Saturday, May 28, 2022

WEEKENDER: Barking Mad, by Wiggia

There have been two serious cases of dog attacks on humans this week alone resulting in death.

This is an escalating problem, brought about by several factors: the risible Dangerous Dogs Act that only appears to come into force after an attack by breeds that should not exist; and the ever growing belief in the modern world that one has to be noticed, not by actually achieving anything of value but by being seen, whether with a stupid haircut, assorted bad tattoos that require the owner to wear shorts in the winter so everyone can ‘marvel’ at the art work(!), deliberately loud vehicle exhausts so you know when x is passing or arriving, ditto the open window music aficionados who insist you share their taste in whatever is being played at full volume, plus various other disfiguring acts to face and body that only the demented could find attractive but make you fit to make a Tik Tok video where you can compare notes with others similarly afflicted.
Much of this can very loosely be described as fashion, as in 'what can we do this year to be seen with/at/doing/wearing with the least action on actually improving the human condition?'
Dogs sadly fall into this ‘I own a (fill in breed), what do you own?’ category. I am not saying that nobody should not have the choice of breed they desire, apart from the obvious ones that fall into the bloody dangerous category, as long as they know what they are taking on, have the lifestyle to entertain such a purchase and look after them and give them basic training.
Those that know me will also know I always had dogs up to some years ago when circumstances meant I was not in a position to give them the time and effort they require so have been without a dog; sadly, since I also trained dogs for competition for almost twenty years and chaired a committee on dog training at the Kennel Club - not that the latter is of any significance in any of this - and I did see some dogs that despite not falling into the dangerous breeds sector were as individuals dangerous by nature.
There were those then and there are today many who say there is no such thing as a dangerous dog, just poor owners. Only partly true: as with humans there is the odd dog who has a trait that makes him dangerous and in these cases no one should attempt, whoever the owner might be, to re-home such animals as certain virtue signalling organisations would have do.

This chap falls into that category and paid the ultimate price:

The article contains all those things I have spoken of above, including the re-homing of dogs that should be in most cases put down. It is a very misguided way of thinking when you find a home for a potential killer believing all will be well ‘because there is no such thing as a bad dog’.

I remember many years ago talking to a dog trainer in the army. At that time, I can’t say what the situation is now, they had dogs for specific purposes. One of those were the site protection dogs, those that would guard facilities and be based between two sets of fencing; their sole job was to protect the site and attack any intruder. These dogs, all German Shepherd Dogs if my memory still serves me, knew nothing else and unlike the other dogs could not be re-homed when they were retired for safety reasons and were put down.

This from 2012 tells the story of dogs that cannot be safely retrained. If the army can’t retrain them safely then the general public should never be allowed near such dogs, yet those hand-wringing appeasers would have you believe otherwise, always at someone else's expense.

There are even cases of kennels having to take back unsuitable dogs and then re-homing again. It takes a strange mind set to think this is safe practice.


Destroyed after doing their duty: Scandal of 807 guard dogs put down by Army after faithful service

The headline is wrong as it calls it a scandal then goes on to explain why they are put down; nothing scandalous about it, simply safe if sad practice.

Keeping that in mind, why are the general public owning dogs bred to fight in a domestic situation and in most cases with owners who have not a clue what they are doing or taking on. We have all seen the young mum pushing a pram along with a pit bull on a lead alongside; stark staring mad, anything for a fashion statement.

I remember the first time I saw such a stupid scene. It was in Haverhill, Suffolk that was near to the village we lived in at the time. I was waiting outside of a bank for the wife to emerge and on the opposite corner was the stereotype hard case or thought he was, standing wearing boots, a vest, carrying a baseball bat and a pit bull on a lead with the other hand; he was talking to some other dim-looking youngsters who thought it was all terribly macho. That was thirty years ago, we have gone backwards as this is sort of behaviour is an almost commonplace sight in certain areas.

The Dangerous Dogs Act is like dangerous driving, only a good law if it is enforced. Lack of staff and will or both means that nothing will change and lessons will be learned after the event, except they won't.

The act (linked above) is full of will-be’s and cannots, but how do you enforce any of this. You can’t, and the cases of incidents just keep rising.

The issue of breeds that are cross bred deliberately and so are not covered by the legislation is an insurmountable problem that is exploited by those wanting to circumvent the law.

This article in the Mirror from 2020 shows the increase in attacks to that time over a period, and the attacks on children have escalated. This area we can put down to the feckless who believe one of these dogs or any dog can just become one of the family unsupervised; dumb and dumber.

Dog attacks on kids surge with 1,700 reported last year - with 37 babies mauled

The PDSA blames irresponsible owners; yes fine, but there is absolutely nothing there to stop anyone going out and buying any breed on a whim and putting that dog into a potentially life-threatening environment. We live in a time when many simply say 'I will do what I want' without ever considering the consequences. Saying that ‘Buster’ has never been a problem before when we left him alone with our one year old, after the event/death, is not the comment of a sane person but still it goes on.

It is difficult to find any videos other than a few police ones depicting the dim denial responses of owners to any criticism of owning these animals. I would not normally put up Judge Judy as her show is about entertainment value more than the outcome, still this compilation does show the sheer stubborn stupidity of owners of dangerous dogs when faced with the truth:

This one is interesting as it includes a police dog handler who quite frankly shouldn’t be allowed out, a complete idiot.

Is there a solution? The PDSA and the Kennel Club plus others call for education of owners; the naivety of that statement can’t be underestimated as there is no way the hundreds of thousands who buy dogs are obliged to listen to anyone and they don’t.

Yes, it would help if all potential dog owners were obliged to undergo some sort of awareness training regards dog ownership. That is not going to happen and the logistics prohibit it anyway; and will those wanting a banned breed for whatever purpose be listening? As they used to say in my old neck of the woods, 'You're having a giraffe.'

I well remember one case at our dog training club, of a family who brought in their Old English Sheepdog for basic training and bit by bit the sorry tale unfolded: the dog became possessive of the kitchen which he slept in and ended up attacking the family when they tried to enter. As they had young children they were at their wits' end as to what action to take and ended up at the club for help.

