The SNP: decline and fall (17)

I haven’t bothered to write on this since January. Not because there hasn’t been stuff, but it’s getting tedious just documenting new episodes in the already massive catalogue of Nat failure. There’s no shortage really, Eck still hoovering up the roubles on Russia Today, despite recent events, Humza’s general hopelessness, the mysteriously poorly photographed Zoomer march on Glasgow with outrageously exaggerated attendance (which the SNP decided not to attend, wonder why?), the pathetic writhing about how Scots love the EU (they don’t). The list goes on. In fact the SNP obsession with banning things that most voters like is producing negative feedback, amusingly.

Instead I draw the attention of anyone who is interested to a nuanced piece by former SNP insider, Alex Bell, who in recent times has painstakingly deconstructed the whole SNP edifice of winging it and make believe.

Here he is on Miss Sturgeon’s situation:

She has led the devolved administration into a showdown with Westminster. Holyrood says No to the post-Brexit divvy up of powers, Downing Street says Yes. All that matters now is what the Supreme Court says, and what Westminster concludes when the deal is put to the Commons.

We can be pretty sure the court will rule this is a matter for the sovereign government – Westminster – and so force the deal on Holyrood. It is impossible at this stage to say what Westminster will do, given so much is still unknown, and what is known is so confused.

Yet the SNP’s grip is slipping. Not least because Sturgeon is staking her reputation in a fight over devolution, which isn’t even her party’s policy.

The Tory government wants Westminster to hold power over matters such as agriculture and food standards because British nationalists think they’ll need to cut deals in these areas in order to strike new trade partnerships across the world when out of the EU.

Sturgeon and Holyrood, except for the Tory MSPs, want powers returning from the EU to go straight to Edinburgh.  So we are not getting a constitutional crisis over independence and not because Scotland rejected Brexit.

Instead it’s a crisis over devolution. This is, then, not her fight. If she wins, all she has done is secure the devolution settlement. If she loses, she looks too weak to fight her big cause, independence.

All of which sounds terribly dull and fairly inconsequential, but it’s really a reflection on how the Nats’ general policy is to pick fights, lose them, and pick some more. There is no vision being built. Poor Andrew Wilson, a nice, normal person, was tasked a long time ago with producing a coherent long term economic strategy for independence, to replace Eck’s failed oil bunkum. It’s yet to appear.

Alex goes on:

Yet the last thing the indy cause needs is another referendum any time soon. Asking the same question and expecting a different answer is the pop definition of stupid. In the years since the last vote, not a single bone has been added to the skeletal case of 2014. Yet Sturgeon is in the odd position of having weaponised her own supporters.

Doh.

It’s a great piece, and has a painful, if truthful punchline for the current First Minister….She’s in a bad place, and it won’t end well.

stursalm
M&S need some new models
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1001 things wrong with the #NHS (998): Committees

Print
Pretty simple, and universally applicable

The Knife has done lots of formal hospital management, though on the principle of ‘quit while you’re ahead’, I voluntarily stepped down quite a while ago. I don’t hate it, usually, but I prefer clinical work by far, and if I leave this earth having done any good, it’ll be in the latter sphere, by a long way. If you step too far away from the clinical stuff, you start to act and think differently, ego takes over and your peer credibility dies.

That’s guaranteed.

That said, it’s an interesting milieu, not least because of the subterfuge, inconsistency and indecision that abounds, usually combined with declarations of ‘caring’. The much hated private sector – which happens to constitute most of the healthcare in the developed world – would never tolerate the crap that goes on. (For the record, I do no private work.)

And today, as it happens, was one of the most gruesome** management meetings that I’ve ever attended – I won’t bore anyone with the details, but it was actually depressing. It was an absurdly large group attempting to share a process that neither needed it, nor was amenable to it.

Where to go for solace, some reassurance that my negative feelings are in fact appropriate?

Well…….

committee1

….the author is talking about restructuring the playing season for American football. The key quote is “committees are what insecure people create in order to put off making hard decisions”. It’s nice to be inclusive, if possible, but it’s no surprise that the phrase ‘design by committee’*** is never used in  complimentary way.

Even worse than that is that such large unwieldy groupings always contain people with nothing to lose, no axe to grind, and indeed no expertise worth having. As any endocrinologist will tell you, a negative feedback loop is an essential regulatory part of a well functioning system. You need people with what Black Swan author and polymath, Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls ‘skin in the game’ (1, 2). I don’t want my clinical practice parameters decided by a committee of people without skin in the game. Nor would they, if it was their area, and nor would my patients want it.

What’s the answer to this?

Well, here is the same author. I agree wholeheartedly with it, not least that it’s coming on the back of a riff about the uselessness of management consultants (who should be barred from the NHS)…

committee2

…for money, read clinical practice.

