has been undergoing a revival in recent decades, at least in books. As always, a question of verbal fashion arises. Should I use the word myself or risk being too avant-garde?

Some obvious uses of the word in daily life could be –

  • Beyond yonder Sainsbury’s lie the limestone dales of Derbyshire.
  • Hark how yonder oaf does shout unseemly epithets into his phone.
  • Make haste before yonder coffee shop is besieged by yonder coachload of oldies.

Two ‘yonders’ in the third sentence. Not bad going, but I don’t see the revival being sustained beyond yonder social collapse.

Thursday 1 June 2023

The most difficult question


Incompetence Rules

Anyone who reads comments left by supporters of recently relegated UK Premier League football teams will come across plenty of reasons why their team failed to stay in the top flight this year.

As we might expect, most comments are generally disparaging in one way or another because there are always reasons for footballing failure. Poor management, poor decisions in the transfer market, inattention by the club owners, players who don’t give their all on the pitch, poor tactics and so on.

Yet as we all know, the league is designed this way - every season, three teams are relegated. In that sense, footballing incompetence is engineered into the rules. Every season there must be three teams which are too incompetent to remain. We could say that the rules simply identify the three most incompetent teams, yet the rules make sure there always are three incompetent teams by the end of the season.

In which case, perhaps we have a question worth asking. Does the league engineer the incompetence via its rules or do the rules uncover the incompetence? Both seems to be the obvious answer, but the question of engineered incompetence is the interesting one.

Moving from football on to less clearly defined situations, we could ask if the electoral rules of UK democracy engineer a situation where voters vote incompetently. A kind of Premier League where there are only two teams, one is always relegated for incompetence and the other only has to be marginally less incompetent. A different situation but governed by rules which ensure incompetence and make outstanding competence unlikely.

As an aside, political pundits tend to rationalise the result of an election in a manner which is not greatly dissimilar to what happens with relegated football teams.

Within the complexity of human affairs, rules often seem to engineer levels of competence and incompetence to suit the situation. Which is entirely familiar but slightly odd because we supposedly avoid incompetence. Yet we frequently don’t avoid it, we engineer it, sometimes by design and sometimes not.

For example, constantly tightening road traffic regulations creates a situation where even carefully competent motorists run the risk of committing minor violations due regulatory complexity. In effect, a level of motorist incompetence is ensured by the rules rather than what we might traditionally see as genuine incompetence. 

Here in the UK, cycling rules have recently been upgraded in a way which seems likely to encourage more incompetent cycling. Varied and somewhat unpredictable speed limits are another example. UK technical, scientific and economic incompetence is being engineered for political reasons – hence Net Zero. Political ideology could almost be defined as engineered incompetence.

We could go further and suggest that unavoidable incompetence is a common way for governments to govern. Complex rules engineer levels of bureaucratic incompetence which tie down the population, making them easier to govern. Rules and incompetence are linked. 

Mindfully Made


A very useful label attached to a garment purchased by Mrs H this morning.

Useful because we always do our best to avoid anything mindlessly made.