Must all Children’s Laureates be tedious lefties?

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23:  Malorie Blackman attends the BAFTA Academy Children's Awards at London Hilton on November 23, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Unless you’re an avid reader of the Guardian, you’re probably blissfully unaware that Britain has a new Children’s Laureate. His name is Chris Riddell, he’s an illustrator and a cartoonist for the Observer, and according to one who has interviewed him he is a delightful man: ‘Giggly, childlike, doodled book illustrations on his napkin throughout.’

I’m glad about this. One of the roles of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate — in return for his £15,000 bursary and his ‘specially designed and inscribed silver medal’ — is to tour Britain’s schools and festivals acting as an ambassador for children’s literature. Clearly, it would be a disadvantage were the incumbent to prove, say, a filthy old perv, a cantankerous git, or a total illiterate. But for me, almost worse than any of those flaws, would be this: if Riddell — despite his evident drawing skills and general loveliness — turns out to be as infuriatingly, tediously, proselytisingly lefty as at least two of his predecessors.

The one just gone was bad enough. Never having got beyond page one of a Malorie Blackman novel — though my daughter speaks highly of Noughts and Crosses — I can offer no views on her authorial talent. What I do know is that, immensely tiresomely, she would insist on using the laureate’s platform to bore on about identity politics.

Here she is (in the Guardian, inevitably) on multiculturalism: ‘I don’t think we’ve gone far enough with it in terms of making sure children know about different cultures and ways of living.’ Really, Malorie? Really? Did you ever actually pay attention when you visited all those primary schools with their Mary Seacole posters and their projects celebrating Eid and Diwali? (Though, to be fair, probably not so much Easter or Yom Kippur….) And here she is, ibid, sounding off on history: ‘History should belong to all of us and it needs to include people from different cultural backgrounds.’ (Sorry to bring this one up again, Malorie, but: Mary Seacole?) And on her specialist subject: ‘We need more books that are specifically about the BME [black and minority ethnic] British experience, and that’s why I bang the drum for getting more diverse books out there…’.

Yeah, those barriers to entry to children of colour, Malorie. There is just no way on earth that any kid without the requisite wriggling green body could ever get into the head of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. No child of West Indian heritage has ever had an Aunt Spiker or an Aunt Sponge. And J.K. Rowling’s frankly shaming failure to include a single character of ethnic persuasion (unless you count redheads) into the magic Harry-Ron-Hermione circle explains why her series only had global sales in excess of 450 million and was translated into such stubbornly Anglo-Saxon tongues as Bengali, Khmer, Urdu, Persian, Hindi and Arabic.

Mind you, compared with the 2007 to 2009 incumbent, Blackman comes across like David Starkey addressing a Ukip rally after a Jeroboam of Cheval Blanc ’47. I’m talking, of course, about the poet and author Michael Rosen — on whose best-known book I am more than qualified to pass judgment, having read it several times and found it to be possibly the most mind-numbingly tedious work in the entire canon of children’s literature.

I forget the book’s name but basically it’s about these kids whose parents take them on a bear hunt. Possibly because they inhabit some fluffy liberal fantasyland where actions have no consequences — it’s never explained — the parents seem to have no idea how dangerous the enterprise is. Nor does the author. Or, if he does, he cops out completely in his dismal pay-off. (Spoiler alert.) The bear comes out of his cave but doesn’t rip any of the family’s faces off, as bears are wont to do with their razor-sharp, salmon-stripping paws. Instead, it just stumbles after them endearingly. And they all live happily ever after. (Now imagine having to re-read that every night for up to five years. As I didn’t, luckily. We were much more Goodnight Moon, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and The Rats by James Herbert, thank goodness.)

Anyway, if I’d written a book as unbelievably dull as that, I think the last thing I’d be doing is going round the country pontificating on the cultural needs of Britain’s kiddies. But it hasn’t put off Rosen.

Rosen’s main bugbear — as riffed on endlessly in his Guardian column — seems to be that the vile, constrictive Tory establishment is hellbent on imposing on the nation’s kids the kind of rigorous, disciplined education he suffered at Watford Grammar School for Boys in the early 1960s, which meant that despite his ordinary background he could only get into Wadham College, Oxford, to read English.

Perhaps he’s right. Maybe the very last thing kids need in the 21st century is to be taught to read quickly and efficiently using the tried-and-tested phonics method; maybe memorising poetry and absorbing facts really does damage children’s vital creativity; maybe all classes should be remodelled on Alan Bennett’s History Boys, whereby fabulous, freewheeling, inspirational teachers spend every lesson digressing on anything but the subject they’re supposed actually to be teaching.

Problem is — and of course, I wouldn’t expect Rosen to be aware of this, the children’s sector being almost entirely composed of doctrinaire progressives — that not everyone who has kids is left-wing. Some of us have different views as to how our children should best be educated. And it would be nice, one day, to hear these views being expressed by a Children’s Laureate. Not this one, necessarily: he does after all draw for the Observer. But the next one, maybe, who might turn out to be someone proper along the lines of Susan Hill or Anthony Horowitz. And, please God, anyone but Terry Deary.

From the Spectator

Britain’s Day of Burning Hell. Survivors’ eye-witness accounts.

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Britain is enjoying a spectacular heatwave and I don’t know about the rest of you but I have been enjoying it immensely.

I love the sunshine. I love the way it fries your brain so it feels like you’ve been smoking weed even when you haven’t. I love the gazelle-like legs of all the nubiles in their summer dresses passing me just now as I sipped a flat white on Kensington High Street. I love the fact that, when you’re wearing sunglasses, you can perve freely without anyone realising where your eyes are looking…

But enough summer sunshine fun. It seems that not everyone feels quite as enthusiastic about this glorious mid-90s heat as I do.

