Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Monday, March 30, 2015

Herlock Buxton




Back in 1975 John Swallow visits 73 year old Herlock Buxton, who has never left the village of Elton in Derbyshire during his lifetime, except for a single trip to Derby when he was a boy.

Elton is a tiny village not so far from where we live. Very pleasant and set in fine walking country, but how anyone could spend their entire life there I don't know. Presumably he didn't think enough of Derby to go back - ever.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Kill the old

... is a slogan I saw on the back of an upper deck bus seat in the 1980s. Shocking, but perhaps only just: after all, we have killed the young unborn in their millions, especially since 1967.

Now we face a demographic imbalance that will ravage the Welfare State and cripple us with taxes, as this article explains.

Or to put it visually:



Same story as in Japan, except there they still make something other than City bonuses:




Why does the Government encourage us to eat healthily? We should all do like Ken Clarke.


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Focus groups and voter disaffection



In Stroud today, we passed a Labour Party election poster for David Drew:

"Local, Trustworthy, Hardworking."

(on the website: "local, honest and public-spirited.")

This may well be true of Mr Drew. But it also has the scent of focus groups and marketing, and sadly it reveals that they know the strong public impressions about MPs (not all, but of all main parties) that they have to address, namely:
  • Parachuted in by Head Office as a reward for being loyal party bunnies
  • Shifty, weaselly, expense-claiming, domicile-flipping double-talkers
  • Lazy b*st*rds who attend Parliament for some small proportion of the average 150 days a year it's been open since 2010, delegate much of their constituency duties to local staff and focus on writing books, acquiring directorships and planning how to cash in their influence and notoriety post-public service
There's a lot of repair work to be done.


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Friday, March 27, 2015

The Modern Regime

Hippolyte Taine
source

During the past three hundred years we have more and more lost sight of the exact and direct meaning of things. Subject to the constraints of a conservative, complex, and extended educational system we study

* the symbols of objects rather than on the objects themselves;
* instead of the ground itself, a map of it;
* instead of animals struggling for existence, nomenclatures and classifications, or, at best, stuffed specimens displayed in a museum;
* instead of persons who feel and act, statistics, codes, histories, literatures, and philosophies; in short, printed words. Even worse, abstract terms, which from century to century have become more abstract and therefore further removed from experience, more difficult to understand, less adaptable and more deceptive, especially in all that relates to human life and society.

Here, due to the growth of government, to the multiplication of services, to the entanglement of interests, the object, indefinitely enlarged and complex, now eludes our grasp. Our vague, incomplete, incorrect idea of it badly corresponds with it, or does not correspond at all. 

Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1893)

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Bluesnake Letters

source

David Cameron keeps sending letters to my wife.

On the face of it they are pretty innocent if socially gauche. Even though he is sending letters to ladies to whom he hasn’t been introduced, I’m sure Mrs Cameron doesn’t actually mind and I’m sure that says something about the times we live in.

The trouble is, it’s all me, me, me with Cameron. The letters are all about his “achievements” and plans for the future if we “elect” him to be our Prime Minister again.

Which is all very well, but he never asks about my wife’s new walking boots, the yoga classes or the weather here in Derbyshire. I’m not so sure we “elected” him the last time anyway, not in any meaningful sense.

I know the poor chap has some mitigating circumstances to deal with. Being Prime Minister must be quite time consuming especially with all those letters to write. He has his “advisers”, but trying to write up his “achievements” for the past five years and smear them out over two sides of A4 paper must be a strain. Disheartening too when he sits back to survey the end result of his labours. 

Every time the poor chap wakes up in the middle of the night trying to rack his brains for another line or two it must all seem pretty depressing even after he fortifies the inner man with a nocturnal glass of milk and a sandwich.

Still he’s done it and has seen fit to send the results of his efforts to my wife and no doubt many other innocent people listed on his database of people who might conceivably read unsolicited and uninteresting letters.

Fortunately my wife takes a relaxed view of Cameron’s epistolary politics which must be costing him a fortune in stamps. She never actually replies to the letters which I think is wise because it would only encourage him and I’m not sure that’s a good idea. We might end up on numerous other mailing lists such as Saga and Reader's Digest.

Mr Miliband hasn’t written a word and neither has Mr Clegg, although I don’t think Clegg actually cares how people vote. Perhaps he thinks it makes no difference so he decided to save the stamps. Perhaps he's right.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A gathering of imbeciles


The ease of modern communication is often seen as a good thing, socially, politically and economically. But what if there is a dark side to it?

