Monday 31 January 2022

The Science Bit

You all know the science bit is bollocks, right? I mean, you don’t buy that skin cream because it contains therapeutic glycine cerameloid pearls, do you? Do you? It has nothing to do with science and everything to do with hope, and if you don’t believe me, try listening to an interesting podcast The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread. It sets out to examine the claims of numerous products, techniques, thinking even, which are marketed using claims which are – well, to call them exaggerated is probably too kind. But here’s a really odd thing that appears to be borne out by actual (not L’Oriel) science. The placebo effect may be increasing.

For many years it has been well know, so much so that nobody can be unaware, that in clinical treatment trials patients given placebos often exhibit therapeutic benefits above the control groups given nothing at all. Less well known, but becoming increasingly apparent, is the nocebo effect whereby patients experience adverse symptoms, such as side effects, when given placebos rather than active treatments. This is due to negative expectations often influenced by factors like healthcare beliefs, the media, the internet and social conditioning.

These two effects also seem to migrate to politics. If you expect a Conservative government to have a positive effect on the economy you may well perceive such effects regardless of whether any measurable benefit is there. And if you believe that the nasty Tories hate the LGBTQIXPALLYDOCIOUS community, it is likely you will be seen out on marches bearing whiny banners saying ‘Something, something, something Tories…”

I have had fun over the last couple of years confessing my ignorance and my largely indifferent reaction to ‘the Covid’. For the majority of the population that is their reaction to politics. Most people really don’t much care what the ‘facts’ are; unless they see measurable differences in their lifestyles neither one side nor the other makes much difference. The majority, if they vote at all, cast their ballot for tribal, familial preferences, which is why most general elections end in anti-climax.

It makes little difference who gets in; if it’s Labour we perceive Labour outcomes, if Tory, then Conservative ones. For many years our political parties have struggled on as homeopathic versions of their original charters, dilutions to the nth degree, harmless at any dose. But imagine the effect if one political party or another actually added some active ingredient to their sugar pill? As a thought experiment, what if whoever wins actually decided to make good on their promises? Imagine the buzz if the decaffeinated versions of our current political parties were to go full-leaded!

Of course, none of this would happen. The revolution we pretend to crave is quietly shelved when reality bites. You can have equality and social justice (whatever the hell that means) just so long as you are happy to work away and pay 99% of your income in tax while most of your neighbours stand idle. Yes, you may have excellent education and superb job prospects, just as long as you recognise that well over 75% of the population are not up to it and you are more likely to be among that majority.

To take strong medicine you must be prepared to suffer the side effects. Politically these may include, but not be limited to: abject poverty, cruelty, injustice, high crime rates, loss of agency, heavy handed policing, racism, sexism, social upheaval, class war and various forms of apartheid. Not the imaginary versions we have now, but the actual things. Is it any wonder we prefer our science diluted to taste?

Sunday 30 January 2022

May your god go with you

Watching Professor Andre Sella’s Faraday Prize lecture on YouTube yesterday  I swear I heard him make a passing reference to James Delingpole, whose climate scepticism is freely aired whenever given the opportunity. And if such an opportunity fails to materialise, he doesn’t take that as any impediment. I believe he has a similar denialist stance on the Covid epidemic, but I became disappointed by him before all this.

It must be quite the annoyance, as a scientist, an expert in your field, to have your life’s work dismissed simply because your conclusions are deemed inconvenient by a mere spectator. I imagine eminent epidemiologists are scratching their heads in dismay as the actor, Laurence Fox, or the fake ‘scientist’ Gillian shit-stirrer McKeith tell whomever will listen, that you are a liar. Their belief trumps, to coin a phrase, your knowledge.

Twas ever thus, but what fascinates me is the journey on which these naysayers embark. We’ve all encountered those who, unable to succinctly show their own calculations, demand that we ‘do some research’ to discover their truth. As a starting point they often post a link to some long-discredited study, or opinion pieces such as young Master Delingpole produce, as a prelude to blocking and thus, in their imagination, winning the argument.

But at what point does a poorly informed scepticism begin to take a deeper hold? How does a furtive fumble through the seedier neighbourhoods of the online world become a mission? And where does the madness really begin? A common theme I’ve noticed is that many of the biggest anti-truth zealots start out with an easy, laissez faire scepticism, but end up as fanatic devotees of cult-like beliefs. This is religious zealot grade madness at work.

Much is made these days about mental health (when all many people really need is an occasional slap to bring them to their senses) but it is often predicated on the false premise that it is never your own fault. Yes, bad things happen to good people, but bad things happen to all people. And very often the very worst of bad things happen to the very worst of people; but this doesn’t make for an easy aphorism. (Although, ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ seems rather apt.) So, in my book, the mental health excuse falls rather flat; you are the architect of your own legacy.

