Thursday, October 31, 2019

(cusp of) FRIDAY MUSIC: Samhain (Halloween) by JD

Our modern Halloween festival is really an American invention which takes the Christian festival of All Saints Day (or All Hallows) and takes its more ghoulish appearance from Mexico's festival Dia de los Muertos which is a three day festival and sometimes more than three days, depending on local traditions (and exuberance).

Halloween is often mistakenly thought to have its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain. This is not true because the Celtic tribes of these islands, of Hibernia and Caledonia, left no written records. The only written records come from the Romans 2000 years ago and they are not exactly reliable or unbiased.

Some people have claimed that Samhain was actually a Celtic god. In fact there is no convincing evidence to support this. It seems likely that this is a misinterpretation of Celtic paganism by those of a theist persuasion. And the word 'pagan' is itself also the subject of wild speculation.
The word comes from the Latin 'paganus' which was used to describe country dwellers; then, as now, city dwellers regarded those in the countyside as ignorant yokels. The Roman influence in the UK has been long lasting.

Samhain was absorbed first by the Romans into their Feralia, a festival of the dead, and also with their harvest festival in honour of Pomona. This merged Roman festival was itself incorporated by the Christians and rebranded as All Saints Day, leaving the night before to become all hallows eve, hallows e'en, thus Halloween.

It was a standard practice of many early religions, especially the Christian church, to take local customs and places of power and co-opt them into their own belief system. This was probably one of the earliest known examples of the "embrace, extend and extinguish" strategy that (unfortunately) is so commercially successful today.

You can forget about any of those 19th century inventions of Druidry or Paganism or witchcraft, all of which claim to be a direct lineage from the past but are, in reality, based more on the Romantic movements of recent European history.

Samhain has survived in the oral traditions and the music of the Celtic tribes.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why We Should Have A Second Referendum

The article below has since been published almost verbatim on The Conservative Woman under the title "Deal or No Deal – let the people decide."

I wish to argue for a second, binding referendum to choose between the final draft Withdrawal Agreement, and leaving the EU without one. I hope this case will be brought to court and succeed.

There must be no option to remain. The decision to leave the European Union has been comprehensively confirmed:
Quite rightly then, ex-PM Theresa May told Parliament last week that any attempt to overturn the 2016 result would be the “most egregious con-trick on the British people” . That is putting it mildly: if Parliament breaks this, it breaks its moral right to govern. Pace Matthew Parris, there is no revisiting that part of the nation’s decision.

Yet that is only the first part; the second is to address the terms of withdrawal.

In the “Miller I” case of January 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that unlike with other international agreements, the Government could not withdraw from the Lisbon Treaty without reference to Parliament, because constitutional issues were involved. Leaving entailed the loss of certain EU member citizen rights, and ECA 1972 had not expressly conferred a power on the Secretary of State to alter them. Hence the right to a “Meaningful Vote.”

But this raises the question of whether Parliament itself is fit to make that choice without reference to the people, whose interests they supposedly represent. The 2018 Withdrawal Act was passed 324:295 (52% to 48%, again!), but if the division had been according to the number of constituencies in which the majority voted Leave in the Referendum, the Ayes would have been 406; and if all Conservative and Labour MPs had honoured their manifesto commitments, the Ayes would have risen to at least 579 (or 89%).

Why these discrepancies?
We ordinary people feel more and more like Lewis Carroll’s Oysters, trying to gain the attention of the Walrus and the Carpenter while the latter are only interested in having enough bread and butter to eat them with.

The consequences of Brentry and Brexit are usually couched in economic terms. Even Wilson bribed us in 1975 with the promise of “FOOD and MONEY and JOBS" (we then got more expensive food, less money and fewer jobs) while not telling us that in time we were to be absorbed into a sprawling new country. If the debate were to centre itself on democratic principles, our Remain politicians would be embarrassed at their own exposure, like Adam and Eve after eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

For it is clear that the electoral system is dangerously flawed. Democracy depends on the acquiescence of the losers. The winners do not win convincingly – no party has held power on the basis of a majority of votes cast nationally, since 1931 ; in the 2005 GE only 220 MPs won an absolute majority in their various constituencies and in 2010, only 217. Conscious of the exclusion problem, Parliament debated electoral reform in 1931, but failed to agree because the Commons wanted AV and Lords preferred PR. In the 2011 Referendum both major parties opposed the Alternative Vote because they felt it would cut into their portions of the cake, and let the LibDems starve amid plenty.

So, Parliamentary seats do not accurately reflect voter preferences, and MPs and Lords feel free to ignore them anyhow. Brexit and the choice of ratification or rejection of the terms cannot safely be left to this Parliament, nor can a General Election with all its complexities properly resolve the matter.

We have already accepted the principle that this is no ordinary issue but a great Constitutional one. Even our entry into the EEC had to be validated post facto by a referendum, though the result was skewed by political pressure on Fleet Street at a time when there were fewer alternative sources of information and analysis. If Gina Miller won her case because our rights were involved, then we should also remember that joining the EEC not only conferred rights, it took them away, and what we lost thereby in democratic terms is far more than what we gained. Implicitly our leaders had agreed to a progressively huge loss of power – not only the British State’s over its own affairs, but of the British citizenship’s over its rulers.

And we now know for certain that Heath lied. He knew from 1970 on that the project was for a superstate . How many in Parliament knew this? We certainly didn’t – Con O’Neill’s briefing was kept secret for 30 years. It could be argued that lacking Parliament’s and the people’s informed consent, we have never validly been a member nation of “Europe.”

As far as my own rights are concerned, I say that HMG no more has the power to strip me of my British citizenship and make me a citizen of the EU, than it has the right to make me a Russian or Kazakhstani without my consent.

