Sunday 31 December 2023

Happy New Year


Happy New Year to all those who happen to find their way here and linger for a while, if only because their computer locked up.

Well, 2023 has certainly been another weird year so that’s a trend which seems to have become genuinely sustainable. Presumably 2024 is likely to be even weirder if we have a general election and “Sir” Keir Starmer slithers through the door of No.10 while his clone slithers out of the back. 

I'm sure we'll see at least some difference if a new Labour cabinet gets its feet under the big shiny table.

Yes! we must mix with the herd; we must enter into their feelings; we must humour their weaknesses; we must sympathise with the sorrows that we do not feel; and share the merriment of fools.

Benjamin Disraeli – Vivian Grey (1826)

Dorks of the year 2023


As this is the tenth Dork of the Year post, the committee has decided that something different should mark the event, something linked to the number ten. 

A perennially obvious problem has been the number of suitable candidates; choosing only one has never been adequate. To reflect the increasing number of Qualifying Dorks, we have proposed a team of Dork Astronauts suited to relocation on Mars. 

Initially a team of ten has been proposed for the imaginary trip to Mars. Their task would be to set up a permanent Martian base camp adhering strictly to the principles they so often insist on for others.

The Martian Settlement Team for 2023 is –

Rishi Sunak
“Sir” Keir Starmer
"Sir" Ed Davey
Gary Lineker
King Charles
Humza Yousaf
Sadiq Khan
Justin Welby
Matt Hancock
Nick Robinson

Saturday 30 December 2023


Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg attacks 'po-faced puritans' over Truss honours criticism

The former business secretary defends the right of the ex-prime minister to give out peerages after just 49 days in office, as Labour calls it a "slap in the face for working people".

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has attacked critics of Liz Truss' honours list, calling them "po-faced puritans".

The former prime minister was allowed to submit her so-called "resignation honours" after leaving office last year - a convention given to all departing leaders - and the final 11 names were announced on Friday.

All good fun and the word 'puritans' seems to work in this kind of context because that's how it is used these days. Yet there is a sense where something like 'po-faced loons' would be more appropriate. Many other variations would be more appropriate too.

Those po-faced puritans aren't puritans themselves and don't intend to be. Strict puritanical lifestyles and observances are what they aim to impose on others.

Coming out on top

Humza Yousaf says SNP can ‘come out on top’ in general election

First Minister Humza Yousaf said he is confident the SNP can “come out on top” in the forthcoming Westminster general election – despite a polling expert warning that the current leader is “nothing like as popular” with voters as his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon was.

Professor Sir John Curtice said that meant Labour could make “significant progress” in Scoltand when the election, which is almost certain to take place in 2024, is held.

The polling expert said: “The SNP are no longer dominating the support of those who are in favour of independence, some of them are now saying they’re going to vote Labour.”

…so difficult is it for a radically dishonest man to realize that his is not the usual and normal state of mind.

R. Austin Freeman - Dr. Thorndyke Intervenes (1933)

Friday 29 December 2023

As usual

Tomorrow we’re off for a New Year break, so as usual we’ve packed enough clothes to cope with anything from horizontal sleet to pleasant sunny weather.

Naturally we’ve also checked the Met Office forecast because they are involved with those multi-decade climate projection. With that level of expertise, their weather forecasts for next week are bound to be spot on.

So as usual we’ve packed enough clothes to cope with anything from horizontal sleet to pleasant sunny weather.


Starmer wants to tackle civil service ‘churn’ – report

Sir Keir Starmer will seek to reduce “churn” among senior civil servants if Labour wins the next general election, according to reports.

Allies of the Labour leader have told the Financial Times that Sir Keir thinks that it is wrong that senior officials change or move jobs so frequently.

They told the paper that “civil service stability” will be important for delivering Labour’s aims in office, if it takes power after the next general election...

It comes at the same time as concerns that some civil servants are being overpromoted amid a squeeze on pay in Whitehall.

Thursday 28 December 2023

Let us exploit a problem

Wish you weren't here! Why 2024 could be the worst year ever for 'overtourism'

The UN's World Tourism Organisation has told Sky News that 2024 could be a record year for international arrivals across the globe - here we take a look at the impact huge levels of tourism are having on popular destinations...

When the amount of visitors descending on an area has a harmful impact it becomes known as "overtourism" - a problem faced by destinations across the world.

And it could be about to get worse - with the UN's World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) telling Sky News that 2024 could be a record year for international arrivals across the globe.

Anyone paying attention is well aware of global moves to make significant reductions in the living standards of ordinary people in the developed world. This story merely slots into that trend, a problem to be exploited. Climate change is in there of course.

Is also worth making the point that none of the major political parties in the UK has any intention of opposing these moves, no intention of raising them as major political issues. They will always be presented as this one is here, as a problem with harmful impacts which should be ameliorated.  

A weird faith in political cause and effect

Tony Blair was keen to move Premier League football team to Belfast in late 1990s, Northern Ireland files reveal

Several newly released documents from the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland have given an insight into the changing nature of politics in the country at the end of the 1990s, including what the then PM proposed for Wimbledon FC.

The move would have been a "significant breakthrough" for Belfast, and "should be able to build up strong cross-community support and provide a positive unifying force in a divided city", a government note written in 1997 said.

The note suggested that then Premier League team Wimbledon FC would undergo a name change to Belfast United, after the move from south London.

This surely indicates a weird faith in political cause and effect, in the ability to change lives in a predictable manner by the masterful stroke of a pen. Even worse than weird, it also comes across as not entirely sane.   

Only in the Grauniad

Health Warning - it's the Ugnadiar

English still rules the world, but that’s not necessarily OK. Is it time to curb its power?

Anyone spending their Christmas holidays on the European mainland will likely have observed that it is quite common to meet staff in shops and hotels who can hold a conversation in English, and to read signs and menus in the language. This fact should come as no surprise, and it is no accident: the spread of English skills in Europe is largely the result of educational policies that have intensively promoted its teaching in public schools over the past decades...

The most important challenge is that of fairness or “linguistic justice”. A common language is a bit like a telephone network: the more people know a language, the more useful it becomes to communicate. The question of fairness arises because individuals face very different costs to access the network and are on an unequal footing when using it. Those who learn English as a second language incur learning costs, while native speakers can communicate with all network members without incurring such costs. It’s like getting the latest smartphone model and sim card with unlimited data for free.

어쩌면 가디언이 기계 번역을 잊었을 수도 있습니다

Wednesday 27 December 2023

That's a better name for Net Zero

Nasa launches missions to intercept 'God of Chaos' asteroid surging towards Earth

An investigation has been launched by Nasa into the so-called "God of Chaos" asteroid that could reach the Earth's orbit.

The asteroid, formerly titled Apophis, is due to fly by Earth in 2029.

Now, the OSIRIS-APEX spaceship has been sent to study the asteroid, which about 340 meters wide.

The passing of the asteroid will be a once-in-7,500-year event, according to NASA scientists and may be visible to some with the naked eye.

I'll do your shopping


Still tracking them down

Millions of UK households issued 'do not' warning over Christmas delivery

Christmas shoppers have been warned over the rise in "missed delivery scams" over the festive season. Writing into the Guardian newspaper's consumer affairs section, a John Lewis shopper has been left angry after buying slippers online only to be tricked by a missed delivery email.

