Sunday 31 March 2024

There is nothing so exasperating

Earth's Black Box: 32ft steel monolith will be built in Tasmania this YEAR and filled with hard drives documenting our climate change actions as an 'unbiased account of the events that lead to the demise

If humanity is obliterated by climate change, how will we even know it's happened?

That's the question being answered by Australian scientists, who are building Earth's Black Box – a 32-foot-long steel monolith that captures data about our planet.

It'll be filled with hard drives that constantly document climate change, giving an 'unbiased account of events' that lead to Earth's demise.

There is nothing, I think, so exasperating as that sort of falsehood which affects not to see what is quite palpable.

Sheridan Le Fanu - Uncle Silas (1864)

Not party political

Church is not party political, says archbishop amid Rwanda plan spat

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Easter sermon to say the church is not party political after facing criticism over his high-profile condemnation of the government's controversial Rwanda deportation scheme.

The word "party" is doing a great deal of work there - not with conspicuous success.

A change election

Tories set for worst election result, major poll suggests

Rishi Sunak’s Tories could be reduced to fewer than 100 MPs at the general election, a new poll has suggested.

The 15,000-person poll was used to create a seat-by-seat breakdown, which indicated the Conservatives would be wiped out in Scotland and Wales and hold just 98 seats in England.

Best for Britain chief executive Naomi Smith said: “With the polling showing swathes of voters turning their backs on the Tories, it’s clear that this will be a change election.”

This is the problem for voters who pay attention. Based on these results there is almost no chance that the forthcoming general election will be a change election unless a marked acceleration of the decline counts as change. Otherwise it's more of the same with different faces and marketing. Even sillier faces unfortunately.

The only real hope for this general election is a major upset of some kind, but a huge Labour victory is not a major upset. Otherwise it's a case of waiting five years for the next general election in the hope that millions more voters wake up.

Saturday 30 March 2024

Two Headlines

E-bike 'explodes outside Buckingham Palace'

An e-biked has seemingly exploded outside Buckingham Palace.

Photos and videos on social media show what appears to be the frame of a bike in flames on Saturday afternoon.

This e-motorbike provides a shockingly fun and functional commuting experience

Himiway, a prominent player in the electric mobility sector, made a big splash at CES 2024 with its new range of commuting machines, particularly the C5 e-motorbike. And finally, the bike is available to buy!

The exact idea of things

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

Gustave Flaubert - Sentimental Education (1869)

This is pretty much what goes on now if people aren’t selective enough when they look to the media for information. Feeble fireworks rather than adequate information is what they get. Millions still watching the BBC on a regular basis suggests those millions aren’t selective enough and have probably lost the exact idea of things. Not that there are good reasons to assume they have a powerful desire for the exact idea of anything.

Complexity and big media don’t mix. Big media outfits don’t put in the work and money required to untangle complexity, they don’t want to pay for the expertise and effort. It is unsurprising that what we so often see is lying by omission. Beyond the headline, stories often peter out into minimal effort, padded out with conjecture, gossip a few quotes and some stock images.

A good example occurred in the early days of the US presidential election where Donald Trump claimed that the election of Joe Biden was fraudulent. I recall an online BBC response which claimed that Trump’s allegation was false without explaining that this was an editorial opinion, not something the BBC knew.

The BBC response was too quick, it was too early to know one way or the other and probably still is. The issue was too incomplete and complex for definitive analysis to have been done, but big media and complexity don’t mix.

Friday 29 March 2024

Nixon on Fonda

Nixon could have been harsher here, but maybe he didn't need to be. The point is made well enough for anyone but ideologues.



DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Why won't Rayner come clean on tax?

When then Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi got into bother with the Inland Revenue, she led calls for him to come clean or resign.

And when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was on the rack over failing to declare his wife's business interests, she volubly condemned the 'transparency black hole'.

Yet when inconvenient questions are asked over her own tangled property and financial dealings, Mrs Rayner becomes uncustomarily coy. This reticence is regrettable.

What fun, but it always is fun to see politicians squirm. This story doesn't yet seem to be on the way out either, especially as the Tories don't have many reasons to indulge in some finger-pointing. 

"Sir" Keir must have doubts about managing his Parliamentary rabble if he is unlucky enough to become Prime Minister.  

The past rushes towards us

The new tech bringing loved ones back to life through AI

When technology entrepreneur Artur Sychov's father was diagnosed with cancer, he was forced to accept a day may soon come when he wouldn't be able to speak to him again.

The 38-year-old knew he would give anything to have another father-son conversation after his dad's death.

So, using artificial intelligence, he got to work on a way that could make it happen for others in his position.

Artur has created a virtual reality tool called "live forever mode". It features digital avatars who can simulate a person's voice, mannerisms and movements after just 30 minutes of the user being observed.

It has been obvious for a while that this is one of the likely directions of AI development. Yet instead of being impressed by the technology, anyone paying attention may well see it as a hint of future stagnation. A step beyond living in the past.  

Imagine a situation where a 'Tony Blair' avatar gives political advice forever and doesn't need to win one of those old fashioned notions called an 'election'...

But surely an 'election' is already an old fashioned notion. The past rushes towards us at an ever increasing rate.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Progressive Teacher


Officer Roscoe

Robot police dog shot multiple times credited with avoiding bloodshed

A robotic dog is being thanked by state police in Massachusetts for helping avert a tragedy involving a person barricaded in a home.

The robotic dog named Roscoe was part of the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad and deployed on March 6 in a Barnstable house after police were fired upon. Police sent in two other robots often used for bomb disposal into the house to find the suspect along with the robotic dog.

Controlled remotely by state troopers, it first checked the two main floors before finding someone in the basement. The person, armed with a rifle, twice knocked over the robotic dog before shooting it three times and disabling its communication.

Busy Day

We'll be setting off on the school run soon, but with lighter mornings I can see the potholes more clearly. It seems absurd that later this year voters will probably vote for more of the same, a level of malign, unthinking incompetence so extreme it isn't even easy to be angry about it.

Likely to be a busy day today as I have a log delivery and things to do. I'll enjoy stacking another load of logs as long as the rain holds off, but that's another gripe. We'll elect a government which among other things is bound to carry on claiming it can alter global weather patterns. 

Voters should dwell on that one before making their mark on the paper. Then dwell on it again. Most won't.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Possibly the poorest quality work


Prince Philip statue to be removed after Cambridge council brands it 'poorest quality work'

sculpture in Cambridge said to represent Prince Philip is to be pulled down after the city council branded it “possibly the poorest quality work” it had seen.

The controversial artwork is understood to have cost £150,000, and is supposed to resemble the late Duke of Edinburgh in his role as vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

The abstract 13ft bronze - named The Don - takes the form of a towering figure, in flowing black-and-gold academic robes and a mortarboard.

It's not the poorest quality work I've seen. A few years ago I saw a sketch by Tracey Emin which was certainly worse than that - and the dealer wanted money for it.

Surely 1300 won't be enough

Sadiq Khan promises 1,300 new police officers - but only with a Labour Government

The mayor, who is running for an historic third term at City Hall, said that if he is re-elected, he will put in place “around 1,300” additional neighbourhood police officers, PCSOs and special constables.

But he warned: “I can only guarantee a restoration of neighbourhood policing if both I win and the Labour party wins at the next general election.”

