399 - Early Snippets 2023 | Scoins.net | DJS

399 - Early Snippets 2023

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Winter snippets runs from February onwards – I wrote none in January.



Poster from the Green Party echoes the way I feel about this latest version of the Tory Government. This is the party that promised "integrity, professionalism and accountability"

This in an environment where the billions lost to failed PPE equipment are echoed by similar failure to claw very much of it back. There is an Online Safety bill that is so awfully written that (i) it should probably be reset as perhaps five separate bills making manageable attempts at bits of the problem and a cohesive whole, with a guarantee to revisit this with more Bills every year. This is so difficult that none of it may reach law this parliament. Scotland has passed a Gender Recognition Act that Westminster refuses to accept (not passed for Royal Assent), for a legion of reasons, some of which actually make sense.


Could you consider veganism to be a political statement? If so, could that statement become a bigger decision than the very personal one to eat no meat? Could you veganism instead be but one facet of a decision to cause an end to the exploitation of animals?

I'm asking the question. Up to the point where you insist upon making me agree with you, I'm not bothered what beliefs you want to hold to. See an argument for this being political here:- https://theconversation.com/veganism-why-we-should-see-it-as-a-political-movement-rather-than-a-dietary-choice-197318?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20January%2025%202023%20-%202524625349&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20January%2025%202023%20-%202524625349+CID_eb640f466f099d966fb24bf1f0538411&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=proposing


I've written before about national security of energy, of food and various basic manufactories (steel, cars, ships, chips, computers) I have long felt that there is a fond and welcome security to be had from having your 'own' product. In leaving the EU we lost many of these things that had been held and lost to the wider body. Security of this sort allows one to ride out sudden changes in the wider world. I continue to be bothered at the large amount of food we do not grow at home, bothered that we don't grow enough to feed ourselves. I shall continue to monitor the land used for meat (and animal feed) that could be used instead for growing food for us (cutting out the middleman, so to speak). I'm not at all saying we should grow everything, but that we should grow enough to trade in food. My earlier essays suggest we import 45% of what we eat; that of our arable land 40% is growing animal feed; that a lot of current pasture land could be used for arable (that is difficult to turn into a hard figure).

I am not arguing for no meat, not at all. We have lots of land suitable for pasture but unsuitable for arable crops – think of all those fells with sheep on, the Highland cattle and so on. 

https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/united-kingdom-agricultural-sectors The UK imports around 46 percent of the total food it consumes and is reliant on both imports and its agricultural sector to feed its population and drive economic growth. 


New analysis shows 40% of the UK’s most productive agricultural land is used to grow food for farm animals instead of people. [...] The latest report in WWF’s Future of Feed series highlights the fact that dairy and meat products provide only 32% of calories consumed in the UK, and less than half (48%) of protein, but – by contrast – livestock and their feed make up 85% of the UK’s total land use for agriculture. 40% of the arable land in the UK is 2million hectares, about the size of Wales. We take (demand, buy often) the crops from 850,000 ha abroad (850000ha=8500km²), bigger than our second biggest county, Lincolnshire.

https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2022-06/future_of_feed_summary.pdf    The long version is also available. From which I copied this, much the same as immediately above:

Grazing and crops grown for animal feed combined represent 85% of the nation’s total agricultural land footprint ‐ at home and abroad ‐ whilst supplying only 32% of our calories and 48% of our protein. Those numbers suggest to me that we could reduce the herds (beef, lamb, pork, chicken) by a factor of three, gain something like a 50-80% increase in arable land used for human food (including that land abroad where the produce is bought by us for animals, such as soy), which might well move the '45% of what we eat' to more like 65-70%. We grow remarkably little in the way of small-market labour intensive crops. In the same thinking, we could (easily) feed our animals differently with things such as (wait for it!)  grass, but also food waste and food/agricultural by-products. As the last link refers to it, ‘low opportunity cost’ feedstuffs. [p9]. To make that occur, we need to change the incentives we shove at farmers. We could do that in ways that made Brexit look like a good thing, too.



I was reading again about Drax power station, having already formed the opinion that the ways in which it burns wood to generate electricity is nothing like as wonderful as they paint it and that the recovery of CO2 is largely an outright lie, a future promise not an actuality. It looks to me as though the huge subsidies this place collects are about to be repeated / renewed when I think it is time it was instead demonstrating that clean fuel needs no subsidy. Capital occasionally, research often, but running costs should not be subsidised. Transparency, please; tell us what does and does not work. For example, make sense of telling us that Drax is wonderful but your wood-burning stove is awful; educate us (all) into the essential differences, with detail. That is, use precise scientific language, not that of political spin.



