Tuesday, 23 February 2021

English writers talking about the Koran

Instead of a perpetual and perfect measure of the divine will, the fragments of the Koran were produced at the discretion of Mahomet; each revelation is suited to the emergencies of his policy or passion; and all contradiction is removed by the saving maxim, that any text of Scripture is abrogated or modified by any subsequent passage. The word of God, and of the apostle, was diligently recorded by his disciples on palm-leaves and the shoulder-bones of mutton; and the pages without order or connexion, were cast into a domestic chest in the custody of one of his wives.
Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Instead of inspiring the blessed inhabitants with a liberal taste for harmony and science, conversation and friendship, he [Mahomet] idly celebrates the pearls and diamonds, the robes of silk, palaces of marble, dishes of gold, rich wines, artificial dainties, numerous attendants, and the whole train of sensual and costly luxury, which becomes insipid to the owner, even in the short period of this mortal life. Seventy-two Houris, or black-eyed girls, of resplendent beauty, blooming youth, virgin purity, and exquisite sensibility, will be created for the use of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be prolonged to a thousand years, and his faculties will be increased a hundred fold, to render him worthy of his felicity. Notwithstanding a vulgar prejudice, the gates of heaven will be open to both sexes, but Mahomet has not specified the male companions of the female elect, lest he should either alarm the jealousy of their former husbands, or disturb their felicity, by the suspicion of an everlasting marriage. 
Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.
Lord Macaulay, Minute on Education


Laura Kipnes
Sure, there have always been offended people, but those people used to be conservatives. Who cared if they were offended, that was the point. At some point offendability moved its offices to the hip side of town.
Laura Kipnis
By the time #MeToo hit, transgression’s sheen was already feeling pretty tarnished. #MeToo was about a lot of things and among them was a cultural referendum on the myth of male genius, which as thousands of first-person accounts have elaborated over the decades, is pretty frequently accompanied by sexual grabbiness and bad breath. Sexual transgressiveness has always been the perquisite of gross men in power, but there is also an added perk, which is that treating the boundaries of less powerful people as minor annoyances makes insecure men feel like creative geniuses, like artists and rock stars. Post #MeToo, the emblematic transgressor was starting to look less like Vito Acconci at Sonnabend and more like Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the Sofitel.

Margaret Thatcher on Today BBC Radio 4 6 June 1987.
‘The fundamental reason of being put on earth is so to improve your character that you are fit for the next world.'
Enoch Powell, Speech to the Royal Society of St George, on St George's Day, April 23rd 1961.

There was a saying, not heard today so often as formerly,

"What do they know of England who only England know?"

It is a saying which dates. It has a period aroma, like Kipling's "Recessional" or the state rooms at Osborne. That phase is ended, so plainly ended, that even the generation born at its zenith, for whom the realisation is the hardest, no longer deceive themselves as to the fact. That power and that glory have vanished, as surely, if not as tracelessly, as the imperial fleet from the waters of Spithead.

Ursula von der Leyen has “disgraced Europe”

'Die Zeit newspaper's Alan Posener said that “if the British were still EU citizens, they would be like us: instead of having vaccinations, simply waiting for Godot”. Der Spiegel said that the EU had attempted to secure the vaccines in a “hare-brained manner, as if it were a summer sale, a bargain hunt on a whim.” Peter Tiede of the daily Bild newspaper claimed that von der Leyen had “disgraced Europe”.
'Not everyone, however, shares these views. Ellen 't Hoen, is a lawyer and public health advocate at research group Medicines, Laws and Policy, and is former policy director for Médecins sans Frontières’ Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. Speaking to The Lancet, she said people should be cautious before envying the UK's approach. “What is the UK going to gain if other countries in Europe don’t have the vaccine?"'
From an article in The Lancet on Saturday. The answer to Ellen t'Hoen's question is obvious. A schoolboy or girl of six could answer it. A much more interesting question is what does her question mean and what makes her ask it.

Perhaps she means what Donne meant when he famously said in a sermon,
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
But Donne was being mystical, not giving practical advice. Every country where herd immunity is achieved, because of a vaccine or naturally, has a great advantage over ones where it is not. 