They wrote: "I placed the order and subsequently received an email from Evri telling me delivery had not been successful and I needed to book another slot. It included a link, so I used it to book one and paid the £1.50 fee it asked for with my credit card."

Within 24 hours, they were "phoned by a man who said he was from the John Lewis fraud team and told me my account had been compromised." The consumer went on: "He clearly had some access to my account as he was able to tell me details of purchases, and was very convincing.

Is there anyone left who doesn't know about this scam? Okay, the Grauniad seems to have tracked one down, but the Grauniad is good at that kind of thing, as is the BBC. 

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Fading Values

Noel Yaxley has an interesting Critic piece on It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra’s 1946 movie.

Is it still a wonderful life?

The values Frank Capra celebrated seem to be fading in our times

Christmas. A time for tradition. This meant burned turkey and overcooked Brussels sprouts when I was a kid. It involved racing downstairs in my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pyjamas to check if Santa had visited our house. Along with the rest of the country, the family would get together after Christmas Day dinner to watch a movie. Sometimes it was Home Alone, but usually, because it was my father’s favourite film, it was It’s a Wonderful Life.

As it passes its 75th anniversary, it seems no movie has improved more with the passage of time than It’s a Wonderful Life. Frank Capra’s 1946 classic tells the story of George Bailey, a businessman pushed to the brink of suicide on Christmas Eve, only to be given a glimpse of what the world would look like without him. Once he learns his value to his community of Bedford Falls, he breaks out of his depression and returns to his family, where he realises that love and companionship are what make life truly wonderful.

The whole piece is well worth reading, especially at this time of year. I haven't seen the film, but that isn't necessary in order to grasp the familiar enough point Yaxley is making.  

We will never see a film like this again. It belongs to the bygone days of movie production, when concepts such as family and patriotism were important cultural values. A more romantic time.

For decades, critics have dismissed it as nostalgic and schmaltzy. On its theatrical release, Bosley Crowther, writing in The New York Times, claimed its sentimental tone made it weak. I disagree. The film is a dark, yet uplifting story about a hero pushed to the brink of despair, time and time again sacrificing the American dream for family responsibility. To me, that proves that good old-fashioned optimism and passionate storytelling are timeless.

Boxing Day Walk

We tootled off for a short walk round town this morning. Sunshine and blue sky, bound to be lots of people around we thought, lots of people with kids trying out their new bikes, scooters, roller skates and so on.

How old fashioned of us to imagine that would be the case in 2023. We saw virtually nobody and no kids at all. Of course they were all inside hunched over their new electronic gadgets. Xbox, new phone, PlayStation, VR headsets and whatever else modern kids use on their journey to round-shouldered adulthood.

The coffee shop was fairly busy though. No kids, but lots of oldies getting away from it all. On the way back I saw an old guy climbing onto his Triumph Rocket 3 motorcycle, but I don't know if Santa brought it for him. He rode off fairly carefully though.

Oh well, it's time to chop some wood with my new axe.

Monday 25 December 2023

You share mine, I don't share yours

King's Christmas message: Charles focuses on shared values in time of conflict

The King's Christmas message has emphasised the importance of "universal" values shared between major religions, at a time of "increasingly tragic conflict around the world".

Against a backdrop of conflicts in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, he pointed to Jesus's words: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

King Charles also talked of protecting the planet as being a spiritual duty.

Power to the people

Yanggang Province officials seek out bribes from people using electricity on the sly

Households in Hyesan receive just one or two hours of electricity per day, while other areas of the province get even less electricity

Yanggang Province authorities are carrying out frequent inspections of people’s electricity usage in areas along the China-North Korea border so they can shake people down for bribes, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that “officials with electricity supply departments have been going around houses in Hyesan and other areas of the province to conduct thorough inspections as a ploy to get bribes, even if [all a household can offer] is just a pack of cigarettes.”

Sunday 24 December 2023

Saturday 23 December 2023

Zonked, frazzled and drained

Should I worry about being tired all the time?

Zonked, frazzled, drained, pooped, knackered, running on fumes – or just totally exhausted. In much the same way that the Shona-speaking people of Zimbabwe have a dozen verbs for walking, our modern vocabulary seems to have developed 20 ways of explaining that we are quite tired, most of the time. But is there anything about 21st-century life – our screen addictions, side-hustle culture or always-on mindsets – that means we are more tired, or are we just noticing it more? And when should you start to worry?

The simple answer is to ease up on the worrying. Not reading the Guardian is an excellent first step here, but not necessarily sufficient. Incautiously reading the Guardian is just one symptom of having inadequate levels of natural scepticism. Not watching the BBC could help too, as could a healthy chuckle at climate propaganda.

Make a New Year resolution to refer to COP29 as a "jamboree", tell friends and family that you know what a woman is and sneer at Net Zero fantasies - even referring to them openly as fantasies. It all helps restore the balance.

It's not dead, it's just resting

Christmas TV isn't dead, insists BBC chief amid decline in viewing figures

With festive specials of Strictly Come Dancing, Call the Midwife and Mrs Brown’s Boys, the BBC One Christmas schedule may seem wearily familiar.

But the corporation’s head of content has defended the line-up, saying research has shown that audiences want more of the same.

Festive specials of popular shows are commissioned year after year because people flock to them in their millions, said Charlotte Moore.

“What we give people for Christmas is based on what we know they love,” she said.

Ah that's it, viewing figures are declining because the BBC gives people what they know they love. 

This could be a sighting of the common and highly infectious climate change variant of "know". In this variant, people in the "know" claim to "know" something you don't "know" - that your car is causing climate collapse.

Friday 22 December 2023

Radio Times

Radio Times cover (Christmas 2005 double issue)

Today, Mrs H pointed out that we haven't included the purchase of a Radio Times in our Christmas preparations. Actually we haven't bought one for many years, but the memory of doing so brought back other memories such as Christmas TV programmes we'd consider watching.

Times change. Years ago we'd go through the Christmas edition of the Radio Times marking the films we might watch over the Christmas and New Year period. Now we hardly watch any films and the prospect of missing anything on TV counts for nothing.

I was also reminded of this earlier when I spotted a page from some TV schedule magazine flapping around in the front garden during the recent high winds. So people still buy them, but I bet the grandkids have never seen one.

Charlie Munger


Fakery Fears

Fears UK not ready for deepfake general election

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already been used to disrupt elections around the world - and there are fears among senior politicians and the security services that the UK will be next.

Former Justice Secretary Sir Robert Buckland is urging the government to do more to tackle what he sees as a "clear and present danger" to UK democracy.

The Conservative MP, who now chairs the Northern Ireland select committee, is particularly concerned about the rise of deepfakes - realistic audio and video clips of politicians appearing to say things they did not say.

Oh dear, feeding misinformation into the public arena was never supposed to be something the proles can do. Apparently it's a threat to democracy.

The threat posed to democracy by AI-generated misinformation does not belong to some dystopian vision of the future, he argues.

Yet the threat posed to democracy by officially-endorsed misinformation is dystopian part of our present reality. It has been for some time.

Thursday 21 December 2023

Merrily blowing in the wind

It’s been rather windy in our bit of Derbyshire. Woke up this morning at about 6:20 to the sound of the recycling bin crashing over onto the pavement outside. It’s recycling bin collection day so quite a few bins had blown over, some ending up in the road.

