Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
Heavenly Creatures in a Bespoke Universe
Globalisation and Global Warfare
Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer [Human Rights]
The Desolation of Saatchi
With all the talk about the messy divorce of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, I didn’t see anyone remember that Charles and his brother Maurice were behind the famous “Labour Isn’t Working” election poster back in 1979.
The poster designed by Saatchi Brothers tapped into a general discontent with the highly successful Corporatist and Technocratic system that had been built after World War Two. This discontent could have been met by various reforms, most notably Workers Control and Industrial Democracy. In the 1970s, this was assumed to be the next big advance. But as it happened, it was defeated by a mix of trade union traditionalism and large numbers of want-to-be revolutionaries on the Hard Left. This created an opening for the Centre-Right, if they were willing to shift from traditional conservatism to some sort of Radical-Right approach.
By the 1970s, the system that was born in the 1940s was working imperfectly. But the new Thatcherite system that replaced it kept the substance of Corporatism and Technocracy, masked with a vulgar populism that appealed to greed and ignorance. Ignoring most of their own ideology, the New Right ran the system to give as much as possible to the richest 1%, the “Heavenly Creatures”. It was much worse socially, creating injustice and not producing the promised renewal of traditional values.
It did successfully prevent a solid new morality emerging on the basis of 1960s values. But the New Right’s own attempts to replace it with something positive were pathetic. John Major made a decent effort with “Back to Basics”, except no one had any intention of applying it to their own lives. Major himself didn’t: we later discovered that it was “Back to Basics, Front to Edwina Curry”.
Nigella is in many ways a product of this mess, even a victim of it. She is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s main Chancellor. Her parents divorced in 1980, at the dawn of Thatcherism. Her mother then married A. J. Ayer, a philosopher of complete emptiness.
(If philosophers refuse to talk about anything beyond philosophical certainties, then they can say nothing important and should shut up. But real life is based on Reasonable Beliefs, things that are definite enough to form a basis for action. Ayer was keen on sports, so in everyday life he must have been familiar with the process whereby humans make reasonable decisions on the basis of imperfect information and incomplete analysis to achieve some desired end. But as far as I can make out, his philosophical concern was juggling metaphysical notions to reach unimportant conclusions.)
Though Nigella has on occasions distanced herself from her father’s policies, she isn’t that distant. She choose to marry a Saatchi. And it seems that during their divorce (apparently provoked by Charles grabbing Nigella by the throat in public) they decided to prosecute Nigella’s “personal assistants” for fraud.
The Grillo sisters were long-time servants, and not hugely well-paid. “Francesca was paid £28,000 a year and had worked for the couple for a decade, while her sister began working for Miss Lawson and her late husband John Diamond 14 years ago and was paid £25,000.”[A] They had been given credit cards to make purchases for their employers, and had apparently used them for personal purchases. A sum of £685,000 unjustified spending was alleged.
£685,000 is an enormous sum to most of us, but not for Nigella or for Charles Saatchi. Her cookbooks have earned her millions, while the Saatchi brothers have an estimated wealth of 120 million. Any sensible person in their position would have written it off. Any sensible person would have expected the Grillo sisters to say a lot of unkind things, if brought to trial for fraud and facing the prospect of prison. And any sensible person would have checked first with an expert about the rules of evidence, if they didn’t already know them.
Normally, an accusation of regular drug use would be a serious libel and would be grounds for major damages, unless the accuser could prove drug use beyond a reasonable doubt. Someone might have solid grounds for believing it and still not dare say it. This is an oddity of English law, which required defendants in libel cases to do more than simply prove that they had reasonable suspicions. It allowed absurdities like Liberace winning damages from the Daily Mirror for an article implying he was homosexual, which was entirely true but not provable. It protects a multitude of ruling-class sins, which is not at all accidental.
In a criminal trial, different rules apply. You can say what you like, provided you can show some plausible connection to the issue before the court. There are no come-backs unless this testimony can be proved to be lies, in which case the state prosecutes you for perjury. In this case, Nigella admitted some drugs use, just not as much as the sisters alleged. But even if she were telling the whole truth and the sisters were lying, she has no real come-back. And nor has Charles Saatchi, for various remarks making him look like a crude bully.
The sister’s story will now be serialised in the popular press, and read widely. Not by me: I was already contemptuous of such characters and uninterested in “celebrities”. But it will be read by millions of people whose opinions matter to Nigella and Charles Saatchi.