And because there are aspects of the current draft WA/PD that bind my Government’s hands on many important and enduring sovereign matters such as foreign policy , it will not be valid unless I and a majority of my fellow citizens agree.

There must be a Meaningful Vote; a People’s Vote; a New, Confirmatory, Second Referendum – on Deal or No Deal.

Friday, October 25, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Capercaillie, by JD

With all the wonderful music currently available I seem to have overlooked, so far, the wonderful Capercaillie one of the best of the traditional Scottish folk bands. Hailing from Argyll, the band was founded in 1984 by Donald Shaw and led by the voice of Karen Matheson, a voice which is as clear and pure as the waters from a highland spring.

They performs traditional Gaelic and contemporary English songs. The group adapts traditional Gaelic music and traditional lyrics with modern production techniques and instruments such as electric guitar and bass guitar, although in recent years they have returned to a more traditional style and their repertoire includes music of the Celtic diaspora from Cape Breton to Galicia.

The final two videos here are from a broadcast of Radio Galega on Galician TV. The "Skye Waulking Song", is used in the Edexcel Music GCSE Specification from 2009 onwards. The song is in the world music section, and is used as a representation of traditional folk music combined with rock music.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Brocodile: New post on The Conservative Woman

Yesterday's post here has been published on TCW, with some side-glances and some of my more inflammatory stuff sensibly edited out to spare the public and guilty parties.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Never Smile At A Brocodile

A version of this has been published on The Conservative Woman - edits are highlighted in green.

Well, they’ve voted for the WA (and PD) at the Second Reading, though not for the accelerated timetable - they need to make sure the egg is fully addled before stamping the lion mark  on it.

Some call this BRINO (Brexit In Name Only), calling to mind a horned but myopic and generally placid herbivore. No, it’s a Brocodile: a sly and lethally patient raptor, waiting for a bumbling gnu new Prime Minister to blunder into its wide, toothy smile. Old and crafty, it strikes with saurian speed at a negotiator’s vulnerability, and Boris is just a guy who can’t say no , which is why his domestic and our public affairs are in a terrible fix. (Yet De Gaulle could say “Non,” which is fifty per cent longer.)

At this point, the waterhole metaphor breaks down, for it’s not BoJo’s neck that will be twisted off in the EU’s death-roll. He spoke airily of dying in a ditch rather than delay Brexit; now we do have that delay, and absent a miracle we shall certainly not have Brexit. But ABdeP Johnson will be all right – perhaps he’ll take his little black book of contacts to an investment bank, like ACL Blair.

No, it is we who shall pay the price. In cash, in EU disenfranchisement, in the semi-detachment of Northern Ireland, in ceding control over fishing, taxation, business subsidies and other areas. In financial ruin, if the Eurozone collapses while we are still co-guarantor for the EIB’s debts; finally, perhaps, in blood and wreckage, if the EU’s ambitions for Empire and command of UK forces tempt them into fatal overreach.

Our leaders were never going to outwit the EU’s, who resemble the kind of lawyer who could write your will and surreptitiously make himself the sole beneficiary. The incompetent amateurism of HMG’s half-hearted efforts to free us are matched only by the Heath government’s in the process of joining.

Nor does our Government have much to fear from the Opposition, who are only determined that whichever way Pussy goes through the catflap she should still be stuck in the house. With all their procedural tricks, they are not an Opposition but a Subversion. Yet it’s not HMG that they are subverting: really both sides are after the same result – one is playing for time to complete their sabotage, the other is signing surrender terms while trumpeting victory.

No, it is we who are the enemy. How long and at what cost did we fight to cage an overmighty Crown within Parliament; and how much longer was the battle for universal suffrage, even now less than a century old ? We are John Major’s “bastards”, we, who opted to Leave, with our stubby pencils.

Yet so powerful are our combined votes, our Horton’s Who voices! , that they, too, must be muted. First Past The Post and the Boundary Commission result in a House of Commons where only some 220 MPs secure a majority of votes cast in their constituencies. In 1931 the HoC was for the Alternative Vote, but the Lords wanted PR, and the matter fell ; 80 years later we reopened the issue but by then it suited both major parties to keep things as they are, whereby psephologists and their databanks can calculate how to sway the swing voter in the swing seat.

But that’s not enough. Democracy depends on informed consent, and Power wants it to be managed consent instead. Enter mass communication technology (from newspapers to radio, TV and beyond) and mass psychology; and the counter-evolution of the masses’ awareness of power relations. Over the last few years, growing numbers of us have become sceptical about mainstream news, feeling that our perceptions are being moulded by selection and suppression of facts, and spin.

The new social media have allowed a hundred flowers to bloom, briefly - some of them hermetic and rank, but that’s democracy ; now policed in the West, and suppressed in China in their tightly-controlled Internet. After the flowers, weeds: online disinformation campaigns have sprung up – the paid political trolls, the 77th Brigade and so on.

Moreover, in our modern atomised society, where we drive to the supermarket in closed cars rather than rub shoulders in the classic forum, offline we have limited direct experience of what our fellows are thinking. So the dead tree Press have an opportunity to shape public opinion by the way they report the results of opinion polls.

For example, The Sun said “Brits tell MPs to vote for Boris Johnson’s agreement” based on a YouGov poll which also revealed - further down – that only 17% of the general population thought it was a good deal, as opposed to 23% who considered it a bad one!

Or how about the Daily Mail, which did a savage handbrake turn on Brexit when Geordie “independence for Scotland, but not for the UK” Greig took over the editorship? It commissioned a Survation poll and concluded that half the nation backs Boris’ deal. Yet if you drill into the poll and look at Tables 59 and 60, you’ll see that more people “strongly opposed” the deal than “strongly supported” it (and only two-thirds of respondents answered that question anyway).