I see - so if London suffers the double whammy of a Labour government and another bout of Sadiq Khan, lots more policing will be required on the streets. Well - his concerns are easy enough to understand, but I doubt if 1300 will be enough.  

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Lazy bureaucrats

Andrew Tettenborn has an interesting CAPX piece on a remarkable example of bureaucratic sloth in the prison system.

Lazy bureaucrats are threatening the rule of law

If you want a serious example of broken Britain that doesn’t neatly fit the Left’s culture of blaming everything on populism and underfunding, look no further than what happened at Wandsworth prison earlier this year, as described in a High Court judgment reported last week.

On a Tuesday morning, Westminster magistrates sentenced a Korean gentleman, Bumju Kim, to ten weeks for assault. Since he had already spent more than that on remand, he should have been set free. Instead he was bundled straight back on the bus to HMP Wandsworth. Wandsworth that evening realised something was wrong, but calmly told Mr Kim that even if it was, nothing could be done for a couple of days. Meanwhile, Mr Kim would just have to stay unlawfully cooped up in a stinking prison.

The whole piece is well worth reading, both as an example of bureaucratic sloth and because of the not unfamiliar culture which allowed it.

At about 2:30 on Wednesday morning, a High Court judge issued a writ of habeas corpus addressed to the Governor herself, commanding her either to release Mr Kim or bring him before him by 11am next day. The lawyer rang the prison early next morning, presumably with this news, but the receptionist refused to put him through to either the Duty Governor or the Offender Management Unit. Nor was Mr Kim brought before the court by 11 (though he was released a little later). Ordered by a furious judge to file evidence within seven days explaining her plain disobedience to a habeas corpus writ, the Governor did nothing. She finally responded some days later after a threat to sentence her for contempt of court...

The judge himself hit the nail on the head. The Governor of Wandsworth seemed, he said, to have regarded a court order as not so much an order but a target: as something to be slotted in to the other matters of routine and performed as and when possible. That’s bad enough with orders addressed to private litigants to do this or that. With orders concerning the liberty of the subject it is, as the judge made clear, unforgivable.

Censored Trousers

North Korea censors Alan Titchmarsh's trousers on BBC gardening show

North Korea is known to illegally stream western TV shows including Premier League football, and on Korean Central Television it recently aired an old episode of the BBC programme Gardening Secrets.

In the scene Mr Titchmarsh is kneeling in a garden, tending to plants, when the blurred effect is applied to his legs.

The censoring is said to be linked to Kim Jong Un's regime's efforts to restrict Western fashion and culture in North Korea, NKNews reports.

Blue jeans are said to be a sign of the West, according to the outlet, and have been essentially banned since the 1990s.

Psychic Scammer

Scammer claimed to be a psychic, witch and Irish heiress, victims say as she faces extradition to UK

She has traveled [sic] America saying she's an Irish heiress, a psychic and good friends with a movie star in order to run scores of scams, her victims say.

But now Marianne Smyth is in a Maine jail awaiting a hearing next month that will decide whether she can be sent back to the United Kingdom over a scam dating back more than 15 years in Northern Ireland.

The 54-year-old American is accused of stealing more than $170,000 from at least five victims from 2008 to 2010 in Northern Ireland, where a court issued arrest warrants for her in 2021, according to legal documents. She was located and arrested last month in Maine.

Meanwhile people claiming they can foretell global temperatures decades into the future are welcome to flaunt their crystal balls within the corridors of power, in spite of being endorsed by King Charles. 

It's a funny old world.

Monday 25 March 2024


English councils to get £295m for implementing weekly food waste collections

Councils in England are to receive up to £295 million to support them to introduce weekly food waste collections, the Government has announced.

New funding will cover the provision of food waste caddies for homes and specialist collection vehicles and will be targeted at local authorities that have yet to put collections in place.

Recycling minister Robbie Moore said: “Weekly food waste collections are a central plank in delivering a simpler, easier recycling system for all.

“It will help to stop food waste heading to landfill and support our goals of tackling both waste and climate change.

Let me see - recycling minister Robbie Moore says a more complex domestic waste system is a simpler, easier recycling system for all. I bet a bureaucrat with a grudge fed him with that line to make him look like a plank. It worked. 

I wonder if people who don't have food waste will be eligible for refunds?

So many layers of rhetoric

Environmental damage should be criminalised with up to ten years in jail, says anti-Brexit campaigner

Gina Miller, who shot to prominence as an anti-Brexit campaigner, has warned that the UK has fallen well behind the EU in terms of environmental protection.

Ms Miller, who came to prominence bringing legal cases over Brexit, said: "Brexit has allowed us to weaken our environmental rules and dilute our climate ambitions.

"We are not only pitifully lagging behind Europe, but we have lost all credibility as a global leader in environmental protection.

There was nothing she did not remember— wrongly; but her halting facts were swathed in so many layers of rhetoric that their infirmities were imperceptible to her friendly critics.

Edith Wharton - The Greater Inclination (1899)

Existential Threat Threat

The rise in the term 'existential threat' from 1800 to 2019 according to Google Ngram Viewer. Seems to have been zero during World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic, World War II and the Cuban missile crisis but has recently rocketed.

Is the rise in existential threats an existential threat threat? If he wins the next election I suggest Keir Starmer needs Minister for Existential Threats.


Sunday 24 March 2024

Silver bullet

Government’s ‘silver bullet’ heat pump plan not enough to hit net-zero target

The Government’s ambitious plan to fit heat pumps in homes across the UK in order to hit its net-zero goals is doomed to fail unless ministers quickly adapt their strategy, an industry insider has said.

Ministers say they want 600,000 heat pumps installed per year by 2028 – while just 18,900 were installed between May 2022 to December 2023. By 2035, ministers want to see up to 1.6 million heat pumps being fitted a year.

However, a recent report has found that up to five million homes across the UK may be unsuitable for heat pumps in another blow to the Government’s plan.

I thought silver bullets were a way of dealing with werewolves. If so it may be creepily appropriate as werewolves operate in the dark. 

Yet it's also weird how an article such as this comes to be written. So many obviously silly assumptions that it isn't worth analysing, yet this kind of guff continues to be churned out. It seems to occupy a niche between advertising, PR, official propaganda and possibly horoscopes. 

To a good approximation, nobody believes Net Zero will be achieved, including the government. It is clearly going to make us significantly worse off and the only interesting aspect will come when enough people realise that outcome indicates intent.

They succeed, they get on

Erb looked moody as he closed the satchel. ‘Absorption in self isn’t thought. Children naturally have the most, and even at our age there are some odious remnants; but these people who all their lives seem just made of it — pure egoism, spontaneous self-pushery, instinct for leadership and self-dramatization — why, damn it, they succeed; they get on!

Booth Tarkington - The Show Piece (1947)

If thought is remembered language then maybe this quote works. Absorption in self isn’t thought because it is not remembered language. This may be so if we assume that egoists do not reinforce their egoism by standing before a mirror describing to themselves how special they are. Justin Trudeau may be an exception to that of course, but we can’t be sure.

In which case egoism is not a way of thinking but a self-centred attitude which permeates thinking. Not so much remembered language, but the overriding priority of self which selects what is remembered and ignores the rest. But damn it, they succeed; they get on!

