The lessons from Ancient Rome-Autocrats come along like buses

As the Roman Republic began to falter in the first century BC, its democracy began to flicker on and off like a failing computer. For hundreds of years there had beene free elections and people took turns in offices. Then came the first Dictators, Marius and Sulla. They passed, and everyone seemed relieved. But gradually undemocratic periods became more and more common as triumvirs and duumvirs struggled for power. Finally only Octavian was left. Quickly he proclaimed himself Emperor and Augustus, and there was never another free election again.

Last week (LSS 4 November 2020) we stated that although Donald Trump may have been defeated, and we still don’t know that for certain, the forces that brought him to power remain. They are the same conditions as prevailed in the late Roman Republic. The same immense sums of big money driving politics. The same rage of a vast impoverished proletariat, bewildered by the rapid social and economic changes around them. The same yearning for a Strong Man, so that we never have the bother of thinking again.

George Monbiot of the Guardian is very much alive to these dangers; we link his piece below. The essence of his piece is the headline: ” The US was lucky to get Trump-Biden may pave the way for a more competent autocrat.” And in this piece, George links to a piece by Zeynep Tufecki in The Atlantic who looks at a list of the runners and riders in the race to be our new Master (sadly, Britain’s fate is inexorably tied to the United States). It’s a thoughtful piece, but for us the key take-away was:…

The situation is a perfect setup, in other words, for a talented politician to run on Trumpism in 2024. A person without the eager Twitter fingers and greedy hotel chains, someone with a penchant for governing rather than golf. An individual who does not irritate everyone who doesn’t already like him, and someone whose wife looks at him adoringly instead of slapping his hand away too many times in public. Someone who isn’t on tape boasting about assaulting women, and who says the right things about military veterans.…………..

Chilling? At this point we remember the words of the Irish poet WB Yeats who, in The Second Coming, wrote:

The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

We have taken this last quote from the website of the Poetry Foundation, a major source of cultural riches

#donaldtrump #joebiden #theatlantic #authoritarian #autocracy #2024 #wbyeats

The greatest unsolved mystery of our times

We at LSS are proud to have stumbled across a great unsolved mystery. Perplexing. Irreducible. Unsolvable. Scary. Its not the two sets of data we present, it is the perplexing gap between them. The mystery of the differential human response to a single stimulus, the disease Covid-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2.

Data Set One: One group of humans began to research the genetic structure of the virus. Using the most advanced technology and laboratories they began to develop things called vaccines, one at least of which is showing high promise at the time of writing. (Oh yeah-another lot risked their lives caring for all the victims, but we won’t go into that now).

Data Set Two: Another group went to Brighton, England on the eve of the lockdown. We don’t know exactly where in Brighton, or what they did. But at about 22 15 pm a mass brawl broke out among them, requiring the attendance of considerable numbers of Police Officers and no doubt other emergency workers (Oh yeah-perhaps some of these were needed for the Covid-19 pandemic, but we won’t go into that now) There’s a couple of links to news stories for you below, but a considerable number of legal processes will be underway, so we must respect the rules of sub judice. We use the BBC and the Brighton and Hove News.

The Mystery: We at LSS find ourselves at a complete loss to explain this huge gap in response to the same environmental stimulus. We ask you, gentle readers to help us. Already some of your suggestions have rolled in and they include the following:

1 The dispute in Brighton was between different groups of scientists, contesting their different theories of virology and epidemiology (No evidence for that-ed)

2 Some of the attendees at the event in Brighton mistook others for specimens of the virus, and instantly flipped to a “fight or flight response” as describes by pioneering ethologists like Konrad Lorenz. (only natural-but aren’t viruses a bit small?-ed)

3 Someone looked at someone else’s bird in a funny way (how many times have we heard that one?-ed)

Help us, gentle readers? Have we missed something? Is there another explanation for this mystery, which must surely rank among the greatest of all time? What vital piece of information are we lacking which would help us solve it? We await your further responses with anticipation.

