A House of Lords speech defending women and defending the English language

This bit of video, lasting just under ten minutes, which I recently came upon here, is surely likely to get a lot more attention than it’s got so far:

I like it because it is suffused with the very courtesy (a House of Lords feature) that he is asking for in the debate about trans rights. I am of the opinion that upholding trans rights should not be done by undermining the rights of women, as is the Noble Lord, Lord Hunt, or Philip Hunt as was. I am also of the opinion that Twitter mob bullying of anyone by anyone is to be deplored.

Will this speech prove to be a game-changer? I fear that this is a game that it will take more than one speech to change. But this speech is certainly, to use another common phrase of praise, a step in the right direction.

I’ve not looked at my Twitter feed since I watched this speech a few minutes ago, but I expect this to get many mentions there. If not, I just might break my Twitter silence. But like I say, I would be amazed if that were to be necessary.

LATER: Claire Fox, also in the House of Lords. says similar things, and tweets the videos.

Being offensive is not an offence and a public falsehood about the content of the law from a police force is worse than mere confusion

This:

I, and many others, found this sign very offensive. Which means that it was “being offensive” and it broke its own rule. Some of those many others complained and Merseyside Police retreated:

Merseyside Police said it “apologises for any confusion this may have caused,” adding “hate crime is an offence and will not be tolerated”.

Any confusion? These people are there to uphold the law. The law as it actually is. How about apologising for making a very public, very clear and very false statement about the content of that law?

At least they got a very public kicking on social media.

Writing about morality and consequences in a way that hasn’t dated

The latest addition to the Brian Micklethwait Archive is a piece by me called The Morality of Consequentialism and the Consequences of Morality, which was first published over two decades ago. I had completely forgotten ever writing this, and today read it again with much interest.

And with some satisfaction. It’s good stuff, though I say it myself. I say it myself because if I don’t, who will?

What I find so gratifying about how I mostly wrote about libertarianism back then is that because we didn’t need to be obsessed with current events and grabbing media attention (basically because we didn’t care if only a few people read our stuff (photocopier rather than printing blah blah)), I was able to concentrate on underlying principles, keeping mere current events at arms length. Which means that these pieces of mine mostly don’t date that much. If you thought they made sense when I wrote them, you’d still think that now.

Much the same also applies to a lot of the stuff I published by others, which you can find your way to here. (Apart from the Political Notes link, which for some reason seems not to work.)

Dan Hannan in Australia

Two years ago, which explains the non-up-to-date political references to such things as Brexit, Dan Hannan did a talk in Australia. I found my way to this talk via the Hannan website, and watching this short interview of Hannan by Marc Sidwell (Sidwell is a friend of mine but I’d not clocked this interview until now), and then at the end of that being recommended to attend to this CIS hosted talk in Australia, done, as I say, a couple of years ago, which goes on for a lot longer:

Hannan didn’t talk about the then President Trump in his main speech (which lasts a bit under 40 minutes), but he did during the Q&A. And on the Trump matter, Hannan sat resolutely on the fence. He regarded Trump as “unfit for office”, because a liar about his fornication, his taxes, and just generally, and he welcomed the good liberalising things that Trump has done, but he denounced the public spending spree that Trump presided over and encouraged. He regards the kind of tribalism that is totally pro- or totally anti-Trump as the problem. Transcending tribalism being the whole secret of “western civilisation”.

I take the point about tribalism, but I wonder if Trump could have done his good stuff, both domestically and abroad, without all those character flaws of his. His boorish manner is all mixed up with the fact that he didn’t waste any time trying to suck up to his opponents, the way rival Republicans always tend to do in the vain search for their admiration. Trump was effective because “uncivilised”.

On the broader subject of “western civilisation”, Hannan can’t help attributing the success of what PJ O’Rourke called “that fine trend in human affairs” to his own Anglosphere tribe. The Anglosphere tribe is, he seems to be saying, the anti-tribal tribe.

And I think I agree.

“But I am Beethoven.”

I’ve already recycled a bit from John Suchet’s non-fictional book on Beethoven. Here is another bit from the same book (pp. 260-262 of my paperback edition – it follows a description of how Rossini met Beethoven, hence the Rossini reference in the first paragraph quoted). It illustrates what an eccentric state Beethoven was reduced to in later life, by his general state of ill-health, by his deafness, and by his lifelong tendency to do composing far better than he did living and getting along with other people:

It was probably in the autumn of this year, 1822, that an extraordinary event occurred that has become one of the legends surrounding Beethoven’s life. It was related to Thayer, again some forty years after the event, by a lithographer named Blasius Hofel for whom Beethoven sat, so as with many other tales of eccentricity it might have become embellished over the years, but as with Rossini’s account there is no reason to doubt its authenticity.

