2007 - 2022


Watching the Mars Perseverance Rover landing is awe-inspiring.

The scale of professionalism, precision and ambition are unfathomable to many of us, they certainly are to me anyway. I was inspired long enough to suppress my usual harrumphing “What are we doing on Mars when we can’t fix things on Earth” line. I know there’s claims that the research that goes into the space industry always has some spin-off benefits back on Planet Earth, though it always seems a bit sketchy. My favourite space story is that at the height of the Cold War/Space Race the Americans spent millions developing a high-tech pen with specialist ink that would work in anti-gravity conditions, whilst the Soviets brought pencils.

Whatever the truth there was something uplifting about human ingenuity seeing the Perseverance Rover land successfully. Hope too in the good news about vaccine rollout and its impact (a study shows vaccine rollout linked to 85% and 94% drop in coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland). Some faith restored in science, reason, medicine, nursing staff and frontline staff and … ‘Thank god  for the pharmaceutical industry’ … a sentence that you doesn’t hear roll off my tongue very often.

So why am I not more jubilant? Well my soul having being crushed and my mind turned into custard during the last year may have something to do with it, but there’s something else.

The profound insights that we’ve witnessed are all at risk. The insights into how we organise cities, the benefits (and absence) of community, the importance (and fragility) of mental health, our relationship to nature and the extent of exploitation in late capitalist society have all been exposed, magnified and laid out in the past year.

They’re all going to be thrown away.

Now, as we rush like overweight penned-up farm stock into the daylight of the post-covid world, with the UK media talking about “Freedom Day” we are back to the same weird impulses and convulsion.

The Conservatives – fresh from a year of gorging themselves on chumocracy and nepotism (in plain sight) will now frame this as salvation from the dreaded Lockdown and anyone acting like Adults in the Room as left-wing Doom and Gloom Merchants. But their rush for ‘release’ is just a different manifestation of their malignant populism – trading in peoples vulnerability in the same way  as they did with Brexit.

No doubt now we’ll have talk of a classic British ‘public inquiry’ of the sort we’ve seen for decades. You know the routine?

High heidyin appointed – massive cost – lengthy inquiry – insipid findings – nothing really happens. You’ve read the script.

Back in reality …

WE don’t know what the effect of releasing 10 million children into English schools will have (though we can guess).

WE don’t know what new variants are emerging.

The idea of staged cautious release would seem obvious, but is politically difficult for Johnson.

His predecessor, the Member for Easyjet has been lobbying hard for the aviation industry …



Where we’re now at is the rush back.

Capitalism only functions with the promise to offset the hell.

It’s no surprise that cheap flights and booze is the carrot dangled.

I’m delighted the vaccine is working, I’m delighted there’s the prospect of a way out. I’m amazed and inspired by our health service and our vaccines. But I wouldn’t trust the Tories as far as I could throw them. Covid populism is a disgrace layered upon a scandal the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Can you imagine a world where the scientific genius and human ingenuity wasn’t despoiled by political corruption and avarice?

Comments (32)

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  1. Wul says:

    In a strange way we have all benefited from the Tories gleeful profligacy with public funds, so long as they are handed to the private sector:

    “Here, have lots and lots and lots of public money. Here’s a contract/blank cheque/pile of cash. No limits. Just get us an effing vaccine yesterday!”

  2. Dougie Harrison says:

    Mike, as far as I’m aware, the only benefit the space thing brought us ordinary mortals was goretex. Which of course sprung a wide range of breatheable waterproof alternatives.

    1. Doghouse Reilly says:


    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Dougie Harrison, there are, of course, a very large number of benefits of human space activities in various categories:
      An immense problem-solving and largely peaceful endeavour, the instruments and science have largely been focused on our Earth, with its complex natural systems, and supporting communications, monitoring, discovering (including early warnings of changes) and so forth. Politically, it was the best side of the Cold War, an outlet for bridge-builders, and contributing to the global idea communisms of science, technology and digital commons. An inspiration for younger generations. The pale blue dot. Earthrise. A dispeller of myths (well, Flat-Earthers have more to deny, anyway). The chance to discover new life in the universe. And perhaps a step on a much greater journey to the stars.

