Idiocy and expertise

I have – once or twice – been known to refer to Michael Gove as a “dangerous idiot”. In my opinion he is Dunning-Kruger in living, breathing, frightening action in one of the highest offices of state. He inserted his 1950s oar to screw up education and is now Lord Chancellor. He has somehow not yet screwed this up, probably because most of his changes seem to have been reversals of the chum-brained policies of his colleague Chris Grayling. Those two, plus Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith, make up the Four Horsemen of the Brexocalypse: I’ll leave it up to you to parcel out all the roles, but Grayling’s definitely Gummo.

Gove was interviewed last night about the EU referendum, and made this statement: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”

gove-cartoon

What Gove means, of course, is that he has had enough of experts. Specifically, experts who disagree with him. Atop his Dunning-Kruger pinnacle Gove is unaware of how unaware he is and, by the thundering power of his own ego wrapped in his child-catcher ice-cream politeness and seduced by his own connections, he has decided he knows more than they do. He believes he is more expert than the experts.

Oh, but this kind of expert is fine by Gove, I expect.

Specialists with years, decades of training and experience, who live and breathe their subject: nope, but for one exception. The only knowledge he respects is political knowledge. To read a brief, to answer questions, to spin, to dodge, to answer without answering, to make small talk, to win elections.

This explains how he screwed up education, and how he will likely go on to screw up justice – or worse. Empirical understanding valued less than ideology and self-belief. He won, therefore he is correct.

Gove and his ilk are no different than Icke and his, bar a few lizards. It is dangerous idiocy let loose in power, a toddler diving into a ball pit of people’s lives.

2016. What a year. A year that might end with the four horsemen in charge here, and Biff Tannen over there. God help us all. No wonder everyone’s dying.

Time to rewatch Being There.

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Avaragado’s 2016 predictions

Hello again. Pull up a pixel. Dismantle that podcast. Relax your weary mince pie repository. Pay heed, oh gentle reader, for Avaragado has rattled his brain to wiggle out the earwax of foretelling and is pleased to interpret the oily runes ambiguously below.

Those of you familiar with this annual nonsense will spot a new category. I’ve retired Celebrity Deathwatch as the predictions started to come true and, quite frankly, The Medusa Touch still gives me the shivers (WHIP PAN to polystyrene rubble falling onto gurning worshippers). In its place, You’re Celebrity Fired.

Here they all are. Perhaps the rain will have stopped by this time next year. Perhaps.

News

  1. In the thrilling Euro referendum that I hope to god happens in 2016 so we don’t have to suffer another whole year of it, the tedious British public votes 53% to 47% (±1%) to remain in the EU.
  2. Bacon-worrier David Cameron resigns as prime minister.
  3. Hillary Clinton wins the US presidential election.
  4. 2016 is the warmest year globally on record.
  5. The Bank of England leaves interest rates at 0.5% all year.
  6. The price of oil doesn’t go above $50 a barrel all year.

Sport

  1. In the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Team GB win 20±2 gold medals in total.
  2. In the Euro 2016 football championships, England finish in the top 4.
  3. Oxford win the men’s University Boat Race.
  4. HRH Prince Ali Al Hussein is elected the next president of FIFA.
  5. Wales win the Rugby Union Six Nations.
  6. Europe retain the Ryder Cup.

Science and technology

  1. The iPhone 7 (pedants: or whatever Apple calls the next major iPhone revision) has no 3.5mm headphone jack.
  2. Apple releases a Mac with an A-branded (ARM, not Intel) processor.
  3. Google buys Signal.
  4. A major security breach at the NHS leaks hundreds of thousands of patient details.
  5. Physicists confirm the first evidence for gravitational waves.
  6. An out-of-control drone causes a major incident (eg a collision with an aircraft).

Entertainment

  1. To save money, the BBC decides to close BBC Four.
  2. Peter Capaldi announces he is to leave Doctor Who.
  3. Oscar for Best Picture: The Revenant.
  4. Oscar for Best Director: Ridley Scott, The Martian.
  5. Oscar for Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl.
  6. Oscar for Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room.

