Conspiracy Theories and how dangerous they can be. Part Two…

QAnon began with an anonymous poster on 4chan who alleged that they were a government official in the US. The Conspiracy Theory that was described includes a paedophile ring involved in child sex-trafficking, the involvement of government agencies, Democratic politicians, and Hollywood celebrities who are all plotting against President Trump who is fighting them. The plotters, of course, are an elite who really run the world. This built on the earlier Pizzagate Conspiracy Theory with which it is now merged. …

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Conspiracy Theories and how dangerous they can be. Part One…

Let’s be very clear about this; conspiracies are real, but Conspiracy Theories are fake, imaginary, and fictitious. (I intend to follow Cassam’s convention, using initial capitals to denote fake Conspiracy Theories, and lower case for real conspiracies.) Conspiracy Theories merge with fake news, alternative facts, and general misinformation. There are also conspiracy allegations, often in relation to specific events; the allegations usually allude to governmental malfeasance. Similar allegations in the past have often been shown to be (largely) correct after …

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To mask or not to mask?

The recent publication of a Danish study into the efficacy of mask-wearing to prevent the wearer from becoming infected with the coronavirus has become very controversial. Some have suggested that mask-wearing confers no benefit to the wearer. The question of whether “to mask or not to mask” is now a political one. I’m going to look at the Danish study, and Prof Carl Heneghan’s response — the view that he said Facebook had censored (here). The Danish study is here: …

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Thinking, Fast and Slow about politics…

I’m sure you remember 2016. The year of the Brexit referendum, the year when Donald Trump won the presidential election. How well, how accurately, do you remember the campaigns, the slogans? I remember Take Back Control, £350 Million for the NHS, Make America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Crooked Hillary, and Lock Her Up. These were all on the winning side; there must have been slogans that the losers used, but they don’t immediately come to mind. What about …

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Happy Swiss National Day…

A long established Slugger tradition is the annual posting on Bastille Day of the clip from Casablanca showing the emotional singing of La Marseillaise (here). Perhaps I can start another similar tradition. Today, 1 August, is Swiss National Day and a public holiday, but only if the date falls during the working week. It commemorates the events around the foundation of the country, and the struggle for freedom from the domination of the Holy Roman Empire. There is documentary evidence …

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The time has come to unmask Korhomme…

Let me tell you a story. In July 2004 I flew from Belfast to Manchester on a day trip. I was formally dressed in lightweight clothes and carrying a briefcase. On arrival, I was stopped at the security check; the policeman wanted to see my passport. I showed him my Irish one, which made him suspicious. He asked the purpose of my visit, and I told him I had an appointment at the Swiss Consulate; this made him deeply suspicious. …

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Eugenics and Scientific Racism…

In early January 2020, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief Special Adviser, wrote a blog piece in which he advertised for advisers to work in No 10. One of the groupings was for “weirdos” and “misfits”. Andrew Sabisky was appointed. The media trawled through Sabisky’s own blog for his thoughts, finding that he’d said, for example: —There are excellent reasons to think the very real racial differences in intelligence are significantly – even mostly – genetic in origin —One way …

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Science and pseudoscience…

The pseudo in pseudoscience means false, or fake, or deceptively resembling; pseudoscience is fake science. What then is ‘real’ science? You can think of it as knowledge found by observation and experimentation in the natural or physical world. It is is a ‘systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.’ This is done by the scientific method. We are introduced to natural science in school when we study physics, chemistry and biology; geography and geology …

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A reflection on the education system in Northern Ireland…

In his 1942 Report, Sir William Beveridge described five Giant Evils, obstacles on the road to post-war reconstruction. These were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.[1] They were to be tackled by action and legislation on Social Security, Health, Education, Housing and a policy of full employment. At that time, men were seen as the ‘breadwinner’ and women did the housework; this assumption is inherent in Beveridge’s thinking. RA Butler, the President of the Board of Education set up a …

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The impact of Brexit on Health in Northern Ireland…

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg was on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show on Monday 2 September; he was taking phone calls. Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist, called to ask what mortality rates could be expected in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Dr Nicholl wrote the relevant mitigation part in the Operation Yellowhammer document. Rees-Mogg has been characterised in the past as having quite exquisite politeness, extreme almost to farce. He wasn’t at all polite to the caller, saying that this was …

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50th Anniversary of The Battle of the Bogside…

In the summer of 1969 Clive Limpkin was a staff photographer on the now defunct Daily Sketch. He’d found the job unrewarding, and was wondering if he wouldn’t be more interested in copywriting, going to J Walter Thompson for an interview. He didn’t take the job because of the meagre salary. He went back to the Sketch, where the picture editor had got wind of his intentions: he said: — Ulster. Apprentice Boys march in Derry on Tuesday. We think the shit …

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What lessons can we learn from the making of modern Switzerland?