This young fellow on Twitter for example who thought it would be a good idea to send me this tweet.

I wonder if Ollie is being sarcastic.

Anyway, I’m grateful to Ollie for at least two reasons. First, I absolutely adore the idea that he imagines me to be so powerful I am in any way responsible for the thing we used to call in the old days “lovely weather.”

Second, because he sweetly included a link to the Guardian which I might otherwise have missed.

It seems that the Guardian has been live-blogging this marvellous sunny day we’ve been having, providing regular updates, in much the same way newspapers more normally do when covering say a breaking story about some hideous terrorist atrocity or some terrible natural disaster.

Here, so you can enjoy it yourself, is the link.

It includes invaluable tips on how to cope if you’re fasting for Ramadan (as so many of Guardian’s white liberal metropolitan readers are, right now, of course): break it and seek medical attention if you’re seriously ill, advises Shakyh Abdul Hussain of the East London Mosque – though presumably other clerics would disagree strongly with this dangerous liberalism.

There’s a short interview with a devil-may-care couple of pensioners who have recklessly decided to ignore all the Guardian’s invaluable health-and-safety advice and expose themselves to the sun’s deadly rays:

Soaking up the rays on a bench on Gordon promenade, Veronica Josh, 70, and her friend Jean Reay, 71, say they took no notice of the health warnings urging people to stay indoors between 11am and 4pm.

Who says the spirit of punk is dead, eh?

Meanwhile the UN is seizing the opportunity to advance its nannyish, finger-wagging agenda.

The United Nations has urged countries to create better warning systems as a heatwave sweeping western Europe saw temperatures reach 40C.

People with lung problems are basically as good as dead.

Vicky Barber from the British Lung Foundation Helpline said sufferers should avoid going out in the midday heat. “During hot weather, the air we breathe has lower moisture levels than usual, which can have a drying effect on our airways,” she said.

“As a result, people with respiratory conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or severe asthma may find it harder to breathe, feel more tired, or find their lungs feeling heavy or tight.”

Astonishingly, there has been a rise in sales of sun cream:

Superdrug has seen sales of suncare rise by 26% (compared to this time last year) and is predicting sales to rise by an additional 20% this week. The drugstore’s own brand Solait SPF50 suncream is the best seller, with the retailer announcing that it is selling a bottle every 30 seconds.

There has been a mass outbreak of unrepentant sexism:

The ASA said: “We considered the claim ‘Are you beach body ready?’ prompted readers to think about whether they were in the shape they wanted to be for the summer and we did not consider the accompanying image implied a different body shape to that shown was not good enough or was inferior. We concluded that the headline and image were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

And it’s the hottest July day on record. (Well, at least if you count one data set from one weather station as being symbolic of EVERYTHING).

Just like that, the temperature has soared at Heathrow to make this the hottest day in July since records began. That’s 0.2C higher than 2006’s record.

All of this makes me feel very ancient. I’m old enough to remember a time when sunny days were something to celebrate, not panic about or – as young Ollie seems to imagine – to cite doomily as yet further depressing evidence of man’s refusal to change his selfish carbon-guzzling lifestyle.

Is it just me? Or am I in fact the only surviving refugee from the Summer of ’76 who can remember headlines like “Phew! What a Scorcher!”?

Read at Breitbart

You only had one job at Glastonbury, Kanye West…

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Is Kanye West the most annoying, arrogant, rude, impertinent, graceless, blustering, charmless, overindulged boor in the entire history of popular music – or indeed in the entirety of history ever?

Well, yes, obviously.

But for some of us – me, I confess until this weekend – all these manifest flaws have been more than justified by the man’s superabundant talent.

“Yes, well the man’s earned the right to despise his fans, to diss lovely, sweet Taylor Swift and to be so incredibly shallow that in order to out-bling his rival Jay-Z’s marriage to Beyonce he had to go out and marry a woman notable for only two things (a) the size of her booty  b) being more famous than Beyonce.) He can do this stuff because he is an artistic genius.”

That’s what I used to tell people until I saw his headlining set at Glastonbury Festival (England’s Woodstock) at the weekend and appreciated for the first time the main flaw in my argument, viz: Kanye West is not an artistic genius, after all.

Before Kanye West made his appearance at Glastonbury, the bookmakers were offering odds of 2 to 1 that he would be booed off stage before the end of his set.

That is because, by long tradition, Glastonbury is the king of British music festivals – like Woodstock might have been had it ever been any good – and does not take kindly to artistes who think they are bigger than it.

Pretty much anyone who is anyone and who is available and alive has played there. Nirvana never did. Nor did Elvis. But everyone else has, from Page & Plant to Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash to Paul McCartney to the Who to Radiohead to Metallica to Jay Z.

So being allotted the headline Saturday night slot at Glastonbury is quite an honour.

But would Cheesus (as Kanye styles himself) rise to the occasion. Or would he urinate all over it like an incontinent Rottweiler?

Well, on Saturday night about 60,000 of us who’d come to see him had our answer.

The only brief moment of excitement was when a comedian called Lee Nelson invaded the stage (he was holding a mic and at first it looked like he was going to be one of those thrilling guest rappers that Kanye couldn’t be bothered in the end to invite along) in what he claimed was “revenge” for what Kanye did to Taylor Swift. (He interrupted her acceptance speech at the MTV Video awards in 2009).