You’re celebrity fired

  1. Piers Morgan leaves Good Morning Britain.
  2. Marissa Meyer leaves Yahoo.
  3. Louis van Gaal leaves Manchester United.
  4. Chris Evans (not that one) leaves the role of Editor of the Daily Telegraph.
  5. Philip Hammond leaves the role of Foreign Secretary.
  6. Sir Lord Alan Sugar leaves The Apprentice.

And that, my friends, is that. I wonder if I’ll post anything else on this blog before next year’s results?

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Avaragado’s 2015 predictions – results

A small but perfectly formed cadre of New Year’s Eve lunchers attended B Bar, AKA Baroosh, today to hear the results of my predictions for the year now blowing damply into the North Sea.

As ever, the tall but perfectly drunk Chris Walsh adjudicated. A double-check showed he gave me a point more than I deserved, which I’ve corrected. Commentary etc in square brackets.

News

  • ✗ There is more than one UK general election.
  • ✗ After one of the general elections, speaker John Bercow is deposed.
  • ✗ The royal child-beast is of the girl persuasion, and called Elizabeth. [Charlotte Elizabeth Diana]
  • ✓ Hillary Clinton confirms she will run for US President.
  • ✗ Kim Jong Un is deposed as leader of North Korea.
  • ✗ The record for the highest temperature in the UK is broken.

[Score: 1/6]

Sport

  • ✗ Sepp Blatter is not re-elected as president of FIFA. [Re-elected, but then suspended]
  • ✓ Chelsea win the English Premier League.
  • ✗ Australia retain the Ashes. [Chris marked this one right, but it wasn’t]
  • ✗ Germany win the women’s football World Cup in Canada. [USA]
  • ✓ Oxford wins the University Boat Race, again.
  • ✗ Cyprus comes top of the medal table in the keenly anticipated Games of the Small States of Europe in Reykjavik. [Iceland]

[Score: 2/6]

Science and technology

  • ✗ Apple releases a MacBook Air with a retina display.
  • ✗ The Dawn spacecraft discovers ice volcanoes on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.
  • ✓ The probe Philae on the surface of comet 67P emerges from hibernation sufficiently to send useful scientific data.
  • ✗ Microsoft buys Fitbit. [IPO]
  • ✓ Dick Costolo leaves his position as CEO of Twitter.
  • ✗ YouTube users upload over 500 hours of video per minute on average. [Who knows?]

[Score: 2/6]

Entertainment

  • ✗ Best Actor Oscar: Michael Keaton, Birdman. [Eddie Redmayne]
  • ✓ Best Actress Oscar: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.
  • ✓ Best Picture Oscar: Birdman.
  • ✗ Best Director Oscar: Richard Linklater, Boyhood. [Birdman]
  • ✓ Best Visual Effects Oscar: Interstellar.
  • ✗ The BBC says BBC 4 will follow BBC 3 and move online.

[Score: 3/6]

Celebrity deathwatch

  • ✗ Dodgy FIFA boss before the other dodgy FIFA boss, João Havelange (98)
  • ✓ Avenger before the other Avengers, actor Patrick Macnee (92)
  • ✓ Dracula, Scaramanga, Saruman, Dooku, actor Christopher Lee (92)
  • ✗ I’ve met him you know, comics elder Stan Lee (92)
  • ✗ President Bush before the other President Bush, George HW Bush (90)
  • ✓ Spock before the other Spock, actor Leonard Nimoy (82)
  • ✗ Run out, umpire Dickie Bird (81)
  • ✗ War criminal, ex-veep Dick Cheney (73)
  • ✗ Floating like an ex-butterfly, stinging like an ex-bee, boxer Muhammad Ali (72)

[Score: 3/9]

[Total score: 11/33 = 33% – up on last years 22%, but some way short of 2013’s 50%!]

Stay tuned to this bat-channel for Avaragado’s predictions for 2016.