On hearing the crash I merrily hopped out of bed, shoved on some clothes and nipped out to gather up the scattered recycling and reinstate the bin in a slightly more sheltered spot. Shortly afterwards, some glass bottles and jars from a neighbour’s bin rolled merrily down the road, strewing broken glass across our drive entrance.

Mrs H and I merrily nipped out again to clear up the glass as we were on the school run and would shortly need to drive off without the risk of shredded tyres. Job done, I saw lots more overturned bins while out on the school run. With rubbish all over the place and potholes in the road it was all beginning to look a tad third world out there.

Has it changed my mind on the value of recycling. Not at all.

The magic of sustainability

A master's degree in magic set to be offered at a UK university

A master's degree in magic will soon be available for students to study at a UK university.

The University of Exeter will run the MA course in Magic and Occult Science from September 2024 and will be one of the first courses of its kind in the country.

Students will get the opportunity to learn the history and impact of witchcraft and magic on society and science in the West and East, as per the BBC.

It is a one-year course, and a "recent surge in interest in magic” is the reason why the degree is now being offered, according to the course leader.

Forget the Enlightenment, an MA in magic may soon be the preferred option for the CV of those aspiring to leadership roles. Spells, amulets and magical incantations are the way forward.

In an important sense we already hear about the magic of sustainability, but not in any formal academic sense with defined magical terminology. That could change.

You don’t ask the barber

Warren Buffett once said that you don’t buy a business from a person whose job it is to sell the business – it’s a naïve thing to do. Even if the seller produces a huge report about the business, you don’t bother opening it. Buffett went on to illustrate this by quoting an old saying –

You don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut.

It is worth extending this warning to mass media editorial policies such as the BBC on climate change. The BBC is entirely committed to the orthodox AGW narrative. In other words it has bet its reputation on, among other things, selling the alarmist climate narrative.

You don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut.

You don’t ask the BBC for information about climate change.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Unsteady Eddie

Jean Hatchet has an entertaining Critic piece on the political ambitions and failures of Eddie Izzard.

Give up already, Eddie

Eddie Izzard’s unconvincing political career is going nowhere

If a man declared his undying love for a woman, and a week later declared his love for another woman, you’d think of that man as insincere at best. In November last year Eddie Izzard swore the political equivalent of undying love for Sheffield and her people. He was, it appeared from his campaign declarations, going to stick around forever and make everything better for the people of Sheffield.

Often sporting a hot pink coat and mini skirt, he posed with the police, hung around the buses and ran about in the park. Photo opportunities were plentiful, and he garnered the lion’s share of the media headlines about the race to stand as the Labour candidate for MP in Sheffield Central. Izzard made much mention of his Sheffield connections — as he had been at university here temporarily — and he boasted that Sheffield kick-started his creative career. He eventually lost the battle to be selected but declared, “I took a risk in standing but I don’t regret it. Sheffield is a city that I love. It was before, and it always will be, close to my heart. Thank you #Sheffield.”

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder that we should pay no attention to celebrities who play politics.

Yesterday Izzard lost in Brighton, coming second to Tom Gray, a local musician, in his bid to be selected. You have to wonder how he feels at not being embraced by a city so diverse and inclusive. Could it be that it is just too difficult for the party members to believe he is politically committed to the area or is he simply hard for them to like with his insincere track record? I don’t imagine he has considered this. He has released no statement as yet. A toe-curling article by Sean O’Grady of the Independent ponders that Eddie is, “just too nice and kind and too beautiful a personality to be a Labour MP” and that he is “such a beautiful person, inside and out, she can’t really want to fade away on some select committee”.

I don’t agree with him. Despite Sean’s dismissal of political service as dull and irrelevant, I suspect that Izzard is probably bored by the prospect of his fireplace and slippers. Entitled, wealthy men need new shiny things to play with, and, as they deny old age, invariably look around for the exclusive and elusive things they don’t yet have. Not much is as exclusive and elusive as a seat in government. What to give the man who has everything? Why lady things of course, and a seat in the Commons. He’s already been everywhere he can, now he wants to be where he can’t. I would love him to keep banging on that door and being told no.

A lesson on queuing?

Universal Studios: What can we expect from a potential UK theme park?

Universal has theme parks in Florida, California, Japan, China, and Singapore, and is considering adding a European destination to its portfolio: Bedford, England.

Universal Destinations & Experiences - which, like Sky, is owned by US company Comcast - said it had acquired land in Bedford and was "at the early stages of exploring its feasibility for a potential park and resort at this site".


A conversation

Strewth you’re so predictable.

Great steaming banjollisnibs.


That wasn’t predictable.

Okay it wasn’t exactly predictable, but in a wider sense it was because it’s the kind of thing you do and say. What I’m saying is, that in general you are predictable, as I am. A core aim of government and hierarchies is to foster predictable behaviour. The interesting aspect of that is that this too is predictable behaviour by governments.

No it isn’t.

I knew you’d say that.

No you didn’t.

And that. Anyway, to pick up my thread again.

Your predictable thread.

Okay my predictable thread…

Because you’ve said this kind of thing before.

Shut up. The aim of government is not to foster rational behaviour, but predictable behaviour. We navigate through life by avoiding surprises which is another way of saying that we seek predictability. This is what holds hierarchies together and makes government possible.

Okay I’ll go with that, but the big question is why is predictability so vitally important to governments and hierarchies?

Because it also makes government inevitable, because predictable behaviour is normal behaviour. Leadership, government and all kind of other group activities are emergent properties of our endless push towards predictable behaviour.

Not if… no go on.

As the world becomes more complex, human behaviour becomes less predictable. Ever since the invention of printing, we the general population have become more and more aware of wider possibilities. We have become better informed and thereby less predictable. Electronic and now digital communication have hugely accelerated that trend.

Agreed but with caveats. An agreed example is that you and I aren’t in the same town as we have this conversation, but we could be in different countries. In principle we could be on different planets. So yes I do see how advances in communication have made us less predictable, but it would be simpler to say we are better informed and this in itself makes some of us less predictable. That’s some of us, not all of us and in any event it’s a spectrum.

Exactly, we are better informed, or in a more impersonal sense we are less predictable. So as an inevitable response, the general behaviour of the population is reined in by government. Here in the UK, such things as the NHS, state education, the BBC, welfare state and even the recent pandemic all foster predictable behaviour.

As do roads. You go where they go.

Er – yes. Anyway, to take this further, the point of gender politics, climate change and so on is to make most people predictable by isolating sceptics who can’t accept such crazy and obviously manipulative political notions. That’s the reining in - defining outsiders more clearly as outsiders.

So according to you, this is why our elites appear to have become more stupid, at least politically. It’s just that we have caught up with them and more and more of us are catching on. Not catching on at any great rate, but it’s happening and nobody knows what the outcome will be. Hence all the creeping censorship. With hindsight, that too was predictable.

I didn’t think you’d agree with me.

Neither did I. I’m so unpredictable.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Christmas Crackers

Calls for UK Parliament to recognise Santa’s contribution to Christmas

Santa Claus’s contribution to Christmas should be recognised annually in the UK Parliament, MPs have suggested.

The SNP’s Owen Thompson said it was a “really lovely tradition” for the lower house of the Irish Parliament – the Dail – to confirm Santa has permission to enter Irish airspace for Christmas.

In a parliamentary motion in Westminster, Mr Thompson noted that the Civil Aviation Authority “does not make a similar gesture” in the UK.