This is a complex issue, one where facts do matter and as Thoreau said , “Any man more right than his neighbours constitutes a majority of one.” I wonder what results we'd have got if respondents were restricted to those who did more than read the Daily Mail or watch BBC News, and instead looked at the online commenters' analyses of the pros and cons of the full deal.

It’s Them v. Us, I’m afraid. It was deeply ironic to watch ex-PM Mrs May castigating the Opposition in Parliament for failing to honour the statutes they helped enact - withdrawal from the EU, and the triggering of Article 50.

Did they mean it? she asked. Well, did she, when she then came to the Commons three times with her Withdrawal Agreement? Or her successor, who has returned with much the same, plus lipstick? Or those who now call for another Referendum, with a choice of a rotten deal or Remain - the latter being the one thing that was definitively ruled out in 2016?

Yes, we are being pushed into the jaws of the Brocodile. And I’m not smiling.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Guido's Chinese Whispers

I have combined and edited two recent posts to make one that I am submitting to The Conservative Woman. Here is what I have said:

“News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising,” as Randolph Hearst said. Over the last few years, growing numbers of us have become sceptical about the mainstream media, feeling that our perceptions are being managed by selection and suppression of facts, and spin.
So we season our understanding with a variety of alternative sources, many online. One such is Paul Staines, aka “Guido Fawkes,” who gives us a stream of Westminster gossip and up-to-date news. Some of us appreciate his support for Brexit, all the more valued since the Daily Mail did a savage handbrake turn when Geordie Greig took over the editorship.

But a couple of Guido’s recent posts have got me worried. I’m hoping it’s just owing to the pressure of constant publication, rather than consciously adopting the Government’s line on Johnson’s “deal.”

On 18th October, he bannered a piece with “Snap Poll: Public Want The Deal Passing” , subtitling it “Two thirds of Leave voters say Parliament should vote to accept the new Brexit deal.”

His source was a YouGov poll whose headline is very similar , but whose detail is troubling. Yes, 67% of Leave voters say they want Brexit done; but YouGov’s third table shows they feel they don’t really know enough. 31% think it is a good deal, 11% think it is bad, and 58% are neutral or undecided. This is a complex issue, one where facts do matter and as Thoreau said , “Any man more right than his neighbours constitutes a majority of one.” The general public is even more conflicted: 17% say the deal is good, 23% say bad – and since the 2016 Referendum involved everyone, not just Leavers, perhaps that should have been the headline. In Guido’s case, his headline and the subheading are at odds – the public is not the same as its Leaver element.

Does this matter? Yes, it does. You can influence people by telling them that most of their fellows think a certain way – isn’t that one of the reasons to own a newspaper? Or to infiltrate the BBC?

Cut to 21st October: Guido tells us “Brexit Party Supporters Back The Deal” and crows "Despite Nigel’s continuing opposition for opposition’s sake, it seems his usually loyal followers are abandoning him in favour of Boris’s new deal. Last man in the bunker…”

The facts? Out of 1,025 polled among the general public by Survation , a total of 15 (fifteen) Brexiteers “strongly approved” Boris’ deal. (Click on the link to see the whole thing – Guido’s stats are drawn from Sheet 3, Table 60.)

I am a little concerned that the survey was conducted on behalf of the Daily Mail – I’m sure that Survation will have done a professional job, but I wonder what the brief was; it covers a lot of ground, rather too much in my opinion.

Table 60 analyses responses to Question 26, which reads, "From what you have seen or heard about the government's Brexit deal, to what extent do you support or oppose the deal?"

Already we wonder what the respondents know – what are their sources of information, and how has it been presented? “Garbage in, garbage out,” as the techies say.

Moreover, the replies in this table are merely a subset of the total respondents - only 674 out of 1,025 - so the margin of error is greater. Even then, not all in that subset replied to all parts: the "current voting intention" line (line #1641, Columns Q-W) adds up to only 601 people, and only 596 people said how they voted in the 2016 Referendum (Columns H and I). We’re now down to a sample of less than 60% of people polled.

And Guido’s news about Brexiteers is not only cherry-picking statistics out of this reduced sample, but combining them to give a misleading impression of homogeneity of feeling. The 15 who say they intend to vote TBP next time and who "strongly supported" Boris' deal (Line 1641, Column T) are added to 36 who only "somewhat supported" it, to make a combined total of 51 people - then reported as "67% of Brexit Party supporters."

Step back: 1,025 people took part in the poll; of whom only 87 intend to vote TBP; of whom only 15 are strongly in favour of the deal. I say, if you really want to know what TBP supporters feel about Boris’ deal, do a more focused poll. 5,248,533 people voted for TBP in the 2019 European Parliament elections – there’s plenty of material there!

Using much the same approach, Guido tells us that 70% of Leave voters and 90% of Tories also back Johnson’s WA Mark 2. Is this a safe basis? I'm not inclined to think so.

In fact of ALL those who responded to question 26 and also indicated their voting intentions in the next General Election, only 137 "strongly supported" the proposed deal, and a further mere 158 "somewhat supported" it. Even adding them together - sheep with cows (Little Boy Blue, you're falling down on the job) - you get 295 people out of a total survey population of 1,025. 295 very variably informed people with probably very differently nuanced stances on their support for "deal".

I wonder what results we'd have got if respondents were restricted to those who did more than read the Daily Mail or watch BBC News, and also looked at the detailed analyses of the pros and cons of the full deal.