#covid19 #lockdown #coronavirus #unsolvedmysteries #sars-cov-2 #montpelierplace #massbrawl

Climate Change: extremism isn’t the answer, coalitions are

Bertrand Russell once observed that the ones who shout loudest are the ones who have the most inner doubts. They’re covering something up. That’s why we at LSS take the Whig approach to progress. You build reasoned coalitions based on dialogue, and bring as many people with you as you can. Even when there is urgent action to be taken. No, especially when there is urgent action to be taken.

There are signs that something like that is happening in the UK. The Campaign for a Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill is a genuine attempt to pull together multiparty support for completely new legislation. We ask you to look at the links below, starting you off with their about page.

So far most of the backing is coming from smaller and out-of-power parties, however well intentioned. In England at least you get nothing done without the support of the Conservative Party and its Press. But there are hopeful signs: alongside Labour, SNP and Greens, among other backers is the name Jim Shannon of the DUP. No one has ever accused the DUP of lefty trendy anti capitalism wokeness, to say the least. It seems the organisers of the campaign have found a way to talk to the other side, and that alone compels us at LSS to beg our readers to give them a fair hearing. After all, waht’s the point of being a Conservative if you can’t even conserve a few green fields from some brutalist developer?

We’ll leave you with the words of Jim Shannon “The CEE Bill is a golden opportunity to fix our climate and restore our natural world. I will do all I can to help enact the Bill before COP26. The Bill offers the Government a viable route to tackle the environmental crisis, and I call on the Prime Minister to ensure it passes into law as soon as possible.”

#CEEbill #globalwarming #climatechange #extinction

Error; we apologise to the Guardian and thank Mr Gary Herbert

In our last piece on British carmaker Bentley, we tried to post a link to a Guardian business leader article. Bentley is leading the charge to batteries”. As noted Buckinghamshire landowner Mr Gary Herbert has pointed out, we made a mess of the link. Here it is again, with apologies:

We at LSS have in the past been compared to “two of the leading men in Hollywood History.” It may not surprise attentive readers that the two men in question were Laurel and Hardy.

#bentley #batteries #hybrid #crewe #luxurycars

Electric Cars-Bentley In the Driving Seat

We at LSS candidly admit we will never be able to afford a Bentley. But we have always had a strong admiration for the designers and engineers of top class cars, because they’re are always pushing to the limits. In this spirit we want to list a couple of Guardian articles on the efforts made by Bentley to turn their entire range over to electric by 2030. We’re linking both the leader and Jasper Jolly‘s coverage.

But this is not a motoring column; we think there are two deeper lessons here. Firstly, we think it gives an answer to the age old question-what’s the point of rich people? Look at this from Jasper’s article:

Bentley is particularly suited to quickly changing to electric technology, because bigger margins as a luxury carmaker mean it can absorb the higher cost of batteries

It’s always been the same for luxury brands; they pioneer the technologies which become standard for everyone. If you drove a 1964 Rolls Royce, you would find that the makers were pioneering all sorts of things like electric windows and automatic transmission which we ordinary folk now take for granted. The very existence of demand for high quality goods draws out the best in all sorts of disciplines from materials science to leatherware, and so it has always been.

But we think there is a deeper lesson. The engineers at Bentley have to respect facts and data to succeed. You can’t have a tantrum just because the melting point of steel is too low for your wishes. Or throw armed supporters on to the streets to contest the laws of motion. Well you can, but you won’t stay in business long. History shows that societies can ignore truth and facts for a while by using force. But in the long run they have to drift into decline as their scientific and technological skills must decline. Supporters of Donald Trump take note.

#bentley #electriccars #batteries #technology #donaldtrump

Wrapping up the week

Here are the stories we think our educated, thoughtful readership might like to browse . We hope you all have a relaxed Saturday evening

We thought that the Industrial Revolution was so clever…but ever since, we have been pumping out heavy metals in dangerously worrying quantities. Where has all that lead, cadmium and dozens of other heavy metals gone? Creatures like scallops may be humble enough, but they are vital indicators of trouble brewing in the medium term. Read Brice Stewart and Roland Kroger in The Conversation. Metal pollution, especially lead, is a subject we will return to here.