On this particular night the dog attacked the owner totally unprovoked, and somebody suggested as it was my breed? that I should take charge of the animal while they went for the first aid kit.

I made the dog sit by my side with no problem then out of the blue after a couple of minutes he went for me. I was prepared for to this and pulled up his lead to limit his movement and the lead broke, allowing the dog to bite me. He then sat back quietly as though nothing had happened. I held his collar while someone went and fetched a suitable lead and I handed the dog back; they had it put down the following week.

The reason I relate this tale is that a dog does not have to be one of the categorised dangerous breeds to be dangerous. Any breed can have the odd genetically flawed version in its ranks; that is nature, regardless of what those may say that never see any fault in any animal. 

Unfortunately you can breed for those characteristics in dogs as you can for any other. Nearly all breeds have come from stock that were bred for some specific task and that includes guard dogs.

Friday, May 27, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Luke Kelly +/- The Dubliners, by JD

Luke Kelly (1940 - 1984) was a founder member and main singer of The Dubliners who were arguably the most popular Irish Folk Band in the world during their heyday of the 1960s. It all began in 1962 in O'Donoghue's Pub, Dublin.

"At the time, Donoghue’s Pub was a very, very quiet pub … civil servants used to be sneaking in from their offices to have small whiskeys and things. Luke Kelly had come home from England and he came into Donoghue's. Ciaron Bourke was studying in the University … he used to play the tin whistle and play the guitar and one night we asked Paddy Donoghue, round about Christmastime, could we play a few tunes. So we played a few tunes. That was it. The music has never stopped in Donoghue's since that day. That was more or less how the whole thing got going—or how the whole thing began."
                                                        — Ronnie Drew.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Double crisis: Ukraine and US leadership

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

60 years on from the Cuban missile crisis, a repeat - but without a strong President

It’s 1962 again: nuclear war is threatened, but this time the US President may not be capable of restraining his aggressive underlings.

Oval Office, October 19, 1962 10 a.m.: the Joint Chiefs of Staff

‘… unanimously agreed on a minimum of three steps: a surprise [bombing] attack against the known missile sites, continued surveillance, and a blockade to prevent reinforce­ments from entering Cuba. […] The chiefs’ objective was to be in the best position to fight a war, while the president’s aim was to select the strategy that was least likely to start a war. The chiefs assumed that a prompt military response (bombing and invasion) would coerce the Soviets, but the president believed it would provoke them to respond in kind.’

World War Three might well have erupted anyway, had it not been for another restraining hand on the Russian side. Eight days after the above Oval Office meeting, a Soviet submarine submerged near Cuba was being depth-charged by US forces with the intention of forcing it to surface; what the Americans did not know was that the sub had a nuclear torpedo and, thinking that the depth charges were lethally intended, the captain was all for going out in a blaze of glory: ‘We’re gonna blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all – we will not become the shame of the fleet.’ That decision required the agreement of three senior officers; two were for it, but the world is indebted to the third, Vasily Arkhipov, who refused.

Is President Biden up to handling military hotheads, as the confrontation in Europe intensifies? It is widely thought that his mental condition is deteriorating, to the point where he cannot even command attentive respect in a White House gathering (5 April 2022):

Like Nature, political power abhors a vacuum and we have to worry about who is taking control behind the scenes, and whether as sixty years ago their groupthink is leading us to potential disaster.

Worse still, should the President be officially deemed unfit for his office, is the seemingly weak or unstable people who are next in line to take over the role.

Kamala Harris, the Vice-President, has been called lazy, incompetent and ‘unable to think on her feet’ by Democrat-supporting US author Lionel Shriver. Could Harris rein in the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

Third on the succession list is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Aged 82, Pelosi is three years older than the President and although her position requires her to be ‘impartial’ she seems incapable of controlling her overt bias towards her political party, ostentatiously ripping up a copy of President Trump’s State of the Union address live on TV behind him (February 2020); and as President Biden gave his own two years later, making a very odd display of grinning and knuckle-rubbing that makes us wonder whether she too, like Biden, may be developing some mental affliction:

At this perilous time the world needs America’s leadership to have strength in depth; it seems we have the exact opposite.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Azov - it's just the start

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

The Sea of Azov is north of the Black Sea, into which it flows. It is vitally important to Russia for trade and her ambition to build a Eurasian Union. 

The river Don, running into the Azov, is linked by canal to the river Volga, which empties into the Caspian Sea. The Caspian is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran - the last also leading to the Red and Arabian Seas. Fifteen years ago the President of Kazakhstan proposed another, bigger canal directly linking the Caspian and Azov Seas and was excited about the growth prospects for central Asia.

The Azov is also important for Russia’s defence, increasingly so since the collapse of the Soviet Union. As one former Soviet bloc country after another joined the European Union and NATO, Ukraine became a ‘red line’ as the last bastion against encroachment by the Western powers. Its eastern region borders the Azov Sea; whoever has mastery of Ukraine has the power to disrupt Russia’s waterborne trade and threaten her sovereign territory. 

Quite possibly, from a Russian perspective the hot war that erupted in Ukraine in February is merely the culmination of a progressive thirty-year cold war plan by Western powers to restrict Russia’s regrowth. For all the talk in the mass media about war crimes and wars of aggression, it should be noted that neither Russia nor the US have signed up to jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court. This filthy business has deep roots and assigning blame would open a can of worms, as the American expression goes; not to mention other adventures in North Africa and the Middle East.

Strategically, Russia has always wanted an all-year-round ice-free port to communicate with the rest of the world. It got one in 1945 with the acquisition of Königsberg (now known as Kaliningrad) in what was then East Prussia. It houses Russia’s Baltic Fleet at the port of Baltiysk; but this Russian Federation territory is separated from the motherland by Lithuania and either Latvia or Belarus, depending on the route chosen.