You can guess the author, I would imagine

 

**if you want to know how gruesome the NHS can be, this vivid account (spoiler: bad language), gives a fair appraisal of a bad spell. I did not write it!

 

***As advertising pioneer and author of Confessions of An Advertising Man, David Ogilvy said: ‘Search your parks in all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees.’

The damned statistical lies of the NHS (hip replacement edition)

A quick observation. The ‘top nurse’ in NHS England, Jane Cummings, is quoted in today’s Times as follows:

A million more cataract operations or 250,000 hip replacements could be funded if the NHS did not have to pay for appointments that people failed to attend

Of course this is only the latest in many claims about the NHS which appear shocking, eye catching and as one might expect, either unprovable or simply untrue.

A few facts, assuming that Ms Cummings is primarily referring to missed outpatient appointments. Depending on your specialty, very few operative patients fail to attend:

a. Patients who fail to attend are very often patients who shouldn’t even have had an appointment. Many have got better. Many were given appointments ‘just to check’. There is lots of evidence that the clinical yield from an arbitrarily timed clinic appointment is minimal. Who is benefiting here? Do not assume that these appointments were necessary. The fault may lie with the hospital.
b. It depends if your outpatient clinic template already factors in DNA (Did Not Attend) patients. Mine used to. If your clinic is very busy then these absent patients are actually a great relief. If there is a factored in DNA factor and they all do attend, then it creates a real problem. In other words, it’s not always an administrative disaster, just as it’s not always (or ever) a clinical disaster – see point a.
c.  The claim that these DNA’s mysteriously add up to a quarter of a million hip replacements is a classic piece of pseudo-statistical rubbish. It probably emanates from an NHS head office algorithm built on crazy assumptions, or on the specious views of overrated NHS parasites like the oft-quoted ‘charity’ The Kings Fund. The Times article states:
At an average cost of £120 per slot, this indicates that doctors’ time worth about £950 million was wasted last year.

In the real world, in the unlikely event that your clinic finishes early, then you probably do one of the following valuable things: speak to colleagues (including non-medical ones), have lunch, conduct a ward round, review investigations, write to GP’s, make necessary phone calls, answer emails, complete training dashboards online, speak to management and much much more. All necessary parts of the job. What this unexpected ‘spare’ time does not, and cannot equate to is knocking off a quick hip replacement.

Oddly enough it might, if in a parallel universe the NHS had spent a bit more of its already colossal budget on meaningful infrastructure, like operating theatres. There is no shortage of patients who can come in at short notice, and NHS admin staff are now often superbly responsive at  getting hold of patients in a hurry. That is the sort of NHS of which Nye Bevan and William Beveridge would approve. The NHS desperately needs to factor in some free space in both its physical and administrative infrastructures, if it wants that kind of flexibility. I think it should.

Ms Cummings is describing a made up situation that is misleading at best. It appears to be part of a national drive. Some Scottish health boards, for example, are claiming that these DNA’s cost an unlikely £4 million a year, based on back of an envelope calculations.

If, however, you want to save millions of actual cash payouts for work not done, generally speaking, try rescinding the increasingly absurd and profligate New Deal contract.

There’s a suggestion for 2018.

surgery day
….it’s actually a bit more complex than this

The SNP: decline and fall (16)

As 2017 ends, this long running saga is drawing to a close. It’s been 3 months since the last episode, and in truth, not much has happened. Not much in Scotland, that is, although events elsewhere have conspired to put a further dampener on the whole SNP raison d’etre (unless you cynically believe that such a thing is in fact the mere fact of clinging to power and the associated trappings, with independence merely a Scottish avatar). So….

51. Ozymandias Salmond

Although Shelley’s paean to fallen grandeur and the passage of time had a certain romantic majesty, it’s difficult to claim as much for the fate of Alex Salmond. Not only does he seem to think that a gruesome chat show on the amusingly barefaced bias of Russia Today is some sort of positive career move, he’s in trouble for blatantly lying in his opening episode, so short was he of ‘material’.  In keeping with no. 49 in this series, there’s a bit of unhappiness between Eck and Ms Sturgeon on this one, which is strange given they’re one big happy family. Talking of which, the ubiquitous Tas has been both getting exposed to Eck’s undoubted sartorial flair (see pic), and being punted (by Eck) as a fashion guru herself to deal with the…um…shortcomings of middle class legend SNP MP Mhairi Black. To quote Ms Black:

He then said that the last time he’d had this conversation it was with a young woman called Nicola Sturgeon.

“I thought, ‘oh, very good’ and I just left the awkward silence hanging when he asked me if I wanted him to arrange it with Taz. I’m like, ‘I am never going to be told how to dress, especially by a man.’

