Young people and socialism: you heard it here first

“Told you so!” was our reaction when we read Owen Jones‘ rather alarming Guardian article [1] on why young people are becoming more and more Lefty, and even a bit red. Not that we at LSS are great fans of Jones, you understand. But this time his points are too good to ignore, especially when we have ourselves been making them for some time (LSS 28 December 2020, et passim)

They are, to put it simply, that the infamous neoliberal policies associated with such luminaries as Thatcher, Hayek and company have produced such inequality that young people can no longer afford to buy homes, however hard they slave in low wage sweatshops like call centres and retail parks. Long standing readers will recall that LSS went further, advertising the danger of an educated lumpenproletariat with no stake in society and therefore nothing to lose if it came to Revolution.

There are delicious layers of dialectical irony here. The older lot, children of the Welfare State and Trades Unions, were transformed by their security into uber-Thatcherites, eagerly embracing tax cuts and low levels of welfare spending. The children born under the neoliberals are now turning to Socialism. If ghosts exist, then those of Hegel and Marx must be laughing fit to rattle their bookshelves right now. Even certain millionaires of our acquaintance, hard headed entrepreneurs par excellence, have expressed their sympathy to the Plight of the Young, and the thoughts of Owen Jones. To us. Personally. Today.[2] (There’s nothing like interview journalism!)

We’ll ask you to glance at Owen’s piece, and leave you with a health warning. Owen is an earnest man. However, he has hung out with some unlikeable characters in his time, both of uber- left and uber- right-so his judgement is far from impeccable. But this time, the little canary is singing a tune that’s worth listening to. Bless!


[2] Unattributable briefing. Prominent businessman . Sources close to the bond markets. Label it how you like, it was a real guy!

#owen jones #inequality #housing #wages in work poverty #rich #poor

Weekly round up: China’s mistake,extinction and hubris all round

a weekly look at stories that may be significant

China Crisis There are two ways to run a modern economy. The first is to make things that people want and export them. (the German model). The second is to borrow money and build flats (the British model), which always ends in tears. It looks like China has done a bit too much of the second one for its own good. Could a Chinese property crash drag us all into a bear market? Martin Farrer and Vincent Ni tell the whole tale for The Guardian:

Repeating Old mistakes. Back in the Permian, 250 million years ago, the most advanced creatures were the mammal-like reptiles or therapsids. And if you were one , there must have been a lot to feel good about. “hey” you would have said to yourself “we’re doing alright! We’ve got the biggest brains, we’re well on the way to being warm blooded, we’re sorting out this locomotion on land thing, and all the continents are joined into one, making overseas travel unnecessary!” But like the proud and overreaching (or Chinese property developers) they began to make mistakes. They allowed greenhouse gases to rise. They let a huge toxic blooms of algae develop in the seas. They did nothing about rising temperatures because they were too busy having a good time. The result? The greatest mass extinction in world history, as every schoolchild will tell you. These are the exactly the same mistakes that we, their distant descendants are making today. Do you really think it will end differently?

Once again, the inimitable Stacy Liberatore tells all for the Mail:

Not so wicked in Wuhan Evidence is piling that the Sars-Cov-2 virus was not the result of wicked scientists in a lab, but jumped several times from wild animals across the species barrier into humans. Just like many other respiratory viruses do. The moral is; if you want to avoid pandemics, be a bit kinder to the environment. Nature riffs in Did the Coronavirus jump to people twice?

SARS-CoV-2 might have spilled from animals to people multiple times, according to a preliminary analysis of viral genomes sampled from people infected in China and elsewhere early in the pandemic. If confirmed, the findings would add weight to the hypothesis that the pandemic originated in multiple markets in Wuhan. It would also make the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a laboratory less likely. The data need to be verified, and the analysis has not yet been peer reviewed.Nature | 8 min read
Reference: preprint

Once again the gremlins have got into our computer, causing the most intractable technicl problems, so we’ll have to leave it there for now. Goodbye, and have a good weekend

