Friday, July 31, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Alison Krauss, by JD

Music this week comes from Alison Krauss, one of Bluegrass music's finest ambassadors. But she does not confine herself to Bluegrass as can be seen from the random selection featured below (I have omitted her duets with Robert Plant as they were featured here a couple of weeks ago)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Balancing the Energy Books, by Nick Drew

Some years ago on a sister blog to Broad Oak I wrote several posts noting how problematic was the rise in erratic forms of electricity generation (especially wind power) which presents the operators of grid systems with challenges that sometimes call upon extreme (and costly) (and inefficient) solutions.  Germany is the worst.

The underlying physical facts have not much changed; and the amount of wind power has increased considerably.  But the operators are good engineers - and regulators let them spend whatever they need to (and send us all the bill) - just keep the bloody lights on!   So, by and large, the lights have been kept on, albeit at the cost of ever more of those extreme, inefficient and expensive solutions.

However, new solutions are hoving ever closer into view as practical propositions.  Most of what I summarise below is not red-hot news in the industry; but a lot of MSM types are suddenly catching up with it.
  1. Storage:  it has long been the quip in physics labs around the world that "if you can invent a truly economic means of storing electricity, you can name your university after yourself".   I'm hoping it's obvious how cheap storage would contribute to the erratic windpower problem.  Well, a bit like The Cure For Cancer, there hasn't been a single mighty breakthrough; rather, a lot of impressive incremental improvements, not least in batteries - and we're getting there.  So, there are people building solar + battery combos, and massive grid-scale batteries at cunning points on the system, without subsidies: always the acid test.  It's early days: but we're getting there.  (It's not just batteries, either.)
  2. HydrogenI've written about this (and subsequently so, inter alia, has the DTel) quite recently.  I know there are loads of sceptical views out there: but believe me, the amount of private money and effort going into this is truly immense.  How does it contribute to the erratic windpower problem?  Easy: storing hydrogen is much easier than storing electricity, and negative-price electricity (offpeak windpower at times of big surplus: solar power in many, errr, sunny parts of the world) can generate quite cheap hydrogen, via electrolysis.  And hydrogen can be used for lots of applications - including generating electricity again!   (I'm summarising heavily because it's a very big picture that's rapidly developing.)
  3. Demand-side response & aggregator systems: when the price of electricity goes negative, you can pay people to take it off your hands.  Likewise, when it goes through the roof at times of peak usage, you can pay people to stop using it.  Who are "people"?  Well, just about anyone and any firm or organisation that can, with a bit of thought (and maybe a bit of investment), vary their demand in response to sufficiently juicy price incentives.  To make this work on a big scale requires a lot of software sitting in some aggregator's systems, crunching the most epic quantities of data real-time and transacting millions of times in small quantities.  There are more people with this vision than are making much money out of it - yet.   
On this last category of tool: the sole reason those recent (and thus far quite successful) electricity-market insurgents Ovo and Octopus are in the market as suppliers (an otherwise rather unrewarding business) is to play this game using the ever-expanding fleet of electric vehicle batteries, as soon as this can become a reality.  They expect to clean up.  As noted in the linked article, "It requires dedicated two-way charging equipment that can also communicate with the vehicles, as well high-level aggregator control systems. However all of this technology exists".  Yes - and right now Elon Musk (Tesla) refuses to make batteries that will do 2-way charging!  To be fair, it can shorten battery life significantly, and will require all sorts of potential hazards (and consequent insurance issues) to be resolved. Also warranty issues: if (e.g.) Ovo is offering a stonking real-time pricing deal that incentivises car owners to cane their batteries for £££, they will destroy them quite quickly.

It's all part of the vast, mostly-untapped world of demand-side response potential.  We are going to need it all, eventually: and storage, and hydrogen.  The good news is, this (like hydrogen replacing natural gas) is the kind of phenomenon that can grow slowly (at first), in small but steady degrees.  Contrast with the unicorn of carbon-capture-and-storage - everyone can describe it, some people believe in it, but it doesn't exist - which can only be done by hitting critical mass immediately. That's hard.  That takes public money.

The other beauty of DSR is, early adopters will love it (£££ + prestige) and then, at both the individual and the corporate level, it will become fashionable - always the best form of promo.

So:  balancing a grid which supports a large amount of windpower and solar will never be cost-free - there has to be some flipside to sources of energy with almost zero direct variable cost (i.e. no fuel) - but it is going to get ever more efficient.