Still, the good news is that Eck’s flagging TV career may only last as long as his overpaid yet now apparently defunct journalistic one.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Alex-Salmond RT kilt
“Is anything worn under the kilt, Alex?” (I’ll stop there)

 

52. Catalonia is still part of Spain

No need to reprise the whole Catalonia secession thing. Suffice to say that despite the ignorant and rather pathetic urgings of various SNP lackeys, neither the glorified opinion poll of  October 2017, nor the actual national elections of last month, lead to anything like independence, nor is there any hard evidence that it would be popular.

In fact the Spanish have lead the way on this by issuing various arrest warrants, such that the floppy haired Salmond manqué (and talk show guest) Puigdemont, ran away from the heat and is now in exile.

Oh, and the SNP’s beloved EU backed Spain to the hilt on this. As any sane observer would expect them to.

53. Tax the ‘rich’

The SNP, having avoided using their tax raising powers for a long time (with good reason), have now caved in, and courtesy of the ‘limited’ Delboy Mackay, their Finance Minister, have decided to punish the middle classes.

It may please the zoomer base, but as a general observation, these things never end well. Interestingly, it coincides with Trump’s bold application of Laffer Curve principles in the USA. We’ll see how that works out as the year unfolds.

54. Reflections on the Revolution in Scotland

(misquoting Edmund Burke).

The Knife has continued to be impressed by the resemblance (1, 2) of the intolerant zealots of the SNP to their French predecessors, the Jacobins of the French Revolution. In keeping with their bizarre attempts to take over the rearing of the nation’s children, and to impose a monoculture on debate within their masses, I was struck by the similar mood music of the Law of Suspects, which the National Convention of 1793 passed in France:

“1. Immediately after the publication of the present decree, all suspects within the territory of the Republic and still at large, shall be placed in custody.

2. The following are deemed suspects:

i. those who, by their conduct, associations, comments, or writings have shown themselves partisans of tyranny or federalism and enemies of liberty;

ii. those who are unable to justify, in the manner prescribed by the decree of March 21st, their means of existence and the performance of their civic duties;

iii. those to whom certificates of patriotism have been refused

…and there’s more. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, although a stroll round SNP Twitter might persuade you otherwise, it’s just that there’s a certain doctrinaire flavour that keeps cropping up…

eck2
…wishing the voting age was even lower

 

To close, over to a better and more measured writer than me, Euan McColm, with his New Year observations:

Nationalists now growing impatient with the First Minister over her hesitancy will, I think, be further disappointed in the year ahead.

Sturgeon is understandably keen to maintain the myth that she is in control of when another referendum takes place but the power to make this decision lies with Westminster and, after the general election showed a majority of votes for unionist parties, the UK government would have no hesitation in rejecting the First Minister’s proposal. This, I suppose, might play into the SNP narrative about a Scotland forced to bend the knee by the Westminsters (which is what we must now call the English) but no matter the grievance dividend, it will not get Sturgeon the referendum she says she wants.

The challenge for the First Minister in the months ahead is to keep her hardcore supporters happy with just enough constitutional meat while winning back the trust of unionist Scots who were previously happy to back the SNP in Holyrood elections but who are now weary of and frustrated by the nationalists’ obsession with another referendum.

Quite.

 

 

The new semantics of the public square

From Sky News, who are slowly drifting into sloppy PC reporting, on the tragic murder by stabbing in an Aldi store, the details of which remain obscure:

North Yorkshire Police said it was neither terror-related nor a hate crime.

Terrorism I get (see below), but is ‘hate crime’ a thing in the public mind these days to be placed on a par with terrorism when considering each violent death? If so, it has a pretty warped definition. Murder is a crime, and it seems inevitable that hatred was involved in some way. Yet this wasn’t ‘hate crime’. What a relief.

On the other topic, it’s hard to beat the weaselly syntax of the Australian police, no doubt under a certain amount of pressure:

Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said police had found no evidence Noori planned his horrific actions or that they were terror-related.

Which as the numerous news reports (1, 2. 3) indicate, is not really true.  There are lots of ethical and practical problems with this intentional deception, not least is that it’s an appalling slur on people with mental health problems to clearly suggest that this kind of rampage is the sort of thing we can expect from them.

Frederick William, The Great Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia who dealt with the devastating aftermath of the Thirty Years War,  wrote eloquently about this in his Political Testament, exactly 350 years ago – some things never change:

“One thing is sure. If you stand still and think that the fire is still far from your borders, then your lands will become the stage upon which the tragedy is performed”

Non-politicians will draw their own conclusions.

melb
*

 

 

Multipurpose soundbite (1): apply as necessary

From Jonah Goldberg’s brief precis of Trump’s plan to actually move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem:

The only people who bought the idea that the Middle East conflict began and ended with Israel were those guys in the control booth describing the wrong game — i.e., Western experts and activists deeply invested in the “peace process.”  In a sense that’s understandable. If you’ve dedicated your entire professional life to a moveable feast that covers your airfare and lodging in Paris or Geneva while you discuss grave matters, it’s probably hard not to cling to fictions.

