Today’s Update

Why Our Elites Are Unpersuaded by the Evidence of Human Suffering

By Joanna Gray

Like all of the best ‘quick drink’ catchups, ours ended in the small hours with a drunken row about whether Robespierre regretted his actions. “Surely,” I slurred, “committing 17,000 to Madam Guillotine would have given him pause: think of all those severed heads leering at him.” My friend, the rationalist, laughed, “Oh naïve simpleton, it’s never about the people, it’s always about the idea.” She insisted the Robespierre, top monsieur at the ‘Committee of Public Safety’ went to the block convinced he’d pursued the correct public policy of: “speedy, severe and inflexible justice”.

Our conversation began in response to Freddie Sayers’s already much-commented-upon interview with one of the lockdown architects, Lee Cain, where Cain proudly asserts: “One of the great things he [Boris] did was deliver a lockdown and save a huge amount of lives.”

“But that is so demonstrably untrue,” I explained furiously to my chum. I took another glug and ranted about how, that day, I had seen a 19 year-old woman whose Mum kept her largely inside during lockdowns, who completely fell out of school, lost what few friends she had, has no qualifications and is now ‘not fit to work’. Like the headless corpses of The Terror, this young woman – and thousands of others like her who stopped bothering going to school – ought to stand in grim reproach to the lockdown policies championed by Lee Cain. “And nevermind the 7.6 million NHS waiting list…” I banged on. 

“Ah, but it’s never about the people,” my friend responded, “Only the idea.” She shook her head sadly and wondered why I hadn’t understood any of this before. 

And in that marvellous way the vino can help you see the veritas, I realised she was right. The idea of lockdown is understood by Mr. Cain to be correct, so no matter how many individuals were figuratively guillotined in pursuit of it, he sleeps easy.

My friend explained, as if to a class dunce, that ideas trump human suffering in all of the great horrors of our age: lockdown, transgenderism, infected blood, the Post Office scandal, Net Zero, EDI. It matters not a jot the numbers of individuals who are harmed in the unrolling of the ideas, those causing the harm will continue so long as the idea holds – or as in Robespierre and Boris – until the wickedly flawed idea consumes its own. 

Paula Vennells believed in the infallibility of her ‘systems’ over the false imprisonment of her sub-postmasters; health professionals believed in the technical superiority of plasma innovations over ill humans in front of them; Net Zero enthusiasts welcome decarbonisation no matter how many humans are thrown into fuel poverty, and so on. I once sat next to a No.10 policy adviser at a dinner party who said, “I mean, I love candle light, I don’t see why we can’t all return to it.”

So firmly and unswervingly held are the orthodox beliefs by the majority of politicians (lockdowns, Net Zero, the NHS, the Green Energy Revolution) that it is asks too much of them to accept that these ideologies are based on completely wrong premises.

I may have slumped so far over my wine glass I banged my head on the table. “But how can we ever convince them their ideas are rotten if they ignore the evidence of human suffering their beliefs cause?”

We had entered the drunken stage where we thought we could quite lucidly sort everything out.

“Oh that’s easy,” my friend said pouring another glass, “We just have to destroy the idea.”

Merely pointing out individual tragedies or presenting swishy data graphs, or engaging in long form podcasts to politely raise the idea that there may be other sides to the issue will not do. Instead, the rotten idea needs to be entirely dismantled. It needs to be pointed out consistently and persistently that such ideologies as Net Zero, EDI, Big State Welfare and the NHS, are based on completely wrong premises. They are wrong. They will never work. They harm people. We don’t respect alternative points of view; instead, we explain relentlessly and consistently why the ideas are wrong.

The Cass Review succeeded in ending despicable harm to confused teenagers because it dismantled the idea at the heart of transgenderism. Dr. Cass simply asserted the biological truth that there are two sexes. Without that alternative idea of gender, the whole edifice of medical interventions collapses. 

The same methodology applies to all of the other rotten ideas polluting public discourse. Reveal their inherent and fundamental error and let everything crumble. In Robespierre’s case: revolutionary purity is unachievable.

Our evening ended with a clumsy search for Robespierre’s conscience. He either shot himself before his execution or was involved in a pistol fight. Either way, Robespierre died with his lower jaw hanging off its hinges, screaming in agony.

Joanna Gray is a writer and confidence mentor.

Rishi Sunak Fights Back After National Service Plan is Ridiculed

By Toby Young

The Prime Minister was forced to defend his National Service programme last night after it came under heavy fire from allies and opponents alike. Details of the plan are sketchy, the Army’s top brass doesn’t like it and a Conservative Defence Minister poo-pooed the idea when questioned about it last week. The Mail has more.

The policy announcement sparked a heated debate over the weekend – with Labour branding it “desperate” and even some Conservatives worried that it was akin to a “grown-up Boy Scouts”. But others in the party backed the PM, as did former defence chiefs.