Monday, July 27, 2020

CHINA: Overfishing the world

The post below is reproduced from The Polynesian Times:

A study published a few days ago* reports large-scale illegal fishing in North Korean waters by Chinese ships that harvested more than 160,000 tons of Pacific flying squid in 2017 and 2018. -
- referencing Science Magazine's article here:

According to the article, squid hauls have dropped since 2003 in South Korea and Japan, and 'unable to compete with the more technologically advanced Chinese vessels, which use powerful lights and other technologies to maximize the size of their catch, some North Koreans have resorted to fishing illegally in faraway Russian waters.' International cooperation in managing fish stocks is breaking down.

This reminds us of comments made on Youtube five months ago by a South African-born businessman and vlogger who has worked and lived in China for years. 'Serpentza' (Winston Sterzel) says (starting 6:56 in the video below):

"China has completely outfished the waters off the coast of China and so their fishing trawlers must seek alternatives and the alternatives are: the rest of the entire world. 

"Clandestine Chinese fishing has decimated the fish stocks off the coast of South Africa, my country, and most of the African coast, where corrupt leaders are easily bribed to turn a blind eye while local fishermen and communities suffer greatly [...]

"There is no catch-and-release or sustainable fishing in the modern Chinese mentality. As a nation who recently experienced devastating famine, it's a 'take now before it's all gone' mentality."

He also talks about Chinese economic activity that damages the environment, wildlife (e.g. by unrestricted hunting in Africa) and people's health, while Chinese officialdom has great difficulty in enforcing laws that could prevent this.

A couple of months later he was on Instagram, reporting : "Chinese fishing ships off the coast of South Africa are illegally stripping the ocean of fish at an alarming rate yet nothing is being done, many people speculate that the South African government has been paid to turn a blind eye the same as what happened in Namibia":

A report last month on Maritime Executive says that China plans two closed seasons on squid fishing in the Pacific and Atlantic, to help stocks recover:

"The closed seasons cover what are believed to be the main spawning grounds of the Humboldt squid, in waters to the west of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, from July to September, and of the Argentine shortfin squid, off Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, from September to November."

We shall see whether this is enforceable, and what other measures need to be and will be taken. The magazine also links to a site called 'China Dialogue Ocean', saying 'China Dialogue Ocean ( is dedicated to illuminating, analyzing and helping to resolve our ocean crisis.' We hope this is more than merely PR in these difficult times for international diplomacy.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Do solar storms cause earthquakes?

A new (13 July) paper in Nature magazine has found a correlation between solar activity and earthquakes of a moderate magnitude (5.6) or greater. The study uses 20 years of satellite data about charged particles coming from the sun and relates this to medium-plus earthquakes occurring within 24 hours after a solar storm (coronal mass ejection, or CME.)

The tentative causal explanation is to do with the 'piezo-electric effect'. For example, when the crystal in a cigarette lighter is compressed it emits a spark, because the mechanical force is transformed into electrical energy.

Conversely, if an electric charge is applied to the crystal, it will change shape slightly to absorb the energy; so, given that the Earth is magnetic because of what is assumed to be an iron core, if the power of a solar flare hits the planet's magnetic field then it is possible that there is some expansion or warping deep inside that returns to the surface in the form of earthquakes and volcanic activity.

This connection between the sun and the Earth's seismic activity has long been suspected by 'Dutchinse' (Michael Yuri Janitch) an American amateur earthquake analyst and predictor and the new study has excited him:

He has also previously suggested - as have some others - that a scientific program known as HAARP, which studies the effects of powerful man-made radio emissions aimed at the Earth's ionosphere (upper atmosphere) may have an effect on seismic activity and weather and may even be part of a clandestine military project. This is pooh-poohed by mainstream commentators (e.g. here), though of course it's not axiomatic that all conspiracy theories are wrong.

As it happens, the sun is unusually 'quiet' at the moment (i.e. few sunspots, flares and CMEs); and there seems to be a correlation between the sun's c. 11-year sunspot cycle and climate on Earth - these quiet periods are associated with cooler weather - there was a particularly long time from c. 1645 on:

'One interesting aspect of solar cycles is that the sun went through a period of near zero sunspot activity from about 1645 to 1715.  This period of sunspot minima is called the Maunder Minimum.  The "Little Ice Age" occurred over parts of Earth during the Maunder Minimum.'

- and the same article says times of high sunspot activity may warm the atmosphere, instead:

'There is debate within the scientific community how much solar activity can, or does affect Earth's climate.  There is research which shows evidence that Earth's climate is sensitive to very weak changes in the Sun's energy output over time frames of 10s and 100s of years.  Times of maximum sunspot activity are associated with a very slight increase in the energy output from the sun.  Ultraviolet radiation increases dramatically during high sunspot activity, which can have a large effect on the Earth's atmosphere.'