Saturday 23 March 2024

Broken Science

About a year ago William Briggs gave this excellent and comparatively non-technical talk on the problems of modern science. Just over an hour long, but Briggs is a fluent and entertaining speaker who certainly manages to explain why modern science and scientists can be so abjectly unreliable.



'Next pandemic is around the corner,' expert warns - but would lockdown ever happen again?

Four years after the UK's first COVID lockdown was announced, infectious disease experts explain why it's increasingly likely a virus will "jump" from animals to humans and cause another pandemic.

Scientists warn global warming and deforestation are also making it increasingly likely that a viral or bacterial agent will "jump" from animals to humans and cause another pandemic.

Yes it's "expert warns" time and more jumping viruses. The little blighters might even "jump" from a lab - you never know.  The viruses that is, not the experts. Still, they managed to squeeze a reference to global warming so that might lead to a funding jump, which is probably what it's all about. 

A much bigger long-term danger is a kind of collectivist dominance fetish which seems to assist in driving such speculation and many other concocted anxieties.

Friday 22 March 2024

Twaddle In Three Dimensions


Dame Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture from Wakefield-born sculptor auctioned for almost half a million pounds

A golden sculpture entitled Three Curves With Strings (Gold Mincarlo) by artist Dame Barbara Hepworth has been auctioned for almost half a million pounds.

Not a symbol, but a fraud

A conception not reducible to the small change of daily experience is like a currency not exchangeable for articles of consumption; it is not a symbol, but a fraud.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905 - 1906)

Familiar difficulties arise when we attempt to define what is going wrong with our political culture here in the UK and elsewhere in the developed world. Many possibilities seem to fit the circumstances tolerably well without quite offering a satisfactory theme. Possibly there is no single theme, but if our various failures stand alone, maybe they do have a few common features.

For example, we seem to have a serious problem with language, more specifically with how we use symbols to connect ourselves with both the familiar world of daily life and the less familiar world of current affairs. Buying groceries, sending the kids to school and the daily commute encapsulate familiar symbols of daily life, they are reducible to the small change of daily experience. Yet they do not fit comfortably with the obviously fraudulent use of symbols in numerous media headlines.

The so-called green revolution is nothing like making coffee and a round of toast while gazing out of the window at garden birds pecking away at the bird feeder. The green revolution has symbols we can see such as wind turbines, electric cars and recycling bins, but these symbols are not reducible to the small change of daily experience. Daily life would lack nothing if we did not have wind turbines, electric cars or recycling bins.

Wind turbines are not symbols of sustainable power, they are based on old technology, are inefficient and unreliable with their own sustainability problems.
Electric cars are not symbols of a sustainable lifestyle. They are not yet superior to traditional cars and have their own sustainability problems.

Recycling is not a symbol of a sustainable lifestyle. It is wasteful in terms of human effort and there are practical limits on what can be usefully recycled.

Gender is not a symbol of socially inclusive progress, it is a fact of human reproduction.

Pale skin colour is not a symbol of privilege, it is a fact of biological heritage.

Equality is not a virtuous political policy, it is a fraudulent depiction of social reality.

The point to be made is that the symbols we rely on to navigate daily life, do not necessarily allow us to navigate public debates with integrity or even dignity. Much public debate merely expresses symbols of allegiance, compliance or fashionable acceptance, not reducible to the reality they supposedly symbolise.

The elusive nature of the problem is its weakness, we must use symbols within the public arena. Yet fashionable symbols of allegiance are far too powerful to be demolished merely by confrontation with more honest symbols, For those prosperous people dominating the public arena, their reality is too benign to threaten the fraudulent symbols they use to maintain their dominance.

When this diversity between the truest theory and the simplest fact, between potential generalities and actual particulars, has been thoroughly appreciated, it becomes clear that much of what is valued in science and religion is not lodged in the miscellany underlying these creations of reason, but is lodged rather in the rational activity itself, and in the intrinsic beauty of all symbols bred in a genial mind. Of course, if these symbols had no real points of reference, if they were symbols of nothing, they could have no great claim to consideration and no rational character; at most they would be agreeable sensations.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905 - 1906)

This is the problem - much of what is valued in science and religion is not lodged in the miscellany underlying these creations of reason, but is lodged rather in the rational activity itself.

If important arenas of rational activity are not rational, but fraudulent, then they are valued fraudulently, being based on nothing more substantial than agreeable sensations. That is to say, agreeable to a certain social class. This seems to be one underlying theme of the malaise – fraudulent symbols.


The other day found me chatting to my old pal Dr Baz Broxtowe of Fradley University. He mentioned his latest study on modern civilisation and what he calls AIR.

“AIR is the acronym for the three pillars of our modern civilisation,” Dr Baz explained. “It stands for Advocacy, Incompetence and Racketeering.”

“And it’s not a joke?” Well - I had to ask the obvious question.

“Absolutely not," Dr Baz insisted. "Let me explain –

Advocacy creates the narratives which support Incompetence and Racketeering.

Incompetence creates the chaotic conditions which support Advocacy and Racketeering.

Racketeering creates the benefits derived from Advocacy and Incompetence.”

“It all hangs together,” I admitted.

“Unfortunately it does,” mused Dr Baz, “so nobody can be found to advocate it more widely. Perhaps it's just as well.” He shrugged.

Thursday 21 March 2024

There's no greater failure

Cath Walton has a useful Critic piece on the BBC, Director General Tim Davie and his abject unwillingness to challenge even the most ludicrous examples of progressive nonsense.

Davie, Davie, give us some answers do

Why the BBC keeps obscuring the truth of sex and gender

Thanks to the final straining filaments of the public remit, we now know that BBC News has an Editor-in-Chief who believes his duty is to be nice to middle-aged men who imagine themselves to be women.

It’s not to tell the truth about them — that they’re men. Heaven forfend anyone tries to tell certain people what they do not want to hear. “We have to be kind, and caring, and nice,” says Tim. His emphasis.

This was the Director General’s evidence to the Culture and Media Select Committee yesterday morning: part of his duty as DG, which means he’d actually prepared for an answer for the inevitable question about impartiality on sex and gender, making it all the more depressing.

The whole piece is well worth reading as another example of how absurd BBC bias has become.

I met Tim a couple of years ago to discuss this, and to ask that the Style Guide be updated to remove self-identification. Self-ID was installed in the Guide in 2013 after friendly meetings with trans activists, and is the root and source of most of the BBC’s biased reporting.

The ink was barely dry on the Equality Act before the BBC helped fund a group that became All About Trans, which subsequently had multiple meetings with BBC journalists, editorial policy executives and — crucially — the then Head of Online. The phrasing inserted into the Style Guide in late 2013 was almost word for word a quote from activist Leng Montgomery — “use the pronouns they prefer” — and it’s survived a number of updates, the latest in December last year...

It’s clear now, however, that gender theory capture has crept up to the top of the BBC. We have an Editor-in-Chief who thinks that telling the truth isn’t nice. There’s no greater failure.


South Africa runs dry as largest city hit by unprecedented water crisis

For two weeks, Tsholofelo Moloi has been among thousands of South Africans lining up for water as the country's largest city, Johannesburg, confronts an unprecedented collapse of its water system affecting millions of people.