We live in a world where eminence can quickly count for little. A great authority loses all credibility when their personal life is held to be less than acceptable. (And who defines acceptability?) Who cares what the doctor says, when a footballer says different? And the great Andrew Neil must rue the day he helped found GB News, as a result of which he now appears to be on bended knee to the über-woke Channel 4.

Forget objective proof, clinical trials, peer reviews and all that tiresome factual stuff. Nowadays we are in thrall to influencers and the evidence means nothing. I suspect we were always more the biddable acolyte than the sceptical, studious pupil. Instead of a long, hard slog to the top of your trade, all you need now is a leg up the greasy pole, to perch precariously on the top for a few minutes. Make your way to that nebulous podium and the idiots will tag along in their droves until the next dodgy fad takes their fancy. So, if you do plan to hop aboard the next coming theology, do choose your gods wisely.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

In response to those who say, “Oh, come off it, it was just a bit of cake”. Or, “what did you want - for the dogs to be abandoned to the Taliban?” Or “Who cares who paid for the wallpaper?” the complainants are now insisting “We just want to be told the truth. We just want transparency. We don’t want to be lied to.” A shame then that they don’t hold themselves to the same standards when concocting a simple lie about the Foreign Secretary using an expensive ‘private jet’ when she in fact used an official government aircraft manned by the Royal Air Force.

Did you ever tell your kids about Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy? Well there you go. But, you will protest, at that age they need to be protected from the harsh realities of the big, bad world, and a bit of pretend magic does no harm, surely? Would you be surprised if the salesmen of wine companies, while forbidding pilfering, see no harm in helping themselves to their product while wooing new business? Do you really believe that stationery manufacturers don’t covet the odd paperclip?

In many parts of the world – including all those holier-than-thou, Labour-run councils – a backhander, a bung, a little sweetener is an open secret. The wheels of commerce are greased by lies, insider information, nepotism and graft. And nobody bats an eyelid. Why should we hold governments up to a level of scrutiny we rarely manage for ourselves? And what, seriously, is wrong with a leader possessing a few human foibles? Let he who is without sin and all that…

Dare you even imagine a world run by perfect humans? My god, what A sanctimonious, joyless, beige place that would be. We love our pantomime villains, our cads, our rogues; so what is it about petty politics that turns mediocre public figures into arbiters of the greatest virtues? Do they imagine the public applaud their daring quest to uncover the truth, or is it more likely, to paraphrase Colonel Jessop said in A Few Good Men, that they can’t handle the truth?

The latest anti-Johnson hashtag doing the rounds is #ALiarNotALeader and it is predictably being promoted by the same old toothless circus lions who have, no doubt, never in their lives lied to gain any sort of advantage. Hypocrisy, thy name is Davey, Rayner, Starmer, Lucas, Blackford, and so on and so on and so on. The emotional investment alone must qualify them for therapy.

I really hold no candle for Boris Johnson (I feel the need to keep saying this) but don’t you just get bored when the same tired old hacks trot out the same tired old lies of their own? They told the electorate a million times before the election that Johnson is a liar. The electorate voted for him in their millions (and yes, the UK general election IS now a presidential style affair) knowing exactly what they would get.

So what that the Met asked Sue Gray to delay publication? ‘They’ wanted the police involved, but now that they are they cry foul. Establishment fix! Conveniently forgetting, of course, that in this case ‘the establishment’ is their own. Cressida Dick, I’m sure, would be delighted to scupper Johnson. And her boss politico, Sadiq Khan, must be salivating at the chance. I neither know nor care how the police will interpret events, but it isn’t Big Dog who is riding roughshod over democracy here.

Friday 28 January 2022

Same shit, different day.

 Another one of those old blogposts which seems more relevant with each passing day: 

Black Looks

“Doctor, I need to lose some weight”

“Don’t eat anything fatty.”

“You mean cut down on the fry-ups, eat fewer chips?”

“No, you weren’t listening. I said don’t eat anything, Fatty.”

The joke could have been written for Ian Blackford, the corpulent, quivering, jowl-bedecked, mountain of human blubber who makes a fool of himself every week at Prime Minster’s Questions.

In response to the usual inane inquiry from the SNP’s Clown in Residence, this time about ‘birthday cake gate’, the Prime Minster responded with a quip about who had probably eaten the most cake. Blackford – hypocritically, no stranger to breaking lockdown rules himself – was immediately supported by howls of indignation form the opposition benches, as the government rolled in the aisles.

I can’t be the only one who finds it odd that the side (the same old, illiberal, left) whose entire line of persuasion relies on making the ordinary shameful, who criminalise thought itself, is regularly enraged when others do the same. Boris Johnson was accused of what they call ‘body-shaming’, or what the rest of us see as ‘telling the truth’. (Ironic, given that he is being harangued for apparently – quite obviously, in fact – doing the very opposite.)