We need informed consent, not managed consent; so we need commentators who view sources critically and present their findings judiciously. “If you can keep your head when all around you…”

For we’re not getting the straight gen from our leaders, are we?

It would have been comical, had it not been almost tragic, to watch ex-PM Mrs May castigating the Opposition in Parliament for failing to honour the statutes they helped enact - withdrawal from the EU, and the triggering of Article 50.

Did they mean it? she asked. Well, did she, when she then came to the Commons three times with a ball-and-chain Withdrawal Agreement? Or her successor, who has returned with much the same (lipstick on a crocodile, I call it)? Or those who now call for another Referendum, with a choice of a rotten deal or Remain - the latter being the one thing that was definitively ruled out in 2016?

Guido, we need people like you to be our compass, or we shall be lost on a sea of misinformation.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Guido Fawkes - "TBP supporters back Boris' deal" - REALLY?

Parliamentary gossip broker Paul Staines aka "Guido Fawkes" confidently transmits this news:

... commenting:

"Despite Nigel’s continuing opposition for opposition’s sake, it seems his usually loyal followers are abandoning him in favour of Boris’s new deal. Last man in the bunker… 
"A new Survation poll out this morning shows 67% of Brexit Party voters want the Commons to pass the deal, a little behind the 73% of leave voters and 90% of Conservative voters. In the country as a whole, the deal has 47% support versus 37% opposition. Theresa May could only dream of numbers like these…"

Survation's Tweet makes it clear that their results indicate 51% still wish to leave the EU, versus 45% wishing to remain and 5% unsure.

More usefully, Survation give a link to the full results [] and it is worth seeing what underpins this apparently overwhelming endorsement for the new Prime Minister's deal.

The context is a worry. The first page of the spreadsheet (see the second and third tabs at the foot for Contents and Tables) show that the survey was conducted on behalf of the Daily Mail, a newspaper that has radically changed its stance on Brexit since Geordie Greig took over the editorship from Paul Dacre. Greig's preference is for Remain, but also for Scottish independence, a stance I find illogical - you either believe in national sovereignty or you don't.

Also, I'm not quite sure who set the questions, and why they did it that way. The answers you get are conditioned by the way you ask the questions.

At any rate, "Guido Fawkes" is picking his sample results from Table 60, which you can check for yourself on the third page as linked above.

Table 60 analyses responses to Question 26, which reads:
"From what you have seen or heard about the government's Brexit deal, to what extent do you support or oppose the deal?"
Already we wonder what the respondent knows - who has provided that information, and how has it been presented?

Moreover, the respondents are merely a subset of the total respondents - only 674 out of 1,025 - so the margin of error is greater. Even then, not all in that subset replied to all parts: the "current voting intention" line (line #1641, Columns Q-W) adds up to only 601 people, and only 596 people said how they voted in the 2016 Referendum (Columns H and I).

And, of course, this news item is not only cherry-picking statistics out of this smaller sample, but combining them to give a misleading impression of homogeneity of feeling. For example, of those who told the pollster they intended to vote for the Brexit Party next time, only 15 people "strongly supported" Boris' deal, as opposed to 36 who "somewhat supported" it. That's a dodgily combined total of 51 people - reported as "67% of Brexit Party supporters." If you want to know what TBP supporters feel about the deal, go and poll them. 5,248,533 people voted for TBP in the 2019 European Parliament elections - that's more than 100,000 times that 51-person sample!

The same kind of game is played with "Leave voters" (those who voted Leave in 2016) and "Tories" (those telling the pollster that's who they will vote for in the next GE - they'd never lie, would they?).

Safe and reliable? I'm not inclined to think so.

In fact of ALL those who responded to question 26 and also indicated their voting intentions in the next General Election, only 137 "strongly supported" the proposed deal, and a further mere 158 "somewhat supported" it. Even adding them together - sheep with cows (Little Boy Blue, you're falling down on the job) - you get 295 people out of a total survey population of 1,025. 295 very variably informed people with probably very differently nuanced stances on their support for "deal".

I wonder what results we'd have got if respondents were restricted to those who did more than read the Daily Mail or watch BBC News, and instead looked at the online commenters' analyses of the pros and cons of the full deal.

It would have been comical, had it not been almost tragic, to watch ex-PM Mrs May castigating the Opposition in Parliament for failing to honour the statutes they helped enact - withdrawal from the EU, and the triggering of Article 50.

Did they mean it? Well, did she, when she then came to the Commons three times with a ball-and-chain Withdrawal Agreement? Or her successor, who has returned with much the same (lipstick on a crocodile, I call it)? Or those who now call for another Referendum, with a choice of a rotten deal or Remain - the latter being the one thing that was definitively ruled out in 2016?

What is "Guido Fawkes" doing, cheerleading this farrago of misleading information?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Walkabout to Wave Hill

Our ramble begins with an internet writer's reference to an Australian comedy book from the Seventies, The Outcasts Of Foolgarah. Surfing the reviews, I came across a Depression-era larrikin Oz classic, Here's Luck, by journo and rake Lennie Lower, which is now making us laugh.

But Outcasts, by Frank Hardy, was far from the author's most significant work. His most notorious was one that got him in court for criminal libel - the last case of its kind in Victoria; but that's not where this journey leads us. The experiences of the Depression that gave Lower his comic material had radicalised Hardy, as they did so many others, prompting him to join the Communist Party and use his talents to fight the Establishment.

We have since learned what Communism did; but the instincts that it exploited - compassion for the poor, and vicarious indignation - are valid. In our secular age, they inform ecological panic and adolescent self-loathing, an opportunity for ostentatious do-gooders to secure bossy, well-upholstered sinecures for themselves.