This is another reason why Mrs von der Leyen should be forced to resign. The fact that this will not happen shows how undemocratic the whole nonsense is and how incompatible the EU is with any notion of responsible government. She is accountable to no-one, except Mrs Merkel.


Philip Larkin said in the Spectator diary that at a Spectator party he said to the man next to him, 'All the problems in the country are caused by teachers'. The man said, 'Actually, I am a teacher'. Larkin replied 'Then you know what I mean'. He said that that turned out to be the right thing to say.

I suppose that at a Spectator party that was not a tactless remark. How odd that Larkin is now one of the great dead. 

All our great men are dead. I'm not feeling too well myself.
In short, he is a man begging for subjugation. He longs for its promise of equality in helplessness. Because only when that strange, independent alpha breed of male is helpless along with him will he feel adequate. Indeed, his freedom lies in this other man’s containment.
Julia Gorin, The anti-gun male, Jewish World Review, March 8, 2002

We are under no necessity to participate in the American nightmare of a Soviet monster barely held at bay in all quarters of the globe by an inconceivable nuclear armament and by political intervention everywhere from Poland to Cambodia. It is the Americans who need us in order to act out their crazy scenario... We simply do not need to go chasing up and down after the vagaries of the next ignoramus to become President of the United States.
Enoch Powell

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Rereading novels

Nabokov said as soon as you have finished a novel you should immediately reread it. I am sure he is right. But I find it almost impossible to read a book at all.

One night in the summer of 2015 I left my telephone in the office and my WiFi wasn’t working at home. I couldn’t get on the internet on desktop or tablets and so I managed 2 chapters of War and Peace.

War and Peace IS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL, very readable indeed, undoubtedly the best novel I ever read, but I had started it in February to get ready for visiting Russia in May and didn't finish it for almost two years.

The only other book I read in 2015 was a 150 page book with big type by Lucian Boia, "Cum s-a romanizat Romania", which I picked up in a tent selling books while hanging around Vama Veche. I read it while waiting for a friend who was two or three hours late because my telephone was almost out of battery.

Of making many books there is no end and much study wearies the body (Ecclesiastes 12.12), but at least when you read a book you do come to an end. The problem with the internet is that you never reach an end to it. There’s always something else to click on.

Even the pandemic has not led me to read many books, though I read very many articles about Donald Trump.

Does anyone have any tips as to how to read these days? 

I have one. I have given up social media and reading the news and anything political for Lent. 

It sort of works but do I have the willpower to continue it after Lent?

Holidays help. I picked up, packed and read The End of the Affair by Graham Greene for the third time when I went away last summer. 

I was in tears as always, though I almost never cry. 

This reminds me of a Romanian femme fatale, who once asked me if Englishmen ever felt emotion. 

I replied yes, certainly, when we think about the Queen.

Saturday, 20 February 2021


Allow me to offer my congratulations on the truly admirable skill you have shown in keeping clear of the mark. Not to have hit once in so many trials, argues the most splendid talents for missing. Thomas De Quincey
Thomas De Quincey, Works, Volume XIV, p. 161. Ed. 1863, quoting the Emperor Galerius to a soldier who missed the target many times in succession.

The world still consists of two clearly divided groups: the English and the foreigners. One group consists of less than 50 million people; the other of 3,950 million. The latter group does not really count.
George Mikes

"Verily," I said, "there are manifold means devised by states for protection and safety—stockades, ramparts, fosses and the like. And all these are wrought by hand and entail expense. But there is one common bulwark which the instinct of sensible men possesses within itself, a good and safe one for all, but invaluable for democracies against tyrants. And what is that bulwark? It is mistrust. Guard that; hold fast to that. If you preserve it, no harm can touch you."
Demosthenes's Second Philippic 
6.23-24 (translated by J.H. Vince).

Imagine holding the same exact views as your teachers, all of your friends, every politician, everyone in Hollywood, the entire media class, every major corporation and still honestly believing that you are opposing “the system.”


Why are so many professors now advocating lockdowns and restrictions? The psychological explanation lies partly in “the law of the instrument” first expressed by philosopher Abraham Kaplan in his book The Conduct of Inquiry: “I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”
Glen Bishop in yesterday's edition of Lockdown Sceptics.