Arrogance and a failure to treat ordinary people as fellow-humans is a major weakness of the current “Overclass”, the people who have flourished since the 1980s. Cunning in small ways, but basically foolish. The older ruling class knew that servants should be looked after, and there were few damaging revelations. And it wasn’t just material well-being: there was genuine respect and some of that old ruling class were worth it. I can’t think of even one of the current bunch who is worth anything morally.
Heavenly Creatures in a Bespoke Universe
The current “Overclass” really do seem to think of themselves as “Heavenly Creatures”,[B] not just superior but recognised by everyone as such. Anyone who fails to show respect must be motivated by envy, rather than a genuine distaste for such characters. Likewise any criticism of their policies must be wicked, rather than a belief that the Overclass have bungled massively since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
(This last was drastically shown by the editor of The Guardian having his love of Britain questioned, because he had published details of the Security Services spying on ordinary citizens. A more reasonable explanation is genuine concern about the loss of the normal limitation of a judge needing to approve the violation of someone’s privacy on the basis of reasonable suspicion of some serious crime or intended crime.)
The notion of a self-made elite with a right to superior status developed within Puritanism. The newly rich liked the notion that worldly success was a sign of Divine Blessing. It was preferable to the older idea of “high birth” conferring superiority. But it tended to go along with some duty of care for the less fortunate. It needed the decline of Christianity, the hyping of an inaccurate version of Darwinism by characters like Dawkins and the blossoming of “Economic Rationalism” for this creed to get wholly out of hand.
Adam Smith famously said “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”[C] Which leaves out the bulk of actual human interactions, which are neither wholly benevolent nor wholly governed by self-interest. We may not expect benevolence from the butcher, baker etc., but we would expect honesty and avoid a dishonest shopkeeper. Avoid an unscrupulous or dishonest bank, even if we did not expect them to cheat us. We inherently dislike dishonesty, and want to see it punished.
The problem for the left has been an increasing reluctance to see dishonesty or anything else as suitable to be punished by state power. People see it as OK for people to make breaches in rules that don’t suit them, the hippy heritage. Then seem genuinely astonished that others use this same breach for different ends. That made most of the left impractical and ineffective. Opened the way to the rise of Thatcher / Reagan ideology, and rule by the “Heavenly Creatures”.
You also get a lot of cynics, people who gave up after finding that changing the world was not as easy as 1960s radicals had supposed. If nothing makes much difference, it is OK to sell out to the highest bidder, as many of them have.
All of this assumes a Bespoke Universe,[D] a universe tailored to human needs and geared to rewarding virtuous humans and punishing the rest. This too is a heritage of religion, but nowadays clad in the garb of science.
The true scientific view suggests the opposite. As living organisms, we have been “bespoken” to live and flourish in the very distinctive environments found on the surface of the Earth. Nothing else that would be remotely suitable exists in the rest of the solar system, and we’d be better off making artificial space habitable than trying to make Mars or the moon habitable. (Nor is their any current need to do either, with many parts of the Earth having hardly any inhabitants.) It remains unknown how many places similar to Earth can be found in the wider universe: most of the known exoplanets are massively unsuitable.[E]
Socially, humans are “bespoken” to live as small family groups, with a lot of mutual care. Investigations of a 400,000 year old “pit of bones” in Spain found a girl who died at 12 with a deformed skull, and an elderly man with severe back problems who couldn’t have fended for himself.[F] These pre-humans and probable ancestors of the Neanderthals must have cared for their own. Modern human remains from prehistoric remains show at least as much evidence of caring.
Modern civilisation allows humans to live in much larger societies, making them much more secure and prosperous. But this unfamiliar existence creates a continuous and unsolved problem of social duties and social enforcement. A series of crises, sometimes followed by a big step forward in social organisation.
The Thatcher-Reagan solution took advantage of the most recent such difficulty, a crisis within the Corporatism that had been created in the 1940s. But it would have been wiser even from a centre-right viewpoint to have sought to reform that system rather than attacking it and trying to bring back 19th-century capitalism. All of their efforts have not in fact restored 19th-century capitalism, and life for small independent producers is worse than ever. Only the “Heavenly Creatures” have flourished, getting the lion’s share of the extra wealth in Britain and almost all of it in the USA.
Mandela and the Doughnutters
When the Afrikaners finally accepted that they’d have to give the vote to the black majority, the West’s main contribution was to try to boost the “Inkatha Freedom Party”. This party combines Zulu tribal feeling with a generally right-wing outlook. Mandela came from a family of hereditary royal councillors among the Xhosa, the other big tribal group. So an effort was made to paint him as just an Xhosa leader.