Under the plan, 18-year-olds will be given a choice between a full-time placement in the Armed Forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year volunteering in their community.

Last night, it was revealed that teenagers would be incentivised to sign up for the scheme with fast-tracked interviews for graduate schemes in both the private and public sectors, and the opportunity to highlight National Service on their UCAS applications to help them getting into university. …

Studies from Norway and Israel, which have national military service schemes, suggest they give youngsters a “leg up” into subsequent careers, the Tories said.

The Conservatives have promised to establish a Royal Commission, bringing in expertise from across the military and civil society to establish the details of the programme. It will be asked to look at models in other countries to design incentives for those taking part in Britain.

The party said the Commission would be tasked with bringing forward a proposal for how to ensure the first pilot is open for applications in September 2025.

After that, it would seek to introduce a new National Service Act to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament, the party said.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: In the Telegraph, Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has refused to rule out prosecuting parents if their children refuse to participate in Sunak’s National Service programme.

Heat Pumps ‘Too Expensive for Ordinary Families’

By Richard Eldred

The Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho has been warned by MPs that heat pumps are currently too costly for many households. The Telegraph has more.

The Government must urgently make low-carbon heating systems cheaper if it wants to reach its goal of Net Zero emissions by 2050, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Almost all of the U.K.’s 28 million households must ditch their gas boilers and decarbonise their heating systems for ministers to achieve their goal of Net Zero emissions.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of all U.K. greenhouse gas emissions come from heating the nation’s homes, the vast bulk of it from burning natural gas.

The Government wants to phase out gas boilers by 2035 and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) has a target for Britain to be installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, up from just 55,000 in 2021.

But high costs for households mean uptake has so far been slow and the Government is not on track to meet this target.

The PAC report said: “The cost of buying and running heat pumps is a substantial barrier to take-up for most households, at a time when incomes are already stretched.”

An average heat pump costs £11,600, four times more than a gas boiler.

The Government aims to reduce heat pump installation costs by 25% by 2025, but so far they have only fallen by 6% since 2021.

The PAC report said: “Costs need to come down much quicker.”

Heat pumps are also more expensive to run than traditional boilers because they use electricity, which costs more than gas, the report said.

The costs are so high that Government grants are likely only being used by rich people.

Worth reading in full.

Innocent Woman Branded a Shoplifter by Facial Recognition Software

By Richard Eldred

Facial recognition software in stores is wrongly pegging innocent customers as thieves. The BBC has the story.

Sara needed some chocolate – she had had one of those days – so wandered into a Home Bargains store.

“Within less than a minute, I’m approached by a store worker who comes up to me and says, ‘You’re a thief, you need to leave the store’.”

Sara – who wants to remain anonymous – was wrongly accused after being flagged by a facial-recognition system called Facewatch.

She says after her bag was searched she was led out of the shop, and told she was banned from all stores using the technology.

“I was just crying and crying the entire journey home… I thought, ‘Oh, will my life be the same? I’m going to be looked at as a shoplifter when I’ve never stolen’.”

Facewatch later wrote to Sara and acknowledged it had made an error.

Facewatch is used in numerous stores in the U.K. – including Budgens, Sports Direct and Costcutter – to identify shoplifters. …

It’s not just retailers who are turning to the technology.

On a humid day in Bethnal Green, in East London, we joined the police as they positioned a modified white van on the high street.

Cameras attached to its roof captured thousands of images of people’s faces.

If they matched people on a police watchlist, officers would speak to them and potentially arrest them. …

The BBC spoke to several people approached by the police who confirmed that they had been correctly identified by the system – 192 arrests have been made so far this year as a result of it.

But civil liberty groups are worried that its accuracy is yet to be fully established, and point to cases such as Shaun Thompson’s.

Mr. Thompson, who works for youth-advocacy group Streetfathers, didn’t think much of it when he walked by a white van near London Bridge in February.

Within a few seconds, though, he was approached by police and told he was a wanted man.

“That’s when I got a nudge on the shoulder, saying at that time I’m wanted.”

He was asked to give fingerprints and held for 20 minutes. He says he was let go only after handing over a copy of his passport.

But it was a case of mistaken identity.

“It felt intrusive… I was treated guilty until proven innocent,” he says.

Worth reading in full.

Suffering From Anxiety and Depression? Try the Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet, Says a Pharmacist and Research Scientist

By Dr Maggie Cooper

About 15 years ago, one of the runners in our training group announced that he was going on a carbohydrate free diet. I thought he was mad. Initially, I thought he was just giving up sugar, but when questioned he said he was also giving up rice, potatoes, pasta, bread – basically all carbohydrate. This simply didn’t make any sense; it was crazy. Where was he going to get his energy from? How would he be able to run? 