His motion, signed by nine SNP colleagues, also said the House of Commons calls on the UK Government to “acknowledge the contribution of the idea of Santa Claus to Christmas”.

Yes it's only seasonal fun by folk who aren't quite mature enough for gravitas and dignity. Even so, a more practical gesture would be for all MPs to sign a New Year resolution to grow up and do the job properly. 

Not that they would ever do that, or abide by it afterwards. 

Where’s the focus?

Conservative MP Miriam Cates is being investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards over claims she has caused "significant damage to the reputation" of the Commons and its members.

The probe was confirmed on the watchdog's website, though details of the allegations have yet to come to light.

We don’t know what this is about because it’s secret. Maybe Ms Cates is far-right or something, although I hear she goes to church, so maybe that's it. Yet how is it that the UK permanent administration isn't under the spotlight? Aren’t there vastly bigger issues with the fingerprints of the permanent administration all over them? Yes there are, lots of them.

How about HS2 as a starter? Tens of billions down the tubes there but how about the hundreds of billions thrown to pandemic winds or the hundreds of billions Net Zero seems to be racking up or the unsustainable immigration levels, failed housing policies, crumbling roads, inadequate NHS, failing schools and increasingly bizarre universities.

Where’s the focus?

Monday 18 December 2023

Peering down the rabbit hole

King Charles's freezers help save food for a million meals

The donation of freezers by King Charles has helped a food charity double the amount of food it can provide for struggling families.

A year ago, through a royal charity, the King gave £1m to buy 800 freezers.

The Felix Project in London is saving the equivalent of almost a million meals a year, using food which would otherwise be thrown away.

Another food project in Towcester said the freezers had been a "game-changer" when demand had been rising sharply.

Oh well, sometimes it's necessary to peer down the rabbit hole - 
  • Are these Royal Freezers powered by Good Electricity?
  • Are they designed to reject Bad Electricity? 
  • Are there any Evil Plastics in them?
  • Are they likely to have activists glued to them?
  • Will they still work during climate collapse?

Don’t you adore chocolates?

A question for Christmas - do prosperous, comfortable and easy lives entail degraded language?

She drew a cardboard box from her pocket, and offered it to Anna. ‘Here, have one.’ They were chocolate creams.

‘Thanks,’ said Anna, taking one. ‘Aren’t they very expensive? I’ve never seen any like these before.’

‘Oh! Just ordinary. Four shillings a pound. Papa buys them for me: I simply dote on them. I love to eat them in bed, if I can’t sleep.’ Beatrice made these statements with her mouth full. ‘Don’t you adore chocolates?’ she added.

‘I don’t know,’ Anna lamely replied. ‘Yes, I like them.’ She only adored her sister, and perhaps God; and this was the first time she had tasted chocolate.

Arnold Bennett - Anna of the Five Towns (1902)

Sunday 17 December 2023

Indulgences, get yer indulgences 'ere

Carbon offsetting sounds attractive - but it's an expensive prospect

While carbon offsetting can help cut costs, one of the criticisms of the system is it allows companies that pollute to continue belching out greenhouse gases at a cost they can seemingly afford.

There's a sharp easterly wind blowing but Harrison Webster's Norfolk home is warm in every room.

What's going on here is a world first: polluting companies are paying for a domestic makeover to ditch the carbon.

Minus half a year to go


Dork of the Year candidates

As many people may already know, previous winners of the Dork of the Year (DotY) award have been -
All worthy winners, but what about 2023? As so often the number of Qualifying Dorks seems to increase year by year and the annual DotY award edges ever closer to being an impossible task. Naturally enough Joe Biden still has the apparently unassailable lead he has held for some time. 

Yet there are those on the DotY Committee who see a vote for Joe as akin to kicking a seaside donkey, so we do have a preliminary list of Qualifying Dorks other than old Joe. As always, the list is bound to be expanded as suggestions arise.

Joe Biden
Jill Biden
Hunter Biden
Rishi Sunak
“Sir” Keir Starmer
"Sir" Ed Davey
Angela Rayner  
Gary Lineker
King Charles
Greta Thunberg
John Kerry
Gavin Newsom
Alissa Heinerscheid
Humza Yousaf
Sadiq Khan
Justin Welby
Pope Francis
Justin Trudeau
Matt Hancock
Rachel Reeves
Ursula von der Leyen

Saturday 16 December 2023

Clock Watchers

How close is the Doomsday Clock to midnight in 2023?

As 2023 comes to a close many of us are thinking about what the New Year has in store, and according to the Doomsday Clock, it's nothing great.

At 90 seconds to midnight, the Doomsday Clock is the closest it's ever been to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock is set by members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and is designed to show how close humanity is to global catastrophe caused by manmade technologies.

Prior to January this year, the previous record was 100 seconds to midnight for two years. The farther time from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991.

It is curiously reassuring that there are still enough doomster-loons to keep this media stunt going. I thought it must have stopped, but apparently it still ticks on. It seems able to tick backwards too, so maybe climate change has affected the works. Or Brexit. Or Covid.

Life has surely hardships enough that are inevitable without gratuitously adding the hardship of absolute government, administered by a clock?

Wilkie Collins – Man and Wife (1870)

When the tail wags the dog

A quote which fits climate change rhetoric very well comes from Willard Van Orman Quine. It illustrates why so much climate rhetoric appears to be more akin to following a script than the questioning hesitancy of rational analysis. Why it seems closer to doctrinal language than a sceptical search for better explanations.

Prediction is in effect the conjectural anticipation of further sensory evidence for a foregone conclusion. When a prediction comes out wrong, what we have is a divergent and troublesome sensory stimulation that tends to inhibit that once foregone conclusion, and so to extinguish the sentence-to-sentence conditionings that led to the prediction. Thus it is that theories wither when their predictions fail.

In an extreme case, the theory may consist in such firmly conditioned connections between sentences that it withstands the failure of a prediction or two. We find ourselves excusing the failure of prediction as a mistake in observation or a result of unexplained interference. The tail thus comes, in an extremity, to wag the dog.

Willard Van Orman Quine - Word and Object (1960)

Yes there is such a thing as sentence-to-sentence conditioning, we see it in daily life, in the media and in all the sentence-to-sentence trickery of political rhetoric. We also see such firmly conditioned connections between sentences that it withstands the failure of a prediction or two. Or three, or four…

It isn’t an expression of belief we see when climate protesters block the road. Neither is it an expression of belief when we hear ministers talking nonsense about Net Zero. It is sentence-to-sentence conditioning, far more sinister than the occasional nudge from the Nudge Unit. We are governed via our language.

Friday 15 December 2023

Behind closed doors

Where’s the justice? Heart-rending letters from vulnerable are ignored under 'broken' court system

Written appeals from the vulnerable and elderly who are charged with minor crimes are not routinely looked at by prosecutors in a “broken” secret justice system, an Evening Standard investigation has found.

Hundreds of thousands of cases a year are dealt with behind closed doors in the single justice procedure (SJP), a fast-track courts system used for controversial TV licence prosecutions as well as low-level offences like not paying road tax.

I know a chap who used to be a magistrate. He says entire court session were routinely taken up with TV licence prosecutions. It's been going on for years and the technology for a subscription service has been available for years. 

As we know, the government response has been to allow the BBC to jack up the licence fee. Gary must be chuffed.