Good article, but it’s the second half of the quote that is so handy:

If you’ve dedicated your entire professional life to a moveable feast that covers your airfare and lodging in Paris or Geneva while you discuss grave matters, it’s probably hard not to cling to fictions.

It’s possibly the best explanation for nearly all climate change activity, numerous medical ‘conferences’, the EU, various peace processes (see above), the G7, the G20 and much much more. Nobody holds these boondoggles in Detroit or Dundee.

I wouldn’t care except when I end up paying for all this nonsense, directly or indirectly.

Here’s the reliable Lou Donaldson to celebrate what’s actually going on:

We have to talk about nationalists, AKA Bigger Than Brexit

tibidabo2
On Tibidabo, gazing down on the chaos..

As someone with an intimate knowledge of secessionist lunatics and the trouble they cause – with complete indifference to its effects and an utter disregard of those who might demur from their obsessive worldview – I have watched the Catalonia situation with a mix of deja vu and disgust.

In retrospect, lancing the SNP boil by giving them their referendum might have been David Cameron’s signature achievement. Scotland, despite the SNP hype, is not ruefully regretting the majority rejection of the SNP raison d’etre.

And also, as someone with a pretty good knowledge of Spain, including Catalonia, over many years, I can observe that Puigdemont’s mob, in common with the SNP, don’t really have anything tangible in the way of active grievances. Their gripes are historical, though in Spain I would concede, some of the bad stuff still lies within living memory. Not so Scotland, I would suggest.

Other things they have in common are a failure of serious planning – currency, defence, capital flight, all that stuff – and the thinnest of veneers when it comes to respecting democracy. It was almost inevitable that the floppy haired egomaniac Puigdemont would turn out to be an unelected demagogue, in that no Catalan actually voted for him to become president. That would be too risky. Here’s Wikipedia:

On 10 January 2016, he was invested as the 130th President of the Generalitat of Catalonia by the Parliament of Catalonia. This followed an agreement carried out the day before between Together for Yes and the CUP, in which it was announced that he would replace Artur Mas as president of the Generalitat in exchange for a guarantee of parliamentary stability for his Government

Nice deal guys

However, enjoyable sneering aside (the SNP similarities keep coming), there is a very serious aspect to all this, or aspects. Spain’s tumultuous history comes to the fore, from the epic of Covadonga in 722, through the Reconquista of 1492 to the civil war of the 1930’s. For the last 5 years and more there have been clear signs that Catalonian separatism was encouraging an Islamist enclave to form, in part as a further divide with the rest of Spain. The recent horrific terrorist attacks, conveniently airbrushed now, combined with any casual observation in Barcelona and environs, will tell you that it has changed immensely. This is in part hardcore Salafist Islam, a problem for everyone, including the vain and solipsistic Puigdemont.

By contrast, the beleaguered Mariano Rajoy has shown a decisiveness and maturity so far, that it provides a little ray of hope.

The best summary of all this right now, with hard hitting criticism of all parties,  is  from Iain Martin, a man who knows a mad secessionist when he sees one, over at Reaction (which is worth its tiny subscription fee). I feel compelled to quote it at length:

One of the more obscure aspects of the latest, tragic events in Catalonia is the way in which the constitutional emergency has brought together under one banner some unlikely allies in Britain. Not only are the separatists in Barcelona being cheered on by activists from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland nationalist parties, as should be expected.

They all support the potential break up of Spain for the obvious reason that separatists love separatism, and, because they want to break up countries on principle, they enjoy the spectacle of it happening elsewhere, probably because they expect the impulse to spread beyond the borders of Spain.

But alongside the SNP et al, the Catalans also have the support of the Faragists, that collection of tin-pot populists clustered around the former leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage. In that faction, judging by their comments today, the delight at the declaration by the Catalan parliament of independence from Spain is rooted instead in the potential for the Catalan business to damage the European Union, which they despise and want to fall apart. In this way the Catalans are cast as the latest exponents of the Trumpian impulse – breaking norms, smashing up the system, as though it is all a great laugh, Carry on Up the Sagrada Familia.

According to the twisted populist reading, the EU is trampling on the will of the Catalan people. That is nonsense. It is not clear there is anything like a majority for a split from Spain. Unlike the Brexit referendum in the UK in 2016, held legally in a nation state, the recent Catalan referendum was illegal, and the EU’s refusal to recognise the unilateral split is perfectly fair and sensible. National governments elsewhere across Europe are taking the same position, not because the EU told them to, but for the perfectly understandable reason that it is rooted in truth and respect for law. In the fantasy ultra-Brexiteer version of diplomacy, this is supposed to be cast aside, sanctioning the end of Spain when there is simply no majority for it.