After that it was like being pounded to terminal boredom by a sledgehammer made of Mogadon and inscribed with the collected speeches of Barack Obama. Something like that, anyway.

The thing Kanye West doesn’t seem to have realised is that a lot of us don’t buy his records for his rapping. For all we care about the political insights of a spoilt millionaire and close personal friend of Barack Obama (allegedly), he might just as well be rapping about pizza toppings or his antique Yu-Gi-Oh! cards collection or the best fish, in his considered view, to have in a 30,000 gallon marine aquarium. It’s not like we’re listening to the actual words – (though I might if they were about the fish: could be quite informative) – they’re just the infill to give Kanye something to do with his mouth while the stuff we do care about (the samples, the hooks, the mash ups, the bit from In The Court of the Crimson King where it goes “Twenty-first century schizoid man”, and so on) gets us swaying and grooving and feeling how pleasingly badassed and Trans Black we all are. (Or real black, even. I understand that Kanye West does have some black fans. Not as nearly as many as he has white fans, obviously. But a few. Apparently).

Yes, of course, there are ALSO Kanye fans who care about his rapping too. These were much in evidence all around me at Glastonbury, chanting the lyrics so loud and word-perfectly I don’t know why they bothered turning up – they could have just piled into an elevator with a few of their mates and shouted Kanye West’s greatest hits at the mirror for two hours. They’re also, I suspect, the reason why he didn’t get booed off stage as he deserved.

But if you weren’t one of those, it was really, really, really boring. I wouldn’t necessarily expect people who think rap all sounds the same to understand this but one reason we music aficionados so love our hip hip is that, of all the genres, it’s the one that probably attracts the best, most interesting producers – Dr Dre, Timbaland, The Neptunes, DJ Shadow, and so on – and creates the richest, most intoxicating sound. An album like West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – which I still love – is like being taken by your parents to the sweetie shop (candy store, if you prefer) and being treated to the entire stock.

So imagine how frustrating it would be if you had to listen to a hip hop artiste so self-obsessed, cocksure and oblivious to the needs of his audience (take a leaf out of Taylor Swift’s book Kanye: she actually cares about her fans. When my girl went to see her in Hyde Park the same time you were playing, she and her friends got a nice shiny bracelet thing – a gift from Taylor) that he decided completely to strip out all that clever, pleasing musical stuff and just concentrate on the basslines, the declamatory rap bollocks, and himself.

Well I’ve no need to imagine. That’s Kanye. And only Kanye. Jay-Z certainly didn’t behave like that when he played Glastonbury. Eminem certainly wouldn’t do it.

No, being a crap performer – and actually having the gall to demand to be respected for it – is purely a Kanye West thing.

Towards the end of his set, Kanye told those of us who had stuck it out (whether we wanted to or not: once you’re in the middle of a crowd of 60,000 or more you’re there for the duration) that we had witnessed a performance by “the greatest living rock star on the planet.”

This, it struck me, isn’t quite accurate. And as he played out his final numbers – including an inexplicable account of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – I began making a mental list of all the bands I’ve seen at Glastonbury or elsewhere over the years who are or were much, much better than Kanye West. (Some, I admit, have passed on. But I’ve a suspicion that even the dead ones could still put on a more impressive act than Kanye did at the weekend)

A short list of rock stars who are better than Kanye West

Page & Plant; Eat; Lush; The Chemical Brothers; The Prodigy; Foo FightersOasis; New Fast Automatic Daffodils; Paul McCartney; Patti Smith; Future Islands; Dreadzone; PJ Harvey; Tricky; Paul Oakenfold; The Killers; Radiohead; The Rolling Stones; DJ Shadow; The Happy Mondays; Inspiral Carpets; Neil Young & Crazy Horse; Dizzee Rascal; New Model Army; Massive Attack; David Bowie; Duran Duran; Michael Jackson; Mogwai; Jesus Jones; Tracy Chapman; Lou Reed; Bob Dylan; Rodriguez; Love; Rolf Harris; The Unthanks; The Who; Supergrass; Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci; John Grant; Midlake; Trashmonk; Gravenhurst; Florence & The Machine; Burt Bacharach; Jamie T; Suede; the xx; Amadou and Mariam; Elbow; Ash; New Order; Primal Scream; The Flaming Lips; Gorillaz; U2; Coldplay; Arcade Fire; Gregory Isaacs; Bjork; Manic Street Preachers; The White Stripes; The Verve; Neil Diamond; Blondie; Smashing Pumpkins; Elvis Costello; Carter USM; The Black Crowes; Jeff Buckley; Pulp; Moby; Brian Wilson; Arctic Monkeys; Leonard Cohen; Rage Against The Machine; Lenny Kravitz; The Cure; Depeche Mode; Frank Turner; Caribou; Todd Terje & The Olsens; Fatboy Slim; Four Tet; Leftfield; Django Django; Skrillex; Franz Ferdinand; Fatboy Slim; Lamb; Groove Armada; Red Hot Chili Peppers; Pet Shop Boys; Chas n Dave

The list is not exhaustive.

From Breitbart

Why is Britain dishing out honours to low grade Twitter trolls?

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Historians will never cease arguing about when it was that Western Civilization began – Sumer? Salamis? After the Fall of Rome? But not one of them will be in the slightest doubt from this week onwards as to when it was that Western Civilization ended.

Indeed, they will be able to pinpoint its demise down not just to the day but to the very hour the announcement was made. I refer, of course, to the extraordinary Gavrilo-Princip-style moment when some very dangerous and out-of-control mad person somehow got their shaking, sweating hands on the controls and decided it would be a good idea to award an OBE to someone called Caroline Criado Perez.