In Australia, they take us to the aboriginals.

Twenty thousand years before Neanderthals recolonised an unpeopled Ice Age Britain, forty thousand before modern man supplanted them in Europe, even longer before humans saw the Americas, the first Australians came to their island continent. Early agriculture? The cities of China and Mesopotamia, Egypt and Mohenjo Daro, the stones of Wiltshire and Giza? Last week's news.

For them, time had no meaning, as is so with all of us, our past always fading into dream, driving us to build, write, record images; futile attempts to preserve our intangible selves in something that endures forever, though nothing will.

Where are their monuments? In their minds, and in their tongues. In their myths of creation and arrival, in the songman's store of rhymes that give life-saving directions for nomads in a pitiless land; an inconceivably long heirloom of songs, some maybe stretching back to the birth of language itself. Old to young, old to young, the chain continued, handing on words and skills that gave them their law and culture; the policeman and warrior, the getter of food and drink, the builder of shelters contained in their skins and carried within their hands and brains wherever they went.

Until the last link broke.

Dispossession, displacement, disrespect; opium via the Oriental trading in Port Darwin; alcohol everywhere, ruining the young as it did their counterparts in America, where sometimes crazy-drunk First Nation kids hang out of cars as they tear around settlement lands which they cannot sell or mortgage.

Instead of the remorseless pressure of daily survival, jobs: money, enough to get by and for some, to dream the modern dreams of easy intoxication. And since the young stopped listening to the old, the elders (some, at least) shut their lips. One by one, the guiding stars of the aboriginal are winking out of existence, taking their knowledge with them.

Materially, a little is done to compensate material wrongs, some in response to action by the victims themselves. Following a walkout in 1966 by mistreated Gurindji aboriginal workers at the vast Wave Hill cattle station, a small portion of their traditional lands were eventually restored to them, and the law has begun to address past injustices. Frank Hardy helped to publicise the issues in his book The Unlucky Australians, and a TV documentary followed.

What can make up for the vast, invisible vandalism of an ancient way of life? Like all humanity, the original Australians have always known war and crime, but what they carried in them was no less precious and far older than the historical relics over which we wonder and grieve in museums.

Still, many times older is the history of humanoids written into all our genes, itself dwarfed by the general relay of life that began billions of years ago. It is fleeting life that endures.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Dumbographics: Greta Thunberg and the young "femographic"

Sex Pistols manager Malcom Maclaren said, "You can make more money exploiting yourself than by exploiting other people."

He didn't add, "Except your kids and other youngsters." That can be left to politicians, and quangocrats like Greta Thunberg's milieu. Canadian investigative journalist Cory Morningstar has already deconstructed the moneymaking juggernaut that has poor Greta tied to it like the secondhand teddy on the front of a lorry, referring to "the targeting of female youth as a key “femographic”".

And the social media owners are happy to manipulate our discussions to help the panic along. Here's an example from today's Facebook feed:

What I'd like you to notice is that when you click on "1 comment" you find that comments are filtered for "relevance". How kind.

Except that when you drill down further to see "All comments", here is what that one person said:

I don't know whether this subtle censorship is done by machine, or is handmade. But surely that comment is spot-on for relevance. China is the world's biggest CO2 emitter.

When public affairs are to be guided by a latter-day Shirley Temple fresh off her Good Ship Lollipop we should start lowering the lifeboats.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Et Tu, Guido? The Boris Deal Is Lipstick On A Crocodile

"Guido Fawkes" on the proposed new deal:

Snap Poll: Public Want The Deal Passing

Important snap poll from YouGov. Top lines:

Excluding ‘don’t knows’, the public want the deal passing by 63% to 37%
A quarter of remain voters, Labour voters and Lib Dems want the deal passing – less than half of each group oppose passing the deal
Only 10% of Leavers and Tories oppose passing the new deal
With an election looming, this should be a huge wake-up call to MPs…

Here's the YouGov poll HEADLINE:

Here's the YouGov poll FULL FACTS:

I comment at Guido's - not sure it'll get past the censor:

"Get it straight: 45% of the general population say they don't yet know enough to decide; 15% are neutral; 17% say it's a good deal, versus 23% saying it's a bad one. So far then, it's a NO."


Well, it's on, now.

FRIDAY MUSIC: Ray Charles, by JD

Ray Charles Robinson (1930 - 2004)

Ray Charles is so well known that there is nothing I can add to Wiki's potted history of his life and career. But I can add a couple of my own anecdotes: I think it was 1962 when I bought the EP of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival concert. The two sides of that EP are the first and last videos below. A work colleague who was also a Ray Charles fan was with me when we visited a local record shop after work and we listened to both sides standing in one of those booths, remember them? It was great to be alive in those far off youthful days!

And then sometime later in the sixties I saw the great man himself in concert with his full orchestra, and of course, The Raelettes (including Margi Hendricks) Quite possible the most electrifying concert I have ever seen; sensational and euphoric.... pick any superlative you like and it will still fall short in describing that concert!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Irish Backstop, and Common Sense - by JD

All of those who are arguing over where to 'draw the line' of the so-called Irish Backstop (whatever that means) should be compelled to read and re-read Spike Milligan's novel Puckoon. I say read and re-read until it enters their thick heads that the whole idea is an absurd bureaucratic fantasy!

The trailer to the film version of Puckoon contains the immortal line - "the only way to fight the stupidity of bureaucracy is with......stupidity!"