There has always been a brainless, reckless strand at the Faragist end of the Brexit side of the argument, which operates on the assumption that anything bad for the EU, or Europe more broadly, is good fun and good for Brexit, as though this is a zero sum game and as though we are not all living in the same continent, in the shared space that is Europe. The temptation to mix the two up – Europe and the EU – must always be resisted. Europe is an old civilisation and an enduring concept. The EU is a relatively new political experiment.

In that context, what is happening in Spain is not a cause for celebration. It is a European catastrophe. After a difficult 20th century – and a return to democracy in the mid-1970s following the death of Franco in 1975 – Spain has re-emerged as a confident country with distinct economic strengths (in finance in particular) and restored pride. Catalonia is a disproportionately productive part of that success story. With only 16% of Spain’s population it nonetheless generates 20% of Spanish GDP and a quarter of national exports. It is, for now, a magnet for foreign inward investment.

Catalonia is, or was, doing well, and Spain is, or was, recovering strongly – with growth running just above 3%. The considerable difficulties that Spain encountered stemmed from joining the euro. They are being overcome after a robust programme of reforms.

Now, this weekend, the unity and economic health of that major European democracy is in peril. Direct rule will be imposed. Civil unrest seems certain and violence highly likely. In simple human terms, once the celebrations in Barcelona are matched by counter-demonstrations, a lot of people are at risk of being hurt.

There is another important and overlooked reason for non-Spaniards to fear the break up of Spain. It is on the European front-line against the Islamist war on Western civilisation. Islamic State talks of retaking the Iberian peninsula, and it was from radicalised communities in the Pyrenees that the cells emerged to perpetrate recent attacks. Spain falling apart in the face of such violence would signal to the enemies of European civilisation that great countries are disintegrating and the West is weakening.

Some things, you see, are bigger than Brexit. All Europeans – in or out of the EU – should be extremely concerned by the crisis in Catalonia and should hope for some statesmanship and compromise.

It is indeed a catastrophe, and no-one knows how it will end.

Science: it’s not rocket science (and climate change is not science)

Here’s a quote from the column that runs down the right side of this blog:

One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else

The author is noted populariser of science – but also a real scientist – Carl Sagan.

What can he possibly be getting at? Let’s try another famous scientist: Einstein. In 1905 he’d proposed his Theory of Relativity, and worked on it until 1916 (the year of the Somme, which made communications tricky), and it immediately had a huge impact, with British scientists, notably Eddington, who publicised it through the Physical Society in London.

Here’s where the key point is. Despite the acclaim he was receiving, Einstein refused to accept it until the theory had been verified by empirical observation. Which makes sense, no? Here is the extract from Paul Johnson’s essential history of the 2Oth century, Modern Times:

einstein3
*

einstein1919Which is where Eddington came in, setting off to the coast of West Africa to photograph a solar eclipse, with all the vagaries of the weather. It worked. He proved two of the three tests were correct, and the third, related to the phenomenon of red shift, was confirmed in 1923 by the astronomers of Mount Wilson observatory. Four years earlier though, Einstein had received a huge amount of publicity following Eddington’s trip, which he disavowed, until all of the empirical observations had been made and had proven his theory.

So what’s my point?

I think it’s best made by a youthful Karl Popper, then at Vienna University, who ended up knighted and a doyen of British academia at the LSE and elsewhere, only dying in 1994. He knew Einstein personally. Here he is:

einstein1
*

None of this is remotely controversial. It demonstrates well two key requirements of real scientific endeavour:

  1. The role of observable, verifiable data in proving – or disproving – a theory
  2. Humility

Of course, point 1 is routinely abused with a cornucopia of computer modelling (the most easily abused of all the techniques), surrogate endpoints and allowing one’s politics, emotions and beliefs to play with whatever data you’ve got.

Point 2 is a rare quality in humans (me included).

In medicine there are quite a few examples. For instance, death from a pulmonary embolus after a hip replacement is self-evidently a bad outcome. it’s also very rare, despite the huge number of joint replacements performed. It is ‘prevented’ by the routine use of chemical agents which reduce the body’s capacity to clot blood. As you might imagine, an undesirable consequence of this is bleeding – from the wound, the gut etc – which can lead to all sorts of problems. The ‘cure’ might lead to other serious complications. It does, in practice, to a degree.

So why do we use these drugs? Well, they actually don’t reduce the risk of fatal pulmonary embolus. They may not even reduce the risk of a symptomatic deep vein thrombosis. They do, in relatively small studies, reduce the risk of clots in the leg visible on some sort of sophisticated imaging. That is the basis of the ‘big pharma’ marketing that everyone buys into, for fear of being sued. Yes, fear and loathing stalk the NHS too.