Skip forward about seven years, and I started to hear a lot more about low-carb, high-fat diets. It seemed that quite a lot of athletes were adopting this, particularly those in the ultra-running community. Perhaps it wasn’t so crazy after all. After doing a bit of research, I came to the conclusion that there may well be benefits, not just for weight loss (which I wasn’t interested in) but for improving the immune system and, better still, helping my running. I was keen both to boost my immune system, as repeated coughs and colds had jeopardised training over the years, and keen to avoid hitting the wall in marathons. So, with this in mind, I stuck to a low-carb, high-fat diet for about a year, just to see how things went and how easy or difficult it was. This happened to coincide with a period of plantar fasciitis, which meant I wasn’t able to run much, perhaps a good thing as it was quite difficult to stick to the diet even without the complication of competitive training. What I did find was that I was not troubled by coughs or colds for most of that year, and when I did catch a bug at the start of my summer holiday, I recovered much more quickly than normal and was able to do some light running by the end of the week.

In all my research and during my own travels into the world of the low-carb, high-fat diet, the fact that this type of diet might also help those with mental illness had fallen below my radar. So, I was interested to read a case report in the Frontiers of Nutrition this month about three people who had achieved full remission of major depression and generalised anxiety disorder on adopting this diet (ketogenic metabolic therapy). 

Psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and binge eating disorder, are neurometabolic diseases involving glucose hypometabolism, neurotransmitter imbalances, oxidative stress and inflammation. These disturbances can be modified by use of ketogenic metabolic therapy (KMT), otherwise known as a low-carb, high-fat diet. So, what you eat can directly affect how you feel. I think that, at heart, we all know this even if just from eating too many travel sweets on a long car journey and feeling a bit rubbish for the rest of the day.

Insulin resistance in the brain results in glucose hypometabolism and a vicious cycle of unmet energy needs. Unmet energy needs in the brain manifest themselves in cognitive impairment (mental fatigue, memory problems, confusion), emotional symptoms (irritability, anxiety, depression) and physical symptoms (headaches, dizziness, weakness). Although the brain primarily uses glucose for its energy needs, it can adapt to using ketones as an alternative fuel. 

In a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet, there is a shift from using glucose to using ketone bodies as the primary fuel source. The ketones provide the brain with a more efficient energy source than glucose and may be exerting other beneficial effects on the brain. Studies have shown that a ketogenic diet improves mitrochondrial metabolism, neurotransmitter function and oxidative stress/inflammation, while also increasing neural network stability and cognitive function.

low-carb, high-fat diets can be very strict, with the fat to non-fat ratio as high as 4:1. Interestingly, these diets have been shown to have some usefulness in paediatric epilepsy, and reports of this go back as far as the 1920s. But lower fat-to-non-fat ratio diets, which provide more variety, have also been shown to alleviate many mental disorders. There is evidence that they may be effective in schizophrenia, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, major depressive disorder, binge eating disorder, ADHD and obesity. 

Slide from summary of the Norwitz paper

All three cases in the current study involved complex presentations, including major depression, generalised anxiety, other anxiety disorders, and comorbid psychiatric conditions. The subjects underwent a personalised, whole food, animal-based, low-carb, high-fat diet (KMT) for 12-16 weeks. The treatment plan included twice-weekly visits with a dietician, daily photo journaling and regular blood tests. Additionally, they received support through virtual groups and family and friends. The regimen was complemented by nature walks several times a week, as well as community-building activities.

It is difficult to evaluate how much the added extras in the treatment plan contributed to the results – perhaps if people had more time with family and friends, and spent a bit more time out in the countryside, they would feel a lot better too. The effects of exercise on mental wellbeing can’t be underestimated. In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratley details several case studies involving anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and addiction, demonstrating the effectiveness of exercise in these cases. So, the walks in nature are a definite plus in this case. However, this can only partly explain the results, which were quite startling.

In case one, the subject reported “increased mental focus, increase energy, renewed confidence and motivation to return to work. Within four weeks of initiating KMT, he secured a demanding full-time position exceeding his previous experience; after eight weeks, he was given additional responsibilities, handled them well and began three online college courses.”

The second case reported “increased mental focus, more patience with co-workers and family and stated he no longer felt a general pull of anger all the time”. While, for the third case, complete remission of depression occurred. After a total of eight weeks of consistent nutritional ketosis, she said: “I don’t have it anymore. I’ve just noticed, I’m happy all the time, which is funny.” 

In this study, the participants were very heavily supported, e.g. they got more than a 5-10 min appointment with their GP and a prescription for anti-depressants. However, the time invested was well spent. When I worked as a community pharmacist, I was shocked by how many anti-depressant prescriptions I was fulfilling. On one occasion, hearing that the price of a popular anti-depressant was about to rise dramatically, I purchased the wholesaler’s entire stock. I didn’t need to worry that I would end up with out-of-date stock; those hundreds of packets of anti-depressants weren’t on the storeroom shelf for long. I felt that there must be something wrong if I was dispensing repeat prescriptions for these drugs; either they work or they don’t. The repeat nature of the prescriptions suggested to me that they didn’t work. But at the time, I didn’t know what the answer was; could something as simple as a change in diet be the solution? 

