CrunchyNut Cornflakes – Child Slavery Edition

This seems relevant to those who have heard Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist) talking on podcasts about the evils that lurk behind palm oil production.

Amnesty International have released a new report, “The Great Palm Oil Scandal“, on child labour and other exploitation on palm oil plantations in Indonesia. Amnesty state… “The world’s most popular food and household companies are selling food, cosmetics and other everyday staples containing palm oil tainted by shocking human rights abuses in Indonesia. … Kellogg’s uses palm oil in products like CrunchyNut clusters, Pop Tarts and Nutri-Grain.”

There’s an opportunity here to start a wider debate about more than just ‘how ethically is this stuff grown’ to ‘why is this stuff grown’ and the wider ramifications of bio-diesel of the sort that Ridley has talked about.


Radio Tombs

Latest edition of the BBC’s Radio Times, lead opinion article, right at the front… on how being a pessimist is supposedly healthy…


Well, I suppose it goes along with the unremitting gloomism and socialism-lite spin being pumped out by much of the rest of the BBC. The BBC News website is currently nearly wall-to-wall anti-Trump, even in the Science and Environment sections.

The above article seems to be connected to a week-long BBC Radio 4 series “The Power of Negative Thinking”. Seriously. I see they also have a drama series called Gloomsbury these days, which follows on from the depressing Woman’s Hour feminist magazine programme. How apt. Looking through the rest of the Radio 4 schedules is like browsing the contents list of a copy of the Socialist Worker’s Party newspaper or Spare Rib magazine circa 1986. Wheeling on Melanie Phillips for a few minutes every couple of weeks doesn’t make up for the rest of the obvious leftist bias.

It’s useful to be reminded, every so often, of quite why I gave up on the BBC in favour of podcasts — apart from their still-excellent In Our Time and the still-fun Doctor Who.

Talking sense on “fake news”

It appears that the political left has decided that “fake news” is a big fat scapegoat that they can saddle up, then spur the hairy beast into a final götterdämmerung battle-ride against the Trump-Hitler. Thankfully there are a few highly informed people talking sense on the matter of “fake news”, albeit while being drowned out by the ongoing hysteria. Here are three such…

Backchannel: According to Snopes, Fake News Is Not the Problem

“Take it from the Internet’s chief myth busters: The problem is the failing media.”

The American Interest: “Fake News” Is the New “Bregret”.

The Register: The Facebook ‘Fake News’ Moral Panic. Just a second…

National Review: Buzzfeed’s ‘Fake News’ Study – Methodology Questioned

M&G: The surprising origins of ‘post-truth’ – and how it was spawned by the liberal left

I would add that the ‘fake news’ panic is a typical leftist tactical manoeuvre, in which they spot a real emerging concern — then latch onto it in order to project their own failings onto their political enemies. In this case, such a manoeuvre serves to deflect scrutiny of the outright lies and shifting half-truths that the far-left have been experts at purveying since the 1930s.

Incidentally, I see that one of the several “block ‘fake news’ posts from Facebook” add-ons, for Web browsers, uses an obviously biased URL list. The blocklist gives a free pass to sites like Russia Today (RT) and the Huffington Post, while blocking politically mainstream-right news aggregators like Independent Journal Review, Breitbart and Drudge. One may not like the megaphone tendencies of such news sites, but so far as I can tell they are no more likely to link to satire stories than Google News is. Once the partisanship of this sort of block list gets exposed in the media, expect the left to turn around and psychologically ‘project’ — probably by trying to claim that it’s ‘actually right-wing sites that are shills for Putin’.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the need for personal news filters recently, in terms of toning down the mainstream media’s relentless focus on disaster, crime, trivial/celebrity, staged and ‘feigned taking-offence’ news. Such filters are needed, if only to hack through the jungle and get to the important news and analysis. I’m still formulating ideas on such, and am not yet really for a post on the matter. But I think that one of the key things we can all do is to ask news sites to offer RSS feeds, which at least keeps the whole news ecosystem loose and flowing easily. This whole “sign up to our private mailing-list” thing, while not offering a public RSS news-feed, is vile. Thankfully there are services run for free by various beneficent WebGods. Such as Five Filters which lets you get an RSS feed from any site. And Feed2JS which lets you easily plug that feed into your blog sidebar or homepage.

OECD report: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

New OECD research, “The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills: Worse Than You Think”

“Across 33 rich countries, only 5% of the population has high computer-related abilities, and only a third of people can complete medium-complexity tasks.”

Nearly a quarter just can’t use computers at all…

“Can’t Use Computers = 26% of Adult Population [ … computers being] much too complicated for many people.”

So the key questions here seems to be: i) what proportion of that 26% could actually be taught to use computers, given enough time and sympathetic teaching; and ii) would those students then see benefits commensurate with the time and frustration that would inevitably be involved in the learning? Compared to say, learning to draw or dance or act, instead, or in some other way to ‘seek out’ some innate talent and develop it. That’s an especially important question for elderly people, who may only have a finite amount of time (10-20 years) and consequently don’t want to waste it. Looking at it pessimistically, one could also ask is there a downside to trying to bring such people up to speed: how many would try to learn a computer but drop out of the course, leading to increased feelings of failure and ‘being thick’?