A surrogate endpoint like that (a leg clot visible on an ultrasound scan, whether or not it’s symptomatic), with no definite link to fatal pulmonary embolus, is bad science, yet it’s out there.

None of us is immune to such dodgy data. Einstein’s ‘purity’ is getting rarer in medicine, and it’s very rare in another area of Big Science: climatology as it relates to ‘anthropogenic global warming’ (AGW).

I won’t rehearse all the very justified arguments as to why #climatechange is chock full of bad science and histrionics, I’d rather show good scientific papers, which helpfully debunk a lot of the propaganda.  So here you are, courtesy of the much-attacked James Delingpole. These are from the recent literature, and the usual climate change mob are not enamoured of them:

  1. The alleged ‘pause’ in AGW that the computer models mysteriously allow for is actually more than a pause. The warmists tend to ignore the well recognised El Nino phenomenon. Astronomical influences and empirical observations tend to point away from the AGW claims. Read it here.cc3
  2. Flooding in the USA and Europe is a random event with no relation to alleged        AGW/’extreme weather’ etc etc. Or as they put it “The number of significant trends was about the number expected due to chance alone”. Read it here.cc1
  3. The confident predictions of a global 1.5 degrees C temperature rise by 2022, upon which most of the hype, whining, government virtue signalling and overreaction is predicated, cannot possibly happen by all the postulated mechanisms. It’s really not going to happen. And these researchers are far from being AGW sceptics. Read it here. And if it seems a bit abstruse, here’s Delingpole’s very neat summary.cc2

…and if that wasn’t enough, despite the utterly pathetic attention seeking underwater cabinet meeting by the Maldives government in 2009, sea levels are dropping, much to NASA’s disappointment. Of course, if the Maldives’ dismal excuses for politicians meant what they said, they wouldn’t be building 5 new airports, to add to the 11 they already have.

Ibrahim Didi
Sad!

I won’t even mention the news that the much maligned Great Barrier Reef is in fact doing just fine, despite predictions of doom. Or that the now disappearing Independent newspaper’s famous  news story from the year 2000, that snow would ‘soon be a thing of the past’, has been quietly erased from their website – but not from others (read it here). Who’dathunkit?

Note that the above references that I have provided are refutations of the AGW hysteria and associated hype, not mere denials. The Warmists’ favoured meme of Deniers v Scientists just took a big hit.

It’s all a scam. I could live with the propaganda, it’s the abuse of  the scientific process that I can’t stomach (plus the outrageous expense). I’ve written on this before. The wise doctor and writer Michael Crichton had these guys sussed.

By a strange quirk, where this post began, with Einstein insisting on observational proof of his Theory of Relativity, has been repeated in this last couple of weeks, about 100 years later. The news was rightly full of the observation of gravitational waves – predicted by Einstein – following the remote collision of two neutron stars.  Hard observational data, not a computer simulation.

As Lord Rutherford, splitter of the atom said, with some truth: if your experiment needs statistics**, you should have done a better experiment.   

cc5.jpg
I feel fine, thanks

 

**to update this, I would add ‘and computer simulation’

 

Weinstein – the Hobbesian revolutionary soothing the middle classes

It’s always a cop out, on the face of it, to use a blog to just reprint someone else’s piece. This, however is so good by John Podhoretz that I’ve broken that rule. It’s exceptional on every level: literary, philosophically, morally and even as entertainment.

Hobbes (and Original Sin) come out of it pretty well too. Read and savour it, wondering how such a monstrous and evil scenario can produce an unexpected delight.

Given Hobbes’ famous phrase (“the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short”) I thought I’d conclude with one of the great Tom Waits’ best songs, in which he co-opts it to his usual effect.

In man’s natural state, with no social or religious order to impose limits upon his hungers and passions, “notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, force and fraud are…the cardinal virtues.” Thus did Thomas Hobbes, in 1651, anticipate and describe the sordid story of the film producer Harvey Weinstein.

The reason Weinstein’s three decades of monstrous personal and professional conduct are so appalling and fascinating in equal measure is that he was clearly functioning outside the “social compact” Hobbes said was necessary to save men from a perpetual state of war they would wage against one another in the state of nature. For that is what Weinstein was doing, in his own way: waging Hobbesian war against the women he abused and finding orgasmic pleasure in his victories.

And Weinstein did so while cleverly pretending to leadership within the social compact and disingenuously advocating for its improvement both through political change and artistic accomplishment. Hobbes said the life of man in the state of nature was nasty, brutish, and short, but he did not say the warrior could not be strategic. Rochefoucauld’s immortal declaration that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue is entirely wrong in this case. Weinstein paid off feminists and liberals to extend his zone of protection and seduction, not to help support the virtues he was subverting with his own vices.