This excerpt from the book illustrate perfectly the stupidity and lack of common sense inside the bureaucratic mind:-


"When an attempt is made to bury one of the locals across the border in what had now become “British territory”, Barrington, the customs officer in charge of the Border Customs Post, has a few preconditions:

‘I presume the deceased will be staying this side permanently?’ ‘Unless someone invents a remarkable drug – yes,’ answered the priest. ‘Then,’ went on Barrington, ‘he will require the following: an Irish passport stamped with a visa, to be renewed annually for the rest of his – ‘ Barrington almost said ‘life’ – ‘stay’, he concluded.

Well, that was that. While the deceased is off having his passport photo taken it’s decided that all corpses on the Unionist side of the border be exhumed, repatriated and reinterred on Irish soil."


The events in Puckoon take place over a few weeks in 1924 when the Boundary Commission has just about agreed on where the border between Northern and Southern Ireland will lie. The only thing that stands between them and getting to the pub before closing time is “the microcephalic community of Puckoon” a fictitious village which Spike locates “[s]everal and a half metric miles North East of Sligo. When an accident destroys the surveyor’s equipment they decide to get the matter over with by all putting “one hand on the red pencil and draw[ing] a line that falls naturally and peacefully into place:”

In what was meant to be a solemn moment, all hands held the pencil and pulled slowly across the map. All was silent, the room filled with suspicion. Occasionally a gasp rent the silence as they all strained for the advantage.

‘Steady, someone’s pulling to the benefits of Ulster.’

‘Lies, all lies.’

‘Who gave that jerk?’

‘Ah! I felt that.’


Finally the pencil reached its destination. Faces broke into relieved smiles and a series of rapid unplanned handshakes ensued.


Unfortunately the border cuts right through the heart of Puckoon separating houses from outhouses, the church from its graveyard and annexing a corner of the pub where the locals crowd because the drink is thirty percent cheaper there.

Yes, I know it sounds absurd but it does happen in real life. The partition of India and Pakistan was an arbitrary line on the map which no doubt pleased those who had drawn it but the consequences were unknown numbers who died in the resulting chaos and fighting as Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs suddenly found themselves on the 'wrong' side of the new border and were obliged to uproot themselves and try to move to the 'right' side.

The madness of bureaucratic systems and yet the politicians and civil servants remain oblivious to the problems they create!

And to answer the question what is 'common sense'?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Faux: a lifestyle for many, by Wiggiatlarge

The recent faux outrage in the House Of Commons over a word, ‘humbug’ is in itself not worth talking about but the moronic MP who pursued the claim and demanded an apology is symptomatic of what has become an almost instinctive reaction to something that they believe will have a positive effect on the general population in their favour.

It took me back to thinking: when did all this start? Whenever it was it has been exacerbated by the massive spread and the use of the internet and social media, enabling the latest slights to become ‘news’ in minutes and back up comments from those who want to prosper from this nonsense to appear almost immediately.

When did it all start? Politicians have been using various forms of malfeasance since time immemorial to get their point of view across, but before the internet it had to be from a main player who had the ear of the press not the use of a smartphone which gives all and sundry access to their five minutes of fame or disgrace.

Much of it stems from the increasing use by those big players of spin doctors and advisors. A whole army of them now advise everyone on when and how they should use the media. For those people it is more a case of promoting an image, and the one that for me epitomises it perfectly was the sight of Tony Blair emerging from No 10 after the election in 2000 wearing a casual shirt, no tie and holding a mug of tea; he then crossed the road as a man of the people would, to speak to the press.
I remember watching this and saying to myself how utterly staged it all was and it was confirmed, not that it needed to be, by his never actually taking a sip of the tea, certainly whilst on air anyway, so false, so staged and so actually of the time. They have never looked back.

In ‘97 we had of course the mass outpouring of faux grief from the public themselves, proving if nothing else it wasn’t the preserve of the political class. Princess Diana's death sparked a nationwide epidemic of not wanting to be outdone in the grief stakes by tens of thousands who had never met her and knew precious little about her apart from what was seen in the tabloids. The British do State occasions well and the public were not going to let this one go without emptying the flower merchants in Amsterdam. Somehow those involved never saw the cringe side of this but everyone to their own.

The pattern was set after that. Blair exploited his man of the people profile, 'I’m an ordinary kinda guy’ and ever since the stakes for moral outrage have been set lower and lower.

Certain words and phrases go with the look that has been honed to perfection in the mirror and under the tuition of the personal PR aides. ‘Concern’ is top of the list, trotted out at the drop of the hat for every thing that veers from path of normality. It can be used in conjunction with the appropriate look for anything from too many road accidents, hurty words from a foreign power and anything else that seems appropriate. Nothing in the material sense ever follows up the concern though, even after a suitable inquiry is launched.

Inquiries themselves have proved to be nothing more than a faux response to concerns. When did anything of substance last happen to right the wrongs found after a lengthy and costly inquiry? 'Lessons have been learned': another phrase bandied about with no intention of learning anything.

What we are now seeing and which has been much promoted since the Brexit vote and Trump becoming POTUS, is an increase in faux outrage against both by those who wish to derail the two. This has reached levels of absurdity in faux statements, remarks and intent from people who in some cases one thought better of, but when it comes to retaining or regaining power all bets are off and lies upon lies are trotted out with the full knowledge of what they are. But as any marketing outfit will tell you, repeat the lie enough and many will eventually believe, so as with the constant emails and postal fliers that bombard you with anything from funeral plans to '50% off windows this month only', enough bite to make these approaches however fake worthwhile for the companies involved. The fake discounts are a classic example of marketing to the naive: we have a chain of bathroom retailers who have a permanent 50%-plus reduction on everything it has been doing it for years; many other examples exist.