I wasn't in the country in 2012, when the Olympics occurred, so I was until recently unaware that they'd been billed as the legacy Games, that holding the Olympics was going to be the start of a wave of change—a legacy—that moved many of us to taking more exercise. Fat chance, it turns out, literally. The Primary School Sport Premium, some £2.2bn across the last ten years has, in short, failed. And dismally, too. I've been aware of this for some time but not aware of the scale of the wastage. What was supposed to happen was that primary school teachers were themselves persuaded to enthuse over PE (sport in general); what has happened is that the whole package has been outsourced (and not well). So, the moment the funding is cut, the sport will disappear. Which is worse than the failure to start the plan, since it will have entirely the opposite effect.

No funding went to secondary schools.

I wrote to a local chum who provided some of the primary coaching:-

This (linked URL) discusses the funding that went to the primary school sector after the 2012 Olympics. It points out that none went to the secondary sector. Also, as we said to each other, the primary teaching staff (who were supposed to be gaining the knowledge and enthusiasm to impart to their kiddies) simply dodged the whole and the package was outsourced. That's 2.2 billion pounds across the last ten years; so what happens when the funding tap is simply turned off? The whole point of the funding was to change the ethos within the staff (third objective, below), not simply to move the money into opportunistic pockets. Since 2017 the funding has been £320 million per year.

When my wife was on her PGCE she participated in music and sport (two subjects usually outsourced or given to a specialist); she was the only course member to engage in sport and the only active member of staff at the school where this experience occurred. Thus the primary sector failed to rise to the funding and we might conclude that these adults at no point engaged with the project, that they (too) see no point in exercise. I have no doubt that every one of them claims that their jobs are already far too large to include exercise, when what they really mean is that they've become accustomed to using the games time (and the music time) for other stuff, so it was never going to happen – not without something else being removed from their long list of tasks.

I compare this with the extra funding to maths in the primary sector, £52 million (not per year, across the nine years that apply); about 2% of that aimed at sport. Some parties have become very comfortably rich on this money. Meanwhile, is there much evidence that obesity in under-12s has reduced?

The Premium’s five key indicators as outlined by the DfE 

  1. engagement of all pupils in regular physical activity
  2. the profile of PE and sport is raised across the school as a tool for whole-school improvement
  3. increased confidence, knowledge and skills of all staff in teaching PE and sport
  4. broader experience of a range of sports and physical activities offered to all pupils
  5. increased participation in competitive sport.

Obesity; of every 1000 10&11 year-olds (Year 6) in England, 234 are obese and 143 overweight; for those aged 4&5 (reception), 101 are obese and 121 are overweight.  That does not mean things are improving. For year 6 since 2006 the obesity level has gone from 17% to 23% (it peaked at the end of lockdown), while reception has held steady at 10%. So there's a movement that doubles the proportion of the obese across primary schooling. 

Is this not awful? Yes, there's a connection between obesity and deprivation (I've always assumed that it's a feature of bad diet, not a surplus of food).

Comparing 1993 with 2023 and only looking at adults, obesity has gone from 15% to 28% (up 13%, we could call that a doubling); those overweight or obese (both categories) has gone from 53% to 64%, up by 11% of the adult population.

The message then, is that the 2012 Olympics did NOT leave a legacy of a fitter, healthier population. Not in any age group.

Given the issues we have with the NHS, one might well have realised that for each of us we're going to have to take far more responsibility for our own health and not leave everything to the nanny state to mop up. That means, for most of us, that we need to begin to attend to having enough exercise, to eating better, to look after ourselves since the state is no longer able to do that for us. In short, to reduce the pressure we place on the NHS by being significantly less demanding.




I met a guy at one of the Warm Hubs who was into 'digital accessibility'. What he meant by this was raising the numbers with access to the internet. This, it turns out has three aspects:

I) Having an internet connection in the household. This includes having one that functions fast enough to include whatever is considered 'normal' activity.

2) Having any gadgets with internet connection. This, it turns out, is a whole other issue; many have a smart phone and this gives some limited ability to connect, creating the third category

3) People able to access the internet from something with a bigger screen than a smart phone. From the point of view of the State, this is what is needed to be able to fill in government-issue forms. As a practical test, that sits well with me.