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Over by Christmas

And so, war beckons once more. As Chilcot prepares at last to lay down his quill and rest, the telephone rings again.

Cameron will win his majority this time: he’ll make sure of that, with Osborne yapping at his heels. The vote will be called and counted, the tellers will step forward and nod, and the government benches will bay and roar, waving their order papers in bloodlust and surrender.

“My first priority is to keep the country safe,” Cameron will keep saying, as the cameras never cut to the food banks, to the homeless huddling under winter bridges, to hospitals struggling. He will tell us the only way to be free is to give up our freedoms, and the media will nod along.

The war will be over by Christmas, the papers will say.

_86814734_express

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Such a cliche. Such a coincidence that as the sharpest memories of the ghettoes, the concentration camps, the pink triangles blur into history, those thoughts rise again. France slides right. The UK slides right. The US chases its own bullets toward the edge.

Never again, just another phrase to deploy alongside the armies. No more lament but battle cry.

The magical money tree that bears no fruit for public services will produce a bountiful harvest for bombs and missiles, as it did for banks. The cover of war will blow smoke over Osborne’s incompetence. We must destroy his roof while the sun is shining.

And the cycle continues: terrorist attack begets mighty response begets the death of the innocents begets the grief of the survivors begets the thirst of revenge begets recruitment begets terrorist attack.

And the telephone rings again.

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There’s an election in four months

cameron-lol

There’s an election in four months.

Those are the only words you need to remember. Whenever a politician drivels before an invited audience of heart-eyed acolytes or assembly line workers glazing over on company time for half an hour, just remember: there’s an election in four months (or three, or two, or one…).

Yesterday renowned cryptographer David Cameron said there should be no “means of communication” which “we cannot read”. This has been interpreted by technically literate commentators, mostly through the medium of boggle-eyed laughter, as expressing a desire to ban encryption or enforce the addition of backdoors. I’ve seen many, many tweets setting out the stupidity of such a move, and I have no desire or need to rehash them here.

Because the only thing you need to know is: there’s an election in four months.

Cameron is talking about monitoring the internet because there is an election in four months. He wants people to vote for him. He understands — better, sadly, than those tweeting about protocols and key escrow and men-in-the-middle and laptops left in taxis — that none of all that matters. He’s not talking to that audience, the tiny audience that groks the detail and the implications. He’s talking to the other 99%, who saw the attacks in Paris last week and think (thanks to Be Vigilant And Report Darkies posters) that we’re next.

Let’s imagine Cameron is elected in May with a majority. What would he actually do? We have no idea. There’s no manifesto yet, and manifestos can’t be trusted anyway. On past experience — we have almost five years of it now — his words don’t much match his deeds. I expect there’d be a series of meetings, possibly involving token techies invited as a sop to industry, and the End Terrorism Forever Bill 2017 (probably) that would emerge would contain no clauses capable of achieving any such thing.

There’s an election in four months. That’s all Cameron is worried about.

The opposition parties (I include the Lib Dems in that category for election purposes) have the same phrase in their heads. If they want to oppose Cameron on this issue — and I’m not entirely sure the Labour party does, for fear of being labelled soft on terrorism — then there is absolutely no point in talking technology. That’s preaching to the choir.

To oppose this policy they need to do two things: pursue, with great vigour and purpose, the support of younger people (beneficial side-effect: these are least likely to be slack-jawed kippers); and tell them in specific terms which apps and services Cameron thinks they shouldn’t be permitted to use without being snooped on.

Snapchat, WhatsApp, iMessage, FaceTime, Yik Yak, Rooms, Skype, etc, etc — and also Facebook and Twitter and plain old email, of course, but with less emphasis since younger people don’t use those so much. Ignore the likes of HTTPS, Tor, and all that: too confusing for the audience you’re trying to reach.

Keep it simple. Non-technical. Personal.