If the Ukraine shooting war manages to avoid turning nuclear, then perhaps time will reconfigure the cat’s-cradle of this modern Great Game. The gradual shrinking of the Arctic ice will open new maritime opportunities for Russia. Further ahead, if global warming continues, it is possible that both Canada and Siberia will become greener as countries to the south begin to parch and populations suffer and migrate en masse. A century from now, the current military confrontation will seem a mere spat by comparison with the northern hemispheric disruption to come.

Monday, May 23, 2022

The Beach Master

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Lizard Point in Cornwall is mainland UK’s most southerly edge. Here, a few years ago, a fat rogue of a seal called Woody used the back of a boat as his sunbathing platform and capsized it. There are postcards in the gift shop showing him at it again, with what looks like a cheeky laugh.

We asked about him on this visit; he still comes but isn’t here at the moment. He goes up north each year to fight the local seals there in pursuit of a harem and comes back with more scars.

The shop owner says the dominant seal will chase off the other males to enjoy his brides in peace. The ‘beach master’ here is Tom, though the owner’s favourite is Yogi.

Maybe Woody’s time will come in another season.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Chinese real estate and superstition

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

YouTube vlogger and old China hand ‘Serpentza’ tells us something new about China’s ‘ghost cities.’ But first a brief overview:

Ordinary Chinese people are now able to save money - something undreamed of a couple of generations ago. 70% of it is in real estate, because other investment vehicles are illegal (e.g Bitcoin) or risky (e.g. the frequently crashing stock market.) Investors look to buy and sell apartments, not live in them. There are some 65 million units standing empty.

The Chinese government supports the property market as a form of savings. Serpentza says it’s worth an estimated $60 trillion, or c. 30% of China’s GDP. So it is a very important element for the government also. To keep the people happy the CCP tinkers with the market, dropping interest rates (even to zero) and adding other incentives, to keep it buoyant.

On the other hand, the government is concerned about the expansion of debt. The property developers buy land and materials and pay their employees and contractors on credit; when the State tightened that borrowing it made the developers insolvent, hence e.g. the crisis at Evergrande, which owes $300 billion.

Oddly to us, the apartments are unfinished. This is not because of a residential property collapse as in the Great Financial Crisis in 2010. Paradoxically, if the owner were to complete his investment apartment its value would actually decrease.

The reason, explains Serpentza, is superstition. If someone buys one of these apartments fully equipped and furnished he will inherit the previous owner’s (or tenant’s) bad karma. For the Chinese this magical taint financially marks down a completed property.

A mild version of this instinct may exist in us, too - how many housebuyers can’t wait to modify their new purchase, however nicely presented, to put their own mark / imprint their personality on it? But in our world, nice houses are worth more than semi-wrecks.

As the trend for mass population movement from Africa and the Middle East towards the UK and Europe gathers pace, perhaps there is something to discuss between us and the Chinese…

Manchester bombing 2017 and a dream

We were in the ancient port town of Rye, West Sussex, staying at the Hope Anchor Hotel up a cobbled street at the top of the town. We'd topped off our celebration with some overpriced whiskies in the small bar downstairs.

The weather was beautifully warm - almost too much so for our non-airconditioned room - and so to bed and a heavy sleep.

I very rarely have nightmares, and never one like this. It was blood, blood everywhere, a dream coloured red. It was horrible and felt significant.

When I woke next morning, shaken, I turned on the TV as much to restore banal normality as anything, and got rolling news on a suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena the night before, killing and wounding many children as well as adults.

I don't claim psychic powers, but to me the dream seemed connected; as though a signal had been broadcast, of outrage at being robbed of life so early and unexpectedly.

I remember reading that many people contacted the FBI before the 9/11 attacks, with descriptions and drawings of dreams and visions that troubled them enough to make that effort; it's hard to find links on the search engines now.

Some will hurry to discount all this; but then there are two kinds of explanations: ones where you come up with various hypotheses and test them to see which one fits best; and ones where any explanation will do and no evidence is required so long as it explains away the phenomenon, like putting St Paul's blinding light down to an epileptic fit, despite there being no reference to his ever having had another one before or since.

I just don't know.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

WEEKENDER: We’ll Have to Kill Him, by Wiggia

Anyone who has watched it’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, will have viewed the scene where Jonathan Winters loses it and destroys Ray and Irwin's garage. At one point in desperation Ray turns to Irwin and says “We will have to kill him.” They fail, of course.

This last week has been a bit like that. After my last piece on the WHO it appears many have grasped what is being proposed and have come to the same conclusion. Naturally many who have a stake in this madness have given us a watered down version of the treaty and said it is not yet written in stone.
That may well be, but as the general public have no say in this it will be too late should the ultimate version be put into effect.

Still as a reminder of what we are up against, further statements and videos have come to light.

Remember this as a starter, later to become a classic reverse ferret and we are supposed to believe in the science…

Naturally no one mentions the dubious head of the WHO, one  Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian with a rather chequered past - see under Election Campaign and other matters.

And needless to say he has a close affinity with a certain Klaus Schwab…

Two people I would not trust to run a food bank let alone world affairs, yet world leaders flock to their gatherings.

With the Chinese having a major input and Bill Gates treating the WHO as a subsidiary of his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as he funds most of it, this is not an impartial organisation despite being under the ever more useless United Nations. We have every right to be worried.

Neil Oliver, as usual, sums it up better than most:

The pandemic has certainly afforded these organisations the opportunity to advance their cause while most of the world had other matters to attend to and still does.

From a personal point of view I can see a trend that started near the beginning of the pandemic, and that was the distribution of vaccines by the richer countries to the poorer ones. Looking after our own looks ever more so last year. You can guarantee a ‘fair’ distribution of vaccines paid for by us will be baked into any treaty and signed up to by bankrupt states.

This fair distribution of wealth and everything else is behind the WEF agenda. The ‘you will own nothing and be happy’ phrase touted by Schwab doesn’t sound quite the ramblings of a looney in the Swiss Alps any more rather the beginning of the great reset, whatever that might be. Far too many of our elected leaders seem happy to play ball with unelected individuals, organisations and have them on board.