Old Shops

Memories fade, but as I remember them, old shops had a certain aroma. A sweetly fusty, sooty aroma sometimes mingled, paraffin, soap and scrubbed floorboards.

There was once a shop round here with an evocative aroma. It sold everything from rat traps and cast-iron grates to Mr Kipling cakes and cheap alarm clocks made in China. An odd mix of old and new where the new was likely to be imported rubbish. Gone now and the aroma will have gone too.

Her shop subsisted in its corner by reason of the conservatism of poor neighbourhoods. She sold penny yellow and black tea mugs that came from a pottery down Bristol way — tea mugs of a pattern one hundred and fifty years old. She sold brown moist sugar that was nearly black, and had something the flavour of liquorice, such as none of the new stores sold or would have known where to buy. She sold red herrings from a factory on the east coast that had been established two hundred and fifty years, and that had only three or four customers.

She sold medicinal herbs in packets and cooked pig’s-trotters — which she boiled herself — as well as penny broad-sheet ballads that were hung up all over the shop, and onions from Brittany that depended in long ropes all down the window. Her profits from the establishment, except at Christmas and about the fifth of November, when she sold fireworks, were seldom more than seventeen and six, and never less than nine shillings a week. In return she was the dictatress of opinions and the wise woman of Henry Street, James Street, and Charles and Augusta Mews, Westminster.

Ford Madox Ford - Mr Fleight (1913)

Thursday 14 December 2023

Christmas Cards

Bing AI Christmas Card

Yesterday I posted my annual batch of Christmas cards. Writing my share of our cards each year is a job I loathe for some reason. I don’t know why because it doesn’t take long and it’s the only way I stay in touch with some folk.

The list is getting shorter though - I had to cross another name off this year. Mrs H says we receive about half the number of cards we received years ago and at our age the reason is obvious enough. 

Oh well, job done for another year.

Surely insects are the food of the future

Tesco recalls Christmas stuffing because it may contain moths

The supermarket chain stresses the Apple & Cranberry Stuffing Mix may be "unfit for human consumption" and apologises to customers.

Tesco is recalling a Christmas stuffing product because it might contain moths.

The supermarket chain said the warning applied to Tesco Finest Apple & Cranberry Stuffing Mix 130g with the best before end date of September 2024.

Moth & Mince Pies could even be the seasonal treat of the future. 

Irony and softer modes of meditation

As we know, not everyone does irony and it doesn’t work with all audiences, even though it can be a powerful rhetorical device if handled well in the right context.

"A thousand pounds a week!" Lilian murmured, aghast. Her imagination resembled that of a person who, on reaching a summit which he has taken for the top of the range, sees far higher peaks beyond. And the conviction that those distant peaks were unattainable saddened her for a moment. "It's absolutely awful."

"Why awful? If you have the finest you must pay for it. A thousand a week's nothing to that fellow. Moreover, he's a British citizen, and he did splendid service for his country in the war. Among other things, he owns two of the best brands of champagne. The War Office gave him a commission and a car; and he travelled all over Europe selling his own champagne at his own price to officers' messes. After all, officers couldn't be expected to fight without the drinks they're accustomed to, could they?"

Lilian obscurely divined irony. She often wished that she could be ironical and amusing, as Felix was; but she never could. She couldn't conceive how it was done.

Arnold Bennett – Lilian (1922)

Mrs H and I both do irony and that seems to be significant as we chat about life and current affairs over coffee. Maybe there is a certain social divide between those who do irony and those who don’t. Perhaps irony can highlight a social divide which was there to begin with, because there are those who do seem to prefer a softer form of social discourse.

Irony and sarcasm — very agreeable to a certain class of newspaper readers — were just now his stock-in-trade, and he could not afford to indulge any softer mode of meditation.

George Gissing - In the Year of Jubilee (1894)

Wednesday 13 December 2023

A slight twist of the kaleidoscope

Laurence Hodge has a worthwhile TCW piece on the UK Covid inquiry.

Why squander £200million on a foregone conclusion?

AT SOME point before (and possibly long before) the Diamond Princess sailed into our consciousness like some ghost ship with its quarantined cargo of elderly cruise-goers, something unthinkably odd was taking place.

Wherever you have been getting Covid-related information apart from the official and media channels over the last three years, the same litany of questions concerning the who, the why and the how will inevitably apply. As month succeeds month and new credible but unapproved information emerges, it feels increasingly as though the house of cards must be on the verge of collapse.

And yet as the Hallett Inquiry reaches the 18-month mark since its inception, its complacent and self-satisfied machinery grinds inexorably on at a cost to the taxpayer passing £100million around now, and there is no obvious sign that the expert applecart is about to lose a wheel.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a suggestion that the official Covid narrative is fragile, a house of cards which at some point could collapse.

The inquiry has established that Matt Hancock should not have delayed his television career so long, and that the experts bamboozled Boris Johnson, which is a failing on Johnson’s part (too dense to understand) rather than that of the experts. (Sir Patrick Vallance said in his evidence that the science had bamboozled Johnson. What we can readily believe is that they did their best to confuse him. A game of Blind Man’s Buff with Boris blindfolded and the experts spinning him round to make him dizzy! It worked.)

It has been carved into stone that Neil Ferguson is very good at making predictions without commenting on how accurate his predictions have been, or on whether a priapic rule-breaker deserves praise.

What if The Narrative changes in the year ahead? Perhaps it will need only a slight twist of the kaleidoscope through which the country views its last three years to produce an entirely different interpretation of past events and their causes?

Promoting the fact-checker

Fake AI images keep going viral - here are eight that have caught people out

Full Fact said the government and regulator Ofcom must prioritise public media literacy ahead of next year's general election, warning that "a lack of action risks reducing trust in what people see online".

Fact-checkers have highlighted notorious examples of AI-generated images going viral this year, including Prince William and Prince Harry embracing at the King's coronation.

No doubt there are people who don't check online stories, videos and images, but they are an ineradicable feature of life. This is about promoting mainstream media as your reliable, go-to, cosy, battling for you fact-checker.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

An outcome the world needs

COP28: UN climate talks in jeopardy in fossil fuel backlash

The UN climate talks in Dubai could be in jeopardy after some nations reacted furiously to a draft deal on fossil fuels they call "weak".

The draft removed language included in a previous text suggesting that fossil fuels could be "phased out".

All 198 countries at the summit must agree or there is no deal.

"We can't accept the text," said minister Eamon Ryan, a negotiator for the EU and Ireland's environment minister. But he added that the collapse of the talks is "not the outcome the world needs".

The collapse of the talks is an outcome the world needs - obviously. 

COP28 is about doing deals, having a good time, making new contacts and waffling to the media. The media mostly know it's waffle, but publishable waffle. Yet there are a few hints that the world may be tiring of climate waffle. If so, it's about time.

Nobody seriously expects anything else to come out of COP28, the world isn't that daft. Apart from the useful idiots of course, but they should know better by now.

Nothing is done well

Mrs H and I no longer use one of our routes into Derbyshire. It’s the scenic route along country roads, but the potholes and stretches of crumbling surface now make the A6 more attractive.

Some of the potholes are deep enough to damage a tyre or even a wheel so we’ll leave if for a few months before we try that route again. A pity because it is a scenic drive.

As we drove towards the A6 this morning I remarked that nothing is done well in this country. An exaggeration perhaps, but not as far from reality as it should be.