Residents rich and poor have never seen a shortage of this severity. While hot weather has shrunk reservoirs, crumbling infrastructure after decades of neglect is also largely to blame. The public's frustration is a danger sign for the ruling African National Congress, whose comfortable hold on power since the end of apartheid in the 1990s faces its most serious challenge in an election this year.

A country already famous for its hourslong electricity shortages is now adopting a term called “watershedding” — the practice of going without water, from the term loadshedding, or the practice of going without power.

The general view on this seems to be that incompetence and corruption are the underlying causes, another symptom of neglected South African infrastructure. 

Taking a wider view, it does emphasise how damaging the slow grind of endemic incompetence can be. We in the UK may moan about having to drive around numerous potholes in our roads, but this is a symptom too. Endemic incompetence took root here some time ago and voting probably won't change that.

The last major UK reservoir was built at Carsington in Derbyshire in 1991.

Far too late

Mental health culture has gone too far, says Mel Stride

Britain’s mental health culture is in danger of having “gone too far” and “normal anxieties of life” are being labelled as an illness, the Work and Pensions Secretary has warned.

Speaking as he unveiled plans to make 150,000 people signed off work with “mild” conditions look for a job, Mel Stride said that the UK’s benefits bill was being pushed up by the problem.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he suggested an increased public focus on talking about mental health had led to people effectively self-diagnosing conditions.

It's revealing when a public figure puts his or her head over the political parapet to state an opinion which has been commonplace beyond the parapet for a number of years. It indicates how tightly narratives are controlled and highlights the efforts made to suppress worthwhile public debate. 

Also revealing are scattered Conservative attempts to sound like conservatives and put some political distance between Conservative and Labour. Far too late of course, but it may sway some.  

Wednesday 20 March 2024

And they won't work from home

Rise of the robot civil servants: AI could take over more than 8 out of 10 repetitive jobs performed by government services, study claims
  • At least 120 million tasks across government have potential to be automated
  • This would save hundreds of thousands of hours of manual work by human staff
Artificial intelligence (AI) could take over more than eight in 10 repetitive jobs performed by civil servants, a study has found.

From processing passports to registering to vote, at least 120 million tasks across government have the potential to be automated.

Every minute AI helped cut per transaction would save hundreds of thousands of hours of manual work by human staff.

To tell meaningful stories

New Banksy mural defaced just days after appearing

The huge green painting on the side of a block of flats in Hornsey Road, near Finsbury Park, was first spotted on Sunday.

But photos show that just three days after it first appeared, white paint has been thrown over the mural.

Islington Council told Sky News: "In recent days, the piece has created a real buzz in the borough and beyond, and we very much want it to stay.

"This is a really powerful piece, which highlights the vital role that trees play in our communities and in tackling the climate emergency.

"Culture is a powerful way to tell meaningful stories, and we very much hope that the piece, which is still fantastic, will now be left alone for people to enjoy."

I thought that throwing paint at artworks was a radical way to tackle the climate emergency collapse crisis. A positive act in other words. Maybe it's the colour of the paint which is important, but it's so difficult to keep track of these things. 

Perhaps Banksy knows which paint colour is appropriate for tackling the climate last decade to do something catastrophe. Perhaps not.

Same theatre, same stage, same play, different actors

Echoes of Rishi Sunak in Rachel Reeves's rite of passage speech

Rachel Reeves was given the chance to follow in chancellor footsteps and outline her economic plans. But we're left wondering if there are any sizeable Labour policies after a speech that was deceptively similar to one that Rishi Sunak gave two years ago...

Perhaps the simplest accusation one can direct at Ms Reeves is that her plan sounds deceptively similar to the ones proposed by the current government.

Indeed, the three priorities from Rishi Sunak's own Mais lecture of 2022 - encouraging businesses to invest more, improving technical skills and cementing Britain's position as the most innovative economy in the world - all feature in Ms Reeves's own lecture.

Interesting that journalists don't yet care to admit that it's effectively the same party. Close but not quite there.

Who says romance is dead?

Ex-cop punched inspector he caught having sex with his wife outside Screwfix

A former police officer accused of assaulting an inspector after catching him having sex with his wife told jurors he was acting in self-defence.

Gavin Harper, 45, found Stephanie Glynn, 40, and Andrew McLullich, 42, in a Screwfix car park in Birkenhead, Merseyside, late on February 16, 2021.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Birdbox Classics


The irresponsible charges of resentment

Doubtless she was posing as a martyr before all who knew anything of her story; why had she refused his money, if not that her case might seem all the harder? It were difficult to say whether he really believed this; in a nature essentially egoistic, there is often no line to be drawn between genuine convictions and the irresponsible charges of resentment.

George Gissing – Demos (1886)

A quote recalled when Barak Obama popped up at No.10.

A useful observation by Gissing which is easy to forget. We see them all the time - public figures with a strong streak of egoism. So often we see the egoism as a fault, note the dishonesty which comes with it but forget the other baggage egoism carries.

Gissing was right, egoists are damagingly irresponsible as well as dishonest. The egoism itself isn’t the only damaging aspect, it’s the irresponsible accusations prompted by setbacks or criticism. We cannot draw a line between an egoist’s convictions and their irresponsible charges of resentment. That is to say, their tendency to fire off irresponsible accusations when things aren’t going their way.

To take another prominent example, we have the spectacle of Justin Trudeau leading Canada down the totalitarian rabbit hole in response to personal political setbacks and criticism. With Trudeau there is no professionalism, no pragmatism, merely an egoist showing us yet again that there is no line to be drawn between genuine convictions and the irresponsible charges of resentment.

There are many other examples, so many that it is remarkable that we ever vote for them. Yet we have been warned about egoists over and over again. We shouldn’t vote for them but we do – which is also irresponsible.

Another EV Glitch

Jaguar I-Pace drivers can no longer charge with cheap Octopus Energy tariff due to software change

Jaguar Land Rover and Octopus Energy are under fire from I-Pace owners after removing JLR electric vehicles (EVs) from the charging app with only a few hours notice.

Over the past week 'furious' users have been taking to I-Pace Forums to share emails they've received from Octopus Energy saying their electric vehicle won't be compatible to smart charge with Intelligent Octopus Go due to JLR software changes...

Jaguar I-Pace owner Judith Dooling told us she received an email 'last Wednesday night from Octopus Energy to say that as of midnight that night I would no longer be able to charge my car [I-Pace] using the Intelligent Octopus Go app. Four hours notice.'...

After hours spent talking to JLR and Octopus 'until I am blue in the face', Judith has not been given a solution on how to get her I-Pace to charge manually.

She said: 'I have tried things suggested on the iPace forum (full of very angry customers) but again last night my car did not charge.

We'll be tootling off to the garden centre in half an hour. I haven't yet decided which car we'll use, but I don't need to check the fuel in either. Unlike the Jaguar Lo-Pace they are not messed up by sudden software changes. 

It beats me why people buy these things before the bugs, drawbacks, best buys and worst buys have become public knowledge. This takes time and so far it all looks pretty negative.  