One attraction of reading early writers in any field is often their unassuming nature. They write as they see, before the academic barnacles had a chance to encrust and obscure the original structure. In modern terms that structure may be somewhat lacking of course, but that doesn’t always matter.

One such is Gustave Le Bon. Politically incorrect and not the most profound writer, but some of what he wrote is worth a second thought. For example, he believed that a crowd wipes out the intellectual faculties of its members. Not a new idea even then and many others have expressed similar views, but take this quote as an example.

The substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals is one of the principal characteristics of the present age.

This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. The decisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life, are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles.
Gustave Le Bon - The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895)

This is more than cynical rhetoric. Le Bon is saying that crowds or assemblies have their own psychology which is not the sum of component individuals. It is something else, something sentimental, conservative, easily swayed by images and not intelligent in the sense that an individual is intelligent.

Okay, one could pile on the caveats and exceptions to this, but in the modern world when crowds become assemblies and when assemblies can be virtual assemblies on the web, then what if Le Bon was right? How much intellectual resource is the internet liable to suck out of our collective heads?

An implication of Le Bon’s point, whatever its limitations, is that many kinds of association constitute an intellectual loss for its members. By adopting a group belief, we don’t put our intellect on hold, we lose it wherever the belief system holds sway. Our critical faculties disappear like smoke on a windy day.

To know the art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them.
Gustave Le Bon - The Crowd; study of the popular mind

The internet as the ultimate virtual assembly may damage or even destroy our collective critical faculties. The web may become a conservative, sentimental and unintelligent virtual crowd.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

De-Generation Y

I am saddened when I look at the state of my country these days. Riddled with ignorance, division and intolerance - not the type we are supposed to hate if we are enlightened right-on progressives but the officially sanctioned intolerance kind of intolerance, the kind we are supposed to cheer on.

Here is a screen-shot of this evening's Telegraph front-page (online) to illustrate :



Further reading reveals that these miscreants believe that ...
“UKIP are a con. They pretend to be anti-establishment but this couldn't be further from the truth. By wrongfully shifting the blame for the economic crisis onto immigrants they have let the bankers off the hook,” Mr Glass said, justifying the group’s actions."
Eh? I don't recall anyone blaming immigrants for the financial crisis, fiscal drag, diminishing productivity and crime maybe but the financial crisis is a long shot - now wasn't it Labour that bailed-out the banks and borrowed more than we could ever repay now? Oh yes...



Turkeys against Christmas party - that explains it. They do seem to like the establishment though, like it or not - they are the establishment.

So why is my title about generation Y you ask?

Well I went out for a drink last weekend with my neighbour, a gen-Y dude with 5 children. Nice guy, University Graduate. Pile of student debt, pay crushed by immigration/out-sourcing, priced out of housing market etc, that is - totally f*cked over by the establishment. Yet when I mentioned that I would be voting UKiP he became incandescent with indignation; exclaiming his hatred for Farage - a man who has never entered Parliament nor had any impact on his life whatsoever. I doubt he'll ever speak to me again.

Now that's Turkeys voting for Christmas.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

How Britain Is Governed

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/60641/cabinet-manual.pdf


Via a link from Full Fact, here is the 2011 Cabinet Manual, the first (it seems) comprehensive overview of how we are governed.

Eurosceptics can read Chapter 9 and fulminate; those questioning the legality of surrender of sovereignty might be interested to see the comment on judicial review:

"Judicial review

"6.10   Ministers’ decisions, and the process by which they exercise (or fail to exercise) their powers, can be reviewed by the High Court, although the courts will usually hesitate to intervene in cases where they accept that, because of the subject matter (entering into treaties, the defence of the
realm, the grant of honours, etc.), the decision-maker is better qualified than the courts to make a judgment."


It also gives links (with at least one typo - letter "j" is sometimes given for "i" in this online version) to other documents, including how the Government is prepared to respond to emergencies.

The Cabinet Manual was commissioned by Gordon Brown. Maybe this is one of his best legacies.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/60641/cabinet-manual.pdf

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Imbecile and corrupt millionaires

A dead silence reigned. But after a time Mr. Fleight remarked meditatively: “You don’t seem to object to these corrupt institutions. You seem rather to like them. I can’t understand that.”