Andrew Gallagher recently wrote an op-ed for Slugger (here) on the mechanics of Irish re-unification. This has become very topical following the UK’s Brexit referendum, with a feeling that ‘the harder the Brexit, the more likely is a border poll and reunification’. While readers of Slugger will have been only too aware of the potential problems that Brexit would bring, there was a very considerable lack of understanding in Britain, and particularly in England; there it was a ‘remote’ issue. …

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The Ghost of Christmas Present…

One hundred and seventy-five years ago, on 19 December 1843, Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol was first published. The first edition of 6,000 copies sold out within a few days, before Christmas. It has remained one of his most popular works ever since. A few days ago, to celebrate this, the BBC screened Simon Callow’s one-man show, a performance of this set in a disused building. Callow declaims from memory, though his text, following Dickens’s own theatrical script, is quite abridged …

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Margaret Thatcher And The Road to Brexit…

It was while reading Will Hutton’s and Andrew Adonis’s recently published book Saving Britain that a curious and disturbing thought came into my head, unexpectedly and without invitation; it hasn’t gone away. I’m not a great fan of either author, though they can give useful insights at times. The book has two main parts, firstly, how Brexit came about, and secondly what can be done to save Britain. The thought occurred while reading the first part. Apart from this thought, my views on Brexit …

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Dementia and the pathology of leadership…

I described previously the problem of the ‘Pathology of Leadership’ (here), with a further post mainly devoted to dementia in our leaders (here). It’s not just political leaders who have health problems. I mentioned Ferdinand Sauerbruch in the second post. It’s difficult now to overemphasise just how renowned a surgeon he was in the inter-war period. From very modest origins, he rose to be the top surgeon in the top hospital, the Charité in Berlin, in Germany. He was deservedly internationally famous …

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Brexit: what the hell happens now? And Brexit and Ireland – Two interesting books on Brexit…

Let me be clear from the outset: I am a Remainer. I’ve not seen or read anything that would materially change my opinion. The European Union (EU) may have its problems, but overall I see it as a force for good. I live in N Ireland; here, we voted to remain in the EU. But the vote of the English outweighed this, and the vote in Scotland. The ‘will of the people’ is to Leave. The government triggered the Article …

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Archbishops and Admirals…

What do you suppose the following had in common: the American President Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, the German Emperor Frederick (Friedrich) III, the author of Household Management, Mrs Isabella Beeton, the impressionist painter Édouard Manet, the post-impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the gangster Al Capone, the composer Frederick Delius and the jazz pianist Scott Joplin, the Irish authors Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, the revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, the dictators Benito Mussolini and Idi Amin, the billionaire Howard …

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Donald Trump and the pathology of leadership…

Dame Iris Murdoch, the Dublin born novelist, won the Booker prize for fiction in 1978 for The Sea, The Sea. Her final novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, was published in 1995 and was met with a muted response from the critics. She was subsequently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease which was confirmed on post-mortem after her death in 1999. Subsequently, a textual examination of The Sea, The Sea, Jackson’s Dilemma and her first novel, Under The Net, showed that her vocabulary was considerably reduced and ‘commonplace’ in her final novel, but extensive …

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What is the future of the NHS in the 21st century?

In his 1942 Report, Sir William Beveridge, a Liberal patrician, identified five ‘giant evils’ — Want, Ignorance, Squalor, Disease and Idleness. The Welfare State was founded in the immediate post-war period to improve the social conditions in the UK. The country was then bankrupt from war exertions; despite warnings, mainly from Conservatives, that the Welfare State was unaffordable, the Labour government, trusting in Maynard Keynes’ assertion that ‘we can afford whatever we want’ went ahead. The National Health Service was born …

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The government’s idea of compelling doctors to work for a period in the NHS…

The general public regards the NHS as something between a ‘sacred cow’ and a ‘national treasure’, despite all the pressures that it is under. For decades it has provided a universal service, largely free* at the point of use. The public may have a collective memory of the abysmal provision before it was introduced; to see just what changes it made, you have to look for ‘the short and simple annals of the poor’ — you could start by reading …

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