To help future historians I thought I’d provide a contemporary record of this momentous event using the traditional early 21st century medium of an internet Q & A.

Q: So we’re all very clear now, we historians here in your future, that Western Civilization definitely ended when Caroline Criado Perez was awarded an OBE. But though we’ve searched our extensive archives, which includes every article written or published, and every tweet ever tweeted – including the deleted ones by Johann Hari claiming to have personally transcribed all Shakespeare’s plays as they were dictated to him by the author – we seem quite unable to find anyone by that name of any significance. The only Caroline Criado Perez in our records appears to be some kind of desperate, attention-seeking, political activist cum low-rent blogger.

A: Yes. That’s the one.

Q: Then we can only assume that her OBE wasn’t the OBE but some similarly-named bauble of no significance.

A: Er, no. It’s the OBE. As in Order of the British Empire.

Q: Quite impossible! We’ve studied the history of the British Empire and it was kind of a big deal. We’ve read about Queen Victoria and Clive of India and the Charge of the Light Brigade and Scott of the Antarctic and Rorke’s Drift and the White Man’s Burden and all the incredible economic and scientific and intellectual advances that were made as a result of the money, power and influence which accrued from the Empire where the sun never set. So when you award one of your Queen’s subjects a medal named the Order of the British Empire that’s got to be a pretty big deal right? You’re not going to just hand it over willy nilly, to some hysterical, twittering, publicity-grubbing nobody?

A: So the more old-fashioned among us would have hoped, certainly.

Q: No. No! You have GOT TO BE JOKING. We know our history, we historians of the future, and one of things we know is that the Beatles – who are, only, like, the most famous pop band in the history of the universe – when they got their awards they weren’t even OBEs. They were MBEs. Which is one notch below. You’re not seriously telling us that between 1965 – when John, Paul, George and Ringo got their MBEs – and 2015, when Caroline Criado Perez got her OBE, that your culture became so grotesquely debased that some jumped up feminist troll was deemed superior in value and achievement to the creators of Eleanor Rigby, Strawberry Fields Forever, Helter Skelter and (our personal favourite in the future) Octopus’s Garden? Really?

A: Now you’re beginning to grasp this End of Western Civilization thing.

Q: OK. OK. Just to recap, so that we’re SURE we’re talking about the same woman. This Caroline Criado Perez’s most memorable achievement was launching a campaign to get the head of Jane Austen on a banknote. Not because Jane Austen was maybe the greatest novelist in the English language – which we could understand – but just to make the cheapshot feminist point that Jane Austen had a vagina whereas Dickens and Trollope didn’t?

A: You do sound refreshing un-PC in the future, I must say.

Q: Yeah well. We had to change. It was the only way we could start trying to recreate Western Civilization once this Caroline Criado Perez person had killed it. But look, we’re asking the questions here. We’re future historians. We NEED TO KNOW because there’s something about this whole banknote think that has been troubling us. Are we right in thinking that the person on the other side of the banknote was also female?

A: Yes. The Queen.

Q: But this Caroline Criado Perez felt, what, that was “sexist” or something? That only total domination of your banknotes by the female sex would do?

A: “Gender”. She would have preferred the term “gender.”

Q: Crikey, she sounds tiresome.

A: I think she would have considered that kind of language patriarchal, phallocentric and dismissive.

Q: I bet she would, the minx.

A: Wow! I’m loving this future of ours already.

Q: You say that. But you have no idea the horror the planet has to go through in order to get where we are. Fireships off the shoulder of Orion, my arse. We are talking ugly, ugly, ugly. Mind you, having said that, nothing quite as ugly as the awarding of the OBE to this annoying uber-talentless rabblerousing flibbertigibbet. Which is why I’ve got one more important question for you.

A: Go on.

Q: Well, it’s like this. Our records show that when the Beatles got their MBEs many earlier recipients of the award were so disgusted that they handed their gongs back in protest. Yet, we seem to have no evidence that Caroline Criado Perez’s OBE provoked a similar outbreak of high principle.

A: So your question is what exactly?

Q: Well it’s more of a rhetorical one, really. What can have happened to your culture that it became so vapid, spineless and worthless so quickly? Since when did you become so obsessed with this “equality” crap that it was allowed to trump all the things that once made Western Civilization great: your history, your traditions, your values, your heroic achievements, your quest for truth, beauty, wisdom, excellence?

Read at Breitbart London

In which finally I discuss the hell of being born Trans Class

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“Trans Race” victim Rachel Dolezal has attracted much mockery from some quarters for claiming to be a black woman trapped in a white woman’s body.

All I can say is: she should be so lucky. I personally have spent my entire miserable life suffering from a far more painful, emotionally draining, and tragically irreversible handicap. It has ruined my career, it has blighted my children’s future, it is a constant source of disappointment to my wife and could well one day lead to a very ugly divorce. I’ve had difficulty talking about it before because it’s such a sore topic. But now, thanks to the brave example of Rachel Dolezal I have been shown the way.

Today, finally, I have plucked up the courage to speak out in the hope that fellow sufferers of this awful disability might finally be able to talk openly about the misery this tragic condition has brought upon them. Perhaps we could even form a campaign group and demand government compensation.

The problem is this: I was born Trans Class.

Imagine how it feels to stare into your bathroom mirror every day and to see, reflected back, not the extravagantly be-sideburned, gimlet-eyed, red-cheeked aristocrat you know you really are, but just the pallid, gaunt features of a middle-middle-class nobody struggling to make a living, just like all the “little people”.