      And if you want to keep down to Earth, an enormous boost to economies, manufacturing, diplomacy and breakthrough employment for some:
      Far more pertinent to ask: what good is war and military spending? What good are the consumerist, navel-gazing, planet-poisoning industries? What good is casino finance, or organised crime? While Space… well, Space is embiggening.

  3. Paddy Farrington says:

    I date my interest in science to Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight. Space exploration should not need excuses like tech spin-offs to justify it: it satisfies a basic curiosity, and inspires us to lift our gaze. But it should be a collective, planetary endeavour, springing from international cooperation, and not a sterile competition for political advantage, or a joyride for egotistical billionnaires. We could say the same of the current vaccine roll-out: what an opportunity national governments and the EU missed to use their influence and resources to create sufficient vaccine production capacity rapidly to help meet world demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

    As for an independent Scotland’s future part in space exploration? Well I heartily recommend Bill Smith’s a Mickle a Muckle a Malt and the Moon (Kennedy & Boyd). That and NASA’s extraordinary videos of Perseverance are just what’s needed to take the mind off the latest instances of our propensity to misuse technological advances, as evidenced by the rubbish currently pouring forth on the internet against Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP…

    1. Bill Smith says:

      Well said Paddy. At the time of writing A Mickle A Muckle A Malt &. The Moon, there was little indication of Scotlands’s future role in the development of satellites, launch sites or supporting industries that have grown and prospered in the last twenty years. As a firm believer in support of the call for an independent Scotland I am convinced that we will flourish as a technically advanced nation in the near future bringing the invention and creativity that has characterised the Scots throughout our history to bear on future space travel and the rest. Scotland may not set foot on the moon as predicted in the novel but who can deny her the chance to dream?

    2. Richard O`Hara says:

      Well said Paddy, I could not agree more with your sentiments a nice little piece.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Yes, the collectivism aspect of Perseverance’s success was stressed by some of the NASA engineers/scientists. Then there is objective test of Mars, so different an environment from so much of Earthy politics where policies are spun and Goldacrean tests unapplied. Sure, there is parallelisation, we can explore Mars and do a whole lot of other things besides; we are doing a lot of crappy things on Earth all the time, simultaneously, after all, and too much human activity is the general problem, not too little. Then there is the potential to discover non-terrestrial life, which could end the Earth-exceptionalism and even diminish the humanocentric biases of our age.

    As for the final question “Can you imagine a world where the scientific genius and human ingenuity wasn’t despoiled by political corruption and avarice?”, well duh. Not all science fiction is dystopian. Better yet, some narratives show political corruption and avarice losing out, like the highly-recommended Lego City Adventures, which features a humanned mission to Mars (you have to watch it in order):

  5. Pub Bore says:

    Aye, it won’t be long till we’re mining it.

    The humanisation of nature advances inexorably. Hasta la victoria siempre!

  6. Tom Ultuous says:

    Re the chumocracy, On good morning Britain Piers Morgan showed an old still from a Matt Hancock interview. In the background there was a picture of the local pub where the ex-landlord was awarded a big contract supplying testing equipment despite having no previous experience. A still from a later interview showed it had been removed. The tories say there was a worldwide shortage of PPE and testing equipment and they had to show expedience in awarding those contracts yet I recall seeing policemen in Spain handing out masks to the public at a time when Westminster was still pretending masks were useless because they had none. I’d love to know the exact size of these contracts and how much the same equipment would’ve cost through the EU bulk buy scheme which they had the chance of joining. Ditto for the vaccines. They got lucky with them but it’s easy when you don’t give a damn about how you spend other people’s money. After all, the more you spend the bigger the crypto pushback.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Tom, when you speak of ‘Westminster’, do you mean ‘Whitehall’? Isn’t it misleading to confuse one of our parliaments (the one in which we’re represented as UK citizens) with the bureaucratic institutions of the UK government? A bit like confusing Holyrood and Calton Hill?