As it happened, this failed. Lots of Zulus supported the ANC and Mandela and rejected Inkatha. There was indeed a tricky balancing-act necessary to transform the society. Destabilisation efforts and political competition created a level of violence that has become the new norm. But Civil War was avoided.
Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki was another Xhosa, and not the man Mandela would have chosen, but the succession was smooth. Rather more contested in the case of Jacob Zuma, a Zulu. But most ANC Zulus thought it was their turn, and that he was the man for the job.
Mandela managed to peacefully change the system, in part by accepting that it should not change all that much. He ended a system which placed all whites above any non-white, which wouldn’t have seemed minor to those on the sharp end. But he accepted a continuation of economic inequality, with most whites remaining better off. And corruption flourished under his rule, even though he was not himself involved.
This outcome meant that the “Heavenly Creatures” of the Anglosphere reassessed him and decided he was actually one of their own. Hence the keenness of global leaders and celebrities to be seen at his funeral, “doughnutting” a major media event.[G] Some of those there had been genuine friends and long-term supporters. But most of them were not, and some were former foes.
The Observer took the opportunity to remind everyone of the stand they took in 1964, when Nelson Mandela and others were facing the death penalty. The Observer kept the issue before the world’s eyes, and probably saved the lives of the ANC leadership.[H] Fine as far as it goes, but not enough.
Someone now needs to do a book, “People Who Hated Mandela”, collecting all of the bad things that were said over the years by mainstream Anglo politicians. Ignore the overtly racist far-right, who have been marginalised. Make available to the global public the things the Centre-Right said and did that they have mostly not apologised for.
Though even some of the friends have proved imperfect. The funeral reporting included a long editorial whine from The Guardian, telling off the ANC because “its structure, influenced by the South African Communist party, reflects the pernicious doctrine of democratic centralism. This is supposed to mean total freedom in discussion, then absolute obedience to the majority’s will. As usually perverted, it means that decisions are made by a small group at the top and passed down, giving only the appearance of participation by members.”[I] Which is true enough, but it also mostly avoids civil war and ethnic rioting. And is at least as good as open factionalism or mutli-party competition at giving the majority of the people the things they thought they were voting for.
Respect for democracy?
Putin has been repeatedly elected by a clear majority of the voters. His main opponents are a revived Russian Communist Party. The other significant forces are the right-wing nationalist “Liberal-Democrats” and the social-democratic “Just Russia”. Liberal and Westernising parties have sunk into well-merited oblivion.Yet the Western media go on playing up to a small number of unpopular dissidents.
Outsiders seem to thoroughly dislike the Russian people, holding them to blame for the failure of the libertarian capitalist reforms that were carried through under Yeltsin. It’s not just or sensible, but it has become the Western consensus.
It’s also not a good strategy to win over China. The West seems to want them to be ashamed of their own achievements and respectful of Western demands. A few Chinese have been won over to such a viewpoint. But if I were plotting to subvert China, I would not regard such characters as an asset.
Meantime the West has stayed neutral as the richer and more Westernized element in the Thai capital demand surrender to their wishes and reject a new election, which would almost certainly be won by the government they are protesting against. It seems that their notion of democracy is for everyone else to agree with them. Anti-corruption is the main slogan, but an anti-corruption policy is easy to promise and very hard to deliver. And often a cover for something else, policies mentioned quietly and not likely to win mass support.
In Ukraine, the heirs of the Orange Revolution would at least accept a new election, because they have some hope of winning it. But they have also learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Ukraine is inherently pulled both East and West, and has no clear lines on which it might split. This applies particularly to Kiev, mother-city of the Rus identity that later split into Great-Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and a scattering of Ruthenians.
The protestors seem to believe in Fantasy Democracy. Democracy is a Good Thing and is certain to deliver us just what we want. So if it does not deliver us just what we want, it can’t be democracy. Just because the wrong people have a majority of the votes does not make it democratic if the “Heavenly Creatures” wish it otherwise.
You can’t have successful multi-party democracy if you demand that the other side surrender and do what you tell them. But Western advice has frequently encouraged just this sort of attitude. The Ukraine remains a mess, while Russia has recovered its strength.
Meantime it seems that the Syrian crisis may end with an open election that may well endorse Assad and the Baath. This likelihood was why the original protestors refused to compromise and demanded Assad’s removal before any election. And like the rest of the “Arab Spring”, it has ended in a mess.