Imagine waking up, not in the four-poster-bed that has been in the family for generations and which its rumoured Anne Boleyn once slept in, but just a fairly ordinary pocket-sprung number you picked up ten years ago from a boring high street chain with some name like SlumberWorld or DreamLand or Bed-U-Like.

Imagine the stabbing agony you experience every day when you realise that nothing you ever do – NOTHING – is ever going to alter the fact that you will never have a foxhunt bearing your name (like the Duke of Beaufort does), that neither you nor in all likelihood your children, will ever inherit a 52 bedroom Baroque palace with 5,000 acres of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown and swarming with unusual-looking sheep, rare-breed cattle and exotic deer which your ancestor brought back from the Forbidden City in Peking.

Imagine the horror of knowing that instead of having your every whim catered for by a retinue of liveried servants – as is your natural birthright – you instead actually have to put your leaves into your teapot yourself, then pour boiling water on it from an electric kettle, then wait for it to brew for four minutes, then pour it out into a cup which isn’t made from antique finebone china but has Mr Silly on it and came from some unspeakable supermarket like Tesco, not to mention all the other crap that ordinary people have to do because they know no better and weren’t born Trans Class like you and are therefore more dumbly accepting of their lot…stuff like putting out the rubbish once a week for the binmen, and having to floss your teeth rather than getting your cheeky chambermaid Moll to do it and having to watch television rather than having your staff watch it for you and then give you a written summary in copperplate.

Imagine sticking both arms out every morning then remembering, with a shudder, that there is no valet to slip on your frock coat and that in fact all you’ve got is a bunch of Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and the same old pair of jeans which you’re going to have to put on yourself.

Imagine….well there’s really no point because you can’t bloody imagine. Unlike me – unless of course you are a fellow Trans Class victim – you won’t have sufficient intellectual refinement or imagination to imagine, because your proletarian brain won’t let you.

So since you lack the inability to imagine, I’ll just have to tell you.

I was born an 18th century Duke with a vast estate, a stable of two dozen hunters, a bevy of mistresses, a summer “nooky house”, more estates in the West Indies (where I can assure you that the workers are all very happy with their lot and address me cheerfully as “Massa Duke, Sir”), a beautiful if slightly remote wife who is related to the King, lots of paintings (especially of me) by Gainsborough and Reynolds, yet I am trapped in the body of a middle-class, middle-aged journalist in ugly, pointless, 21st century Britain.

And it is HELL, I tell you, hell.

That is why from now on, to help my cope with my disability, I shall expect to be addressed as “Your Grace”, be given the place of honour at those of your miserable dinner parties I deign to attend, and be treated at all times with deference bordering on worship.

Thank you, Rachel Dolezal for showing me the way. You may be a horrid wretched oik from the Colonies (job going on my West Indies estates, if you’re interested) but you have enabled me to become who I really am.

After all, it’s not the body you were born into that defines you. That’s just an oppressive social construct.

What truly defines you is how you feel so I’m going to say it proud and I’m going to say it loud:

I. AM. A. DUKE.

From Breitbart

Jonathan Chait talks Chait on climate change

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There’s a long article in the grown-up Australian magazineQuadrant which I wouldn’t expect columnist Jonathan Chait to be capable of finishing, let alone comprehending.

But since it’s quite germane to a silly piece he has published in New Yorkmagazine entitled “Scientists Drop Science Bomb on Climate Skeptics,” I thought I might kindly help the afflicted by offering a precis.

The piece is by science writer Matt Ridley (well known to readers of London’s Times, The Wall Street Journal, and of books including Genome and The Rational Optimist) and it’s called”What The Climate Wars Have Done to Science.”

Ridley, formerly a believer in Catastrophic Man Made Warming (CAGW), describes how the scales fell from his eyes and he came to realise that climate change alarmism was a massive fraud akin to Stalin-era Lysenkoism or the persistent myth (invented in the 1950s by Ancel Keys) that dietary fat is the main cause of heart disease.

He reached this conclusion using the traditional scientific method of “looking at the evidence.”

From Michael Mann’s utterly discredited “Hockey Stick” to the similarly bankrupt nonsense that there is a “97 per cent” consensus on CAGW, Ridley demonstrates that almost all the evidence climate alarmists have marshalled in order to support their extravagant claims about man-made climate doom is in one way or another doctored, dishonest or corrupt.

The problem has got so bad, Ridley argues, that “it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science”.

Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudo-science – homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science.

Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

One of these dogmas, just like Lysenkoism, just like Ancel Keys’s now discredited theories on dietary fat, is Catastrophic Man Made Global Warming theory.

Ridley goes on to provide lots of examples of this establishment-endorsed junk science in action – many taken from an excellent book which I highly recommend (not least because it features me) called Climate Change: The Facts (which you can buy here at Mark Steyn’s place).

He tells the tale of Camille Parmesan who produced a paper on the Edith checkerspot butterfly which, though subsequently proved to be utter nonsense by an ecologist, nevertheless earned her 500 citations, an invitation to the White House and a slot contributing to the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report. Why? Just because her paper conformed to the Establishment’s approved narrative that almost everything going wrong in the natural world can be blamed on “climate change.”

Read the article. There’s plenty, plenty more where this came from. So much, indeed, that you can’t help wondering: how do these shysters get away with it? How can so many scientists have been bent from the true path? How come their work gets such unquestioning coverage from science correspondents whose job ought to be to sniff out dishonesty and fraud? Why are these scientists not held to account by the supposedly distinguished institutions where they work or by the government bodies which fund them?