Yet more worrying today is that the faux concern used by politicians and NGOs has spread to the public at large. The recent XR demos have shown a new twist to demonstrating: no longer content with being a bloody nuisance, the demonstrator has added faux emotion to his public face in an attempt to curry favour with even more vulnerable people. Anyone who saw the man crying under the car with the picture of his children in his hand, repeating 'their future is being taken away' while crying for the camera, can be in no doubt that faux emotion has reached a new level. Anyone believing that display needs a reality check.

What next, who knows? Most of these fads blow over with time, but not in this case, too many politicians and their ilk have this whole fake PR act embedded in the way they now approach the public. The Twitter feeds from the likes of two prime examples, David Lammy and Stella Creasy (picked, I might add, because they are two prime examples, not because of their party loyalties} are just fake in what they say and what they purport to support. It is amusing to read, if you can be bothered, and I have included Lammy’s now infamous “haven’t seen a policeman since we have been here picture” but worryingly they get that percentage they are after who support their inane utterances and that of course is what it is all about. So the whole thing goes full circle, faux emotions and image supported by people displaying faux loyalties to in many cases something they have no grasp of other than a misguided fake belonging to a false narrative.

We now await what could be the biggest fake announcement of our time, the leaving or not of the EU. If we end up with the PM declaring we have left with a version of Theresa May's agreement (which means we have not left), expect levels of faux euphoria in the political classes that will put them in the running for Olivier awards; or alternatively if we leave without a deal, armageddon and threats of people eating their babies will be the mantra from the other lot - all fake, of course !

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Greta Thunberg: Little Girl, Big Business

The Columbo moment - the telling detail - was when she said “Thank you.” Greta Thunberg had just finished telling the UN that they were useless hypocrites set on killing her generation with their greed and complacency; and then she thanked them - and got applause and cheers.

What a performance!

Nothing like a young girl for melting the hearts of us crocodiles. Think of cute little Olga Korbut.

Still - why “thank you”?

Because it WAS a performance. I’m not sure what if any help she got with writing the speech, but her delivery came within a whisker of earning that political Oscar, the Nobel Peace Prize - even though she hasn’t had anyone killed, unlike some previous winners.

Yet how many of us realised that her first line, “we'll be watching you” wasn’t just juvenile rhetoric?

Who, in fact, are “we”? And how could Greta be propelled in such a short time from a lonely vigil outside the Swedish Parliament in August last year, to world prominence?

Turns out, it’s a corporate thing. There’s not just money BEHIND greenery, there’s money IN it. Less than six months after Greta’s first one-girl school strike, Canadian journalist Cory Morningstar was exploring the business nexus that has been using this child as the tip of its spear. Morningstar’s objection? It’s not nearly green enough.

The Left are happy to discount Richard-Littlejohn-ish bottle-throwing at look-at-me SJWs, labelling common-sensical sceptics “far right”; but it must be very disconcerting for them to hear the whizz of bullets from behind: from the real Left, not from the sort that used to stencil Ho Chi Minh images on Oxford college walls in the 1970s before easing themselves into soft jobs in the arts, broadcasting and politics.

Try this “deep green” statement for size:

“The environmental heroes in the West are NOT the Richard Bransons or Leonardo DiCaprios of the world. The real heroes for the environment, due to their almost non-existent environmental footprint, are the homeless – despite the scorn they receive from society as a whole.”

Well, up to a point, Cory. If you want all humanity to be nomadic, you’ll want the world’s population to shrink to prehistoric levels, though the high murder rate in those times might put you off the idea. But San Francisco’s homeless aren’t nomads, except in the sense that many of them have been attracted to the area by free food, a thriving drug market and deliberately lax policing, a hospitality they have rewarded with toxic litter, faeces and communicable diseases, all of which is very costly to deal with.

Not for Greta’s handlers, such grungy right-on-ness. “Work is of two kinds,” said Bertrand Russell. “First, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first one is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.” The Thunberg crew put a big tick in Box B. For Morningstar alleges that their goal is to set themselves up as Olympian judges – prizegivers, examination markers - of corporate greenwashing:

“The main sources of revenue come from commercial players who have received high climate rating and confidence in the We Don’t Have Time’s member base. … The revenue model will resemble the social platform of’s business model, which with its 390 million users annually generates over $ 1 billion in good profitability…We will work with strategic partners such as Climate Reality leaders, climate organizations, bloggers, influencers and leading experts in the field.”

Doubtless their fundamental agenda – and Greta’s – is well-meaning; but it’s going to be a very good life up there among the Gods. When you become the Standard & Poor’s of eco-ness, the schmoozing will be epic.

And, argues the Canadian journalist, fundamentally the project is conservative: it is there to sustain our current rapacious big-business model, to give the machinery a coat of green paint as it roars around the world ripping out whatever it needs to maintain shareholder returns.

“Little Sister will be watching you.” So don’t forget to take us out to lunch.

Thank you.

Friday, October 11, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Pink Floyd, by JD

Pink Floyd are probably one of the most famous 'rock' bands in the world so no introduction is necessary from me as more than enough has been written about them already.

Among the videos below is an excerpt from the film "Pink Floyd - The Wall" (1982). Bassist Roger Waters wrote "Another Brick in the Wall - Part 2" as a protest against rigid schooling, particularly boarding schools but it also reflects Aldous Huxley's views on the education system and I am sure Waters was familiar with Huxley's writing.

Huxley was well aware of the fact that the "Pharisees of verbal orthodoxy" often dismiss those who advocate the cultivation of our perceptual skills as "cranks, quacks, charlatans and unqualified amateurs."