Monday 18 March 2024

Uncultured and non-socialist pedicabs

N. Korean pedicab driver arrested in Pyongyang after protesting fine

The arrest comes amid a crackdown on pedicab drivers, whom the authorities say are making money in an "uncultured and non-socialist" fashion

“An increasing number of people have been earning money by operating refurbished pedicabs in the suburban districts of Pyongyang, which has led to a crackdown by the Pyongyang police. A man who complained about a police fine is about to be sentenced to six months of disciplinary labor,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Driving a North Korean pedicab out of financial necessity sounds pretty close to disciplinary labour to me. Maybe it isn't close enough by those cultured, socialist North Korean standards. 

Two headlines

Five episodes of GB News programmes presented by Tory MPs found to have broken Ofcom rules

The channel has been warned it could face a fine or have its licence suspended if it breaks the same rules again. The watchdog said getting politicians to host news shows "risks undermining the integrity and credibility of regulated broadcast news".

Extinction Rebellion target GB News as offices covered in paint

The front of GB News's offices have been doused in paint by furious protestors who accuse the broadcaster of being an "extemist [sic] organisation". It has demanded an "end to their torrent of climate lies and disinformation".

The unavoidable conclusion

And they were soon in the midst of one of those immense and formless conversations in which a complex subject is discussed without order interminably, and without apparent result, until there comes a moment when the speakers perceive that all the ground has been many times covered and that it is no longer possible to say anything that has not already been said; and pauses occur, and the unavoidable conclusion emerges and shapes itself and imperiously demands acceptance.

Arnold Bennett - Whom God Hath Joined (1906)

There are many cases where an unavoidable conclusion emerges and shapes itself and imperiously demands acceptance. Not necessarily the right conclusion and possibly a stupid conclusion, but an unavoidable conclusion at the time. Of course it may not seem so unavoidable in the future. There are many cases of that too. 

For example, within the UK government the first unavoidable Net Zero conclusion was that it should be pursued vigorously as government policy. It may be that a second unavoidable conclusion is emerging – a conclusion that the policy cannot possibly work or affect the climate. Sceptics saw it from the beginning and in a sense this is what sceptics do, they see the second unavoidable conclusion first.

Why didn’t the government see from the beginning that Net Zero is a stupid policy and why is the stupidity yet to be acknowledged? Governments are stuffed with supposedly intelligent people who attended university, know how to say the right thing in the right circles but push forward with stupid policies.

Perhaps governments did not see the stupidity of Net Zero from the beginning because there are not enough sceptics in government. Anyone from any social class, any level of education and any walk of life can do scepticism. For governments and the elites, something anyone can do just won’t do. 

Are MPs likely to row back on Net Zero, admit it has all been premature and return to whatever works best within the constraints of markets, engineering and the laws of physics?  Are they likely to do it now,  when the stupidity is so obvious and a general election looms? Again the unavoidable conclusion emerges and shapes itself and imperiously demands acceptance - no.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Titanic deck chair attendant to stay

Minister tries to quash rumours of plot to oust PM

Rishi Sunak will lead the Tories into the next general election, the transport secretary insisted, amid reports of a plot to oust the prime minister.

Mark Harper dismissed speculation some Conservative rebels want the prime minister to be replaced with Commons leader Penny Mordaunt.

Asked on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips if Mr Sunak will still be leader at the next election, Mr Harper said: "Yes he will.

"And he'll take us into that election and he'll set out very clearly that we're a government with a plan."


Councils will have to consider resident support over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Councils will be obliged to consider whether residents support the implementation of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in their area before schemes can be introduced, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

LTNs are an area where vehicle numbers are reduced, and work by preventing vehicles from using certain streets as through roads into other destinations, quite often through using temporary or permanent barriers which stop traffic from being able to drive along a certain route.

Of course the word 'consider' is the escape route, so not particularly radical. As decision makers know, it is possible to 'consider' anything, including what views people ought to have. 

Yet from the government website, there is more than a hint of official awareness that councils use these unpopular games to rake in money. Which we already knew.

This could involve in-person events, online engagement, and leaflet drops to involve the whole community in the process and will mean that authorities must consider whether an LTN has local support before it is implemented...

A consultation will also be launched this summer on measures including the removal of local authorities’ access to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data to enforce such schemes by camera...

The action taken today on LTNs is supported by a wide-ranging review that highlights only 13% of residents have responded to councils’ planning consultations on LTNs, and just 18% feel that their views have influenced council decisions. The report also found that local authorities operating LTNs issue an average of 36,459 penalty charge notices per scheme, with the highest number of penalty charge notices issued for a single LTN scheme exceeding 170,000. That’s why the guidance embeds the need for local support and will ultimately save motorists money.

Saturday 16 March 2024

Men sit writing and forget to lie

What do you know of books? They are the most wonderful things in the world. Men sit writing them and forget to lie, but you business men never forget.

Sherwood Anderson - Windy McPherson’s Son (1916)

This is something I like about older fiction. Even moderate writers would weave sketches of another world into their novels – their world, vignettes of life as they saw it. Though they sat down to write fiction, when it came to the world as they knew it, they forgot to lie.

In those days a hasty writer used to flick his work with sand, which stanched but did not dry the ink. The result was often a grimy dabble, like a child’s face blotched with blackberries.

R. D. Blackmore – Clara Vaughan (1864)

“I tell you what you ought to do. You ought to go in for phonography.”
“Phonography?” She was at a loss.
“Yes; Pitman’s shorthand, you know.”
“Oh! shorthand — yes. I’ve heard of it. But why?”
“Why? It’s going to be the great thing of the future. There never was anything like it!”

Arnold Bennett – Hilda Lessways (1911)

Cold Weather
In the Five Towns, and probably elsewhere, when a woman puts her head out of her front door, she always looks first to right and then to left, like a scouting Iroquois, and if the air nips she shivers — not because she is cold, but merely to express herself.

Arnold Bennett - The Matador of the Five Towns (1912}

The Wireless
There was a man sitting on the roof of Old Place with a coil of wire, and another sitting on the chimney. Though listening-in had not yet arrived at Riseholme, Georgie at once conjectured that Olga was installing it, and what would Lucia say? It was utterly un-Elizabethan to begin with, and though she countenanced the telephone, she had expressed herself very strongly on the subject of listening-in. She had had an unfortunate experience of it herself, for on a visit to London not long ago, her hostess had switched it on, and the company was regaled with a vivid lecture on pyorrhea by a hospital nurse . . .

E. F. Benson – Lucia in London (1927)

The Radio Gramophone
"You wouldn’t give anything cheap to your wife, would you, Mr. Cross? That’s why you’ve given her this radio gramophone that must have cost at least thirty pounds. Just think of that—ten weeks’ pay gone in one fell swoop for a radio gramophone!”

Nicholas Brady - Week-End Murder (1933)

Gaming the culture

Abbott hits out at 'level of racism still in Britain' as MP is cheered by supporters at rally

Diane Abbott has appeared at a rally where she hit out at the "level of racism that is still in Britain", following a row over comments made about her.

Ms Abbott was greeted in Hackney, east London, with cheers and chants of "I stand with Diane" after a Tory donor's reported offensive remarks.

The former Labour MP praised the people of Hackney whom she said "stood by her - year after year, decade after decade".

Perhaps this is not so much gaming the system as gaming the culture. Something which appears to be one of the most pernicious downsides of a multicultural society - it attracts those who are prepared to game it. 