While the mass of humanity struggle in their pointless webs of identities and animosity, we know the real future is being written elsewhere, in places like CRISPR laboratories. If only more people knew what is coming!

In Editing Humanity, Kevin Davies maps the twists and turns of the CRISPR journey, with an all-star cast of scientists and an intimate understanding of the tale. But Davies leaves some thorny ethical issues uncharted, writes reviewer Natalie Kofler, the founding director of Editing Nature, a platform to support responsible decisions about genetic engineering.Nature | 5 min read

Test’n’trace ,test’n’trace, test’n’trace….surely it can only get better? As long as we know what the tests are telling us, especially the newwer rapid ones. Nature takes a good look of its own

Rapid COVID-19 tests, which can deliver results in a matter of minutes rather than days, are starting to become widely available. Nature Biotechnology explores the different types of tests, what they can and can’t do, and lists the tests available and in development.
Nature Biotechnology | 10 min read

And finally……..before all those modern digitised computer graphics, if you wanted to see dinosaurs or Greek monsters running around, your go to man was Ray Harryhausen. Anyone over fifty will remember his work, and if it looks a bit artificial by modern standards, it was always beloved as a great try. Here Jason Gilchrist of the University of Edinburgh pens a heartfelt tribute for The Conversation

#rayharryhausen #testandtrace #covid19 #sarscov2 #coronavirus #CRISPR #heavymetals #pollution

Friday Night Cocktails with Dr Stephen Day

This week we are more than proud to welcome Dr Stephen Day of Norfolk, the noted scientist and educationalist as our cocktail guest columnist.

How about this one, which came from the once-popular Guinness Black list, published in 1976 ?
Guinness and Barley Wine:
Guinness Extra Stout is a fine, dark brew, but many find it excessively bitter. Barley Wine, as a genre of beer has been much neglected of late. It is excessively strong- perhaps 7-8%, generally sold in third of a pint bottles (or “nips”) and also too sweet for many beer drinkers’ tastes. However, combining the two can produce a fine, strong and drinkable pint.
Colloquially known as “Blacksmith” because it is a strong with a punch, I first discovered it in the Coach and Horses on Whiteladies Road, Bristol. Simply pour half a pint of Guinness Extra Stout into a pint glass, rolling it slowly down the side to avoid an excessive head. Once settled, introduce a barley wine of your choice- I recommend Adnams “Tally-Ho“- again pouring it slowly down the side of the glass into the head of the Guinness. If it has a sediment, pour that in too. Finally top up with further Guinness to make a full pint. Find a comfortable, padded, seat, put “The Doors” on your sound system and sip gently. The burnt aroma, smooth texture and juxaposition of bitter and sweet tastes make for a complex drink that is to be savoured, not rushed. It is probably one for the end of an evening or as a nightcap as, in the end, it is a little heady.

Nevertheless we at LSS can see it as an early evening sharpener, for those who like to mix traditional flavours. Thanks, Steve- and keep those recipes coming!

#guinness #adnams #barleywine #cocktails ‘#stout #ale #beer #fridaynightcocktails

Pity you can’t keep politics out of science

One of the more memorable remarks of our own nineteen seventies was overheard while serving time in the Life Sciences department of a large London University. “Politics,” declared the speaker, “is an infringement on the liberties of the individual.” The implication being that scientists, even aspiring ones, would be happier if left alone in their ivory towers to pursue untrammelled Knowledge.

Apart from the obvious omission that it was politicians who had collected the taxes to set up the institution and pay the speaker’s grant, there were too many issues joining scientists and administrators at the hip for them ever to be remotely separable. Even then, far sighted persons were beginning to worry about pollution and global warming.

Nowhere is this truth more apparent than at Nature. Here we are going to simply plug one of their podcasts which explores this issue.

Stick to the science’: when science gets political

A new three-part podcast series, Nature explores the question: ‘Why does a journal of science need to cover politics?’ We look at the history of the knotty relationship between science, politics and power, what it means for the objective ideals of science, and the danger of politicization in an increasingly divisive political landscape.