However, NASA suggests that the current scale of 'global warming' is not related to variations in the sun's radiance:
Again, it's not clear exactly how and where these temperatures were recorded, so there is still room for debate and speculation.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

SATURDAY ESSAY: NHS - an everyday tale of woe and incompetence, by Wiggia

I was asked to put this together after a series of emails to my friends on here about the family travails with the NHS, both during and before the virus struck. I wanted to write in the third party form as all below is personal but anyone reading the account would soon see it was my own view on what has happened within our family.

It is very easy to slate the NHS when something like this story unfolds. As usual there are good and bad sides to the organisation and that one word, organisation, is the one thing above all else that lets the NHS down, along with a belief among many who run these trusts that the NHS is theirs and they have the final word and run it for their benefit. The whys and wherefores of the NHS have been dissected by many more able than me and that side is another story so I won't go there other than relate the relevant items in the piece below.

I have to say I am in no way anti the formation of the NHS: my early memories of it were of GPs working seven day weeks and often all hours. That was never going to be sustainable in a modern world In later years as the NHS grew along with the welfare state to be all things to all men; the cracks started to appear and instead of a forensic appraisal of the system they just added layers of bureaucratic management and threw ever increasing sums of money at it with never any accountability - the Blair years saw this at its peak, or so we thought.

Above: a not untypical doctor's waiting room these days -
but you still wait four weeks and more for an appointment.

I will give a short summary of my own clashes with my local surgery since we moved here; again, thousands out there can give similar examples from their own experience.

Until that move we had been fortunate in having a surgery you could always get an appointment with even at busy times, but that all changed; we now have a two-story medical center that has 14,000 patients on its books and currently six doctors (down from when we arrived here). As in most parts of the country, there has been endless building of new estates, all the occupants of which join the ever-growing patient list at our medical cente. The result is easily predictable: appointments are almost non-existent and even before the virus struck the place was hardly ever crowded as the doctors are nearly all part-timers, so phone consultations were already well established pre-Covid and will now constitute 80% of all appointments; how that equates to actually seeing a problem I have no idea, and even phone ‘consultations’ already have a waiting list of up to two weeks! Quite extraordinary. This is the health service now being foisted on us who pay for it all; and for those in the NHS who think the government pays for it all, you are wrong: the taxpayer is the one to be applauded.

My first encounter with the medical centre was when I thought I had sprained my ankle. It didn’t improve so I got an appointment - this was before the place became silly with waiting lists - but it still took two weeks to see me. It was diagnosed as a sprain: 'Take painkillers, rest up.' Time passed, no improvement, went back: same diagnosis, same treatment. Still no improvement after three months, went to physio, she took one look and said 'Broken foot, need scan' and wrote a letter to the surgery. After another two weeks I got a letter from the surgery to go for a scan; a month later I had a letter from the hospital with an appointment for the scan; I went to the hospital and the scan showed the foot had multiple injuries and a broken bone, so an appointment was made to see a specialist. A month later I had an X-ray at the hospital before seeing the specialist, who was annoyed that I was wasting his time as the foot had healed up - well it would, after seven months, and I told him 'Don’t have a go at me, reserve your ire for my GP.'

My second surgery debacle was more serious than I could have imagined. I had not felt well for some time but the symptoms seemed to go away and then returned after a couple of weeks: sweating, breathing problems when exerting and very tired. This time I needed to see a doctor as I had no idea what was going on, so the appointment saga started, but I said four weeks was no good, I needed to see someone now. 'Phone again tomorrow.' This went on all week with me feeling worse and getting no joy from the surgery, so I decided I would go in person Monday morning and insist I see someone.
I got up on the Monday, went into the bathroom feel terrible, broke into a malaria-like sweat, sat on the edge of the bed and passed out. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the acute ward for tests, X-rays and later a scan: I had a large blood clot on each lung and clots on the arteries leading to the lungs.

As an aside, in the acute ward of eight three of us had the same thing and none could get an appointment - one had to leave his car at the surgery after insisting on seeing a doctor and an ambulance was called to bring him in.

After a week of treatment I left. The hospital treatment was very good but before I left I saw the senior nurse at the coagulation unit who told me I was a lucky boy as I had had less than forty-eight hours to live when I came in; she said she was disgusted at the surgery's system, though as she said they are all the same now.

The surgery was phoned to take over me as a patient and do the blood tests as I was on Warfarin then. The surgery denied it did such tests but the nurse had some serious words and said she would refer them to the Medical Council and lo and behold they said they did do them and I was now on the list. As you can gather from all this my surgery does not get any Christmas cards from me. Change GPs, you say? Don’t make me laugh: all the surgeries are the same and do not accept patients from other post codes, so hard luck.