Adopting a low-carb, high-fat diet is not easy. If you go down to the shops on the ground floor of our hospital, you will be hard-pressed to find anything that you can buy for lunch if you are on this kind of diet – perhaps a packet of cheese from M&S, but you can’t eat that every day. I found that you had to be super organised (possibly not something that comes naturally to most of us, especially while depressed) and you have to be quite determined, even stubborn, to stick to it in the face of colleagues birthdays (“come on, have a piece of cake”), restaurant visits (“so you want the burger but you not the bun or the fries?”) and family meals (the kids don’t want to eat that kind of food). It was also more expensive than a normal diet and I found it a little difficult to find the variety of things that I wanted to eat. Maybe I should have done what my husband does and just eat more cheese and nuts, but at that time I was the only member of my family adopting this diet, so I found it quite challenging. If there were a bit more support, as the people in the case studies had, then I think it would be a lot easier for people to stick to the diet and see the benefits. It was notable that at times the subjects of the study required some supplements, e.g. acetyl-L-carnitine, vitamin D and magnesium glycinate, and these additions would not be something everybody would necessarily consider if they adopted this diet without support. 

This might not be the solution for everybody. As the authors note: “this case series is limited by describing only three patients, which limits the generalisability of our results as well as the inherent selection bias, as they were interested in KMT after failing standard therapies.” Certainly, without support and without the desire to see change, it will be a non-starter. But for those who are determined to beat their mental disorders, it provides a relatively simple, drug free solution. 

The “Patient Perspectives” in this paper are well worth reading if you want any encouragement that this can be an effective approach to treating these mental disorders. 

Wouldn’t it be better for the NHS to invest in good nutrition rather than investing in drugs that clearly aren’t working? Major depressive disorder and anxiety are neurometabolic disorders. Doesn’t it make sense, then, to treat them with nutrition rather than medication? The NHS might like to start by changing the Eatwell Guidance, where fats are a tiny slither on the chart, instead of >50% of the dietary intake that they probably need to be. 

Dr. Maggie Cooper is a pharmacist and research scientist.

Voters Dislike Tories “Even More Than They Did Corbyn in 2019”

By Toby Young

New polling suggests that Rishi Sunak has a mountain to climb if he’s to avoid a Tory wipe out on July 4th, reports the Times.

The thought of the Tories staying in power is even less appealing to voters than the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn entering Downing Street was five years ago, polling suggests.

In a repeat of research carried out in 2019, YouGov asked voters to imagine that the result of the election was an overall majority for Rishi Sunak and the Conservative party.

It found 59% voters would either be “dismayed” or “disappointed” if the Tories remained in power after July 4th compared with 15% who said they would be “delighted” or “pleased”. A further 15% said they wouldn’t mind while 11% didn’t know.

In the 2019 election, in which Boris Johnson won a landslide victory against Corbyn, 52% said they would be “dismayed” or “disappointed” if the Labour leader won. Some 28% said they would be “delighted” or “pleased” while 9% said they wouldn’t mind Corbyn in Downing Street.

However, it wasn’t all bad news.

The polling also shows that Sir Keir Starmer has still to raise enthusiasm among voters. The survey found that 34% of voters would be “delighted” or “pleased” with a Labour victory — a figure only six points higher than for Corbyn in 2019.

Opposition is much lower than it was to Corbyn however. Only 35% said they would be “dismayed” or “disappointed” if Starmer ended up in Downing Street compared with the 52% who said the same about Corbyn. Some 17% said they “wouldn’t mind” a Labour victory.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Hits Women’s Earnings

By Richard Eldred

Women in the City are less likely to be top earners than before the Covid pandemic, according to new research from the London School of Economics. The Telegraph has more.

Men are more than four times as likely as women to be among those with very high incomes, with women making up only 19.4% of the top 1% of earners, according to research by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

This compares to 19.7% pre-pandemic. 

The United Nations warned during the pandemic that COVID-19 was likely to set gender equality back by decades, with women more likely to be in lower paid work than men, more likely to be the head of single parent households and more likely to take on unpaid domestic work.

“I feel I’ve been thrown into the role of a housewife that I don’t want to do,” one professional woman told researchers at the University of Sussex during the crisis. …

The economist Catherine Mann, a rate setter at the Bank of England, suggested in 2021 that women were more likely to be home workers than men and were at risk of suffering from “two tracks of employment”, where those in the office were promoted more than those doing their jobs remotely.

Worth reading in full.

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May 2024
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