Nature | Three 25 min listens

And nothing is more tragic than the fact that a simple scientific phenomenon such as anthropogenic global warming has become deeply politicised. Somehow the richer classes of the English-speaking nations have become lined up against their own poor, and most of the rest of the world.

Once again, it’s Nature in driver’s seat, with a shrewd warning for the power of those rich persons and their camp followers if they are not very careful:

The US has left the Paris climate deal — what’s next?

Other nations are stepping up targets to reduce emissions — but the world will struggle to meet its goals.

Regardless of who wins the US presidential election, the United States officially pulls out of the Paris climate agreement today. Although the United States played a major part in crafting the climate agreement, it will be the only one out of the nearly 200 parties to pull out of the pact. Nature explores how the move will dampen international efforts to halt global warming, shift the balance of power to China and tarnish US credibility on climate action.Nature | 5 min read

#climatechange #globalwarming #presidentdonaldtrump #parisagreement

November 4th 2020-Whatever happens, Trump has won

As we write these lines, the result of the US election is still in doubt. It’s possible that Biden could still squeeze a technical win. But it would be a Pyrrhic victory, for nothing less than a landslide would have served as a repudiation of Trump and a political base for the next four years. And that ain’t gonna happen.

We think that the defeat of progressive forces has two underlying causes. An utter underestimation of the power of ethno-nationalism in human affairs. And a deep confusion about goals and their own identities.

People who call themselves progressives are fond of sneering at ethno-nationalism and labelling its adherents as nothing more than ignorant bigots. This is folly, as repeated ballot results show. It would be more fruitful, and serve the human cause better, if they asked: what human needs does ethnic attachment serve? Is it safety? Is it communicative? Is it familiarity? Is it hierarchy? If these needs are universal to all people, what counter offer do progressives have to trade to make people give them up? And finally-if there is a human instinct to conserve, what is the psychological difference between conserving the ecological community of some sand dunes, or the human community of an ancient village? What is the difference between a Conservationist and a Conservative?

There is no force more destructive of settled communities than the free market. To survive, companies must grow until they reach the limits of the available market. World brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Samsung cannot afford ethno- nationalism, as it would utterly cripple their sales and recruitment. There is nothing so perplexing as being told off in the pub for not drinking English Ale by a Brexiteer who reads his news on a Korean phone and drives home in a Mercedes-Benz. Which leaves one group of Trump opponents, the Left, with an excruciating dilemma. The only force capable of bringing about a multi-ethnic multicultural society is Free Market Capitalism. Do you ally with it, and become its facilitators? Or do you retreat into some comfortable little cultural village of your own, where all things have a Corbyn-like purity?

Millions upon millions of people voted for things like Trump, and Brexit and Bolsonaro and Erdogan. Until their needs are understood and and addressed and predicted as well as those of urban female graduates, we will lose again, And again, And again. And deserve to.

Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford Brexitland Cambridge University Press 2020

Ami Chua Political Tribes Bloomsbury 2018

Eric Kaufman Whiteshift Abrams 2019

#uselection #trump #biden #ethnonatioanlism #conservation #conservative #freemarlets #muliticulturalism #multiethnic #brands

Antibiotics-should you always finish your course?

We at LSS always insist that the gathering shortage of antibiotics will soon present the world with a health crisis so grave that the current Covid-19 crisis will look like a day out at the zoo, followed by beer and skittles. Clearly we have to eke out the antibiotics we have until new ones come along. And this will take time-even if we took back all the money from all the tax havens in the world and spent it on research, it still takes several years to get a safe drug into mass production.

Up to now, we have always been told to finish our course of antibiotics-because at base they are so precious. Now Dr Paul Offit, a leading US paediatrician, thinks that may be a mistake. Read why in this piece from the Daily Mail‘s health section. It is of course, upset-the-apple-cart stuff. But thought provoking as well. And for your pleasure, the good Professor charges full tilt at SPF creams, aspirin and hearts, and refuses to bend the knee to arthritic operations. Thought provoking stuff.

#antibioticresistance #antibiotics #pauloffit #arthritis