“I don’t, you know, care a halfpenny,” Mr. Blood answered, “but if I did have any preferences I should say that it’s more picturesque and better for everybody concerned that there should be secret courts presided over by blind, deaf and obstinate old men than that the country should be run by imbecile and corrupt millionaires.
Ford Madox Ford - Mr Fleight (1913).

I’m not so sure about preferring the secret courts presided over by blind, deaf and obstinate old men, but I’ve had enough of the imbecile and corrupt millionaires. Financially corrupt we could probably deal with if only we had less of the political and moral variety.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

By the roots: the Establishment paedophile network

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1298/1006585645_8a4b207774.jpg
 
This is a British MP writing in a major, Conservative-leaning newspaper:
 
"Slowly but surely, though, a sober realisation has dawned upon the political classes that we’re looking at a truly monumental cover up.
 
"The revelations aired on Newsnight this week that in 1981 Cyril Smith was released from a police station hours after he had been arrested at a sex party with teenage boys is simply another chapter in this horrifying story.
 
"We now know that Smith walked free from police stations all over the country after orders were made from on high to release him. He was first investigated by police in the Fifties, and was still being investigated by police as late as 1999.
 
"The same pattern of events unfolds in almost every operation. Police are told to hand over all evidence, files are destroyed and officers are warned never to speak about Smith again, with the added threat of being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act...

"... why was he allowed to get away with it for so long? Why would a Liberal MP with no prospect of ever holding high office be given so much protection? Why was he given a pass to do as he pleased and prey on innocent boys all over the country?...

"I now believe that this is because a paedophile network - perhaps involving prominent politicians and policemen - had been established, and, if charged, Cyril could have blown it wide open."

For me, the killer quote is the penultimate paragraph above: why such impunity for a minor political figure?

The whole thing must be torn out by the roots, even if it takes a lot else with it. One evil joins hands with all its fellows; all of it must go.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A candle for the Captain


http://thefrogsalittlehot.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/captain-ranty.html
http://www.f2c.org.uk/blog/2015/03/17/colin-grainger-1962-2015/
http://captainranty.com/my-dark-dark-secret/

Just when you think they've climbed from the dark sea and gained the safety of the shore. I should have emailed him more frequently.


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Lucky

source

Whatever else they may be Dave, Nick and Ed are lucky. Only Dave occupies the hot seat, but Ed has a chance and although Nick has no chance, all three are lucky.

They aren’t talented, charismatic, far-sighted or statesmanlike. They don’t know what is going on in the world or what to do about it. They know only what they are told by those with enough money to do the telling. That's what serious money buys - the right to tell.

They are where they are because the impossibly complex ebb and flow of circumstance washed them up on the golden beach of opportunity.

It’s like winning the lottery and if they are careful and keep their noses clean it’s a route to a good life on a scale most of us can barely imagine. All the little trappings of power, influence, and wealth will be theirs for life as they float high above the hoi polloi they currently claim to represent.

They didn’t earn all this because they really don’t have the talent to earn it. Hardly anyone does. The thing just happened. They were born into the right class, went to the right schools, said the right things at the right time and with some effort and persistence the great tombola of political life popped out their largely unearned reward.

Dave, Nick and Ed will know that. They will know how fortunate they are notwithstanding the pressures, the failures and the impossibly elusive nature of real political achievement.

They won’t care though. Why should they? Lady Luck is a fragrant old girl. We grab her with both hands if ever she deigns to smile in our direction. All Dave, Nick and Ed had to do was grab hard enough to keep her on their side.

This means playing to the power brokers and the money men which they already knew. That’s what skewed things in their favour to begin with - plus a juicy slice of luck. So they don’t intend to rock the boat now.

In May the voters decide how lucky is lucky. Our golden trio know that but voters generally don’t and that’s another bit of luck.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

South America trio

I think it was prompted by the word "buscando" on the Facebook page, but that made Robert Wyatt spring to mind ("Buscando montañas de oro"), then Procul Harem, and finally the Ballet Rambert's Ghost Dances which I saw... the first taste of the madeleine... funny how sorrow is sweetened by time - at least, other people's ...








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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Altering climate data

source

Over the years there have been numerous technical disagreements between sceptics and the climate faithful. These disputes tend to obscure how close the two sides are scientifically and how far apart politically, but that’s another issue. One major dispute relates to surface temperature data and the way it is altered by official bodies. Adjusted is the official word so I'll stick with altered.

Firstly it is worth noting that raw temperature data is certainly altered. What the public sees is not temperature data, but numbers derived from temperatures and complex alteration protocols.