What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.
Lord Melbourne
The damned fools were right and the wise men wrong about a lot of things recently.

People think that I can teach them style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style.

Friday, 19 February 2021


‘It cannot be proved that the unknown destination towards which man is advancing is desirable.’  
The historian J.B. Bury in 'The Idea of Progress'.

'Speak as the common people do…think as wise men do.” Roger Ascham, Queen Elizabeth I’s tutor

'It is life, not the individual, that is conscienceless. The essential, therefore, is to understand the time for which one is born. He who does not sense and understand its most secret forces, who

Governments did nothing about the Hong Kong Flu of 1968 which was much worse than Covid-19

Asian Flu emerged in China early in 1957 and spread by September to the UK, where doctors were “amazed at the extraordinary infectivity of the disease”. 

Some GPs called for the British government to issue a warning about the virus and coordinate measures to deal with it. 

One doctor writing to the BMJ in June 1957 said,
“The public seems under the impression that nothing can be done to prevent the calamity that is threatened by the advance of influenza in the Far East. On the contrary there is a great deal that the Government can do; by acting at once they may save hundreds of thousands of lives.”
These calls were ignored and the press did not make a big thing of the pandemic.

The flu burnt itself out by April 1958, after the deaths of about 20,000 people in the UK and more than 1 million deaths worldwide.

Between 1 and 4 million people died of the Hong Kong Flu of 1968, with half the deaths among individuals aged up to 65 — very much in contrast to Covid-19, 90% of whose victims are 65 or over.  

Life in 1968, as in 1958, continued as normal. 

Daddy and I spent two or three days in bed with the Hong Kong Flu, doing puzzles in my Rupert Bear annual.  

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Romania leads the rest of the EU

The Romanian government chose not to impose another lockdown after the one that ended in May and the economy outperformed the rest of the European Union last quarter.

Output not only grew from the previous three months, but surged by more than 10 times what analysts had expected. The expansion of 5.3% puts it ahead of all other EU members to have reported data so far.

In more good news, the Confidex index, which measures Romanian managers' confidence in the Romanian economy, rose from 41 in Q2 and Q3 to 45 in Q4, though it is lower (43) for small companies. Romanian managers estimate that their turnover will increase by 5% this year compared to last year.

The rate of deaths and infections with Covid-19 has fallen a long way in Romania since Christmas, as they have throughout Europe and most of the world. In Romania this happened without a lockdown, though schools were closed, restaurants, cafes and bars were closed indoors and a curfew was imposed after 9pm.

In Sweden, Hungary, Bulgaria and the other European countries which had no lockdown, including Belarus which has absolutely no restrictions but allows parents to keep children out of school, infections and deaths have fallen. 

Most European countries in fact are not locked down. Those that are are the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Greece, Austria, Cyprus, Holland and Slovakia. France had a lockdown in the first half of December and Germany had one over Christmas.

I wonder why so many people, particularly in England, are convinced that lockdowns are necessary, but they are and get very angry when their opinion is questioned.

Boris is Hillary in drag

I keep saying that Boris Johnson is not Donald Trump but Hillary Clinton in drag, if you can imagine her with eloquence, a sense of humour and a quick mind, which obviously you can't. 

The things he has in common with the Donald are charisma (dread word, Wallace Arnold would say) and the ability to make good jokes, but not ideas or political philosophy.

After he bottled out of his initial, short-lived inclination to try the Swedish policy of going for herd immunity Boris has instituted three lockdowns.

In 2008 when he was Mayor of London he called for an amnesty for hundreds of thousands of (or maybe well over a million) illegal immigrants in London, saying that deporting them from the UK is "just not going to happen". He is right about that last bit. 

He repeated his call for an amnesty in 2013 and in 2015.

Now he has announced that he is in favour of three million Chinese in Hong Kong having the right to settle in the UK. 

Hillary Clinton, eight days before she lost the 2016 election, said that regime change in Syria was her 'top priority'. It was also Boris Johnson's policy as British Foreign Secretary back then and he would happily have helped her achieve it. He rowed back from it after Donald Trump became president and said President Assad could stay for a while. 