One autumn evening Hofel was enjoying an early-evening drink in the tavern Zum Schleifen (‘At the Ribbon’) in the Vienna suburb of Wiener Neustadt. Among the party was the local Commissioner of Police. It was already dark when a police constable came to the tavern to find the Commissioner.

‘Sir,’ said the constable, ‘we have arrested someone for behaving in a suspicious manner, He won’t be quiet. He keeps on yelling that he is Beethoven. But he’s just a tramp. He’s in a moth-eaten old coat, no hat. He has no identity papers, there’s no way of finding out who he is. We’re not sure what to do.’

‘Keep him under arrest overnight,’ replied the Commissioner. ‘We’ll speak to him in the morning and find out who he is.’

But it did not end there. As the Commissioner told Hofe! later, at eleven o’clock that night he was woken at home by a policeman who told him the man in custody would not quieten down, was still yelling that he was Beethoven, and was demanding that Anton Herzog, Musical Director in Wiener Neustadt, be called in to identify him.

The Commissioner decided he had better investigate. He went to Herzog’s house, woke him up, and asked him to accompany him to the police station. The Commissioner and Herzog were taken to the cell, and as soon as Herzog cast eyes on the tramp he exclaimed, ‘That is Beethoven!’

The Commissioner, no doubt congratulating himself that he had taken the matter seriously, ordered Beethoven’s immediate release. Herzog took him back to his own house, gave him the best room, assured him he would not be disturbed, and looked forward to seeing him for breakfast if he so wished, or if he preferred to sleep longer …

The next day the local Mayor came to Herzog’s house to apologise in person to the renowned composer for his treatment at the hands of an over-zealous police officer, gave Beethoven his best coat and the mayoral carriage to transport him home.

By then everyone knew what had happened. The day before Beethoven had got up early in the morning, put on his threadbare old coat, forgotten to take a hat, and set out for what he intended to be a short walk. He reached the towpath on the Danube Canal and followed it. He walked on for hours.

By late afternoon he ended up at the canal basin at the Un­gertor, a considerable distance from the city. He was totally lost and disorientated, and in a pitiful state having had nothing to eat all day. In this condition, tired, drawn, hungry, in tattered old clothes, he was seen by local people looking in at the windows of houses. They became suspicious and called the police.

A constable approached him and told him he was arresting him for behaving suspiciously.

‘But I am Beethoven.’

‘Of course you are. Why not? I’ll tell you what you are. You’re a tramp, and that Beethoven is no tramp.’ (‘Ein Lump sind Sie; so sieht der Beethoven nicht aus.’)

Death and detail

Yesterday, my Senior Designated Friend and I communed with my lawyer, via Zoom (which my SDF organised on her laptop). All seemed to go well. I had been ignoring Zoom, until the lawyer said he needed it.

I had hoped by now to be blogging profundities, but am still at the stage of trying to arrange my affairs in such a way that, were I to die soon and without further warning, or perhaps become terminally incapable, those affairs would be, as they say, “in order”. It would be clear what everything consists of and who gets what, and what to do about switching me off, should the question arise. Thank goodness for the SDF, who is doing almost all of this arranging, and without whom I would now be in a state of gibbering uselessness. It’s an exhausting business, even though my contributions are only occasional. Maybe death soon, and taking care of details in the meantime, death being why that has to be done. I remember that same combination when my mother died. Death, detail.

Meanwhile, you must forgive the decline in blogging quality here lately, and the possible feebleness of a lot of the next lot of postings also.

The magic drug seems to be working. I think I can feel a definite improvement. But now I just want to rest up and let it work its magic.

Another carnival of the animals posting

Starting with a new recording of Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns at his harmonious and melodious best. It’s the Kanneh-Mason clan, with additions. Sheku, as of now the most celebrated of this much celebrated classical family, has his big cello moment with the Swan.

Relatedly, “i” reports that the way animals communicate is evolving so that it remains audible above the din made by humans.

This Is Why I’m Broke tells of a squirrel proof bird feeder, with explanatory video.

And then there’s this: Canada battles Norway for tallest moose statue.

More seriously, it is being said the Brexit has enabled Boris Johnson to unveil a ban on live animal exports.