Monday 11 December 2023

Plastic Opinions


Casting out demons

UCKG: Church pastor tells boy 'evil spirit' hides in him

A UK branch of a Christian church has been secretly filmed trying to cast out evil spirits from a 16-year-old.

A Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) pastor was seen reciting what looked like so-called "strong prayers" to rid the boy of a demon.

An interesting idea the BBC could try. To judge from its output, it must have quite a few evil spirits worth casting out. The "strong prayers" of its critics haven't made much difference.

Many things flow from this

Whoever determines what alternatives shall be made known to man controls what that man should choose from. He is deprived of freedom in proportion as he is denied access to any ideas, or is confined to any range of ideas short of the totality of relevant possibilities.

Ralph Barton Perry

A notion I’ve held onto for years concerns the undermining of powerful insights. It’s a notion which is far too long on specifics, which in any event vary from person to person, but it goes something like this.

Buried within an unknown number of books which have already been written lies a sound and almost complete set of insights into the human condition. Sometimes nonfiction books, sometimes fiction, but it is almost all there. The most valuable insights are scattered across many books and now web pages, but for convenience I’ll stick with books.

One problem is that insights overlap and people differ in those they select plus the value they put on them. Another problem is that elites and higher social classes suppress or undermine powerful insights to maintain their own status. Their status could be damaged by many insights into hierarchies and human behaviour because elites are as completely enmeshed in the human condition as anyone else.

Sometimes elites suppress damaging insights by force as in the death of Socrates or the banning of Spinoza’s works. Sometimes by castigating or simply ignoring damaging insights. Sometimes by promoting misleading, sentimental or spuriously virtuous alternatives. But the insights are out there and becoming less easy to suppress.

Example – nonfiction within fiction.

For the first time it occurred to her that science was honesty, and that honesty was a great liberator. It cut away romance and sentiment and a great deal of nonsense, but it left clean wounds which would heal quickly without scars, leaving life whole and sane and cured. It could make people less miserable because it dealt with hard realities, instead of the unwholesome putrescence of dead moralities, and the high sentimental purities which had ruined so many lives.

Louis Bromfield – Twenty-Four Hours. Of course science must be honest and in being honest it does cut away romance and sentiment and a great deal of nonsense. Which is why some sciences have been undermined.

Example – nonfiction within fiction

The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.

Charles Dickens - Bleak House. It isn’t only law. Professions do make business for themselves, especially those in a position to extend their professional reach via a closed shop or at taxpayer expense.

Example – social observation.

But vain men are fools as well as ignorant of themselves, and make this plain to all the world; for, not doubting their worth, they undertake honourable offices, and presently stand convicted of incapacity: they dress in fine clothes and put on fine airs and so on; they wish everybody to know of their good fortune; they talk about themselves, as if that were the way to honour.

Aristotle – The Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s observation is much more widely known now as “The Emperor’s New Clothes” a folk tale by Hans Christian Andersen. A powerful insight, but somehow it is not as powerful as it should be because now it is a story for children. Aristotle’s insight has been undermined by treating it as a throwaway remark – “oh that’s the Emperor’s New Clothes” we say.

The number of possible examples is colossal. They do not coalesce into a clear viewpoint, but they do coalesce into an attitude, a disposition, or in B.F. Skinner’s sense, a repertoire of responses. This too is an insight – we respond via our existing repertoire of responses and are able to extend it.

The skillful speaker learns to tease out weak behavior and to manipulate variables which will generate and strengthen new responses in his repertoire. Such behavior is commonly observed in the verbal practices of literature as well as of science and logic.

B.F. Skinner - Verbal Behavior

This is what is manipulated by elites. Not ideas, beliefs, values or principles but our repertoire of responses. We must build it from what is available and to a great extent what is socially approved. Elites manipulate what is generally available and what is generally approved. Many things flow from this.

Sunday 10 December 2023

A voice from the rabbit hole


It beats me how anyone could applaud this guy. Everything about him shouts "charlatan". 

They probably know why they bothered

Voters have changed their opinions about Brexit, but does it still matter to them? | Adam Boulton

An election will take place in the next 13 months, and Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives are trying to keep their 2019 voters by branding Sir Keir an EU lover...

Startling new findings that a narrow majority of Leave voters, 52%, now say the economy is worse off because of Brexit and that a clear majority of them, 58%, say they would vote Remain in another referendum.

Brexit was a constitutional issue, a decision to leave the constitutional mess and democratic memory hole that is the EU. Yet since the referendum we have been exposed to niggling negative coverage by the media and a wide assortment of EU fans who apparently cannot let go. Yet - 

Every Conservative prime minister since David Cameron has posed as a committed leaver, vowing to deliver the will of the people as reflected in the 52% to 48% vote to leave.

They must be wondering why they bothered. In opinion polls, Brexit does not feature in the top 10 issues of concern to voters.

They probably know why they bothered - media coverage.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Even more last than the last last chance

Health warning - it's the Ugnadiar

‘This may be our last chance’: Cop28 talks enter final phase

‘We cannot negotiate with nature’ says Denmark’s climate minister as talks to phase out fossil fuels hang in balance

The next few days could be the world’s last chance of keeping global heating within safe limits, nations meeting for the Cop28 UN climate summit have been told.

The deferred aspect of Net Zero

It is difficult to deal effectively with deferred aversive consequences because they do not occur at a time when escape or attack is feasible—when, for example, the controller can be identified or is within reach.

B.F. Skinner - Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971)

The widespread negative consequences of the UK government drive towards Net Zero are certainly deferred in Skinner’s sense. They are not sufficiently aversive at a time when it is still possible to reject the policy by voting against political parties promoting it.

Currently, negative consequences of Net Zero are only aversive to those who pay attention to what is being done. The negative consequences are not likely to be aversive to financially secure decision-makers. Not until the negative consequences become entirely obvious and the controller can be identified or is within reach.

Friday 8 December 2023

The crash and burn dilemma

Eliot Wilson has a useful Critic piece on the inability of Labour to move beyond its traditional comfort zones and economic fantasies. Some voters think political progress in the UK requires one of the major parties to crash and burn at the next general election. Labour is unlikely to be that party, an obvious dilemma for those who think the two party circus has had its day.

Where does Labour think that wealth comes from?

Keir Starmer has to face the reality of wealth creation

It was Peter Mandelson, the Thomas Cromwell of New Labour, who used a cheeky, half-joking sentence that was in fact one of the most significant underpinnings of Blairism. In 1998, three months into his first big public-facing post as trade and industry secretary, he travelled to California. He wanted to sniff the brash, entrepreneurial air of Silicon Valley, at that time the epicentre of the dot-com boom, so he gave a speech to a group of senior executives at IT giant Hewlett-Packard.

Explaining the temper of the new government, he reassured his audience, “We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” Those nine words signalled New Labour like almost no other utterance.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder that Starmer has changed nothing apart from putting the Corbyn debacle behind him. He has put nothing else behind him. A Labour government under Starmer is almost certain to be nationally embarrassing.

The way Labour talks about economic policy is deeply revealing. Almost every pronouncement is steeped in an assumption that the state is the best and most virtuous expression of economic activity, such as the creation of a National Wealth Fund, whilst private enterprise is the home of “excess profits” and non-domiciled tax status, two major targets for the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves.