There is another meaning of this same phrase, which is the provision of access for those who are in any way disabled. That's 14.1 million people, some of whom have good access to the internet. So really the phrase applicable in the Blackpool case is digital poverty. Now Blackpool is rich only in the prevalence of low-income wards, where we're told we have six of the ten poorest in England (evidence?). So while the national average is around 17%, the local average (no  accessible internet and no gadget within the household). About 9 million people lack 'basic (foundation-level) digital skills (17% of the population, but 25% in the Fylde, Blackpool's bit of Lancashire). Breaking the 9 million down shows two groups, the over 65s and the low income households are noteworthy for a lack of skill or access or both; 18% of all  over-65s have no access and 11% of all low-income households.

We were made aware of this during the pandemic, when many schools moved to online teaching and then the press noticed that this excluded many of the very people for whom education is their best chance of escaping future poverty. Of the adults who remain offline, 46% say they find it all too complicated, 42% say it holds no interest. A whole 37% of the adults without access don't have the equipment, even if the internet were available in their residence. Across the school population during lockdown, 4% relied on mobile internet access (no fixed broadband connection) and 2% could only get online using a smartphone. A whole 17% did not have consistent access to a suitable device for their online home-learning. This increased to 27% of children from households classed as most financially vulnerable. That fits squarely with the verbal data I was given yesterday.

DJS 20230303


Whilst the percentage of adults not accessing the internet at home has decreased from 11 per cent to 6 per cent in recent times, it's still the case that many people remain digitally excluded. Over 1.7 million households do not have access to the internet, with older people three times as likely to be offline and people on low incomes twice as likely.


https://frankwnorris.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Blackpool-Digital-Education-Position-Statementv10.pdf Not a word about the size of the problem. Mostly puff.

https://www.rouge-media.com/uk-internet-non-users/ showing % adults not used the internet in the last 3 months (including never). Puts Blackpool at 12% in 2020, Blackburn with Darwen at 15% - but Luton at 22%. This needs updating.

https://www.lep.co.uk/news/people/new-research-reveals-discrepancies-in-internet-speeds-across-lancashire-3600127 A comparison of internet speeds: Wyre 40 Blackpool 64 (median download speed, units not given; they should be Mbps and I've just tested mine at 55 Mbps, a lot faster than PlusNet advertise for ADSL). I'm not complaining; we don't often think it is slow.


Reading a piece from Bloomberg about internal migration in the US connected to climate disasters of various types, I was struck by the extent to which the politicians fail to produce results. This applies particularly where some previous decision such as the FEMA, which has rebuilt several homes in flood and hurricane-struck areas several times, perhaps as many as a dozen times in extreme cases.  "Congress in 2012 passed a law that was going to increase these flood insurance premiums by quite a bit, and make it reflective of just how risky their homes were. And the uproar was enormous. When homeowners on the coastline got so mad, they lobbied FEMA and Congress extensively, and two years later, Congress rolled back a lot of provisions of that program. So it’s really hard to undo the mistakes. "   In quotes because this was speech with the piece.

So the politicians realised something was wrong and voted to fix it but the people themselves want what they want at an individual and community and not what their society needs. What's more, where they have enough power, they'll continue to fight for continuation of the (bad, understood) situation. So those who've been permitted to build on a flood plain (including the Miami coast) or in other places that are known to be high-risk locations expect the state to fork out to pay for their decisions, their idiocy, their selfishness. 


20230309 the snow was telling truth (not lying); overnight the ground became cold enough for politics (lying all the time). 20230310 one woke (am I woke?) to 5-6 cm on the cars in the street but only about one cm on the pavements. By eight the town was already warming up. Such is Blackpool.


We have (yet) another plan to stop the arrival of small boats. This is declared to be illegal migration, with the consequent suspension of rights to claim asylum and the like. This is, I think, merely going to increase the problem, demanding expensive incarceration (detention) with very little hope of returning anyone to somewhere else (anywhere that they have passed through on the way, including their home country). What we need—and to me it seems entirely obvious—is an attack on the provision of the boats and, if (ever) solved in the Channel, that solution can then be applied to the Mediterranean. We cannot, surely, close the border to asylum seekers or migrants; we can make entry difficult (yet we have not); we could make entry lawful by providing application centres overseas. We might, as I've written before, find it costs considerably less to invest in agencies that work in the source countries.