#china #sars-cov-2 covid-19 #mass extinction #climate change

Ancient childrens’ painting has a modern twist

About 250 000 years ago a party of humans rested by some welcome hot springs high on the Tibetan plateau. While the adults rested or perhaps prepared food and the camp, the children played-at art. We know this because their tiny handprints have been found all over some limestone rocks as Matthew Bennet and Sally Reynolds explain in The Conversation

Who were these humans? The date and place suggest our Denisovan cousins, whom we know to have had art, as did our other close cousins, the Neanderthals. All of which closes the distance between them and our own branch of humanity to a vanishingly small distance. Especially as their DNA has survived in our genomes, as the discoveries of the ingenious Professor Paabo have made clear.

It’s charming to think that art grew from the games of children. What the busy adults made of it we shall never know. It raises oblique questions about the offerings in certain modern galleries and museums and the maturity of those who produced them. Above all, it reminds us of the devilish question posed by Rudyard Kipling in The Conundrum of the Workshops:

When the first flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s Green and Gold

Our father Adam sat under a tree and scratched a stick in the mold

And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart

Till The Devil whispered behind the leaves-“It’s pretty-but is it Art?

Intriguing little mystery from Live Science

Apologies for last Saturday’s glitch, this has now been resolved. Tip: don’t let your downloads build up!

Ok ,as long standing readers will know, we have always been intrigued by the problem originally posed by Woody Allen: “is anybody out there, and do they have ray guns?” Which is why we notice a piece from Brandon Specktor [1] of the excellent Live Science website about a strange, repeating signal from deep space.

We never had much time for Ancient Astronauts and the Flying Saucer crowd. But one or two curious little hints from the discoveries of real astronomers have always led us to the retention of an open mind, if you will forgive us. Firstly, there was of course the famous “Wow” signal.[2] A distant second was the strange acceleration, and other features, of Ouamua. [3] The Tabby’s star controversy [4] has seemingly gone away, but we list it for completeness. Now Brandon talks about an enigmatic source near the centre of our galaxy which has been given the snappy name ASKAP J173608.2−321635. You should read the piece for yourself. But to summarise with this brief extract:

the strange signal appeared 13 times, never lasting in the sky for more than a few weeks……….. This radio source is highly variable, appearing and disappearing with no predictable schedule, and doesn’t seem to appear in any other radio telescope data prior (to August 2019)

Now, it is never clever to jump to conclusions. We remember the controversy when pulsars were first discovered, and they turned out not to be aliens at all. But there is enough here to warrant thought, and much further investigation. And that is always a good thing.





#livescience ##radiosignals #extraterrestials #exobiology

Apologies, there’s just one story today and its that pesky Carbon dioxide again

Due to seemingly insuperable technical difficulties we are completely unable to bring you our weekly round up of stories. We are even struggling with the usual montage of pictures. The most likely long term solution will be a trial of this computer. It will be fair; but will undoubtedly be followed by a guilty verdict and execution.

We have only one thing for you to consider. A while ago (LSS 2 Nov 2020) we published a short piece called Is Global warming the new Passive Smoking? The gist of which was

-high levels of carbon dioxide are like, bad for you or something, huh, right?

-Okay we’re talking above 700ppm, in short doses-agreed!

-But what happens if you are breathing higher than normal levels all the time? Could you get health problems, like those poor devils who were exposed to passive smoking used to back in the last century?

And, gentle readers,Is it not true that levels of CO2 rose from a background of about 265 ppm before the industrial revolution to about 370 ppm now?

We even cited a reputable scientific paper from Nature[1] as proof of our bona fides!

We weren’t so much saying that we were right as that more research was needed. We contacted political parties, environmental organisations, national newspapers, scientific magazines…..with no result. We got one column in a local newspaper, which we wrote ourselves, But everywhere else, barely a couple of lukewarm nods. It was like being a sun tan oil salesman in Spitzbergen.