Fatty! Spotty! Smelly! Weirdo! Freak! The playground insults that, for the most part, spurred individuals on to improve their game are now considered hate crimes. The over-close scrutiny of the vanishingly small incidents of actual harm has become an industry. This industry seeks to define and divide. Every childhood slight has become a legitimised excuse to seek reparation; every insult is now a trigger for mental frailty and a lifelong excuse to do nothing to help yourself.

I very much doubt that the lard-arsed Braveheart gives a shit what Boris said, beyond the extent to which it might be weaponised, but the incident reminds me of a trope often erroneously attributed to François-Marie Arouet  (Voltaire): “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Of course, today, that could mean almost anybody.

Ian Blackford was not available for comment

The only people you ARE allowed to criticise – and without restraint, it seems – are old white men, preferably English ones, so clearly they cannot be in charge. (Oh, god, we’re back to the lizards again, aren’t we?) So, carry on carping; we can take it. While you’re getting angry over nothing, at least you’re not getting in the way of old, white, Englishmen trying their best to fix the society that you broke.

Thursday 27 January 2022

Past blast...

Nothing new here, but this is a blog I published in 2013 and I think it is as relevant today as it was nine years ago.

Try it and see if it fits: 

Long time, no see!

I haven’t blogged for a while, but as Twitter's free speech policy has banned me for a week, for agreeing with somebody else’s free speech, I may as well vent on here for now. I enjoy it, it allows me the space and time that twitter does not, to get my thoughts out there. But it has been an eye-opener, the extent to which people are happy to agree with me, just so long as I agree with them. The diatribe which follows was begun some many weeks ago, but I still think it’s relevant; it’s always relevant.

There are none so blind as those who will not see. This accusation has been levelled at me by an ex long-time follower who thinks I have been gulled by the elite global cabal of paedophile, blood-guzzling, illuminati, royal space lizards who rule our universe. This is an acolyte of the covid cult – those who believe, unswervingly in the ridiculous notion that the lizards are now so bold, so confident in their supremacy, that they can openly perpetrate a global confidence trick in order to coerce all of us to accept some form of slavery.

The form of our enslavement and the reasons behind it are never explained – because there are no reasons, but that never matters to those who believe – in the face of so much evidence against and so little evidence for – that because they think it so, it must be so…

We are small. All of us. To the devotees of globalism, the individual is a grain of sand on a beach comprised of billions. The perils and triumphs of most of us, as individual grains, adds or subtracts nothing to or from the global collage. Yet a collage it is; change enough single ‘pixels’ in the image and the whole image changes. But you must change a lot before it becomes visible. And once you see how the world has changed it is difficult to see how to put it back.

Our world has changed dramatically in the past half a century and the change has accelerated in the last two decades. We have gone from a form of democracy which seemed equitable enough – you don’t like what’s going on, you change the government – to one where no matter who is elected to office, there is but one vision for the future. And what a cold, unfriendly, anti-human vision it seems to be.

Under the banners of inclusion and diversity and fairness and even love, the needs of the harmless individual have been declared selfish and racist and uncaring and greedy. Yet at the same time increasingly fractured individual demands have turned those who believe themselves to be wholesome new world citizens into the new world bullies. Some individual needs are deemed unworthy and ‘unhelpful’, so the majority have become the punchbag of noisy minorities.

As mankind culturally evolved from hunter-gatherer bands to agrarian tribes and thence to feudal landlords and eventually kingdoms, it had held steadfast to the nuclear family. Local communities, comprised of such families established their own identities and their own customs, habits and behavioural expectations. But since the advent of communism and similar ideologies the nuclear family has been attacked and devalued until it is possibly no longer the norm.

What a loss. Now, instead of cleaving to family, village, town and country, we appear to be [dis]united by causes which have the appearance of commonality but often betray the meddling, hands of influencers. Agitators for ‘rights’ have the momentary appearance of freedom fighters but in the main they are just in thrall to the latest fads; as quick as they are hailed as heroes, they dissolve into zeros as the next noisy need makes its voice heard.

I think everybody can feel we are in a time of change. The old certainties have largely gone, and mountebanks everywhere compete for your support. No wonder that a unifying theory, no matter how bizarre, should appeal. But don’t fall for it. Ask yourself how likely it is that some secret plot is being acted out; a plot so dastardly that it offends common decency yet has remained secret for so long.

But there is a precedent for such a fiction. Religion. Notwithstanding the origin argument – big bang or creator – the notion of a controlling deity, benign or vengeful, is an easy sell but impossible to prove. And also, if you really think about it, extremely unlikely indeed. But billions around the world readily give up a certain amount of agency to appease their imaginary being.

You're probably wondering why I asked you all here today...

The solution to the entire conundrum is, I believe, in our own hands… and minds. Whatever the truth of the matter our gods don’t really seem to care very much how we behave; it is we who police our rules and we who order our societies. As ever the answer is not in seeking the benevolence of distant third parties, but looking after number one. Keep yourself safe, be kind to your nearest and dearest and I expect those giant lizards will just leave us alone.