I could rack up more of the same kind of story for my wife who is now in severe pain from osteoarthritis but gets relief from the injections in her knees and shoulders. Needless to say they were not available during the peak virus period or even now as they lower the immune system; the fact that our surgery has not had a single case of the virus and my wife's immune system is always very low because of other medication does not come into it, and there is no relief in sight.

The really good (!) story is that of my sister and her husband. My sister after going sky diving nearly two years ago - a birthday present! - had a suspected fracture in her shoulder. The examination and subsequent scan showed ten such fractures; further examination showed she had bone cancer, and in her case it was not getting the right treatment - that was the problem, it was the errors in getting it: she was taken to the wrong hospital for the start of her chemotherapy and the ambulance despite having the correct hospital in their notes still took her there. After realising the mistake they said she would have be returned to the base hospital as they had no time for a diversion; the chemo was postponed for a week and she had to stay that week in her suit of armour that she had to wear to stop her moving and breaking more bones - not comfortable.

On another occasion she was dropped off for her chemo but was told a taxi would take her home - she lives just ten minutes away. Time went on and no taxi. She enquired after an hour and was told it was on its way; still no taxi. The administrator in charge haddecided to save some money and use a mini bus for several patients and waited until the last was ready, but told no one until it arrived. In her armoured suit and feeling like shit she got in to the bus. After an hour she asked where they were as she lived nearby; the driver said the patients who lived furthest out would be the first to be dropped off, so of course she would now be last as her house was nearest. As the daid to the driver, her husband was not available to drive her home and if she had known she would have got her own taxi, not now she was hardly in a condition to abandon ship and make her way home. She finally arrived home after seven hours including the original wait. There were three chemo patients on that bus and one was seriously sick. How do management go ahead with things like this, knowing exactly what they are doing to people? No-one is ever accountable.

Similar, lesser things also occurred.

Now the pièce de résistance: while recovering from her chemo my poor sister had some bad news about her husband, who had suffered from a mysterious breathing problem that despite various visits to hospital no one had been able to diagnose. During a visit in October 2019 they decided to do a full body scan and he was found to have liver cancer, at that stage not advanced and an open operation was scheduled for January; this was cancelled and another scheduled. This too was postponed and then the virus came along and no one got any treatment for anything. During this period and long before they were in effect living separate lives in their own house, as my sister has no immune system because of her chemo.

Sometime during April the brother-in-law had a recurrence of the chest problems with a lot of pain and returned to hospital. My sister could not go with him for obvious reasons but phoned later to see how he wass getting on. It transpired that despite being tested and cleared for the coronavirus virus he had been been put in a side ward with two people who did have the virus and one who was suspected of having it. My sister went ballistic and demanded to speak to someone with authority and got him moved. Why he was put there remains a mystery.

Finally he got a call to go for a ‘conversation’ having had another up-to-date scan; he was told it had spread and the open operation was no longer an option - he would have to have it under anaesthetic. The anaesthetist is not happy with this as his chest problems meant in her opinion that he only had a 50 – 50 chance of surviving the operation. Naturally he needed a while to come to terms with that and went home. The following day the hospital phoned: his operation was still scheduled for that day, but he declined.

Many would say that was not a good decision, but by chance or fate or whatever a week and a half later he got a call: radiotherapy, not available during the lock down, was back on the agenda. He was summoned to the Royal Marsden and started a course of radiotherapy the following week. At the end of it he was told, as all patients with this treatment are, that he would feel not at all well for a while and it came to pass that he felt very unwell, bad enough to call the ambulance again.

It appears that his chest problem was adding to his discomfort so they kept him in and ran some more tests that returned a negative. They still could not isolate what was causing the chest problems and the results were phoned through to my sister who could not visit him, or so she thought ! The next day there was another call from the hospital: further tests revealed he had Covid-19! Where the hell has this come from? He had not been out of the house for six months and my sister likewise after her cancer, all the family and my sister were then tested for the virus and all came back clear. The only place the b-i-l had visited was the hospital - if he hadn’t contracted it there, where on earth could he have?

He sent a message to my sister asking for his phone, glasses etc as he would be kept in for seven days. She insisted on going to the hospital with his personal items and to see him; the hospital said she could not have any contact with him, especially in her case, and could only wave through the glass door or show messages, and advised against the visit ! When she said she was coming anyway they changed their attitude to ‘Well, you can only see him for fifteen minutes and will have to wear mask, gloves, hat and shoe coverings.’  Really ! How can a patient with the virus be allowed any time at all with a person with no immune system if he really has it? There is something very wrong here, or I am missing something?

Maybe it's a bit unfair putting up the above image of William and his family applauding the NHS, they almost certainly were under orders, yet you have to ask yourselves what would they know of the NHS? They have never had to use it.