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        I meant the tory scum PB.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Ah, the bogeyman! Mhairi Black, Ian Blackford, Joanna Cherry, Kenny MacAskill, Tommy Sheppard, et al… All those ‘tory scum’ who comprise Westminster.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            What is your point caller?

          2. Pub Bore says:

            My point is as I said: Isn’t it misleading to confuse one of our parliaments (the one in which we’re represented as UK citizens) with the bureaucratic institutions of the UK government; that is Westminster and Whitehall? A bit like confusing Holyrood and Calton Hill?

          3. Tom Ultuous says:

            You’re right PB. As soon as I’ve finished typing this I’m taking a rope up to the attic to do the honourable thing. I feel so ashamed.

          4. Pub Bore says:

            Ach, there’s no need for that. Don’t be sorry – be careful! It’s an easy mistake to make when you’re looking for a surrogate for ‘the b*st*rd*n English’. ‘Westminster’, as such a pejorative, enjoys widespread currency in Independence circles. It’s a common mistake that’s easy to fall into.

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      Has anyone else noticed the dearth of reporting on the findings in the Good Law Project court case? It’s as if it never happened.

      This article by Owen Jones sums up the way things are headed.


      1. Pub Bore says:

        I’ve had lots of stuff coming through on my news feed over the past couple of week from drifts of sources and through most of the mainstream channels, including Sky, the Mail, the Mirror, etc. Even the National reported in it a few days ago. I hear the stories are also all over Twitter – like a rash! Nae Tory/Westminster/English cover up there.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Maybe you could give me a few links PB. Apart from Piers Morgan stuffing it up Matt Hancock, an email from the Good Law Project themselves and a piece in the Guardian I’ve only ever seen it portrayed as peripheral news. Andrew Marr did mention it to Matt Hancock in his usual “I love my job and I’m hanging on to it” dead sheep manner.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            PS Twitter doesn’t count.

  7. Squigglypen says:

    Yes great about Perseverance..now back to the job in hand..Independence..keep your eye on the ball….

  8. Paula Becker says:

    ‘We don’t know what the effect of releasing 10 million children into English schools will have (though we can guess)’.
    It sounds like the author thinks of children as biohazards! Are all children biohazards or just English children? Do you support in-person education for children or not?

    1. I certainly don’t think children are biohazards but I do think Johnson is reckless and stupid and venal, and I refer to the 10 million kids in English schools going back in a oner.

      “Do you support in-person education for children or not?” Er, yes where and when possible based on public health not political opportunism.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Oh, I don’t know about that, Bella. I’ve had three weans, and each of them put me in the hospital, when they were wee, with something bacterial or viral they picked up from their pals.

        1. James Mills says:

          So , PB , you’re blaming the weans for your present condition ?

          1. Pub Bore says:

            No way! They’ve lang syne fledged and flown the nest.

      2. Pub Bore says:

        Never a day’s illness in my life until I had weans.

      3. Paula Becker says:

        You say in person teaching should be based on public health not political opportunism. I agree. In fact if we’d stuck with the consensus scientific thinking on pandemics we would never have locked down at all. Lockdowns were introduced by politicians and since then over 30 papers have been published which conclude that they don’t work.
        In Sweden where the pandemic response was led by Public Health officials they did not lock down, shut schools or mandate mask wearing. Ludvigsson et al concluded in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine that children were at minimal risk from Covid and that teachers were no more at risk than other professions (excluding health workers). Excess mortality figures for Europe show Sweden to be considerably lower than UK and many other lockdown nations.

  9. Robbie says:

    Ach well the oceans are full of shit,not many places left for the fly tippers ,already we have tons of scrap circling earth, we could be done with MORE space cause we humans need it don’t we.and you’re spot on Paddy.

  10. J Galt says:

    I looked at all the, oh so correctly masked screen watchers, whooping and punching the air on cue, and couldn’t help but laughing out loud and pondering, not for the first time, on how easy it is to fool people.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Aye, I was kinda hoping it would crash – the way you do when you see someone swanking down the street.

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