All cultures are gamed, so this could have been anticipated decades ago. It was anticipated by some of course, but maybe failing to anticipate it officially was part of the game. 

Friday 15 March 2024

The Biden Democrats as a Brahmin Left party

Kurt Mahlburg has an interesting Mercator piece where he portrays the Biden Democrats as what he calls a Brahmin Left party.

The Biden Democrats have been transformed into a Brahmin Left party

Once upon a time, you could hardly have imagined a stronger political alignment than the one that existed between nonwhite working class voters and left-wing political parties.

Spanning well over a century, the US Democrats have strengthened this alignment through initiatives like the Progressive Era reforms (1890s-1920s), the New Deal (1930s), the Civil Rights movement (1960s) and Obamacare (2010s).

Though many are yet to come to terms with it, a major political realignment has been taking place in recent decades.

What were once marginalised and anti-establishment ideals — whether the sexual revolution, radical environmentalism, Marxism or transgenderism — have colonised the establishment. While continuing to take working-class support for granted, left-wing parties like the Democrats have pushed tirelessly for causes that mostly concern the college-educated, urban well-to-do.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a commentary on major US political realignments which may also be stirring here in the UK.

What Democrat analysts have tended to ignore, Douthat suggests, is that in the 2020s, skin colour and progressive politics no longer come as a guaranteed package deal.

And the reason is not rocket science.

“[H]igh borrowing costs for homes and cars seem especially punishing to voters trying to move up the economic ladder,” he explains, adding that “the hold of cultural progressivism over Democratic politics might be pushing more culturally conservative minorities to the right”.

All of this might be news to the establishment, but it has been the obvious conclusion drawn by many from the early days of the Trump era.

How it all plays out in November is another question — and it will be fascinating to watch.

Duchy Unoriginals

Decorative crystal prisms, bird baths and ketchup - what to expect from Meghan's new brand

Bird baths "for birds to bathe in", pet collars, decorative crystal prisms and fruit butters are among just some of the items that could be offered under the Duchess of Sussex's new luxury lifestyle brand.

The extensive list of products, that also includes meditation mats, ketchup, cutlery, and recipe books, revealed in a trademark application, gives a clear signal of the direction and ambition of Meghan's American Riviera Orchard business venture.

Rotten in every plank

We tread a stage, God knows, crazed and rotten in every plank; and, Heavens! what an abyss beneath! Yet see how they tread it! — as if it were rock — living rock — adamant: down to the earth’s centre and foundation, adamant.

Sheridan Le Fanu - The Fortunes of Colonel Torlogh O'Brien (1847)

The Conservative party drift towards electoral defeat seems to have much to do with its failure to be conservative. Much of that seems to be a failure to do anything significant about government incompetence at all levels, including quangos.

The pandemic response, immigration, GP services, the wider NHS, crumbling roads, HS2 and Net Zero adequately make the point about incompetence. How does any conservative party tackle that lot? Without powerfully charismatic leadership and mass media with a glimmer of integrity, it can’t. Without that, voters seem likely vote Labour, the party which pretends official incompetence is not the issue.

But it is.

Thursday 14 March 2024

The Brutalist venue finally goes


Assembly Rooms demolition and Market Place revamp finally going ahead

It comes on the 10th anniversary of the fire that ultimately closed the Brutalist venue

On the 10th anniversary of the fire that closed Derby's Assembly Rooms, the city council has announced the demolition of the almost 47-year-old building will begin in autumn to clear the site and make way for a new multimillion-pound cultural, commercial and creative public space in its place. The future of the building had been under the spotlight almost from when it closed, following a fire on top of the adjacent car park on March 14, 2014.

A remarkably ugly building, it was quite an achievement to plan and build something so horrible, Derby will be well rid of it. Unfortunately, here's what is supposed to replace it. Sounds suspiciously like twaddle to me... 

Okay - it obviously is twaddle.

Mrs Peatfield said: "For the past ten years the Assembly Rooms has stood empty, waiting to be regenerated into a hub of cultural activity. After several unviable plans being put forward over the past decade, this administration is confident that we can deliver on these plans for the citizens of Derby. I’m thrilled to be announcing that we plan to progress on the demolition of the Assembly Rooms this autumn.

"We’re on a journey to transform Derby into a vibrant city centre with culture at its heart, creating a go-to destination which not only attracts visitors from outside of the wider region but also offers an affordable place for our citizens to enjoy. It’s fantastic to see change happening in the city centre, with the Market Place taking centre stage at the heart of Derby’s transformation."

The Mood

The mood is tense among Tory MPs who think most things 'weak' Number 10 touches get worse

Some in Number 10 think the disquiet amongst Conservative MPs will die down once they realise the prime minister is going to stick true to his word and is not about to call a May election...

Rishi Sunak's team no longer denies that things are bad. The mood amongst MPs is febrile, unhappy, tense and uncertain.

I don't think they care enough to be moody, if they did things would be better. No matter, we'll soon hear the mood music from Starmer's magic touch.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Matt Le Tissier on Free Speech


So much to relearn

I’m nearly three weeks into growing a beard. It looks okay so far, at least Mrs H thinks so. It will be the third time I’ve been a been a beardie. I shaved off my last beard a few decades ago when it began to show streaks of grey.

So far it looks as if it will be all grey so that’s an improvement I suppose. Next I’ll have to remember how to keep it trimmed. I think I always used scissors in the past, but I can’t remember how I tidied it up round the edges.

So much to relearn.

First go for a very long winter test drive

Revealed: How far electric cars fall short of their advertised range...where does YOUR vehicle rank?

  • Battery life of 12 electric cars tested was on average 29.9% less than advertised

Electric car drivers may feel they have been ripped-off after tests revealed that some vehicles have significantly shorter ranges than advertised.

Measurements taken by What Car? magazine found that some of the latest electric vehicles (EV) have up to a third less battery life when than official figures advertised in brochures and online suggest.

Not even faintly surprising to those who haven't bought one and don't intend to. If range matters, and it isn't easy to see how it wouldn't, then the best advice seems to be the old one - buyer beware. Mrs H and I will be keeping our non-electric cars for years.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Hooray for eccentrics


Yet another critical decade

Prince of Wales: Now is critical decade to tackle climate change

Now is the “critical decade” to try and set the planet on a “healthier” path to deal with the climate crisis, the Prince of Wales has warned.

William was speaking in central London as he joined supporters of the Earthshot Prize Launchpad, a new platform aimed at helping develop and make potential climate change solutions a reality.

Good to see the Prince of Wales keeping up with what promises to become a family tradition of wild doom-mongering. 

However, his team ought to plan ahead in case we see significant global cooling at some point. In which case, he may need a way to skip smoothly from the old doom to a new one.

That Photo

The edited royal photo story rumbles on

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about another photo, supposedly of Keir Starmer cycling in order to get himself fit for the general election. Experts from the Institute of Photos say there is a slight anomaly with the rear tyre.

Monday 11 March 2024

Early parallels

Gordon Brown likens Starmer's plans for slimmed down cabinet to rule under Chairman Mao

The former prime minister says he would be "shocked and surprised" if a four-person cabinet could work in practice, giving examples of "quadrumvirates" which were not successful over the long term in the Roman Empire and Cultural Revolution-era China.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has drawn parallels between Sir Keir Starmer's plans for a four-person cabinet with revolutionary communist China.