I have had very good treatment from the NHS and as I stated at the start I am not going to give a forensic report on all the things that are very wrong with the organisation, but much will be revealed in the coming months, I am sure, when the figures for deaths of non-Covid patients with cancer, heart conditions and numerous other deadly diseases start to rack up, let alone people like myself who has two hips needing replacing and has not had even a consultation after six months.

Even the ‘pleasure’ of going private has been taken away as the private hospitals that were commandeered by the NHS to help the flood of Covid patients and were never used are now being kept on the NHS books in a vain attempt to help with the backlog created. There was a report in the Times last week about people with private health insurance cancelling policies as they could not get any treatment - what a mess!

There was a vague chance for the government to lead on this virus and use it as a springboard to at least start to ‘improve’ and streamline the bloated monster it has become, yet all we have received are endless mendacious contradictory statements and an element indeed a large dose of legerdemain about all and everything.

With Boris talking about mask-wearing well into 2021 the NHS will be so bogged down with an enormous backlog it must and will be reverting to the two-year waiting lists for major procedures, and still they carry on with their face-saving protection measures.

It was said by many before this virus came about that the NHS needed - as it has done for decades - root and branch reform. Now, with it being put on a podium to be regularly applauded at the appointed hour, there is not much chance of that happening.

‘Envy of the world’? I think not.

Wiggia adds (8 August):

I came upon this today a critique of the NHS, everything said in that article I agree with, as an example when I phoned a couple of weeks ago for a prescription for pain killers for my hips I had to wait for the doctor to phone me first it took four days, he was very to the point etc and speaks sense, until it came to 'how long before I get to see the consultant never mind the op' he said my letter already three months after the diagnosis was dated 19th of March as such I was at the head of queue as they have started seeing people again, oh I said so not long, roughly eighteen weeks you are at lest not further down the list, he sounded quite pleased with that and I said not much to get excited about then as it will be ten months after the diagnosis before I even see the consultant, they actually think the NHS is doing us a favour, that we pay for this sub standard health care doesn't even register with them, it's free after all, free my ass.

Anyway this is the link..........

Friday, July 24, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Corvus Corax, by JD

Corvus Corax is the Latin name for the common raven which is the largest of the corvids.

Most people will be familiar with the association of ravens with the Tower of London and with the legend that England would not fall to a foreign invader as long as there were ravens at the Tower (Just to be on the safe side the ravens wings are clipped!) According to Wiki the legend is probably a Victorian invention but their source for that is The Guardian newspaper which, as we all know, is honest and reliable. It is more likely that it really is a story whose origin is lost in the mists of timebut according to the Mabinogion, one of the earliest stories of the history of Britain the head of the Welsh god Bran the Blessed (whose name means raven) is buried at the White Hill in the Tower as a talisman against invasion.

The bird features in mythology very often as a pyschopomp, a bridge between the two realms, between life and death.

And so, after that short bit of 'setting the scene', to this week's music which comes from a German band of the same name - Corvus Corax.

How to descibe them? How about Dudelsack medieval heavy metal? They are positively Wagnerian in their stage shows! So fasten your seatbelts, turn up the volume and prepare to be blown away by the most spectacular show you have ever seen. And the music is good too.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

The power of belief

Michael McIntyre's autobiography 'Life & Laughing' contains an extraordinary episode, one that may have played an essential part in his becoming a world-famous success as an entertainer.

His mother, a teenager who met his future father when the latter was holding auditions, went into a psychic bookshop in Kensington, London, shortly afterwards, to have her fortune told by a Tarot card reader. The reader was shocked at the cards and called in his colleagues:

'What is it?' my mother asked.
Her original reader spoke: 'You are pregnant.'
'I'm not,' insisted my mum. In actual fact she was, but didn't know it yet. [...]
'You will have a son,' continued one of the other readers who had been summoned. 'He will be world-famous, everybody will know his name, he will do wonderful things. He is special.'
The rest of her reading contained equally far-fetched information about her future. 'You will have many children. You will live in an old house for five years, and then you and your husband will be separated by seas and by death. That will be £6.50, please.'

All came true. Michael, mostly a very poor student (from disinclination) and who failed to apply hmself in his one year at Edinburgh University because his sights were set on other things, suffered years of failure, rejection and semi-success in stand-up comedy before marriage and new fatherhood lit a fire under him so that he worked flat-out and suddenly made it to the very top.

McIntyre says he is not at all superstitious; but would we know of him today if his mother hadn't always believed in his special-ness? What if she had criticised and castigated him for his many shortcomings and failures, instead?

It reminds me of a young boy - maybe 12 years old - I met when I was teaching at a children's home. He was intellectually curious, especially about Romans, and showed signs of originality as an artist. After I had left there I was invited back to the home's Christmas celebration and was introduced to him by a member of staff, to whom I said, 'I know X, I'm expecting great things of him.'