The answer, Ridley explains, is that the truth has fallen victim to a greedy and out of control green industry.

“…inch by inch, the huge green pressure groups have grown fat on a diet of constant but ever-changing alarm about the future. That these alarms – over population growth, pesticides, rain forests, acid rain, ozone holes, sperm counts, genetically modified crops – have often proved wildly exaggerated does not matter: the organisations that did the most exaggeration trousered the most money.

In the case of climate, the alarm is always in the distant future, so can never be debunked. These huge green multinationals with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and the media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous.”

So when Jonathan Chait pompously invokes the name of “Science” to support his cause – and accuses “skeptics” of being anti-science – what he in fact means by “Science” in nothing that Newton or Einstein would have understood by the word.

Chait is not a scientist. Neither am I. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that Chait – presumably – considers himself to be a journalist and something of a master of snark.

You can tell from the sarcastic relish of his concluding paragraph:

So now that we know there is no pause, or even a slowdown, science-loving conservatives can rest assured that the conclusions of the climate-science field are correct, and the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere does in fact trap heat. Obviously, right? Conservatives placed so much weight on the apparent existence of this pause that there’s no way they would just immediately switch over to some other justification for their same skepticism, like some kind of reflexive ideologues.

Well all I’ll say, as a fellow snark practictioner, is that if you’re going to adopt a tone as lofty and sneery as that, then you’d better be damned sure of your facts.

You’d better be aware, for example, as Chait so clearly isn’t, that there is a very effective counterargument to this “Science” paper he has set so much store by, which shows it up for the dishonest, incompetent, politically motivated artefact it really is.

If not, there’s a severe danger that you’ll end up being accused by the better-informed of having churned out an article which we in England are fond of dismissing with a phrase not unakin to, “This is a load of complete and utter Chait!”

Read more at Breitbart

‘Hide the Pause': the latest great global warming cover up

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What’s the most embarrassing and inconvenient truth for the cause of climate alarmism?

Probably the fact that there has now been no “global warming” for 18 years and six months. Not only does this contradict all the doomladen climate models cited in the IPCC’s various reports – none of them predicted the so-called “Pause” – but it also means that not one of the kids in school being fed climate propaganda by their on-message teachers has ever personally lived during a time of global warming.

So it’s quite understandable that – just as they tried to do with the “Medieval Warming Period” and also “the decline” (which proved so troubling to Michael Mann and his pals) – the alarmists are doing their damnedest to write the “Pause” (or, if you will, “hiatus”) out of scientific history.

And now they’ve done it!

Or so the journal Science tells us in a new paper being greeted with a predictably rapturous reception by the usual suspects at the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times.

Here, for example, is Pravda’s take:

The so-called hiatus has been touted by non-scientists who reject mainstream climate science. Those claims have resonated; two years ago, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change felt the need to explain why the Earth was not heating up as expected, listing such reasons as volcanic eruptions, reduced solar radiation and the oceans absorbing more heat.

“The reality is that there is no hiatus,” said Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina. He is the lead author of a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science

So that’s it then, is it? Game over for the deniers, now dramatically disarmed of their most powerful weapon by “the Science”?

Er, not quite, no, as this exquisitely damning rebuttal from the Global Warming Policy Forum makes clear.

The thrust of Karl’s paper is this: that far from staying flat since 1998, global temperatures have carried on rising. It’s just that scientists haven’t noticed before because they’ve been looking in the wrong place – on land, rather than in the sea where all the real heat action is happening.

And how did Karl et al notice what everyone else has missed until now? Well, by using a specialised scientific technique called “getting your excuses in early before the Paris climate conference in December.”

Essentially, this technique involves making adjustments to the raw temperature data (sound familiar?) and discovering – lo! – that the sceptics were wrong and the alarmists were right all along.

Karl’s paper makes much of the fact that the methods used for gathering sea temperature data have changed over the years: in the old days it used to involve buckets; more recently, engine intake thermometers. Hence his excuse for these magical “adjustments”. Apparently (amazingly, conveniently), the measurements used since 1998 have been “running cold” and therefore needed correcting in a (handy) upward direction in order to show what has really been happening to global warming. Once you realise this – global warming turns out to be as real and present and dangerous as ever it was.

As the GWPF reports there are several glaring problems with Karl’s paper, starting with the fact that it contradicts all the other surface temperature data sets and also satellite data (which clearly shows no warming post 1998). Also, without any plausible explanation, Karl also chooses not to use the data from the Argo array “that is our best coherent data set on ocean temperatures.” The suspicion naturally arises that this is because if Karl had used the Argo findings, they would have made his paper look ridiculous.

But, of course, accuracy and scientific integrity was never the point of this exercise.

Rather, it’s sole point was to garner quotations like the ones amassed by the Guardian (et al) and relayed to the faithful who will now unquestionably accept it as evidence that their cause is just.

Here below is the rationale for Karl’s paper. The actual science is a sublime irrelevance for, as ever, this is all about politics.

Prof Michael Mann, whose analysis of the global temperature in the 1990s revolutionised the field, said the work underlined the conclusions of his own recent research.

“They’ve sort of just confirmed what we already knew, there is no true ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming,” he said. “To the extent that the study further drives home the fact … that global warming continues unabated as we continue to burn fossil fuels and warm the planet, it is nonetheless a useful contribution to the literature.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at London’s Grantham Research Institute, said the news that warming had been greater than previously thought should cause governments currently meeting in Bonn to act with renewed urgency and lay foundations for a strong agreement at the pivotal climate conference in Paris this December.

