Foretelling the Present

There’s been a lot of chatter in the media lately about so-called super-forecasters. They do love a new phrase, don’t they? As far as I can tell this latest one comes from a Dominic Cummings’ latest and somewhat disastrous hire to the Civil Service, Andrew Sabisky, a man whose views would not have been out of place in the Third Reich. Sabisky has now been sacked, but he should never had been allowed anywhere near government – that much is obvious – but then neither should Dominic Cummings. Yet here we are.

So what, if anything, is a super-forecaster? Apparently the word comes from this book which suggests that people with a certain kind of native intelligence do better than so-called experts when it comes to forecasting. Which, surprise surprise, fits in precisely with Johnson and Cummings’ hatred of experts. Why trust someone who’s been in the Civil Service for decades and built up a detailed knowledge of their area when you can hire a maverick with special powers? It sounds kinda appealing, a bit like MacGuyver or Poirot, but this guy was no Sherlock. In fact he was more of an Eichmann with a final solution in his head. It’s not that his views are utterly repellent; it’s that he was allowed to bring them into government – that is the scary thing. He’s the sort of person you’d expect to find beavering away on a mad blog somewhere in a basement, perhaps preparing some sort of terrorist attack. He has no place in Whitehall.

This hatred and distrust of experts is also a power-play. Mavericks are dangerous allies but if their views are in line with yours you can cut through red tape like a knife through butter without all of that tedious paperwork and research. Let us not forget that in the end, Thatcher’s worst enemy was not the Labour Party or the trade unions but the civil service. She, having at least some principles and respect for democracy, shrank from using the sort of power-plays Johnson resorts to. God, it’s a sad day when I start praising Thatcher.

But I’m getting off the point here which is that forecasting, or prophecy, or whatever you want to call it, is basically just seeing the present. If you observe the present clearly you will see where it’s leading, just like this traditional story shows (Nasruddin is a figure known throughout the East as the archetypal fool.)

One day Nasruddin was pruning the branch of the tree. He was sitting on the branch facing towards the trunk and sawing it in front of him. Along came a man.

Oi!’ said the man.

What?’ answered Nasruddin.

If you carry on doing that, you know what’ll happen?

What?

The branch will fall and you’ll fall with it!

Interfering idiot! thought Nasruddin, and he carried on sawing. Sure enough, several minutes later the branch fell to the ground and he fell with it. No bones broken, he jumped up and ran after the man, crying ‘Stop! Tell me more about the future!’

Lol. So – today I predict that I shall finish a blog post and have a cup of tea. More than that I cannot say… except that it’s possible Cummings will overstep the mark once too often and end up having a very short shelf-life.

Have a good one. Day, that is, not shelf-life.

Kirk out

Even Deeper Sigh…

The more time goes on the less I know who I’m going to vote for, and social media does not help, but at all. Opinions are so entrenched that it’s getting ridiculous; the latest thing on one group is that people are saying ‘Put Jeremy Corbyn on every option.’ There’s no point in trying to argue with these people: I know just how it’ll go.

Me: (hesitantly) Can I just point out that Jeremy Corbyn is not on the ballot?

Random Political Stranger: We need to put him there!

Me: But that will just mean spoiling your ballot paper!

RPS: It’s already spoilt by not having JC on it

Me: But what will that achieve?

RPS: We need a socialist leader

Me: We had one, and we lost the election. We can’t lose another one.

RPS: It’s all down to the media. We need a socialist revolution and then the people will see.

Me: How is that EVER going to happen?

RPS: By putting JC on the ballot paper!

And so it goes on – and I’ve left out the inevitable insults from other RPS’s. I despair. And I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for. Then again it may not make a lot of different, since Starmer looks set to romp home.

In other news, I’ve nearly finished a new fan-fiction Sherlock Holmes story (I’m very excited about this) and Oh, before I forget, Lastflyingcow! Where are you? Your poetry ebook is ready and I’ve emailed you but can’t get a reply. Tried again and the email bounced. If I don’t hear from you it will go to the next person so please advise.

Kirk out

But is it Unifiable?