The numbers using small boats is available on an HMG site. I used an adjacent site to access the data, from which I produced this graph. I've added a cubic trendline, though the prediction from a quadratic was very similar. I've copied one spreadsheet page, showing the 2022 ranking of source countries for these people. 

I've written on this topic before. We need to provide valid, safe, sensible routes for this migration and the seeking of asylum. We also need to keep the numbers in context.The EU, ten times the population of the UK (11.3 actually), had just shy of a million applications for asylum (international protection) in 2022, up 50% on 2021. There are records of irregular arrivals, but I don't think the count can be of the same people. Of the asylum seekers, Germany receives 30%, France 20% Spain 10% and then Italy and Austria. On this scale, 2021 figures only, the UK would sit at 8%. The general trend is much the same for 2022, so that (few data points) suggests that we've done nothing to affect our relative attractiveness as a destination. Given the prevalence of English worldwide, I'd actually expect a higher demand than that shown.

Looking at population growth figures (Europe is levelling off and migration is about the same as the growth) we might be better to embrace a variety of strategies, including: to discourage having children just enough so that the total population is more or less constant; to provide a generous package of education to immigrants so that they too—and from a red-neck Tory perspective, them especially—have children at the same rate as the rest of the population so as not to imbalance the society; to be sufficiently welcoming (more of the same education package) that we turn the migrants into useful productive members of our society ("You can come in but you have to join in and work"). But at the same time we also need to fix that very same situation for the bottom third (my perspective) who are labelled early on as useless (see all comment on GCSE lack of success). We have the people, we're not getting them to enthuse about being productive. We could make this work and we should, for it is in our own interests for this to happen. Such a lot of that relies on us turning education into a whole-life affair at very little cost at the point of provision. 

Fertility across Europe is down to 1.48 (see wikipedia), population currently 745 ± 1 million (2017-21) held static by migration balancing the steady loss that would otherwise occur. The proportion of births to foreign mothers is high, at 21% (see). Apparently, what affects the birthrate is the perception that kids are expensive, the loss of earnings (including loss of job as a direct or indirect cause of having children). I'm afraid I don't think sufficient births are planned with such considerations taken on board. I do think that many births are avoided for those reasons, but that's not the same thing. Having a child should be a deliberated choice, not some form of accident. But then I accept that I'm weird; I'd only congratulate someone on becoming a parent if I'd known for some time that this was a deliberated hope, implying some perceived difficulties. 


20230325 parkrun.  Having had a cold lasting seven to ten days rather than the usual recent three-day affair. I discovered that feeling well enough to run was not what I thought, running one lap of the park and realising I wouldn't be doing the usual second lap. That was Wednesday. Thursday repeated that; one was quite enough. So decision that Saturday parkrun would be a walk (race walk, power walk) which should, one would think, allow heavy effort without undue strain on the old lungs. Mild practice to remember how to do the hip wiggling stuff occurred. Previous best was 35:03 and it is noted as a curiosity that all walk times end in :03. Small data set, so not really any great surprise. The previous attempt had a second lap (the two-lap parkrun route) a minute quicker, so sub-34 was expected, assuming nothing broke and that I could concentrate for that long. Within 400metres I'm labouring for oxygen and I am aware that my lungs are still not up to par, for this is quite as hard (in terms of noise) as my usual running. So serious surprise on catching Les running shortly into the second lap – I run with Les quite often, though not in parkrun. The time for one lap suggested a fast time, inside 33 minutes, which was what I'd been hoping for but as my read of the watch said 13 minutes I decided this could not be so and that it actually had said 18 minutes. 

Wrong: The finish time on my watch said 26:03 (of course it did, minutes and three seconds). The published results said 25:57, 68% on age grading if running. I looked up the age-grading if walking and get a horrifying 92%. [I've taken the longer time on my watch, not theirs.] I conclude that I was not meeting proper race-walking standards,  'lifting' at the very least, since I find it hard to believe I can get such a high percentage figure on, basically, no training. Of course, I'm very sore already,  writing later on Saturday, and I expect to be more sore still tomorrow. But, if my very fast walk is anywhere near 'proper', then I conclude that walkers retire early and that the race-walking population is very small. The equivalent (world) age-record is 24 minutes, give or take a second, on road.

I've looked up the course record for 70-74. 22:09 is a bit too quick on the recent form. I need a Saturday at 80%. And lots of directed training. I think I'm 50-60 seconds off, maybe only 20 seconds adrift on a rare good day (at 78%).






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