Most significantly of all, when it comes to the ever changing relationship between animals and humans, Singapore becomes the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat. See also this earlier posting here, about steps in that same direction in Israel.

LATER: No official ephemera this Friday at David Thompsons, but via the a comment on the latest posting there, here’s a competitive canine in action. The enjoyment is palpable. I love how the dogs in the audience join in with their encouraging barks.

OOPS: There are some David Thompson ephemera today, starting with a couple of cats.

Carrie-Anne Brownian: Having to pretend to be a man is not the same as actually being a man

Carrie-Anne Brownian:

For much of recorded human history, even into the twentieth century, women who wanted to serve in combat, travel or live alone, work in most professions, get published, compete in sports, or conduct research felt compelled to disguise themselves as men. That didn’t make them transmen; it made them girls and women with no other options in a patriarchal, androcentric world. No one would have, for example, published George Eliot, or taken her seriously as a writer, had she used her birth name of Mary Ann Evans, just as Kathrine Switzer had to sign up for the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer as recently as 1967 because women weren’t allowed to compete.

This may be hard for liberal Westerners under the age of twenty-five to comprehend, but women have historically been denied access to positions of power, most careers, education, legal protections, politics, combat roles, club memberships, athletic competitions, and so forth, solely on the basis of being female. Women even had to fight for the right to use their own names on legal documents, instead of being forced to sign as Mrs. Husband’s Full Name, or to do anything of importance without a husband or father’s co-signature or permission. By anachronistically pretending all these brave, trailblazing women were truly men, the historical realities of institutionalized sexism and male privilege are written out of existence, and impressionable young people will be led to believe women haven’t played any kind of important role in history.

Quoted by and linked to by favourite-blogger-of-mine Mick Hartley.

Sparklingly witty BMNB QotD: On when clever banter can be called “repartee”

Yes, a champagne Twitter moment from Dan Hannan:

Clever banter can only be called “repartee” if it’s from the Repartée region of France. Otherwise it’s just sparkling wit.

We can all drink to that.

Lots more e-scooters – and an e-scooter near miss

When out-and-about yesterday afternoon, I lost count of the e-scooters I saw. These are about half of them, or so, maybe less. The photo-quality is rubbish, because I was usually busy photoing something else, and because, on London’s currently very empty roads, these things go really quite fast, and are usually past me before I even notice them. My speciality is static stuff, like architecture and sculpture and signs and photoers photoing and taxies-with-adverts stopped at traffic lights. E-scooters are seldom static, and when they are I tend not even to see them:

The best photo of an e-scooter by far that I photoed yesterday showed a very clear face of the person doing the e-scooting. Since there are legal uncertainties about whether and where these things are allowed, I didn’t show that one.

As Lockdown drags on, I become ever more impatient to learn whether these machines have any long term future in a traffic-heavy city like London. Lockdown has created very e-scooter-friendly circumstances on London’s roads, but that cannot last. I am zero-ing in, in my autodidactic way, on a law of transport, which says that all vehicles are really systems. You can invent a superbly clever vehicle. But if the right environment for it does not exist, or is the kind of environment that the powers-that-be are not inclined to create, then it’s no go. Steam locomotives are obviously also railway networks. Cars and lorries are, almost equally obviously, road networks, for which, in the early days of the car, there was huge political backing. Bicycles likewise need bicycle networks, or at the very least laws restraining the cars and lorries from running them over on what is basically their network.

Perhaps my waning enthusiasm for e-scooters is linked with the near miss I was subjected to very recently by a delivery e-scooter, e-scooting on the pavement I was slowly walking along. He was in a big hurry and had he hit me, I’d have suffered serious damage. I can remember when such behaviour was fairly common with juvenile-delinquent propelled bicycles, but someone or something seems to have taught some manners to the scumbag cycler fraternity in recent years. The e-scooting people will have to learn similar lessons if they want any help from the politicians, to create an e-scooter network. The e-scooting people I see, in London SW1, are almost none of them juvenile delinquent in demeanour or dress. They all seem like hard-working young citizens. That delivery guy is the nearest to an e-scooter delinquent I’ve encountered, but he too was working, very hard indeed, which is what caused the problem. Needless to say, I had no time at all to take any photos. He wasn’t stopping to apologise, quite the opposite. If he’d hit me, he’d have done a hit-and-run escape, assuming he was able to.

Once anecdotes like that start circulating, the politics of e-scooting will become more like the politics of knife crime. As in: Why the hell isn’t it being stopped?