I’m a little dispirited that my favoured candidate is now out of the race. Emily Thornberry seemed to me the standout candidate and I can’t understand why she didn’t get more support, but there it is and there’s no point dwelling on it. So, of the three remaining contenders, who will be the best leader? Who will be able to convince the electorate? Who will unite the party? Is it even unifiable? Generally speaking, getting folk on the left to go in the same direction is like herding cats, because we don’t fall into line. We are naturally non-conformist – that goes with the territory, just as toeing the line goes with the territory of Toryism – and we don’t like being told what to do. By and large, I respect that; I like to make up my own mind and speak it, to put my cross where my mouth is (if you see what I mean.) But unless we can come together – in public at least – we can’t win elections.

So what’s a girl do to? In choosing a leader it’s always a toss-up between the policies you want and those which will convince the electorate: go too far in one direction and you’re just a protest movement with no power; too far in the other direction and you’re in a popularity contest with no agenda for change. It’s a problem. So it’s important to get this right – if we know what ‘right’ is…

In other news, I’ve just found out that Last Tango in Halifax is back for another series! Squee! And I’ve started a new Sherlock Holmes fanfiction story. Happy Monday.

Kirk out

What Does a Prime Minister Look Like?

As the Labour Party continue to debate who should be our next leader, many of us must perform that balancing act between those policies we believe in and those which will persuade the electorate. For those on the left (in recent times) this has been a continual juggling act which became so difficult during the Blair years that many of us voted for other parties instead: when you are electable only because you’ve abandoned your principles, what is the point of being in power? Yet there may be a point. You may be less awful than the opposition – and though Blairism was effectively ‘Tory-lite’ it was still better, or less awful than full-fat Toryism.

So what’s a leftie girl to do? The obvious thing would be to vote Rebecca Long-Bailey/Richard Burgeon. They tick all the boxes (I have a problem with recent proposals about trans people, but that’s another story) and would in nearly all respects continue with Corbynism. So what’s wrong with that? Well, in theory, nothing – except that we threw everything we had at getting a Labour victory and we failed – and you can argue that it was the press (true) or Brexit (also true) or the media (to some extent) but it was also the case that we lost. And the likelihood is that with so-called ‘continuity candidates’, however good they may be, we would lose again.

So what then? A return to Blairism? Well, no – I’m happy to report that I see no appetite for that whatsoever: Blair remains, despite his unhelpful anti-Corbynist bleating, a voice in the wilderness. But as far as I can see none of the candidates is a ‘Blairite’ though some have tried to portray Starmer as such and all have excellent qualities. I would like Emily Thornberry to be our next leader but she looks set to fall at the first hurdle and even if she does get on the ballot paper, is unlikely to win; in which case I haven’t decided who I’ll vote for. But I know one thing; that murmurs of wanting to elect ‘someone who looks like a Prime Minister’ need to be resisted. Because what the hell does that mean? Frankly it means electing someone white and male and for god’s sake, if we can’t resist that now, in 2020, when can we? It is not the case that only men win elections, nor should be be looking for more of the same. We should look for someone principled and persuasive, and for my money, Emily Thornberry is both of those things. She’s also shown that she can take on Boris Johnson (as Shadow Foreign Secretary.)

But sadly if things continue as they are it’ll be Starmer, not that I have a problem with Starmer but it would be nice to take this opportunity to choose a woman and sad if, out of an original list of five, we elect the only male. Hey ho. But I guess we’ll probably get a woman as deputy as Angela Rayner is doing well.

Kirk out

This Post Will Divide But Not Rule Britannia…

I imagine most of my readers will agree with me that today is a sad day. While thousands drink in pubs waving flags and singing Rule Britannia the other half of us sit and mourn.

We are a divided nation and once divisions start they usually carry on; Scottish MP’s have just voted in favour of a second indyref and good luck to them. I nearly said ‘once divisions start they multiply’ but as Sir Bernard Woolley – RIP – pointed out if you multiply divisions you get back to zero. Then again, perhaps zero isn’t a bad indicator of where we are as a nation: back to square one, with the emphasis on the ‘square.’ All manner of forces have been unleashed by Brexit – racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia – those who want to turn the clock back to 1973 are busy remembering how it was before curry invaded our streets and political correctness censored our speech (spoiler alert: it was awful. I was there.) At least it was awful in some ways. In others, it was better. Work generally paid well (though we were yet to get the equal pay legislation that made it better for women) jobs were secure and plentiful and Thatcher was but a glint in the evil eye of the Far Right. In some ways I, too, would like to put the clock back (to 1979 rather than ’73) but we can’t. We must move forward and deal with all of the genuine problems from which the Brexit sideshow, with ringmaster Johnson calling out ‘celebrate! bung a bob! Baby boom on its way!’ and other such ridiculous absurdities, is distracting us.