Okay, okay you can’t always get what you want, as the Rolling Stones once memorably observed. Maybe it is safe to breathe all that extra CO2. But recently we saw a piece in The Conversation by Marcus Byrne and Claudia Tocco [2]which suggests that rising CO2 is having some sort of effect on the everyday lives of some animals. The piece intrigues rather than defines. Apparently something is happening in the lives of humble dung beetles as CO2 levels rise around them. Maybe it’s affecting the bacteria they live alongside, rather than the insects themselves. Which again underlines our point-can someone do some more research, please?

Because the question is there. Is carbon dioxide a poison at low levels? Is global warming making it worse? We think we should be told.

Once more apologies that we cannot bring you direct hyperlinks to our references this week

[1] Direct human health risks of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide Tyler a Jacobsen et al Nature Sustainability 2 691-701 2019

[2] Dung beetle experiment suggests carbon dioxide is bad for insects too Marcus Byrne Claudia Tocco The Conversation September 2021

A shot of brandy for Cocktail night

Of the four famous spirits-gin, whisky, vodka and brandy which are so beloved of cocktail-makers, brandy has acquired that ineffable air of being the classy one. “Oh brandy!” they would say at The Dog and Duck in old Romford, “she must be posh!”

Experience shows that posh and classy are relative terms. But brandy still remains a fine drink whether taken on its own against the cold, or as the basis of many fine cocktails. And tonight, we will let our linking website do the educating. For we cannot improve by one word or sentence on what they describe and show, in beautiful images, in the link below [1] * 8 Brandy cocktails to make in five minutes. Read it to revisit such classics as the Sidecar and Alexander ,as well as six other quick-to-make, slow-to-savour brandy based classics. !que tenga buena fin de semana! as they used to say in Old Castile.

A morbid obsession with three preludes

Tomorrow is the twentieth anniversary of the murderous air attack on the World Trade Center in New York, . Whatever its moral grounding, the attack marked the beginning of America’s deposition from its central hegemony. It is an awesome unfolding.

Reflection occurs on many levels, not all of them conscious. Like Romans and Britons before, we find ourselves pondering “how could anything so big and self-assured have ever entered into such a fall? And as often happens to melancholics, our mourning takes musical form, an endless looping of George Gershwin‘s Three Preludes. [1]

It was Gershwin’s genius to effortlessly combine so many forms-jazz, ragtime, blues and more into instant, easily accessible bites. Which, because of their popular nature were rooted in the culture-moral, industrial, geographical-from which they grew. The Gershwin years of the 1920s and 1930s were marked by the United States of America as the only viable way of organising a modern state. To listen to the Preludes is to ride again by echo as this power still burgeoned. Through the modern canyons of New York, the vast factories of the midwest and the immense agricultural and mineral wealth of the hinterland, All looked to the US in technology clothes, transport, architecture, films, and music. You will see it still in the paintings of Edward Hopper,[2] Hollywood films, and the great book of its architecture. But the soundtrack above all was Gershwin’s.

Now that time is passing, as all things do. We leave the analysis of all this to wiser heads. But we feel a nostalgia for the passing age of Demos, the Common Man (and woman). Sinister new Imperiums lurk menacingly in the offing. They will have little time for the tender sensibilities of University Professors, Merchants, lawyers and all the other layers in the comfortable classes of the West. Listen, then, one more time to a close but vanished age. Then think about your future- very hard indeed.

Boris Johnson and why men are ruled by tribes(and quite a lot of women too)

News that British Prime Minister Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson is to raise taxes to record peacetime levels illustrates a deep truth about politics: the man who rules his tribe may do what it takes. In theory, raising taxes is anathema, a sin, a contradiction, a nightmare to all Conservatives. Tory newspapers thundered against-but they will fall into line. Tory backbenchers fulminated. But they voted for it last night. Because their tribe had done it, and not the other tribe, whom they hate.

Clever leaders know this, and act to get their way. Nixon knew he could deal with China and the USSR. Who could doubt the credentials of the commie-loathing Richard Milhous, whose record was impeccably right wing? He’d never sell us out, the deal must be right. Whereas any Democrat leader who had swanned off to Beijing would have been crucified as soft on Communism. De Gaulle supported the Algerian settlers before selling them out. And the impeccably anti-Bolshevik Hitler could easily deal with Stalin when the time came. “If our side does it, it must be right” is how the tribesmen think. Johnson hates taxes; so when he raises them it must be necessary. Because a thing is right when our tribe does it, and only then. That is how the tribesmen think.