He advocated defeating ISIS by using air power, which was reasonable, and thought his hero Churchill would have thought the same. Churchill, who was always warlike, probably would have done and have favoured using chemical weapons

In an article in December 2015 Boris said that ‘Britain should do a deal with the Devil: we should work with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad in Syria’ to defeat ISIS, which is very reasonable, so you could say he span round like a weather-cock. 

He has now promised to spend £12 billion to help the UK achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Boris Johnson, unlike Donald Trump, does not have bold, iconoclastic ideas. If he did, he might have come to the conclusion that Nato is obsolete from the UK's point of view and that his countries' enemies are non-state actors. He might have decided that climate change, if it is happening, is not something much can be done about. 

But he is as much a globalist as David Cameron or Hillary. He also, like Messrs Cameron and Blair, wants to be loved and he wants achievements for the history books, but he does not worry about examining received ideas.

Boris was the necessary man to save Brexit from the disaster Theresa May and Olly Robbins had made of it. He has great political gifts, is clever and lucky. He is also an habitual liar, with few convictions, who washes his repulsive skin in women's tears. Even so I find it hard not to like him, but I expect very little or nothing from him now. 

Still, Brexit is enough to secure his place in history. 

And then he almost died of Covid. 

His fame is secure. 

Theresa May and Gordon Brown, by contrast, are already forgotten. 

She leaves no achievement. 

His great, lasting achievement is not adopting the euro and thereby making Brexit possible. 

David Cameron's achievements are Brexit, single sex marriage, letting a princess inherit the throne instead of her younger brother, destroying Libya and destroying the Labour Party in Scotland.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Lockdowns seem not to work

The best thing I read recently about the pandemic is this article about Sweden from Spiked. It seems to me pretty much to prove that Sweden did not lose by not having a lockdown.

When Sweden decided not to lockdown in March, we were told it would lead to nearly 100,000 deaths by 1 July. The actual total ended up being 5,490. Infections and deaths were falling from mid-April, pretty much at the same time as in most other European countries with strict lockdowns.
If you click on the link above, you see the estimate of nearly 100,000 Swedish Covid deaths comes from Yale University. Modelling by Professor Neil Ferguson's team at Imperial College, London predicted 85,000 Covid deaths.

Then in the winter Covid came back in Sweden and now is ebbing away again, again without a lockdown.

We have to assume that this illness is to some extent seasonal, which Professor Ferguson assumes it isn't.

By now, eleven months after lockdowns started, there should be proof that they work. There isn't.

A lot of people have died, but most were frail and over 80. 80 year-olds can expect to live eight or nine years, but not if they are frail and have serious health problems, as is the case with most people who die with or of Covid. 

In Stockholm old people's homes, where most of the city's Covid-related fatalities happened in the first half of last year, residents have an average life expectancy somewhere in the range of 5 to 9 months.

I recommend Lockdown Sceptics, a site and daily email run by Toby Young.

From today's edition, I quote from a contribution by Glen Bishop (he also wrote the piece I linked to above about seasonality). He's not a professor but a lowly
 mathematics undergraduate at Nottingham University, but what he writes makes sense.

Imagine if you lived in a village with 500 people and had to make a choice:

Option 1: All 500 of you spend the next 12 months living just as you have for the last 12 months. Constant lockdowns and restrictions on your lives and liberties and all the consequences that brings to businesses, jobs, schooling, current and future quality of life. Locking children in houses, exposing some to abuse. The burdening of children and grandchildren who aren’t born yet with debt. The serious harm to the vulnerable in the developing world.

Or Option 2: One or two out of the 500 of you dies four years earlier than you otherwise would have and many of you get a rather unpleasant illness, but from which most of you recover easily and all else stays normal, with your civil liberties remaining.