The repeated references to a windfall tax are indicative. Reeves announced at the Labour Party annual conference in October that there would be a “proper” windfall tax on energy suppliers, presumably in addition to the Energy Profits Levy and the Electricity Generator Levy. The party has also talked about taxing carried interest earned by private equity fund managers. This suggests that there is a morally or societally “correct” amount of profit to be made on any commercial activity.


A few days ago found Mrs H waiting for a call from our GP surgery about a repeat prescription review. She had been told the call would be on a particular day but not the approximate time.

Not giving a time slot was convenient for the surgery but not for us because we didn’t want to miss the call by going anywhere noisy or with poor phone reception. It was a foul day though, rain forecast until about 8pm so not a huge problem staying in.

It raises an interesting possibility. Does the GP surgery equate their convenience with efficiency? If their day goes smoothly maybe to them that feels like efficiency. It doesn’t feel so efficient if a patient’s time is taken into account, but does if it isn’t.

In the end, the call came from someone based in London who knew nothing about the reasons behind Mrs H’s prescription. From our point of view and given the foul weather it worked well enough. Maybe it’s a remote medical box-ticking service our GP surgery uses.

Thursday 7 December 2023

The UK’s creative sector will be hit

BBC condemns low licence fee rise warning of impact on creative sector

Lucy Frazer says annual fee for public broadcaster’s services will rise by 6.7% not by 9% inflation rate

The BBC’s governing body has said the UK’s creative sector will be hit by the government’s decision to limit the expected licence fee increase to £10, after the culture secretary confirmed a below-inflation rise.

I assume the reference to the UK’s creative sector is not a dig at the BBC's fact-checking pretensions. Should be but probably isn't.

Yet if the BBC forms a significant part the UK’s creative sector, then the whole lot may as well be hit even harder. Let's give it a really creative hit and save even more money. Saving all of it would be good.

The simple fact

The simple fact is that a culture which for any reason induces its members to work for its survival, or for the survival of some of its practices, is more likely to survive. Survival is the only value according to which a culture is eventually to be judged, and any practice that furthers survival has survival value by definition.

B. F. Skinner - Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971)

This is so obvious it hardly needs to be said, yet it does need to be said because in Skinner’s sense, survival has become politically unacceptable. To talk about it has become socially dubious, even politically far right whatever that means.

Yet survival is a powerful driver, perhaps the most powerful driver of our behaviour. In which case the obvious question arises – survival of what beyond family and friends? Not our culture, that has been dealt with.

Many voters have strong cultural memories though, and the political class knows it. Here's "Sir" Keir Starmer trying to convince us that there is still something left for him to put right.

Starmer’s embrace of Thatcher is no harmless exercise in political cross-dressing

Sir Keir Starmer wrote an article for The Telegraph last weekend. That is startling enough, for a one-time contributor to Socialist Alternatives, but what he said was more extraordinary and – for many – more inflammatory.

The Labour leader, explicitly ‘extend[ing] the hand of friendship to those who voted for the Tories’, attempted to portray himself as a change-maker, a transformative politician in a glorious tradition. Conjuring up that tradition, he cited Clement Attlee, as any Labour leader must, but sailed closer to the wind by naming Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The eruption of fury from the left of his party may have been part of his intended achievement, in the hope that it will conversely endear him to voters of that quicksilver centre believed to be the key to unlocking electoral success.

The clue is in the name

HOTSAT-1: Images of COP28 venue from 'flying thermometer' highlight global temperature challenges

HOTSAT-1 was launched by SpaceX over the summer. Unlike satellites that monitor the Earth with cameras that 'see' visible light, like our eyes, it monitors infrared to register how much heat is being given off in any given area.

There is increasing concern about the so-called 'urban heat island,' when hot hard surfaces keep the surrounding air much warmer at night than in more rural areas.

Missing from the piece is how the 'urban heat island' affects traditional surface temperature measurements and the reliability of the historic surface temperature record.

Oh well - the name HotSat-1 was always a rather obvious clue to the game being played here. 

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Oddly enough his government is at risk too

Michael Gove blames councils’ financial failure on poor leadership

The Levelling Up Secretary said he is concerned about local government finances but predicted that no ‘well run’ councils are at risk.

Michael Gove admitted he is concerned about acute financial pressures on local government, but blamed “poor leadership” for an increase in the number of councils which have declared effective bankruptcy.

Covid, Net Zero, HS2...

Down to lowly bureaucratic flies

China’s Xi goes full Stalin with purge

In a sign of instability in Beijing’s top ranks, foreign policy and defense officials are vanishing as Xi roots out perceived enemies.

Something is rotten in the imperial court of Chairman Xi Jinping.

While the world is distracted by war in the Middle East and Ukraine, a Stalin-like purge is sweeping through China’s ultra-secretive political system, with profound implications for the global economy and even the prospects for peace in the region.

The signals emanating from Beijing are unmistakable, even as China’s security services have ramped up repression to totalitarian levels, making it almost impossible to know what is really happening inside the country.

The issue isn't new, but the whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of an old problem, leadership paranoia.   

Another ominous sign is the untimely death of Li Keqiang, China’s recently retired prime minister — No. 2 in the Communist hierarchy — who supposedly died of a heart attack in a swimming pool in Shanghai in late October, despite enjoying some of the world’s best medical care. Following his death, Xi ordered public mourning for his former rival be heavily curtailed.

In the minds of many in China, “heart attack in a swimming pool” has the same connotation that “falling out of a window” does for Russian apparatchiks who anger or offend Vladimir Putin.

Since his reign began in 2012, Xi Jinping’s endless purges have removed millions of officials — from top-ranked Communist Party “tigers” down to lowly bureaucratic “flies,” to use Xi’s evocative terminology.


Mrs H and I took our artificial Christmas tree to the tip yesterday. It was a hefty thing with built-in lights which came in four pieces including the stand.

The thing looked okay when set up, but after hauling it down from the attic we suddenly decided we couldn't be bothered with unwrapping it, working out how to put it together, finally putting it together only to reverse the process in a few weeks.

When we arrived back from the tip we both felt the same - liberated. We won't be replacing it.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

A long-term decline

Scottish education performance falling, says study

Performance in Scotland's high schools has slipped according to new international research on education.

The Pisa report measures education standards among nearly 700,000 15-year-olds worldwide.

The report shows a long-term decline in Scotland's performance in reading, maths and science.

No great surprises, but there is a pleasantly sarcastic comment -

To be fair there are some hard questions in Scottish exam papers.

If a £100,000 motor home is held outside in a police compound, how much will it be worth by the time the expected 2018 ferry comes into service

That Didn't Age Well

The video was uploaded back in April, but nothing much has changed since, apart from Joe being a little older.

Well "rash" seems to be appropriate

'Charles' or 'skin rash'? - Maori MPs in New Zealand go off script while swearing oath of allegiance to King

The six MPs who belong to the Te Pati Maori - which is the smallest party in parliament and represents the Maori people - later swore allegiance to the King but at least two chose to change the word Kingi Tiare for Kingi Harehare.

Te Pati Maori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told local media Harehare was just another name for "Charles".

However, it can also translate to mean a "skin rash" or "sore", according to the website Maori Dictionary.

Bring your own pesticides

N. Korea accelerates efforts to revitalize tourism industry

As the threat of COVID-19 subsides in North Korea, tourism construction projects temporarily suspended during the pandemic have resumed

North Korea has recently been making plans to revitalize its tourism industry, one of the few legal avenues for the regime to earn foreign currency. Revitalization plans include instructions to import materials needed to complete construction of the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone and to draft plans for attracting foreign investment.