“The myth of the global warming pause has been heavily promoted by climate change sceptics seeking to undermine the case for strong and urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ward.

Since scientists began to report a slower than expected rate of warming during the last decade, climate sceptics have latched on to the apparent dip in order to question the validity of climate models.

Last February, US Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told CNN: “The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that – that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened.”

Cruz’s rival for the Republican nomination, Jeb Bush, was using the pause to argue for inaction as early as 2009.

Read the rest at Breitbart London

IPSO: a great new way for bullies to muzzle the press

Censored Concept
Censored Concept

One of the fundamental principles of English common law is that you are innocent until proven guilty. And rightly so, for imagine how unfair it would be if any old loon with an axe to grind had only to lodge a trumped-up complaint with the relevant authorities in order to have you punished for no reason whatsoever.

Actually, though, this cruel and capricious system exists in Britain. It’s called the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) and, as might be expected of the bastard offspring of the Leveson inquiry, it’s doing an absolutely first-rate job of empowering bullies and curbing freedom of speech in order to assuage the spite of that small but vocal lobby of caught-red-handed luvvies, lefty agitators and failed hacks which thinks our press has got too big for its boots.

Not that you would necessarily guess this if you went to Ipso’s website. Its Editors’ Code of Practice seems reasonable enough (‘The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information…’) and, scrolling down its list of rulings, what you find in the vast majority of cases is the phrase: ‘The complaint was not upheld.’ This would suggest that Ipso is both judicious and restrained.

Or so you’d think till you become the subject of one of its investigations. This happened to me recently. I can’t give you the exact details but suffice to say that I’d written something so uncontentious and easily verifiable that I might have written, ‘The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.’ Yet still, a political activist decided he had sufficient grounds to complain about this. And rather than tell him where to go — as five seconds on Google would have enabled their salaried and presumably time-rich staff to do — Ipso decided it was meet and right to make this imaginary problem my problem.

When I replied to their query with a link to a scientific website clearly showing that the sun does rise in the east and does set in the west, I thought that would be an end to it. But no. Mr Activist hit back with an even longer screed, vigorously disputing that the evidence I had provided said what I claimed it did, and demanding recourse.

‘Could we perhaps offer to remove these pars in the online version?’ suggested the newspaper’s readers’ editor diplomatically. ‘No!’ I said. ‘He’s trying it on and there’s a point of principle here. Correcting mistakes is one thing. But censoring stuff for the crime of being true? No way.’

Now, of course, I have every confidence that, when this issue is eventually resolved, Ipso will come to the only sensible conclusion. But by then it will be too late — for I will already have been forced to waste hours dealing with the kind of red-crayon complaint which, in more sensible times, would have been dealt with simply by allowing the ‘reader’ to present his case in the ‘letters to the editor’ section.

This is what Mark Steyn means when he says: ‘The process is the punishment.’ He’s referring to the far more onerous, costly and time-consuming legal case in the US that he is fighting with climate scientist Michael Mann, but when it comes to the way Ipso is being used the principle is much the same.

These activists needn’t care what Ipso’s eventual ruling is: by that stage they’ll have won regardless. Unlike in the law courts, they will have successfully intimidated and inconvenienced their enemies while incurring no financial risk. Not that money is a problem for them anyway because, quite often, making these complaints is what they are paid to do. Bob Ward, for example, a serial complainant who most recently brought an Ipso case against the Mail on Sunday for saying something he didn’t like about Arctic sea ice, has a lucrative job at the Grantham Institute, among whose raisons d’être is to make life impossible for climate sceptics.

For the journalists on the receiving end of this punishment by process, though, it’s a different story. Christopher Booker, for example, now sometimes finds himself wasting days on end fending off complaints brought by activists passing themselves off as concerned readers. One case cost him 12 solid days in lost work. He has the facts on his side and is confident of eventual victory. But even when Ipso finds in his favour, the hassle of making his defence (unpaid) will amount to the equivalent of a fine worth many hundreds of pounds.

Now, we all have our problems in this increasingly overregulated world, so I don’t expect you to shed too many tears for the plight of the freelance journalist. But what should definitely worry you about this use of Ipso is its effects on freedom of speech.

Consider Andrew Gilligan, the brave and brilliant scourge of Islamist skulduggery (from the Trojan Horse affair to Lutfur Rahman), who now has to set aside ‘a day or two’ each month just to deal with Ipso complaints. His newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph, is happy to build these costs into its reporting budget. But for some publications, the inconvenience and expense is so off-putting that they simply give up and pursue less obstreperous targets. These complaints wear people down and stop them reporting.

This is just the sort of thing that wiser heads warned would happen at the height of the Hacked Off hysteria. Weren’t Leveson’s recommendations supposed to protect us from bullies, rather than enable them?

From The Spectator

Terrible news for climate catastrophists: the Sahara is getting greener

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Good news: the Sahara desert is getting greener because of “climate change.”

Climate change has achieved what Bob Geldof and Live Aid failed to do by ending the drought in the Sahel region of Africa that killed more than 100,000 people in the 1980s, a study has found. Rising greenhouse gases caused rains to return to the region south of the Sahara, from Senegal to Sudan, boosting crop yields since the 1990s and helping the population to feed itself without relying on foreign donations. The study, in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that Sahel summer rainfall was about 10 per cent, or 0.3mm, higher per day in 1996-2011 than in the drought period of 1964-93.

Well, I say “good news”, which obviously it is for the starving Africans scraping a marginal and precarious living on the edge of the desert, and, indeed, for those of us who prefer to see Africa as an economic success story waiting to happen rather than a looming demographic threat.