This, in a nutshell, is the question of lockdowns put into perspective without big numbers our brains are not built to comprehend. Professor Ferguson might protest that it should be a room with 200 people, or another SAGE member might say it needs to be five years not four years to represent the average length of life lost to Covid. But essentially this is the question of the day in layman’s terms. I would personally pick the four years if I were alone in the village let alone with 500 people. I am fairly sure one year in my 20s is worth four years in my 80s or 90s. I think practically everyone would agree on Option 2. The best points in my life have been when on a motorbike or in the mountains so maybe I’m just not risk averse, but do we really want to turn into a society that engages in massive sacrifices to quality of life for hundreds in the (vain) hope of slightly increasing the longevity of one? Certain catastrophic long-term harm to society in return for an uncertain benefit.

This is how SAGE should lay out these problems to ministers who are largely innumerate. If Boris had been given this question, put like this, would he seriously have made the decisions he has?

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Who will save us from Western civilisation? American teachers and academics

Kingsley Amis said, talking of Enoch Powell as it happens, that it is a sign of madness to quote oneself. Even so, I shall quote what I said on Friday, because I was pleased with it.

George Lukacs, the Hungarian Communist literary critic and stalwart of the Frankfurt School, asked,
"Who will save us from Western civilisation?"
The answer seems to be a lot of schoolmistresses in the USA.
My joke, unfortunately, is simply the very sorry truth, but it's not just school teachers. 

University teachers in the USA are also trying to do exactly that, it appears from a story about Dr. Mary Frances Williams, a classicist who attended the annual conference of the American Society for Classical Studies in San Diego. The meeting was filmed. The incident is at 44:56 and lasts five minutes.

She regrets attending, for which she paid for herself with ready money, as she was accused of racism and lost her editing job with the Association of Ancient Historians.

Even in the academe the law of supply and demand reigns. Fewer and fewer young Americans are studying the classics. 
The theme of the conference was promoting diversity and a speaker suggested rethinking the classics to base the discipline on studying texts in translation. (This is in fact already happening.)

Dr Williams said classicists 'could not abandon the ancient languages because then we would have nothing left of our field' and 'wanted to make four very brief points', beginning with this one:
It is important to stand up for Classics as a discipline, and promote it as the political, literary, historical, philosophical, rhetorical, and artistic foundation of Western Civilization, and the basis of European history, tradition, culture, and religion. It gave us the concepts of liberty, equality, and democracy, which we should teach and promote. We should not apologize for our field.

She was interrupted and told that Western civilisation is a social construct. She ended up being expelled from the conference.

"We should have hanged George Washington. He was the worst sort of populist."

I left Facebook and will leave Twitter tomorrow for Lent and perhaps for good. Today I got my first suspension from social media, for twelve hours, for commenting on a post by the  American political opportunist Nikki Haley, praising George Washington as the president in office when the US Constitution was written. 

I commented, as I always repeat, that it was a shame we didn't hang him. I showed some originality by adding that he was the worst sort of populist. In a split second I was suspended for twelve hours. Oh well. 

Magna est veritas et prævalet. Great is the truth, and it prevails.

Everyone else pointed out that Washington wasn't president when the constitution was written. How could the presidency be older than the constitution? She is another inhumanly stupid politician, more stupid than Old Man Biden, Ursula von der Leyen or possibly even Theresa May. 

From a GSCE History textbook in England


Saturday, 13 February 2021


Well yes, I have been saved... but in my case it was such a close-run thing that I thought I had better keep quiet about it.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

I invite you to develop our art, to be vigorous and resilient like legumes, and to unite to end hunger once and for all.
Pope Francis, in a written message to participants in a virtual event organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to mark the World Day of Legumes. I suppose fasting will always be permitted, come what 

I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus.
Henry David Thoreau

Given how many late-term babies will die thanks to Joe Biden I'd like to see both him and the priest giving him communion struck down by a thunderbolt.
Damian Thompson

Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would never call him “short and fat”?
Donald Trump

Each time President Biden speaks, think of Marx’s line from the preface to the Brumaire on “circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.”

Millennia of patriarchy have resulted in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture that damages everyone.
Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, in September. He blamed the pandemic on a world where men monopolise power.

Race is all.
Benjamin Disraeli

The British Empire was far worse than the Nazis.
Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, at a conference on Thursday at Churchill College, Cambridge on the “racial consequences” of Churchill. None of the speakers defended Churchill.

Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.
Benjamin Disraeli

Also within government and officialdom, however, are nervous voices daunted by the task of turning round the oil tanker of nonsense. They need urgently to understand that if they accept the essential woke premise that Britain is a racist state, they must accept the implied conclusion – that Britain must be destroyed.
Charles Moore today

So shall we in the rout of life
Some thought, some faith, some meaning save,
And speak it once before we go
In silence to the silent grave.
George Orwell

The faintest of all human passions is the love of truth.
A.E. Housman

Friday, 12 February 2021

San Francisco cancels Abraham Lincoln, but not for waging an avoidable war. Seattle cancels The Scarlet Letter and the Odyssey.

Headlines about the San Francisco Board of Education.

San Francisco to change names of 44 schools, including Washington and Lincoln, in wake of anti-racism movement

The former presidents were among the historical figures deemed by the board members to have ties to racism or have 'dishonorable legacies'

The board is reasonable in its own terms. All American presidents before John F Kennedy were racists.

It is true that Lincoln was the first president to invite black men to the White House on August 14, 1862 (it raised many eyebrows), but when he did so he told them, 

“Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people. But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. You are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoy. The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you. .....There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain with us.”

He suggested black people move to Central America. I wonder if he thought of consulting the governments of Central America. Later that year in a message to Congress he called for the deportation of free black people.

Lincoln, who was responsible for an unnecessary and unjust war, is no hero of mine nor Washington who has also been cancelled, of whom the same may be said, but Homer is every educated person's hero, assuming he existed. He has been dropped from American school curricula.

The Wall Street Journal’s Meghan Cox Gurdon said in a column that “critical-theory ideologues, schoolteachers and Twitter agitators are purging and propagandizing against classic texts,” including The Odyssey.

In 2018, a Seattle English teacher called Shea Martin tweeted that he would rather die than teach the “The Scarlet Letter” under the hashtag #disruptexts. The Twitter account @DisruptTexts, says it is “a movement to rebuild the literary canon using an antibias, antiracist critical literacy lens.”

Interesting that The Scarlet Letter should fall victim to a witch hunt of a modernised version of the sort it describes.

Shea Martin also tweeted:

“Be like Odysseus and embrace the long haul to liberation (and then take the Odyssey out of your curriculum because it’s trash).”

After the failure of German or Austrian workers to stage a successful Marxist revolution in 1918, Communists had to attribute this to false consciousness on the part of the workers.

George Lukacs, the Hungarian Communist literary critic and stalwart of the Frankfurt School, asked, 

"Who will save us from Western civilisation?"

The answer seems to be a lot of schoolmistresses in the USA.

Thursday, 11 February 2021


"You can tell a man's vices by his friends, his virtues by his enemies." H. L. Mencken

“Style is the answer to everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.” 
Charles Bukowski

The best thing you can do right now is turn off the news, and navigate the world as you see it, not the way you're told to see it.

Ties that bind us and other clothes

The modern tie’s origins lie in the cravat, the mark of a fashionable man in the 18th century, and following that a sign of a man’s social status and class in Victorian England. Today it remains one of the enduring symbols of white male supremacy, silently serving to maintain white male values and standards as the norm.

Professor Claire Robinson of Massey University, New Zealand, writing in the Guardian on Monday. People on the internet laughed at this and said it sounds like a parody. It does, but it is perfectly true.

“What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?"

"There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter”

P.G. Wodehouse

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Mark Twain

“Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquillity that no religion can bestow.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most people in Stockholm who died with Covid were unlikely to live more than a few months anyway

More than 70% of people who died with Covid-19 in Sweden, up to the middle of May 2020, were people in elderly care institutions. This is a much higher proportion than in other countries. More people died in Sweden than Norway and Denmark because Sweden had no lockdown, but a very big reason was the failure to look after people in nursing homes. 

As Anders Tegnell, the Swedish chief epidemiologist, pointed out, it is hard to see how a lockdown would have prevented the disease from entering the elderly care homes.

Those who died of Covid-19 in Stockholm’s nursing homes had a 'life-remaining median' somewhere in the range of 5 to 9 months. Median life expectancy means the age which half of people will die without reaching and half of people will live past.