I wonder how diverse the quadrumvirate will be? Is four enough for one representative of each of those groups which must always be appeased? 

Feels like Bungled Decision No.1 may be in the pipeline and "Sir" Keir isn't even there yet. Must keep a lookout for this idea being knocked into the long grass. More fun if it isn't though.

Sinking Ship

Ex-Tory MP Lee Anderson defects to Reform

Former Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Lee Anderson has defected to Reform UK.

Mr Anderson was suspended as a Conservative MP after refusing to apologise for claims Islamists had "control" of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The defection ends weeks of speculation about the Ashfield MP and TV presenter's future.

Mr Anderson said he had been given the chance to "speak out in Parliament on behalf of millions of people up and down the country" who support Reform.

I'm not a Lee Anderson fan, but there are tenuous but obvious positive aspects to this. 

For example, as voters we should see some benefits from a more fluid political arena. To begin dealing with the current political mess, we probably need to see diminished party loyalty and a greater inclination for voters and politician to desert inadequate parties. 

Making an obligation out of a blunder

Do not follow up a Folly. Many make an obligation out of a blunder, and because they have entered the wrong path think it proves their strength of character to go on in it. Within they regret their error, while outwardly they excuse it. At the beginning of their mistake they were regarded as inattentive, in the end as fools.

Baltasar Gracián - The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

This has become the function of the House of Commons, to make obligations out of blunders made by the permanent administration, including what is now the transnational administration. In return, MPs get a spell on the stage, useful contacts and further career opportunities.

Net Zero is an obvious blunder which has become an obligation. The pandemic response was another, a blunder so huge it had to become an obligation almost immediately. The EU is a cumulative blunder which went on for decades and could only be sustained as an obligation. Similarly with the UN.

An apparently widespread intention to vote Labour after a series of Conservative blunders won't have a long life as an obligation before it turns into yet another blunder. It's all a bit chicken and egg that one.

Sunday 10 March 2024

Undermining the Undermined

Groups fear they will be caught out in new definition of extremism

Michael Gove is poised to unveil a new definition of extremism amid jitters in government at his plan.

The 9-year-old definition defines extremism as "vocal or active opposition to British values".

The updated definition is going to, according to a source, be the "promotion or advancement of ideology based on hatred, intolerance or violence or undermining or overturning the rights or freedoms of others, or of undermining democracy itself".

Presumably we are expected to pretend that democracy hasn't been undermined already. No doubt pointing out that it has been undermined will come under Gove's definition too.


Rachel Reeves: Labour won't be able to turn things around immediately

Labour will not be able to "turn things around straight away" if elected, Rachel Reeves has said.

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, the shadow chancellor did not rule out making cuts in some areas, saying Labour would inherit the worst economy since World War Two.

She said she would be "methodically" identifying ways to pay for existing pledges on the NHS and schools.

Never for one minute of your life have you thought, or done, or spoken for yourself. You have been prevented; and so wonderful is this plot to keep you blind that you have not a notion it exists. To yourself your sight seems good, such is your pleasant thought. Since you cannot even see this hedge around you, how can there be anything the other side?

John Galsworthy – A Commentary (1908)

The futility of Budgets

Kristian Niemietz has a useful Critic piece on the futility of Budgets

Budgets are overrated

Taxation and spending make little difference while Britain is unable to build

Budgets are overrated for a variety of reasons. 

Firstly, Budget speeches contain too many make-work (or rather, make-talk) schemes for the next Budget or the next Autumn Statement, often in the form of temporary freezes on this or that (e.g. alcohol duty, fuel duty), which can then be extended at the next fiscal event. In this way, the government can, in effect, announce the same policy twice, getting more headlines out of a given policy.

More importantly, Budget speeches also cover too many spending announcements on what should really be local matters, not national ones: a few quid for a theatre in this town, a few quid for church repairs in that town, and a few more quid for a cultural institution somewhere else, etc. This is usually mostly an excuse for name-dropping places, and, if they are in the same party as the Chancellor, the “Right Honourable friends” representing them.

The whole piece is well worth reading, not only as a reminder of our inability to build, but also our inability to maintain, crumbling roads being a familiar example. The problem runs deep and may be as much institutional as it is political. We clearly have nowhere near enough practical experience in the House of Commons, but the permanent administration seems to have even less. 

As Niemietz says, we cannot even build new water reservoirs, which is not new technology even to a civil servant. We cannot even build a new railway from London to Manchester. Budgets won't fix that level of practical incompetence.  

Some taxes really are highly distortionary, and some selected tax cuts really would have pronounced “Laffer Curve” (i.e. self-financing) effects. But on the whole, Budget-related issues are not the main reason for Britain’s economic stagnation, and no Budget is going to drag Britain out of this hole. I realised that a few years ago when, ahead of a Budget, I was asked to draw up a “wish list” of growth-boosting policies I would like to see in the Budget, and realised, half-way through, that most of those were not really Budget measures at all, at least not in the conventional sense. They had a lot more to do with Britain’s inability to build anything, be it residential housing, business premises, infrastructure, energy generation sites, or even water reservoirs.

Saturday 9 March 2024

Drowning In Propaganda


Middle Lane Drivers

Middle lane hogging targeted by national campaign

Poor lane discipline is likely to make other road users feel frustrated, while tailgating often makes other drivers feel anxious, stressed or unsafe, National Highways says.

England's roads authority has launched a campaign aimed at drivers who hog the middle lane on motorways.

Some 32% of drivers admit to middle lane hogging at least "occasionally" and 5% say they "always" do it, according to a recent survey by National Highways.

Doesn't seem to be as common as it was from my perspective. Years ago I saw a chap tootling down the centre lane of the M5 and somehow I knew this was how he usually drove. 

Once I'd passed him I slowed slightly so I could glance in the rear view mirror occasionally to see how long it took him to move into the left hand lane. I gave up after about fifteen miles. 

A tighter grip

Joe Biden says he would sign bill banning TikTok

While his administration has raised national security concerns about the popular video-sharing app, Mr Biden's re-election campaign joined the platform last month...

Both the FBI and Federal Communications Commission have warned TikTok owner ByteDance could share user data, such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers, with China's authoritarian government.

US owned companies would never do such a thing of course. This feels more like the US administration giving itself a tighter grip on social media. 

Friday 8 March 2024

After fierce debate

Heat pump push to proceed as energy secretary bows to ministerial pressure

Plans to impose targets for electric heat pump sales on gas boiler manufacturers could be confirmed as early as next week, after fierce debate within government and intense lobbying from industry to abandon the policy.

Sky News understands energy secretary Claire Coutinho had intended to ditch the policy, known as the Clean Heat Market Mechanism (CHMM), but will now proceed following objections from ministerial colleagues, who argued that it is crucial to decarbonising home heating and meeting wider net zero policy.

A chap is bound to wonder what the fierce debate was about as the policy is unambiguously stupid. After the general election, Starmer will probably tighten it I suppose, but without the fierce debate. Which probably lands him with a policy millstone for the following general election.

Strewth, even an attempt to credit the Tories with a modicum of political cunning just highlights how awful they are.