It will be interesting to see if anyone who is supposed to represent us will actually mention any of this?

Elsewhere the NHS continues its downward spiral with reports of crumbling infrastructure everywhere. Nothing new in this, we are the nation of crumbling or non-existent infrastructure as I pointed out in a previous article. With the vaults empty we can only hope the government does not revive the disastrous PFI initiative in an attempt to look good before the next election.

The Hospital in Kings Lynn not far from here is a classic example of a building not fit for purpose and hasn’t been for decades. 

This is one of three local hospitals built in the Seventies to a price! And all have a concrete with a best before date that has long past.

Must be reassuring to lie in a bed post op wondering if the ceiling is going to collapse. Envy of the world, hmmmm!

It beggars belief that without a new hospital very soon bills could come in to this level to maintain the current structure.

“The QEH has been given £20m by the government for urgent repairs. Its roof will cost an estimated £550m to maintain for another 10 years - almost as much as the cost of building a new hospital.“

Like the potholes, putting off the inevitable always costs the taxpayer a lot more.

Bureaucracy has doubled since the outbreak of the virus we are told. With the NHS top heavy anyway in this area, are we surprised? Front line staff meanwhile remain static in a population that is increasing by a minimum of half a million a year with migrants.

Even the BMA, normally anti anything the government recommends, has acknowledged the fact that we are overburdened with pen-pushers.

They also have had some damning reports on hospitals ‘never’ events which are on the rise. Strange choice of word, 'never', when it keeps happening, but still.

The NHS are also guilty of cooking their own goose. With waiting lists getting ever longer for everything and no sign of an end game, they then advertise for people to come forward with problems such as a possible cancer; they get a large response because they have failed to treat anyone for two years then tell the same people they will have to go on the ever-lengthening waiting lists. True, they are stuffed, but advertising as though one can come forward and get treated when the truth is something else does seem to be a waste of money and just virtue-signalling.

Yes, of course people are coming forward: you asked them to.

It has been yet another good week for the non stop nonsense we call news these days. I finish with Nancy Pelosi, that plastic pneumatic octogenarian still tottering around on six-inch heels who has threatened through her dentures to cancel the trade deal between the USA and our nation if the changes to the NI protocol go ahead.

I am pretty sure she has no idea about any of it other than what she has been briefed on and as there is no trade deal to cancel as they won't give us one anyway she can be ignored for what she is, another addled politician hanging on for what can be leached from the nation.

Two of a kind, how did we get here…?

Perhaps Ray and Irwin were correct, there is only one way out of this as they suggested in the opening clip; but they will have to use the plural.

Friday, May 20, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Tom Petty, by JD

 Tom Petty (1950 - 2017) and the Heartbreakers: (the final lineup, 2017)
: Mike Campbell, guitar
: Benmont Tench, keyboards
: Scott Thurston, guitar keyboards harmonica backing vocals
: Ron Blair, bass guitar
: Steve Ferrone, drums

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Bump, by JD

Last Friday (the 13th!) I was checking emails and then browsing for more music videos and I felt something on my head. Put my hand there and it was blood, lots of it. What the .....

I grabbed a small hand towel which very quickly turned red. I realised that I must have had another epileptic seizure, first for ten years, because there had been a momentary very intense 'aura' surrounding the screen and a blurring of vision. I had fallen off my chair, banged my head on something and then got back onto my chair without any memory recall of what happened. That pattern has happened before where I had a blip in my vision similar to seeing a film projector jump a frame in the reel.

So I dialled 999 and called for an ambulance after explaining the situation and two paramedics arrived within about twenty/thirty minutes. They went to a house further up the street but I was by then sitting at my open front door and I went out and waved them back down the street. They patched me up as best they could and loaded me up into the ambulance. They had a quick word with my neighbour who had just then got back from work and away we went with siren blaring and they delivered me to Cramlington Emergency care hospital. Meanwhile I'm lying there trying to work out what had happened.

They wheeled me into the 'arrivals lounge' which is just a long row of curtained off beds, a bit like a field hospital. Doctor arrived and started to assess the damage and eventually I ended up with ten stitches in my scalp. Must have been a hell of a clout to leave such a deep and extensive wound (but more of that later)

Waited for a while longer and then they moved me onto a ward, told me not to move or try to get up. They checked my BP which was dangerously low and eased me onto a waiting bed then threw a pair of NHS 'luxury' pyjamas which turned out to be 'one size fits all' in style. Almost wearing these ill fitting garments I lay on the bed while a nurse put my bloody (literally) pullover and shirt into a bag. 'Bloody' trousers and not so bloody underwear were on a chair in the bath/WC.

The style at Cramlington is a circle of individual rooms radiating from the central nurses desk area. They brought some food and the essential cuppa char and then checked my BP again which was too high this time and then the usual fussing about and sundry poking and examining etc and I just lay there and waited. Not much else happened, nothing of importance that I remember anyway. Around 3 in the morning nurse wheeled in the BP machine and it was 124/77 which is good. All subsequent BP measures were in a similar range so perhaps my BP problem has been resolved accidentally. Well, you never know!

Saturday morning and weetabix for breakfast. Where's the all-day-breakfast? That comes at lunchtime. Well it's obvious innit. They wheeled me around for a CT scan of my brain and later another room another machine for a chest X-ray. And then more waiting around lying on the bed and talking to the various nurses who wandered in and out to do whatever they were doing. Eventually a proper consultant arrived and he turned out to be better than average simply because he was willing to say "I don't know." which was one of the three options for what had happened to me; the other two being the epileptic seizure and a diabetes related episode. Finger prick for diabetes being one of the tests the nurses were doing.