It is also worth pointing out that there is no such thing as global temperature. Even the mean of two temperatures is not a temperature but a statistic. William Briggs has a good post on what is or is not data. 

Secondly, the issue is exceedingly complex, involving vast amounts of data and numerous arguments as to whether or not the data should be altered to gloss over known issues such as TOB, station moves and UHI. There are many examples and the data altered can be a century old. It's a strange game this climate game.

Roy Spencer has a good example of old data being altered to show a warming trend where previously there was no trend. Jo Nova has another and Paul Homewood another.

There are always explanations, but to my mind altering data in this way adds to the uncertainties and clarifies nothing. We didn’t do it in my field. Imagine taking the temperature of a river then altering it to what you think it ought to be. Yet in all this tinkering with climate numbers I see a footling bureaucratic culture rather than nefarious intent.

To my mind, altering data in order to mislead people is not something even a climate scientist would do. That even is not sarcasm by the way – the political pressure must be intensely pervasive and that is something we should not forget. Footling but not corrupt is what it feels like to me. Maybe I'm naive.

Perhaps it won’t make too much difference in the long run, but when fractions of a degree are used to promote a powerful but ailing agenda...

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Smelling nice and living well

source

So much vile wretchedness, hunger, and filth on one hand, and on the other such exquisite refinement, abundance and beautiful life. Was not this the answer to the question whether money is not education, health, and intelligence? Since the same human mire remains beneath, does not all civilisation reduce itself to the superiority of smelling nice and living well?
Émile Zola - L'Argent (1891)

So smelling nice and living well could be the bedrock of our civilisation. Yet by the time I’ve climbed to the top of Ecton Hill I’m not so sure I qualify on both counts.

Dave, Nick and Ed probably smell nice and live well, but do they represent what civilisation is all about? I think not. On the other hand Nigel Farage probably lives well but the beer and fags may let him down on the olfactory side of things. So not a particularly good guide. 

A few weeks ago while walking round an antiques centre I was suddenly enveloped by a cloud of weapons-grade perfume. The woman responsible must have been wearing about half a bottle. It's not nearly as common as it was though, the use of eye-watering quantities of perfume. A good thing too in my view. 

I wonder what the Queen smells like? She seems fairly civilised.

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Those police raids

Exaro reports that addresses of the late Lord Brittan and a retired armed forces supremo have been raided as part of an ongoing widespread investigation into alleged child abuse.

How did this story come out - and why?

I cannot see how anyone could hope to find the slightest scrap of incriminating home-stored evidence, even had there been any before, after the years-long hoo-ha on this subject. Nobody but the deepest-dyed fool would leave tracks uncovered about such serious matters, having heard the hunters' trumpets from such a great distance. Think of the millions of deleted emails and the missing computers in the News Of The World phone-hacking imbroglio: even the innocent might wish to destroy relevant materials, merely to forestall the inconvenience of prolonged investigation and interrogation.

Unless there is something else - something very credible - to go on, these people, dead or retired, must be presumed entirely innocent and not arraigned in the loathsome "court of public opinion", much less the court of wild speculation. Otherwise, no-one is safe from false accusations prompted by malice or greed. Even in the case of Jimmy Savile, far more has been alleged than proved, and the public purse is being prepared for a massive gold rush.

And if, on the other hand, boots-in-the-drawing-room visits were to be conducted on serving politicians and other still-nationally-important people, I would assume that the motive would be either (a) punishment by embarrassment, because there would be nothing left to find, or (b) a highly risky form of show exoneration, with the potential for expensive and career-destroying blowback.

As it is, the present approach looks like a distraction exercise, the implications of which make the general stink fouler. Let there be a trawl through government archives - such as can be effected against Sir Humphreyite defences of " national security" etc - and statements and evidence gathered from alleged victims and witnesses. That's all we're going to have, and in many cases it won't be enough to come to court with. But these Witchfinder-General taran-tara rides through private property are worse than useless.


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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The boys on Hassop Station



While walking Monsal Trail today we stopped off at Hassop Station which is now a cafe and bookshop. On the wall of the cafe is the above photograph showing soldiers leaving the station during the Great War.

Mine isn't a great photo but it would would have been necessary to stand on the table to take anything better. As I was wearing boots I decided against that. Even so, I think you may be able to see why I took it. The soldiers look so young - boys in uniform.