The Syrian uprising is reasonably suspected of being a Bilderberg bungle.[J] But the Bilderberg connection is probably exaggerated: the Bilderberg Group is a private forum for a selected few among the “Heavenly Creatures”, not some functional secret organization. Not all attendees agreed with plots to overthrow Assad. Those who probably did plot it didn’t show much foresight, not expecting the Islamists to become dominant if fighting started. Yet this was exactly what any sensible conspirator should have been worrying about. You put a chimp and a lion in the same room, what do you think will happen?
If you class the Bilderberg Group as wicked conspirators, then you should also see them has having more in common with the Great Goblin from the recent Hobbit film, rather than Sauron the Terrible.[K] Wise they are not, nor subtle. Syria has gone so far wrong that you now find articles in the Daily Telegraph denouncing it as a mess-up.[L]
Anyone not scared of revolution has not understood revolution. This doesn’t mean you let those fears dominate, if a revolution seems a fair prospect. Just that you should think first, and think carefully.The same applies to secession, rights of self-determination. Nice if it can be managed smoothly, but also highly risky. Africa has mostly stuck to colonial boundaries, the conventional wisdom being that any tampering with these would lead to chaos. US pressure and lobbying by Afro-American politicians did finally persuade Sudan to let its Black-African south secede as South Sudan. Which then failed to establish a proper government, and is currently (24th December) descending into civil war based on tribal divisions. People from rival tribes are being massacred and prospects of a viable state seem small.[M]
Western economists are convinced that something nasty must happen to China some time soon, if it goes on ignoring Western advice on politics and economics. Debt is commonly cited as the big issue. But a recent article tucked away in the financial section of The Economist argues otherwise.
China currently owes money to itself, Chinese with debts to other Chinese. This is not dangerous unless Parasitic Finance is allowed. Globally, China has few debts and vast bond and currency reserves that it cannot currently make use of without causing a global crisis. Yet possessing it gives China great power and security. The USA owes China money, and so is limited in what it dare do. For China to start dumping dollars would produce a paper loss, but no loss of actual or usable wealth for China.
Concerning internal debt, the mainstream Western claim is that “China is misallocating capital on a grand scale”[N] This is contradicted by continuing fast growth, unwelcome evidence that political control can be a lot more efficient than profit-based systems. Or evidence that people in China and elsewhere behave mostly as human beings rather than the fictional and inhuman entities of “Rational Economics”.
Sentiments like that don’t get voiced in The Economist, of course. But it exists to give sound advice to business people, so some realism is allowed even about the future of the West’s main rival:
“One might think that low interest rates would encourage consumption by reducing the reward for saving. But the evidence suggests that Chinese households save to meet certain goals, such as making a down-payment on a home. If saving yields little, they simply do more of it…
“China is, then, living within its means. And those means are now considerable. It produces over $8 trillion-worth of goods and services, without undue strain on its capacity.There is little question that capital does not always go to the most deserving investment, and that the lives of China’s citizens would be more comfortable if consumption played a bigger part in the economy. But China’s capital stock still seems more productive than Thailand’s or South Korea’s.”[O]
China also is probably not a market economy in the Western sense of the term. The European Union still refuses to recognise it as such, and may well be correct.[P] Nor have socialist goals been abandoned, just delayed when it became clear that the West had pulled through its 1960s crisis. The newly installed leader Xi Jinping insists that the basic outlook is still Marxist.[Q] The official position remains that limited capitalism is just a stage towards something more socialist.
As for politics, a look round the world suggests that people with a heavy exposure to Marxism often have a very strong advantage. Success in South Africa was achieved by the ANC, which was steeped in it. Marxism has shown itself to be much closer to the truths of modern society than any of the alternative political philosophies.
Marxism also packages the new thinking that developed in Western Europe, in a form that can be understood by people not raised in that tradition. Meantime New Right philosophy has proved to be a subtractor of value. Much inferior to a pragmatic view when it comes to building anything solid or worthwhile. Hence the failure to consolidate the brief advantage following the Soviet collapse.
Globalisation and Global Warfare
There could never be much doubt about the outcome of the Lee Rigby trial. His killers had chosen to act in the spirit of the Anglosphere’s decision to make the conflict global, and did not deny what they had done. Their “defence” was never likely to be accepted, but it did give them a useful dose of publicity.
