Monday, 19 March 2018

Terrifying statistic

Few people will be unaware of this issue, but Peterson is particularly good at bringing out just how important and intractable the problem is. Perhaps not terrifying because we live with it, but far bigger than most of the problems we are supposed to worry about.

A related problem is political honesty. Do we lay this problem on the political table and accept it as an intractable fact of life? Behind closed doors senior bureaucrats may be doing just that, but should the issue be brought into the open? If so then many members of the chattering classes will be outraged and deny that it exists or they will tout it as another government failing, implying as ever that it doesn't have to be a government failing if only enough money is spent on it.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Spring arrives early

Thanks to global warming, spring seems to have arrived early here in Derbyshire. Can't be my fault, I recycle yogurt pots. Is it you?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The BBC, education and poisoned air

Andrew McKie writes in CapX

James Purnell, the BBC’s Director of Radio and Education and a former Labour Cabinet Minister, announced the other day that the Corporation’s primary educational “mission” was to be on “improving social mobility across the UK”.

The BBC’s significant track record on producing valuable educational content – from its collaborations with the Open University to programmes such as Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, or indeed whole channels, such as BBC Radio 3 or CBBC, which Ms Rock used to run – shouldn’t alter the fact that the “mission” of education is education. In other words, to instruct and inform, to teach and to train.

However valuable it may be to the individual and society as a means of improving income, productivity, personal choices, social mobility or a whole host of other desirable things, the provision of education is not, and should not be, affected by these considerations, but by the quality of the education offered.

As a contrast to the BBC's supposed educational function we have this from the BBC itself.

MPs have demanded an end to the UK's "poisonous air" in an unprecedented report from four Commons committees.

The Environment, Health, Transport and Environmental Audit committees want a new Clean Air Act, and a clean air fund financed by the motor industry.

They are also demanding a faster phase-out of petrol and diesel cars - currently set for 2040.

The government said air pollution had improved significantly since 2010 but there was "more to do".

MPs have been frustrated by the response from ministers, who have promised to publish a comprehensive clean air strategy later this year.

Their report says: "Air pollution is a national health emergency resulting in an estimated 40,000 early deaths each year, costing the UK £20bn annually.

"It is unacceptable that successive governments have failed to protect the public from poisonous air.

So much for education. The BBC could have pointed out that our air is obviously not poisonous in any rational sense of the word. Cities may in certain locations and at certain times of the day have unacceptable atmospheric pollutant levels. These levels may or may not have health consequences - it isn't easy to tell let alone quantify.

If the BBC had a spirit of education for its own sake it would be more honest than this report indicates. It would identify rhetoric, uncertainties and pressure groups involved in the debate. It would not quote Greenpeace as an authority on any environmental issue.

But it doesn't identify environmental rhetoric and it does quote Greenpeace and this is why it may as well be closed down. 

Friday, 16 March 2018

It isn’t new is it?

The philanthropy was what he most hated: all these expensive plans for moral forcible feeding, for compelling everybody to be cleaner, stronger, healthier and happier than they would have been by the unaided light of Nature...

Don't you think it's glorious to belong to the only country where everybody is absolutely free, and yet we're all made to do exactly what is best for us?

Edith Wharton - Twilight Sleep (1927)

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The land of official insolence

He makes you feel that you are once more in the land of official insolence, and that, whatever you are collectively, you are nothing personally.

William Dean Howells - Their Wedding Journey (1872)

Insolent individuals we may escape, avoid, ignore or deal with in any number of ways. Official insolence though, insolence as a political instrument, as an indicator of inescapable power - that kind of insolence is not so easily avoided. It is corrosive too, perhaps more insidiously corrosive than we ever imagine.

Assuming it was officially sanctioned, the recent Russian poisoning incident seems to be an example of official insolence. It highlights a difference between Russia and the West which will be noted by millions.

Or maybe that is a reason to be cautious when assuming that this was sanctioned by the Russian government. Clumsy insolence does not seem to be one of Vladimir Putin's characteristics.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Duke

Fear seized upon the shepherd-boy: the Duke was Jove himself to the rural population, whom to offend was starvation, homelessness, and death, and whom to look at was to be mentally scathed and dumbfounded. 

Thomas Hardy – What The Shepherd Saw (1913)

Hardy’s story has a shepherd boy alone at night in the shepherd’s hut keeping watch on the sheep. From the hut window he sees the Duke in the moonlight and his immediate reaction is to stay out of sight. Nothing good can come of making himself known to such a powerful aristocrat in mysterious circumstances.

This is one of those quotes which stayed with me for years, an insight into a grim reality of agricultural life not so long ago. There is something distinctly criminal about such a level of personal power over other people. Hardy’s Duke is not so far removed from a gangland boss living a life of surface respectability when everyone knows they must never cross him. Even being known to him is a risk.

Monday, 12 March 2018

A whiff of nostalgia

The other day found us at a kids’ soft play area near to closing time. A young staff member was clearing up the mess of the day, setting tables and chairs straight, collecting rubbish and giving the tables a wipe.

She was a least three stone overweight and doing the job at about a third of the rate I would done it. Probably a crap temporary job on minimum wage, but she reminded me of the famous British Rail slouch from the pages of railway history. 

Excuse me, when is the next train to Perdition?

I believe Jeremy Corbyn wants to bring it all back, the nostalgic old coot.