And then they signed all the bits of paper for my discharge. While I was sitting waiting for one of the nurses to put a fresh dressing on the head wound I was idly peeling away the tapes around the cannula on my hand which had not been necessary but they do it as a matter of routine. I had managed to extract the valve and the needle without doing any damage to the skin or hand just as a nurse came in to do it. She told me off and said something about germs as she put a plaster on. Oh, I've met lots of germs in my life the only germ that worries me now is this one -

And the into an ambulance home wearing my bloody trousers and the jacket of the bile green NHS pyjamas, carrying the bloody pullover and shirt in a bag. And back in time for the end of the Cup Final which was as bad as my sore head.


I think I've worked out what happened. Looking at the mess on the floor which now resembles a Jackson Pollock painting, I must have fallen off the chair and cracked my head on the radiator, ending up lying on the floor. That would explain why the backs of my pullover and shirt were soaked in blood and the front was splattered with blood dripping from the wound. I cannot remember falling or getting back up. My auto-pilot, the subconscious part of the brain which controls the functioning of everything in the body, took over and restored me to the last known conscious position before switching me back on. That is my understanding of it and is the best way I can explain it. If anyone has some other way to describe it I would be glad to hear it.

That was very strange sensation and explains how I didn't realise anything had happened until I felt that trickle of blood from the wound. The more I think about the auto-pilot function and how it works the more I realise that those who advocate the fusion of man and computer, the transhumanists, are insane. They haven't the faintest idea of what they are dealing with. The brain is not a computer, in fact it is nothing like a computer or any other mechanical device. I have learned a little bit from my experience with epilepsy; enough to know that I haven't the faintest idea of what goes on inside my head or anybody else's head! And neither does anyone else.

So it must have been an almighty blow on the head which is why they kept me in hospital and why the nurses were so keen to monitor my movements to the toilet and back.

The nurses were very good and there seemed to be a lot of them. One of the more senior nurse offered to take a photo of my wound as a souvenir; cheeky monkey! I talked to her quite a lot and I directed her to visit Broad Oak Magazine where she would find lots of wonderful posts. And during my brief stay I picked up a 'vibe' of exasperation with the management and stupid systems of the NHS. Just a few comments now and then which I overheard. It is the nurses who keep it running, the management is an impediment.

I rang my GP Monday morning to arrange for a nurse to call and inspect and clean up the wound, there had been a bit of leakage with a trickle of blood onto my scalp. A nurse arrived about twenty minutes after I had phoned. She said she had been doing her rounds and received a text message or something and she added me to her list. She cleaned the wound and changed the dressing and arranged to return the following monday.

When I read some of the tales about the NHS and people's experiences it can be alarming even frightening at times. I have had my own bad experiences to add to the list. But at the moment I seem to be blessed with the prompt arrival of the ambulance on friday and with a very good GP, having ditched the previous GP two or three years ago, plus a day visit to the local hospital recently has shown it to be much improved since I was last there about ten years ago. The previous GP once told me that the NHS has many problems but money is not one of them. A guarded reference to the NHS management, obviously. We deserve better.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Education and the crab bucket

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Stupidity is not the greatest barrier to achievement...

Discworld author Terry Pratchett said that those who want to get on are held back by others who try to keep things as they are, like crabs hanging on to each other as one is hoisted out of the catcher’s bucket.

This is true in school. Those who know they will never be top of the class will find ways to prop up their self-respect, either by disruptive behaviour or by forming a cosy clique of failures. 

Within this they may accept a leader. In a class I taught, it became clear that one individual was gathering a group about him and making underperformance a cool thing. How to prove it, and what to do?

A senior colleague told me about sociograms (see here for an example.). So I gave everyone a slip on which they were to write two names: one, the person they would like to sit next to in the classroom, and the other, which person they would nominate for form captain (boys for a boy, girls for a girl.) Obviously, this would test for empathy and respect.

Then I drew a diagram based on the results. The subgroup of underachievers became plain, with the suspected leader right at the centre. The clincher was that I wrote next to each person’s name their grades for effort (yes, you can tell, roughly) and attainment. This showed that the poorer the student, the more closely they linked themselves to the Leader, who was the poorest of all.

When I showed this to my colleague, he discussed it with school management and they decided to remove this negative influence; but instead of shifting him to a less able group, they moved him up to a class of higher achievers who were success-oriented and not minded to buy into his mission to spread failure. 

Mixed-ability schooling may sound socially just and non-discriminatory, but has this tendency to form clustered resistance to maximising potential. If the teacher aims material and tasks at the middle, there will also be more able pupils who can do the work with little effort and leave themselves time to mix with Joe Cool the Charming (or excitingly Rebellious) Failure, who has developed his social skills instead.

This particular school was a ‘comprehensive’ but the classes were not. Pupils would be regularly assessed to decide which of three broad bands of ability they fell into, and within that, which sets they should go into for Maths and English. This encouraged the more able to compete with each other, and reduced the demoralisation of others by sparing them close working with the upper element. It wasn’t perfect - children would still know what band and set they were in - but better than a pedestrian educational mishmosh. There are worse things than ‘I know my place.’

An exceptional teacher might possibly handle a very wide spread of ability in one class, but by definition such people are in short supply; I think it was Brecht who said that you can’t have an army exclusively composed of heroes.

Key to  a successful school is discipline - and this is where management earns its corn. Teachers will vary in their pedagogical skill, but students need to know that if they take on one they are taking on the whole establishment. 

Unfortunately, for some time they have been able to do that last; I left teaching in 1989 and when I returned ten years later I was astonished at the rudeness and sense of entitlement of young people in schools; it may have had something to do with the Children Act of 1989:

“Central to this was the idea that children’s wishes and feelings must be taken into account when making decisions that affect them. Traditionally, parents were seen to have rights over their children, but the Act reversed this stating that children had free standing right.”

I have been looking online for a speech by someone at a political conference who said children were roaming the corridors ‘drunk with power’; very oddly, neither Google nor Bing has helped me find it.

But I can give an example of what happens as a result of this empowerment. A friend went from the disciplinarian school where I used to work, to another in the south-east where the management instructed the staff, as a standing order, not to confront students. During a surprise visit by Ofsted the inspectors saw the children running in from breaktime yelling and with fists raised, expecting teachers simply to let them past without comment. The management was ordered to a meeting and fired that day, and the school closed.