The boy didn't speak, but flushed. I am certain he will never forget this passing remark. I hope that such an expression of belief in him will light his way as he grows up.

The power of words, of another's faith in you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dangerous times

For some time now, supporters of the two main US political parties have seemed to hate each other with an almost theological hatred - I've joked that Americans believe half of them are the sons and daughters of Satan, they just can't agree which half.

But it's also a violent hatred. 'On 20 January [2017], Richard Spencer, a prominent figure in the “alt-right” movement, was punched in the face while giving an interview in Washington. The punch spawned a number of “punch a Nazi” memes,' said Tauriq Moosa in the UK's Guardian newspaper a few days later, before going on, perhaps naturally for that Left-leaning publication, to defend the use of violence ('A punch may be uncivil, but racism is worse.')

I first came across the meme he mentions, on Facebook, that wing of Bedlam, though I think 'How To Punch A Nazi' first spread as a series of Tweets, another wing of barminess. Since Nazi is not defined, it is easily interpreted as 'Someone who thinks differently from you? Punch; expertly, with possibly neck-breaking force.' How this doesn't qualify for arrest on a charge of incitement to violence, I'm not sure.

Fox News is what Americans call a 'conservative' TV channel, though I think my British friends may not understand the American political spectrum - the British Conservative Party would be more at home in the US Democratic Party, possibly even in the left side of it. Be that as it may, some of America cheers Fox while some gibbers in fury at it. Now, allegedly, and most dangerously in these times of political riot, property destruction, looting, assault and murder, one of Fox's presenters, Tucker Carlson, has been threatened by a major newspaper with the publication of his family's home address:

My American family tells me Carlson is a habitual liar and I emailed his show with the following:

(1) Can you confirm that the NYT did indeed do this previously, causing your family to have to move to escape persecution ny Antifa et al.?

(2) The NYT has now said it has no plans to publish your current address, but this denail does not necessarily mean that they had not planned or threatened to do so before you went public this time. So did they in fact say they were going to?

(3) Do you have any evidence to corroborate what you have said? If so, can you supply it?

I got the first bit wrong, sadly (quite apart from typos) - Carlson doesn't actually say the NYT published his address last time, in the clip above he says it was a 'left-wing journalist' - but although the NYT has said in response that it 'has no plans' to do so, that could be read as a kind of Watergate 'non-denial denial', in that the paper has not said that it did not previously intend to do so.

In the clip above, Carlson points out that two could play at that game, and names one or two people; already perhaps there are supporters working on discovering where those NYT people themselves live.

Cartoonist Scott Adams, a Republican supporter who identified Trump as a likely winning Presidential candidate long before other commentators thought it credible, says that this 'setting the dogs on' political opponents crosses a line and things could get very nasty - listen to his podcast from 13:20 on:

This raises a fundamental issue: is American society - is ours? - sufficiently mature to be governed by democratic representatives, rather than despots? Are we generally capable of rational discussion, of a liberal suspension of judgment, of agreeing to disagree?

J.S. Mills addresses this early on in his Essay on Liberty (1859) [page 19 here]:

'Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Until then, there is nothing for them but implicit obedience to an Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find one. But as soon as mankind have attained the capacity of being guided to their own improvement by conviction or persuasion (a period long since reached in all nations with whom we need here concern ourselves), compulsion, either in the direct form or in that of pains and penalties for non-compliance, is no longer admissible as a means to their own good, and justifiable only for the security of others.'

Is the public - can it be? - sufficiently rational, well-informed and self-restrained to operate a democracy? Or will we let mobs - and certain powerfully-placed individuals - destroy our institutions and let in rule by tyrants?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

A primer for wokesters

1. Make them sit down and read the whole thing, out loud:

'My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves'

(Why has it taken the BBC so long to make this public?)

No-one - apart from the abolitionists - comes out well from that. This is what schoolchildren have to know - and many other people besides.

2. Define 'history' and 'past'.

3. Explain the following quote from the above:

'It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles.'

4. Then stand up and tackle

(a) individual cases of police brutality, and related issues of police recruitment, discipline, and public and criminal accountability - and civil lawsuits where answerability is resisted.

(b) factors affecting economic inequality, including such things as access to credit for business startups, but also the multiple social and educational limits placed on aspiration.

The answer is work - a lot of it - not rioting and statue-rolling.

When Barack Obama was first elected, a black colleague asked me what I thought. I said, 'I don't know if he will be a good President, or a bad one. But one thing is clear: no more excuses.'

My colleague, a talented teacher of children with behavioural problems - problems that evaporated in his class - nodded appreciatively.