Hobbes said that in the state of nature there was “no arts; no letters; no society.” But if the man in the state of nature, the nihilistic warrior, coexists with people who live within the social compact, would it not be a brilliant strategy to use the arts, letters, and society as cover, and a means of infiltrating and suborning the social compact? Harvey Weinstein is a brutal thug, a man of no grace, more akin to a mafioso than a maker of culture. And yet as a movie producer he gravitated toward respectable, quality, middlebrow, elevated and elevating fare. 

People wanted to work with him because of the kinds of movies he made. I think we can see that was the whole point of the exercise: It was exciting to be called into his presence because you knew you would do better, more socially responsible, more praiseworthy work under his aegis than you would with another producer.

And then, garbed only in a bathrobe, Weinstein would strike.

Weinstein was universally known to be a terrible person long before the horrifying tales of his sexual predation, depredation, and assault were finally revealed. And—this is important—known to be a uniquely terrible person. His specific acts of repugnant public thuggishness were detailed in dozens of articles and blog items over the decades, and were notable precisely because they were and are not common currency in business or anywhere else. It was said of him after the latest revelations that he had mysterious abilities to suppress negative stories about himself, and perhaps he did; even so, it was a matter of common knowledge that he was the most disgusting person in the movie business, and that’s saying a lot. And that’s before we get to sex.

To take one example, Ken Auletta related a story in the New Yorker in 2001 about the director Julie Taymor and her husband, the composer Eliot Goldenthal. She had helmed a movie about Frida Kahlo produced by Weinstein. There was a preview screening at the Lincoln Square theater in Manhattan. The audience liked it, but some of its responses indicated that the plotline was confusing. Weinstein, whose hunger to edit the work of others had long since earned him the name “Harvey Scissorhands,” wanted to recut it to clarify the picture. Taymor didn’t, citing the audience’s favorable reaction. Then this happened:

He saw Taymor’s agent…and yelled at him, “Get the fuck out of here!” To Goldenthal, who wrote the score for Frida, Weinstein said, “I don’t like the look on your face.” Then, according to several witnesses, he moved very close to Goldenthal and said, “Why don’t you defend her so I can beat the shit out of you?” Goldenthal quickly escorted Taymor away. When asked about this incident, Weinstein insisted that he did not threaten Goldenthal, yet he concedes, “I am not saying I was remotely hospitable. I did not behave well. I was not physically menacing to anybody. But I was rude and impolite.” One member of Taymor’s team described Weinstein’s conduct as actually bordering on “criminal assault.”

Weinstein told the late David Carr in 2002 that his conduct in such cases had merely been the result of excess glucose in his system, that he was changing his diet, and he was getting better. That glucose problem was his blanket explanation for all the bad stories about him, like this one:

“You know what? It’s good that I’m the fucking sheriff of this fucking lawless piece-of-shit town.” Weinstein said that to Andrew Goldman, then a reporter for the New York Observer, when he took him out of a party in a headlock last November after there was a tussle for Goldman’s tape recorder and someone got knocked in the head.

Goldman’s then-girlfriend, Rebecca Traister, asked Weinstein about a controversial movie he had produced. Traister provided the predicate for this anecdote in a recent piece: “Weinstein didn’t like my question about O, there was an altercation…[and] he called me a c—.”

Auletta also related how Weinstein physically threatened the studio executive Stacey Snider. She went to Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and told him the story. Katzenberg, “one of his closest friends in the business,” told Weinstein he had to apologize. He did, kind of. Afterward, Katzenberg told Auletta, “I love Harvey.”

These anecdotes are 15 years old. And there were anecdotes published about Weinstein’s behavior dating back another 15 years. What they revealed then is no different from what they reveal now: Weinstein is an out-and-out psychopath. And apparently this was fine in his profession…as long as he was successful and important, and the stories involved only violence and intimidation.

Flash-forward to October 2017. Katzenberg—the man who loved Harvey—publicly released an email he had sent to Weinstein after he was done for: “You have done terrible things to a number of women over a period of years. I cannot in any way say this is OK with me…There appear to be two Harvey Weinsteins…one that I have known well, appreciated, and admired and another that I have not known at all.”

So which Weinstein, pray tell, was the one from whom Katzenberg had had to protect Stacey Snider? The one he knew or the one he didn’t know? Because they are, of course, the same person. We know that sexual violence is more about power than sex—about the ultimate domination and humiliation. In these anecdotes and others about Weinstein, we see that his great passions in life were dominating and humiliating. Even if the rumors hadn’t been swirling around his sexual misconduct for decades, could anyone actually have been surprised he sought to secure his victory over the social compact in the most visceral way possible outside of murder?

The commentariat’s reaction to the Weinstein revelations has been desperately confused, and for once, the confusion is constructive, because there are strange ideological and moral convergences.