The adults need to be in charge.

This is where Katharine Birbalsingh comes in. In 2010 she addressed the Conservative Party conference on how a culture of excuses, of low aspirations and expectations has failed economically poor children, and how the Left’s well-meaning condescension has kept them down; her realisation led her to the ‘shame’ of voting Conservative for the first time in her life:

But she fought back, setting up a ‘free school’ - the Michaela Community School - in a disadvantaged and multicultural part of London. This school is based on a culture of rigid discipline and no excuses.

‘Right-winger’ (i.e. a moderate conservative as perceived by middle-class ‘revolutionaires’) Peter Hitchens fears that ‘progressives’ will seek to bring her down, rather than let her demonstrate that decades of fashionable soft-handed nonsense in education has failed. I do so hope he’s wrong. 

Would it not be ironic to see the lower classes benefit from so-called ‘right-wing’ interventions when the Left’s policies have so clearly worked against their interests? If that seems an unfair characterisation, remember Anthony Crosland’s infamous statement when (Labour) Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1965:

“If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every f*cking grammar school in England. And Wales, and Northern Ireland.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

IQ and racism

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Research involving human behaviour is tricky.

For example, a famous postwar study of London Transport workers was thought to have shown that people in sedentary jobs, such as bus drivers, were more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those whose work involved more vigorous physical activity, such as bus conductors (in the days when a human went round collecting fares from passengers.)

Much later, my GP friend told me, a flaw was discovered: it could be the case that those who intuitively felt their health less robust would choose sedentary roles. So it was possible that despite the large sample of people in the study and the fact that they had the same field of employment in common, like was still not being compared with like.

The notion that IQ is the most important element in success may also have its weaknesses. When the self-styled ‘Masters of the Universe’ bank traders have finally destroyed the economy and are dangling from lampposts like Il Duce the scorecard may read differently. During the Great Financial Crisis one broker is reported to have bought a flock of sheep from a local farmer in order to ensure his family’s survival. Your own imagination will supply a hundred practical difficulties and dangers that could follow from this decision. If he was that clever, why hadn’t he foreseen the crisis and planned for it well ahead of time?

Some maintain that IQ is heritable and that the average level varies according to ethnicity. As to the first bit, Sir Cyril Burt’s research on twins proved it - so people thought, until it was re-examined after his death and judged fraudulent; his notes and records were no help, as it turned out that they had all been burnt. Nevertheless, other studies appear to support the hypothesis.

As for the second assertion, the link just given says ‘The scientific consensus is that there is no evidence for a genetic component behind IQ differences between racial groups.’

This doesn’t stop some people from trying to show otherwise; historian Simon Webb recently released a vlog citing the indirect evidence of a spatial aptitude test applied to applicants to the Royal Air Force. In this white British scored - on average - higher than Afro-Caribbeans and black Africans, but - oh dear - not so well as Chinese. Those of mixed b/w ethnicity scored - on average - in between b&w.

Remember the London Transport study and look for flaws: were the applicants all aiming for the same roles in the RAF? With the same long-term career ambitions? Why did they apply, but not others of their peer group? Who was advising them on career options? Did they (as seems very unlikely) all come from the same kind of family upbringing and expectations, go to the same kind of school?

It may be possible to improve your IQ; though there may also be a ceiling to that, just as you may train to run faster without ever achieving Olympian standards.

But more significant may be factors that permanently lower the individual’s IQ ceiling: ‘poor prenatal environment, malnutrition and disease are known to have lifelong deleterious effects,’ says Wiki. Poor nurture in early years may also hobble the child, which needs both sensory and mental stimulation to foster its development.

Poverty - or relative poverty, inequality - may well be a meta-factor behind many of these factors.

Then there’s the social environment and the development of one’s self-image, but that’s for another day.

Monday, May 16, 2022

IQ - a right-wing issue?

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Cartoon: two mammoths are lumbering along together. One has just stepped on a caveman, squashing him flat, spear and all. The first mammoth says to his mate, ‘Take it from me, brains are overrated.’

There is a theme of IQ threading through right-wing comment on immigration and ethnicity, implying that society is weakened by allowing less intelligent people into the country, or letting them have much of a say in how it runs.

This opens a can of worms, as the saying goes.

Let’s take just one of these worms: the usefulness - or otherwise - of high academic ability.

I’ll give an illustration from somewhere I once taught, an outstanding British comprehensive (all-ability) secondary school. One day, a local businessman phoned the headteacher and said, ‘I want one of your school-leavers to work for me. But he must have an O-level in maths.’ The old Ordinary-level examination was aimed at the top 20 percent of ability.

‘I’m happy to recommend someone for you,’ said the Head, ‘but why is the O-level necessary?’

‘He’ll be working in the storeroom, checking stock levels.’

‘You don’t need an O-level to do that.’

‘No, I really must insist, I won’t have someone who can’t count.’

‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do,’ said the Head. ‘I’ll send you a copy of an O-level maths paper and you tell me if that’s the level of skill you need for the job.’ This he did.

Next day the businessman was back on the phone. ‘I looked at that paper you sent me and I couldn’t understand the first two questions. I’ll go by what you say.’

So the Head recommended a youngster from the C band - the bottom quarter of the school, which then streamed children by broad ability. This lad was perfectly able to do something as simple as counting, but even more importantly he had a perfect record for attendance and punctuality, and was always smartly turned out, affable and obedient.

It was a perfect match, and got secure employment for someone who might easily have been overlooked because of daft selection criteria. Someone much brighter would have been climbing the walls in frustration and boredom after only a few weeks in the job.

The rat-race wind-up slogan says "Aptitude plus attitude equals altitude"; this misses the point that not everybody can, or should aim for the top.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Warning signs

There are intermittent shortages of foodstuffs in supermarkets; now I hear from more than one source that they have noticed the sell-by dates on fresh fruit and veg have gotten much shorter and the perishables are looking less than pristine; presumably stocks are running low.