N. Korea hasn’t yet declared war against bedbugs

Forced labor camps in Hoeryong are infested with bedbugs, tormenting the inmates, yet the authorities do nothing about the problem, a source told Daily NK

The eradication of bedbugs has recently become a major issue in South Korea. In North Korea, bedbugs are common in ordinary homes and detention facilities, yet the authorities do nothing to eradicate them or stop their spread.

Presumably this means that North Korean tourist hotels and elites have pesticides that actually work or superior cleaning facilities. Possibly both. 

Monday 4 December 2023

Jaw dropping

According to the media, there has been an enormous increase in jaw dropping over recent decades. Google Ngram Viewer shows how steep the increase has been since about 1990. It began to take off towards the jaw dropping heights we see today round about the year 2000. 

The rise in jaw dropping seems to be correlated with the rise of digital media, or maybe it has something to do with climate change. Whatever the explanation, there are hints that the trend has peaked so presumably some other expression will take its place. 

Can't wait.


It's an old problem

COP28 president speaks out after 'no science' fossil fuel remarks spark fury

The head of the UN climate change summit in Dubai sparked fury among climate leaders after saying there was no science to suggest phasing out fossil fuels will limit global warming to 1.5C.

Addressing the controversy over the remarks, Sultan al Jaber stressed that the phasing out of fossil fuels was essential...

Al Jaber added later: "Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves."

It's an old problem.

The climate game attracts those who are prepared to say one thing to one audience and something else to a more respected audience. It also attracts useful idiots. The fury is restricted to useful idiots, but Sultan al Jaber is not speaking to them.

A target for unlucky undertakings

COVID inquiry about 'scapegoating', Boris Johnson's sister says

Ahead of the former prime minister taking the stand on Wednesday and Thursday, Rachel Johnson has said the multi-year inquiry is a "show trial" just like the Parliamentary Privileges inquiry into partygate.

She told the podcast by Sky News and Politico that "100% it's about scapegoating because, as I said, it's already been agreed that lockdown was the right thing to do.

"Therefore, the only questions they can really ask is, was it done properly? And if not, who do we blame? So this is going to follow the model of all public inquiries in recent years.

Know how to put off Ills on Others. To have a shield against ill-will is a great piece of skill in a ruler. It is not the resort of incapacity, as ill-wishers imagine, but is due to the higher policy of having some one to receive the censure of the disaffected and the punishment of universal detestation. Everything cannot turn out well, nor can every one be satisfied: it is well therefore, even at the cost of our pride, to have such a scapegoat, such a target for unlucky undertakings.

Baltasar Gracián - The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Sunday 3 December 2023

Ice Rink Monday Brutal Skid Chaos Snow Bomb Warnings

Britain braces for 'Ice rink Monday' after roads chaos saw cars abandoned and skid out of control - as Met Office issues new yellow warnings for ice tomorrow after brutal -12C 'snow bomb' blasted Cumbria

It's almost possible to admire how the Mail squeezed so much alarm into one headline. Not something a mere trainee could do.

It was one of those chilly and empty afternoons

I was reminded of this quote while sitting here on one of those chilly and empty afternoons. Not empty inside the house, we've been busy, but a chilly grey dusk appears to have arrived early. Maybe it’s about time to make the coffee.

IT was one of those chilly and empty afternoons in early winter, when the daylight is silver rather than gold and pewter rather than silver. If it was dreary in a hundred bleak offices and yawning drawing-rooms, it was drearier still along the edges of the flat Essex coast, where the monotony was the more inhuman for being broken at very long intervals by a lamp-post that looked less civilized than a tree, or a tree that looked more ugly than a lamp-post.

A light fall of snow had half-melted into a few strips, also looking leaden rather than silver, when it had been fixed again by the seal of frost; no fresh snow had fallen, but a ribbon of the old snow ran along the very margin of the coast, so as to parallel the pale ribbon of the foam. The line of the sea looked frozen in the very vividness of its violet-blue, like the vein of a frozen finger. For miles and miles, forward and back, there was no breathing soul, save two pedestrians, walking at a brisk pace, though one had much longer legs and took much longer strides than the other.

G. K. Chesterton - The Wisdom Of Father Brown (1914)

Can't be snow


Woke up this morning to a significant fall of climate collapse here in our bit of Derbyshire. Very picturesque it is too, but it's a good job we have people at COP28 doing something about it. 

Saturday 2 December 2023

It isn't Stuffy

"It isn't so Hot in my field about three o'clock in the morning as some people think it is," said Eeyore. "It isn't Close, if you know what I mean. It isn't Stuffy. In fact, Christopher Robin, quite-between-ourselves-and-don't-tell-anybody, it's Cold."

Nipped out early this morning to buy Granddaughter some drawing materials. It was -6C according to the car thermometer. In terms even King Charles may understand, that's probably colder than Eeyore's field. It isn't Stuffy. 

Very attractive though driving past frosted trees and countryside. Uplifting in spite of the cold - this is what winter is supposed to look like.

Not a bad result

COP28 UAE: 'Loss and Damage Fund' is a landmark - but it's taken 32 years just to get here

Wealthy nations contributed nearly $300m to the fund - which will compensate poorer nations for losses from floods and crop failures triggered by climate change.

How can rich countries, which got rich by burning fossil fuels, expect poor ones to pay for the consequences of climate change they didn't cause in the first place?

Why should poor countries join an agreement to prevent the dangers of global warming by developing more expensive clean economies, when rich countries got to develop on the back of dirty ones?

It's been obvious for years, the climate game is mostly about totalitarian politics and racketeering with a heavy dose of virtue-signalling by the useful idiots. No doubt the $300m will simply disappear, but it's merely a token gesture and the insignificance of the amount is mildly encouraging. 

Maybe it will go to fund a few limousines, luxurious villas and one or two useless vanity projects, but it won't go far and that's what matters. Bill Gates could fund that much without noticing it. So far it's not a bad result. 

Friday 1 December 2023

A vast, frightening experiment

COP28: 'The Earth does not belong to us' - King Charles III

King Charles III has said humans are carrying out a "vast, frightening experiment" on the planet, taking the natural world "outside balanced norms and limits".

Speaking at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, the monarch said unless we restore this balance, "our survivability will be imperilled".The King campaigned about protecting the environment many years before it was a highly talked about issue, a personal passion that has lasted decades.

Agreed, it is a vast, frightening political experiment and he is one of the leading perpetrators. There are disadvantages to finally getting rid of the monarchy, but Charles is very persuasive. One huge disadvantage is the idea of President Blair, but Charles is well on the way to overcoming that.

Well done old chap. 

Warning about yellow snow

New yellow snow and ice weather warnings for swathes of UK

The Met Office has issued new yellow weather warnings for snow and ice across northern Scotland and in parts of the country's south.

The warnings also stretch down the eastern coast of England - from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to below London - and are in effect from 5pm tonight until 10am on Saturday morning.

I don't know what the country is coming to, we've already had warnings about yellow colds which sound equally unpleasant. Wouldn't want to catch one of those in Sainsbury's.

A ‘Yellow’ Cold Health alert has been issued by the UK health Security Agency in partnership with the Met Office. It is valid until Tuesday 5th December 2023.

The General Overview is that significant impacts are possible across the health and social care sector due to forecast weather conditions.