No more excuses.

And, following Nick's comment below, just in case the BBC doc gets popped into the memory hole, here is what I can salvage of it:

'My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves'

Slave Driving In Africa In The 19Th Century. From Africa By Keith Johnston, Published 1884.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Amid the global debate about race relations, colonialism and slavery, some of the Europeans and Americans who made their fortunes in trading human beings have seen their legacies reassessed, their statues toppled and their names removed from public buildings.
Nigerian journalist and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that one of her ancestors sold slaves, but argues that he should not be judged by today's standards or values.
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My great-grandfather, Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, was what I prefer to call a businessman, from the Igbo ethnic group of south-eastern Nigeria. He dealt in a number of goods, including tobacco and palm produce. He also sold human beings.
"He had agents who captured slaves from different places and brought them to him," my father told me.
Nwaubani Ogogo's slaves were sold through the ports of Calabar and Bonny in the south of what is today known as Nigeria.
People from ethnic groups along the coast, such as the Efik and Ijaw, usually acted as stevedores for the white merchants and as middlemen for Igbo traders like my great-grandfather.
They loaded and offloaded ships and supplied the foreigners with food and other provisions. They negotiated prices for slaves from the hinterlands, then collected royalties from both the sellers and buyers.
Slave factories, or compounds, maintained by traders from four European nations on the Gulf of Guinea in what is now Nigeria. 1746 engraving by Nathaniel parImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSeveral European nations had slave compounds in what is now Nigeria
About 1.5 million Igbo slaves were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean between the 15th and 19th Centuries.
More than 1.5 million Africans were shipped to what was then called the New World - the Americas - through the Calabar port, in the Bight of Bonny, making it one of the largest points of exit during the transatlantic trade.
Graphic showing the slave trade
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The only life they knew

Nwaubani Ogogo lived in a time when the fittest survived and the bravest excelled. The concept of "all men are created equal" was completely alien to traditional religion and law in his society.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Assessing the people of Africa's past by today's standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains"
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Nigerian journalist
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It would be unfair to judge a 19th Century man by 21st Century principles.
Assessing the people of Africa's past by today's standards would compel us to cast the majority of our heroes as villains, denying us the right to fully celebrate anyone who was not influenced by Western ideology.
Igbo slave traders like my great-grandfather did not suffer any crisis of social acceptance or legality. They did not need any religious or scientific justifications for their actions. They were simply living the life into which they were raised.
That was all they knew.
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Slaves buried alive

The most popular story I've heard about my great-grandfather was how he successfully confronted officials of the British colonial government after they seized some of his slaves.
White traders inspect African slaves during a sale, circa 1850
My great-grandfather apparently did not consider it fair that his slaves had been seized"
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Nigerian journalist
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The slaves were being transported by middlemen, along with a consignment of tobacco and palm produce, from Nwaubani Ogogo's hometown of Umuahia to the coast.
My great-grandfather apparently did not consider it fair that his slaves had been seized.
Buying and selling of human beings among the Igbo had been going on long before the Europeans arrived. People became slaves as punishment for crime, payment for debts, or prisoners of war.
The successful sale of adults was considered an exploit for which a man was hailed by praise singers, akin to exploits in wrestling, war, or in hunting animals like the lion.
Igbo slaves served as domestic servants and labourers. They were sometimes also sacrificed in religious ceremonies and buried alive with their masters to attend to them in the next world.
Slavery was so ingrained in the culture that a number of popular Igbo proverbs make reference to it:
  • Anyone who has no slave is his own slave
  • A slave who looks on while a fellow slave is tied up and thrown into the grave with his master should realise that the same thing could be done to him someday
  • It is when the son is being given advice that the slave learns
The arrival of European merchants offering guns, mirrors, gin, and other exotic goods in exchange for humans massively increased demand, leading people to kidnap others and sell them.

How slaves were traded in Africa

A Group Of Captured Africans Being Led Away By A White Slaver. From L'univers Illustre Published In Paris In 1868.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
  • European buyers tended to remain on the coast
  • African sellers brought slaves from the interior on foot
  • Journeys could be as long as 485km (300 miles)
  • Two captives were typically chained together at the ankle
  • Columns of captives were tied together by ropes around their necks
  • 10%-15% of captives died on the way
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
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Resisting abolition