We already know that the harvest in Ukraine is likely to be badly affected by the war there. This post outlines some of the other problems upcoming:

Gonzalo Lira is predicting economic collapse and hyperinflation (25%- 35% in Europe 'minimum').

P.S. The Prime Minister has deferred the banning of 'Buy one, get one free' offers in supermarkets, citing the difficulties of poor families. The middle-class finger-waggers are protesting that BOGOF is linked to obesity. 

On the other hand a friend told us the other night he has seen mothers bringing used clothes into a shop in exchange for money so their children can buy lunch in school.

Perhaps it is time for overprivileged lifestyle lecturers to get their tanks off poor people's lawns. If the Goodies want people to be slim and healthy they should campaign for better terms of international trade so that the lower classes can earn a decent living.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

WEEKENDER: The WHO, by Wiggia

                                           Or maybe we will………...

It appears our Churchill look alike! PM is about to sign up to the World Health Organisation’s proposal published in March for a global mandated response to any new pandemic…

If he does agree to sign or has done so already, this is another instance of a sovereign country giving powers to a world-wide organisation that the people of this country have no say in or any connection with. There has been no discussion in Parliament has been forthcoming, the health secretary has been mute on the subject, and putting the notion to the people is obviously not considered to be necessary. There is not little point in leaving the EU if you jump back in with someone else proposing blanket controls we have no say in.

You can guarantee it will involve large sums of cash, but Bojo is good at handing out our money to all and sundry. As someone succinctly put it:

“The gibbering Buffoon says we can't spend our way out of trouble, he made a good job of spending our way into trouble. “

One would like to think there would be a more cautious response to any future pandemic being handled in the same way as the world wide failures in combatting Covid. The one-eyed, tunnel vision official version of the scientific view that prevailed in that case proved not to be very effective other than in bankrupting nations. It is also very hard to ignore the less costly response in monetary and human terms of the Swedes and the States in the USA that did as well or better by not taking the lockdown route, 

Normally the official reply is ‘lessons have been learned’ but even that damage-limiting utterance has not been heard about the last two years, for good reason: the enormous waste of taxpayers' money on failed Track and Trace, poor PPE, huge sums given to companies with no manufacturing experience at all in the production of PPE, and the fraud that will never be clawed back. The last thing we need is a global organisation applying a one-size-fits-all solution across the world.

It beggars belief that the Swedes have agreed to sign up to this after their own way proved so much less catastrophic, not just in monetary terms but with the ability to maintain general healthcare and avoid the mental illness caused by lockdowns, plus keeping their schools open most of the time; unlike the experience of ourselves and others.

After the very obvious flaws in the way this pandemic was handled, why would any country want to put itself in a straitjacket treaty that prevents any straying from the chosen route? Something here is not right.

With the WEF meeting again in Davos in a couple of weeks with its “young global leaders” such as Trudeau and Macron on board, we are heading for New World Order lite, to be followed (if it carries on this way) by the full Monty. This is would have been sneered at two years ago as simply another conspiracy theory, yet it is becoming more credible as little by little the truth is revealed.

Even members of SAGE are backtracking in the light of damning new contrary evidence now coming to light…

So why would we suppose that the WHO would do any better? The WHO also has Bill Gates on board with enormous funding and ever more say in the WHO's health strategies; he is unaccountable, unelected and yet through his wealth is at the table with world leaders influencing future vaccine programs among other things. Our own Boris has given millions to the Gates foundation. It is wrong, yet this seems to be a universal trend. I have no desire to have my health dictated to by such a person. It should stop now, but he gains legitimacy through the WHO and builds a bigger stage for himself.
He is not a scientist yet is invited to speak on scientific health matters; why?

Here he states that natural immunity with Omicron did the job ahead of any vaccines but he still wants to jab the world endlessly. He is, I repeat, not a scientist - and we have had some pretty rubbish scientists float to the top during this pandemic.

Why has no politician flagged for discussion the prospect of this country signing up to something like this? Nor has or any section of the mainstrean news media; yet they have plenty of time for cake and the Ginger Growler.

Friday, May 13, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Nanci Griffith, by JD

 Nanci Griffith 1953 - 2021.

"Nanci Griffith, the Texan “folkabilly” singer-songwriter, died in August last year at the age of 68, after fighting two different cancers for 25 years. In my decades of writing about contemporary folk music, I’d venture to say there were no performers who possessed more talent than Griffith in the 1980s and early ’90s, when she was at her remarkable best."

Greatly admired by her fellow artists and a devoted army of fans, Nanci Griffith, exemplified a style of musical storytelling with a literary flavour, focusing on the small details of the lives of her characters. Songs such as Love at the Five and Dime and Gulf Coast Highway have become permanent fixtures in the folk-country canon (Griffith described her music as “folkabilly”), and the Grammy award she won for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1994 seemed a long overdue reward for her carefully crafted body of work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Not that I'm prescient: the US proxy war against Russia

JD has kindly drawn my attention to what I said here nearly 4 years ago:

Is Ukraine to be the new Guernica?

Pic: South China Morning Post

Last Friday (31.08.18) Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the "Donetsk People's Republic" (in eastern Ukraine) was killed in a bomb blast, along with his bodyguard. It is claimed that the killers, who are still being hunted, work for the Ukrainian security service.

Unlike in the western part of Ukraine, the population of Donetsk is predominantly Russian-speaking and/or of Russian descent. The breakaway state declared its independence four years ago, but so far has only been formally recognised by South Ossetia.

Under the 2015 Minsk II agreement, Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany brokered a ceasefire and progressive demilitarisation. But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has now cancelled ongoing treaty negotiations, claiming that the assassination is "an open provocation aimed at hindering implementation of the Minsk agreements" and linking it to the recent increase in US sanctions against Russia (announced 8 August) in the wake of the Skripal poisoning case in Britain, which has been blamed on Russia (denied by the latter and not yet forensically proven.)