From Wikipedia

Hassop railway station was a station situated about two miles from the village of Hassop in the Peak District of Derbyshire. It was opened in 1862 by the Midland Railway on its extension of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway from Rowsley.

It was built for the benefit of the Duke of Devonshire of Chatsworth House who, having previously refused it to pass over the easier terrain of his lands, belatedly saw its possible benefit. Indeed, for a while it was renamed "Hassop for Chatsworth". However, in this sparsely populated area, it saw little use, and closed in 1942.


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Monday, March 02, 2015

There is no such thing as reason


Not an easy argument to make but I’m up for it. Clearly there is such a thing as reason, but how useful is it for changing another guy’s mind? Not at all useful seems to be a common experience so the version I’m concerned with is the useless one from Oxford dictionaries.

The power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgements logically:

Nope, reason is much more like a unicorn - easy to define but locating one in the wild is a tad difficult. As for forming judgements logically...

…the faculty of judgment is a special talent which cannot be taught, but must be practised. This is what constitutes our so-called mother-wit, the absence of which cannot be remedied by any schooling. For although the teacher may offer, and as it were graft into a narrow understanding, plenty of rules borrowed of others, the faculty of using them rightly must belong to the pupil himself, and without that talent no precept that may be given is safe from abuse.
Immanuel Kant - Critique of Pure Reason

Firstly the easy part – beliefs on which we base our reasoning. Beliefs are fixed for us by parents, family life, religion, nationality, culture, politics, education, friends, colleagues, career, authorities, advertising, propaganda, gossip, health, age and lifestyle with a long etcetera to follow.

We may rebel against our parent's beliefs, but only because we’ve found a better source. Young people are good at that but they usually grow out of it unless they opt for politics.

What we refer to as reason in is almost always the art of defending belief, general disposition or some less overt standpoint. Belief is vitally important to what we are or hope to become. Or perhaps I should say that it is vitally important to what we are required to be socially.

Well worth defending then.

The verbal dexterities we employ are often grossly over-dignified by calling them reasons rather than causes or excuses. A touch of spurious dignity hardly ever works anyway because the other chap always insists on looking at things irrationally.

And really - that can’t be right can it? The other chap can’t always be wrong. Not every single time surely?

Yet if I’d been a Guardian-reading member of the chattering classes I’d probably be a politically correct prig with a profound belief in sentimental drivel - social, political, economic, environmental. A scary thought but comforting too. We are what we are. Not out of choice but it’s curiously satisfying all the same and therein lies the problem. We are what we are – reason cannot change that.

Secondly the old part – philosophy.

Truth lives, for the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts and beliefs ‘pass’, so long as nothing challenges them, just as bank-notes pass so long as nobody refuses them.
William James – Pragmatism

Reasoning is a search for whatever idea leads to few surprises – James’ credit system. It’s why we have consensus, our collective way of keeping surprises to a minimum. Our thoughts and beliefs ‘pass’, so long as nothing challenges them. Reason is rarely the best way to see off those challenges though. That’s why it isn’t popular.

Alternatives to consensus are a neutral detachment, scepticism or flat disagreement. I’ll ignore disagreement because that is usually an alternative consensus. Detachment and scepticism are more interesting. For convenience I’ll bundle them together as scepticism. The subject to too vast for a single post so economies have to be made.

So thirdly we have scepticism which tends to yield fewer surprises than consensus, especially for complex issues such as societies, cultures, economics, politics, religion, the arts, the environment, history, human psychology, health, diet, sport and so on. Oh – and blogging. There are no golden rules though. As ever it is a matter of selecting the best option.

Selecting – that’s a better word than reason too. Scepticism is not so much a matter of reasoning as a veto on ideas which seem unlikely to yield fewer surprises than standing back until the fog clears – if it ever does.

It’s an animal faculty. Sniffing the winds of change, listening, weighing the risks, bringing experience to bear, allowing others to make the first step across the swamp or throw the first spear at the big hairy thing.

We have to use the word reason because it is so deeply embedded in our language, but it is not a great idea to be deceived by it. Sceptical detachment is a better guide. Even flippancy is often better, especially when it comes to making fun of ludicrously obvious narratives dreamed up by political airheads.

As an aside, there are loads of those around these days aren’t there – political airheads? At least that’s the detached view hem hem.

We don’t think, understand, and form judgements logically, we select. Or we stand back and watch. Perhaps reason is best viewed as a spectator sport.

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

False flags?

"False flags in Moscow?"

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.