The final video here was written in memory of founder member and inspiration Syd Barrett who left in 1972 due to his mental illness. He died in 2006.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

On This Day

President Nixon' sets up a "madman" nuclear alert, 50 years ago. For three days, B-52 bombers circle over the North Pole to scare Russia and indirectly North Vietnam:

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

My latest article on The Conservative Woman

A version of the post immediately before this one was published yesterday on The Conservative Woman. The comments are interesting and some informative.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Grumpy McGrumpface: Dawkins on Brexit, democracy and God

Here is part of Professor Dawkins' "Diary" in this week's Spectator magazine:

I hate the very idea of a referendum. Referendums are capable of naming a ship ‘Boaty McBoatface’. We are a parliamentary democracy. We vote for representatives who have the time (and salary) to examine complicated economic and political issues thoroughly and give an informed vote. Nevertheless, having got into this mess through David Cameron’s cowardly folly, the only way out is another referendum. If Leave wins again, we should accept it with good grace and make the best of it. But it’s hard to imagine that Leave could possibly win again, now that we know — as we did not in 2016 — what Leave really means. A connoisseur, too, of religious faith, I detect it in the fanatical zeal of Brexiteers: those for whom the 2016 vote has become unchangeable holy writ; those who are prepared to force Brexit through at any price, even if the price is the obvious and undeniable disaster of no deal. Boris Johnson’s bullying, threatening bluster, when he should be apologising if not resigning, may betoken cynical ambition, but the ill-mannered cheering-on by his barmy supporters surely stems from blind faith.

The kitten of his argument is eaten alive with polemical fleas. Washing these off, we see that he says referendums sometimes give answers that those in charge don't like, which is true, but trite; and that we should have a second referendum because Leavers didn't know what they were voting for the first time, which is not trite and not true.

If anything, during the pre-vote campaign the Leave-inclined public had an unduly bleak picture of economic consequences painted for them by the PM, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Governor of the Bank of England, CBI and all the other panjandrums riding Tom Pearce's grey mare towards Widecombe Fair and their downfall.

One could also argue that Remain-inclined voters were insufficiently informed of the likely consequences of staying in the EU: the military buildup, the legal seizure of control over UK Armed Forces, the aspiration to Empire, the dangerous fiscal imbalances in the Eurozone, the growing regional inequalities that are feeding social unrest, the threat to the UK's Welfare State of unlimited Schengen "free movement of people." Professor Dawkins may find it hard to imagine Leave winning again, but his view is coloured by the knowitall Oxford milieu in which he lives, and which prevents him from understanding - perhaps he has never even met them - the "fanatical", "barmy" and "blind" majority of his fellow subjects.

You may also care to de-flea his preceding paragraph, which is equally tendentious and oratorical:

I would normally not mention Brexit in a diary such as this. But the humiliation of our sick-joke Prime Minister has dominated the week and cannot be avoided. I expected a good verdict from the Supreme Court, but its unanimity and decisiveness had me whooping and thumping the table with joy. It really deserved a standing ovation and I sensed one rising up from decent people all over the country. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, you are surely revolted by the unashamed manipulation of the Queen for partisan political ends. Ends, moreover, that have no sensible connection to ‘the will of the people’. For when ‘the people’ expressed their will in 2016, ‘Leave’ most certainly did not mean ‘Leave with no deal’. It meant, as we were repeatedly assured, an orderly and amicable separation.

One reason he will have been given this space to air his views is that he has just brought out another theological tome, "Outgrowing God." The review in Private Eye magazine (issue 1506, p.36) is unsympathetic and identifies, I think correctly, a weakness in him: an inablity to appreciate alternative points of view. He seems to be the sort of person who "knows what he knows" and that is not a quality to make the best sort of university teacher, I should have thought.

But then the professorship he held from 1995 to 2008 was not for scientific research and teaching per se - though he is a highly distinguished geneticist evolutionary biologist (corrected - please see Bruce Charlton's comment below). The chair of "Public Understanding of Science" was created specifically for him by the billionaire Microsoft applications developer Charles Simonyi, who will not have been unaware of Dawkins' views on religion. Dawkins was given a position that required him to communicate with the public; though under the circumstances, one wonders what is the gist of the messages Simonyi wished him to convey.

In any case, such is the Professor's "fanatical zeal" that he is in danger of undermining his own credibility. Philosopher and Christian Peter Williams says "far from being a disinterested advocate of truth, Dawkins spends his time preaching the gospel of atheism using a raft of fallacious arguments dressed up in an obscuring cloak of science" and gives examples of Dawkins' logical weaknesses here:

Returning to "Outgrowing God": the Private Eye reviewer says

... Worse still is the book's lack of empathy. There is no acknowledgement, let alone understanding, of the fact that, for some young people, science and reason may not offer the same degree of emotional comfort provided by the notion of God and, what's more, this does not necessarily make these individuals wankers. [...] There remains a coldness at the heart of Dawkins' writing that is as self-defeating as it is wearing.

I am sure that when discussing matters within his scientific field Dawkins makes perfect sense. But he may be blind to science's - and his own - limitations.

The philosopher AJ Ayer used to maintain that meaningful statements were only about what could be proved, a position from which he resiled later on. I suggest that one of the unprovable ones is Leibniz's question; "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

It seems to me that any scientific attempt to explain the origin of the Universe can only refer to things we observe in the Universe itself - time, space, matter, energy - and so the explanation will be circular. If the universe had a beginning, we cannot know how it started, even theoretically (references to a multiverse merely raise the question of how that started.) Alternatively, if there was no start, the brute fact of the Universe's existence is equally enigmatic.

I accept that by itself this conundrum goes nowhere near justifying all the tenets of religious dogmas; but I think Professor Dawkins should temper his assertions with a little humility and empathic understanding. He lays about him insensitively, like someone playing Blind-Man's-Buff.