Whether the results are right remains to be seen(there is a crying need for social care reform in the UK). But Johnson himself needs to be careful. History records another rightwing nationalist, popularly throwing around cash and promises, riding a coalition of rich and poor. It was Juan Peron in Argentina. And look how that turned out.

#juan peron #boris johnson #tax rises #social care

Komodo Dragons and global warming. When deadly crises unite.

Long standing readers of LSS will recall our little blog Spare a thought for the maligned monster (LSS 27 .10.20) in which we outlined how the magnificent monitors could be a valuable source of new antibiotics. If we had the gumption to research the issue. If so, they are a munificent natural resource.

Now Phoebe Weston of The Guardian has an alarming story of how the scaly saurians are in imminent danger of extinction due to rising sea levels.

The animal is confined to a few islands in Indonesia, and these are now doubly threatened by habitat destruction and the effects of global warming. It’s ironic to think that the potential solution to one existential crisis (antibiotic shortages) is exacerbated by another(climate change). It’s when crises join together that they become unmanageable and potentially catastrophic. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

#antibioticresistance #globalwarming #climatechange #disease

Saturday Round up: Womens’ Rights, Lead, and a Party for the Educated

a weekly review of stories that caught our attention

In Texas, who needs the Taleban? In a move worthy of the immortal William J LePetomaine, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has just signed a piece of legislation which removes basic rights from one half of his constituents. We are ignorant of his motives. We think he acts like a man who cuts off his right hand with his left. Here’s the Houston Chronicle

Leading the way on petrol One of humanity’s greatest mistakes ever was to put lead in petrol. The gain in engine performances was massively outweighed by the immense physical and psychological damage, Now the very last country, Algeria, has banned this deadly poison. But it’s still knocking around in the dust as Nature makes clear.

  A century after its invention, leaded petrol has finally been banned worldwide. In July, Algeria became the last country on Earth to stop the legal sale of leaded petrol, and the United Nations Environment Programme declared the “era of leaded petrol over”. The fuel has been linked to a host of health problems, including heart disease, cancers and impared cognitive development. Sadly its toxic legacy lives on: almost half of the lead in London’s air comes from leaded petrol that’s still hanging around in dust, more than 20 years after it was banned in the United Kingdom.Chemistry World | 4 min read

The Secret Life of Arabia Thoughtful fans of human evolution have often asked ourselves-“why does everything come out of Africa, and never go back in?” We’d love to see more digging done in places like the Middle East, India and China. The Arabian penninsula is an obvious bridge and now the first hints of something happening there are described in Nature. (sorry Nature folk, but your rivals at New Scientist had something on this as well)

Ten years ago, no dated archaeological sites more than 10,000 years old had been recorded in the three million square kilometres of the Arabian Peninsula, despite it being the gateway from Africa to Asia. New research adds to an explosion of knowledge about how early humans moved across the region, writes archaeologist Robin Dennell. Artefacts from Saudi Arabia, which correspond to five periods of occupation during brief ‘green’ windows of reduced aridity, reveal more about how humans repeatedly dispersed from Africa onto the Arabian Peninsula and perhaps onwards to Asia and Australia.

Here’s a thought Politics is not about ideology, it’s about brokering the interests of various groups in society. Farmers, women, industrialists, the finance boys, all have their little needs and agendas. and quite right too. Political parties like Republicans, Social Democrats, you name it, exist to form coalitions of these interests and to represent them. So isn’t it time we intelligent. educated people formed our own pressure group and party to represent our interests? We’ve suffered enough at the hands of the other side in the last ten years. You are an intelligent, educated person or you wouldn’t be reading this. So what do we do?

#texas #abortion #womens rights #lead #pollution #petrol #human evolution #educated