The trade in African people continued until 1888, when Brazil became the last country in the Western hemisphere to abolish it.
Image of slave
We think this trade must go on.That is the verdict of our oracle and our priests"
King of Bonny
19th Century
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When the British extended their rule to south-eastern Nigeria in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, they began to enforce abolition through military action.
But by using force rather than persuasion, many local people such as my great-grandfather may not have understood that abolition was about the dignity of humankind and not a mere change in economic policy that affected demand and supply.
"We think this trade must go on," one local king in Bonny infamously said in the 19th Century.
"That is the verdict of our oracle and our priests. They say that your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God."
Meeting at the church Missionary Society was founded. The Society was founded in Aldersgate Street in the City of London on 12 April 1799. Most of the founders were members of the Clapham Sect, a group of activist evangelical Christians. They included Henry Thornton MP and William Wilberforce MP. The founders of CMS were committed to three great enterprises: abolition of the slave trade, social reform at home and world evangelisation.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe Missionary Society was formed in London in 1799 by British anti-slavery campaigners
As far as my great-grandfather was concerned, he had a bona fide trading licence from the Royal Niger Company, a British company that administered commerce in the region in the last quarter of the 19th Century.
So when his property was seized, an aggrieved Nwaubani Ogogo boldly went to see the colonial officers responsible and presented them with his licence. They released his goods, and his slaves.
"The white people apologised to him," my father said.
Adaobi's fatherImage copyrightADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI
Image captionAdaobi's father, Chukwuma Hope Nwaubani, lives on land that was owned by Nwaubani Ogogo
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Slave trade in the 20th Century

Acclaimed Igbo historian Adiele Afigbo described the slave trade in south-eastern Nigeria which lasted until the late 1940s and early 1950s as one of the best kept secrets of the British colonial administration.
While the international trade ended, the local trade continued.
"The government was aware of the fact that the coastal chiefs and the major coastal traders had continued to buy slaves from the interior," wrote Afigbo in The Abolition of the Slave Trade in Southern Nigeria: 1885 to 1950.
He added that the British tolerated the ongoing trade on political and economic grounds.
Engraving depicting slaves being sold for cowries in AfricaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBritish traders were at the heart of the slave trade, before the UK government abolished the trade
They needed the slave-trading chiefs for effective local governance, and for the expansion and growth of legitimate trade.
Sometimes, they also turned a blind eye rather than jeopardise a useful alliance, as seems to have been the case when they returned Nwaubani Ogogo's slaves.
That incident deified Nwaubani Ogogo among his people. Here was a man who successfully confronted the white powers from overseas. I have heard the story from relatives, and have read about it.
It was also the beginning of a relationship of mutual respect with the colonialists that led to Nwaubani Ogogo being appointed a paramount chief by the British administration.
He was the government's representative to the people in his region, in a system known as indirect rule.
How the UK abolished slavery
  • 1833Parliament outlawed slavery in most British colonies
  • 1834Law took effect
  • 800,000slaves were freed
  • £20mallocated to pay for "damages" suffered by owners
  • 0compensation for freed slaves
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
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Records from the UK's National Archives at Kew Gardens show how desperately the British struggled to end the internal trade in slaves for almost the entire duration of the colonial period.
They promoted legitimate trade, especially in palm produce. They introduced English currency to replace the cumbersome brass rods and cowries that merchants needed slaves to carry. They prosecuted offenders with prison sentences.
"By the 1930s, the colonial establishment had been worn down," wrote Afigbo.
"As a result, they had come to place their hope for the extirpation of the trade on the corrosive effect over time of education and general civilisation."
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Working with the British

As a paramount chief, Nwaubani Ogogo collected taxes on behalf of the British and earned a commission for himself in the process.
He presided over cases in native courts. He supplied labourers for the construction of rail lines. He also willingly donated land for missionaries to build churches and schools.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
My great-grandfather is renowned for his business prowess, strong leadership, immense contribution to society, and advancement of Christianity"
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Nigerian journalist
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The house where I grew up and where my parents still live sits on a piece of land that has been in my family for over a century.
It was once the site of Nwaubani Ogogo's guest house, where he hosted visiting British officials. They sent him envelopes containing snippets of their hair to let him know whenever they were due to arrive.
Nwaubani Ogogo died sometime in the early 20th Century. He left behind dozens of wives and children. No photographs exist of him but he was said to have been remarkably light-skinned.
In December 2017, a church in Okaiuga in Abia State of south-eastern Nigeria was celebrating its centenary and invited my family to receive a posthumous award on his behalf.
CertificateImage copyrightADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI
Image captionNwaubani Ogogo donated land to Christian missionaries
Their records showed that he had provided an armed escort for the first missionaries in the area.
My great-grandfather was renowned for his business prowess, outstanding boldness, strong leadership, vast influence, immense contributions to society, and advancement of Christianity.
The Igbo do not have a culture of erecting monuments to their heroes - otherwise one dedicated to him might have stood somewhere in the Umuahia region today.
"He was respected by everyone around," my father said. "Even the white people respected him."