Avoid greyfaces and clumping hooves of rhetoric: all an utter turn-off for the audience. Don’t make it an official party video at all. You want Cassetteboy, not Saatchi, and if you don’t know who Cassetteboy is, fire yourself.

Here’s an idea off the top of my head: take one (or more) of those ubiquitous thirty-second promo videos from an app vendor’s website — you know the ones, with the indie guitar solos and the Californian hipster voiceovers — and every time a toothy blond communicates with another toothy blond, intercut video of Cameron sitting at a computer screen.

It doesn’t matter that it’s inaccurate or simplistic: so is what he’s claiming to propose.

There’s an election in four months.

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Avaragado’s 2015 predictions

And here they are: a list of things almost certainly not going to happen in 2015. Feel free to pop down the betting shop as soon as it opens to chuck your savings at the opposite of everything below. Don’t forget to return this time next year to gloat with your millions.

News

  1. There is more than one UK general election.
  2. After one of the general elections, speaker John Bercow is deposed.
  3. The royal child-beast is of the girl persuasion, and called Elizabeth.
  4. Hillary Clinton confirms she will run for US President.
  5. Kim Jong Un is deposed as leader of North Korea.
  6. The record for the highest temperature in the UK is broken.

Sport

  1. Sepp Blatter is not re-elected as president of FIFA.
  2. Chelsea win the English Premier League.
  3. Australia retain the Ashes.
  4. Germany win the women’s football World Cup in Canada.
  5. Oxford wins the University Boat Race, again.
  6. Cyprus comes top of the medal table in the keenly anticipated Games of the Small States of Europe in Reykjavik.

Science and technology

  1. Apple releases a MacBook Air with a retina display.
  2. The Dawn spacecraft discovers ice volcanoes on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.
  3. The probe Philae on the surface of comet 67P emerges from hibernation sufficiently to send useful scientific data.
  4. Microsoft buys Fitbit.
  5. Dick Costolo leaves his position as CEO of Twitter.
  6. YouTube users upload over 500 hours of video per minute on average.

Entertainment

  1. Best Actor Oscar: Michael Keaton, Birdman.
  2. Best Actress Oscar: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.
  3. Best Picture Oscar: Birdman.
  4. Best Director Oscar: Richard Linklater, Boyhood.
  5. Best Visual Effects Oscar: Interstellar.
  6. The BBC says BBC 4 will follow BBC 3 and move online.

Celebrity deathwatch

  1. Dodgy FIFA boss before the other dodgy FIFA boss, João Havelange (98)
  2. Avenger before the other Avengers, actor Patrick Macnee (92)
  3. Dracula, Scaramanga, Saruman, Dooku, actor Christopher Lee (92)
  4. I’ve met him you know, comics elder Stan Lee (92)
  5. President Bush before the other President Bush, George HW Bush (90)
  6. Spock before the other Spock, actor Leonard Nimoy (82)
  7. Run out, umpire Dickie Bird (81)
  8. War criminal, ex-veep Dick Cheney (73)
  9. Floating like an ex-butterfly, stinging like an ex-bee, boxer Muhammad Ali (72)

Happy New Year!

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Avaragado’s 2014 predictions – results

Good grief, is it that time again? I’ve barely posted anything on my blog this year. Still, at today’s regular New Year’s Eve lunch official adjudicator Chris Walsh revealed just how appallingly inaccurate my 2014 predictions were. Here are the gory details – commentary etc in square brackets.

News

  1. ✓ In the referendum on independence, Scotland votes No. [Correct!]
  2. ✗ Brazil grants asylum to Edward Snowden. [Nope: still in Russia.]
  3. ✗ The Lib Dems replace Nick Clegg as leader. [Nope.]
  4. ✓ UKIP wins more MEPs in the European Parliamentary Elections than the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems. [Yes, considering the parties separately, not the combined total of the other parties.]
  5. ✗ An iconic building or monument is damaged in a freak/climate change weather event. [Couldn’t find anything.]
  6. ✗ Paul Dacre leaves his position as chief bigot/editor at the Daily Mail. [Nope.]
  7. ✗ More than 50% of Daily Express front page main headlines are about the weather. [Thought expressbingo.org.uk would have the answer, but it seems to stop on 5th Feb 2014. www.thepaperboy.com has front pages going back to September 2014. Taking all front pages from those sites, 22 out of 96 have weather-related headlines, which is 23%. Extrapolating: nope.]