'Complete non-starter': Jeremy Corbyn allies snub George Galloway's plea for political pact with ex-Labour leader

George Galloway's hopes of recruiting Jeremy Corbyn to his party have been dashed after sources close to the former Labour leader dismissed the idea he would join forces with the newly-elected MP for Rochdale.

Daftness is the wanchancy thing that ye canna deal wi’.

John Buchan - A Prince of the Captivity (1933)

State of the Union


Thursday 7 March 2024

There's one missing

Cherie Blair reveals advice Hillary Clinton gave her before she entered No 10

Tony Blair's wife told Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge that she would give Keir Starmer's wife the same advice the former US presidential candidate gave to her if Labour won the upcoming general election.


When the hurly-burly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won.

It's politics, it doesn't have a definition

Hunt redefines ‘levelling up’ with focus on Cambridge, Canary Wharf and Surrey

The phrase “levelling up” may once have conjured a vision of northern towns and cities scarred by deindustrialisation – but Jeremy Hunt’s budget suggested the government’s definition now stretches to Buckinghamshire, Canary Wharf and Cambridge.

There is definitely something comforting about the Grauniad. Without a trace of vanity, many people must feel a sense of satisfaction that they rose above it ages ago and without much effort.

It's a No- Brainer

Lots of similar material around and yes it's a parody, but it is still beyond absurd that the US finds itself in this position.

There was a time

Budget fell far short on UK green investment, experts say

Opportunities to revive the UK’s flagging economy by boosting green industry were missed in one of the least green budgets of recent years, experts have said.

Several said this failure to recognise one of the fastest-expanding areas of business – the net zero economy grew by 9% in key areas last year, while the rest of the economy was stagnant, according to CBI estimates – would drag down the UK in the short and long term.

Alasdair Johnstone, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “At a time when the US and EU are competing over investment in clean industries, there was little here to attract investment.”

  • There was a time when investment was intended to produce a return.
  • There was a time when intelligence enabled understanding.
  • There was a time when sanity was expected to prevail.
  • There was a time when the Guardian was a newspaper.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

A Cool Mind

In The Arena is a 1905 collection of short stories about political life written by Booth Tarkington. One story has the title Hector, depicting the political rise of a young man called Hector J. Ransom, his outstanding political abilities, power of oratory and his remorseless ambition.

“And you think Hector has only his oratory?”

“I think that's his vehicle; it's his racing sulky and he'll drive it pretty hard. We're good friends, but if you want me to be frank, I should say that he'd drive on over my dead body if it lay in the road to where he was going.” Lane rolled over in the grass with a little chuckle.

Hector’s oratory, extraordinarily powerful in its effect on an audience, is still familiar enough to us today. Rhetorical gymnastics, nonsense dressed up as political convictions which would not bear the analysis of a cool mind.

Not that what he said could bear the analysis of a cool mind: nothing that Hector ever did or said has been able to do that. But for the purpose, it was perfect. For once he began at the beginning, without rhetoric, and he made it all the more effective by beginning with himself.

But Hector did not aim his oratory at cool minds, he aimed it at politically persuadable minds.

The noise grew thunderous, and when it subsided Hector was master of the convention. Then, for the first time, I saw how far he would go—and why. I had laughed at him all my life, but now I believed there was “something in him,” as they say. The Lord knows what, but it was there; and as I looked at him and listened it seemed to me that the world was at his feet.

Tarkington doesn’t say what that something in him might be, perhaps because a cool observer cannot quite know what it is beyond observing it. Yes there are words about emotions, needs, social conformity and so on, but once said they tend to resist further analysis. Stirring rhetorical nonsense is stirring for some, but often puzzling for a cool mind.

I will not accept...


A ticket to Mars please

Biden-Trump rematch looks certain after pair dominate Super Tuesday votes

US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump swept to victory in statewide nomination contests on Tuesday, setting up a historic rematch in November's election.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Driverless MPs

Driverless cars described as ‘game-changer’ for safety, despite MPs’ concerns

Driverless cars have been described as a “game-changer”, despite MPs expressing concerns on safety and the potential weaponisation of autonomous vehicles.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the Commons that the Automated Vehicles Bill is part of the Government’s plans to make the UK “the natural home for the self-driving vehicle industry”...

Labour MP Clive Efford (Eltham) urged the Transport Secretary to ensure that the makers of self-driving car technology cannot cover “their own backs” if accidents happen.

Mr Efford said: “We have also just experienced the Horizon scandal where the manufacturers themselves had access to the technology. What security have drivers got that we won’t have the designers of this software that will be governing these cars actually covering their own backs?”

I'm not sure what Mr Efford means here. Perhaps he is worried that driverless cars could blame the other driverless car in the event of an accident. Maybe other driverless cars would turn up and say they saw the accident and it was definitely the fault of the blue driverless car, not the red one and the blue one was going 0.3mph too fast anyway.

More bureaucracy seems to be the preferred answer. 

Draping the canker

For a moment, the Abbé Mauduit found himself once more in the middle of the deserted drawing-room. He looked, through the wide open door, on the crush of guests; and vanquished, he smiled, he again cast the mantle of religion over this corrupt middle-class society, like a master of the ceremonies draping the canker, to stave off the final decomposition.

Émile Zola - Pot-Bouille (1882)

This is what the BBC does, it has usurped the role of Abbé Mauduit but on a much grander scale. Yet it’s one of those quotes which sets too many hares running as all the mainstream media do it.

As for the UK general election, the only question seems to be, which party colour do you prefer for draping the canker? Which political leader should take the role of Abbé Mauduit?

Monday 4 March 2024

The view from on high

Edward Burtnysky on climate crisis: 'We should be screaming fire… but we're rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic'

Landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky's work explores human impact on the surface of the planet, shooting the Coast mountains in the Canadian province of British Columbia, soil erosion in Turkey, and coal mines in Australia for his latest exhibition, New Works...

The necessity to earn enough money to allow him to study photography led him to find work in big industry, working in both the auto and mining industries as a young man...

Progressing from standing on the edges of perilous quarries and mines to get his shots (admitting, "my mother didn't approve, it was sort of dangerous"), he now uses helicopters to get his aerial images.

Helicopters eh? I hope no misguided person throws soup at his travel photos.  

Pothole Fishing Competition


From Mrs H's Facebook

Corrupt speech

Just as luxurious banquets and elaborate dress are indications of disease in the state, similarly a lax style, if it be popular, shows that the mind (which is the source of the word) has lost its balance. Indeed you ought not to wonder that corrupt speech is welcomed not merely by the more squalid mob but also by our more cultured throng; for it is only in their dress and not in their judgments that they differ.

Seneca - Epistulae morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

Looping back to Jeremy Hunt’s use of the word ‘unfunded’ as applied to tax cuts, it may be worth taking a closer look at it, because it is a strangely corrupt use of the word for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to choose. It also gives the game away.

When applied to tax cuts, the word ‘unfunded’ tells us that government profligacy is not a political concern, not within major Parliamentary parties. We may assume that the permanent administration is comfortable with it too. This lack of concern does not feel accidental.

Our elites clearly see even the most obvious government profligacy as virtuous investment in the public interest. Personal activities such as going on holiday, owning a car or spending our own money in our own way – they see that as profligacy to be stamped out as wasteful. The bizarre term ‘unfunded tax cuts’ may be a corrupt use of language, but it sits neatly with Net Zero.