What’s most interesting is the attitudes shown by the Western media. Using drones to kill enemy civilians is fine. Killing a few poor non-white bystanders is acceptable. But attacking an off-duty soldier is monstrous.We also had unauthorized acts of violence called cowardly by the prosecution, even though the killers stayed around to face the consequences of their actions, and were in fact expecting to be shot dead.[R]
Fighting dirty is not the same as being a coward, and nor is being brutal. The Islamist movement fights dirty because it is weak compared to the advanced technology of the West. But it chooses to go on fighting, because it is brave. Western politicians and some media try to deny the connection. Presumably thinking that it was just a coincidence that they became radicalized after large numbers of Muslims started getting killed in situations where the USA and Britain had smashed existing authoritarian structures.
That’s typical of the thinking of “Heavenly Creatures”. The sort of thinking that gets ordinary soldiers killed for no good reason.
Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer
No one is ever likely to say “trust me, I’m a lawyer”. But many people express a deep belief in “The Law”, as if it were something that had a meaningful existence separate from the opinions of the trained lawyers who administer it.
You can in fact trust lawyers more than most people when it comes to looking after money or performing a particular task, if you have hired them for their professional services. But that’s just why they are not trustworthy on wider social matters. Their hearts tend to follow their wallets.
In the case of Human Rights, the relevant judges and lawyers somehow believe that they are being superlatively honest while only harassing approved foes of the Anglosphere. Elderly Nazis or people employed by the Nazis will be harassed till the very last of them are dead, but what about the Nazi’s very willing allies among the Croats and Bosnian Muslims? The War Crimes Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia applies only to events that happened after the break-up. Men just as guilty as the elderly Nazis will be left alone, because bringing them to trial would remind everyone which sides the Croats and Serbs were on in World War Two.
To understand the logic of Anglo law, let’s do a bit of Reverse Engineering. Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation. It may have originated in the world of computers: it is certainly very widespread there. It was through Reverse Engineering that rival companies were able to produce cheap personal computers that would run software produced for the IBM Personal Computer, hugely damaging IBM’s business and turning the basic architecture of the IBM Personal Computer into the dominant format, now commonly known just as PC. Making a direct copy would have been piracy: doing it via Reverse Engineering was ruled as legal after some bitter legal fights.
In the case of Anglo law, suppose one wanted a system that gave successful lawyers an income way above the norm for people with similar intelligence and training in other professions. And had a culture full of pompous hypocrites, people glib with fine sentiments but unwilling to accept even a small loss when they might be expected to act on those sentiments. How would this differ from what is actually seen?
Law as actually applied includes a lot of Quacking Donkey logic. This creature quacks, has feathers and webbed feet, lays eggs and is fond of swimming. Therefore it is a donkey. It would make a neat slogan: Legal Mind, Quacking Donkey.[S]
The West got worried when North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un removed his powerful uncle Chang Song-thaek, who was then executed. Chang was seen as close to China and apt to favour Chinese-style reforms.
Since this uncle seems to have been a kingmaker, it may just be a classic case of “kicking away the ladder”. And in authoritarian systems, a leader will sometimes break a potentially dangerous rival and then take over their policy. Definitely, China is keen to avoid a row and maintain good relations with Kim the Third.[T]
There is a nice diagram at [http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/12/06/american-politics-as-a-diseased-brain/], showing the end of bipartisan politics in the USA. It is also at [http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21591190-united-states-amoeba], but that is for subscribers only.
Some young people think that they have been robbed and are kept under by the ordinary members of the “Baby Boom” generation. Actually the big shift since the 1970s in Britain, the USA and most of Europe has been a much larger slice of wealth going to the richest 1%. And there has been no “trickle-down”, no net improvement in growth in GNP. But this has been successfully obscured by a mass of propaganda designed to set the majority against each other and ignoring what the rich are doing.
The rise in house prices and private pensions means that older people look better off. But if you own a valuable house and also live in it, you need it and can not sell it. Also since the richest 1% are mostly past middle age, they inflate the average wealth of older people. The actual wealth of average old people is something else.
The Anglosphere is much more unequal than ordinary people believe it to be. Also more unequal than they would wish it to be. For the USA, there is a nice animation at [http://www.utrend.tv/v/9-out-of-10-americans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mind-blowing-fact/]. For the way in which Britons are systematically misled, mostly by the tabloid press, see [http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=2887]
Meantime there has been a bubble in Bitcoin. This is a currency independent of any state authority, meaning it is a very risky place to hold your money. Recently it seemed the Chinese would accept it, then this view was reversed, and the value of Bitcoins suddenly halved.[U] Anyone who’d known this would happen could have made a big profit, moving into and out of Bitcoins at just the right times. No one should dabble in Bitcoins unless they have reliable insider knowledge. Or unless they are dabbling in criminal transactions.