The Kiev administration has failed to implement Minsk II and last year the United States was saying that the US did not wish to be limited by the agreement and suggested that Kiev should seek an accommodation directly with Moscow. Now the US special envoy for Ukraine has said that Washington could increase arms supplies to Kiev to buttress the country’s naval and air defence forces.

There is some evidence to suggest that the Ukraine has become a testing ground for Western weaponry. A "Ukraine based" firm called LimpidArmor has just announced the extension of a battlefield sensor system from fighter planes to tank warfare:

"The Land Platform Modernization Kit uses four cameras positioned strategically around the tank to create a seamless display of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Crew members wearing the HoloLens headgear would then be able to look around their environment without being hampered by the tank’s heavy armor while also not having to potentially expose themselves to enemy fire."

Although run by a Ukrainian, Mikhail Grechukhin, and conducting its research and development in Kiev, LimpidArmor's headquarters are in Walnut Creek, California. And in March this year the Ukrainian Defence Minister said that the US' supply of anti-tank missiles "opened the door for closer military cooperation in the face of Russian aggression."

Anti-Russian rhetoric was a major feature of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in 2016, to the extent that Russians were getting nervous. When Trump won, it appeared to be a chance to normalise relations and shortly afterwards he was tweeting "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" But since then the US President has seemed to row back, perhaps in response to the sustained campaign by the Democrats to paint Russia as in collusion with Trump to get him his election victory.

Doubtless there is a deep geopolitical game being played, but aside from Mrs Clinton's disappointed hopes one has to wonder what the real motivation may be. Is it really a cold, then a hot war with Russia - now no longer a Communist country, thanks to its people who have every reason not to wish the return of the Reds?

Or is it to rehearse weapons and tactics for war - perhaps by proxy - against another, still Communist, mightier and clearly expansionist potential foe: China? If so, the increasing sophistication of China's defence capabilities ought to give the three-dimensional chess players of Washington pause for thought - see for example this article on the PRC's development of next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles.

Could the "military-industrial complex" (as Eisenhower called it) be endangering us with its hubris?



Monday, May 09, 2022

Gaming democracy

 Can universal-franchise democracy actually work?

In the vlog below, Demirep/Granniopteryx looks at the results of the 5 May UK local elections in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. There the mayoral election of 2014 was declared void and the victor, Lutfur Rahman, banned for five years because of corrupt and illegal practices; Rahman has now stood again under a new political banner - the Aspire Party - and regained his mayoral office.

'Granniopteryx' discusses the potential for gaming the vote by the use of proxy and postal voting in a community where the head of the household can use his traditional authority in the family to influence the casting of votes. She makes the point that this does not happen only with Asians but also, for example, among Greeks. The ability to get together and elect one of your own gives you the chance to go along and ask for favours. (Labour's mayoral candidate was a non-Asian - perhaps a Party blunder, under the circumstances.)

Why are postal votes needed, except for the significantly disabled? It is so easy to vote in person. Voter participation can be affected by the distance to the nearest polling place - 

'The largest impact occurred in lower-salience European elections, with voter drop-off occurring after 500 metres from the polling station; this occurred at 600 metres for local elections. Distance travelled had very little influence on turnout to Parliamentary elections.' (p.8)

- but it is not difficult to get to one in Tower Hamlets. Geographically the borough is smaller than 20 square kilometres yet in 2019 there were 110 polling places - i.e. 5.5 per square kilometre.

Participation in local elections tends to be much lower than for General Elections: in my own constituency - another densely-populated urban one, in Birmingham - the 5 May turnout was only 27%. Yet in this Tower Hamlets it was 42% (and in 2014, almost 48%.) Perhaps the size of the Tower Hamlets mayoral election turnout is because it was not merely for local councillors but for the Big Man running the borough, the Man who can grant your wishes; insinuations of procedural jiggery-pokery may not be necessary to account for it.

By contrast, in the US, I read, some places deliberately make it difficult to vote by setting up polling stations far from population centres and perhaps not even easily reachable by public transport. Those Americans who suspect that the 2020 Presidential election was 'stolen' by late or fake postal votes should, if their concern is that participation should be fair, look at other solutions to accessibility issues.

But even if polls are fairly conducted, what about how those votes are canvassed? The system is set up to make the aspiring politician focus on what voters think (or can be made to think) matters, rather than systemic problems. The tail is wagging the dog; instead of the people calling their leaders to account, political parties have learned how to cultivate the vote. Billions are spent on psephological analysis, focus groups, opinion polling, advertising, lobbying etc - how can good long-term governance arise out of this mess? 

One method currently used to divert the public's attention from domestic policy challenges and cloud their minds with emotion is to wage wars and proxy wars on foreigners. America and Britain are like Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter, happily prepared to eat Ukrainian Oysters until the last is gone. Such a useful distraction from what Americans need; and so good for the arms industry. Instead of a welfare state, the US has opted for a warfare state.

Yes, the US has a welfare system at the moment, but the GOP is pressing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.) For their part the Democrats' plan seems to be to encourage the 'undocumented' immigration of relatively poor people, who may look to the Dems for financial benefits of various kinds. There is no plan either from the Republicans or from the Democrats, to help the indigenous lower classes thrive by protecting their work and wages. 

The people are waking up to this, when not mesmerised by other 'woke' issues or military drum-banging. Was it not the slow-dawning realisation that in the US Red v Blue has become a 'uniparty' scam that led to the election of the unprofessional maverick Trump (with all his faults)? But the Establishment did everything it could to hamper him in office, and does everything it can to bury him in lawfare now. The uniparty wants Business As Usual until the machine breaks down.

Similarly, here in the UK, although the Northern 'Red (socialist) Wall' collapsed in 2019, Granniopteryx notes that it still far from being rebuilt, despite the Conservatives' difficulties in the last couple of years. We are in a wider political crisis in which Labour has failed to make itself credible but as Peter Hitchens says, 'You need something better than the Tories, and soon.'

We must hope that there will be replacements for both parties before it is too late; but how can they possibly replace themselves, and alternatively, how could we do it, without a revolt?