But I predict that there will some people who are going to take this news very amiss. The sphincter-poppingly furious crew of greenie activists at the George-Soros-funded website DeSmog blog, for example. As Bishop Hill notes, when, a few years back, the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Phillip Mueller produced a paper predicting this very thing, the red-faced greenies of DeSmog rushed angrily to poo-poo it:

It is wild speculation to assert that any recovery in the Sahel is a result of global warming and to dangle the prospect of a future green Sahara is the exact opposite of the message provided by Mueller’s reference on the matter. However welcome the re-greening of parts of the Sahel, it cannot be relied on.

This is how the left rolls, as a very astute Times article once noted in a different but parallel context, when describing how apologists for the European Union enable it to enlarge its powers first by ridiculing their opponents, then by slily – but not apologetically – conceding that they were right all along.

It is at first denied that any radical new plan exists; it is then conceded that it exists but ministers swear blind that it is not even on the political agenda; it is then noted that it might well be on the agenda but is not a serious proposition; it is later conceded that it is a serious proposition but that it will never be implemented; after that it is acknowledged that it will be implemented but in such diluted form that it will make no difference to the lives of ordinary people; at some point it is finally recognised that it has made such a difference, but it was always known that it would and voters were told so from the outset.

I’m very much looking forward to the bit where the greenies get to the final stage of historical revisionism. “But, of course, we knew that global cooling was the real problem and that we were heading towards a new ice age,” all the usual suspects – from the once-distinguished heights of NASA and the Royal Society to the stygian depths of DeSmog – will all chorus. “Why we were all predicting as much as long ago as the 1970s…”

Read the rest at Breitbart London

Rod Liddle does his anti-foxhunting Dad Dance again. Oh, puh-lease.

Wolfhunt

Rod Liddle – the thinking man’s Ricky Gervais – has been doing his Dad Dance routine again. You know the one. It’s where he shows how down-with-the-kids and still-in-touch-with-his-radical-leftist-working-class-roots he is by telling you how utterly he loathes foxhunting and how, instead of giving parliament a free vote on the issue, David Cameron should be making it even more illegal than ever because, like, it’s barbaric.

Rad, Rod. Rad!

You can almost smell the oestrogen and plait-haired armpit sweat of all the hot PETA chicks swarming to kneel in appreciation of Rod’s bunny hugging caringness, can’t you?

But I have to say that as both a longstanding friend of Rod’s and a huge admirer of his writing, I find this particular Dad Dance of his embarrassing and demeaning and I really wish he wouldn’t do it.

When he writes crap like this it’s a bit like Led Zeppelin reforming to do a three month stint at Caesars Palace. (“Stairway to Heaven guaranteed Every Nite!!!“). You just think: “No, Rod. Really. You’re better than that.”

It’s crap because it’s airheaded and fluffy and mawkish and horribly redolent of the kind of Guardianista Liberalthink that, as a rule, Rod rightly professes to despise.

Saying foxhunting should be banned because you think it’s cruel and barbaric is as insightful and thought-through and original as venturing, say, that “The true mark of a civilised country is how well it treats its old/disabled/ethnic minorities/prisoners/delete as appropriate” or that you believe in “social justice” and that everyone should have a “living wage” and that for the sake of “future generations” we should learn to live more “sustainably” and that the “problem with Communism is that has never been really tried”. Or even “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. Or “you don’t have to be mad to work here. But it helps!!!”

It’s crap because it’s such a pathetically obvious piece of virtue-signalling. Next time, Rod, just save yourself the bother and write: “I hate the Daily Mail.” That’ll do you.

It’s crap because it’s so nauseatingly illiberal – in the old-fashioned sense of the world.

Now I’m perfectly aware, having had discussions with Rod on this point that he doesn’t want to belong to any kind of liberal tradition – Classical liberal or Guardianista – because he thinks of himself more as Old School authoritarian left.

So all I’ll say on this point is that I find it a bit disappointing that a man who at periods in his life has not exactly been unburdened with personal vices himself should be so indecently keen to cast the first stone at the weaknesses of others.

If, that is, you consider a desire to go foxhunting a weakness. I personally don’t. I think that wanting to go hunting is the most natural thing in the world because it answers the call of one of our most strongly inbuilt atavistic instincts: without the hunting urge we would never have survived, let alone evolved to the point where people were able to invent football and go to Millwall matches and shout clever obscenities at one another, like some people do for their harmless fun, naming no names, eh, Rod?

And frankly, only someone of the Whiggish perversion would be smug enough to imagine that this instinct is something we have all since evolved out of. Yeah, right. You might as well look at the current goings on in Syria and Iraq and pronounce sagely that human beings are no longer drawn to violence.

But that’s by the by. My biggest objection to the arguments of Rod and people like Rod who think they are being civilised and sophisticated and decent in their opposition to hunting is very simply this: that they are miserable, puritanical kill-joys.

I’m not asking the Rod Liddles of this world to be persuaded by all the sub-arguments for the continued existence of hunting – the ones about conservation and tradition and pest control and so forth – because I know, given their class-resentment-inspired bias and their ooh-I-care-about-furry-animals-me moral preening, they’ll always find counterarguments and because in any case they’re just a distraction from the only argument that really matters.

Hunting is a good and desirable thing because it makes those who do it very, very happy without harming in any way whatsoever those miserable sods who disapprove of it.

If you believe in liberty, if you believe in the primacy and the good of mankind, you could never seriously be opposed to hunting. And yes, it really is that simple.

Read more at Breitbart London