Christmas was once a Christian gloss on the older pagan festival of Yuletide or Saturnalia. And is now all about consumption. The older ideas of forgiveness and tolerance have mostly been forgotten about. Christmas marketing used to begin immediately after Halloween, 31 October. Now it begins even sooner. And poor families with children get pushed into debt to meet the heightened expectations.
Amidst the row about spy services spying on anyone and everyone, we now have a story about leaks of similar confidential data: “‘The data broker industry as it is today, does not have constraints and it does not have shame,’ she explained. ‘It will sell any information about any person regardless of sensitivity for 7.9 cents a name, which is the price of a list of rape sufferers which was recently sold.’
“‘Lists of rape sufferers, victims of domestic violence, police officers’ home addresses, people who suffer from genetic illnesses,’ Dixon continued. ‘Complete with names, home addresses, ethnicity, gender and many other factors. This is what’s being sold and circulated today.'” [V] Even if you personally are in none of those categories, you should worry about what else may be being sold from the voluminous files of the spooks.
Channel Four News has recently been publicising new evidence that the Libyans had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombing.[W] But this suggestion has been around for years, connecting it to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 Saddam invasion of Kuwait: “So why, then, was all this evidence against the Syrian and Iranian-backed PFLP and PPF ignored? As Paul Foot explained in Private Eye’s special report, ‘Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice‘, initially they were pursued – for a solid 18 months, right up to the point of announcing that arrests were imminent. Then suddenly the political mood in the Middle East changed dramatically. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the US/UN forces needed Arab support beyond their usual friends in Egypt.”[X]
On the matter of MP’s pay, the public is being penny wise, pound foolish. People doing a critical job are being denied a modest pay rise. But this leaves them wide open to being tied to the interests of the rich through lobbying fees and “consultancies”.
Elections in Nepal have seen a massive fall in support for the main Maoist party. In terms of seats, they have fallen from 229 seats to 80, with some seats still to be decided. The Nepali Congress currently have 196 seats, up from 115. A non-Maoist Communist Party that is effectively centre-left has gone from 108 to 175. That’s with 575 out of 601 seats decided. And means that the Nepali Congress and the moderate Communists would have a working majority if they could form a stable coalition. They have worked together before, and now they would have 64% of the seats and represent about 57% of the electorate. The Maoists could be the official opposition, and a swarm of additional small parties could be mostly ignored. The biggest of them is the Royalists, currently 24 seats and less than 3% of the votes. This is very different from the previous election, where several different coalitions were feasible and none of them were stable.
[B] “Heavenly Creatures” is the name of a film made by Peter Jackson. It was based on a real-life case of two teenage girls who committed a murder in New Zealand in the 1950s. They seem to have picked up from Hollywood the notion of superior persons above normal rules. They then applied it to themselves in a shared fantasy with magical and religious overtones. This was the basis on which they murdered the mother of one of them, and were naturally caught and punished. They were low status, and Anglo society has no tolerance of murder, though it will tolerate many other things among the elite. This idea has got much worse since the 1970s.
[D] Bespoke originally meant a suit or other garment made to a buyer’s specification. At first it applied to only men’s tailored clothing. It is now used much more widely, e.g. “bespoke software”
[E] Exoplanets have been found in the “Goldilocks Zone”, the region around other stars that would be neither too hot nor too cold for something like Earth to exist. Some of them are not much bigger than Earth, and so might be very Earth-like. But they might also be completely different, as Venus and Mars turned out to be.
[F] From issue 2946 of New Scientist magazine, page 8-9
[G] “Doughnutting” is a term that originated in the British House of Commons when it was first televised. It was noted that when there were few MPs in the House, many of them would move close to whoever was speaking. This pattern resembled a ring doughnut, and the term caught on.
[K] Both creatures are seen in Film One of the Peter Jackson trilogy, but Sauron only appears without human disguise in Film Two. Both might be quite at home at Bilderberg, but the impression I get of the real-world Bilderberg Group is of a bunch of rich and well-connected bunglers, not smart and sinister Dark Lords.
[S] To be strictly accurate, “duck” is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family of birds, which also includes swans and geese. They do not all come from a single common ancestor that gave rise to nothing but ducks.