So we both need to stop and look to those things which are far more important than Brexit, namely climate change. At the beginning of the week I posted some of my challenges to myself, so how have I done with them?

Well, I’ve only used the car once this week, for a total of about three miles. I will be using it at the weekend but again only once, to go to Leicester. So the week’s travelling will amount to about 30 miles. I have explored sources of recycled paper and in a few days we will be ordering a pack of 5 A4 pads. Well, and that’s about it because I forgot to find out about the dishwasher rinse aid and I can’t buy the toothbrush heads yet. I wonder if I’ve done anything else by accident? Can’t think of anything new, but I will try to find out about the dishwasher stuff today.

That’s all folks. What are you doing on this horrible day?

Kirk out

Sustaining Sustainability – Keep it Up!

I’ve started asking myself in the mornings what I can do that day to halt and reverse climate change. Now before you leap in, I’m well aware that one person alone cannot make this huge change, but I’m not alone. Millions of people are also making changes and whilst it may be true that the huge polluters are nations and multinationals, this does not invalidate individual actions. In any case, these actions do not exist in isolation. Each of us, unless we are a hermit, has an effect on others. This blog will I hope have an effect on its readers. My buying habits have an effect on the places I buy from (or don’t.) I boycott Amazon partly because of its environmental impact and to help me do so I use a browser add-on called blockamazonfor.me. Unfortunately it only works on Chrome at the moment so I can’t use it on my laptop, though it’s probably only a matter of time. But at some point a person in their bedroom (or office) thought about this and devised the add-on, and now people are using it. Similar initiatives are everywhere, from supermarkets reducing plastic to shops offering to refill bottles, people are realigning their thoughts. Yes, it’s not enough, yes we have to do more – much more – and soon, but it ain’t nothing.

The trouble with thinking about climate change and my part in it is that I can end up feeling either hopelessly depressed or horribly guilty. It’s like trying to lose weight; every time you think about the problem you are overwhelmed by negativity and this is the last thing you need. So just as with losing weight, we need to develop habits of sustainability that we can actually keep up – in other words, be sustainably sustainable.

So, what are today’s things I’m doing to halt and reverse climate change? I’m going to find out if I can refill my dishwasher rinse aid bottle as a part of the plan to take all the single use plastic out of our house. And I’m going to research sources of recycled paper. Then next week I shall buy some recyclable toothbrush heads.

That’s all folks!

Kirk out

PS I’ve done the first bit of my homework and found this source of recycled paper.

Let Me Splain it to You

Just in case you’re not familiar with the word mansplaining, it refers to the tendency of some men to inform women of what they already know. A good example is this, which happened to me a few months ago. I met a man at a Council of Faiths meeting and as soon as I told him I was a Quaker he proceeded to give me a run-down of Quaker history.

The starting point seems to be that we need to be kept informed and they are the man for the job. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that we might know this stuff already – that we might even be experts in our field – that, god forbid, we might actually be able to tell them something about it! No. They are like search engines picking up on a word and spewing out information on it. Except that I haven’t googled anything and I already have the information, thank you very much.

Of course as the definition above suggests, man– is not the only kind of –splaining. I may in the past have been guilty of whitesplaining, telling people of colour about their own culture or religion, though I hope not; there’s also ablesplaining, which I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you as you already get the idea.

Basically all types of splaining are about power relations. It’s about saying ‘I know more than you about this,’ even when it is blindingly obvious that the person concerned is living with whatever ‘this’ is and is therefore the definitive expert. It’s about positioning yourself above the other person, being the expert, the spokesperson.

So now I’ve explained this, you can stop bothering your pretty little heads about it…

Kirk out