[Score: 2/7]

Sport

  1. ½ Brazil win the World Cup. England don’t qualify from the group stage. [Chris ignored the bit about England and awarded no points. David thinks he deserves half a point.]
  2. ✗ Liverpool win the FA Premier League. [Manchester City.]
  3. ✗ Team GB win exactly one medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. [1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze.]
  4. ✗ Andy Murray loses in the semi-final of the men’s singles at Wimbledon. [Lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-final.]
  5. ✗ Wales win the rugby union Six Nations tournament. [Ireland.]
  6. ✗ Johnny Brownlee wins the ITU World Triathlon Series. [Third, behind Javier Gomez and Mario Mola.]

[Score: 0.5/6]

Science and technology

  1. ✓ Steve Ballmer is replaced as CEO of Microsoft by Satya Nadella. [Yes, on February 4.]
  2. ✗ The crew of the International Space Station is evacuated because of orbital debris. [Nope.]
  3. ✗ Apple announces a “revolutionary” (in their words) new TV device. [Nope.]
  4. ✗ The Nobel prize for physics is won by someone in the field of quantum computing/communication. [Nope: Blue LEDs]
  5. ✗ Google buys Oculus VR. [In March, Facebook agreed to acquire Oculus VR.]
  6. ✗ Webcam video of a celebrity, obtained covertly by an intelligence agency, leaks on the internet. [Don’t think so.]

[Score: 1/6]

Entertainment

  1. ✓ Best picture at the Oscars: 12 Years a Slave. [Yes.]
  2. ✗ Best actor at the Oscars: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave. [Nope: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club]
  3. ✗ Best actress at the Oscars: Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks. [Nope: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. Emma Thompson wasn’t even nominated.]
  4. ✓ Bruce Forsyth stops presenting Strictly Come Dancing. [Yep.]
  5. ✓ The BBC reboots a classic 1970s sitcom (eg Dad’s Army). [A film of Dad’s Army is in production, unrelated to the BBC, but the BBC has broadcast Still Open All Hours, based on the old sitcom Open All Hours.]
  6. ½ In one of those “celebrities doing stuff” shows (Splash, Strictly, Dancing on Wolves, etc) a celebrity does stuff that results in a nasty injury on live TV. [Some TOWIE woman received various bruises. Stretching the definitions of both “celebrity” and “nasty”: half a point.]

[Score: 3.5/6]

Celebrity deathwatch

  1. ✗ His Racist Highness Prince Philip, 92
  2. ✗ Nobel Peace Prize winner and war criminal Henry Kissinger, 90
  3. ✗ Thatcher defenestrator Lord (Geoffrey) Howe, 87
  4. ✓ Swivel-eyed Ulster firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, 87 [Died September 12th]
  5. ✗ Oh no, it’s Yoko Ono, 80
  6. ✗ Fifties teen idol and Half a Sixpence crooner Tommy Steele, 77
  7. ✗ Much better than the last one Pope Francis, 77
  8. ✗ Founder of CNN and all-round not-Murdoch Ted Turner, 75
  9. ✗ Nobody did it better than Carly Simon, 68
  10. ✗ Free software evangelist and beardy gnu-lover Richard Stallman, 60
  11. ✗ Wayward ex-gurner and Gazza Paul Gascoigne, 46
  12. ✗ Apprentice self-firing rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins, 38

[Score: 1/12]

[Total score: 8/37]

Not as good as previous years: a dismal 22%. Overall, the predictions were far too bold. But some of them were very close, in particular the Oculus VR purchase. Ah well.

Coming soon: 2015. And also, by coincidence, my predictions for 2015.

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