The most extreme argument has it that he’s really not a unique monster, that every working woman in America has encountered a Weinstein, and that the problem derives from a culture of “toxic masculinity.” This attitude is an outgrowth of the now-fashionable view that there have been no real gains for women and minorities over the past half-century, that the gains are illusory or tokenish, and that something more revolutionary is required to level the playing field.

As a matter of fact in the Weinstein case, this view is false. Women have indeed encountered boors and creeps in their workplaces. But a wolf-whistler is not a rapist. Someone who leers at a woman isn’t the same as someone who masturbates in front of her. Coping with grotesque and inappropriate co-workers and bosses is something every human being, regardless of gender, has had to deal with, and will have to deal with until we are all replaced by robots. It’s worse for women, to be sure. Still, no one should have to go through such experiences. But we all have and we all do. It’s one of the many unpleasant aspects of being human.

Still, the extreme view of “toxic masculinity” contains a deeper truth that is anything but revolutionary. It takes us right back to Hobbes. His central insight—indeed, the insight of civilization itself—is that every man is a potentialWeinstein. This clear-eyed, even cold-eyed view of man’s nature is the central conviction of philosophical conservatism. Without limits, without having impressed upon us a fear of the legal sanction of punishment or the social sanction of shame and ostracism, we are in danger of seeking our earthly rewards in the state of nature.

The revolutionary and the conservative also seem to agree there’s something viscerally disturbing about sex crimes that sets them apart. But here is where the consensus between us breaks down. Logically, if the problem is that we live in a toxic culture that facilitates these crimes, then the men who commit them are, at root, cogs in an inherently unjust system. The fault ultimately is the system’s, not theirs.

Harvey Weinstein is an exceptionally clever man who spent decades standing above and outside the system, manipulating it and gaming it for his own ends. He’s no cog. Tina Brown once ran Weinstein’s magazine and book-publishing line. She wrote that “strange contracts pre-dating us would suddenly surface, book deals with no deadline attached authored by attractive or nearly famous women, one I recall was by the stewardess on a private plane.” Which means he didn’t get into book publishing, or magazine publishing, to oversee the production of books and articles. He did it because he needed entities through which he would pass through payoffs both to women he had harassed and molested and to journalists whose silence he bought through options and advances. His primary interest wasn’t in the creation of culture. It was the creation of conditions under which he could hunt.

Which may explain his choice of the entertainment industry in the first place. In how many industries is there a specific term for demanding sexual favors in exchange for employment? There’s a “casting couch”; there’s no “insurance-adjustor couch.” In how many industries do people conduct meetings in hotel rooms at off hours anyway? And in how many industries could that meeting in a hotel room end up with the dominant player telling a young woman she should feel comfortable getting naked in front of him because the job for which she is applying will require her to get naked in front of millions?

Weinstein is entirely responsible for his own actions, but his predatory existence was certainly made easier by the general collapse of most formal boundaries between the genders. Young women were told to meet him in private at night in fancy suites. Half a century earlier, no young woman would have been permitted to travel alone in a hotel elevator to a man’s room. The world in which that was the norm imposed unacceptable limitations on the freedoms of women. But it did place serious impediments in the paths of predators whose despicable joy in life is living entirely without religious, spiritual, cultural, or moral impediment.

Hobbes was the great philosopher of limits. We Americans don’t accept his view of things; we tend to think better of people than he did. We tend to believe in the greater good, which he resolutely did not. We believe in self-government, which he certainly did not. But what our more optimistic outlook finds extraordinarily difficult to reckon with is behavior that challenges this complacency about human nature. We try to find larger explanations for it that place it in a more comprehensible context: It’s toxic masculinity! It’s the residue of the 1960s! It’s the people who enabled it! The truth is that, on occasion—and this is one such occasion—we are forced to come face to face with the worst of what any of us could be. And no one explanation suffices save Hamlet’s: “Use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape whipping?”

Twattish comments: an occasional series – Ryan Gosling

The goofy faced Hollywood superstar seems like a charming fellow, I would concede that. But rather in keeping with the post below, he seems to have decided that we’re all a problem, and that all our workplaces are equally afflicted by Harvey Weinstein tendencies. He feels the need to shoulder the heavy burden of scolding the rest of us accordingly.

Ryan, you guys are the ones with the problem, and frankly it’s a little late in the day to start lecturing us all. Here’s his statement:

“He is emblematic of a systemic problem. Men should stand with women and work together until there is real accountability and change.”

Broadly true, but the implication that ‘men’ in general needed to be told this, because we are all guilty (copyright Dr Heinz Kiosk, and Michael Wharton), is more than annoying.

Here’s a now famous pic of Ryan advising Harvey to “stand with women and work together until there is real accountability and change”….

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