Most people worldwide who died with Covid-19 were over 80. Many of those, perhaps most, would have died within months anyway. 

Most might not have died of Covid at all, but simply with Covid.

A report on deaths with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate in old people's facilities in another Swedish province showed that 75% of the deaths were not caused by Covid-19.

Dr Horatiu Moldovan, the Romanian secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said back in May that he had examined in detail all Covid related deaths in Romania and 80% of Covid related deaths in Romania were not deaths from Covid. 

Old people, he explained, die because they are old and frail. Once their immune system breaks down they catch every infection going. If Covid-19 is going they catch that.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Swedish cases of Covid-19 have fallen away, again without a lockdown

A lot more people died in Sweden of Covid-19 than I had hoped and expected last spring. Much of the much higher death toll than in Norway was because of the negligent way in which the Swedes treated old people's homes. 

By the summer the epidemic was over there but they didn’t avoid a second wave, as I had expected them to do. 

I expected it because no respiratory infection has come back since the Spanish Flu of 1918-20. I assumed the other countries would have second waves because lockdowns had pushed deaths into the future. 

I wonder why Sweden had a second wave. Perhaps because without a lockdown people took lots of measures not to mix. So herd immunity is not achieved. 

In December as a result of the second wave restrictions were imposed in Sweden, which was taken by the foreign press as an admission that the arguments for lockdown were compelling. These restrictions were mild stuff:  limits on opening hours of bars and restaurants, closing schools for pupils aged 16 and above and recommending masks on public transport.

Still, from the end of December, Sweden has experienced the same steady decline in cases as elsewhere: a 60% decrease in positive tests from 7,136 on 20 December (taking a seven-day average) to 2,875. That’s almost exactly the same as in the locked down UK, where the Deputy Chief Medical Officer is warning people about making holiday plans for the summer and there is even talk of wearing masks to continue into next year or even beyond.

Cults born in social media

QAnon is the clearest example of a cult born on social media: there is no way it would have reached the size it did without social media.' 

So says Stanford University's Renée DiResta, who is is researching online conspiracies. 

Black Lives Matter is another clear example, but does not worry most researchers at famous American universities. 

They probably approve of the BLM movement as a spontaneous movement protesting against injustice, though there was nothing spontaneous about it and the injustices in question were spurious and based on misinformation on social media. 

The expert class is very frightened of the public and the power the social media give the public, but it is not the possibility of a left-wing revolution that worries them. The spectre that haunts them is not the spectre of Communism, although the Black Lives Matter movement is explicitly Marxist, but fascism. 

But even more what frightens them is conservatism.


A land that lacks your sacred rites cannot supply guards for its borders. But it can if you are willing. Who would dare to be matched with this god?

quae tuis careat sacris,
non queat dare praesides
terra finibus: at queat
te volente. quis huic deo
compararier ausit?
Catullus 61.71-75 (translated by Michael Gilleland). The god is Hymen, the god of marriage.

“Writing makes a critical mass of one's true self.”  

Ira Lightman

"To feel comfortable you need your own approval". 
Mark Twain

"Propaganda is often not used for indoctrination, but rather to signal the government’s strength in being able to afford significant resources and impose on its citizens...not meant to 'brainwash', but rather to forewarn the society about how strong it is."
Haifeng Huang, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California

“What should our policy be towards non-Marxist ideas? As far as unmistakable counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs of the socialist cause are concerned, the matter is easy, we simply deprive them of their freedom of speech.”

Chairman Mao

Monday, 8 February 2021

Covid cases have been falling around the world for weeks, but what about the South African mutation?

The Covid-19 epidemic has been in decline for weeks in Europe, North America and most countries around the world, including ones that have not had lockdowns such as Sweden and Japan. 

There are a number of exceptions, including Peru, Indonesia and Malaysia.

It says 'officials' think more people have immunity than was thought. 

Perhaps if the virus had been allowed to circulate freely among healthy people under say 50 it would have burned itself out by now.

As with climate change, people are greatly exaggerating the ability of mankind to control natural forces.

Will Covid mutate into a more intractable form? 

It has. Viruses mutate all the time. 

Slowing infections gives more time for mutation.